Christian Piatt 11-06-2012

Steve Taylor, film director and rock hero, visits our (mine and Jordan Green's) Homebrewed Christianity podcast to talk about the disappointing theater run of his film, Blue Like Jazz, what made him leave music for film, and to announce his return to music through a new album he’s been working on.

So, yeah, that’s a big deal. And yeah, we’re pretty much breaking the story.

In the Echo Chamber, we talk about the election, Superstorm Sandy, scary movie commercials, and, you know, a bunch of other stuff. Finally, we discuss some common Christian cliches.

Listen ... inside the blog.

Jim Wallis 10-02-2012

Tomorrow night is the first presidential debate. It will undoubtedly be an important moment in the campaign for the highest office in the land. But, whose lives will it be important to?

Certainly, there will be a lot for pundits to discuss and dissect. They will analyze phrases and statements, and will compare them to polling data and focus groups in swing states. Super PACs will record gaffes by either candidate, ready to turn them into multi-million dollar commercial buys.

But, as a person of faith, what I want to know is: how will the words that are said and the positions that are staked out affect the 46 million people in our country living in poverty? What does it mean for the hardworking families who can't put food on the table? Or the 1 in 5 children for whom poverty is an everyday reality and opportunity seems to be an illusion?

Tonight is the world premiere of a film that puts those questions front and center. The Line is a new documentary film from Emmy award-winning writer and producer, Linda Midgett. It tells the stories of real people struggling to make ends meet but still falling below the poverty line. These are stories far too common in our country today and should be a central topic of this debate.  


Daniel Burke 09-17-2012
Hand holding Coptic cross.

Hand holding Coptic cross.

Coptic Christian leaders in the United States distanced themselves from an anti-Muslim film that has sparked protests in more than 24 countries, and denounced the Copts who reportedly produced and promoted the film.

"We reject any allegation that the Coptic Orthodox community has contributed to the production of this film," the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of America said in statement on Friday.

"Indeed, the producers of this film have taken these unwise and offensive actions independently and should be held responsible for their own actions."  

Gareth Higgins 09-01-2012

Spalding Gray in "And Everthying Is Going Fine"

The wonderful thing about Pixar’s Brave is how it negates the historic disempowerment of female fairy tale protagonists.

Spike Lee is not about to give up filmmaking but – at least for a moment or two – he sounded a bit like an expert on the challenges facing the church as he promoted his new movie Red Hook Summer.

“Any church whose members are senior citizens and there’s no youth coming behind, they’re going to die out,” Lee said in a roundtable discussion with reporters.

“Now that goes for synagogues, mosques, temples too — any institution,” Lee continued. “You got to always try to have that infusion of youth. They might not be as smart but youth has energy.”

Anne Marie Roderick 08-01-2012

Documentary: "Concrete, Steel, and Paint"

Concrete, Steel, and Paint, directed by Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza

Gareth Higgins 08-01-2012

Sacha Baron Cohen as The Dictator

The Dictator, amid its crudity and over-the-top stereotypes, asks us to reimagine democracy.

Nicole Higgins 07-23-2012
Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Photo via Warner Bros.

Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Photo via Warner Bros.

No introductions necessary here, right? We all have been looking forward to this conclusion of the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy and I am happy to report that my excitement for the summer blockbuster has been satisfied.

The Dark Knight Rises takes the viewer to the eight-year anniversary of the death of Gotham's white knight, Harvey Dent. Despite knowing the dark truth about Dent's demise, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) maintains the virtuous persona of the slain District Attorney while similarly honoring the reclusive behavior of the ailing and secretive heir, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).

Batman, too, has been out of the spotlight in the years following Dent's death, having taken the blame for his demise in order to cover Dent's actions, but his absence is put to the test with the emergence of a new villain — the mercenary extraordinare, Bane (Tom Hardy), who brings the havoc and rage reminiscent of Wayne's former mentor, Ra's Al Ghul.

Batman is forced to re-evaluate his former relationships with Gordon, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and his loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine). He also must learn whether to trust new people on the scene or not, including the successful (and fetching) thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and Gotham Police Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The rest you'll have to see for yourself.

Jack Palmer 07-23-2012
Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Photo via Warner Bros. Ente

Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Photo via Warner Bros. Entertainment.

In light of the tragic events which took place in Aurora, Colo., a few days ago, I feel uncomfortable providing a review of a film I was watching at the same time as the dozen souls who lost their lives in such an unfathomably awful situation. I’m sure that the emotions of excitement and anticipation that I felt in the days leading up to the film, as the previews rolled and as the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises unfolded before my eyes, will forever be mixed with feelings of deep sadness and anger the senseless violence that descended in Colorado.

Through the lens of what happened last Friday, The Dark Knight Rises has, rightly or wrongly, taken on a new layer of meaning for me (and, I'd imagine, many other moviegoers). It is a film about the very darkest of times — when all hope seems lost, when there are no heroes — and what happens when we allow the worst of ourselves to take control.

But it is also a story about redemption. It is a tale of finding courage in the face of overwhelming adversity, in spite of overwhelming physical and spiritual suffering. Christian Bale’s Batman (and indeed his Bruce Wayne), is in some ways a more timid character, by comparison, to the Batman who saved Gotham City from The Joker's psychotic games in The Dark Knight.

Older, weaker, and yet not much wiser, in The Dark Knight Rises Batman/Wayne does not see the city that in which he has made himself a recluse, in the same way as its other citizens. We see a man out of touch with those he once had inspired, with many citizens of Gotham believing Batman to be a murderer (the ghost of Harvey Dent looms large throughout the film) or leaving him for dead.

He has nothing more to give to a Gotham where organized crime is a thing of the past, a city that no longer believes it needs a hero to protect it. Gotham, its leaders conclude, is doing just fine without "the Bat."

Cathleen Falsani 07-22-2012
 Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman) in "Moonrise Kingdom."

Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman) try to find their way in "Moonrise Kingdom," the new film from director Wes Anderson

I liked this film so much I've already seen it twice. Moonrise Kingdom is so good, in fact, I almost couldn't bring myself to write about it for fear of not doing it justice.

And yet, since I first took my 11-year-old nephew, Ethan, to see it last month, I've been talking about Moonrise Kingdom nonstop, encouraging everyone I know to go see it. It has captured my imagination completely, an absolute tour de force — wholly original and an "instant classic," as I heard one film critic utter tell a companion on his way out of the theater.

Perhaps Ethan, a mythology buff who's never met a fantasy film he didn't like, put it most eloquently when he said (surprising no one more than himself), "That was the best film I've ever seen."

Moonrise Kingdom is director Wes Anderson's seventh feature-length film to date. In an iconoclastic cinematic oeuvre unrivaled among filmmakers of his generation, Anderson's latest stands above the rest of his stellar films — Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tennenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Darjeeling Limited — as an eloquent, funny, enduringly poignant homage to childhood and, moreover, to innocence.

In a word, the film is perfect. I wouldn't change a thing.

Cathleen Falsani 07-16-2012


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.

Derek Flood 07-10-2012

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.



Angela Aleiss 07-04-2012

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. 

Gareth Higgins 07-01-2012

Three highlights from Full Frame are films that mingle mature cinematic craft with ethical depth.

Sandi Villarreal 06-27-2012

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.

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.

Joshua Witchger 06-20-2012

Watch the new trailer for the Monsters, Inc. prequel, Monsters University. Plus a man with no legs climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro and CNN streams a new documentary on Bruce Springsteen. Read these in today's Links of Awesomeness...

Jack Palmer 06-08-2012
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.

Bill Keveney 06-08-2012
Photo: Helga Esteb /

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

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."

Kay Campbell 06-06-2012
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.