Monday Morning Humor: Live From New York, It’s Hillary Clinton!

“Okay, now hold up your phone, and you can just look natural … okay, and maybe you want to soften a little. Okay, a little more. Okay, um, maybe a LOT more…”

(Note: One roundabout reference to the prospective First Dude’s misdemeanors. Nothing explicit.)

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Christian Movie Madness (or Is There Such a Thing as a Great Christian Movie?)

Recently, ChristianCinema.com released the results of a month-long movie poll pitting various Christian films against each other. Paralleling basketball’s “March Madness,” the tournament entered 64 films that were eliminated or advanced in a knockout format as Christian viewers voted. Naturally, movies with an aggressive social media campaign behind them had an edge, which might explain why the 2014 release God’s Not Dead was ultimately crowned (in Christian Cinema’s words) the “Best. Movie. Ever.” Because nobody’s ever made good films outside the evangelical Christian film-making bubble, so best Christian movie, best movie, same different right?

I did my own review of God’s Not Dead when it first came out. I gave it 2.5 stars out of 5, which in hindsight actually seems too generous. I don’t have to explain why it’s not the best movie ever, but it’s a far cry even from being the best Christian movie ever. It beat out obviously superior movies like Passion of the Christ and The Blind Side on its way to victory in this particular poll, which isn’t even including every good Christian movie ever made.

The selection process for the 64 films that were included was interesting and somewhat baffling to track. It prompted me to think about what even counts as a Christian movie. It also made me think about what it takes to make a movie that’s simultaneously great and Christian.

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Nearer, My God, To Thee

The other day we had friends over to our house to sing hymns together, and someone requested this hymn. Someone else pointed out that we were coming up on the anniversary of  the Titanic sinking (April 15), and that the ship’s string quartet played the hymn while they went down. While there are a couple of contradictory accounts, we do know that  a number of survivors reported this. From Wikipedia:

George Orrell, the bandmaster of the rescue ship, RMS Carpathia, who spoke with survivors, related: “The ship’s band in any emergency is expected to play to calm the passengers. After the Titanic struck the iceberg the band began to play bright music, dance music, comic songs – anything that would prevent the passengers from becoming panic-stricken… various awe-stricken passengers began to think of the death that faced them and asked the bandmaster to play hymns. The one which appealed to all was “Nearer My God to Thee.”

I’m not a fan of James Cameron’s (in)famous film adaptation of the tragedy, but this is one scene he got right:

CD Review: Happy People, by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Everyone’s favorite hip retro southern gospel quartet is baaaaack with another CD/DVD, coming soon to a Christian bookstore near YOU (pre-order). This is me NOT commenting on the album cover’s color scheme! Spoiler: I couldn’t resist forever, but you’ll have to read the whole review to get to the part where my will breaks.

So… what are you waiting for?

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Two Sisters Review… Beyond the Mask

This week, I took my youngest sister to the theater for a screening of a new family adventure movie called Beyond the Mask. It was produced by cousins Chad and Aaron Burns, homeschool alumni who are now working to make Christian films together. Set at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, it boasts some scenery-chewing star power with John Rhys-Davies as the villain (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings) and contains more special effects shots than blockbusters like Inception and Pirates of the Caribbean. (When I showed her the trailer, her reaction was, and I quote, “Ooooh, sword fights and stuff on fire. I want to see this!”) The premise is that a former British spy migrates to America and becomes a masked vigilante for the cause of liberty, hoping to redeem himself from his shady past. Along the way, he discovers true love, strong hate, harsh revenge, and all that fun stuff.

Our theater captain was the effects coordinator for the film, as well as the 2nd assistant director. The town showed up in force, and Littlest Sister and I had a high old time together, though we did note some things that could have been improved. Among other things, we discussed the film’s historical accuracy, and our conclusions may surprise you! So instead of having me write a typical review, I thought it would be fun to change it up and interview her instead. I simply hit record and transcribed our entire conversation, with very entertaining results.  As you’ll see, the family resemblance is quite strong. Enjoy this special guest appearance. (My questions are in bold, and her answers are in normal type.)

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Youtube Find: Vintage Cathedrals Music

Some of us don’t have the space to amass a vinyl collection or the vinyl players to enjoy it on, but we still love vintage music. The other day, I found a goldmine of Cathedrals music on Youtube, including albums from the 60s/70s/80s that you still can’t purchase digitally. The music has been digitized from the user’s collection, and while the quality varies from record to record, it’s better than a through-the-air recording like some other vintage Cats uploads. The user hasn’t gathered most of them into playlists, but if you go to his channel and click “See more” enough times, from a certain point on it’s nothing but vintage Cathedrals records. Better yet, here’s a link to all the songs at once, generated by searching “Cathedrals” on the channel, though this doesn’t group songs from the same album all together. Also, it appears that the videos for Climbing Higher and Higher were accidentally uploaded with no sound. Otherwise, full albums all told include:

With Brass, 1966

Focus on Glen Payne, 1968 (full playlist here)

Welcome to Our World, 1972 (full playlist here)

You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet, 1979

Featuring George Younce, 1983

Individually, 1983

Voices in Praise Acappella, 1984

The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet, 1984

An Old Convention Song, 1985

Worship His Glory in Acappella Praise, 1993

Some of Their Finest Moments, 1994 (best-of collection, middling quality)

Radio Days, 1996

Acapella Favorites, 2000 (best-of collection)

***

I haven’t even scratched the surface of it all yet, but one album I do have in my collection already that’s uploaded here in excellent quality is 1984’s Prestigious Cathedral Quartet. Recorded with tenor Danny Funderburk, baritone Mark Trammell, and pianist Roger Bennett, this album featured a few of the Cathedrals’ signature songs and a few forgotten gems. It includes one of my absolute favorite Cathedrals songs ever, which to my knowledge has never been recorded by anyone else. It should be. It’s called “Next Time We Meet,” and it’s absolutely haunting. Somebody please bring this one back. Thank you:

Passion Week Playlist #2: Songs For a Groaning Creation

Tonight I rose up with the moon, and looking down from high above,
I saw a world carved and confused into valleys deep in need of love.
And falling down, all thick with grace, Heaven’s cloud of mystery
Was filling every empty space, down to the depth of human need.

— Bebo Norman, “Deeper Still”

***

In previous years, I’ve posted a hymn or classical piece per day to commemorate Passion week. This year, I decided to do something a little different. So yesterday, I put together a few contemporary songs that, intentionally or not, throw our world’s need for a Savior into sharp relief. In the spirit of my “Questions & Answers” series, I’m sharing six more songs that have been arranged to complement yesterday’s playlist from an explicitly Christian perspective. (Hopefully this will make you do a double take on some of those lyrics!) If you are a Christian and a music fan, I encourage you to try this as an exercise for yourself. It’s good for your musical appreciation and your spiritual health.

The usual suspects are here: Rich Mullins, Steven Curtis Chapman, and a couple of younger upstarts like Audrey Assad and Bebo Norman, whose great lyric for “Deeper Still” is quoted above. I’m particularly moved by how Steven Curtis Chapman’s heart-wrenchingly hopeful song “February 20th” complements Phil Collins’s “Since I Lost You.” (Note that February 20th is not the day Chapman’s daughter died, but the day she accepted Christ. She would die later that same year.)

I am hoping and planning to share more thoughts on some of these, but for now, just be still and enjoy them. And have a blessed Easter.