"Frank": The Insanity of Creating

Each summer, Hollywood pumps out it biggest budgets, explosions, and laughter to get mass audiences into theaters. But certain films with lower budgets, limited releases, and honest humanity slip under the thunder of whatever Marvel is putting out. Boyhood and A Most Wanted Man were two of my favorites that fall into that category. And then there’s Frank, under-under the radar—one of those you can only see if you live near a bigger city that has a little theater that has a manager who cares about movies as an art-form, and not just a piggy bank.

I stood in line at the Classic Gateway theater in Fort Lauderdale a couple weeks ago, excited to finally see Frank. Then the theaters electricity went out—all movies cancelled for the night. I scrambled to my phone to check showtimes for the rest of the week and alas, my last chance to see it was foiled. I later discovered that Frank was available to rent off Amazon and iTunes for $6.99, cheaper than most movie tickets and a convenient trend recently followed by limited release films. I’ve since watched it twice, and I think you should consider seeing it too.

Frank follows wannabe musician Jon. Like most people wanting to be something they’re not, Jon lives with his parents and works a cubicle job. Chance smiles on him when he’s offered to fill-in as the keyboard player for “The Soronprfbs” one night; this propels Jon onto his journey of recording an album with the band of misfits—all led by Frank. Frank wears a giant papermache head and never takes it off. Ever. Frank’s mystery and talent as a musician intensifies Jon’s hope for greatness as a part of the group. He contributes rent money to their secluded recording house. He starts building a social media presence to get the band’s name out there without them knowing. All this builds up to an opportunity at an important gig in America. Is this the chance at greatness the band’s been waiting for? Or just Jon’s?

Frank's first two acts nearly succumb to typical Sundance quirkiness, but the movie takes a massive tonal shift in it's last chapter—and it's then that it goes from an interesting and funny movie to a poignant essay on mental illness. Domhnall Gleeson is an endearing protagonist—he's a ginger we can root for and I commend his talent. He's great in Anna Karenina (2012) and he’s great in this. I wish him and his career the best, but Gleeson’s efforts are overshadowed by the powerhouse of Fassbender as Frank. He disproves and even makes you forget that actors faces need to be seen in the first place. His use of voice and physicality is unprecedented. Remember when The Dark Knight Rises came out and people were like “Oh wow, Tom Hardy shows so much with his eyes, we don’t even need to see his mouth talk!” Frank takes that notion a few steps further. In the actors medium of film where eyes are everything, our title character’s whole head is covered. But Fassbender makes it work remarkably. 

The makers of Frank make sure you don’t dwell on just one thing about the film; it’s packed with subtle moments that are telling of who the characters are as artists (insane people). The film opens with moments of Jon unable to escape his art. He can’t help but come up with a shabby song about a lady with a red bag passing by him. One of my favorite moments was seeing Jon in one scene involuntarily play notes of a keyboard on his bed. I played the trumpet through 10th grade and am cursed to this day by the idiosyncrasy of playing invisible trumpet notes. All artists have vices like Jon’s. Film majors critique the lack of directional lighting in your Instagram feed. Graphic Designers are haunted by the Papyrus fonts in restaurant menus. Writers unfollow you on Twitter because you think you’re cool for avoiding capital letters. 

You don’t necessarily have to enjoy making things to enjoy Frank. If you like alternative music you’ll enjoy the fun that’s poked at the sometimes absurdity of indie tunes. If you like celebrating weirdness, you’ll like Frank. I recall a scene where Jon admits to Frank his fake head is kinda weird, to which Frank replies: “Well, normal faces are weird too. The way they’re… Smooth, smooth, smooth… and then BLEH! All bumpy and holes. I mean what are eyes? Like a science fiction movie. Don’t get me started on lips—like the edges of a very serious wound.” This funny but profound dialogue calls to attention why we perceive something is weird. If we only live and consume a narrow worldview, culture, and diet, every other religion, thought, food, language, and custom unlike our own will alienate us. Diversifying our psychological and spiritual intake of media, reading, and friendship will widen the lens through which we see the world and ourselves.

At the heart of Frank is still this torture of trying to make something. “I try, but it doesn’t come out good”, one of my favorite (yet so simple) quotes from the film. Frank’s band of misfits has serious issues. Their manager Don is nearly suicidal. Clara wants to control Frank, hurting the band’s chances at success. Each main character ultimately wants something they can’t have. Success, love, being great. As much as you think you’re finally doing it well or right, hard work is met with failure rather than immediate success. Finally, and what Frank drives home with its last moments, is the fact that we can’t know we’re in the wrong place or mindset until we ruin ourselves or others. 

Frank is one of my favorite movies to come out this year, and I’d encourage you to watch the trailer and see if you’d like to see it for yourself. Even if it’s not playing near you, you can take advantage of the digital rental options. Thanks for reading, friends.

The Case for Beauty

by IFC President, Andrew Whitworth

“Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past…can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”  - Hans Urs von Balthasar

 As I see it, one of the largest failures of recent Christianity in the West has been the failure to advocate for beauty in our communities. As Christians have reacted to the modern and post-modern movements, the responses have become increasingly political, tribal, and ideological in nature. We have ridden into culture over and over with our “truth and goodness” guns a blazing, taking an approach to cultural engagement that has more in common with Sherman’s “March to the Sea” than the poetry of the prophets or the imagination of Jesus’s parables.

We lose something irreplaceable when we make the mistake of letting utility rule the day. Whether it is in our daily rhythms, our local community, or the broader culture we are members of, we lose the capacity to live coherently, to live kindly, and to live together when we abdicate our responsibility to beauty. As N.T. Wright says, “The point is this. The arts are not the pretty but irrelevant bits around the border of reality. They are the highways into the center of a reality which cannot be glimpsed, let alone grasped, any other way.” If N.T. Wright and von Balthasar are right, and our communal and individual ability to love, pray, and glimpse reality depend on our ability to notice and cultivate the beauty around us, then attention to beauty, to the arts, to culture, is a matter of spiritual life or death.

I think here at Taylor we also can sometimes fall into the trap of leaving our friend beauty out of the equation. We have chapel, spiritual renewal week, and all-campus worship. There are small groups and bible studies, theology and bible classes. There are service opportunities, Lighthouse trips, and off-campus ministries. There is men’s programming, women’s programming, and leadership programming. None of these are bad things, but it is so easy to get caught up in the spiritual frenzy around important work of truth and goodness that it is easy to neglect beauty, which weaves it all together. We forget that, in the words of artist Makoto Fujimura, “Art has the capacity to challenge preset suppositions about what we believe, to operate in the gap between the church and the world, and to address deeply spiritual issues.”

This is why I think IFC is such an important part of the Taylor Community. IFC is not the gatekeeper for beauty on Taylor’s campus. However, just as other groups on campus focus primarily on truth and goodness, our focus is emphasizing the necessity of beauty in our community, through the arts, through culture. IFC seeks to cultivate and care for beauty through our engagement with culture as an act of faithfulness. It is not a sense of self-importance, pretentiousness, or novelty for the sake of novelty which motivates us, but our desire for beauty to be as essential to Taylor’s community as truth and goodness. It is not in spite of our faith that we do what we do, but because of it. Just as we study together and worship together, let us also care for and cultivate culture, celebrating beauty together.

Luscious Lucius

We are FINALLY posting about IFC’s last event of the year, the Lucius concert! We can’t believe how great of a turnout it was, and the crowd’s outstanding energy made this one of the best IFC events of the year. Taylor definitely surpassed Lucius’ expectations of Upland, Indiana. They were both amazed and confused at how excited, welcoming, and lively we were. Thanks to everyone who came to the show, and make sure to come to the IFC concerts next year! 

Photos taken by Sean Maynor. 

Top 10 Films of 2013

by IFC member, Ben Dulavitch 

Listen – it’s 2014 and has been for a while. I’m late. I realize that. Oh my gosh. Anyway, I just thought I’d offer my very humble, very experienced, very well-researched, and very passionate opinion about the year of 2013 in film, which proved to be a decent one. I apologize because I say a lot of things and don’t back them up too thoroughly. But that’s why it’s called a list. Okay? So, here’s what I have to say:

10. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

The Wolf of Wall Street is an excess of excess. There is too much of everything – money, sex, drugs, alcohol, midgets – and it works perfectly this way. In this film, Leo has departed (get it?) from his usual “I’m so beautiful and serious” roles to play an obnoxious and, oddly, very human Jordan Belfort. This is a story about what actually happens when one can do whatever he pleases.

9. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

Did this deserve Best Picture? Sure.Of all films this past year, 12 Years a Slave seems to have the best combination of everything. Ejiofor, Fassbender, Nyong’o, and Paulson all give great performances. John Ridley’s script is fantastic. Hans Zimmer’s decision to finally not make his score super loud and epic pays off. And with Hunger and Shame already behind him, Steve McQueen reestablishes his credibility.

8. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino)

This Italian movie is definitely muy bien. Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. As the title suggests, it is a gorgeous film. Like my fellow IFC member Kinsley Koons, this movie is both visually stunning and intelligent. It’s about searching for fulfillment, understanding what is important, and appreciating life as a whole rather than the dissatisfying sum of its parts.

7. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton)

It is very difficult not to like Short Term 12. If you don’t like it, then don’t tell me because I’m going to assume that you have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who struggles with anything. Oh my gosh. Totally kidding. But really. The movie’s tone effectively mirrors the many emotions of its characters. Also, Brie Larson offers one of the most admirable performances of the year.

6. Her (Spike Jonze)

Many people this year loved Her including me. It benefits mostly from Spike Jonze’s screenplay, which is the second best of the year. Joaquin Phoenix’s underappreciated performance and Arcade Fire’s unique score also contribute to Her’s ingenuity and sincerity. The film succeeds by asking some very challenging questions – What is human? Why do people change? – and refusing to answer them.

*IFC will be screening Her on Tuesday, April 29. Be there!

5. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

There is a distinctive and totally hilarious mentality associated with living in a tiny, rural town. No one knows this better than I. (Have you heard of Clar– I mean, Pittsburgh?) Nebraska embodies this type of mentality perfectly. Bob Nelson’s screenplay is hysterical and the casting is just so wonderfully accurate. Bruce Dern’s performance is my favorite male performance of the year.

4. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche)

Listen – it is what it is. It’s long, and it’s French, and it’s rough. But so is life. And everything about Blue Is the Warmest Color seems very real, which is what makes it so great. Adèle Exarchopoulos’s performance (that is, her acting performance) is the year’s very best – she plays an insecure 15-year-old as gracefully and convincingly as she does a 21-year-old. Also, you should totally watch this one with your parents.

3. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)

With Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens in starring roles and music by Skrillex, Spring Breakers has got everything it needs to be the worst movie in the universe. Here’s the thing, though – it’s actually really not the worst movie in the universe. You could write a decent paper about this movie. It leaves you with questions, but its surrealist nature enhances a very unexpected and dark social commentary.

2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

Everyone likes it, so it must be bad, right? I apologize for Gravity’s not being scientifically accurate in all regards, but if this is your basis for calling it a poor film, then I am so over you. Like. I’m done. With you. What I like the most about Gravity is that it works well as a piece of literature: it presents a theme – live a meaningful life – and then all aspects of the film contribute to its execution. Cool, huh?

1. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)

The best film of 2013 is Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the third in his Before trilogy. Love is the most prominent theme in all of storytelling. Some stories romanticize it, while others depict it in a more skeptical and supposedly realistic light. Linklater’s script is the year’s best and wavers between these two attitudes. Viewers can decide for themselves how to interpret Jesse and Celine’s relationship.

Runners-Up: Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis, Dallas Buyers Club, The Great Gatsby, Frances Ha

Women in the Church

by IFC member, Savanna Sweeting

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as saith the law.” (New King James Version, 1 Cor. 14:34).

This verse is one of many stirring up strife within the Christian community. When Paul was giving divine instruction to the seven churches, he gave the church of Corinth a harsh decree about the roles of women in the church. However, notice that he only gave this decree to the church of Corinth.

1 Timothy 2:12, explains that women are not permitted “to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence”. However, if we look back a few verses, there are also instructions to have men “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting” (1 Tim 2:8). Even further, women are given instructions on their appearance: “to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold pearls or costly clothing.” (1 Tim 2:9). While churches still apply rules to women, such as no speaking positions in the church, it is a wonder as to why we don’t frequently see men “lifting up holy hands to pray”. Or why we don’t think twice when women are not entering the church with braided hair and gold earrings.

Going back to the question of validity in 1 Corinthians, we have to look at the culture of the church of Corinth at that point in time. While well known for their thriving art, philosophy, and business spectrums, Paul initially wrote to the church of Corinth for their brazen immoral, pagan culture with the intention to redeem it. This includes everyone, men and women, who had strayed away from the Christian faith and had broken God’s commands. To begin to reconcile the church, Paul had given orders, which provoke a few questions: did Paul shun women from speaking and obtaining authoritative roles in the church of Corinth only? Did men receive any limitations in the church because of their behavior? If most churches strongly believe that this is a call of God, why is it mentioned so little in the Bible? The Bible has given clear instructions for God’s people on how to work on becoming a fruitful, genuine disciple of Christ. All to often, I think that the focus starts to shift towards a question of, “how can I become a better biblical woman or man?” rather than, “how can I, as a human, grow in my faith?”

When this argument is arisen in my presence, however, I am all for women having authority in the church. While it can be argued that this command comes from the New Testament and should therefore be followed, the rebuttal is that this culture is a new day and age from that of Corinth. The cultural norm of inferiority towards women was demolished with Jesus’s restoration of God’s plan. In the book of Acts, Philip has three daughters, all of which were preachers. Also, mentioned by Paul, in Romans, are two people- Adronicus and Junia. Junia is a woman, and the two are Paul’s “fellow apostles,” (Rom. 16:7). Being an apostle at the time was a highly esteemed role for anyone in Christian leadership. Also, there exists verses such as Galatians 3:28, “for there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Even further, Acts 2:18 states, “and on My menservants and on maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy,” and ironically, the verse just previous to the few about women, “for God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints,” (1 Cor. 14:33), which clarifies that God did not intend for His people to be in tension with one another over who can do what in the sanctity of a church.

This prevailing issue does not seem to be coming to a close, and I surely do not have all the answers, but I think that given the culture we live in today, it is imperative to start asking the important questions. 

“Hey Guys, Listen to Angel Olsen”

by IFC member, Kinsley J. Koons

Last year I received a text messaged from a trusted friend that read:

“LISTEN TO ANGEL OLSEN NOW.”

Because of the extremely abrasive caps-lock-text, I grabbed my computer immediately and started listening. The first song on her 2012 full-length album entitled Half-Way Home is called “Acrobat.” The song quickly grabbed my attention as Angel’s haunting and desperate voice crept in over the soft guitar, and I was led into a trance, fully embracing that fact that I was, perhaps, getting a spell cast upon me.

I know this sounds over dramatic, but it is honestly what happened.

Initially weary from female singer/songwriters, I was surprised that Angel grabbed my attention. The raspy tone in Olsen’s voice and the variation in instrumentation separates her from her other female contemporaries like Lana, St. Vincent, and Laura Marling, and this distinction is only made clearer with the release of her second full-length album.

In February, her second full-length album, “Burn Your Fire For No Witnesses,” dropped and was immediately awarded the most coveted (sort of/maybe/whatever) “best new music” from well-renown and pretentious music website Pitchfork.com. With a little more electric guitar than her last album, Olsen re-introduces herself with a fuller and more exciting sound, while still lulling you into a deep and creepy sleep with her moving and strained vocals. In the song Hi-five she sings, “Are you lonely too? Hi-five! So am I!” Some how making the feeling of being lonely not so bad if you are accompanied by Angel Olsen and some surprisingly twangy guitar. Don’t be fooled however, the next track on the album, White Fire, slows your heartbeat back to a slow and steady beat as Olsen laments about the difficulty of moving on from something heartbreaking. (But don’t worry, if you are too sad after that song- the next track High &Wild picks it back up with some cute piano.) 

Watch the music video for “Hi-Five” here.