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

From Ferguson, an Intimate Look at a Movement

by Abby Olcese 09-18-2017

As filmmaking, Whose Streets is dramatic and powerful. As a historical document, it holds even more weight. 

‘Step’ Is Inspirational But Could Be More

by Abby Olcese 08-17-2017

Image via Step Facebook page

It’s a powerful setup, and the girls’ (and their team’s) journeys are inspiring. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that Lipitz is more concerned with crafting a tidy, three-act narrative than with taking an honest look at who these girls are, and the issues they face.

Finding God in the Dark

by Abby Olcese 07-31-2017
Movies are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings, by Josh Larsen. IVP Books.

AS A TEENAGER growing up in a church setting that discouraged engaging with movies, books, or music deemed a “bad influence,” I remember frequently being confused about pop culture, particularly when it came to what films I was “allowed” to watch. Was I wrong for wanting to see Taxi Driver ? For identifying with Saved? Was it a sin to watch The Last Temptation of Christ?

The answer to all these questions, of course, is “no,” but the sentiment behind them is understandable. The easiest metric for Christians to judge a film’s quality is the measure of its “objectionable” content, regardless of what that content says about the filmmaker’s intent, or the political or cultural attitudes under which it was conceived. The truth, however, is that all art—whether spiritual or secular in origin—has something to express about the world: joy in its beauty, anger at its injustice, a whole spectrum of emotions and ideas that reflect the human experience.

Why ‘The Big Sick’ Is the Romantic Comedy You Need Right Now

by Abby Olcese 07-12-2017

Image via The Big Sick trailer 

But really, the best performance in the film belongs to Nanjiani —no surprise, since it’s partly his own story. The affection he feels for his parents makes him afraid to upset them, but to really come into his own as a person, and as a comedian, he has to be honest with them about what he wants for his life.

Northern Ireland, War, and the Power of Unlikely Political Friendships

by Abby Olcese 07-06-2017
Q&A with ‘The Journey’ Director Nick Hamm

Nick Hamm, director of ' The Journey'  

Olcese: In the creation of the film, did you find yourself sympathizing with one character or the other? Was one character easier to make more sympathetic?

Hamm: No. I couldn’t. I absolutely wanted to make the film balanced and fair to both sides. That was completely essential. Don’t forget, both these figures were not liked in Europe before they became statesmen. They were both radical. McGuinness was an ex-member of the IRA, Paisley was a firebrand preacher on the right. These were two men who were pretty much despised universally outside of their own base. It’s like The Odd Couple in the back of a car. I think what the humanity of that is when you take all that away, when you remove from the politician the artifice, and you get a chance to look at them as people, and I think that’s what happens in the movie.

‘The Journey’ Reminds Us That Peace Can Be Possible In Politics

by Abby Olcese 07-06-2017

Image via The Journey trailer 

Unfortunately, the script, by writer Colin Bateman often tends toward the bland, with the exception of a couple of pivotal scenes. Both Paisley and McGuinness were big, powerful personalities, with many facets to explore. The script, however, takes what could be a truly interesting exploration of two dynamic characters, and often reduces them to a pair of old men arguing in the back of a car. There are some standout moments where beliefs are challenged and moments of real emotional honesty are reached, but it takes some waiting to get there.

‘Baby Driver’ Is Another Film About Spectacle, Not Substance

by Abby Olcese 06-27-2017

Image via Baby Driver Facebook page 

The new film Baby Driver is a movie that expresses joy through art, specifically music. The action film from director Edgar Wright connects the joy of listening to a favorite song to the way those musical rhythms color our everyday lives. At its best, the film is a celebration of joy in creativity that bleeds over into a joy in creation itself. It struggles, however, to turn that aesthetic delight into something of substance.

Religious Movies Usually Feel Fake. ‘The Wedding Plan’ Is Different

by Abby Olcese 06-09-2017

Image via The Wedding Plan website 

Film critic Alissa Wilkinson writes that “Christian theology is rich and ... full of imagination that's broad enough to take up residence among all kinds of human cultures. It contains within itself the idea that art exists as a good unto itself, not just a utilitarian vehicle for messages.” The Wedding Plan is a prime example of this kind of religious art. It’s a message movie, a window into a culture that makes the specific and personal universally relatable, and still manages to tell a good story. 

How ‘Wonder Woman’ Does Not Placate Audiences

by Abby Olcese 06-02-2017

Image via Wonder Woman Facebook Group 

At first glance, the meaning behind this tagline for Wonder Woman feels obvious, it is the next step on the DC franchise road to November’s Justice League movie. But of course, there’s more to it than that. Wonder Woman marks a feminist milestone, too, one that feels like artistic justice: it’s the first major superhero movie to feature a female hero, and the first to use a female director, Patty Jenkins.

‘War Machine’ Shows We Cannot Satirize Combat

by Abby Olcese 05-31-2017

Image via War Machine Facebook Page

The biggest issue War Machine faces is that satire seems to be the wrong track for the movie to take. War and soldiers are difficult subjects to make funny. The best that writer-director Michôd can manage is to provide the stars — like Pitt and his military cohort — with a couple of strange quirks to color their performances. Sometimes these characterizations feel lazy, other times like the actors are trying too hard. The humor, when it’s there, feels forced.

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