My Top Movies of 2013

I love the experience of heading to the movie theater, filling up a bucket of popcorn, and settling into the dark room with friends, family, or even by myself. 

2013 was a great year for movies, and I was more intentional this year about getting to as many great movies as I had the opportunity to see in the theater. 

Here’s a list of my favorites from this year.

American Hustle:  Just saw this one today. Phenomenal movie. Director David O. Russell sets the perfect tone that’s off-beat and hilarious. Also good performances from all the main cast. Amy Adams sure has come a long way from the “purse girl” on The Office.

Dallas Buyers Club:  A man in the mid-1980’s unexpectedly contracts HIV and desperately begins seeking the medical treatment that was so limited during the early years of the AIDS crisis. This film is Matthew McConaughey’s best work that I’ve ever seen. Jared Leto also gave an emotional performance. 

Mud:  Great coming of age tale set in the deep south that explores life along the river for two young teenage boys and a fugitive they meet by chance. Second-best McConaughey performance I saw this year.

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Fruitvale Station:  Michael B. Jordan is an actor to watch for the future. In this movie he plays a young Oscar Grant who was unjustly shot and killed by police in the bay area. Jordan does a wonderful job of crafting a complex man who who you learn to root for despite his flaws. This is a great movie to keep the conversation going about the way racism still plays a role in a post-Obama America. 

12 Years a Slave:  This movie tells the true and epic story of a free Northerner’s journey to get back to his family after being abducted and sold into slavery in the mid-1800’s. A lot of raw emotion in this one and great cinematography. 

Frozen:  Based on the marketing for this one prior to its release, I didn’t have high expectations for the latest Disney Animated Feature. However, a great soundtrack and unpredictable story saved this one from mediocrity. Not the most original or creative animation style (Tangled, anyone?). But it worked. And some of the songs are still stuck in my head

Prisoners:  This suspense thriller tells the disturbing story of how far a man may go to try and save his child. The villains in this movie are quite well done. The storyline kept me guessing and it haunted me after the fact. Good performances from Hugh Jackman, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano. 

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The Way Way Back:  The second great coming-of-age story on my list. Written and directed by the very funny Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (Dean Pelton from Community), this movie struck a great chord as a laid back, summer story. For the first time, Steve Carell plays a truly unlikable character, and he pulls it off. Sam Rockwell and up-and-coming actor Liam James also are quite memorable in their roles.

Despicable Me 2:  I love animated movies. This sequel lived up to all my expectations I built up after the first. Hilariously funny, so much so that I saw it three times.  One of those times, I saw it with my friend Shawn… no kids. Don’t judge me. Plus, who doesn’t love the minions?

Gravity:  Most unique movie on this list. Sandra Bullock is a shoe-in to be nominated for Best Actress and she deserves it. Seeing this movie in Imax 3D was a movie-going experience that I’ll never forget. Alfonso Cuaron will also likely get the Best Director nomination on this one. 

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The Place Beyond the Pines:  This movie is a look at the complex ways fathers and sons relate to one another. In three acts this film tells the stories of Ryan Gosling’s and Bradley Cooper’s two very different characters. The two leads make choices that deeply impact the course of their lives and the lives of their families and cause their stories to intertwine. This movie kept me thinking long after I left the theater.

Star Trek Into Darkness: As far as summer blockbusters go, this one was excellent. I love me some JJ Abrams story-telling. Hoping the high quality of these new Star Trek films will translate well into the new Star Wars movies. 

Catching Fire:  It would have been hard to see them screw this one up. The source material for this second Hunger Games story is the best of the trilogy. Thankfully, the director did a great job of capturing the story well and keeping a tight pacing. 

 

Of course, the movie-going year isn’t quite over yet. I’m still looking forward to seeing: 
The Wolf of Wall Street, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, and Saving Mr. Banks.

Answering a Few Questions

Over the last few weeks I’ve been wrapping up my first semester of Grad School and am finally on my Winter Break. The weather has taken note of this fact and decided to send a snowstorm.  This newly found free time and the horrible conditions of the roads means that tonight is the perfect opportunity to sit down and hammer out answers to some of the questions I’ve been fielding since November.

1) How do you feel about the exaggeration of sexuality in our culture? Do you think it’s overemphasis plays a role in homosexual issues?

Great question.  I think it’s unfortunate how much the physical expression of our sexuality has been emphasized above and beyond all other forms of relational intimacy. Many people it seems, don’t know how to build emotionally intimate friendships outside of the context of physical sexual relationships.  This tragically affects men even more than women as I think women are given a script in society for how to have deep friendships with other people outside of sexual partners.  We are all sold lies that sex is the pinnacle of human experience and, more specifically, of all intimacy.

There are dozens of ways this negatively impacts our relationships.  Sex is brought into the equation when it’s not appropriate.  One or both partners may not be ready for it, but could be diving in under a belief that it will create better intimacy or fulfill their needs. Sex does not equate to happiness.  It is certainly pleasurable, but it does not automatically lead to relational bliss.  Our desires for physical sexual intimacy have led to the explosion of the porn industry.  With sex portrayed as the end-all, be-all the use of pornography, especially by pre-teens and teenagers, seriously damages the ways we build intimacy with others.

I think the overemphasis of physical sexual activity does negatively impact the conversation about other sexual orientations. When sexuality and relationships are discussed, we have a difficult time of separating feelings, emotions, and attractions from physical sexual behavior. This is especially true when the Church is asked to consider the plight of ‘sexual minorities’, those whose desires are not heterosexual. Our sexuality and orientation is so much more than genital behavior or arousal. It affects the ways we build connections and relationships, especially in the arena of emotional intimacy. Limiting the conversation regarding LGBT issues to the realm of physical sexuality is unfortunate.

Of course, gay pride parades don’t make it any easier to have this nuanced conversation. In the LGBT community, we are just as susceptible as anyone in our society to make sexuality all about the physical. But think of orientation in terms of the way you are wired in all aspects of your relationships. And don’t boil anyone’s sexuality down to “what happens in the bedroom.”

 

 

2) How do you feel about those who have the same attractions as you do, but find that they are able to re-interpret the Biblical text so that they can reconcile with their faith? How do you see their point of view, and how they interpret the text?

If someone loves Jesus, follows Jesus, and puts their faith in Him for their salvation, then they are my brother or sister in Christ. It’s hard to find anyone who is a carbon-copy of ourselves in how they interpret the Biblical text. I have met many fellow gay Christians who have interpreted Scripture differently than myself and also follow after Christ with great faith. It is not my place to say that they are “unsaved” or “unrepentant.” If anyone is curious as to how someone could follow after Christ yet interpret Scripture differently when it comes to gay sexual relationships, read this link from Justin Lee.  Basically, it is not my job to judge anyone’s heart.

How do I see their view? When someone like Justin, who loves Christ and respects the Bible as much as he does, espouses this interpretation that differs from mine, I respect him for it. I love him as my brother.

Personally, I have looked at the centuries of church tradition and historical interpretation of the Scriptures to affirm a more traditional view that same-sex sexual activity is outside of God’s will. I see God’s design in human sexuality to be for a man and a woman to reflect the unity/diversity of God within the marriage relationship.  I believe that there are other ways for us to reflect the glory of God outside of a marriage (serving one another, living sacrificially, creating and celebrating beauty, being agents of redemption, etc). Therefore, I don’t believe marriage is a more holy calling than a life of celibacy.

I will be honest. There are nuances to this conversation that I am always in the middle of processing. Normally that happens in the context of close friendships and is spurred on by the things I read all over the Internet with regards to being gay and following Christ.

 

 

3) How do you feel about a married pastor, or any Christian really, exemplifying celibacy/sacrifice on the part of folks who have the same attractions as you, but yet are married themselves? Do you see it as insensitive? Or hypocritical?

This question really burrows into the emotions that come with the territory of navigating this whole “celibate gay Christian” thing.  I am not particularly comfortable being held up as a “poster child” for talking about this issue just because I’ve chosen a life of celibacy.  I don’t think any individual gay Christian should be held up as the example for how everyone should live their life.

When a married pastor (or really any married straight Christian) preaches a message of celibacy for all gay Christians without acknowledging the needs that such a gay Christian would still need to have met, that’s a problem. I am appreciative when a straight friend can recognize and address the fact that being asked to commit to celibacy is ridiculously difficult.  I think any pastor worthy of the title should also go to great lengths to ensure that the body of Christ is fulfilling its role to those in my position.  I am blessed with a great community of friends around me.  But I know that not everyone is so fortunate.  Too many celibate folks (straight or gay) are suffering from crippling loneliness while a church community sits by, ignores them, and focuses on having “family time” or forming more “couples groups” or “young marrieds studies.”  This leads to singles of all stripes being horribly excluded and left feeling like second-class citizens within the church. That is unacceptable.

A healthy dose of compassion and empathy make all the difference when talking about celibacy for gay Christians. When I hear someone talking about “gay issues” without compassion and empathy, it is really hard not to cling to bitterness.  I need to show grace as much as I need to receive it, and this is an area where my limits are always being stretched.

 

 

4) Are you happy?

Yes. I do feel like my needs are being met. I also feel that I have a positive calling within the church to service and to friendship. Am I ever lonely? Of course. I don’t know anyone who’s exempt from loneliness. Are there times when even my solid community of friends is not enough? Yes. And when that happens, it hurts. A lot. I seek God, and seek out honest conversations with my closest friends about what I need. I have to communicate my experiences and cannot expect everyone to be mind readers. I have found that when I truly NEED a friend, they’re there when I reach out. It’s when I withdraw or tell myself lies about how much I don’t matter that I wind up feeling the worst.

 

 

As with everything I write, I want to reiterate that I would rather be understood than have assumptions made. If you would like something clarified or if something I wrote in this post sparks a follow-up question, e-mail me or put it in the comments.

Let’s keep the conversation going!