DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: Infinite Tragedy

When I open my daily newspaper, I don’t usually expect shocks to my system. I expect to be mildly perturbed by the latest political posturing. I’m well beyond outrage at the way we’ve wasted billions in Iraq while Osama bin Laden continues on his merry way. Another day brings another Wall Street meltdown. So it came as a great surprise to see that David Foster Wallace, the most iconic novelist of his generation, hung himself in his Pomona, California home. The news of his suicide has haunted me.

What does it mean when the most insightful literary observer of our postmodern condition punches his ticket? If Kurt Cobain was the musical voice of Generation X, then David Foster Wallace was the novelist who brought the same punk rock energy to his scathing satires. But Cobain’s anger was counterbalanced by Wallace’s rapier wit. They railed against similar issues (consumerism, boredom, meaninglessness) but with markedly different styles. Two of our strongest voices proved incapable of finishing the race. Perhaps they suffered from the burden of genius.

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Craig Detweiler Conversant, Part 3




Here's the third part of three conversations I had with Peter from ConversantLife.com. We discussed the tension around art and images in my new book "A Purple State of Mind: Finding Middle Ground in A Divided Culture." I hope you enjoy this conversation.

Are you a movie lover? Take the Quiz


Are you a movie lover?  Do you find yourself quoting random lines from TOMMY BOY or LORD OF THE RINGS?  Then you should take the INTO THE DARK quiz.
 
My smart and savvy publishers at Baker Academic are giving away cash and prizes.  All you have to do is take the short, sweet, but tricky INTO THE DARK quiz. Yes, to promote the release of my new book, Baker Books has created an online movie test.   This is exactly the kind of trivia that has attracted my attention since I first saw Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.   It features twelve questions about films featured in my book–contemporary classics like MementoEternal Sunshine, and No Country for Old Men.   Only one week left to enter, so take the quiz here.
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Tags | Film

Tyler Perry's THE FAMILY THAT PREYS

Tyler Perry is the most prolific, successful and unapologetic filmmaker blending faith and film.  His comedic first feature, Diary of a Mad Black Women introduced Madea, the broadest, most imposing and insightful black “Mama” since Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind.   Perry put on a house dress and high heels to offer Madea’s comedic observations and moral corrections.    It was a tribute to his aunt and the mother who raised him.

Born outside the studio system in Perry’s Atlanta home, Diary of a Mad Black Woman became an unexpected hit, earning $50 million on a modest $5 million budget.   Only indie studio Lionsgate understood how many black moviegoers had already discovered Madea through Perry’s popular stage plays.   Years of touring on the ‘chitlin circuit’ with his melodramas had created brand loyalty.  Lionsgate and Perry have teamed up for a string of hits aimed at his devoted audience, from Madea’s Family Reunion to Why Did I Get Married? and Meet the Browns

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Tags | Film

PROMISE RINGS AND MTV

MTV’s Video Music Awards celebrated their 25th anniversary.  While the network has long since abandoned music videos as their primary programming, performers still covet the Moonmen statues that are handed out.   The VMA’s remain a crash course in disposable pop culture, providing cultural touchstones like Britney Spears’ failed comeback in 2007.   So Britney’s appearance at the 2008 VMA’s was designed to correct her prior flameout.  She wisely refrained from performing.  Perhaps as a penance for exploiting her weakness, MTV lavished three awards upon a shockingly unsurprised Britney.   Like many of the performers throughout the night, she thanked God for the opportunity and the award.    Perhaps much to even God’s surprise, the Almighty got credit from The Pussycat Dolls and Lil Wayne (enroute to his latest court appearance).

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Wasilla, 90210, and Northern Exposure

 I intended to watch the entire Republican Party convention. But CNN’s constant cutaway’s separated me from sections I wanted to see, like the inspiring story of Bridget McCain’s adoption from one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages in Bangladesh. It seemed particularly relevant since Karl Rove used a whisper campaign about Bridget being McCain’s ‘black love child’ to swing the South Carolina primary toward George W. Bush back in the 2000 presidential contest. Bridget evidently found out about such political dirty tricks through a Google search. Pity the children of any politician dragged through the media wringer.   Unfortunately, the saga of Bristol Palin and her baby has barely begun.

Bored by Fred Thompson,  I switched over to the CW for the revival of the nighttime soap opera, 90210.

Summer Break? Not for Cancer

While summer should be winding down, a few things are still cranking up.   The track and field events are about to start at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.   Rick Warren of Saddleback Church is about to host a forum for presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.  And the Democratic Party will be staging their made for TV convention in Denver.   Where will I be?  In Europe, fighting cancer at the first Reel Lives Film Festival in Geneva.

A few years ago, as John Marks and I finished filming the first part of a Purple State of Mind, my precious wife was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma.   It was quite a blow.   Cancer snuck up on our family and delivered a sucker punch when we least expected it.   Unfortunately, cancer never takes a summer break.

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China: Playing Games at the Olympics

Amidst all the eye-popping grandeur in the Olympic opening ceremonies, one quiet moment stood out.   The adorable Lin Miaoke sang a stirring “Hymn to the Motherland.”   Of course, we could tell she was lipsynching.  Pavarotti did the same thing.   But it turns out she was swapped in for the seven-year-old whose voice echoed through the stadium, Yang Peiyi.  Evidently Yang’s rounder face and buckteeth got her swept aside at the dress rehearsal.  Imagine the heartbreak that accompanied the most famous musical fakery since Milli Vanilli.   As a seasoned pro from television commercials, 9 year-old Lin Miaoke put her charming pigtails to work.  The musical director for the opening ceremonies, Chen Qigang told Beijing Radio, “The audience will understand that it’s in the national interest.”

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Craig Detweiler Conversation, Part 2




Here's the second part of three conversations I had with Peter from ConversantLife.com We discussed the tension around art and images in my new book "A Purple State of Mind: Finding Middle Ground in A Divided Culture." I hope you enjoy this conversation.

Frozen River: Oscar-worthy indie

Frozen River may be the most moving and relevant independent film this summer.   It deals with single motherhood, immigration, and native peoples’ sovereignty in surprising ways.  Frozen River presents characters we haven’t seen in situations we’ve never imagined.   It bursts with compassion and humanity.  But like many earnest and original independent films, it will need plenty of advocates urging audiences to see it.

Frozen River won the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in January.  When jury chair Quentin Tarantino announced the prize for Frozen River, he said it “put my heart in a vise and proceeded to twist that vise until the last frame.”     It is a riveting story of two determined women, forced by trying circumstances into smuggling immigrants into the United States.  Melissa Leo stars as Rae, a working Mom, fighting off poverty with quiet fury.   She longs to provide her kids with a new home.   Misty Upham plays Lila, a Mohawk woman desperate to get her baby back.  They become unlikely partners, traversing the frozen St. Lawrence river that separates the Canadian/American border. 
 
Filmmaker Courtney Hunt has made a remarkably assured debut. Frozen River is taut, heartfelt, and authentic. She and the cast convey such compassion for the characters. It affirms single mothers struggling to pay the bills.   It presents a complex portrait of Native Americans.  It dignifies people who live in trailers, but strive for something more.   Melissa Leo’s powerful, empathetic performance is Oscar-worthy.    She burns with intensity amidst the snow and ice.  
Tags | Film
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About
Craig Detweiler, PhD is a filmmaker, author and professor. He directs the Reel Spirituality Institute for the Brehm Center at Fuller Theological Seminary.