Category: Arts

Blog author: dpahman
Monday, November 23, 2015

“Mockingjay — Part 2,” the last film based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling Hunger Games trilogy, opened this past weekend to high sales that, nevertheless, fell short of the other films in the series and industry expectations. In addition, with a thematically confused ending, the story itself doesn’t live up to the quality of previous installments.

Regarding sales, Brent Lang reported for Variety,

The final film in the “Hunger Games” series debuted to numbers that few pictures in history have ever enjoyed, but not everyone seems impressed.

Indeed, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” is a victim of the franchise’s success. The film’s $101 million bow ranks as the lowest of the four installments and is off 17% from the previous film in the series. Globally, the picture also struggled to attract as big crowds. The $247 million it made worldwide fell short of the roughly $300 million that many analysts expected the picture would generate.

Lang offers an interesting bit of speculation for what the “problem” may have been with this second “Mockingjay”:

Compounding issues, “Mockingjay — Part 2” ends on a relatively downbeat note. Although a series built around children fighting to the death always had dark undercurrents, the film ended with political maneuvering and betrayals that prevented it from concluding on a triumphal note. Moreover, some of the novelty of the concept had worn off by the fourth and final installment.

I’m not sure that it would have improved ticket sales, but I actually think the problem was the source material. Specifically, I don’t think the ending was downbeat enough, because Collins tried to have it both ways between tragedy and victory. Let me explain. (Spoiler alert!) (more…)

“God somehow demands of us so much more than this transactional nature. It is really about the gift that we’ve been given, and the only response we can give back is with extravagance, with gratuitous beauty.” –Makoto Fujimura (Episode 6, For the Life of the World)

sara-feature-305x305We live in a society that has grown increasingly transactional in its way of thinking. Everything we spend or steward — time, money, relationships — must secure a personal reward or return. Even when we give things up for “useless” activities, it is framed in terms of self-indulgence or personal release. We are making “me time,” “emptying our busy brains,” or “rewarding ourselves.” Even our wasteful moments are in the service of balancing some imaginary busyness ledger.

But countering our transactional nature will require far more than surface-level tweaks such as these.

In For the Life of the World, Evan Koons discovers that we must learn to appreciate the value of God’s creation in and of itself. If we hope to unlock the Economy of Wonder, we must realize that everything need not be tied to or offered up for some sort of pragmatic use. God wants us to be gift-givers who focus not on scarcity but divine abundance.

In a new video blog, musical artist Sara Groves touches on these same themes, inspired by artist Makoto Fujimura, who also makes an appearance in FLOW. “Pragmatism and utility have infected every area of life,” she says. “…It’s the artist’s role to push back against pragmatism and utility.” (more…)

kickstarter1Several years ago, as a music student in college, I remember hearing constant complaints about “lack of funding for the arts.” Hardly a day would go by without a classmate or professor bemoaning the thin and fickle pockets of the bourgeoisie or Uncle Sam’s lack of artistic initiative.

Little did we know, a shake-up was already taking place, driven by a mysterious mix of newfound prosperity, entrepreneurial innovation, and the market forces behind it. The digital revolution was beginning to level the playing field and drain power from tanks and banks of all kinds, from the Hollywood execs with dollar signs in their eyes to the aesthetically enlightened cronies at the National Endowment for the Arts. Despite the many prophecies of a creative apocalypse, a bottom-up revolution was taking place.

Amid the sea of new technologies and tools that were soon to emerge — streaming music, streaming movies, ebook publishing — crowdfunding rose as a powerful path to creative independence: artistic, economic, and otherwise. Leading the pack is Kickstarter, with success stories abounding, from inventors to thespians to foodies to photographers, and with routine funding results that actually surpass the NEA. (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, September 21, 2015

bob dylanWhen it comes to addressing the latest hit-piece in Rolling Stone regarding the Acton Institute, Rev. Robert Sirico is front and center, top of the charts, so to speak. I’d like to take a whack at it, myself, if readers will indulge me.

“Pope Francis’ American Crusade” appears in the same magazine (in)famously trumpeting liberal causes for nearly 50 years, and the very same publication with a boss worth more than $700 million, earned primarily from a magazine that applauds the conspicuous lifestyles of thuggish actors and “musicians;” and the same magazine that has celebrated unabashed materialism while bashing capitalism since its inception. The very same magazine that could be accused of white, American capitalist imperialism for ripping off its very name from the titles of famous songs by Muddy Waters (a black man) and Bob Dylan (Jewish and Minnesotan) as well as a British rock group.

It seems the article’s author – one Mark Binelli – succumbs to the tried-and-true tactic employed by the magazine’s editorial contributors since time immemorial, which is to quote anyone regardless credibility or integrity if they support the Rolling Stone writer’s agenda. For example, famed scofflaw Rep. Charles Rangel is quoted: “People can distort the Bible any way they want to, but when you have science and religion on the same side of a question, there’s no place for fundamentalists to go. You speak against the pope at your own risk.” Apparently, according to Binelli, readers should consider Rangel a martyr because he “says he has had invitations to speak at Catholic high school graduations rescinded by local religious leaders, apparently because of his pro-choice views.” (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, September 2, 2015

creativity-capitalism-money-crashCapitalism is routinely castigated as an enemy of the arts, with much of the finger-pointing bent toward monsters of profit and efficiency. Other critiques take aim at more systemic features, fearing that the type of industrialization that markets sometimes tend toward will inevitably detach artists from healthy social contexts, sucking dry any potential for flourishing as a result.

But what if the opposite is true? I offer the argument over at The Federalist.

Free economies introduce their own unique challenges for artists and consumers alike. We are justified in cringing at the array of bottom-dollar record-company execs and merchandising-obsessed Hollywood crackpots (though I will always prefer their ilk to your run-of-the-mill Commissar of the Arts). But the increases in economic empowerment that have led to these many marketing machines have also led to plenty of artistic empowerment in turn.

In an article for New York Times Magazine, Steven Johnson reinforces this very point, observing that the many apocalyptic prophecies about arts in the digital age have not quite manifested. “In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art,” he writes. “Instead, creative careers are thriving — but in complicated and unexpected ways.” (more…)

“The cultivation of imagination is to begin to integrate life into faith and every other facet, whether mundane or extraordinary, whether 9-5 work realities or worship in a church. Imagination is key to the thriving God intends for us.” –Makoto Fujimura

makotoThe burgeoning faith-work movement has does a fine job of re-orienting our perspectives about the meaning of everyday toil and the importance of stewardship in the area of work and creative service. But one area that continues to suffer neglect is that of the human imagination.

The problem isn’t so much with imagination in a strictly “for-profit” or utilitarian sense. We all recognize the importance of the imaginative capacity of a Steve Jobs, for instance, insofar as he delivers some innovation or experiment or new convenience.

But do we have a more basic concern for cultivating and stewarding the imagination in and by itself? Do we see value and meaning in simply learning to connect reality with faith, truth with beauty? Do we recognize the type of long-view foundation it takes to even get to that more “useful” Silicon-Valley phase?

As Stephen Grabill reminds us in Episode 6 of For the Life of the World, we rarely give ourselves the time and space to pause and cultivate this corner of the human intellect, and even when we do, it’s often for the wrong reasons. “We need to develop a palate for what is good,” he says, “not just for what it can do for us, but for what it is in itself.” (more…)

In a land long ago and faraway, before shows like “The Bachelor” and “How I Met Your Mother,” there was “The Twilight Zone.” Remember the shiver you got when that music came on? And “The Twilight Zone” was never a “horror” show – no maniacs running around chopping teens to bits after sexually assaulting them, all on screen of course. No, “The Twilight Zone” wanted to get you to think … and maybe a little scared.

Take this episode: The Obsolete Man, starring the incredible Burgess Meredith. It’s less than 25 minutes; watch it. Some of it will ring quite true, I’m sure. You see, a humble librarian has been declared (just as ministers are) “obsolete” in a society where neither books nor God exist. The State has done away with the former and proved the latter. The librarian insists that no man is obsolete, but his fate appears to be sealed.