Beyonce, Terence Davies and more

In the midst of launching the book (and finishing the semester), I also wrote a lot of things!

Also, if you happened to be at one of the Last Days in the Desert premieres happening around the country last night, you saw an interview afterwards, conducted by me. (Several friends texted me snapshots of myself on screen from several theaters at once, which was unnerving.) If you're curious, almost a year and a half ago I spent a long, leisurely brunch with writer/director Rodrigo Garcia and then a long, leisurely post-matinee dinner with Ewan McGregor talking to them about the film prior to its premiere at Sundance 2015, and this was the result.

Resources for Surviving the Apocalypse

How to Survive the Apocalypse came out, finally! It's been pretty fun talking to people about it, especially since it seems awfully prescient right about now. 

Publishing: It's a Miracle!

Clips from the past two weeks:

Every Biblical Reference in Hamilton, and more

For a Christian film critic -- and one with a pretty high-profile job as such -- I really don't enjoy writing about Christian movies very much. Critics love movies and want them to be good, and frequently (though not always) Christian movies are quite bad or, worse, quietly anti-Christian. 

But two of my friends who are editors at mainstream publications asked me to write about the topic this week. And it seemed like a good opportunity to give an honest answer and also make the case that Christian movies don't need to be bad. So:

I also wrote other things:

'Midnight Special,' Wendell Berry, and 'The Blair Witch Project'

This week, I emerged from the subway to discover we'd gotten a great review for How to Survive the Apocalypse in Publishers Weekly. After a long time working on this book, it's heady to have things finally moving, and there will be much more in the near future.

Also:

And I realized I neglected in my jetlag to post a few things I wrote earlier this year. So:

10 Cloverfield Lane, Cathedrals, Bonnie and Clyde, True/False, and More

Berlinale 2016 Wrap-Up

My first Berlin Film Festival was fun and productive, which is about all you can ask from a film festival. I saw 13 films, talked to four terrific artists (some of which is still forthcoming), and was thrilled to bump into some people I only know from the Internet, as well as several friends from home who are living in Berlin. I also ate a lot of food from food trucks and drank some gluhwein in the cold.

Also I wrote like a crazy person. For Christianity Today, I wrote a series of dispatches (short reviews) for six films:

For RogerEbert.com, I interviewed Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon (two of my very favorite artists) about Midnight Specialwhich was doubly cool since it was my first article for the site, which I love.

And here are the other movies I saw:

  • Barakah yoqabil Barakah, a little Saudi comedy that looked (as so many films from the Middle East have done recently) at the life of ordinary people under a restrictive religious regime, and had some things to say about public speech in person and on the Internet.
  • Lotte, an unexpectedly moving low-budget drama about a trainwreck of a woman and a teenage girl who encounter one another in a surprising way. It's about mothers and daughters, and mistakes.
  • A Serious Game, which played to me like a better-made Swedish version of Far From the Madding Crowd (I apologize if you liked that film, because I definitely did not). This one is based on a early 20th century novel, the story of a long affair. I was with it till near the end, when I felt like it fell way apart for overromanticization. But it was beautiful and compelling.
  • Aloys, a film I honestly chose because the timeslot was convenient. Well! I was surprised. It was great, somewhere between a thriller and a less whimsical Michel Gondry dreamscape film. I really recommend it.
  • Illegitim: a low-budget Romanian family drama that lives up to others right off the bat by starting with an explosive family conversation about abortion and being an informant under an oppressive regime. It pulls that thread along throughout the film by dramatizing the most extreme version of that situation (very subtly); that said [SPOILER] the plot hinges on brother-sister incest, and that is probably a bridge too far for a lot of people.
  • The Commune, a Danish film about a commune in the 1970s. The characters are wonderfully watchable and the filmmaking is solid; it's a lot of fun to watch. The writing is weird, though. I felt as if it may have been trying to hard to pull A Dramatic Story out of what was essentially a funny crowd of people (warning, a fair amount of nudity in both sexual and non-sexual contexts; in classic Scandinavian fashion they all go bathing in the sea in the nude).
  • The Dreamed Ones, which I discovered when it started was square in the middle of one of my obsessions: collections of letters between writers. The film is almost experimental (but don't take that as code for "unwatchable"; it's anything but): two actors read letters between two poets on camera, and take breaks to smoke and joke around and listen to music. Strangely compelling.  

So that about wraps it up. Tomorrow I'm off to Paris for some reading and writing and pretending I'm in what Crazy Ex-Girlfriend calls a "sexy French depression." And my next festival is March 3-6, when I'll be at True/False in Columbia, Missouri, writing updates from there!

Writing criticism and writing *on* criticism

Jaeden Lieberher in Midnight Special, which premiered Friday night in Berlin.

Jaeden Lieberher in Midnight Special, which premiered Friday night in Berlin.

I am paid to think, write, and teach criticism, so it's no wonder that I jumped (literally, jumped up and down) at the chance to write about A.O. Scott's fine new book, Better Living Through Criticism, for Books & Culture. In the end, my essay is as much a somewhat grumpy reflection on the ways Christian culture has failed to care about or foster criticism as much as it's a review of the book (which is essential, and you should run on out to your local bookstore and buy it and read it).

Check out my review here or in the March/April edition of Books & Culture.

Meanwhile, I'm at the Berlin Film Festival until Thursday, enjoying some premieres, writing about the films, and conducting a handful of interviews. I'll be filing pieces all week, but for now, you can read about Terence Davies's A Quiet Passion (an Emily Dickinson biopic starring Cynthia Nixon) or Jeff Nichols's Midnight Special (an unconventional scifi thriller starring Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, and Joel Edgerton). More to come!

The Grinder, Breathless, and Thomas Merton

Last week, I didn't just write about Sundance.

All of My Sundance 2016 Updates

Sundance Updates This Week

I've been at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for a few days, and will be here till next Thursday. So if you're interested in all things indie film (or just getting a preview of some of the best movies that will hit your local cinema or streaming service this year), you can follow me on Twitter, or track with me over at Christianity Today Movies, where I'm publishing dispatches and diaries (here's my first festival diary and my take on Agnus Dei).

I Wrote About Mozart In The Jungle A Lot

Gael Garcia Bernal, who won a Golden Globe for his role in Mozart in the Jungle.

Gael Garcia Bernal, who won a Golden Globe for his role in Mozart in the Jungle.

Mozart in the Jungle, a goofy little comedy about classical music and love, won two Golden Globes tonight: one for Best Comedy/Musical TV Series and one for Gael Garcia Bernal, who stars alongside the great Lola Kirke. A couple weeks ago I wrote about it, twice, for Vulture, and both pieces are now published. Here they are!

Publishing: 'Slaughterhouse 90210' and 'Mozart in the Jungle'

Two things I wrote that got published in the last week:

I also updated my Content.ly portfolio (finally) with some of the recent clips most relevant to my areas of interest.

A Year in Writing: 2015

In January, just before I left for Sundance, I finished co-writing a book that's due out this May (pre-order! it's fun!), and though I took a couple months off while sojourning in Paris this summer, I published just over 90 other articles and essays, not counting the ones that are out for publication right now but will show up in 2016. 

From Jacques Rivette's Out 1: Noli me tangere, which I wrote about for Paste.

From Jacques Rivette's Out 1: Noli me tangere, which I wrote about for Paste.

That output is grueling - I won't lie. Especially when it's all freelance, and not particularly lucrative, and I have a few other "real" jobs. But I am grateful for the flexibility of my main gig as a professor at King's, and more or less pleased with a lot of what I've published. I'm also delighted by how many editors at new publications I've been able to work with, which this year includes VulturePacific Standard, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Washington Post's "Acts of Faith" vertical, Paste (which I hadn't written for since 2010), the "Good Letters" blog at Image Journal, Bright Wall / Dark Room, Movie Mezzanine, Litro NY, Reel Spirituality, The Table, and possibly others I'm forgetting (it's been a long year). I also covered Sundance, Tribeca Film Festival, and New York Film Festival for the first time.

And here are 15 articles (for 2015) that I especially enjoyed writing, in chronological order.

  1. "Ewan McGregor and Rodrigo Garcia on Last Days in the Desert," Christianity Today, 13 January 2015
  2. "In Praise of Slow Opinions," Christianity Today, 12 February 2015
  3. "Tilting At Windmills: Civil Discourse According to The Newsroom," The Table, 2 March 2015
  4. "There Are Parables Everywhere You Look," Christianity Today, 6 March 2015
  5. "What Kimmy Schmidt Gets Right," The Washington Post, 17 March 2015
  6. "Can Indie Filmmakers Save Religious Cinema?The Atlantic, 18 March 2015
  7. "The Power of Confession," Pacific Standard, 20 April 2015
  8. "Everybody Worships: On David Foster Wallace," Books & Culture, May/June 2015
  9. "Risking Perfection," The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, Summer 2015 (print only)
  10. "Seeing Ghosts," Bright Wall / Dark Room, August 2015
  11. "Pain Lessons," Art House America, August 2015
  12. "Flesh & Bone Is Structured Like An Actual Ballet," Vulture, 16 November 2015
  13. "Touch Me Not, But Watch Me Plenty," Paste, 20 November 2015
  14. "Talk To Me In Letters," Good Letters, 25 November 2015
  15. "Why Pop Culture Is Obsessed With 'Identity'," Christianity Today, January/February 2016 (published online 28 December 2015)

A few honorable mentions: an essay on staying, a review of the new Joan Didion biography, why we get religious about Star Wars, on Miguel Gomes's Arabian Nights, revisiting Chinatown and sunshine noir, in praise of the amateur, Biblical allusions in Z for Zechariah, and a review of Lucas Hnath's Broadway play The Christians.

I'm turning in a book on May 1, and a lot of new material is coming in the meantime and, if I'm lucky, more new editors to work with.

And thanks for reading. As any writer will agree, it means a lot to me.

The Final Countdown

I think my publishing for the year is done (though you never know), so here's what I published in the last half of December:

Image for Christianity Today by Mark Allen Miller

Image for Christianity Today by Mark Allen Miller

Scheherazade, Narnia, Chi-Raq and More

Letters, Chinatown, and Shia LeBeouf

Gothic Horror Ballet, Political Farce, Religious Extremism, and a Cocktail

A quick publication roundup:

Beginning in January, there's also some content restructuring going on in my department at Christianity Today, where I manage all the movies and TV content. I tweeted a bit about what I'm looking for and how to pitch, and collected it all here in case you're interested.

Everything and More

Which is the title of a David Foster Wallace book on the concept of infinity, but I don't think he'll mind if I borrow it to link to everything I've written in the summer and early fall.

Wine seems like a good place to end. Have a great weekend, Internet.

Recently Published

Here are some things I made for the Internet lately.

Also, I'll be in D.C. on June 1 for an evening conversation at the National Press Club, hosted by the Trinity Forum. I'm the respondent to a longer lecture by my friend Makoto Fujimura. I hear it's about to sell out. Hope to see you there!