Gareth Higgins (garethhiggins.net) is a writer and broadcaster from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has worked as an academic and activist. He is the author of Cinematic States: America in 50 Movies and How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films. He blogs at www.godisnotelsewhere.wordpress.com and co-presents “The Film Talk” podcast with Jett Loe at www.thefilmtalk.com. He is also a Sojourners contributing editor. Originally from Northern Ireland, he lives in Asheville, North Carolina.
Posts By This Author
Compassion, Destruction, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a surprising addition to the typical summer blockbuster canon -- for one thing, it manages to entertain and challenge, without resorting to gratuitous violence to make its point. But there's a deeper subtext that is even more unexpected -- for this is a story in which we start to lose.
It was fashionable in the late 1960s and early '70s for science fiction films to attempt to out-dystopia each other -- see for example the notion in Soylent Green that post-industrial humanity snacks on itself to survive, the suggestion that only robots can be trusted to look after creation in Silent Running, and the climactic revelation in the original Planet of the Apes that a few generations from now, the nuclear arms race will end in mutually assured destruction. All these point to a simple philosophical idea: that humans cannot be trusted to care for ourselves or the planet we steward.
6 Films for a Meaningful Summer
It's been a fabulous few weeks for movies -- at theaters and at home. There are images in the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, that are so beautiful they can evoke an aching longing for transcendent experience. This is entirely the point, for the film is about the search for meaning in a God-breathed universe. A man goes to space to investigate a mystery, discovers himself in the face of his loved ones, and ends in an embrace with the divine -- love itself. It's an astonishing work of art that repays multiple viewings, and serves as nothing less than an icon for worship. This summer's The Tree of Life, the fifth film in 40 years from the Christian humanist artist Terrence Malick, becomes something similar, and in the process makes excellent cinematic use of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as avatars of contemporary masculinity. It's the most moving film I've seen this year.
Life's Pathos and Slapstick
The award for most surprisingly profound film of 2011 might go to Bridesmaids. This story of a woman trying to figure out her path in the midst of witness
8 Inspiring Movies About Social Change
Ah the joy of watching movies in the summer! Of course, there are a number of summer blockbusters coming out that will woo crowds to the theaters, but with the sky-high prices of theater tickets these days, nobody will fault you for wanting to stay home and kick back with a rental. If you're looking for a film that will entertain and inspire you, consider adding some of these excellent films about social change to your online queue. If you have any other films to add to this list, please contribute your favorites in the comments section below. (To read more of my film reviews, check out my monthly column in Sojourners magazine.)
Fight or Flight
Gareth Higgins reviews Batle: Los Angeles, Saving Private Ryan, and Chinatown.
From Escape to Reality
Reviews of 2010 films, and looking ahead to 2011.
Love That Transcends Fear
Preachers in American fiction are usually not to be trusted -- Elmer Gantry might steal from you, the priest in Mystic River might kidnap you, Robert Duvall’s Sonny i
Truth and Storytelling
It's a golden age for documentaries. Michael Moore kick-started the era with crusading films such as Bowling for Columbine and Sicko, fusing serious social commentary with a protagonist who could be identified with by a wider audience than the "God's-eye view" used in magnificent PBS films by Ken Burns, such as The Civil War and Jazz. Burns seeks a resonant "objective" perspective, relating tales of U.S. history as if our lives depended on it (which of course, if you accept that those who forget are doomed to repeat, it does). Moore wants to place us at the story’s center, revealing the insecurities at the heart of American social strife as something that we could all do something about.
Moore and Burns are only the most popular and widely seen of recent documentarians. They stand alongside Errol Morris, whose treatment of the life of Robert McNamara, The Fog of War, may be the best analysis of how political rhetoric can mask horrific action; Michael Apted, whose Up series, following the lives of several people since their seventh birthdays in 1964, constitutes a social history of the past 50 years; and most of all the Maysles Brothers, who were among those who invented the form, with films such as Salesman, an astonishing vision of the corruption of commerce and religion, and Grey Gardens, which serves as a mirror image to the myths of Camelot that surround JFK's presidency. All of these films paved the way for recent works fusing factual cinema with an ethical eye.
Are We Found Yet?
The most significant DVD release of 2010 is America Lost and Found, packaging seven films produced between 1968 and 1972, including Easy Rider and The Last Picture Show.
Claiming Our Power
Gareth Higgins reviews Submarine, Project Nim, and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
Star Wars Memorial
Paths to Freedom
Real Life, Real Truth
Bloody Sunday and Telling the Truth
Looking for Revelation
It’s the end of the world for Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli, one of the legion of recent films (including one actually titled Legion) that suggest that while the earth ma
Culture War Cease-Fire
There's evidence that popular cinema is taking real life seriously.
Biden vs. Cheney on Afghanistan, the Unpopularity of Lamentation, and Shutter Island
Cormac McCarthy’s novels are the Ecclesiastes of postmodern American literature—finely wrought chunks of sparseness in which the protagonists struggle to survive a violent or deadening
On Film: Selective Storytelling
Another look at Gone with the Wind.