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Showing posts from 2020

How Pixar Helped Me Better Understand Christopher Nolan

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On the surface, there’s no discernible relationship between Pixar Animation Studios and Christopher Nolan. After all, the former produces exclusively animated fare, whereas the latter produces dark and gritty live-action films. And while Pixar movies often tug at the heartstrings, Nolan’s films often act as cinematic brainteasers. Upon further reflection, however, there are more similarities between Pixar and Christopher Nolan than one might expect. Consider film critic Scott Renshaw’s somewhat humorous summation of Pixar’s output : As wonderfully crafted and emotionally affecting as those films have been, they all seemed to start from a very similar place: What if toys had feelings? What if insects had feelings? What if monsters had feelings? What if cars had feelings? What if  feelings  had feelings? Similarly, Christopher Nolan’s intricately crafted and cerebrally affecting films tend to start from a similar place : How does memory loss affect perception of reality? How do dr

The Three Phases of Christopher Nolan’s Films

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If you take Christopher Nolan’s work as a whole, it’s possible to discern the emergence of a common concept—what we might call a narrative MacGuffin unifying all his movies: How does memory loss affect perception of reality? How do dreams affect perception of reality? How do magic tricks affect perception of reality? How does insomnia affect perception of reality? How does time inversion affect perception of reality? Nolan has established himself as a director adept at exploring the relationship between time, memory, and reality—as well as how these concepts can be perceived, rearranged, and distorted. But even if his feature-length oeuvre is fairly cohesive, it can still be divided into three separate epochs, each with its own distinct characteristics. Others have argued that Nolan’s career has mirrored the three stages of a magic act: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige . This concept is clever, insightful, and thought provoking. Nevertheless, it is, in my opinion, insufficien

On Actor Exploitation: Confessions of an Alleged Killjoy

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Regular visitors to this blog are well aware of a particular thematic drum I keep beating: the sexual exploitation of our entertainers . It is a drum I will continue to beat. From time to time, however, it is helpful to zoom out and take in the larger picture. Now is one of those times. Over the years, I have highlighted dramas like Fifty Shades of Grey , television shows like Game of Thrones , and comedies like  Knocked Up  and  The 40 Year Old Virgin . I have also highlighted the experience of individual actors , including Jennifer Lawrence , Evangeline Lilly , and Margot Robbie . Reading these exposés might lead some to think of me as a pessimistic killjoy with a Pharisaic dedication to condemning anything and everything I can lock my sights on. My point, however, is not to condemn the filmmaking industry outright, nor to condemn all use of sexual themes in entertainment. (In fact, I have defended both on this blog, including here and here .) Nor has my point been to mischaracte

Salma Hayek and the Sexual Cost of Stardom

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After two decades in Hollywood, actress Salma Hayek did an interview with The Orange County Register . She was asked if she realized being a sex symbol was the only way to open doors in the entertainment industry, or if she “found out later and had to accept.” She answered, “I did not know that in advance, but I saw that it was the only way to sneak in.” [1] When she moved from Mexico to Los Angeles back in 1991, the only way for her to “sneak in” was through the use of her body as a bargaining chip. She discovered Latino actresses like her were “typecast as the mistress maid or local prostitute.” Being viewed primarily as a sexual object didn’t just last for a brief stint. It lasted for years. In 1995, Hayek got a big break as a lead actor in Desperado , but this career advancement came at a high cost: having a sex scene sprung on her. Says Hayek , “[The scene] was not in the original script, I have to say. I think it was one of the notes that came after they showed the screen test

The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen

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“There’s nothing to watch.” How many of us have said that? More importantly, how many of us have made that complaint while scrolling through hundreds of options on our television? The problem really isn’t that there’s nothing available—only that there’s nothing good available. That’s the elusive nature of visual media—finding something good to watch. Movie trailers can be helpful, but they can also be misleading. A particular trailer might steer you away from a film you wouldn’t like, but it won’t necessarily provide a guarantee of what you will like. That’s one reason why I follow a small handful of film critics. Reading their collective thoughts on a film of particular interest can help me better ascertain whether or not said movie will please my emotional and mental palette. And one of those critics has just made finding the right movie a lot easier. A NEW AND WELCOME RESOURCE There’s a new book in town: The Best Movies You Never Saw . Recently released by film critic Joseph

Should You Criticize Movies You Haven’t Watched?

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It is inherently problematic to condemn a specific film or television show from the sidelines, without personal experience of what that work of art communicates. When Christians dismissed Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 film Noah , for example, many of them did so on erroneous grounds, not knowing what was actually in the movie . Blind condemnation is dangerous and unhelpful. When it comes to pornographic content, however, we move away from the debatable and ambiguous elements of artistic merit, and toward more solid distinctions between right and wrong. Hypersexualized storytelling methods are an aspect worth criticizing. A Christian can—and should—condemn pornographic material without having to engage each instance on a case-by-case basis. Thus, I am comfortable and confident to condemn pornographic techniques used in any mainstream film, whether I’ve seen that film or not. Such condemnation is not unfair to the work as a whole. That is why I have spoken up about certain films I haven’t

An Incarnational Approach to Racial Sympathy

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It’s a scandalous concept: Hebrews 2 tells us, “[Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest…” (v. 17). God the Father is even said to have made the Son “perfect through suffering” (v. 10). The very thought is baffling. What was it about the perfect son of God that needed perfecting? Nineteenth century theologian  Albert Barnes  provides some helpful commentary: [Christ’s] subjection to his humble condition…made him such a Saviour as man needed, and qualified him fully for his work. There was a propriety that he who should redeem the suffering and the lost should partake of their nature; identify himself with them; and share their woes. It was necessary, Scripture tells us, for God the Son to experience human life and suffering, which somehow perfected His ability to sufficiently sympathize with us (see also  Heb. 4:15 ). Jesus didn’t relate to us from afar; He drew near, suffering  with  humans,  as  a human—and

A Public Plea to the Director of CUTIES

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Ms. Doucouré: Even though I have grave concerns over your feature-length debut, I am also troubled by the overt hatred you have received since Netflix picked up Cuties for mass distribution. The uncharitable names you’ve been given, the perverted motives imputed to you, and the death threats you have received are wholly inappropriate. They are tantamount to violence against both your humanity and the God who created you with dignity and value. I recently discovered an interview in which you shared from your heart the catalyst for writing and directing Cuties . Several things you said resonated with me: “Our girls see that the more a woman is overly sexualized on social media, the more she’s successful. And the children just imitate what they see trying to achieve the same result without understanding the meaning. And yeah, it’s dangerous.” “…isn’t the objectification of a woman’s body that we often see in our Western culture not another kind of oppression?” “I think all togethe