Archives For Film



Today is the birthday of English novelist Thomas Hardy (born 1840). Hardy’s novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, has recently been released as a feature film.

( Far From the Madding Crowd is available as a [easyazon_link asin=”B0084B0DOK” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]FREE ebook for Kindle[/easyazon_link] or in a variety of other FREE ebook formats through Project Gutenberg. )

Watch the trailer for the movie here…

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1938633172″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”222″ alt=”Gareth Higgins” ]Dreaming Freely about a Better World

A Feature Review of

Cinematic States: Stories We Tell, the American Dreamlife, and How to Understand Everything*

*(Mostly. But Not Really. But Sort Of.)

Gareth Higgins

Paperback: Burnside Books, 2013.
Buy now:  [ [easyazon-link asin=”1938633172″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]  [ [easyazon-link asin=”B00I2FWUQW” locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]


Reviewed by Brett David Potter


Film is oneiric. When we all sit together in a darkened room, fixated on the flickering shadows dancing on the luminous silver screen, we engage in a kind of collective dreaming. As film theorists have pointed out, it’s Plato’s cave without anyone standing up to interrupt the show.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0745655688″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”222″ alt=”Alain Badiou” ]A Call to Arms for Filmmakers and Viewers Alike

A Feature Review of

Alain Badiou

Paperback: Polity Press 2013
Buy Now:  [ [easyazon-link asin=”0745655688″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]

Reviewed by S. Benjamin Holsteen

François Truffaut, one of the preeminent film critics of the French New Wave, once said, “[There is a] famous French advertising slogan that says, ‘When you love life, you go to the movies,’ it’s false! It’s exactly the opposite: when you don’t love life, or when life doesn’t give you satisfaction, you go to the movies.” To my mind, this statement can be read in two ways. The first approach is to read it as condemnation, casting cinema as little more than simple escapism. As I sit down to write this, summer is on the wane, bringing to a close yet another season of would-be Blockbusters; some commercial hits, many more misses, and seemingly very few concerned with much more than filling seats at the local multiplex. While there are always exceptions, one could be forgiven for looking at the broad cinematic output of the last few months (years? longer?) and feeling that this sort of respite-from-reality, entertainment-for-entertainment’s-sake approach is the highest goal of a great many, if not most, of the filmmakers working in Hollywood today.

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“Wasting Away in the USA”

A Review of

American Wasteland
By Jonathan Bloom


A Documentary by Jeremy Seifert.

Reviewed by Chase Roden.

AMERICAN WASTELAND - Jonathan BloomAmerican Wasteland:
How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food
(and What We Can Do About It)
Jonathan Bloom.
Hardback: De Capo, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon – Hardback ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

A Documentary by Jeifert Seifert.
Available through the website:

Jeremy Seifert wants you to eat trash. Jonathan Bloom just wants you to stop throwing food away.

In the wealthiest country in the world, while tens of millions of Americans don’t get enough to eat or know how they’re going to get their next meal, we throw away 11 million pounds of food an hour. While people suffer malnutrition or even starve, half of the food grown or purchased in America is thrown out, uneaten.

Seifert and Bloom independently take on food waste in two recent works, approaching the topic from surprisingly different perspectives. Where Jonathan Bloom’s book American Wasteland focuses on waste in the production, sale, and disposal of food, Jeremy Seifert’s documentary Dive starts with dumpster diving — the reclaiming of edible food from the trash cans of grocery stores — and moves to broader questions about American society. The problem as Seifert and Bloom both identify it is not simply one of hunger in a land of waste, but also of the massive environmental impact of food rotting in landfills.

Jonathan Bloom’s career as a freelance journalist shows in his far-ranging fieldwork and tendency to use examples of individuals and institutions to make his case against waste. Starting on a factory farm in Salinas, CA and going wherever the story takes him — school cafeterias, landfills, nursing homes, high-tech waste facilities in the UK — Bloom is dedicated to uncovering and understanding waste wherever it occurs. He even takes a job in the produce section of a Durham, NC grocery store for several months in order to witness the industry first-hand. The stories Bloom uncovers are treated fairly and with a positive outlook, with the stories of people working against wastefulness alongside accounts of profligacy.

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“Not Made to Be God

A Review of
Light Boxes: A Novel.
By Shane Jones.

Reviewed by
Joshua Neds-Fox.

Light Boxes: A Novel.
Shane Jones.

Paperback: Penguin, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Light Boxes by Shane JonesIn Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard relates her childhood encounter one January with the Polyphemus moth, “…beautiful… one of the few huge American silk moths…,” which her classmate brings to school, still in its cocoon. She and her peers pass it around, feel it jump inside its “spun silk and leaf”; look it up in a book to see what it will be when it emerges. Finally, they put it in a mason jar to mature. The heat of their hands has woken it to its purpose, and it struggles out, “a sodden crumple,” and breathes, still, under their gaze.

“He couldn’t spread his wings. There was no room. The chemical that coated his wings like varnish, stiffening them permanently, dried, and hardened his wings as they were. He was a monster in a Mason jar. Those huge wings stuck on his back in a torture of random pleats and folds, wrinkled as a dirty tissue, rigid as leather. They made a single nightmare clump still wracked with useless, frantic convulsions. (Pilgrim… 62)

The children and their hapless teacher would be benign lords to the doomed creature: they want only to see it become everything it is created to be. Yet by their very attention they consign the moth to a short life characterized by suffering and unfulfilled potential. Despite their intentions, they succeed in ensuring that it will never fly.

Shane Jones, too, has coaxed a creature from its cocoon — his debut novel, Light Boxes, 500-or-so copies of which were published in 2009 by the tiny Publishing Genius Press. Jones promoted his fledgling work relentlessly by every meager means available, till the unthinkable occurred: Spike Jonze (Where The Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich) optioned it for film, and Penguin Books picked up a second printing for the national market.

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A New Book of Alexis De  Tocqueville.

At a conference on Democracy in America several years ago, one of the speakers took up Alexis de Tocqueville’s prediction that increased centralization and equality in the United States would produce the “soft despotism” of a “schoolmaster” state: “Above [the citizens] rises an immense tutelary power that alone takes charge of ensuring their pleasures and watching over their fate,” Tocqueville writes.

It is absolute, detailed, regular, farsighted, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if its object was to prepare men for adult life, but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in permanent childhood. It likes citizens to enjoy themselves, so long as all they think about is enjoyment …. The sovereign power doesn’t break their wills, but it softens, bends, and directs them. It rarely compels action, but it constantly opposes action. It doesn’t destroy, but it prevents birth; it doesn’t tyrannize, but it hinders, represses, enervates, restrains, and numbs, until it reduces each nation to a mere flock of timid and industrious animals, with the government as their shepherd.

Read the full review:

Tocqueville’s Discovery of America.
Leo Damrosch.
Hardback: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010
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How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All

By Marilyn Johnson

One day, apparently before the rise of Google Book Search, Marilyn Johnson made an odd request at the New York Public Library. She needed to find the symptoms of an imaginary illness called “information sickness,” which she recollected from a 1981 novel by Ted Mooney, “Easy Travel to Other Planets.” She couldn’t find her own copy, so a team of librarians went spelunking in the stacks, wearing miner’s helmets, as Johnson tells it. They surfaced with a copy preserved, strangely enough, on micro­film, and soon Johnson was reading the dimly remembered passage in which a woman keels over, blood gushing from her nose and ears as she raves about disconnected facts. When the woman recovers from her fugue state, she says: “I was dazzled. I couldn’t tell where one thing left off and the next began.”

Read the full review:

How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All.

Marilyn Johnson.
Hardback: HarperCollins, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

A Review of the Recent Movie
About the Latter Years of Leo Tolstoy’s Life
The Last Station,
From our Friends at Jesus Manifesto

“Everything I know I know only because I love”
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

This is the quote that opens The Last Station, a film based on the novel by Jay Perini. The Last Station chronicles the final years of perhaps the greatest writer of the 20th century, Leo Tolstoy. Featuring terrific performances by Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer, it is a simple film and slightly specialized, but gives us a glimpse into the epic life and marriage Tolstoy had.

Read the full review:


The Powells Books Review of
Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture
by Darrin Nordahl

America’s relationship with food is dysfunctional. Obesity, childhood malnourishment, fast-food addiction, E. coli and salmonella outbreaks — the list of problems is as familiar as it is dismaying. Though average Americans are fundamentally disconnected from the vast industrial networks that disgorge their daily meals, they were not always so removed from food production. Even after the United States converted from an agrarian to an industrial economy, there were periods when large numbers of the country’s citizens helped to grow the food they ate. During World War II, the public heeded the U.S. government’s call to raise “victory gardens” to ease the strain of supplying canned goods to overseas troops. In 1944, an estimated 20 million victory gardens yielded eight million tons of food.

In Public Produce, city designer Darrin Nordahl describes how towns and cities are working diligently to tap that spirit again and create civic cornucopias. He has more in mind than the occasional community garden. He wants the largest landlord in most cities — the municipal government — to expand the uses conceived of for public places beyond recreation and aesthetic pleasure to include farming.

Read the full review:

Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture
Darrin Nordahl.
Paperback: Isaland Press, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

THE NY TIMES Review of
the new animated movie

There is a lot to look at in “The Secret of Kells.” Nearly every frame of this 75-minute animated feature is dense with curlicued and cross-hatched patterns and figures. Your eye travels over Celtic crosses and through forest glades, studies architectural schematics and drinks in delicately washed landscapes. The human characters come in a variety of shapes and hues. Some are cute, some are sinister, some angular, some roly-poly. A few resemble science-fiction robots, while others look like pixies out of Japanese anime.

But you might take special notice of their hands, which are squared off and elongated in a way that suggests both crudeness and grace. These appendages are also large, appearing slightly out of proportion to the bodies, which makes sense given that the subject and method of this film is handicraft. “The Secret of Kells,” directed by Tomm Moore, concerns the Book of Kells, a medieval illuminated manuscript that ranks among the most important artifacts of Irish civilization. And it is only fitting that a movie concerned with the power and beauty of drawing — the almost sacred magic of color and line — should be so gorgeously and intricately drawn.

Read the full review:

Now playing in select US cities…


A Review of

Homer Simpson Marches on Washington:
Dissent Through American Popular Culture
Timothy Dale and Joseph Foy, eds.
Hardback: University Press of KY, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

HOMER SIMPSON MARCHES ON WASHINGTONHomer Simpson Marches on Washington: Dissent Through American Popular Culture is a fine follow-up to the earlier volume 2008’s Homer Simpson Goes to Washington.  In the book’s introduction, editor Joseph Foy, gets to the heart of the book’s purpose:

In the premiere episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert announces that the viewers of his show are “heroes” who know that “something must be done.”  He then pounds his fist on his C-shaped desk to inform them that they are doing something right now – they are “watching TV.”  His proclamation might be met with smirks, guffaws, and skepticism, but the authors of the chapters of this book lend credence to this tongue-in-cheek commentary.  Although true activism requires mobilized engagement to inspire change, the empowerment of political dissent via mass media and popular culture reflected in these pages provide an argument that true public, democratic action is occurring through popular culture.  We merely have to tune in to join the conversation (14).

The essays in this collection explore a diverse range of media from television (The Simpsons, of course, The Daily Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and more), to music (“Protest Songs in Popular Music,” Hip-Hop) to the movies (M. Night Shymalan’s The Happening, and more).  Although this is an excellent and engaging book, a few of the essays were difficult to read because I was unfamiliar with the TV show or film that they were examining.  Perhaps the most captivating piece, however, was Matthew Henry’s “Gabbin’ About God: Religion, Secularity and Satire on The Simpsons,” which not only explores these themes as they are played out on the show, but also critically examines other books that have explored The Simpsons’ treatment of Christianity.  Two more of the best essays in this volume were Jamie Warner’s treatment of the “Politics of Truth” on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show and Carl Bergetz’s piece “It’s Not Funny ‘Cause It’s True: The Mainstream Media’s Response to Media Satire in the Bush Years.”  On the other hand, Jerry Rodnitzky’s essay on “The Evolution of Protest Songs in Popular Music” was rather disappointing because it limited its focus to only the most mainstream of popular songs, ignoring more marginal arenas of pop music like rap (e.g., Public Enemy) or punk/post-punk ( The Dead Kennedys, Rage Against the Machine, etc.).

Homer Simpson Marches on Washington is essential reading for anyone who believes that mass media can be effective in exposing the oppressive powers that be and inspiring people to resist them.


Friday December 11
Englewood Christian Church

THE TREACHERY OF TECHNOLOGY: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul
by Jan van Boeckel
Sub-titled in English

CLICK HERE for the Facebook e-vite…

Jacques Ellul

6PM – Light soup dinner ($2/person donation requested)
7PM – Film Screening
8PM – Discussion of the film

Jacques Ellul is one of the thinkers who has been most influential on our theology here at Englewood. Come view and discuss this essential documentary with us.

Description of the movie:

J. Ellul, The Technological Society, Intro:

“The term technique, as I use it, does not mean machines, technology, or this or that procedure for attaining an end. In our technological society, technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity. Its characteristics are new; the technique of the present has no common measure with that of the past.” (p. xxv)

In 1950, Ellul finished his manuscript La Technique ou l’enjeu du siecle (The Technological Society), his seminal analysis of the way technology shapes every aspect of society. As contemporary thinker, he was strongly influenced by Kierkegaard, Marx and Barth. After a live, in which he wrote close to fifty books, Ellul died in the summer of 1994, at the age of 82.

The team of ReRun Produkties visited Ellul in 1990. During five subsequent days, long interview sessions were held with him in his old mansion in Pessac. The Betrayal by Technology is one of the very few existing filmed recordings of Jacques Ellul speaking.

1992, 54 minutes


“To See the Fissures and
Hear the Rumblings”

A Review of
The BQE .

a film by Sufjan Stevens.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

The BQE .
A film by Sufjan Stevens.
Copyright 2009, Asthmatic Kitty Records.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

“Listening has something to do with being willing to change ourselves and change our world” – Sr. Joan Chittister

THE BQE - Sufjan StevensSufjan Stevens’ new movie The BQE is one of the finest and most creative works of social criticism in recent memory.  The film, commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, primarily features footage of traffic on the twisting and often congested highway known as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE).  Stevens intersperses other footage from Brooklyn (architecture, waterways, amusement parks), but his primary counterpoint is three colorfully-clad female hula hoop spinners, working under the pseudonyms Botanica, Quantus and Electress.  As a complement to the movie, Stevens has also produced a comic book in which the three hula-hoopers are portrayed as super-heroes who fight the evil Dr. Moses – a reference to Robert Moses, the progress-oriented urban planner who designed the BQE.  Stevens’ cinematography – presented in a triptych format – captures the winding, free-for-all insanity of the BQE.  In his artist’s statement about the film, Stevens observes that the twisting design of the BQE was mandated by navigating through an already-well-established city with a variety of geographical features like rivers, islands and tidal straits and by the NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) politics that kept the BQE out of prestigious neighborhoods, like Brooklyn Heights.  As Stevens’ comic book illustrates in its simplistic way, the critiques that the BQE raises are aimed primarily at Robert Moses and his visions of cities designed around technological concepts of progress that pay little heed to the holistic health of humanity.  Moses, for instance, designed parks that were “fiercely antagonistic to the natural, bucolic and egalitarian…more prison yard than public park” (Stevens artist statement), and instead were typically focused around competitive, athletic endeavors.  Thus, hula hoopers serve to contrast these focused notions of progress – speeding ahead pell-mell into the future like the BQE traffic on any given day – with the circular motion of the hula hoop, a symbol of a recreational idleness (a la Tom Hodgkinson), which spins in harmony with a person’s motions and never seems to get anywhere.  Stevens further exposits the hula hoop in his artist’s statement:

[The] Hula hoop couldn’t be more at odds with modernity.  Americans of the 1950s were linear people, hard working and industrious.  They fought world wars, drove big cars, and built mammoth roadways in the name of progress.  Their popular sports reflected the same: baseball and football were competitive and strategic games … The hoop couldn’t be more different.  It required no teams.  It wasn’t competitive. It wasn’t linear.  It was philosophically personal and metaphysically absurd, a gratuitous recreation built around a simple circular tube of plastic meant for nothing more than idle enjoyment and exercise.

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