The Sacred Cinema Canon: Days of Heaven

The world was on fire. At least, that’s what it smelled like in Seattle during the middle of August this year. Those of us working on the Seattle Pacific University campus didn’t need to look out the windows at the heavy haze half-erasing the scenery; we knew from the incense on the air that we were engulfed in the consequences of wildfires — several of them — raging around the Pacific Northwest. It gave most of us an ongoing sense of unease, as the sun became an angry red eye in the sky, and certain prophecies about “the Last Days” came to our minds.

For some of us who love the movies, something else came to mind: a movie that is now 40 years old, but that fills the screen with the spectacle of a wildfire that roars at the characters — and at the audience — in a voice of apocalyptic judgment.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Days of Heaven, a film frequently celebrated as a landmark work of spiritual artistry and religious cinema. Continue reading “The Sacred Cinema Canon: Days of Heaven”

Dr. Kathryn Bartholomew recommends Arrival

What can a movie about cephalopod-like aliens teach us about meaningful communication?

With this post, NxPNW kicks off a new recurring feature:

NxPNW Scholar’s Choice.

In these interviews, I’ll ask someone in the Seattle Pacific academic community to choose a movie for all of us to watch, ponder, and discuss. I’ll ask them why they made this particular selection, and invite them to share their insights, enriching our own experiences with the film.

Do you have an opinion on the film? I’d love to read your thoughts. Comment in the form below. Selected comments will be posted.

For our first conversation, I invited Dr. Kathryn Bartholomew to choose a film.

Dr. Kathryn Bartholomew

Dr. Bartholomew has served SPU for 29 years, most recently as an associate professor of languages and linguistics. She retired from this work in 2018, teaching her last SPU classes in Spring Quarter. But I didn’t want her to escape without recommending a film that she has found provocative and enlightening.

She made a surprising choice:  Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 science fiction thriller Arrival, which is based on Ted Chang’s novella The Story of Your Life.

Our discussion includes references to the film’s climactic revelations. That is to say, there will be ‘spoilers.’ …  Continue reading “Dr. Kathryn Bartholomew recommends Arrival”

Sci-fi dreams of Seattle Pacific University alumni become out-of-this-world reality in Prospect

I recently found a seat in a theater crowded with science fiction fans who were enthusiastic about seeing Prospect, a dream-come-true of a movie, and they cheered more than once along the way.

They had good reason. This wasn’t just a screening: It was a celebration, marking one resourceful filmmaking community’s arrival at the end of a long and taxing journey.

And while I didn’t work on the movie directly, I felt somewhat emotional seeing the triumph of three filmmakers whose dreams took root during their years as Seattle Pacific University undergraduates: Zeek Earl, whose student screenplays I had the joy of reading and critiquing; Chris Caldwell, who as a young man dreaming of making movies encouraged me in my film criticism; and Brice Budke, who attends my church, and whose financial expertise made this unlikely movie possible.

To read my full report on Prospect, visit And act fast, because the film only has three screenings at the Seattle International Film Festival. (It will receive theatrical distribution later this year.)

The Falcon reviews Avengers: Infinity War

Doctor Strange (not to be confused with Professor Overstreet) joins Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Wong in fighting Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Perhaps it’s inaccurate to say that the latest issue of The Falcon includes a review of Avengers: Infinity War, the movie setting new box office records and redefining the term ‘blockbuster.’ Instead, what you’ll find in SPU’s student newspaper is a personal reflection — more accurately, a testimony of puzzlement — from the paper’s film reviewer Kassidy Crown.

We won’t excerpt the commentary here, as it is written for people who have seen the movie and who won’t mind spoilers. But here’s what Crown has to say.

Watch: Front-lines footage captured by Palestinian women

You’re invited to a special film screening on Wednesday, May 8, at 7 p.m., in Weter 202, hosted by SPU’s Students for Middle East Peace Club.

In the Image: Palestinian Women Capture the Occupation showcases “the daily lives of Palestinian women using video as a form of nonviolent protest.”

The Falcon’s review of A Quiet Place


In Seattle Pacific’s student newspaper, The Falcon, Kassidy Crown reviews the movie that I’ve heard students talk about during Spring Quarter more than any 2018 film except Black Panther: director John Krasinski’s horror film A Quiet Place.

Crown writes,

Comprising of less than 100 lines of dialogue, and far fewer spoken lines, “A Quiet Place” gets the rare opportunity to really explore an actor’s ability — without dialogue, every facial expression, every movement, every look counts.

Director of “Doctor Strange” visits SPU class

Marvel filmmaker Scott Derrickson addresses a packed Film & Faith class.

On Wednesday, April 25, 2018, filmmaker Scott Derrickson — director of Doctor Strange, Sinister, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose — joined the Film & Faith class via Skype to answer student questions about directing movies, the making of Doctor Strange, his filmmaking influences, and his Christian faith.

More than 20 students had the opportunity to step up to the camera, meet Derrickson “face to face,” and ask him a question. He was generous with his time, patient through a few technical difficulties, and full of enlightening stories and observations.

A big Seattle Pacific “Thank you!” to Scott Derrickson!


Black Panther and Social Justice: The SPU Conversation

As promised, here is the video of the Black Panther event that took place at Seattle Pacific University on Friday, April 6, in SPU’s Weter 202 classroom.

These presentations were followed by a Q&A session with students, many of whom expressed how much this movie means to them, and how it breaks new ground in American big-screen storytelling. (The Q&A is not part of the video. You had to be there!)

Join the conversation! What did you think of Black Panther? How does it rank among Marvel movies for you? What do you admire most about it? Did anything leave you hoping for something more or something better?

Black Panther event packs a classroom with Wakanda enthusiasm

On Friday, April 6, in SPU’s Weter 202 classroom, students, faculty, and staff filled the chairs and the aisles (and gathered outside both doors!) to participate in a conversation about Marvel Studios’ new blockbuster.

Black Panther is smashing records and inspiring moviegoers around the world, and students are enthusiastic in their responses to Ryan Coogler’s provocative film. After I made a short introductory presentation on the film, I surrendered the spotlight to Associate Professor of Theology Brian Bantum, who is co-directing SPU’s new Social Justice and Cultural Studies major.

We may have some video from the event for you soon. But to give you a sense of what our presentations covered, here’s a preliminary teaser video in which Dr. Bantum and I gave the campus community a preview of what we planned to discuss at the event: