The Tree of Life
Directed by Terrence Malick (Fox Searchlight, 2011)
Terrence Malick’s kaleidoscopic masterpiece about, well, everything raises several universal questions, but one query this dazzling juggernaut of a film answers definitively is why make movies?
Most contemporary films entertain 14-year-old boys with a barrage of rapid-fire special effects. Other movies translate novels into a cinematic narrative furnished with a tapestry of lovely images and scenery.
Midnight in Paris
Directed by Woody Allen (Sony Pictures, 2011)
Hayes Carll (Lost High, 2011)
Despite the best efforts of the Nashville industry, country music refuses to die, and Hayes Carll’s new album is living proof. It has lyrics about wandering (“Hard Out Here”) and whiskey (“Bottle in My Hand”) and Mama (“Grateful for Christmas”). It’s got the twangy guitars and the sentimental moan of the pedal steel. So, of course, you’ll never hear a lick of Hayes Carll on today’s country radio.
The Sexual Believer: Uncommon Reflections On Sexual Morality For Catholics in the Third Millennium
By Noel Cooper (CreateSpace, an Amazon.com company, 2011)
The current scandals within the church in North America and in Europe have given cause for many to question the role of religion in defining and determining the sexual mores and practices of believers. Noel Cooper, religious and family life educator and author, suggests that today many adults are coming to the conclusion that they must choose between being religious and being sexual. Cooper believes we can be both.
The Lily Trilogy
Novels, if they are compelling, can threaten to suck up all of a busy mother's time away from her children. For half a week, I have been capitalizing on the distraction of my family or stealing needed sleep from myself in order to plunge headlong into the world of Lily in Sherry Boas' books The Lily Trilogy. Some novels tempt you to want to live in a fantasy world, to keep the characters you have come to know and love alive.
What do gangsters and ballerinas have in common? A deadly drive, according to the latest dance thriller Black Swan.
Black Swan is a movie about the ballet in the same way The Godfather is a film about the family business. Like Francis Ford Coppola’s tragic tale of Michael Corleone’s descent into slaughter, Darren Aronofsky’s seemingly arthouse film about ballet is a movie about what drives the American family business—ambition—and about the biblical costs we pay in pursuit of dreams of success.
Directed by David O. Russell (Paramount, 2010)
Boxing films are invariably tales of lion-hearted toughs from the wrong side of the tracks overcoming insuperable odds. But great fight movies are more than David-slays-Goliath epics. Alongside the slugfest in the ring, these films track another, more personal, battle.
City of Refuge
Abigail Washburn (Rounder Records, 2011)
The banjo is the most American of instruments, arriving with the slaves from West Africa but quickly adopted by their poor white neighbors. By the mid-20th century, it had become a totem of rural American culture and an engine of the Nashville sound. But on Abigail Washburn’s City of Refuge, her banjo, played in the pre-Nashville clawhammer style, plucks and clucks along in company with the guzheng (a Chinese zither) and some old-time Mongolian throat-singing.
Politics with Principle: 10 Characters with Character by Michael Kerrigan (Wheatmark, 2010)
It’s not often that one hears a rational discussion of virtue in politics.