Archive for the ‘ Newman ’ Category

Finding Strong Fathers in Film

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

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by Marc T. Newman [critic]

Once you get past the first four of the Ten Commandments that deal with humans’ relationship to God, the first “horizontal” commandment is that people honor their fathers and mothers (Exodus 20:12). Last month we honored mothers. If you went to church, you may have seen moms getting flowers, perhaps being asked to stand, even receiving applause. The sermon likely extolled the virtues of motherhood with a special emphasis on appreciating the women who raised us.

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and I have, on more occasions than I wished, sat through Father’s Day sermons that primarily explained how men have failed as fathers, and why, if we would just adopt a 3-, 7-, or 12-step plan of self-flagellation and growth, we might be able to become the men God intended. Like most men, I am not the perfect father. Like all people, I am not a perfect person. But how will our children learn to honor their fathers if they can’t even get an attaboy from the pulpit on Father’s Day? They certainly are unlikely to get it at the Cineplex. (more…)

Losing Your Life to Gain It: Guidelines for Growing Old in “Up”

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

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by Marc T. Newman [critic]

Up is an animated film for grown-ups. Sure, it has a main character who is a child, funny talking dogs (sort of), and a fantasy element that requires a substantial suspension of disbelief – so don’t be surprised that families are drawn to it as well. Pixar movies are magnetic. They have the power to attract, even when the source of the pull is not immediately evident. Certainly Up has its share of snappy visuals; the 3-D version is particularly beautiful. But it is Pixar’s craftsmanship in showing us a story about the perils and promises of aging that makes Up rise above its animated rivals in its ability to strike an emotional chord that floats across any demographic divide. Kids will like it; but it will deeply touch adults. (more…)

Questioning Faith in “Angels and Demons”

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

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by Marc T. Newman [critic]

When Ron Howard’s screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code premiered in the spring of 2006, Sony Pictures delivered the Church an unexpected gift. People who never would have attended a week-long evening series on Church History were flocking to seminars promising to expose The Da Vinci Code! As a result, millions of people learned more about the history of the Church, and delved more deeply into Christology than they otherwise might. A little confrontation is often just what the Church needs. Nothing raises the blood like battle – even in academic issues.

No one expected the prequel/sequel, Angels and Demons, to do anything like the box office of its predecessor, but the film did finish on top of its opening weekend, posting respectable numbers. As a piece of cinema, it is a much better thriller than The Da Vinci Code, though it is nowhere near as theologically confrontational. (more…)

Healing Comes to the Broken-Hearted in Sunshine Cleaning

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

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by Marc T. Newman [critic]

If Henry David Thoreau was right when he said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them,” then Sunshine Cleaning is a film about some exceptional, desperate people who learn to sing.

Debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, it has taken over a year for a wise distributor to deliver Sunshine Cleaning to the public. The timing could not be better. In the midst of a serious economic downturn, with people wondering which end is up, or even if there is an up, many will relate to the story of Rose Lorkowski – a maid who starts a most unusual janitorial service. (more…)

Meaning in Life, Inevitability of Death, and the Prospect of Salvation in the Film Knowing

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

by Marc T. Newman [critic]

Warning: In order to adequately explore the spiritual themes in the film Knowing, this analysis contains major plot spoilers.

Are we a great cosmic accident, or is there a purpose to life on this planet? This question informs debate in college philosophy classrooms, school board schisms over evolution, deathbed discussions, and is the central controversy in the latest film from director Alex Proyas, Knowing. Adapted from the story by Ryne Douglas Pearson, Knowing follows the spiritual awakening of John Koestler, an MIT scientist drowning in drink and disbelief after the apparently meaningless death of his beloved wife in a hotel fire. In an unfinished dream home, he struggles to parent his precocious and often combative son, Caleb. At work, he poses questions to his students about determinism and randomness, indicating, in an unguarded moment, that he no longer believes that life has meaning. (more…)

Films to Look For in 2009

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

by Marc T. Newman [critic]

The first few weeks of any new year are peppered with top-ten lists. Critics re-hash last year’s reviews and place them in a hierarchy — kind of like their own personal awards show. At MovieMinistry we do things differently. Instead of looking behind, I prefer to look ahead at films that might represent interesting ministry opportunities for those people who use film for outreach, or to create teachable moments.

Keep in mind that I have yet to see most of these films. The speculations built into this preview are based solely on articles that have appeared about these films, their trailers, and plot synopses. Sometimes we get it wrong. Last year I predicted that X-Files: I Want to Believe might offer opportunities for discussion based on the transcendent themes that often were a part of the show. Unfortunately, it was a mess. Quite a number of films that were identified for release in 2008 were actually held over until 2009, so the jury is still out. But most of the films identified as having spiritual or moral ideas worth discussing, in fact, did. Keep in mind that release dates are always subject to change by the studios, and thought-provoking new films that have yet to be scheduled may suddenly appear. Many of these films are yet to be rated by the MPAA, so exercise discretion. (more…)

The Romantic Allure of Total Commitment in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

by Marc T. Newman [critic]

Marriage is the number one killer of romance. Don’t believe me? Take this simple quiz. Try to think of ten movies, made in the last ten years, that depict a married couple who have a sizzling love life – with each other. Stumped? Now try it again, only this time, name ten films that depict two single people having an intense romantic relationship. Not so hard, is it? Just open the paper to the movie listings and select freely.

People make sense of their lives through the stories of their culture. What we “know” about the world is often not acquired first-hand, but comes to us from secondary sources. In this, the most mediated generation of all time, those stories tend to come from film. It is little wonder, then, that so many young people are putting off marriage. Simply look at the stories that they are most consistently told. Movies tell them that all the events leading up to the wedding are electrifying, full of intense emotional longing, heart fluttering, loss, redemption, and professions of undying love. But “I do” is romantic death. (more…)

What do Teens Really Want? On “Twilight” and “Four Christmases”

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

by Marc T. Newman [critic]

Romantic Desire, Courtship, and Marriage in Twilight and Four Christmases

Coming out of an advance screening of Twilight, I was surrounded by throngs of breathless adolescents and young adults. By my count, about eighty percent of the audience was female, while the other twenty percent of the audience that was male was, somewhat unwillingly, towed along. The gender split among theatergoers is no surprise to anyone familiar with Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling “chick lit” series on which Catherine Hardwicke’s film is based.

Twilight is all romance; filled with teen angst, longing, Eros (emotionally felt, but never physically consummated), and salvation. Bella (Kristin Stewart), the beautiful, edgy new girl in town, lives with her divorced dad, who is the local sheriff. On her first day at school she locks eyes with the dreamy Edward (Robert Pattinson). Sparks fly. It is love at first sight, but, like all adolescent love stories since Romeo and Juliet, this one is complicated. (more…)

Eleven Thought-Provoking Films to Look For This Fall

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

by Marc T. Newman [critic]

At the beginning of every year, instead of compiling some backward-looking “Top Ten” list, I put together a list of upcoming films that I believe will be useful in sparking conversations about spiritual, moral, and ethical issues. So far, most of the films identified have met expectations. Okay, not enough people saw the X-Files sequel to merit much conversation, Inkheart has been moved to January (rarely a good sign), the latest Star Trek film has been moved to a summer date – a sign that the studio thinks it will be a big hit, but it will be competing with the next installment of Harry Potter, which was moved from its original November release date. (more…)

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