Month in Review: Memborable January Reads, Listens and Views

FILM

1. Two of my hands down favorite watches- Italy’s Martin Eden (2019), part love story between cynic and idealist, and part love letter to Italy, the film is an exploration of the relationship between art and meaning with an emphasis on given meaning from which we are then able to create the story of our lives and this world. Secondly, The White Ribbon (2009), a tough watch but also a powerful parable about the origins and roots of evil, with the story taking the time to onder about how it is that we arrive at a world where something like the Nazis and the Holocaust could arise.

2. 1974s quiet psychological horror The Conversation, featuring a young Gene Hackman in full form, tells the story of a surveillance detective, looking thematically at the ways in which we perceive things and the people around us, including ourslelves. Blurred lines between what is real and what is not function as a working tension throughout the story, digging deep into the nature of what our character does and what this says about who we are.

3. Finding Vivian Maier (2013)– A wonderful documentary about this woman photographer who’s life and work gets uncovered yeas after her death by an unsuspecting young man, who then decides to make a film about figuring out who she was and why she hid herself and her work from the world. This takes him on a journey to France, in which the story turns into something of a travelogue as well with a wonderful backdrop through which to discover Vivian Maier.

3. Journey Into Light (1951) is a film all about the deconstruction and reconstruction process of belief and faith in God. It’s an older film, but it’s still quite poignant and packs an emotional punch.

4. Blacanieves (2012) If you ever watched or read the story of Snow White and thought to yourself, I know what this can use. Matadors and bullfighting!!, then this is the film for you. It’s made in an esquisite black and white format which accents the richness of the fairy tale like story.

5. Please Stand By (2016)- I had been waiting FOREVER to see this film, and it finally became available and I fell for it big time. Tells the story of a young woman with autism who finds purpose in her writing and in the mythology of Star Trek. Part road trip film, part existential drama, and plenty of plain old human spirit.

Also caught up with the amazing One Night in Miami, Amazon’s Oscar hopeful, and I’ve been exploring Mubi for the first time this month from which I’ve watched some great titles. One that stands out is the deeply spiritual Beginning (2020), a foreign film that’s a mix of Malick and Italian neo-realism, and is a deeply contemplative exercise on the nature of forgiveness and redemption set amidst some startling images of tragedy, joy, sadness and life.

SERIES/TV

I’m not a big series guy, but I started the new season of Zoeys Extraordinary Playlist (so much fun), and I have been following along with HBOs 30 Coins, which has been a really great horror piece.Also happy to finally be getting back to the new MacGyver season. I know, a weird one to watch, but the payoff of a super niche storyline for those of us who stuck with it has been one of the few things my son and I have been able to watch and enjoy together. So it’s a cherished tradition and imo a lot of fun.

BOOKS

I’ve been immersed lately in reading about early Jewish life, tradition, and history, particularly the important points of transition from Israel to Second Temple Judaism to Rabbinic Judaism. Two books on the history of the Samaritans I found super enlightening, Samaritans: A Profile by Reinhard Pummer and The Samaritans: The Question of Jewish Identity by Juan Guiterrez. Learning about the Samaritans, a particular and diverse Jewish sect, offered a window not only to the story of Israel, but into Christianity. Both books challenged some of my perspective of what it means for Christianity to emerge as a sect of Second Temple Judaism.

I caught up with last year’s The Hidden Life of Addie La Rue, and it sparked some personal reflection. Has a lot to do with matters of life and death and what it means to live. Brings in themes of immortality and mortality, exploring some of the questions that emerge from these ideas in relationship to one another.

Finally got back into the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series with the fourth book, Map of Days. It’s different from the other 3, but it does a good job at taking what has so far been a more contained story and blowing it wide open. Sets the stage for the mythology to expand and grow.

I also read two unexpected finds. One satisfied a secret and unfilled passion for horses (my city bred blood ensured I never got to realize that in my life). It’s called Horse Crazy: The Story of a Woman and a World in Love with an Animal by Sarah Maslin Nir. I loved how it structured the story of her life by using the different horses she had encountered along her journey. And secondly, I read this book called The Survival of the Friendliest: Why We Love Insiders and Hate Outsiders, and How We Can Rediscover Our Common Humanity by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. It was an interesting process to read this in line with my Christian faith as so much of this book about reimagining the science and theories of humanities explosive emergence late on the scene reads like a Biblical type narrative. There is a point where the authors wonder about an answer to the problem of things like violence and racism and genocide, where humanities greatest strength (our unique ability to communicate and respond in cooperative relationship with one another) is also our greatest weakness (causes us to exclude outsiders at any cost). And I found myself shouting JESUS! Not in an evangelistic kind of sense, but in a revelatory sense. In the way of something clicking for me and challenging me personally.

MUSIC

Ani DiFrancos Revolutionary Love , Charlie Peacocks new release Skin and Wind, Josh Garrels new release Early Works Part 2, and new singles by Crowder, Foo Fighters and We The Kingdom have been occupying my playlistAnd why not throw in

PODCASTS

I’ve been eating up the recent series by The Bible Project called The Family of God. Reshaping my understanding of the Biblical narrative in some wonderful ways. In a Certain Kingdom is a podcast by a Russian, Eastern Orthodox guy who tells the story of a particular Russian fairytale and then offers insight on the fairy tales from the perspective of faith and philosophy. The episode called Sister Alionushka and Brother Ivanushka was a particularly profound episode about a couple of orphans who wander the wide world and encounter danger and evil.

Deep Talks: Exploring Theology and Meaning Making did an episode on Open Theism with a couple key figures from that movement or tradition (Greg Boyd being one of them) that I found super interesting. Always good to hear the range of approaches and perspectives when it comes to the field of theology, and it’s interesting to hear consider what key questions and challenges anc convictions are driving that movement, especially in how they read scripture and the Biblical story.

Two memorable episodes from On Script– the one on John Behr dialoging with Origen, and the one on Wil Gafney about Womanist Midrash. The Great Books did a rerelease of their AMAZING set of three episodes on the Lord of the Rings with professor and author Bradley Birzer. Incredible. And Travel With Rick Steves did an excellent episode on spiritual travel and on visiting Greek Mythology this month that I found very meaningful.

Published by davetcourt

I am a 40 something Canadian with a passion for theology, film, reading writing and travel.

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