Category : Movies & Television

(Local Paper) ‘Emanuel’ documentary produced by Viola Davis and Steph Curry gets to heart of grace

Filmed in the homes of victims’ family members, and inside the church, the 75-minute award-winning documentary “Emanuel” was produced by Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis, a native of St. Matthews, and NBA basketball star Steph Curry, who started a film production company earlier this year and is outspoken about his Christian faith.

“They both love the film, not only for its message of forgiveness and faith, but also for its dedication to justice and peace in America,” Ivie says. “Their partnership is a rare one in a very divided industry, but it obviously speaks to the power of the story and the heart of these people that we are humbled to represent.”

The documentary is among a few made about the shooting, including hour-long public radio release “Eyes Closed in Prayer” and Tribune Film Festival’s “Leo Twiggs: Requiem for Mother Emanuel.” Yet, it stands apart in its search for the source of the unexpected forgiveness that touched so many heavy hearts in the wake of the tragedy.

There have been other attempts to tell this story,” says Ivie. “Many of them do mention forgiveness, but I also think what separates our telling from all the others is our theological understanding of where that forgiveness comes from. And that is the cross of Jesus Christ.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * South Carolina, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Terry Teachout on the Movie the “Best Years of our Lives” (1946)–The Once-United States

It wasn’t necessary to serve in World War II to know such fellowship. Well into the ’60s, many Americans grew up in towns that had no private schools or gated communities. They lived among, went to school with, worked next to and got to know all kinds of people. Starting in the ’70s, though, America started to undergo a demographic transformation that has since been dubbed “the Big Sort.” More and more Americans started seeking out people who shared their cultural and political inclinations, moving to regions that over time became populated with like-minded citizens. In the words of Bill Bishop and Robert G. Cushing, who identified and named the Big Sort in their 2008 book titled after the phenomenon, they chose to live in “communities of sameness…whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible.” The result is postmodern America, a walled-off land in which you need not spend time with, much less befriend anyone, who disagrees with you about anything of importance—and in which you thus become more likely to demonize the strangers with whom you do disagree.

The fact that we now live in such a country has, I suspect, something to do with the steadily growing popularity of “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Whether we realize it or not, Wyler’s poignant portrait of a nation recovering from war reminds all who watch it that America used to be a far friendlier place—and makes you wonder what will become of a land whose angry, distrustful citizens are increasingly choosing to live solely among their own kind.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces, Movies & Television

A WSJ Profile Article About life at Netflix: A Company where Radical Transparency and Blunt Firings Unsettle the Ranks

The Netflix way emphasizes “freedom and responsibility,” trusting employees to use discretion—whether it is about taking vacation, flying business class or expensing an Uber ride home. Virtually every employee can access sensitive information, from how many subscribers sign up in each country to viewership of shows to contractual terms for Netflix’s production deals. Executives at the director level and above—some 500 people—can see the salaries of every employee.

Employees are encouraged to give one another blunt feedback. Managers are all told to apply a “keeper test” to their staff—asking themselves whether they would fight to keep a given employee—a mantra for firing people who don’t fit the culture and ensuring only the strongest survive.

Staying true to Mr. Hastings’ vision, always difficult, is getting harder thanks to the breakneck pace of growth and change at the company. In little over a decade, Netflix has gone from a DVD-by-mail outfit to a globe-spanning Hollywood powerhouse with more than 6,000 full- and part-time employees, including nearly 2,000 added just this year so far.

“As you scale a company to become bigger and bigger how do you scale that kind of culture?” said Colin Estep, a former senior engineer who left voluntarily in 2016. “I don’t know that we ever had a good answer.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Movies & Television, Pastoral Theology

(LA Times) ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’: The documentary that shows how Mister Rogers made goodness desirable

It had a simple set and minimal production values. As a host, it employed an ordained Presbyterian minister whose flashiest move was changing into a cardigan sweater. A likely candidate for legendary television success “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was not.

Yet for more than 30 years, Fred Rogers’ Pittsburgh-based public television half-hour was a small-screen powerhouse, entrancing generations of wee fans and even influencing public policy. Not bad for a man who believed “love is at the root of everything … love or the lack of it.”

Although Rogers died in 2003 at age 74, the excellent “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is the first documentary on him, and Morgan Neville is the ideal filmmaker to do the job.

A documentary veteran who won the Oscar for the entrancing “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” Neville is an experienced professional who knows what questions to ask and, working with editors Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden, how to assemble the answers.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) For ‘Columbiners,’ School Shootings Have a Deadly Allure

The May 18 mass shooting at Santa Fe provides the latest evidence of a phenomenon that researchers have in recent years come to recognize, but are still unable to explain: The mass shootings that are now occurring with disturbing regularity at the nation’s schools are shocking, disturbing, tragic — and seemingly contagious.

Interviews with law enforcement officials, educators, researchers, students and a gunman’s mother, as well as a review of court documents, academic studies and the writings of killers and would-be killers, show that the school-shooting copycat syndrome has grown more pervasive and has steadily escalated in recent years. And much of it can be traced back to the two killers at Columbine, previously ordinary high school students who have achieved dark folk hero status — their followers often known as “Columbiners” — in the corners of the internet where their carefully planned massacre is remembered, studied and in some cases even celebrated.

Investigators say school shootings have become the American equivalent of suicide bombings — not just a tactic, but an ideology. Young men, many of them depressed, alienated or mentally disturbed, are drawn to the Columbine subculture because they see it as a way to lash out at the world and to get the attention of a society that they believe bullies, ignores or misunderstands them.

The seemingly contagious violence has begun branching off Columbine, researchers say, and is now bringing in more recent attacks, many of them building off the details and media fixation with the last.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Movies & Television, Psychology, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

TV Recommendation: Showtime’s Documentary on Tim McGraw+Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul World Tour

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Entertainment, Marriage & Family, Movies & Television, Music

(WSJ) Charlotte Allen–The Story Behind ‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’

Christian prohibitions against abortion and infanticide encouraged the survival of baby girls and dramatically increased Christian fertility over the long term once those girls grew up and married. Many took pagan husbands, whom they sometimes converted, and then raised their children as Christians—another demographic boost.

All this is at the very heart of Mr. Hyatt’s understated movie, which takes place in the dank and clamorous Roman alleyways where slaves are bought and sold and mob violence rules. While Paul and Luke ( Jim Caviezel ) are central to the story, as important are Aquila ( John Lynch ) and Priscilla ( Joanne Whalley ). This affluent Christian married couple opened their house to alleviate some of the misery around them, feeding and sheltering families made homeless by the Great Fire.

Luke uses his physician’s skills, not a miracle, to heal a dying erstwhile pagan girl and touch the hearts of her parents. The imprisoned Paul is an icon of the power of forgiveness, for he himself has been forgiven for murdering Christians in his youth. The Christians marked for death in the arena are terrified ordinary people who somehow summon the faith to trust in an eternal life they have never seen.

Mr. Hyatt has dedicated his movie to “all who have been persecuted for their faith.” Today that resonates in large and small ways—from Islamic State’s violent repression of Christians to the controversy over wedding cakes in the U.S. It also should resonate with the future makers of faith-based movies: You don’t need $30 million to tell a powerful Christian tale.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) Stephen Pimpare– Opinion Where are all the films about poor Americans?

Buried within the Trump administration’s recent budget was a proposal to sharply cut food stamp funding. In its place would be a box of government-provided foods, a scheme sure to be a boondoggle benefiting only the companies who get contracts to produce and deliver these packages. The plan offers yet more evidence of the lack of policy knowledge within the administration, its ignorance of the scale and scope of US hunger and poverty, and its disregard and contempt for the millions who, despite their best efforts, still struggle to get by.

That said, there’s nothing especially novel about the administration’s attitude – disdain for poor people is a longstanding feature of American political culture.

Hollywood has been among the guilty parties. Thanks to April Reign’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign, we are developing the habit of evaluating how well women, people of color and LGBT Americans are represented among the nominees. But the notion that we should also look for better representation of poverty in the movies is still not on our radar. It should be.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Movies & Television, Poverty

(NY Post) Salena Zito–Faith is no longer a virtue in America

Last week Joy Behar, co-host of the ABC show “The View,” did something that has become an escalating trend in our popular culture over the past 10 years — she mocked religiosity.

In a segment about Vice President Mike Pence and his belief that he hears the voice of God, Behar quipped: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct . . . hearing voices.”

The audience of “The View” clapped and laughed along with her.

But outside the entertainment bubble, in places like Cumberland, people were horrified.

“I am not sure what shocked me the most, that Behar mocked one of the core beliefs of Christianity or the reaction of the studio audience,” said Tim McGregor, pastor at the Lighthouse of Hope, a non-denominational Christian church here in western Maryland.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Church of England calls for daytime ban on betting adverts amid fears of ‘moral crisis’ facing children

The Church of England has called for a ban on betting adverts before the 9pm watershed in a bid to tackle the growing “moral crisis” facing children and young people.

The Rt Rev Alan Smith, the Bishop of St Albans, told The Daily Telegraph that society will reap a ‘terrible harvest’ because gambling is being ‘normalised’ for children and young people.

The Church is calling for the exemption which allows gambling companies to show adverts before the 9pm watershed to be closed and for social media giants to take greater responsibility.

According to official figures, children see an average of 185 gambling adverts a year, equivalent to nearly four a weeks. Premier League football games have around five commercials from betting firms per game.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Movies & Television

(Sunday [London] Times) interviews director Andrey Zvyagintsev–‘Russia is going through a period of profound religious crisis’

Was he aware of the risks he was taking? Putin is not big on criticism. “Yes, of course, we were fully aware of what we were doing. We did touch on extremely sensitive issues for Russian people: the authorities and the Orthodox church. We were making serious problems for ourselves, but we knew what we were doing, both me and my producer.”

The Orthodox church, which, disgracefully, has become yet another Putinised institution, is a particularly sensitive target. Zvyagintsev showed the script of the final scene of Leviathan, in which ecclesiastical cruelty and complacency are exposed, only to the actors involved; he didn’t want the others implicated. What on earth has happened to Russian religion?

“Russia is going through a period of profound religious crisis. Religion has become more a kind of ritualism than a profound Christianity. This is really disturbing.

“There’s a line between Christianity and paganism. In Christianity, the line between good and evil is within ourselves. In paganism, the division is between myself and the rest of the world. What I see happening in Russia now is the extremely regressive rise of that antagonistic feeling towards the other, who is deemed evil by those who claim to be good.”

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Movies & Television, Orthodox Church, Paganism, Religion & Culture, Russia

(CNN) Daniel Burke–What is the spiritual message hidden in Star Wars?

 …the latest film in the saga, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” touches on trends in American religious life in some surprising ways, especially for a franchise that’s so nakedly commercial. (“The Last Jedi” was the highest-grossing movie in the United States last year and raked in nearly $1.3 billion worldwide.)
“It is very much a movie of this time,” said the Rev. angel Kyodo williams, a Buddhist teacher, social justice activist and “Star Wars” aficionado who lives Berkeley, California. “It draws on ancient teachings, as well as what is happening in this country right now.”
But there’s some debate about what “The Last Jedi” intends to say about modern religious life: Is it warning about the end of organized religion, or a parable about spiritual renewal?

Read it all.

Posted in Buddhism, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(Time) Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump Promote the Same Populist Theology

Oprah Winfrey’s public image could not be more different from Donald Trump’s.

While the longtime talk show host is famous for getting her guests to open up emotionally, Trump’s signature move on The Apprentice was firing contestants, who often left the boardroom crying.

But beneath their vastly different images, Winfrey and Trump share the same populist theology. Both preach a gospel of American prosperity, the popular cultural movement that helped put Trump in the White House in 2016.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Movies & Television, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Shropshire Star) Shropshire vicar and parish team to star in reality TV show

The Reverend Matthew Stafford is based at Holy Trinity Church in picturesque Much Wenlock.

He and the ministry team will be in the spotlight when the ups and downs of four vicars are aired in a new reality show.

Mr Stafford is taking part in the six-part religion series that goes behind the scenes of the lives of vicars in the heart of the countryside covered by Hereford Diocese, which takes in parts of Shropshire.

From opening summer fairs to taking wedding ceremonies for residents, vicars are knitted into the fabric of country life, also providing a pillar of support in times of crisis and personal sorrow. Mr Stafford previously served at Telford’s Wrockwardine Wood and Oakengates parish.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(CH) The New Wave auteur who believed great cinema had to be Christian

While thrilling art-house audiences with his urbane, witty films, Éric Rohmer attended Mass each Sunday at the Church of St Medard, subscribed to the royalist weekly La Nation française, and kept up his membership in the Louisquatorziens, a group devoted to the genius of the Sun King.

Publicly, he was one of the leading directors of the French New Wave. In private, he was a Catholic of the old type: loyal to pope and king. As his peers scuttled from one fashionable cause to the next, he admirably refused all political engagement, lapsing only in 1974, when he joined an anti-automobile group called Les Droits du Piéton, and in 2002, when he supported Pierre Rabhi, the Green presidential candidate whose slogan was “Growth is not a solution, it is a problem”. (Rohmer, no leftist, correctly saw that the Greens had come to echo his own aristocratic and reactionary ideals. He asked: “Doesn’t progress often consist in moving backward?”)

Rohmer despised the kind of “engaged” art that indulges in pamphleteering. Rather than trumpet his religious convictions, he used them to construct a unique approach to film-making. Used rightly, he believed a camera could capture the movements of both body and soul. “Be an atheist and the camera will offer you the spectacle of a world without God in which there is no law other than the pure mechanism of cause and effect,” he said. But the greatest film-makers did more:

I am a Catholic. I believe that true cinema is necessarily a Christian cinema, because there is no truth except in Christianity. I believe in the genius of Christianity, and there is not a single great film in the history of cinema that is not infused with the light of the Christian idea.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic