Abby Olcese

Abby Olcese (@indieabby88) has been many things — a campus ministry leader at the University of Kansas, an English teacher in Prague, and an advertising assistant at Sojourners. These days, she’s a freelance writer based in Kansas.

Raised on a diet of Narnia, Bob Dylan records and Terry Gilliam movies, Abby is drawn to the weird, the nerdy, and the profoundly artsy corners of popular culture. She loves sharing this knowledge with others by writing about interesting new releases as well as lesser-known gems.

Abby is also passionate about the intersection of faith, social responsibility, and culture. She believes in the power of art to spark important conversations, inspire social change, and help people to better understand life in the kingdom of God.

When she’s not watching movies or writing things down, you can usually find Abby reading comic books or perusing the selection at her local record store.

Posts By This Author

‘Beauty and the Beast’ Remains Enchanted — and Problematic

by Abby Olcese 03-17-2017

Image via Beauty and the Beast trailer 

The updated, live-action version of the film, out this weekend, manages to make the development of its central romance a little more redemptive. It’s mainly a recreation of the original film, but manages to squeeze in some additional context that make its characters more fully-rounded, and their circumstances more understandable. But while this progressive package [complete with a more diverse cast and LGBTQ-friendly supporting characters] is a bit easier to swallow, the core problem of the story still remains.

Can Love Triumph Over Racism?

by Abby Olcese 03-08-2017

Image via "A United Kingdom"/Facebook

Like Hidden Figures before it, the post-World War II historical drama A United Kingdom is a great and worthy story, told poorly. The real-life account of the marriage between Londoner Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the ruler of Beuchanaland (now Botswana), is an incredible story about an interracial relationship with world-changing political implications. Unfortunately, the film does its subjects little credit, suffering from directing and writing choices that keep it from achieving its potential.

'I Am Not Your Negro' Is Required Viewing

by Abby Olcese 02-06-2017

Though the words were written decades ago, it’s both astounding and shameful that Baldwin’s writings explain the past yet sound like they could have been published last week. Peck tackles Baldwin’s writing by topic, from American identity to stereotypes and representation in popular culture, alienation from a church Baldwin claims is refusing to practice selfless love, and white denial of the brutality faced by civil rights protesters.

Unafraid of Hard Questions

by Abby Olcese 01-31-2017
With a mix of art, science, and conversation, The Liturgists welcome the spiritually hungry.
Image via theliturgists.com

Image via theliturgists.com

IT’S A WEDNESDAY night in early November and the sanctuary of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan., is full. The audience, mostly 20- and 30-somethings, is listening in rapt attention to Mike McHargue, better known as Science Mike. Self-proclaimed science enthusiast McHargue, co-host (with musician and songwriter Michael Gungor) of The Liturgists Podcast, is doing a live episode of his solo side podcast, Ask Science Mike, as part of a tour for his new book, Finding God in the Waves.

After questions ranging from the neurological effect of belief on the brain to the role of women in the church, a young man stands and shares his story. He works at a conservative church, he says, and finds his beliefs are starting to differ from the people he works with. Finally, he asks, “When you start to ask big questions, and you don’t know where they’re going, and you don’t know where they’ll take you, how do you find the courage to continue to move forward when you know it might have dramatic consequences?”

“I have terrible news,” McHargue answers. “If this continues, you will not fit in where you are. How do I know? There are a thousand people at a Baptist church, who I love dearly, who could not stand to be in a room with me, because I’m the one who rebelled against the tribe.” He pauses a moment before continuing. “Here’s the other thing. This is good. The way you understood God, that served you for so long, isn’t working anymore because you’re growing. ... So I say, get excited.”

McHargue and his Liturgists Podcast co-host Gungor are no strangers to questions about belief, doubt, and straying from the theological tribe. Both men grew up in conservative evangelical churches, and both men lost their faith as adults, regaining it in a different form later on. It’s an experience familiar to plenty of the millennials and Gen-Xers who make up the “nones,” the growing portion of the U.S. population who have no religious affiliation.

'Hidden Figures' Tells a Heroic Story, But Not the One They Deserve

by Abby Olcese 01-06-2017

Hidden Figures is a perfectly okay film in the feel-good crowd pleaser mold. But as important as the stories of these three often overlooked women are, it feels as if not enough time, effort, or vision were really put into the film to make it stand out. It’s not a movie that will offend anyone’s sensibilities. But it’s unlikely that audiences will be able to recall anything significant about it a year from now. These extraordinary women deserve better.

'Rogue One' Adds a Dark, Sobering Chapter to Ongoing 'Wars'

by Abby Olcese 12-19-2016

Image via 'Rogue One'/Facebook

There have been battles throughout the Star Wars films, from the prequels through the original trilogy, and beyond — but where the other films have been mainly swashbuckling escapist fantasy, Rogue One is about the gritty reality of battle on the ground.

Without spoiling it, Rogue One’s story includes a lot of darkness. There are still thrilling heroics, stirring music, and fun characters. But there’s a certain weight here that hasn’t necessarily been present in most of the other films. And that, plus the film’s talented, diverse cast, makes Rogue One a truly unique twist on the familiar format.

'La La Land' Is Dreamy, but a Film in the Wrong Year

by Abby Olcese 12-14-2016

Mia's and Sebastian's problems are, at best, first-world problems. Not only do they make the story less interesting, they make the characters seem petty as well. There are plenty of people living in L.A. with perfectly reasonable dreams whose lives are much harder than Mia and Sebastian’s, but still make it work. Some of their stories even make great movies, such as 2015’s trans buddy comedy Tangerine.

'Moana' Is the Healthy, Hopeful Picture of Leadership We Need

by Abby Olcese 11-29-2016

Image via "Moana"/Facebook.

Telling stories that encompass the scope of experience help us understand those whose experiences are different from our own. Amidst current racist, sexist political rhetoric and threats of more to come, we’re going to need more stories that bridge that gap.

Trouble Communicating With Your Loved Ones This Thanksgiving? Take Them to 'Arrival'

by Abby Olcese 11-18-2016

Image via "Arrival Movie"/Facebook

Arrival is an intricate, beautifully-realized story reminding us that, especially at a moment of great clamor in our society, it’s important not just to talk, but to listen to each other — and not just to listen, but to listen with intentionality and compassion.

A Missed Opportunity in 'Hacksaw Ridge'

by Abby Olcese 11-04-2016

Image via Hacksaw Ridge on Facebook.

Hacksaw Ridge is an intensely violent film about pacifism. That may seem like an oxymoron, but here, context is everything. Mel Gibson’s World War II film is about the pacifism of real-life conscientious objector Desmond Doss. Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist who served as an army medic and saved the lives of his fellow soldiers without once picking up a gun.

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