Britt Tisdale

Anaïs Mitchell | Photographer: Kirk Stauffer

Issue #250 | September 19, 2012

Features
Reforming Hollywood by William D. Romanowski
Anaïs Mitchell: Young Man in America
The Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood by Sara Anson Vaux
Pruning Burning Bushes by Sarah M. Wells

Gallery Watch
Anne Barber-Shams's Mihrab at The Jerusalem Fund Gallery

Message Board
Seattle Screening: An Encounter with Simone Weil
The First Annual Anglican Theological Review Poetry Prize
To Narnia and the North!

The Mirrored World by Debra Dean Now Available
Gaudy Night Opens at Taproot Theatre

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Features

Reforming Hollywood by William D. Romanowski

SPU MFA Protestants and Hollywood: the story's more complicated than you think. In his new book Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies, William D. Romanowski gives us a meticulously-researched, highly readable account that illuminates the history of American religion in the twentieth century, a time when Protestants had to grapple not just with developments in technology and entertainment (such as those that drove the rise of Hollywood) but with their own gradually waning influence in a rapidly pluralizing society. Romanowski (a professor at Calvin College and prominent commentator on religion and popular culture) traces the ways that social reformers, church leaders, and others tried to influence the movie business for the good—and along the way, deal with ethically charged issues such as review boards, the border between art and entertainment, ratings systems, and censorship. What's most striking is the way that history repeats itself: many of the discussions about film that Christians have today are merely echoes of the past (for instance, church leaders in the 1920s decried DeMille's bedroom dramas as "spreading a moral blight across America"), and the story is always more complicated than it seems, with the desire to do good bound up with prejudices and cultural contexts that can be difficult to navigate. Romanowski's book is a fluent, thorough history from which any student of film or American religious history—and anyone who loves the movies—will learn a lot.

Purchase Reforming Hollywood today!

Anaïs Mitchell: Young Man in America

Six Sundays Toward a Seventh With her signature vocals and narrative skill, Anaïs Mitchell is back—and with a newfound accessibility. Mitchell is known for her twenty-song folk opera Hadestown, a retelling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon singing for Orpheus and Ani DiFranco voicing the occasional Persephone. Listeners will immediately notice that Young Man in America is a different game: less conceptual, more thematic. The album begins with a desperate invocation of faith—"O father shepherd / father, shepherd us / from the wild wolves howling"—before sliding straight into the title track where Mitchell sings her young American man to life, a man born "hungry as a prairie dog...with a black and roving eye." The recent recession and larger sweep of American history are both present here, but Mitchell is never heavy-handed or didactic. Similarly, sex, religious conviction, spiritual ecstasy, and death all appear in her songs without calling unwarranted attention to themselves. Many of the songs are rooted in the titular character, but Mitchell's appetite for myth allows her an ego as flexible as Whitman's: in "Tailor" she is a lovestruck girl; in "Shepherd" a husband; and in "Wilderland" she sings as a prophet, "Your cities are a wilderland / look upon your children." Mitchell's voice is capable of childlike bleating and sweet seriousness, occasionally diving toward a whisper or ascending to smile-inducing brightness. Listen for the subtle interplay of violin, mandolin, organ, piano, and tambourine amid the typically acoustic-driven compositions. Stand-out tracks include "Coming Down," in which Mitchell forgoes her guitar for the piano and proceeds toward everything the confessional song should be, simple and emotive; and "Dyin Day," in which she revivifies the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, asking, "Be it ill or be it good? / Father, tell me / Makes you bind me hand and foot / Every day a dyin' day."

Click here to listen to samples and purchase Young Man in America.

The Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood by Sara Anson Vaux

Man in the Blue Moon Though he may be controversial as a political personality, there is no doubt that Clint Eastwood is a film icon: a winner of five Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, and numerous other accolades for his work as an actor, director, producer, and composer. Yet few critics have ventured to consider Eastwood's philosophical, ethical, and artistic agenda the way film scholar Sara Anson Vaux has in The Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood. Bridging popular film and theology, Vaux traces Eastwood's career from Spaghetti Westerns and Dirty Harry-style shoot-em-ups to more recent films such as Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, and Invictus. "Seen along a forty-year continuum," Vaux writes, "Eastwood's movies reveal stages in an unfolding moral ontology—a sense of being in the world. They become more sophisticated and nuanced in tone and narrative exploration even if the basic motifs—justice, confession, war and peace, the gathering, and the search for a perfect world—remain the same throughout his career." Vaux is also quick to refuse the temptation of Christian scholars (or any scholars of a particular camp) to dig through art for validation—for "endorsements of a particular religious system." The film analysis in her book is far from it. In four sections (Westerns, mysteries, war movies, and healing narratives), Vaux peels back the surface of Eastwood's films so the reader can see all the humming parts within: reccurring themes, camera techniques, Hollywood tricks and archetypes, critical reception, the whole shebang—and adds it all up to tell the story of the moral worldview that Eastwood has brought into the living rooms of millions of moviegoers. This is a book for film critics and movie lovers, Clint Eastwood buffs and academics alike—a film-writing delight.

Click here to purchase the book and begin reading for yourself!

Pruning Burning Bushes by Sarah M. Wells

The Little Hymn Project In her poetry collection Pruning Burning Bushes Sarah M. Wells delves into the rich ground of detail to turn up the "casual miracle" of what lives beneath. "Settle your shifting gaze," she writes, then prunes through images of childhood, marriage, family, birth, and death, "cutting back two-thirds of growth / to trigger recovery from the trunk up." From the rural to the urban, the aging to the newly born, the honky-tonk to the quilting club, the imagery she's been given is not only tended with "sighing, sweating, fists on hips, pruners / lost in the grass" but also with a compassion and spirit "reckless with praise and the need to be filled." In her recent essay in Poets Quarterly, Wells speaks as a writer whose work is faith-based—she says her joy in poetry "is discovering something I'd never known or felt before, my body nodding, yes, yes, that is it, there it is, the divine indwelt. And then this greater joy: to share that experience with another human being through the written word, poet and reader, a small community of believers who are now gathered in worship around this little altar." Whether as altar builder or gardener, Wells's work is inspired. As poet Sydney Lea writes, "Wells has been granted—and she knows it—the grace to eat life right down to the seed, where the joy of the mystery lies, and the peace that passes understanding." Wells also wrote Acquiesce, winner of the Starting Gate Award and featured in the New Women's Voices Series through Finishing Line Press (March 2009), and serves as the administrative director for the low-residency MFA program at Ashland University and as managing editor for the Ashland Poetry Press and River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative.

Learn more about Pruning Burning Bushes here.

Gallery Watch

Anne Barber-Shams's Mihrab at The Jerusalem Fund Gallery

The Little Hymn Project Barber-Shams explores in her work the mihrab, which she translates as refuge: a portal to the ancient common ground found during Andalusian times, when for 700 years the three cultures of Muslims, Christians, and Jews intermingled and flourished, bringing forth architectural, artistic, scientific, and scholarly riches—seeds of peace in a turbulent time. This refuge Barber-Shams expresses in paintings and calligraphy embellished with gold leaf. Click here for gallery visiting hours. Mihrab will be open through October 26.


Message Board

Post here to reach thousands of readers interested in the intersection of art and faith. We welcome messages about job listings, local events, conferences, prizes, calls for papers, and more. Submit your messages by sending an e-mail here.

Seattle Screening: An Encounter with Simone Weil

The Northwest Film Forum is proud to announce an opportunity to connect with Simone Weil in a new yet-to-be-released documentary, Encounter. An unyielding feeling of responsibility for the suffering of others links filmmaker Julia Haslett to her idol, Simone Weil, a philosopher and "great spirit" who died 70 years too early for Haslett to ever know her. Encounter chronicles and embodies Haslett's attempt to connect with the French mystic by any means possible, from interviewing Weil's friends and relatives to hiring an actress to play Weil in an exclusive "interview." The film hovers between biography and self-reflection, breaking traditional boundaries of documentary filmmaking in its compassionate exploration of the woman who "died of love." The film will be screen twice each evening from September 24-27. Click here for more details.

The First Annual Anglican Theological Review Poetry Prize

The Anglican Theological Review Poetry Prize competition is open to emerging poets: that is, poets who have not yet published a full-length book of poetry or in any other literary genre. Poets whose work has appeared in chapbook form and/or in journals are eligible. Contestants should submit one unpublished poem, in any form, but not to exceed 64 lines. There is no specific theme, although writers who are familiar with the poetry published in the ATR will see a preference for work that reflects an incarnate sense of the sacred. Submissions to the contest should be made between November 1, 2012, and March 1, 2013. Both electronic and regular mail submissions are welcome, and there is no entry fee. The winning poet will receive $500 and publication of his/her work in ATR's Summer 2013 issue. For complete guidelines, please visit the website. You may address any questions to Jackie Winter, Managing Editor.

To Narnia and the North!

The Northern Michigan C.S. Lewis Festival welcomes you to our annual celebration of the life and works of the man who created Narnia. Taking place during October and November in the Petoskey, Michigan area on Little Traverse Bay, events including music and theater performances, school and library programs, scholarly lectures, community discussion groups, and more. This year will be our tenth celebrating the work of C.S. Lewis in art galleries, schools, bookstores, libraries, theaters, and faith communities. As Lewis's life and works also touch many spheres, this year's theme is appropriately titled "C.S. Lewis in the Public Square." For complete details please visit our website.

The Mirrored World by Debra Dean Now Available

Debra Dean, author of much-raved-about The Madonnas of Leningrad and Confessions of a Falling Woman, has released her third title this month! Fiction lovers can now purchase The Mirrored World, which was reviewed in the June 21st issue of IMAGEUpdate. Read the review and click here to purchase the book today!

Gaudy Night Opens at Taproot Theatre

Another favorite Lord Peter Wimsey novel comes to the stage this fall as Seattle's Taproot Theatre presents Dorothy L. Sayers's classic mystery, Gaudy Night. Harriet Vane's Oxford reunion is terrorized by murderous threats from the "Poison Pen," a vicious vandal determined to destroy our heroine and everything she holds dear. Is her sleuthing enough to apprehend the villain? And where is Lord Peter when she really needs him? Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte directs Frances Limoncelli's adaptation of Gaudy Night, which opens September 21 and runs through October 20. Click here for the show schedule and tickets.

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ImageUpdate

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Layout: David Rither
Contributors: Anna Johnson, Tyler McCabe, Taylor Olsen, Sarah Steinke, Alissa Wilkinson, and Gregory Wolfe.

ImageUpdate is the biweekly e-mail newsletter from Image, a quarterly print journal that explores the relationship between Judeo-Christian faith and art through contemporary fiction, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, music, and dance. Each issue also features interviews, memoirs, essays, and reviews.

ImageUpdate brings you news about books, CDs, organizations, websites, conferences, exhibitions, and tours--all of which inhabit the intersection between faith and imagination. ImageUpdate will also notify you whenever a new issue of Image is printed, an Image event is upcoming, or new content is posted to our website.

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