My Top 5 Films of 2015

Top 5 Movies, 2015, Collage

In terms of films that had substance, were well-made and were palatable for Christian viewers, 2015 offered sadly slim pickings. Nevertheless, I have worked diligently to prepare a suitable shortlist. So, here now, I give you the most entertaining, the most thoughtful, the most emotionally satisfying, the best films of 2015.

At least, in my opinion. For what it’s worth.

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Two Sisters Review… Star Wars, The Force Awakens

Youngest sister is back! This is the third installment in our little series of movie review/interviews. We go see a movie, then I type up a loose outline of questions, hit record, and transcribe our discussion. Click here for our review of the Christian family film Beyond the Mask, and click here for our review of Pixar’s Inside Out

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Me: Okay, so, I am here with my little sister…

Little Sister: Ahem.

Me: And we are…

LS: I am NOT…

Me: We are here to discuss Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

LS: Yes, they know that.

Me: Shhhhh. And this, take note, this will be a spoiler-free discussion.

LS: I thought you said we were gonna be able to discuss spoilers because most people seeing it will have seen it already.

Me: Well actually, I don’t know about that, there are still a lot of people who still have to see it.

LS: Well then, we won’t be able to discuss much. This will be a rather short interview.

Me: No, that’s not true. There are plenty of interesting questions we can talk about.

LS: Dang it. The spoilers are most interesting!

Me: Well, I’ll tell you what. I have a lot of interesting questions still. And then I’ll sort of ask you a spoilerish question, but we’ll try to dance around it.

LS: That sounds boring. But anyway…

Me: It won’t be boring. Anyway…

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The Bitter-Sweetness of “White Christmas”

Christmas greetings! Thank  you for your patience as this blog has gone semi-dormant this past semester. I have hopes that next semester will be less back-breaking, and I’ll be able to resume writing about all my favorite things. For the immediate future, I’m hoping to knock out some mini-reviews for the backlog of CDs I wasn’t able to listen to properly this semester. (Apologies to any record labels and artists who’ve been patiently waiting for my feedback.) Also, Little Sister is slated to make a guest appearance and lend her thoughts on the new Star Wars movie (she seems to have been a popular guest in the past, so I’ll not mess with success!) In addition, I’ve been asked to write a piece about the enduring popularity of Star Wars for Summit magazine, so stay tuned for a link to that. It still hasn’t quite sunk in that I’m getting paid to write about Star Wars. Merry Christmas to me. (I guess even worldview organizations feel like just having fun once in a while.) Finally, I’m putting together a Top 5 list of 2015 films and hope to have that posted soon.

But, for now, I want to write some reflections on the popular carol “White Christmas,” sparked by some backstory I had never heard until yesterday.

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On the Colorado Shooting and the Pro-Life Response

I recently had a new article published for Summit in which I weigh in on the Colorado shooting, the media’s response to it, and the proper pro-life response to the media. Little did I know that the country would also be reeling from San Bernardino, which happened almost literally as I was writing this piece. It was streamlined somewhat for Summit, but I wanted to publish the full version here. Among other things, my original version explicitly discusses the contrast of this shooting with Islamic violence, which can and should be linked with the religion of Islam. (Strange how the media seemed to know exactly what political/religious box to place Dear in, but the motives of the San Bernardino couple were mysteriously “unclear.”) So, here is the piece, in its original form:

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First Look at a New Hank Williams Biopic: I Saw the Light

Hank Williams is an endlessly fascinating character for fans of country/gospel music. As self-destructive as he was talented, he died at the age of 29–the Mozart of country music. Sixty years on, his body of work still stands the test of time. Bill Gaither’s son Benji co-produced a moving, loosely fictionalized account of his final days called The Last Ride, and now there’s a new film on the horizon that promises to be more of a proper biopic, called I Saw the Light. An unflinching look at the singer’s sad legacy, it will probably draw comparisons to the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. Williams was a notorious philanderer, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the MPAA has slapped an “R” on it, although by the description it appears to be primarily for language.

Some controversy has surrounded the film’s casting of British actor Tom Hiddleston as Williams. I have mixed feelings about the choice. On the one hand, he’s a dead ringer for the country legend as far as looks go. On the other hand, he’s, well, British. Not even American, let alone Southern. So, among others, Williams’s own grandson has complained that the choice lacks authenticity, pointing to somebody like Matthew McConaughey as a better choice. I can see why he would feel that way, but then again, British actors have been playing American roles for quite some time now. Even iconic comic book characters like Superman and Batman have been taken over by Brits putting on a fake accent.

While I think Hiddleston is a superb actor, his American accent has been spotty in the past. And here, he not only has to speak the accent convincingly, but he has to sing Hank’s classic hit songs convincingly. But I give him credit for doing all of his own recordings, and I like the rough, unfiltered feel of the clips I’ve heard. It’s nice to be reminded of a time when country singing wasn’t as polished as pop music, a time when country songs had grit and depth of feeling to them. If they did this right, it could be a compelling piece of work. Ironic that it’s titled after Williams’s most gospel song, yet it is by no means clear that he ever saw that light for himself.

“Everybody has a little darkness in ’em. I’m talkin’ about things like anger, sorrow, shame. I show it to them. And they hear it, and they don’t have to take it home.”