Tag Archives: movies

My Favorite Movie of 2012

The Impossible--mother and sonOscars night has come and gone, and the nominees for Best Picture were, from a family perspective, relatively slim pickings. Most of them ranged from spiritually muddled at best (Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild) to profane, violent and/or morally offensive at worst (roughly half the nominees). The picture which came out on top in the end, historical hostage thriller Argo, was actually one of the better choices. I agree with Focus on the Family’s Plugged In (whose Oscar roundtable podcast you can check out here), that it was a fun, exciting, well-made film which could easily have been appropriate for young teens on up were it not for its bad language. A candidate for ClearPlay, perhaps.

However, my favorite film of the year wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. In fact, my favorite film of the year was barely nominated for anything and came home empty-handed. Continue reading

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Filed under Movie Reviews, Movies

The Week in Review #13: Covering Lauren Talley, Grumbling About the Elephant Room, Raving About Wayne Haun, and More…

*Notice the new title for the open thread. This is because I’ve taken to chatting a little about how my week has gone as well as surveying newsy items. “The Week In Review” seems to capture the spirit of things a bit better. Numbering will be unchanged however.

*I’m a little bit excited, because I just downloaded the backup track for Lauren Talley’s “In Christ Alone” yesterday and recorded my own demo of it. That high note is a little bit evil, especially because I can’t just belt it in more or less chest range like she does (and also ‘cuz it’s a nightmare to mix with a mike as sensitive as the one I’ve got), but after a whole afternoon of trial and error, I FINALLY got it. It only took around ten takes or so. Ha. I’m looking forward to sharing it with y’all some time next week if I can get it uploaded to Godtube. Then again, I was a little sharp on at least one note (possibly two), and there were a couple “Sahara desert” phrases (meaning I was kinda dehydrated and it kinda showed)… so I might scrap it all and start over. Can you tell I’m a perfectionist? :D But for the first day, it really wasn’t bad at all. I honestly liked it. Which would you rather hear? A more polished cover that took a few days to put together, or the whirlwind first-day take? Seriously, I’m curious.

*Steve Green left a comment on my blog. Did you see it, huh, huh? Sorry. I’m still just a little bit pumped. I bet Buddy Greene sent him the link. If so, thanks Buddy!

*Stay tuned for some exciting news about Poet Voices, coming up sometime in the next few weeks.

*Farewell to the Melody Boys. I say it’s better to retire the name than try to pick singers to keep the name going. Experience has shown that doesn’t always work out too well.

*Newt Gingrich all but comes out and says that if you’re faithful to your spouse you’re, um, weird. Further confirmation of why I just can’t bring myself to vote for the man.

*Well, T. D. Jakes is now a Trinitarian. It’s all over. Not the heretic we’re looking for. Move along. Or maybe not?

*Steven Spielberg has a mammoth Exodus epic in the works. No doubt it will be a fine film from every production standpoint, but this is disappointing news in that he promises to make it as graphic as Saving Private Ryan, which will only give obnoxious Christian moviegoers more to snicker and sneer about (you know, the kind who respond to conservatives’ concerns about violence in film by saying, “Well hey if they ever made a movie of the Bible it would be too violent to take your kids, etc., etc., etc.”). Meanwhile, it’s anyone’s guess who Spielberg will cast in the main roles. I thought Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart would be no-brainers, but I must say Dan Phillips’ suggestion of Ed Asner and Barack Obama may take the cake. Then again, he might play it safe and cast Harrison Ford as Moses. Epic action hero, epic action hero, right? Uh… right?

*Speaking of Exodus, I got bogged down around God’s description of building the Ark of the Covenant in my “read the Bible in a year” project and recently had to do some MAJOR catching up. Helpful Mom: “That’s nothing hon, wait’ll you get to Leviticus!”

*My calculus teacher nearly gave me a heart attack yesterday when he said, “You’re all aware that there’s an exam?” I  blurted out, “Today??” He corrected me “Next week.” Not sure how long it took for my pulse to return to normal. A while. It’s next Friday. If the blog sorta, you know, goes dark for a month or so afterwards, you’ll know I didn’t make it. Tell Wes Hampton I had a crush on him… (JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING!!!)

*This is pretty dadgum gorgeous stuff…

Errrrhm, Wayne, about that solo album?

It’s an open thread folks!

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Saturday Survey #7

*The Dove Brothers have found their replacement tenor. I think Jonathan had the better voice, but I 100% support McCray in the turnover. I’m sure he’d appreciate your prayers.

*Our favorite Southern Gospel Blog contributors, the Garms family, took a tour of the Cathedrals’ legendary bus this week, the Silhouette.

*Jackie Wilburn, the Wilburn family patriarch, passed away the other day. Steve Eaton has posted some exclusive vintage concert clips of the Wilburns, featuring an incredibly young Jonathan Wilburn—I’m gonna guess he’s no older than 23 or so. Here’s a moving obituary from Jonathan.

*DBM has a new column: Hype/Reality, in which he takes the hype over a new album or song and assigns a letter grade based on how well it reflects his own opinion. Check it out.

*Just came across an episode of Southern Gospel Gardener featuring a surprise guest appearance by Clayton Inman. We love the gardener! I sure hope he reads my blog. Maybe some of his coolness will rub off on me.

*Here’s a disappointing blog post by Dr. Russell Moore, in which he gives his readers his class’s final ethics exam. Not only is it highly unprofessional, charged with manipulative language to make the students feel pressured into giving one particular answer (which is blatantly obvious much as he may protest to the contrary), but it is also strangely and deliberately unrealistic. It’s a situation involving American law concerning immigration, except Moore has made the laws far more draconian in his hypothetical scenario. You’d think that if you were trying to equip students for ministry, you’d train them to think and reason under real-world conditions instead of giving them deliberately skewed hypothetical scenarios. But sadly, I wasn’t that surprised by this post since Moore has shown oddly left-leaning instincts in the past, religious-righter though he may be considered by most die-hard liberals. So this just continues the trend.

*So many stupid blog posts, so little time to tear them apart…

*I’ve recently been indulging myself in some Pixar movies. Discovering and re-discovering. First, I revisited the original Toy Story after what has to be roughly a decade and a half (it’s still awesome), then I watched Toy Story 3 (forced, melodramatic and overrated, but still pretty good—heck, I cried at the end). I then went and found some priceless behind the scenes footage for the latter. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in peak form:

Then I revisited Finding Nemo (more crying), and then I discovered what all the fuss was about Up. That movie is not overrated. It is the most brilliant piece of film-making sincesince… well, anyway, it’s JUST BRILLIANT! More crying. Oh yes, and I realized where Michael Booth got his “squirrel” line from…

Then I revisited A Bug’s Life, which has one of their best blooper reels…

Finally, I watched Monsters Inc., which made me cry twice. TWICE! That one may actually be my favorite. I might even be heretical and say I like it better than Toy Story, but… I don’t feel brave today.

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Filed under Faith and Culture, Movies, Open Threads, Singers

What I Discovered On My Hiatus, and Belated Happy Reformation Day/Halloween

I’m baaaaaaack! Before setting my nose to ye olde grindstone again, I shall present some random things I learned on my hiatus from blog-dom. They may be of some use to my readers. Or not. But for what it’s worth, here are my random discoveries…

*As an actress, Carrie Underwood makes a great country singer.

*Speaking of Soul Surfer, it’s not quite as bad as I’d feared. I mean it is lame, hackneyed, shallow, etc., just not a total disaster.

*Speaking of water, I had a chance to hang out in a pool for the first time in years, and I can still swim. Only problem is I’m about the size of a minnow (but that’s not a new discovery).

*Alec Baldwin was really handsome thirty years ago.

*Collin Raye

*chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream

*Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles. (Actually, that’s not strictly accurate. I’d already discovered all that the first time I read The Princess Bride. I merely refreshed my memory. By the way, you absolutely must read the book even if you have already seen the movie.)

Good week. Good to be back. Oh by the way, I had been planning to post this video in honor of Reformation Day before deciding to take a hiatus, but as things fell out the day happened to slip by during my silent period. So here, a little belated, is my favorite singer singing a great hymn. Though to be perfectly honest, even though this is a great hymn, I personally don’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy some others, simply because it can get a little heavy and tiresome if sung over and over, particularly at a methodically leaden pace. But in Steve’s hands, it is pure gold:

And now, moving from the sublime to the ridiculous… in honor of Halloween, here’s a great spoof of the interrogation scene from The Dark Knight. Note: You should ONLY watch this if you’ve already seen The Dark Knight. It won’t be funny at all unless you’ve seen the movie. You won’t get it. Trust me. But if you have seen the movie, it will be hilarious.

One more thing… I was (almost) successful in my goal to avoid checking any of my regular blogs for updates! I once unthinkingly went to southerngospelblog, then couldn’t resist reading the interview with Tim Duncan. But that was it. I also glanced very briefly at a blog I hardly ever read anyway, and since there wasn’t actually anything new, I spent all of two seconds there. As you can tell, I’m very proud of myself. Pathetic, huh?

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Saturday Survey #4

A few scattered things of interest…

*Daniel Mount reviews a Christmas CD with secular songs on it. In other news, I just looked out the window and saw a pig flying.

*Steve Jobs died this Wednesday. Watch a couple interesting videos on his legacy here. But incidentally, did you know that the day Jobs died was also the anniversary of William Tyndale’s being burned at the stake? I have a friend who posted on his Facebook status that he thought this was much more important.

*Word has trickled down that Gold City has postponed their new CD. Again. One fan has had it. What about you?

*I just got my mitts on the Squire Parsons tribute and Wilburn & Wilburn’s debut. I am nobly refusing to review them until I’ve reached some important deadlines in college work. Oh how virtuous I am. In the same vein, that review of the Booth Brothers concert is upcoming after said deadlines are reached. It was an awesome concert, incidentally.

*If you’re going to the movies this weekend, Courageous is still the one you want to see (reviewed here). Interestingly, a new film is coming out called Real Steel that’s being pitched as a heart-warming father/son tale in its own right, but while it looks rather cute, fun and enjoyable, I’d stick with Courageous (even though Hugh Jackman is a talented actor who’s fun to watch—you’d never know what a nice guy he is from the scruffy persona he projects here, and you’d never guess he’s Aussie and not American). The basic premise of Real Steel is that the loyal son redeems his dead-beat dad, which is nice and all, but isn’t it healthier for fatherhood to be portrayed the way God really intended it to be? It’s true you could do worse at the theater, but you could also do better.

*The brief physical malaise with which I was afflicted earlier this week ended up receding in less than 24 hours. I think Scotty McCreery cured me.

*You’ve probably heard of Ray Comfort’s viral half-hour video 180, in which he engages in dialogues with young adults about the Holocaust and abortion. I encourage you to watch it and ponder the dim future of youth in America, but also be grateful that Ray was able to change some of these young people’s minds, if only temporarily. It’s a powerful piece of work that I highly recommend (graphic, so not recommended for children).

*SG video of the week: Tim Duncan has resurfaced with a church quartet calling themselves Canton Junction, comprising Aaron (?) Crabb on lead, Michael Sykes on baritone, and Matt Hagee on tenor. As of now, nobody knows what the group’s plans are (Hagee, Sykes and Crabb are all on staff at Cornerstone, so it’s unlikely they’ll tour), but meanwhile it’s just great to see Tim singing again. And who knew that John Hagee had a son who could sing tenor?

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Coming Up… a Movie and a Concert

This Friday I’m planning to go see the Kendrick brothers’ latest movie, which some of you may already have heard of. It’s called Courageous, and much like Fireproof it explores the real-life tensions of first responders and their families. Last time it was firemen and marriage, this time it’s policemen and fatherhood. Inventive? Maybe not, but I can’t fault the Kendricks for using a formula that works well and that they’re familiar with. Here is a clip from the film, in which a character confesses a secret from his past, and the gospel is clearly presented to him. As the Church is corrupted, the gospel is watered down to the point where it’s treated as something dispensable. It’s refreshing to see people who are still willing to present it directly and unvarnished. (Note: This clip does contain a plot spoiler, so if you really want to be surprised, wait and see the movie.)

Now to get technical: Critics of the Kendricks’ movies, and of the Christian film genre in general, have made some fair points. Script, acting, and directing in Christian films virtually never matches the best that the mainstream has to offer. But what I like about the Kendrick brothers is that they’ve never pretended to be the Nolan brothers. They’re under no illusions about the greatness of what they create. Instead, they understand their limits and work within those limits to be the best at what they can do, and that’s making engaging, wholesome, family films that will present the gospel while presenting a good story at the same time. I know what a great movie looks like. I can tell when a piece of directing or a piece of acting rises above merely being good to sheer brilliance. But that doesn’t keep me from not merely enjoying, but appreciating what the Kendricks have to offer. In this way, I hope that I can walk a middle road between the Christians who consider themselves too sophisticated to enjoy anything the Christian film world provides and the Christians who insist those are the only movies that are any good. So I can marvel at the dazzling brilliance of a Christopher Nolan film on one day and eagerly look forward to a piece of evangelical movie-making on the next, intending to enjoy them equally. (However, I should probably add that I am far less forgiving in the realm of novels. Literature is a wholly different world from cinema.) Having seen all of the Kendricks’ previous movies, I truly can’t wait to see how they’ve grown in their craft. Because of the multiple stories Courageous tells, it’s more detailed than anything they’ve done so far, and if the preview clips I’ve seen are any indication, it’s their most mature work yet. I will see if I can offer some thoughts on the blog after watching it.

Now, for the second thing that’s coming up: A Booth Brothers concert on Saturday! Though I anticipate few surprises in the set list, I’m eagerly looking forward to watching these guys live and in the flesh, and hopefully getting to meet them in person. I’m particularly looking forward to shaking Michael Booth’s hand, which I’ve wanted to do for a while. I mean who doesn’t love Michael Booth? Review and possibly some pictures to follow.

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A Few Words on Soul Surfer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the past few months, you’ve probably heard of the latest inspirational family flick to come out of Hollywood: Soul Surfer. Based on the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton’s inspiring struggle to overcome the tragic loss of her arm in a shark attack, it’s been marketed to and largely accepted by a Christian audience. Since I rarely go to the movies, I’ve been relying on detailed reviews and short Youtube clips to give me a sense of the film.

I’ve seen enough to inform me that I don’t need to waste any time on it. One of the most insightful negative reviews I found came from, interestingly, a non-Christian perspective. There are many different reasons why I would advise other Christians not to bother with the film, but one of the things that bugs me most about it is its hopelessly generic treatment of the religious. It’s taken the real-life Christianity of Hamilton’s family and turned it into little more than insipid… inspirationality. I think Ebert At the Movies really puts it in a nutshell. They’re completely right: In order for the film to work even just as a good film, it needed to either leave Christianity entirely out of the picture, or go all the way with it. The tepid, mushy middle stance it ultimately took should not only make it less appealing to firm Christians, but it should also make it less appealing to those of us who appreciate good art and good film-making. As it stands, “cynical and calculated” is sadly not far from the mark as a descriptive phrase. Watch the review.

See also some solid words from a Christian perspective here. This snippet just about nails it:

It seems, too often, Hollywood uses Christians for free marketing. If they can produce a movie that shows enough flesh to sell in the secular market, all they have to do is convince the Christians that it has a godly message and we’ll find a way to excuse the immodesty.

First, they’ll need a good moving story (we Christians like to cry…thinking like a movie promoter here). If they can find a story where someone does an amazing good deed, or an athlete (we love our sports too) becomes a hero by overcoming some huge obstacle–especially if it’s true­–they’ve hit the jackpot. Now all they have to do is throw us a few bones to make it “Christian” enough for us to tell our friends and buy the tickets.

In the case of Soul Surfer, all they needed were two verses, a female youth pastor, a worship song, and the flash of a Bible. Throw in a deeply moving (true) story about a sweet Christian girl who pulls herself up by her bootstraps (or bikini straps) and we’re hooked.

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A Tale of Two Songs: The Answer

Yesterday I conducted a little poll to see whether my readers could tell from isolated snippets whether two songs were Christian or secular. Though I didn’t get quite the response I would have liked (COUGH COUGH… just kidding ;) ), I got a nice little handful of submissions.

The majority of the votes were divided between option one (both songs are Christian) and option three (the first is Christian, the second secular), with a small percentage voting that they were both secular.

Another small percentage voted for the right answer: option four. Song one is secular, and song two is Christian.

If you’re surprised by that, I don’t blame you. Because if I hadn’t been the one setting up the competition, I probably would have been surprised too.

Let’s talk about song one first. It is called “I See You,” and it’s the theme song from the recent blockbuster film Avatar. (The singer is Leona Lewis—very talented UK “diva.”) These are the full lyrics:

I see you
I see you
Walking through a dream
I see you
My light in darkness breathing hope of new life
Now I live through you and you through me
Enchanting
I pray in my heart that this dream never ends

(Chorus)

I see me through your eyes
Living through life flying high
Your life shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
I live through your love

You teach me how to see
All that’s beautiful
My senses touch a world I never pictured
Now I give my hope to you
I surrender
I pray in my heart that this world never ends

I see me through your eyes
Living through life flying high
Your love shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life
I offer my love, for you

(Bridge)

When my heart was never open
(And my spirit never free)
To the world that you have shown me
But my eyes could not envision
All the colours of love and of life evermore
Evermore

(I see me through your eyes)
I see me through your eyes
(Living through life flying high)
Flying high
Your love shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
And live through your love
And live through your life
I see you
I see you

You don’t really have to know the story to get the gist of the song, but it’s taking off on the movie’s idea of “spiritual seeing” that the noble blue Na’vi have (and the nasty humans, of course, don’t). The two main characters will sometimes say to each other, “I see you,” which is meant to convey something “deeper” than mere physical sight. There’s a good dollop of eco-mysticism woven throughout here, with lots of “colors of the wind” type stuff (for those of you who remember Pocahontas).

But what really disturbs me about this song is the way in which the language borrows from the language of Christianity, so blatantly that most of you thought from the snippets I posted that this was a Christian song. Now, religious love language is not new. There’s a history of love poetry which attributes god or goddess-like characteristics to “the beloved.” However, most romantic poets who used that language in their work did so with a kind of mischief. There was a twinkle in their eye. They knew they were exaggerating, tongue firmly planted in cheek. But this song is different, because it takes itself very seriously. It’s the soundtrack to an epic romance. We’re supposed to feel we’ve listened to something profound when we hear it.

Let’s focus on those snippets again. First:

I see you
My light in darkness breathing hope of new life
Now I live through you and you through me

Does this imagery ring any bells? Sound a little familiar? Maybe a little too familiar? Keep in mind that this is written in the first person from the perspective of the human protagonist, who is falling in love with an alien woman. She is taking on the form of a Savior figure for him. He’s finding “new life” in her. Here’s the second snippet:

Your life shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
I live through your love

“Paradise” here refers to the beautiful, untouched world of Pandora, which is then invaded by the humans. (By the way, “heavy-handed” would be the understatement of the year as far as this film’s many and sundry liberal agendas are concerned, but we don’t have time to get into all that today.)  Christ opens the way for Christians to enter paradise, and this woman is doing the same for the speaker. The next line is the creepiest, in my opinion: “I offer my life as a sacrifice.” Yikes! This could refer to a couple of things in the story, but ultimately it probably refers to the fact that the protagonist  sacrifices his human body to become fully Na’vi at the movie’s end. Of course, we as Christians are to offer ourselves as “living sacrifices,” with the small difference that we are doing so for, uh, God. “I live through your love.” Again…sound familiar? Final snippet:

Now I give my hope to you
I surrender

It’s like a twisted mash-up of “Take My Life and Let it Be” and “I Surrender All.” Charming, eh? The speaker is, essentially, placing his soul in the hands of the woman he loves. And through her he has… what? The song tells us: “Life evermore.” Life evermore. As in eternal life.

This is pernicious stuff. It is clear that the writers of this song were intentionally taking language very familiar to Western society, which is steeped in the traditions of Christianity, and using it to suit their own perverted spiritual ends. It goes beyond being just a fluffy pop song, because it’s more dangerous than that. The film it’s based on, of course, is itself pernicious (while managing to be, quite frankly, laughably bad at the same time, pretty blue eye candy or no pretty blue eye candy). It is openly pagan and shows the Na’vi worshiping Pandora’s equivalent of Gaia (Eywa), which really just is The Earth.

However, I’m not really sure which is sadder: the fact that this is a secular song, or the fact that song two really is a Christian song. It’s called “Deep in Love With You,” and it’s by Michael W. Smith. Sorry Smitty, I think you’re a good guy, and you really can write some great music when you put your mind to it, but… major thumbs down here. Now once again, let’s be clear that this is nothing new. The tradition of romanticizing man’s relationship with God goes back for centuries, and traces of it can even be found in hymns like “Jesus Lover of My Soul” and “I Will Arise and Go To Jesus.” This song even borrows the “lover of my soul” phrase at one point. However, those hymns at least boast some excellent poetry and manage to keep a strong sense of dignity about them. This one…well, doesn’t:

I’m deep in love with You, Abba Father
I’m deep in love with You, Lord
My heart, it beats for You, precious Jesus
I’m deep in love with You, Lord

“I can’t resist the tenderness of You” is another line that just about makes me want to…excuse myself. Honestly! Has Christian music sunk so low that we’re no longer capable of expressing our devotion to God beyond the level of a chick-flick script? Now, granted, if you read the lyric as a whole, you would find some doctrinal references that would clarify that it’s a song about God, not a girlfriend. However, the main thrust and the main hook could very easily be taken as such and are hopelessly shallow. Here’s a different song with the same idea:

Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never want to leave
I want to stay in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face
And every time I get another glimpse of Your heart
I realize it’s true
That You are so marvelous God
And I am so in love with You

And another…

You are my desire
No one else will do
Cause nothing else can take your place
To feel the warmth of your embrace

I’m sorry. I’ll stop now.

This is my point: At heart, both of my original examples are religious love songs. They’re just representing two different trends.  On one side, secular writers are beginning to intensify their religious language when it comes to describing the love between human beings, while on the other side, Christian writers are trivializing their religious language when it comes to the love we have for God. We, believers, are removing the seriousness from religious love language while they, un-believers, are increasing the seriousness of…religious love language. This should be seen as a major threat and a major wake-up call to the Church. Secularism is its own religion. Far from being spiritually neutral, it is revealing itself as deeply  spiritual in its own frightening way. It is imperative that Christian songwriters bring spiritual substance to the table. If they don’t, they will be fighting a dark and powerful enemy with little but flimsy cliches.

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Filed under Music Commentary, Other Genres, Songs

A Tale of Two Songs: The Poll

I’m going to give my readers a small quiz today. I’ll quote snippets from two songs, both of which some of you may recognize (in which case you already know the answer, so this doesn’t apply to you). Given the fact that my readers are (I presume) predominantly southern gospel fans, I figured it was a fair bet that at least a good portion of you won’t recognize either song. However, even if you only recognize one (which is plausible), you can still take the poll. Just don’t take it if you recognize both, because that would skew the results.

Here are the snippets. First, three snippets from song one:

I see you
My light in darkness breathing hope of new life
Now I live through you and you through me

[...]

Your life shines the way into paradise
So I offer my life as a sacrifice
I live through your love

[...]

Now I give my hope to you
I surrender

Now, three snippets from song two:

I’m home when I am here with you
Ruined by your grace, enamored by your gaze
I can’t resist the tenderness of you

[...]

I never have to search again
There’s a deep desire that’s burning like a fire
To know you as my closest friend

[...]

I’m deep in love with you…

Okay. Now, here is the question for those of you who recognize one or none of the songs quoted: Without looking anything up, would you guess that these are both secular songs, that they are both Christian songs, or that one of them is secular and the other Christian? And if the latter, which is which? Take the poll:

Tomorrow I will close the poll, reveal the answer, and discuss. So be sure to get your vote in today!

[Update @4:15 PM: It seems like either a LOT of my readers recognize both songs, or they're just not bothering to vote. I'd like to shoot for 50 by tomorrow, so make your choice! :) -- YGG]

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Filed under Music Commentary, Polls, Songs

Chariots of Fire: 30 Years

Last month, Chariots of Fire turned thirty. It’s a little hard to believe that the greatest film ever made is that young. With a few exceptions, cinema’s finest moments came considerably earlier.

Chariots of Fire was one of the exceptions. And the reason is that its makers understood what it meant to craft a film that was at once full of truth and full of power. Surprisingly, it struck a resounding chord with film audiences, and it captured four Oscars (including Picture, Screenplay, and Music for Vangelis’ immortal score), with three more nominations.

I wonder whether such a film could win Oscars today. But suffice it to say that we could use many more like it. Just ask yourself this question: When was the last time you saw something billing itself as a “Christian” film that was truly great? I don’t mean good, I mean great. I mean timeless. Myself, I cannot think of any.

The genius of Chariots was that the Christian elements arose naturally from the storyline. They were neither repressed nor forced forward in an artistically awkward way. They were simply there. The result was a film that can legitimately be regarded as a “Christian” film without artificially assuming the label at the expense of excellence.

I can say it no better than scriptwriter Colin Welland, so I will let his words do the rest:

The great thing about Chariots was we didn’t ever dream it was going to be the success it was. That wasn’t the purpose—to make an Oscar-winning film. The purpose of everybody in the film was to make it right and make it true.

And now it seems fitting to help my readers relive a few of the movie’s finest moments. Sorry guys—I couldn’t pick just one. I could embed them, but I don’t want to slow things down, so I’ll put in links instead. First, Eric Liddell’s classic sermon in the rain (penned by Ian Charleson himself because he was unhappy with the script he had been handed and wanted to make it better). Second, the unforgettable scene where Eric has refused to run in the Sunday events and instead reads in church from Isaiah 40, while we watch his teammates and their competitors exhaust themselves on the track.

And finally, the final race, for which I believe no words are needed. All right, I said I would try to avoid embedding, but I cannot resist:

Happy birthday Chariots. Something tells me we won’t see your like again.

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Filed under Faith and Culture, Movies, Surprise Sunday