Peace In Our Time: A Conversation on Marvel and Star Wars (Article for FilmFisher, Co-Written with Timothy Lawrence)

The premise of this conversation is that there are a number of intriguing similarities between the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU for short) and what I’ll call the Star Wars Revival. Hollywood is obsessed with creating cinematic universes right now, and the obsession began with the success of Marvel’s multi-film set-up of the 2012 blockbuster hit, The Avengers. However, so far the only other attempted cinematic universe that has been able to imitate Marvel’s financial and critical success has been the return of Star Wars to the big screen, beginning with 2015’s The Force Awakens.

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Avengers: Infinity War (Review for FilmFisher)

I’m going to hazard a generalization. Whenever a new Marvel movie hits theaters—or for that matter any film based on an Intellectual Property™ with a zealous fanbase—the critical responses congregate overwhelmingly in two opposing camps. The first group is the professional critics, the serious auteurs, and the intellectual viewers who decry Marvel as a prime suspect in the corporatization of filmmaking and the infantilization of audiences. The second group is the aforementioned zealous fans, a number of whom grew up reading the comics and are ecstatic that their beloved heroes are no longer only two-dimensional drawings on panels but also (real or CGI) flesh-and-blood giants on IMAX screens. I’m sure there are some fans who don’t like the homogenizing cost of Marvel’s entry into the cultural mainstream, but overall it seems fans are grateful that the rest of the world has finally caught up with them and now embraces what was once niche and only for nerds. Whereas the first group prophesies the death of cinema, the second longs with eschatological fervor for every new chapter and sees a bright future. The first dismisses the second as shallow. The second dismisses the first as snobbish.

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Brother Bear (Review for FilmFisher)

I’ll begin with the bold claim that Brother Bear is one of the finest animated films Disney has produced in the past quarter century. At least, it is one of their most underrated and unappreciated. 

Granted, I tend to favor a handful of Disney’s supposed flops over a number of their “canonical” hits. I tend to root for underdogs, and perhaps I’m too loyal to films that left a deep impression on me in my childhood. Even so, I will attempt to make a case for the film’s greatness, not for the sake of nostalgia or to be contrarian, but because I believe the film’s craftsmanship, and the surprising richness of its many thematic preoccupations, ought to be recognized and discussed.

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Watching High Noon: A Case Study in Christian Film Criticism

“Pay attention.”

       It is a fascinating expression. Like “give attention,” it visualizes attention as something that passes from a subject (a person) to an object: another person, a lecture, a picture, a flower, a film. But “pay” is more interesting than “give” because it implies more. If I am told to pay attention, it means that attention is going to costs me something: time, patience, and mental or even emotional energy. If I am told to pay attention, it means that attention is owed. When someone speaks to me, I am obligated to pay attention in the same way that, when a fruit vendor gives me an apple, I am obligated to pay money. If I do not pay attention, I have robbed someone of what is due. 

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"The Grace That I Talk About on All of My Records": How Andy Mineo Raps the Gospel

       In a previous essay, I made the case that Christian art should be defined, quite literally, as art about Christ. [1] Truly Christ-ian art, though it comes in various ways, shapes, and forms, is always ultimately about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the message “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3): that Christ the Son of God, the sovereign Lord over all things, became a man, died for our sins, rose again, and is someday returning to judge the world and to gather up the church that He died to save. [2] 

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