Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman leads the Santa Barbara Free Methodist Church.
Posted 1/24/10 at 9:33 AM | Denny Wayman
2010 marks the 15th year that the movie commentary Cinema in Focus has been published. Invited to write a column by the editor of the Santa Barbara News Press, a NY Times newspaper at the time, Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin began writing a new type of movie review. Wanting the column to speak to the values presented in film, the editor invited Denny and Hal, as a pastor and a politician, to address the spiritual and social messages in film. Originally published under the name Cinema of Values, the column soon changed its name to Cinema in Focus as Denny and Hal focused on the values presented in the movies they reviewed.
This unique perspective on films gathered an immediate audience and, instead of fulfilling the original intention of writing only a three month column, Cinema in Focus is now beginning its 16th year and is published in print and on-line in a variety of outlets. In addition, the column has become a part of university training and film school examination both in the United States and around the world. In 2009, over 1,493 cities were represented in its readership from many of the nations of the world.
As lovers of film, Denny and Hal take note of the directing, acting, screenwriting and cinematic arts, but these factors are not the primary basis on which the films are rated. Using a four-star rating system, the spiritual and social values are the basis for giving a film FULL POST
Posted 1/20/10 at 2:39 PM | Denny Wayman
If taken as a video game, "The Book of Eli" doesn't have to make sense in the real world. But to say that gamer and screenwriter Gary Whitta has only written a film-length video game, or that director Albert Hughes' (The Dead Presidents) penchant for violence makes him a perfect partner in creating this film, is to miss some of the intriguing observations their partnership makes. It is true that Eli (Denzel Washington) is on a quest and he has gained an invincible strength and skill developed over thirty years as a "walker," but his purpose is not to save a princess or discover a new level of challenge, but to complete a call of God on his life.
Pairing the fact that Denzel himself is a Christian and that it is the God of the Bible that has called his character on a spiritual quest is a blending of real life with fantasy. But to say that the quest of Eli is a Christian quest would be a stretch. The film FULL POST
Posted 1/11/10 at 6:38 PM | Denny Wayman
Detaching ourselves from others is one way to avoid having to carry the weight and responsibilities of life. The difficulty with this solution is that when we avoid any relationship that requires the weight of commitment and the responsibilities of caring for another, we end up isolated and alone. This truth is insightfully presented by Jason Reitman (Juno) as both director and screenwriter in his film "Up in the Air."
Sharing the writing credit with Sheldon Turner (The Longest Yard), the central character of the tale is Ryan Bingham (George Clooney). A middle-aged man who is approaching the dubious distinction FULL POST
Posted 1/6/10 at 11:53 AM | Denny Wayman
Though all of us realize that even the greatest human beings are flawed, director Guy Ritchie's presentation of the famed detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) depicts him as a lonely and isolated alcoholic. Troubled in love and bored by life, Holmes' renowned skills at observation and logical deductions have become as much a curse as a blessing. But however dark and disturbing this movie may be, its intrigue is ingenious.
Accompanying Holmes in his adventures is Dr. John Watson (Jude Law). A handsome physician FULL POST
Posted 1/2/10 at 3:50 PM | Denny Wayman
While attorney Jake (Alex Baldwin) lives in a world where people are asked to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," the fact is that Jake couldn't tell the truth if his life depended on it. Jake leads a well-financed lifestyle in Santa Barbara, California, has a trophy wife 20 years his younger, and is a man who thrives on getting what he wants.
In this same upscale world lives his ex-wife Jane (Meryl Streep), who has done quite well for herself during the ten years since they divorced. She holds court over a luscious and successful bakery business, is the centering around which her adult children revolve, and owns a Santa Barbara home that belongs on the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
Their two parallel worlds function quite well until Jake and Jane's youngest son FULL POST
Posted 12/27/09 at 9:19 PM | Denny Wayman
Holidays are great times to bring the family together and reminisce. Often we spend more time telling stories about past holidays that were fun rather than making the present moment memorable. To some degree, this comes from our desire to see the world as filled with happy moments, and those memories of the past are easier to connect with than the relationships that are in front of us. It may also stem from our desire to want the world to be more perfect than it really is. This tendency to remember the "good ol' days" rather than living in the present is the theme of Kirk Jones' "Everybody's Fine." FULL POST
Posted 12/21/09 at 10:21 AM | Denny Wayman
"Avatar" is amazing cinema. Melding the latest technology in cinematic animation with live actors, writer and director James Cameron also unites science fiction with mythology in creating a story that captures both our imaginations and our souls.
Some might say that Cameron has a political agenda, since he sets his story on a planet named Pandora where an evil corporation has gone to mine its natural resources because humans have killed "mother earth." But to take such a simplistic view is to miss the vast array of ideas from science fiction and mythology that Cameron explores to tell his story. FULL POST
Posted 12/13/09 at 5:38 PM | Denny Wayman
The power of his Christian faith brought Nelson Mandela through thirty years of unjust imprisonment. But his faith didn't just help him survive, it also helped him become a wise and strategic leader who recognized that forgiveness is his most potent weapon against the atrocities of apartheid. In classic Clint Eastwood style, "Invictus" is a film that not only demonstrates Mandela's genius but Eastwood's as well.
Having spent thirty years in prison studying the Afrikaner culture, Mandela realized that to create a viable nation, he needed both black and white citizens working together in unity. FULL POST
Posted 12/10/09 at 12:28 PM | Denny Wayman
Though simply titled "Brothers," Jim Sheridan's film is far more complicated than its title implies. This is a film about two brothers and the complex bond that male siblings experience. But it is also a film about the effects of generational dysfunction, the trauma of war, the psychological effects of kidnapping and torture, as well as the impact of war on military marriages and families. Other themes of the film include the competitive insecurities of two brothers who fall in love with the same woman, and the need for confession in order for forgiveness and resolution to be possible.
The two brothers follow common family roles identified by therapists. The first-born, Capt. Sam Cahill (Toby McGuire), is the hero of the family. FULL POST
Posted 12/4/09 at 9:56 PM | Denny Wayman
The multilayered description of Michael Oher's journey from a life of poverty to that of a professional athlete is quality cinema. Written by Michael Lewis and adapted for the screen by John Lee Hancock, this true story exemplifies how lives can be transformed by love when people put their Christian faith into action.
Oher (Quinton Aaron) was one of twelve children born to a drug addicted mother, Denise (Adriane Lenox). When the state took him away from her as a young boy, FULL POST