BP_blog

With All Its Faults, America Still Deserves Our Respect

9151451-new-tattered-flag-When I got up this morning, the first day of the extended Independence Day weekend, #NothingMoreAmericanThan was trending on Twitter. You can probably guess the general tone of the tweets without my help, but I'll give you just a few examples anyway:

#NothingMoreAmericanThan invading sovereign nations and killing half a million innocent civilians

#NothingMoreAmericanThan incorrectly using "freedom of speech" to justify hateful, bigoted and harmful "opinions"

#NothingMoreAmericanThan being "pro-life" but love guns and hunting animals

#NothingMoreAmericanThan Wrapping all your prejudice, bigotry, homophobia, etc. in a flag made in China and calling it "patriotism".

Happy birthday, America.
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Rating: 5.00
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Two New Versions of 'Madame Bovary' Miss the Point

bovaryBeautiful and boring, the new adaptation of “Madame Bovary” from director Sophie Bartes does a severe disservice to one of the great works of 19th-century literature. Perhaps that’s because, whereas the book's depiction of its central character has a satirical edge to it, the film’s creators don’t seem to understand why she might be worthy of satirizing.

The whole point of Gustave Flaubert’s most famous novel is the danger of getting caught up in romantic daydreams at the expense of everyday life. As a member of the realist school of thought, he was showing what unrestrained romanticism can do to a person. Thus, in the book, we’re told early and often that Emma Bovary is mad about romantic novels and takes them far too seriously, with the result that she has a badly distorted image of what life and love are supposed to be like. As Karen Swallow Prior puts it in "Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me":

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Thinking Through the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage

ID-100256429This symposium consists of both statements sent directly to the Colson Center, and excerpts of articles published elsewhere. Keep checking back for updates, as we will be adding more statements over the next few days!

Ryan T. Anderson, The Daily Signal:

"We must work to restore the constitutional authority of citizens and their elected officials to make marriage policy that reflects the truth about marriage. We the people must explain what marriage is, why marriage matters, and why redefining marriage is bad for society."

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Rating: 5.00
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'Inside Out' Has an Upside-Down View of Man

Inside-Out_1000Have you ever wondered where those voices inside your head come from? Have you ever thought maybe—just maybe—you're not imagining them?

Well, Disney-Pixar wants to introduce you to those voices—in the form of tiny people—in their new animated feature “Inside Out” (rated PG). It may be a movie for kids, but like most children's stories that tug on adult heartstrings, this one has a lot to say about the grown-up world. Fair warning, though: These voices inside your head can get a little emotional, because—well, that's what they are.

Using a visual metaphor that's as delightful as it is creative, the animation veterans behind everything from “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.” to “Finding Nemo” and “Up” make it look easy. Despite a five-year dry spell broken only by “Brave,” which disappointed many fans and critics, Disney-Pixar is proving they're still the best team in animation. And if this film ages, as most of this studio's work does, like a fine wine, then “Inside Out” will take its place in the pantheon of Pixar's most iconic hits.
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'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' Offers a Powerful Story with a Weak Source of Hope

lead_960Boasting a filmmaking style similar to that of the much-loved, much-hated classic “Napoleon Dynamite,” the new movie “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” features an off-beat mix of crude high school humor, adolescent awkwardness, and touching moments. Even though off-color jokes and bad language nearly drowns out the characters and themes, this summer flick still manages to pack a punch with its moving story and unabashed examination of the human experience. Despite a plethora of tear-jerking moments, this film has its share of laughs and manages to leave its audiences with a sense of hope and beauty—although the reason for that hope and beauty receives no satisfactory explanation within the movie itself.

The unlikely star of this film is Greg (Thomas Mann), a high school senior. Self-diagnosed as “terminally weird” and “innovatively stupid” when it comes to relationships, Greg survives by flying under the radar. He makes himself visible just enough to be accepted by each of the diverse cliques at the school but not enough to actually consider anyone his “friend.” Greg even insists that Earl (RJ Cyler), his only actual friend, is just his co-worker. Since kindergarten—when Greg’s wacky sociologist father (Nick Offerman) first introduced them to foreign films—Greg and Earl have been making cheap parodies of classic films together, so Greg can get away with calling him that.
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How Dinosaurs Speak to Our Cultural Struggles

ydln1orxqd4neeasubooThe best thrill ride in 65 million years—or is it just 22?—“Jurassic World” truly brings dinosaurs to life. A highly personal mystery and the threat of imminent death shatter the boredom of the modern consumer and the worry of the workaholic. “Jurassic Park” has truly entered the 21st century.

As the operations manager of a modern, tech-savvy amusement park, complete with bells, whistles, and genetically enhanced dinosaurs, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) rushes to and fro, catering to the desires of thousands. “Let’s be honest, no one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore,” Claire explains to a potential investor. “Consumers want them bigger, louder, and with more teeth.”
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An Alternative Look at the Culture Wars

ID-10035845Her burgundy Volvo pulled up in front of the house, and as I heard the car door slam, I put the finishing touches on our lunch table. Tuna salad, check. Gherkin pickles, check. Potato chips, check. We had all the fixings for our veritable feast of friendship. It never did take much to inspire a grand day when the two of us were together, but that’s what friendship is all about, isn’t it?

Or have we forgotten what friendship is all about? Sometimes I wonder. I’m not saying that people don’t do simple sandwiches at each other’s houses anymore, but much has changed in the three decades that have transpired since my tuna fish feasts. Sure, we can chalk it up to being older and busier, or older and richer, but definitely not older and wiser.

The seeming lack of seriousness regarding the subject of friendship is an apt indicator of the way we Americans register the importance of what it means to be human. And it has a lot to do, I think, with our ongoing culture wars.
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'Aloha' Tries to Make the Case That Some Things Are Worth Saving

f581dd4f-70ba-451a-aa0d-3051d79d36bf-1020x612My expectations for “Aloha” were pretty basic: I was expecting to see a romantic comedy set in Hawaii. Well, it was set in Hawaii, and it was romantic. But putting this film in the “comedy” genre would be something of a stretch. Essentially, it was a slow-moving film with a plotline muddled by too many background details and the ever-present possibility of full-scale adultery.

Somewhere under the awkward silences and uncomfortable moments, though, is a sweet story that acknowledges the presence of sacred things in the world that are worth saving. Even this theme is somewhat marred, however, by its association with pagan spirituality.
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Anatomy of a 'Christian' Murder

ID-100109910Ask any sidewalk counselor. Odds are he or she has heard some version of this from those heading into the abortion clinic: “I know it's wrong. But I'm a Christian and I've prayed about it and I know God will forgive. His grace is greater than all my sin.”

What's wrong with this picture? (Other than the fact that a baby is about to be deliberately put to death.) Most Christians instinctively sense something's desperately out of whack here. But what?

Sadly, few seem able to put their finger on it. Sadder still is that after they sift through their own thoughts on the matter, nine times out of 10 they wind up less sure that, from a biblical standpoint, there really is anything substantially wrong with such statements. They know murder is wrong, but they also know the Bible teaches that God can forgive any sin.* Their reasoning often runs along these lines:
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At Midpoint, 'A.D.' Continues to Impress

04_NUP_166625_0160We’ve just passed the midway point of NBC’s 12-episode “A.D.: The Bible Continues.” Millions of viewers each week are still tuning in to Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s solid production, which blatantly trumpets the triumph of Christ and honoring the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian viewers should applaud such a bold and charismatic adaptation featuring the lives of the early Christians and continually heralding the name of Jesus Christ in a primetime slot on a major network. The caliber of acting, scripts, sets, and costumes puts it on par with the best historical miniseries offered today.

While many biblical adaptations have painted the life and times of Jesus, this series excels at showing the all-too-human fallacy of His first followers. They have been given immense power with the arrival of the Holy Spirit (in an episode featuring the Upper Room sequence in Acts) and with it the courage to counter Roman oppression by spreading the gospel throughout Jerusalem. Yet they are not perfect, and they wrestle with their own humanity, their fear of persecution and death, and the great gifts, such as healing, infused in them by the Holy Spirit. Peter (Adam Levy) admits to Mother Mary (Greta Scacchi) that he worries that he may not be the man Christ expects him to be. The Rock upon which Christ will build His Church shoulders a heavy load.

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Hope Prevails over a Messy Plot

tomorrowlmdDisney’s “Tomorrowland” boasts all the hallmarks of a fun summer family flick—good acting, a wholesome message, and stunning special effects. This movie lacks one very crucial element, however—the plot doesn’t make sense.

The film revolves around a girl and a boy torn between two worlds and two ideas: hope and despair. Innovative teen Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) frames the conflict in terms of two wolves jockeying for success. “You know which one will win?” she asks. “The one you feed.”
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'The Water Diviner' Is Beautiful but Empty

The-Water-Diviner-Gallery-01I watched "Gladiator" too many times during my high school career to think it is the best movie ever anymore, but I still had a sad “how are the mighty fallen” feeling when I saw Russell Crowe’s performance in “Les Miserables.” “The Water Diviner” makes me think Crowe himself might have had the same feeling, because this film that he both directed and starred in emulates “Gladiator” in many ways. Unfortunately, this World War I drama doesn’t do much to bring back Crowe’s glory days.

John Connor (Crowe) is an Australian farmer known for his ability to find underground water springs; the film opens with a very extended lone well-identifying-and-digging sequence. His three sons are killed in the Battle of Gallipoli and his wife commits suicide, so he must go on a journey for redemption, to find his sons’ bodies and bring them back to Australia. The unnecessarily extended sequence of shots of Connor travelling down a straight tree-lined path into heat mirages is straight out of “Gladiator.”
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The Choice to Focus on Girl Power Hurts This Film Adaptation

MV5BOTc4MTY1NzgyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDc0MjM0NTE._V1_SX640_SY720_When I thought about scenes I was excited to see in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic novel "Far From the Madding Crowd," one that came to mind is the first scene of the book: Farmer Gabriel Oak sees a cart carrying a young woman. She is dressed in a red dress and is accompanied by her cat and her canary and pots of flowers. She is left alone due to an accident with the cart, and when she is sure no one can see her, she opens a package that she has been glancing at, picks up the mirror inside, and smiles. She is not checking her hair or her hat. She is just admiring herself.

I was initially surprised when I realized that this scene had been cut from the movie, but by the end I realized that this omission was at the heart of this beautiful, but still disappointing film.
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The Heroine of 'Noble' Saves Children from Suffering As She Did

NOBLE-5-1024x649The new film “Noble” tells the true story of children’s rights advocate Christina Noble, from her troubled orphaned childhood in strict Catholic Ireland, through her rebellious teen years, to the constant pull to Vietnam that helped her realize her life’s mission. Coming from a fiercely strict and religious background, Christina (played in different stages of her life by Gloria Cramer Curtis, Sarah Greene, and Deirdre O’Kane) becomes an instrument of God’s purpose, but only after years of seeking out His message in a way not unlike Joan of Arc before her.

The film, based on Noble's book "Bridge across My Sorrows," jumps somewhat haphazardly from one traumatic experience to the next: Christina’s mother’s death, her separation from her alcoholic father (Liam Cunningham), abuse at a convent orphanage, her experiences in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). At its strongest, “Noble” raises the question: Are we allowed trials and hardships in order to inspire us and give us the gift of empathy?
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The Cultural Significance of 'Married at First Sight'

M5A2vKrHp6E.market_maxresMatchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!
Find me a find, catch me a catch!
Night after night in the dark I'm alone
So find me a match of my own!

Matchmaker, matchmaker, film the whole thing!
From saying “I do” to exchanging our rings!
Dating’s been useless, my choices all fruitless
So find me a match of my own!

(From "Fiddler on the Roof" . . . with a few edits)

Romantic love that lasts a lifetime and defies death has been idealized for centuries. But the actual luxury of pursuing a relationship based on such love has only been a viable option for a brief period of history. Pesky issues such as bloodlines, family alliances, social status, and economic opportunity have long proved nuisances to those who yearned for a marriage that wasn’t dictated by familial expectations, practical realities, and cultural norms. Just ask Romeo and Juliet.
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