Film

16 Christian Leaders and Their Cartoon Counterparts

 

So, you've seen Politicians Who Look Like Disney Characters.

Maybe you've perused Celebrities Who Look Like Historical People and already wasted some time checking out Cats That Look Like Hitler, Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers or Pugs That Look Like Things.

Today it's our great pleasure to bring you 16 Christian Leaders and Their Cartoon Counterparts, including our buddy Brian McLaren (over there with Turtleman from Finding Nemo), Rick Warren, Rachel Held Evans, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Rob Bell, God's Politics contributor Shane Claiborne, Pope Benedict XVI, our very own Sojourners Chief Executive Awesomeness Jim Wallis ... and many more.

You're welcome.

Hellbound? New Film Explores Ideas, Doctrine of Hell

One of the highlights of the Wildgoose Festival for me was a sneak preview of the feature length documentary Hellbound?,which will be released in select theaters nationwide this fall.

The film picks up on the recent media buzz generated by Rob Bell's controversial bestselling-book Love Wins, taking that debate into new levels of intelligence and depth.

Like any good documentary, we have the entertaining attention grabbing parts, which aren't hard to find when your topic is Hell and damnation:

We meet people at a death metal concert, take a tour through "Hell House" where actors attempt to traumatize teens into the kingdom by reenacting scenes from Columbine. Then there are the street interviews with the rather obviously mentally unstable and angry folks from Fred Phelps' church, holding their "God Hates Fags" signs and screaming at anyone who passes by.

The movie quickly moves beyond this however, delving into the deeper issues at hand. Unlike so many other Christian films, Hellbound? is neither sentimental nor sensationalist. The word that comes to mind instead is depth.

 

 

Faith (Not Pea Soup) Takes Center Stage in New 'Exorcist' Play

LOS ANGELES — Mention the word “exorcism” to most people, and you get descriptions of levitating bodies, spinning heads, oozing green bile and hissing serpentine tongues. But don’t expect to see these eye-popping visual effects in this summer’s stage version of The Exorcist at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Instead, the production will have “minimal” special effects, according to playwright John Pielmeier, who adapted William Peter Blatty’s best-selling 1971 novel for the stage.

"I didn’t look at the movie when I was doing this adaptation. It’s all the book,” he said.

Pielmeier says that his version needs no spinning heads or green bile. Instead, there will be a simple set with a minimal cast.  And rather than revolve around a young girl’s demonic possession, the story will focus upon a series of clever debates between the demon and the priests. 

Screening Relevance

THE TRUTHS flickered into visible expression at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival are, minute-for-minute, usually among the cinematic highlights of the year.

The line between documentary and fiction movies has blurred: On the one hand, even a Hollywood package as huge as The Dark Knight has its share of verite-style intimate handheld camerawork (and thoughtful politics—Batman is presented as nothing less than the necessary sacrifice for a community that has to kill someone to stay “pure”). On the other, the top 10 grossing documentaries of all time were each released in the past decade: Audiences are attracted by the fusion of social engagement and entertainment like never before.

Michael Moore’s appearance at the festival reminded me how common it is for activists to want to make films just because it’s cool (which usually makes for bad films), or for filmmakers to inject a dose of socially “relevant” messaging into their movie because they think it will increase the box office. (Think of when churches jumped on the bandwagon for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Mel got rich. Jesus, I aver, stayed 99 percent poor.) Moore’s point is that you should make documentaries because you want to make films—you can be an activist without being a filmmaker.

But if you’ve got the heart and the talent, it should rise to the surface, and if it does, you’ll usually end up at Full Frame, where this year’s highlights were three films that mingle mature cinematic craft with ethical depth.

Under African Skies relates Paul Simon’s controversial recording of the 1986 album Graceland in a South Africa whose anti-apartheid movement was supporting a cultural boycott. Simon emerges a humble man, willing to correct himself, to hear feedback, and to balance ideological purity with the assertion that artists must be beholden to no political party.

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Top 10 Nora Ephron Moments: A Sojo Staff Tribute

The Sojo staff loves Nora Ephron. We already have up a contributor’s beautiful tribute to her life HERE. But we wanted to share our favorite N.E. moments. We also may or may not be planning a progressive dinner-movie party that will include: an appetizer of caviar and You’ve Got Mail, beef bourguignon (not it!) and Julie and Julia, dessert of pecan pie and When Harry Met Sally, and one really long curl of apple peel and Sleepless in Seattle. 

But for now, Sojo staff’s top 10 Nora Ephron golden nuggets.

For Nora Ephron

Joe Corrigan/Getty Images for AOL
Nora Ephron during TechCrunch Disrupt in 2011. Joe Corrigan/Getty Images for AOL

There are some movies that I can watch over and over and over again. One of these movies is Sleepless in Seattle, a Nora Ephron film. It is the quintessential chick flick. There is a mysterious quality about works of art that never grow old, that leave us feeling happier after we have wrapped ourselves in their wonder. They contain a human truth that touches something in us that is beyond explanation.

The movie about how two strangers find each other and true love is funny, engaging, quirky, and completely unrealistic. And perhaps therein lies its truth. It takes us to that place where we understand that there is more to life than that which we can see. There is more to life than what we can understand.  It leaves us with the hope that there is such a thing as a love that will not be denied. It reminds us that love and faith walk hand in hand.

Prometheus: Promises Much, But Fails To Deliver

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Michael Fassbender and Ridley Scott at Prometheus premiere. Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

It’s a little over 12 hours since I walked out of the movie theater, as the seemingly never-ending credits of Prometheus rolled behind me. It’s safe to say that I walked out of the theater in a very different mood than I had entered it. Three hours previously, I had butterflies in my stomach – the anticipation that I and my fellow late-night moviegoers exuded was palpable – we were all ready to witness something special. A master storyteller returning to, arguably his greatest work. 

It is 33 years since Sir Ridley Scott scared the wits out of filmgoers with his horror/sci-fi classic Alien. In Prometheus, he returns to the universe he created all those years ago, to the mysterious workings of the Weyland Corporation, and to deep space where, as we all know, “no one can hear you scream.”

At 12:01 this morning, I was ready to see a film that has been a decade in development, an epic piece of cinema that would tantalize everyone who loves the Alien franchise, and that would introduce a younger generation to one of the most feared cinematic monsters in history. Sadly, the film I was ready to see was not the one I saw.

‘True Blood’ Sinks its Teeth into Religion and Politics

Photo: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
Stars of True Blood Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, Photo: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

On HBO's "True Blood," politics is literally a bloody business.

In its fifth season — which happens to coincide with a U.S. presidential campaign —"True Blood," returning Sunday (9 p.m. ET/PT), explores political maneuverings in the vampire realm between The Authority, a mainstream group that seeks accommodation with humans, and the Sanguinistas, fundamentalists who believe mortals are simply food for their vampire superiors.

"We wanted to play with the politics/religion angle, since that seems to be something that never stops," creator Alan Ball says. "Some of the things being said by some people during the Republican primary were so horrifying to me that I thought, 'What if vampires wanted a theocracy? What would that look like?' Whenever anybody thinks they know what God wants and wants to apply that to government, whether Americans or the Taliban, it's kind of a terrifying thing."

Hell and Mr. Fudge

Promotional poster for "Hell and Mr. Fudge."
Promotional poster for "Hell and Mr. Fudge."

ATHENS, Ala. — Black and white. Heaven and hell. Right and wrong.

Blur or question those lines, and, well, all hell can break out.

 

 

At least it did for Edward Fudge in the early 1980s in in this small northern Alabama hamlet.

Fudge was a young preacher who also worked in his father's publishing company. When he began to teach a doctrine of hell that contradicted the traditional view of a place of eternal fiery torment for the damned, a quick succession of events cost him his job and his pulpit.

A new film, Hell and Mr. Fudge, compresses the events of the years when Fudge, now a Houston-based lawyer and internationally known Bible teacher and author, began an intensive study of the Bible and the doctrine of hell. What he found made him question one of the bedrock doctrines of Christianity.

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