Mockingbird at the Movies: Intro (and Final Edition)

As this year’s Oscar buzz revs up, be sure to take a look at our latest […]

Mockingbird / 1.28.16

As this year’s Oscar buzz revs up, be sure to take a look at our latest publication, Mockingbird at the Movies, an anthology of film essays collected from many of Mockingbird’s contributing writers. Last week, we quietly released the fully-polished final edition, which consists of a few less typos but all of the same thought-provoking, Gospel-centered content. See the full Table of Contents here, order a copy here, and read the intro, by editor CJ Green, below. Oh and if you feel inspired to post a review on Amazon, by all means.


It was an ill-defined notion but there nevertheless—my vague childhood idea that ‘Hollywood’ had it in for me. As if it were a secret society that gathered around candlelit conference tables discussing how it could sneak more sex, drugs, and sin into movies in order to catch innocent minds like my own unawares. As a kid, I’d hear people, especially those with Christian tendencies, scoff about gratuitous violence and say, “Classic Hollywood.” But that a great many movies might be inappropriate for children doesn’t discount the fact that the fear of movies often goes to battle with the lived experience of them: the comfort of a glamorous rom-com, or the catharsis of a well-crafted tear-jerker, or the way that a foulmouthed comedy makes your stomach hurt from laughing.

This little book, however, attempts not to point out the ‘intersection’ of Christianity and film, as though they were two distinct entities, but more to say that the Gospel seems to breathe out of those things that affect us the most, film included. This is what French philosopher Simone Weil meant when she wrote, “The world is the closed door. It is a barrier. And at the same time it is the way through…Every separation is a link.” The questionable output of Hollywood might seem a far cry from the Gospel of Christ, but we find, in the end, that they aren’t as incompatible as they might at first seem.

poster-4768The first movie that made me cry was the full-length Pokémon movie. As the protagonist, Ash, dove in front of a magical ice blast in order to stop the climactic final battle, he turned to stone before my very eyes. I was just five years old and completely beside myself. Only when Ash had been showered in the tears of all of his Pokémon was he thawed out to life, and as he was raised I realized that I would have to see this again, and again, and again, if only just to feel what I felt that first time through.

Sometimes we watch movies to feel something—to cry or laugh or shrink back into the couch, listening to our pulses speed up as the private eye descends the creaky staircase into the serial killer’s basement. Movies themselves are like private eyes, sneaking into the basement of our own subconscious, shining a flashlight in the dark. They serve as an external force poking at an internal sleeper, waking him up and bringing him to the surface in some sort of emotional outburst.

This is something we at Mockingbird refer to as ‘abreaction’—even if a movie doesn’t read like a Bible study, it nevertheless takes a heavy dose of truth to wake the dead. A good movie makes you want to talk about it, or watch it again, or force someone else to watch it with you while you watch them, hoping they have the same experience you did the first go-round.

As a ministry, Mockingbird seeks to point out the natural links between the Gospel message and the doldrums of daily life, in which movies often play a significant role: NPR reported in 2013 that Americans spent over twenty billion dollars on movies, and my own mother reported that in 1978 she watched Grease seven times back-to-back. We live in an increasingly visual society, where pictures on social media denote how we feel, where we can order pizza with emojis. But something about the ‘motion picture’ remains particularly special, because it’s not just the visuals—it’s the acting and the music and the stories. And often the stories work like doors, opening up and leading us into a world of sacrifice, or freedom, or deep human suffering. They can be arrows pointing us to what matters most. And, in a world where the Christian faith can feel like an extracurricular, the ministry of everyday life cannot risk ignoring these silver signposts.

Mockingbird at the Movies brings together the many voices of Mockingbird’s contributing writers, from all tastes, backgrounds, and perspectives. We’ve got essays from film experts, casual fans, pastors, theologians, and even a few critics. But what you hold in your hands is not necessarily a book of ‘reviews.’ Obviously we love the movies we’ve written about, and hope you do too, but with this project we’ve decided to dish out less opinions than observations, explaining why these are the movies that have stayed with us, in hopes that they stay with you as well. If one essay doesn’t strike your fancy, move on to the next, because no two are the same. Several of them first appeared on our website, and many, including a wide-ranging selection of annotated lists, are brand new.

By no means should this little book be considered a comprehensive look at cinematic spirituality. We tried to collect a broad smattering of titles from a wide range of genres, both new and old, familiar and strange, scary and funny and moving—but the case is far from closed. The Spirit of God continues stretching toward us, using everything in his way—from fantasy movies to cult classics to Oscar-winning dramadies—to keep us from forgetting the good news of God’s indiscriminate compassion for humankind. Our hope is that these essays, much like Pokémon tears, will help turn stone to flesh or, at the very least, serve as a healthy reminder to pop in a movie every once in a while, turn down the lights, and kick up your feet.

Mockingbird at the Movies is available now on Createspace and Amazon – Order your copy today!

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One response to “Mockingbird at the Movies: Intro (and Final Edition)”

  1. ChipG says:

    Got this from a dear friend for Christmas and have been enjoying the essays. Seems like I see the same movies but miss about 50% of the content, so thanks for the provocation to think more about what I am watching.

    I guess I have the typo-laden one? I’ll try to ignore those.

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