Francis Ha–UU? Ha!

Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach‘s newest film, Frances Ha, touched me deeply–although probably not in a way that he (or his co-writer and star, Greta Gerwig) intended. The film is interesting enough on its own merits, but it also contains a scene that takes place in the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento. Once I saw that chalice onscreen, I was unable to separate the film from our faith.

Many other reviewers–Godfrey Cheshire, Vince Leo, Eric D. Snider–have written about the movie. A quirky ~read more~

“Brave” afraid of women


I can’t think of one good male role model in Disney/Pixar’s “Brave.” Nor does it treat its female characters very well, either, although the full explanation requires a spoiler alert. Not that we don’t expect there to be a happy ending, but I was slightly surprised by *how* we get through the middle of the film. So I’ll leave that to later.

All the male characters–including and especially the King, who is our titular heroine Merida’s father–are ~read more~

Descendants Ascending


Heroism without guns or car chases – that is the tale of Alexander Payne’s new film, “The Descendants.” Matt King’s (George Clooney) wife is in a coma, and his family was fragmenting before her accident. King compares his family to an archipelago – “we’re all one, but we’re separate, and drifting slowly apart.”  There is a *lot* of grief in this movie (I cried five times), but it is ultimately very satisfying.

King learns that his wife was having an affair from his elder ~read more~

Red State bloody, pointed


Director Kevin Smith name-checks “Unitarians” in his latest (last?!) movie, “Red State.” A violent fundamentalist preacher shouts that his flock must fear God, because God is *not* a loving God, not like those Unitarians believe.

This film is much darker, and much bloodier, than Mr. Smith’s earlier “Dogma.” For example, the extremist preacher includes the torture and murder of gay and “licentious” men in his “worship” services; and a surprising number of people are killed, usually in bloody ways. That said, the ~read more~

The Help, You Say


“The Help” is a heartwarming tale of one woman’s journey overcoming 1960′s southern sexism. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (played by Emma Stone) convinces her mother and her town that finding a job can be as fulfilling as finding a man. Tate Taylor’s film–presumably like Kathryn Stockett‘s book, which I have not read–also includes a large sub-plot about black maids serving white families. That is where it gets into trouble: the movie pretends to be about racial justice, ~read more~

Cowboys, Aliens, Pelagians

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens is a decent summer movie, but it loses half a letter grade for bad theology. Director Jon Favreau has a great cast and a serviceable script; the cinematography is lovely and the soundtrack is pretty good. Native Americans are predictably typecast (menacing at first, then loud and chaotic, then generally noble and taciturn; after the dramatic climax, we don’t see them again). The special effects are pretty good; Favreau and his producers know ~read more~

Rango funny, racist

Rango and "Wounded Bird"

“Rango” is a funny movie, but it has too many stereotypes for me to endorse wholeheartedly.  I agree with Roger Ebert, who called it an “animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical.”  Gore Verbinski’s film has visual quotes from many movies (“Star Wars,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” etc.), which were delightful for the adults in the crowd.

However, there are several troubling stereotypes.  Stephen Bridenstine notes, “Wounded Bird ~read more~

“Easy A” review

Easy A is a fun movie, with many liberal values on the surface, but it undermines its own message, IMHO. I had a great time watching it, and I would recommend it as a good starting point for conversations about teen-aged sex and morality. However, I assume that virtually all mainstream movies ultimately *support* the status quo, and “Easy A” is consistent with that belief.

Without many spoilers, the film appears to be pro-feminist, pro-gay, ~read more~

so may we categorize: