Archive for August, 2015

Jesus Goes to the Movies: An Interview with Joel Mayward

Posted: August 11, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

51n20MXJmxL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_A large part of our goal here at Reel Thinking is to help Christians think critically about the movies they watch, and part of reaching this goal means that we like to draw your attention to helpful books and resources. To that end , I present the following interview with Joel Mayward about his new book, Jesus Goes to the Movies: The Youth Ministry Film Guide.

• Your new book is called Jesus Goes to the Movies: The Youth Ministry Film Guide. Tell us a little more about the book and what you set out to accomplish in it.

Joel Mayward: Jesus Goes to the Movies is the result of my intersecting passions for ministry, theology, and film. I wanted to create a resource to pastors, parents, youth workers, and young people that would be both accessible and theological, helping them think deeper about both movies and Jesus. Part One of the book is a theological guide for movie-watching, with chapters on how to thinking theologically about movies, understanding worldviews, and a brief history of the relationship between the church and Hollywood. Part Two offers 50 film discussion guides for using in a small group setting.

• Why is it important for youth to engage with films on a deeper level? 

Joel Mayward: I think films and filmmakers are the primary stories and story-tellers of our era, and this generation of young people are inundated with a plethora of on-screen ideas. Learning how to have discernment, to think critically, and to engage with art and entertainment in ways that are healthy and wise are necessary disciplines for everyone, but particularly for teens and young adults. I’m convinced how we approach art and film is a significant part of our discipleship process, and our habits in both movie-watching and Jesus-following often mirror each other. In this book, I’m more interested in teaching young people how to think about movies and their faith, not just what movies Christians should watch or avoid.

• The subtitle of your book is, The Youth Ministry Film Guide. How do you envision your book being used outside of youth ministry circles?  

Joel Mayward: Even though youth workers are the book’s primary audience, I think anyone who is interested in movies and Christian spirituality will find it to be a helpful and engaging resource. It’s accessible, funny, and thought-provoking. If you’re a parent, a teen, a college student, a pastor, or if you just like movies, this book is for you!

• How did you decide which movies to analyze in your book? 

Joel Mayward: Great question! I wanted to address the films young people were already watching, as well as point them to films they should be watching, offering spiritual ideas and theological questions to both popular and less-seen films. I believe there are over 250 movies listed in the book’s index, ranging from 1920s silent films to the latest Mad Max movie, and all sorts of genres—action, comedy, horror, drama, romance, sci-fi, and (of course) teen movies. The discussion guides range from Pixar films to The Hunger Games to Babette’s Feast to The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

• How can someone get a copy of your book and find your other work?

Joel Mayward: You can find Jesus Goes to the Movies on or through the publisher, The Youth Cartel. I just started a new website for my film reviews and writings,, and you can follow me on Twitter: @JoelMayward or @Cinemayward.

photo 3I recently wrote an article for Christ and Pop Culture Magazine. Today, the article is out from behind its paywall, and you can read it for FREE over at the site. Here is an excerpt:

Week after week in the summertime, hordes of people crowd into their local movie theaters to catch the latest blockbuster. Families gather in the living room to escape the blistering heat and watch their favorite movie. In the cold winter months, holiday films and Oscar contenders stand in the spotlight. Indeed, the year-round frequency with which the consuming of fictive narrative films occurs marks it as an important and powerful ritual—not some banal or insignificant activity to merely pass the time or escape from the world around us; for film is a remarkably influential medium. It is admittedly easy to lose sight of this fact in the midst of our movie watching, in which it can become customary for Christians to think of films exclusively as prepackaged objects that contain redemptive themes for us to mine out and discover.

Head on over and check it it out!

MV5BMTQzMjM2NjM1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDM1MjQyNTE@._V1__SX1394_SY669_In the midst of the (well-earned) hubbub about Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the buzz surrounding not-so-Fantastic Four, comes The Gift, a sly little film with an unassuming title that just so happens to be one of the best mystery/suspense pictures released in the past few years. It forsakes the sexiness of Gone Girl and The Guest in favor of something much more terrifying: realism. Moreover, The Gift displays a level of cinematic self-awareness and maturity that, though commendable in and of its own right, is especially remarkable given that it marks the directorial debut of Joel Edgerton (who also wrote the screenplay and stars in the film). At its core, the film is a marital drama obsessed with sins of the past.

Simon (Jason Bateman ) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) seem like your average couple. They buy a new house, move in, and plan to start a family. One day, while making a run to a homeware store, Simon meets Gordo (Edgerton), a long-lost high school acquaintance. But the problem is that Gordo seems a little obsessed with Simon and Robyn; creepiness ensues, and the veil is lifted on the couple’s ostensibly happy marriage.

The truly delightful thing about The Gift is that it takes a highly subversive turn just as it heads for rote stalker film territory. Edgerton’s camerawork reinforces the narrative turn: he is not afraid to use jump-scares (there are some good ones) and then, a scene later, make you squirm in your seat as his camera lingers too long. In short, adrenaline junkies will have their fill.

Perhaps as much as anything else, however, The Gift is an insightful meditation on the long-term consequences of sin and wrongdoing. “The sins of the past will become your present,” the trailer says. Alas, however, is not possible to discuss this thematic consideration in much detail without spoiling, so suffice it to say that the words of the Psalmist—which I leave here as enticement—figure prominently in the film:

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out,and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. (Psalm 7:14–16)