Film Study Guides: FINDING NEMO


Marlin is a clown fish, but he’s not that funny. Actually, he isn’t funny at all. More than being incapable of telling a joke, he has lost his ability to embrace the simplest joys in life. Fear and anxiety have paralyzed this humorless fish. He is unwilling to take even the slightest risk because he fears that he might lose something or, worse, someone else.

While he may be guilty of overreacting at times, Marlin’s fears are based in real experiences. He has legitimate reasons for his anxiety. His wife and all but one of his precious children were taken from him in a display of nature’s brutal indifference. In fact, this devastating series of events punctuates the opening segment of Finding Nemo (see Clip 1), which means that the rest of Marlin’s story is framed not only by what he has already lost, but also by what he needs to find as he desperately searches for his son.

Find the rest of the study guide for Pixar’s Finding Nemo at the Reel Spirituality site here…

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Dr. Kara Powell at Q Los Angeles

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We are in danger of losing a new generation to the numbing agents of electronics. Dr. Kara Powell, executive director of Fuller Youth Institute wonders what it means to raise children in a digital age. She argues that stewardship of technology doesn’t start with kids; it starts with parents. If parents are addicted to technology and are not fully present as a result, that’s the posture children will mimic.

Click the here to watch the video…

Comment Magazine Interviews Dr. Richard Mouw

James K.A. Smith: Rich, thanks so much for taking the time for this conversation. You are, in many ways, a patron saint of Comment Magazine and one of my heroes. It’s such an honour to have a few minutes to talk with you. Thanks a lot.

Richard Mouw: And I love Comment Magazine, so I’m honoured.

JS: I was thinking back when you were writing, back in the ’70s, about Christianity and politics and culture. At that time, would you have ever imagined something like the Religious Right was possible?

RM: No. I was raised in an evangelical world where we sang, “This world is not my home. I’m just a passin’ through.” Through my childhood, what we mainly heard was rhetoric like, “We don’t have rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic,” because we felt we were on a sinking ship.

JS: Sure. Because the rapture can happen any moment, so . . .

RM: That’s right. Yeah. There was obviously a kind of cultural pessimism and insensitivity to systemic issues. Yeah, they would say, maybe “coloured people” deserve to be treated better, but the best way to do it is to win people one by one. Now, we never applied that to evolution or things like that, like “Oh, they’re teaching evolution in the schools so we should go out and win each evolutionist one by one!” So there were certain things that they were sensitive to on a systemic level, but things like militarism and super-patriotism and racism and concern for the poor—those were not issues that anybody took very seriously.

Read the rest of the interview at the Cardus site here…

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Film Commentary: SMOKE SIGNALS

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The Covenant Church which I (Rob) grew up in was predominately Swedish. (In the parlance of today, our tossed salad was heavy on Swedish cucumbers, though we did have one messianic Jew, a Chinese matriarch and her talented clan, and several Armenian families.) When my mother started attending the church around 1930, she was the only non-Swede; she was Cherokee and Irish.

Not wanting her culture to be lost, she took our whole family on Easter vacations to Arizona to visit Indian reservations and Native American archeological sites. Growing up with a healthy consciousness that we were part Native American was not easy. Few cared about the modern day Indian, and little has changed.

It should come as no surprise, then, that it is rare to find a movie about contemporary Native Americans. Audiences will pay to see “cowboy and Indian” fare based in the 19th century, but few in our culture have any real interest in exploring what it means to be an Indian in white America today. That the film Smoke Signals has been so well received by audiences and critics alike is therefore quite extraordinary. The movie even won two awards at Robert Redford’s 1998 Sundance Film Festival.

Billed as the first feature movie entirely written, directed, and acted in by Native Americans, Smoke Signals was adapted for the screen from four short stories by Sherman Alexie out of his collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Alexie is quoted in Time magazine as saying, “I love the way movies have more power than books. They continue the oral tradition, the way we all sit around the fire and listen to stories.” Here, indeed, is a story to see and hear.

Read the rest of the post at the Reel Spirituality blog here…


A Bug’s Life, Does it Matter if We Matter?


Was a bug, little bug, hardly there. How he felt, what he dreamed, who could care?

So begins the Randy Newman song that brings A Bug’s Life to a close. In many ways, these lyrics sum up the principal theme of the film. Like Flick, a single ant scrambling through an endless sea of insects, our individual contributions often seem to be inconsequential, even superfluous. Lost in the movement of the masses, it is not just what we do that seems to be dispensable. We feel dispensable.

Because of our fears of living in obscurity, we have a deep-seated longing to be more than a cog in the machine. We want to matter. And, as people of faith, we want our lives to have eternal value. We want them to be redemptive and transformative. We want to change the world, so we engage extraordinary measures to undo all that is wrong through the sheer force of will, ingenuity, and creativity.

This desire to live an extraordinary life informs everything we do. Regardless of what I, as an individual, commit my time and energy to, I want it to matter that I am the one who does it. If it were not for me, in all of my particularity, something integral would be lost. This basic impulse, although fundamentally good, has a tendency to become disoriented—which is why a story about an inventive little ant and his rag-tag collection of “warrior bugs” can be so instructive for human beings. Much like our own journeys, Flick’s story does not culminate in the glorification of his individual brilliance over and against the needs of the colony. Rather, it offers us a picture of how an individual’s uniqueness finds a home in the midst of a diverse, life-giving community.

Read more here….

If Gas is the Problem in Syria

“US Is Willing to Go Solo on Syria,” (LATimes Aug 30) says the U.S. government’s case for a punitive strike against Syria is having difficulty persuading allies due to the memory of false claims during the Bush administration about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. The UN inspectors had already said they could find no such weapons in Iraq. Those UN inspectors had the information on the ground, and they had convinced me weapons of mass destruction would not be found. But that administration disdained information from the UN inspectors, thinking they knew better.

This time I have just read the US government’s unclassified “Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013.” The evidence is overwhelming. I am convinced that the Syrian government did launch an extensive poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb that they had been unable to conquer by conventional weapons, and that it killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, and maybe more. Soon we are likely to hear confirmation from United Nations inspectors who are present on the ground now.

Read more here.

When Miley Cyrus and I Were at Church


One Sunday, my wife and I walked in to church and there was Mr. Achy-Breaky Heart himself. His teenaged TV-star daughter Miley was smiling and giving a kid a hug. They sat in the back and people pretty much left them alone.

Soon after, Easter weekend was upon us. At church, I looked out the window and saw a guy with a camera sprinting across the lawn and up the steps. He didn’t look like he moved that fast that often, but then I saw the camera and I saw the other horde of paparazzi all shooting pictures and yelling at Miley. She smiled and chatted as she walked until she reached the doors of the church, then ushers escorted her inside. The photogs were welcomed in but without cameras. None accepted.

That was five years ago.   Read more here….

Ending The Workday Well


Recently I was listening to recordings of the radio station WNYC’s New Sounds program, and particularly moved by an episode on vespers. I recommend the episode to you with enthusiasm: it contains evening music by John Tavener, John Zorn, Gavin Bryars, and the like. (Here’s the link again: As I listened to the evensong music curated by New Sounds‘s John Schaefer, I thought back to Fieldnotes Magazine‘s “Starting the day well” compendium from a few weeks back, and wondered about the daily experience of the time around sunset of people who read Fieldnotes Magazine. My guess is that some find themselves squinting into the sun as they commute on the highway, some are still wrapping a few things up on email before catching the subway home, a few are perhaps calling in their children for supper after a late afternoon of play. I wondered if anyone experiences, as Schaefer describes vespers, a “sense of ritual, when things become dark and still”? And so I asked a few friends.

Read more here….


Praying The Hours Announces Episode Debut


Burning Heart Productions today announced that they will be debuting None: The Story of the Mournful Songwriter, one of the eight episodes of Praying the Hours, at both the Torrey Conference in October and as a pre-innaugural event for Fuller’s new president, Mark Labberton in November.

When completed, Praying the Hours will be composed of eight individual episodes and a feature length narrative. The production team premiered a trailer for the project prior to Reel Spirituality’s screening of Burning Heart Productions’ president and principal filmmaker Lauralee Farrer’s previous feature, Not That Funny (Boulevard Pictures), in May.

Read more and watch the trailer here……