All posts from “March 2010”

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March 30, 2010

Sunday School on Tuesday Night with 'LOST'

'USA Today' piece with Chris Seay highlights show's biblical references

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A nice piece in today's USA Today, titled "It's Sunday school on Tuesday night for 'Lost' devotees," includes author Chris Seay explaining a number of the biblical allusions and references in the show.

Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost and a regular guest vlogger here during Lost's final season, told the newspaper that he believes the Man in Black represents Esau, that Richard's story "has something to do" with the Old Testament's Joseph in Egypt, and that Aaron may be a Moses figure, "the one child, uniquely saved in a tragic situation, and thus is prepared to help liberate God's people." Seay says he's "guessing on a very Aaron-centric episode" in the season finale in May.

(Photo: ABC/Mario Perez)

March 26, 2010

The World's Most Beautiful (Virtual) Choir

Choral conductor/composer brings global voices together online for a heavenly sound

A couple months ago, my wife and I heard one of the world's finest choirs, the St. Olaf Choir, conducted by Anton Armstrong. Their concert at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church was nothing short of divine, bringing us to the gates of heaven. I doubt if even the angels themselves can top St. Olaf's.

Today, I discovered another amazing choir -- an ensemble of 185 voices from 12 nations . . . a collection of people who have never met one another, nor have they met the conductor for whom they were singing. This was conductor/composer Eric Whitacre's "virtual choir" singing his own composition, "Lux Aurumque" -- with each individual voice recorded with a simple webcam at each singer's home computer. Whitacre held online auditions, then put together a brief instructional video, followed by him "conducting" the piece for the virtual singers. They simply sang their parts into their webcams, and sent them to Whitacre, who enlisted someone to edit all the pieces together to form a choir. The result is nothing short of stunning:

Read more about how the project came together here. And as we near Palm Sunday and Easter, pay attention to the words (in Latin) and their translation:

Lux, Lux
Lux, Lux
Lux Lux
Calida
Calida
Gravis que
Gravis que
Gravis que
Pura
Pura velut aurum
canunt et canunt et canunt
et canunt angeli
canunt moliter
natum, modo natum

Translation:
Light, Light
Light, Light
Light, Light
Warm
Warm
and heavy/loaded/pregnant/deep/dignified*
and heavy/loaded/pregnant/deep/dignified*
and heavy/loaded/pregnant/deep/dignified*
Pure
Pure as if gold
(They) sing/prophesy and (they) sing/prophesy and (they) sing/prophesy.

*'Gravis que' is actually written and said as one word, Gravisque, meaning "and [definition]." There are many words listed because it actually means all of those, in a poetic sense that is difficult to capture in one English word.

March 26, 2010

McDreamy: The Old Testament Version

Patrick Dempsey plays the lead role in 'Jeremiah,' coming to DVD soon; 'Solomon' coming too

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Long before he was Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey was McProphet -- Jeremiah, to be precise, in a 1998 TV movie by that title.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has informed CT that it has acquired and will release -- to DVD on May 18 -- Jeremiah and Solomon, two installments in their Bible Stories series. SPHE describes Jeremiah as the "story of the prophet who abandons his family and the woman he loves, in order to relay God's message in Jerusalem." The film also stars Klaus Maria Brandauer as King Nebuchadnezzar.

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The studio describes Solomon, made for TV in 1977, as the story of the man who is "crowned King of Israel and rules the land with love, peace and respect. While visiting the city, Solomon (Ben Cross) meets the beautiful Queen of Sheba (Vivica A. Fox) and falls in love. When she returns to her homeland, Solomon falls into a deep depression, departing from his once idyllic world of peace and luxury while his kingdom threatens to collapse." No mention of his legendary wisdom, building the temple, or that he was the son of David?


Jeremiah
runs 90 minutes, Solomon 172. Both will be available for pre-order on April 15 at a suggested retail price of $14.94.

March 25, 2010

A Story of Grace, Forgiveness and . . . Doubt?

A new Lifetime movie based on the Nickel Mines shooting lacks the power of the real-life story.

When the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania extended their forgiveness to the widow and family of the man who just hours earlier had shot and killed five of their own young daughters in October 2006, the world marveled in disbelief. Where was the anger, the bitterness, or the doubt that plague most people who experience such senseless tragedy? As the hours stretched into days and days piled into weeks, people struggled to wrap their minds around what made these people so different—beyond the bonnets and buggies, there was an unfamiliar certainty that guided them through the pain. Their willingness to forgive stemmed from a firm conviction in God’s sovereignty over all things, both good and tragically, incomprehensibly bad.

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Amish Grace, a made-for-TV movie airing on the Lifetime Movie Network this Sunday, March 28, at 8/7c, loses some of the story’s power by focusing on the fictional Ida Graber (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), an Amish wife and mother who struggles to accept her daughter’s death and balks at the idea of forgiving the family of a man who caused her so much pain. She is supposed to be relatable, but that is the opposite of what made this story so powerful in the first place. She looks and sounds like any other suburban mom in a similar situation. She questions God and lashes out at her friends who so easily accept their religion’s answers. But it is the lack of this kind of response that made the story so compelling in the first place.

The movie is based on the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Redeemed a Tragedy by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher, but the authors have distanced themselves from the project “out of respect to our friends in the Amish community and especially those related to the Nickel Mines tragedy,” according to a joint statement. The Amish shy from media attention and do not allow themselves to be photographed or identified in the press. Some from within the community anonymously expressed discomfort with the project: “We’re not happy. It’s not something we want to be a part of. We were too close to it,” says one Amish woman.

Continue reading A Story of Grace, Forgiveness and . . . Doubt?...

March 25, 2010

'The Most Informative Episode to Date'

Chris Seay weighs in on the meaning of Tuesday's LOST episode, "Ab Aeterno"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST, "Ab Aeterno." (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay calls it "the most informative LOST episode to date," recounting the history of Richard Alpert -- who he was pre-island, how he got to the island, and how he became involved in the ongoing psychological/spiritual battle between Jacob and The Man in Black, whom Seay is convinced represents Esau. Seay notes that at one point, Richard was reading Luke 4 in prison, where Jesus is tempted in the wilderness; Richard later comes to the island and faces his own temptations and tests in the wilderness, including this promise from The Man in Black: "You can have it all, even get Isabella back." And lots more. Check out Chris's comments here:

March 24, 2010

Is 3-D Spinning Out of Control?

'Avatar' set box office records in 3-D, and now 'Alice' is doing the same. Is it overkill?

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The first time I saw Avatar, on opening weekend, was on a regular 2-dimensional screen. The second time, a few weeks later, was in 3-D in an IMAX theater. I can't say that the second viewing was any "better" than the first, though there were a few things that definitely looked cooler in three dimensions on that giant screen. And you just can't beat the audio in an IMAX theater -- it sounded great.

Still, I regarded that viewing as a rare event, a break in routine from watching movies on typical screens in the usual two dimensions. "Rare" for two reasons: 1) It's just a bit too much stimulation to take in too often, and 2) IMAX averages a good $5 more per ticket, meaning your usual $60 movie night for a family of four ($40 in tix, $20 in treats) is now an $80 movie night, and seriously how often can anybody afford that -- especially in a recession?

But Hollywood, it seems, is banking on it, with at least twenty 3-D films to be released in 2010. After Avatar's incredible success -- between 2/3 and 3/4 of its worldwide $2.6 billion haul has come from 3-D sales -- and now the smashing run of 3-D Alice in Wonderland ($570 million worldwide, and counting), two more 3-D films (How to Train Your Dragon and Clash of the Titans) are slated to release in the next two weeks.

In an informative story titled "The Future Will Be in 3-D," Entertainment Weekly recently asked, "Are there enough screens for all of them?" And the answer began, "Not even close. . . . [T]heater chains are racing to meet the demand, installing 100 to 150 new screens a month."

Even films that weren't planned in 3-D -- like Clash and the final two Harry Potter films -- are being converted to include the third dimension. Jon Landau, one of Avatar's producers, tells EW that every movie will some day require us to don those funky glasses: "I'm going back to the black-and-white-to-color analogy. You had color films in the 1930s; it took until the late 1960s/early '70s for color to become ubiquitous, but it did. I think there's no reason that an intimate drama won't be in 3-D in the future."

But is that a good thing? Even if you don't have to pay IMAX prices, even if they're shown for "normal" prices, do we really want everything in 3-D? I think I'd prefer it to be the rare treat, instead of the norm. And now it looks like it's going to be coming into our homes more and more, especially as the price of 3-D TVs begins to drop in the years ahead.

What about you? What do you think? Leave your comments below.

March 23, 2010

Sara Groves in Rwanda: 'Like a Reunion'

Christian artist returns to village she sponsors through Food for the Hungry

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Last March, I accompanied Sara Groves, her husband Troy, their son Kirby, and a team from Food for the Hungry on a trip to Rwanda, where we visited a rural village, Gisanga, that Groves sponsors through FH. It was an amazing trip, and I wrote about it here and here.

On our return home, Sara told me that she wanted to return to Rwanda this year, this time with her whole band, to give a concert in Gisanga. That trip became reality recently, as Sara and Troy and their younger son, Toby, took the whole band. On the trip, band members met children they sponsor through FH, and they indeed held a free concert on one of Rwanda's legendary thousand hills on a sunny afternoon. Hundreds turned out for the show, some carrying a banner that read, "Thank You Sara," acknowledging the good work that she, her family, her band, and her supporters have shown in sponsoring the village, bringing food, education, vocational training, health care, and the good news of the gospel through FH's local workers.

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"The trip was amazing, and I wish you could have seen the concert we put on in Gisanga," Groves told me the other day. "One of my favorite moments was getting out of the van at the school, and immediately recognizing 6-7 children, and knowing them by name! It was like a reunion. It was such a sweet time."

Among the songs that Sara sang was "Joy Is in Our Hearts" from her latest album, with the chorus being sung in Kinyarwandan, the native language. See the video here:

March 19, 2010

'A Wrinkle in Time' to Get Movie Script

Madeleine L'Engle's classic story to be made into a film

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The Hollywood Reporter writes that A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle's beloved children's story, is about to get a script and later to be turned into a feature film.

Jeff Stockwell, who penned the screen adaptation of A Bridge to Terabithia for Disney in 2007, will write the Wrinkle script.

According to THR, "the BBC made a film version of the young-adult novel, and Dimension produced a telefilm for ABC in 2004. Disney carried remake rights from that deal and is developing the new feature iteration with Bedrock, which had negotiated rights to the property from the L'Engle estate."

March 19, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Eat That 3D Apple . . .

'In the Beginning,' an upcoming movie about the Genesis creation story, to be filmed in 3D

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Deadline.com recently reported that two filmmakers -- including one co-founder of Walden Media, no longer with the company -- are planning to make In the Beginning, "a 3D telling of the creation story. The film is using The Book of Genesis as its primary resource."

The report noted that Walden co-founder Cary Granat, who left the company in 2008, will produce the film, while TV veteran David Cunningham will direct. Cunningham also recently signed on to direct a film version of C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce.

New York magazine weighs in on the news, giving more background on Cunningham, the son of YWAM missionaries, and the bigger picture of Hollywood marketing to the Christian audience.

Deadline.com's Mike Fleming writes that $30 million has been budgeted for In the Beginning, which "will use 3-D visuals to transform the oft-told tale into a spectacle that the filmmakers hope will attract family- and faith-based audiences that flocked to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, that first Chronicles of Narnia installment made on Granat’s Walden watch. I hear Granat pitched the film by claiming that the Adam And Eve story has never really been told by a feature film. (At least not since John Huston.)"

March 17, 2010

What SpongeBob Can't Deliver to Your Kids

VeggieTales co-founder Mike Nawrocki and his kids enjoy mainstream TV, but it's lacking

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My kids watch SpongeBob SquarePants every morning at breakfast. First my daughter, 11, as she’s munching on Special K with berries before being driven to middle school, and then an hour later my son with his Honey Nut Cheerios as he’s preparing for his day in the third grade. I suppose if I were a really good parent they would be reading Ezekiel 4:9 while they were eating, but Ally and Michael seem to be turning out okay despite their current routine. I also enjoy the show and watch it right along with them; for the most part SpongeBob is brilliantly written with great characters.

I understand it may be shocking to learn that the children of Larry the Cucumber do not always watch VeggieTales. But it’s true. When they were younger, the TV was at times tuned to Arthur, Dora the Explorer, and Zaboomafoo.

Broadcast TV for kids has come a long way over the past couple of decades. When we started VeggieTales 17 years ago, I didn’t have kids. But I remember thinking if I did, the only thing I’d let them watch was Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, because that’s what I watched when I was a kid and they were still pretty much the same. Everything else seemed too violent, too sarcastic, or too crude. Fast forward to 2010 and it’s not hard to find well-produced, age-appropriate content that teaches kids math, reasoning, spelling or manners. A fair amount of stuff I don’t mind my kids watching.

So what’s the problem?

Continue reading What SpongeBob Can't Deliver to Your Kids...

March 17, 2010

'The Hobbit' to Begin Filming in July

Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, breaks the news on his website

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On his website, Ian McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf, announced that "The Hobbit's two films start shooting in New Zealand in July. Filming will take over a year. Casting in Los Angeles, New York City and London has started. The script too proceeds. The first draft is crammed with old and new friends, again on a quest in Middle Earth. The director Guillermo del Toro is now living in Wellington, close to the Jacksons' and the studio in Miramar."

In another report from New Zealand, an insider says The Hobbit will be filmed in 3D.

March 17, 2010

'We're Looking at a Different Sawyer'

Chris Seay weighs in on the meaning of Tuesday's episode of LOST, "Recon"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST. (SPOILERS AHEAD) He says "we didn't learn a great deal in this episode," other than some of Sawyer's flash-sideways story. "All of our characters so far have been more 'redemptive' in their flash-sideways narrative," Seay says. "Sawyer seems to be a good guy, except for this hatred for the true Sawyer, the man responsible for the death of his mother and father. His desire for revenge may be what ultimately undoes him." Seay adds that "the most exciting reveal" for him actually came just after the episode ended, when it was announced that next week's show will focus on Richard Alpert's back story.

March 16, 2010

Is It 'Family-Friendly'? Or 'Discrimination'?

When it comes to a Florida bill to attract filmmakers, it depends on whom you ask

When Florida's House of Representatives drafted a $75 million bill to entice "family-friendly" filmmakers to make movies in the Sunshine State by giving them a tax break, some equal rights groups cried foul.

Why? Because movies and TV shows depicting gay characters may not be eligible for the tax break, according to The Palm Beach Post, which reports that "the bill would prohibit productions with "nontraditional family values" from receiving a so-called family-friendly tax credit."

"Think of it as like Mayberry," state Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando, told The Post. "That's when I grew up — the '60s. That's what life was like. I want Florida to be known for making those kinds of movies: Disney movies for kids and all that stuff. Like it used to be, you know?"

But the head of a coalition of 80 groups that advocate for equal rights said the bill would "subsidize discrimination" and marginalize gay and single-parent families.

"Instituting 1950s-style movie censorship does nothing to support real-life families or help Florida's struggling economy," said Ted Howard, executive director for Florida Together.

March 16, 2010

From Mother of God to . . . God?

Nativity Story's Keisha Castle-Hughes to play 'Creator' in Legend of the Seeker

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A little more than three years ago, Keisha Castle-Hughes played Mary in The Nativity Story -- a role that became a bit true to life as it was announced shortly after production that the young star from New Zealand was actually pregnant at the age of 16.

Now it appears that Castle-Hughes has received an "upgrade" in roles -- she'll play God, or at least the Creator, in the March 27 episode of TV's Legend of the Seeker.

"We imagined the Creator as a very young, beautiful, and ethereal woman," exec producer and head writer Ken Biller told Entertainment Weekly. "Keisha was pretty much our conception of what it would be."

March 10, 2010

'Can I Get a Witness?'

"Dr. Linus," Chris' "favorite episode in LOST history," pays off on themes of faith and redemption.

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay calls this his "favorite episode in Lost history," noting that "none have dealt better with faith and redemption." Chris notes how Jack's newfound "tremendous faith" restores that of the desperate Richard Alpert, adding, "if you haven't been in Richard Alpert's shoes [feeling hopeless and abandoned by God], you likely haven't been living the life of faith very long." As we witness yet another in a string of transformed father/son relationships, Chris wonders what it might all mean for our characters' redemption (or destruction). And he breaks down Ben's "remarkable and beautiful redemptive narrative" in light of his conversation with Ilana at the episode's end.

March 7, 2010

Oscars 2010: And the Winners Are...

The Hurt Locker takes home the night's top honors and Sandra Bullock wins big for The Blind Side.

The Hurt Locker beat out Avatar for the top prizes at tonight's 82nd Annual Academy Awards. The film – a fictional account of the Iraq War – took home awards for Best Picture and Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow, who was only the fourth woman ever nominated in this category, and the first ever to win) as well as those for Best Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing. Avatar dominated the visual categories, netting three Oscars for Visual Effects, Art Direction, and Cinematography.

Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Touhy, the real-life Memphis mom and devout Christian in The Blind Side. The other major acting awards went to Jeff Bridges (Best Actor, Crazy Heart), Mo’Nique (Best Supporting Actress, Precious) and Christopher Waltz (Best Supporting Actor, Inglourious Basterds).

Up – which was only the second animated film ever nominated for Best Picture – won statues for Best Animated Film as well as Best Original Score.

Click here for a complete list of winners.

March 3, 2010

Catholic Church Sues Columbia over '2012'

Rio's archdiocese upset over destruction of Christ statue in apocalypse movie

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According to The National Post, Brazil's Catholic Church is suing Columbia Pictures for using unauthorized images of Rio's famous giant Christ statue in its disaster movie blockbuster 2012.

Columbia had requested to show the statue being destroyed by a giant wave, but Rio de Janeiro's archdiocese, which allegedly owns a copyright on the statue, apparently said no, according to their attorney, Claudine Dutra,

"The archdiocese refused the use of the religious symbol during pre-production of the movie, but Columbia Pictures did not respect the prohibition," she said. Dutra added that "many faithful have said they are shocked and offended by the images of the destruction of this sanctuary that the archdiocese wanted to preserve."

No word yet on whether anyone has sued Columbia for just making a lousy movie in the first place, costing millions of customers ten bucks.

March 3, 2010

How Do the 'Flash Sideways' Affect the Island?

In Tuesday's episode, 'Sundown,' some questions were answered, but more questions arose

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Among other things, Seay says that "Sundown," a "very Sayid-centric episode," "gave us much more than I anticipated. We've learned that the redemptive narratives that play out in this 'flash sideways' have an impact on what happens with the same characters on the island," and that it was further confirmed that "Fake Locke" is "offering many of the same things the serpent was offering in the Garden." Here are Seay's observations:

March 3, 2010

'Ordet' Tops Arts & Faith's New Top 100

Danish film, a meditation on faith, is No. 1 in the online community's best movies of all time

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After "years of discussion and debate within the Arts & Faith online community," A&F has posted its new Top 100 Films list, with Ordet (The Word), written and directed in 1955 by Carl Dreyer, in the No. 1 position.

In an Image blog post announcing the new list, Jeffrey Overstreet, a former film critic for CT, says the list is "characterized both by artistic excellence and a serious wrestling with questions that at the root might be called religious or spiritual.”

The list will certainly generate conversation, if not controversy, for omitting such beloved films as The Ten Commandments and The Passion of The Christ -- which might be surprising for a list compiled by film lovers and critics who are all Christians.

Writes Overstreet, “Many Christians have become so concerned about the usefulness of art as a tool of ministry and evangelism, they’ve forgotten—or never known in the first place—what art really is, and how it works.”


Check out the entire list
, and let us know what you think. What did they get right? What did they miss? Please leave your comments here, and on the A&F site. They'd certainly love to hear from you.

March 3, 2010

Another 'Slumdog'-ish Film Up for Oscar

'Kavi,' about a boy slave in India and directed by a Christian, nominated in short film category

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On a mission to help end slavery worldwide, young filmmaker Gregg Helvey has directed a short film, Kavi, a story about a boy slave in India. The film has been nominated for an Academy Awards in the Best Live Action Short Film category.

The lead character is fictional, but the situation is all too real -- not just in India, but worldwide. Helvey, a Christian, filmed Kavi as his thesis project as a film student at USC. The short has gone on to win a Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards and a Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival.

Helvey told Plywood People, "I hope Kavi will touch audiences in a way that moves them to take action to end slavery. I want this movie to be an experience that transports you to another world, but allows you to identify with the characters in a way that reminds you how close they really are. Kavi is going where no documentary could go: straight into the heart of a family who is trapped in the middle of slavery."

Helvey talks more about the making of the film here.

The trailer:

Kavi (www.KaviTheMovie.com) from Gregg Helvey on Vimeo.

March 1, 2010

The Gospel According to . . . Desmond?

Henry Ian Cusick's filmography might just give us a clue as to who will save the island

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I think I've figured out who will save the island and all of its inhabitants:

Yes, it's Desmond, aka Scottish actor Henry Ian Cusick, aka Jesus in The Visual Bible's excellent production of The Gospel of John. Hmm, Desmond as savior? The plot thickens. Or not.

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