NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar – Who Do You Say That I Am? (Renewed Mind Movie Talk)

It’s been quite some time since I’ve published one of these, but my latest Renewed Mind Movie Talk video essay is now available!

In this episode, I take a look at the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar, specifically the live NBC performance aired on Easter Sunday 2018.

Raised in a fairly conservative evangelical household, I was told by several people that the rock opera was sacrilegious or blasphemous, so I had never watched it until NBC’s airing. While I can see my former teachers’ point, I do think there’s something worthwhile in the musical’s refusal to say exactly who Jesus is.

With a tip of the hat to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I explain what Christians can learn from many questions about Jesus raised by Jesus Christ Superstar. Check it out!

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Transformative Forms of Love (Renewed Mind Movie Talk)

Because I’m the sole writer, editor, and programmer (and, to be honest, viewer) of Renewed Mind Movie Talk, I’ve only done movies I like. Sure, I’ve skipped over some stranger flicks I enjoy in favor of something more popular, and thus more likely to gain viewers, but I haven’t spent time on a movie I didn’t like.

Until I did Beauty and the Beast 2017.

While I appreciated the way the story gave Belle more agency and undercut the “Stockholm Syndrome” problems in the 1991 version, I found it poorly paced, poorly acted, poorly staged, and (most distressingly) full of ugly CG.

After my first viewing, I would have happily ignored the movie from here on out, were it not for my brother urging me to use it on RMMT (in part, it must be said, to annoy his wife).

To my surprise, once I looked closely at the movie’s worldview, I found quite a bit to like. As I discuss in the episode, Beauty and the Beast 2017 imagines a number of different forms of love and their effects on people. More specifically, we see a move away from romantic love to more of an unconditional love. This treatment not only reminded me of Plato’s Phaedrus, but also St. Augustine’s Christian take on the idea of loving God’s image in other people.

So within this ugly and abrasive movie, I found something quite beautiful and compelling. Which kind of reminds me of a movie I saw once…

RELAUNCH! Sort of… Renewed Mind Movie Talk

I’ve been doing Renewed Mind Movie Talk for a while now, but I have to admit that I’m not entirely thrilled with the results.

I started this series with two goals: 1) to give Christians better tools for engaging with stories than the usual “moral/immoral” binary and 2) to foster empathy among evangelical Christians by exposing them, through fiction, to new ideas and perspectives.

To catch a wide audience, I tried to keep episodes under 15 minutes long, but I think that’s harmed my goals. Too many of the episodes come off like nifty little “One to Grow On” shorts, giving little attention to anything beyond the movie’s plot.

So, to better meet my goals, I’ve restructured a bit. I’m letting the episodes go longer, in hopes of adding depth to the film analysis and to heighten the conversation between the movie and scripture. Also, I’ll be releasing them on a biweekly basis, to give myself more time for research and script-writing.

I’ve picked for my relaunch subject Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, an important film for me because it was the first time I became aware of “the culture wars.”

I was 10 when the movie came out, and I can remember the furor surrounding it. Publications like Focus on the Family, as well as people in my church and family, talked about how blasphemous it was, how it was another attack by Hollywood on Christian values. As a dutiful child, I followed their lead and stayed away from it.

As a slightly less dutiful teenager/young adult, I finally watched the movie. Obviously, I could see where the movie strayed from Christian orthodoxy, but I could also see that it wasn’t trying to attack Christianity at all. Rather, it was taking its ideas seriously. It was trying to imagine the relationship between a perfect God and a humanity that falls so short of that ideal. It was trying to take seriously the idea that a real live human being could be both God and man, could have all the desires that we have and still choose to sacrifice himself in a brutal fashion.

Sure, it got some things “wrong,” but it brought up so many compelling questions, that it should not be ignored. And it should never be attacked.

So I’m relaunching my series with this movie. I hope I can help people better understand what the movie is trying to do, to not only see where they disagree with the movie, but to actually hear the questions it asks and know where to go for a response, if not an answer.

I hope you’ll check it out. And if you know someone who likes movies, and wouldn’t mind staring at my ugly face for a bit, maybe you’ll share it with them, too.

Spider-man 2: Power, Responsibility, Identity (Renewed Mind Movie Talk, Episode 08)

Oh man, I realize I never posted last week’s video here. So here’s the belated 8th episode of Renewed Mind Movie Talk: Spider-man 2: Power, Responsibility, Identity.

In this episode, I talk about my favorite Spider-man movie (sorry, Homecoming), and how the film dramatizes an identity crisis.

This identity crisis can help Christians think about our own identities, how our calling might require the loss of an identity, but following it will lead to the fulfillment of our best selves.

Check it out, and many share it with other Spider-nerds!