November 15, 2008

when God speaks through film

i love books, i love films, and i love God. So what's not to love about the selection below? (Christmas is just around the corner, so don't even hesitate about giving me at least one of the books below :p) All items are from; click on each title to go to its individual site.

Through A Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies
by Jeffrey Overstreet

In the style of a cinematic travel journal, film columnist and critic Jeffrey Overstreet of Christianity Today and leads readers down paths less traveled to explore some of the best films you’ve never seen. Examining a feast of movies, from blockbusters to buried treasure, Overstreet peels back the layers of work by popular entertainers and under-appreciated masters. He shares excerpts from conversations with filmmakers like Peter Jackson, Wim Wenders, Kevin Smith, Scott Derrickson, producer Ralph Winter, and stars like Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Keanu Reeves and the cast of Serenity, drawing "war-stories" from his encounters with movie stars, moviemakers, moviegoers and other critics in both mainstream and religious circles. He argues that what makes some films timeless rather than merely popular has everything to do with the way these artists—whether they know it or not—have captured reflections of God in their work. Through a Screen Darkly also includes a collection of reviews, humorous anecdotes and on-the-scene film festival reports, as well as recommendations for movie discussion groups and meditations on how different films echo the myriad ways in which Christ captured the attention and imagination of culture.

These are the confessions of Christian moviegoer, Jeffrey Overstreet, film enthusiast and movie reviewer. He'll sow you characters, different worldviews and different experiences that offer pieces of a larger truth, including movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Wings of Desire, and even the X-Men series. What makes some of these films timeless rather than merely popular has everything to do with the way the producers of these films - whether they know it or not - have captured reflections of God in their work. Overstreet also includes a collection of recommendations for movie discussion groups, links to updated movie resources for moviegoers and meditations on how different films echo the ways in which Christ captured the attention and imagination of culture.

Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century
by Craig Detweiler

Detweiler delivers one of the more successful and substantial theological interpretations of contemporary movies, mining film for spiritual meaning. The author, who is co-director of the Reel Spirituality Institute, contends that film is a powerful tool for society's self-reflection in a postmodern world. Nostalgia, memory and amnesia are three key themes in contemporary film that offer insights about our culture's sense of being lost in this postmodern context without any sense of direction. Detweiler brings his theological expertise to bear on several recent works such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Million Dollar Baby, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Besides their impressive entertainment value, these films and several others are rich in God language and religious significance. Why, some may wonder, do we need to reflect upon films so intensely? The answer is that we don't, but if we are grasping for meaning in our culture, as Detweiler contends, movies are a fine place to start looking for God. (July) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Reel Spirituality, 2nd Edition
by Robert K. Johnston

Thoughtful Christians realize they can learn much from movies---they influence our culture and help shape our perceptions on everything from relationships and careers to good and evil. Johnston's insightful book will heighten your sensitivity to cinematic statements about the human condition and theological truths.

Finding God in the Movies
by Robert K. Johnston, Catherine M. Barsotti

Inviting Christians to "have a conversation with a movie's story, not an inquisition," Barsotti and Johnston add to the growing number of film study guides on the market for pastors, youth leaders and religious educators. By even mentioning an inquisition, Barsotti, a film reviewer for The Covenant Companion magazine, and her husband Johnston, a professor of theology and culture at Fuller Seminary, make it clear that their primary audience is evangelical Christians who see film as a guilty pleasure. For the guilt-free, some parts of the book will feel like unnecessary apologetics, and the language sometimes lapses into evangelical jargon. The heart of the book is its evocative, open-ended questions for each film-a study in how to approach visual texts in a postmodern world. Instead of telling readers what they should think of the popular films, the authors simply share their delight in each film, and then invite us to enter the stories with new eyes. Each film gets a synopsis and theological reflection, a few "dialogue texts" from scripture, discussion questions and suggested clips for viewing and analyzing. Anyone wanting to discuss Christian theology or spirituality found in film will enjoy exploring these 33 well-tested movies and will appreciate the well-articulated model for engaging spiritually with popular culture found in this study guide. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films
by Gareth Higgins

Is there more to going to the movies than mindless entertainment? Author Gareth Higgins, avid moviegoer and film critic, says there is. This is a guidebook for looking at films and finding hidden spiritual truths. With chapters on fear, God, justice, love, power, and more, Higgins teaches how to make sense of the spiritual by looking at films with a new perspective. The The Matrix to Magnolia, Fight Club to Field of Dreams, Higgins takes the reader through more than 200 films that, if looked at the right way, just might change lives. Movie buffs and novices alike will find much to enjoy, provide, amuse, challenge and confound in this book.

Entertainment Theology: New-Edge Spirituality in a Digital Democracy
by Barry Taylor

The postsecular age is shaping religion in the twenty-first century and challenging traditional thoughts on Christianity. Interest in Christian spirituality however is on the rise. Pop-culture expert Barry Taylor exhorts Christians to embrace new vehicles for communicating the truth of the Gospel, or become a thing of the past. Taking snapshots from numerous fields - including theology, cultural studies, sociology, and pop culture - he explores the broad spectrum of factors affecting religious life today. Ultimately, Taylor suggests a move away from traditional religion, proposing instead a manifestation of Christianity, not as a religion of the past, but as a beacon of hope for the present and the future.

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