The Limitations of Mockery and the Adventure of Authenticity

Tim Heidecker in ‘The Comedy.’ 

“Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.” These chilling words are part of a valuable exposé written in the New York Times by Christy Wampole. Her piece ‘How to Live Without Irony‘ bears witness to a generational descent into routine insincerity.

Mockery on the other hand can be direct at times- a dagger shoved into one person by another- but at its core, it is not so different from insincerity. Both are often a piece of armor used for self-preservation, a way to flee human connection by focusing on the other as a caricature while exempting one’s self from the same level of scrutiny. I look around and am encouraged, because it seems even secular culture is growing weary of mockery taken to the extreme.

(more…)

Interview with Author Donald Miller and Director Steve Taylor: On the ‘Blue Like Jazz’ Production Process, On-Set Surprises, and Misunderstanding God

Donald Miller (left) and Steve Taylor. Photo credit: 2012 Ian Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

My conversation continues and concludes with screenwriter Donald Miller and director Steve Taylor about their new film adaptation of Miller’s New York Times bestselling book ‘Blue Like Jazz.’ The film opens in theaters April 13th. If you missed it, click here for the first part of this interview.

(more…)

Interview with Author Donald Miller and Director Steve Taylor: On ‘Blue Like Jazz,’ Christian Movies, and This Film’s Controversy

Donald Miller (left) and Steve Taylor. Photo credit: 2012 Ian Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

I get a call from Donald Miller’s tour manager Jim Chaffee as I’m turning into the parking lot at the Southcenter Mall, a complex located about 10 minutes south of Seattle if you take the interstate, hence the name Southcenter. The theater won’t let us in ahead of the screening so we’ll have to do the interview somewhere else. Chaffee thinks Starbucks, maybe. “I’ll go get Don, he’s in the car,” Chaffee says as I close my outdated flip phone. Why is Miller, a New York Times Bestselling author on tour to begin with, and at a theater of all places?

His second book ‘Blue Like Jazz,’ a collection of essays on faith and doubt published in 2003, went on to sell over a million copies, propelling the author into the national spotlight. Miller’s ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’ arrived in 2009 and documented the unlikely journey of adapting ‘Jazz’ into a film, with musician-turned-director Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson pursuing the author to write the screenplay as a threesome. As for ‘Blue Like Jazz,’ it’s one of those works so often mentioned by young evangelicals as the spark that re-ignited their faith after years of dismay and an upbringing in religious fundamentalism. Miller and Taylor have been on a tour bus for weeks, taking the film around the country to screen ‘Blue Like Jazz’ before it opens April 13, and tonight their stop is Seattle.

(more…)

The 10 Best Films of 2011

George Clooney in ‘The Descendants.’ Photo credit: Fox Searchlight 

It’s such a definitive title, isn’t it? And in that way, I have mislead you. I am in no shape to proclaim the 10 best films of 2011, because I missed a ton of likely contenders. On the other hand, for a married guy with a child, I gave it a valiant effort and still saw lots of movies, plus naming this post “my favorite films of 2011″ felt a bit too much like an entry in a twelve-year-old’s diary, so let’s roll with it, shall we?

(more…)

‘Moneyball’ and the Risks and Rewards of Doing Things Differently

Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

There’s a moment early on in Bennett Miller’s impeccably made new film ‘Moneyball,’ in which Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) realizes that everything must change. His team is losing three major stars to free agency, and he doesn’t have the purchasing power to keep them around or to buy replacements of similar caliber. In a league with no salary cap, Oakland is like David up against The Yankees’ Goliath. Wealthier teams comfortably drop $110 million on players each year while Oakland can only manage to pay less than half of that. Or as Beane explains to the team’s inner circle “there are rich teams, and there are poor teams. Then there’s 50 feet of crap. And then there’s us.”

Beane knows that the game is geared to favor the rich, and he’s either going to have to get creative, or else watch next year’s team chase the ball around the field. Beane decides that he will assemble a team based on statistical goals rather than star power. He will fill his roster with a bunch of no name players, grabbed at a bargain.  The problem is, the scouts and team manager aren’t seeing his revolutionary new vision. They insist on what has always been done. Surely their skill, intuition and coaching are better than a computer filled with metrics and data. A protest spreads through the head offices of the Oakland A’s, and consequences aren’t far behind.

(more…)

The Best Movies of 2010

Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer

Part of the problem with a definitive headline like “the best movies of 2010″ is that it implies I have managed to see all of the contenders. That didn’t exactly happen, for reasons married people with children understand. But let’s say I got close. Having acknowledged that, here are my favorites from the past year:

(more…)

The Half-Yearly Report: 2010′s Best Movies and TV Shows (So Far)

Ewan McGregor in ‘The Ghost Writer’

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

My goodness, here we are again already! It’s June, and we already have 6 months’ worth of entertainment to talk about. And what a year it’s been! Or more accurately, what a CRAPPY year it’s been! Now, I am aware that if you look at the entertainment reports we have done over the life of this blog you will see that the “Crappy Year” theme has been rather prominent. But, man, do they ever make it easy to keep that theme current.

It’s interesting, but ever since moving back to Los Angeles in 2007, I have met and been around more people in the creative part of the entertainment industry. I have met writers, comedians, producers, technicians, actors and even a newscaster. And when we do talk about what the entertainment industry is doing and where it’s headed, they are no more enthusiastic than we consumers of their (collective) product. That should tell us all something: if the creators are not enthused about the creations, then why should we be?

But, let us focus on the positive! Not every release this year has been at the level of a ‘Marmaduke’ or ‘Letters to Juliet.’ There have actually been some things worth seeking out:

(more…)

Reviewing the Cinematic History of Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese on the set of ‘The Departed.’

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

Martin Scorsese came to prominence in the early 70s and has steadily become one of the best known and most admired American directors. In addition to his directing career, Scorsese has been very active the past twenty years as a film historian and preservationist. His knowledge of cinema and its history informs every new film he makes; they are full of visual homages to his influences.  I’m going to reflect a bit more on this great American talent before reviewing some of his career highlights.

(more…)

The Inspirational Life (and Film) of Temple Grandin

Photo Credit: HBO Films

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

About a week ago I was tooling around on my cable system, and I came upon an HBO movie that I knew about, but really had no interest in specifically. The movie is called ‘Temple Grandin’ starring Claire Danes, and it’s one of those typical biopics that often show up on TV. I am a sucker for biopics. I love to learn something about a person that I have never heard of who is notable for one reason or another, and this movie fits that bill in every way.

(more…)

The Best Films of the Decade

‘City of God.’ Photo credit: Miramax/Buena Vista International

Guest Contributions by Brian Robinson

Brian: Anyone who knows me well knows that I am really not a nostalgic person. Every year, I abhor the lazy (we-are-really-on-vacation) magazine editions that recount the year. “Remember back in March with this happened?! Wasn’t that something!?” Um, no, and I don’t need you to remind me of it by printing a picture that you used back in March and calling that an issue. Ugh.

Unless you are talking about movies. Now, THIS is a list worth having! Why? Because with movies, unlike ‘moments’ (“Best Celebrity Meltdown”? Really?) you can always go back to watch movies, get a reputable list of them and make your own subjective decisions about how right or wrong the list may be. I really can’t tell you who is at the top of the decade’s top ten list of ‘Corporate Gaffes’, nor do I want to.

So, what follows is my thoughtful guess as to what the top FIVE best movies are of the decade. I can do ten of them, but really, why invite a fight?

Ian: As I’m sure is the same with Brian, these are not what I think are the most Important or Revolutionary (in terms of groundbreaking) films, but rather my favorites, for whatever reason.  Another decade, another list. Let’s do this.

(more…)