The band R.E.M. is easy to love—and hate. In the 1980s the group from Athens, Georgia, defined college and indie rock. It grafted locomotive Rickenbacker guitar and bass onto the no-nonsense beats of Bill Berry and the barely audible but alluring vocals of Michael Stipe.
Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), the first nonanimated big-screen feature film based on C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books, Prince Caspian is visually spectacular, emotionally stirring and dramatically potent.
His fascination with light begins in a lantern held by a shepherd, over a little family against inky velvet. Then light shifts; Christ becomes core. When he preaches rays fall like song on some earnest, captivated faces, some distracted by other conversations, and a dog facing the wrong way.
From his raised hand light spills like waterfall over Lazarus and lifts him, pale and twisted into that luminous aura. Even on the cross, the thin etched lines leave an ivory bowl around him, gather from dimness the only dawn.
The limp corpse with extended ribs still radiates. Its slide starts at a peasant face, guided into arms that catch the contagious light, leaking onto the stocky official, plumply supervising procedures. Visual poems carved on copperplate: I stood rinsed in that light.
I took my 11-year-old son to see Son of Rambow as a form of retreat from the current armada of blockbusters. I had heard that the film, an audience favorite at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, was full of uplifting messages about friendship, imagination, creativity and tolerance.
Men and women in black, a few at first and then more, move quickly and silently across the parking lot, like a slow rain beginning to fall into the dark mouth of the sanctuary. A blue jay screams curses from the skirts of a pecan tree.
Then comes the small girl the neighbors call “the urchin,” who spends each day alone flitting around the neighborhood like a trapped moth. She is surrounded by three patchy dogs.
She marches barefoot and chants a little song about the summer morning, three stray dogs, and her very own self. She passes between the mourners, a blade of blue sky cutting through storm cloud.
When she gets home, her mother will still sit like a sea wall in front of the Trinity Broadcasting Network with a can of beer. The urchin will go into the kitchen for a glass of warm tap water. The man in the coffin will still be dead. The mourners
will still gather and be sad. Nothing will be any better. The jay will keep screaming its malediction on the deep down meanness of the world. But, look now, for a moment: the song, the girl, and three loping dogs.
After Stephen Schwarzman, Yale alumnus and billionaire CEO of a private equity firm, gave $150 million to Yale for a performing arts center, Dylan Matthews questioned whether this was a good use of the donor’s wealth. Yale is not a charity, and more than half of its students come from very wealthy families. Its endowment is second only to Harvard’s. Schwarzman could have given that money for malaria nets in sub-Saharan Africa or to efforts to deworm children—acts that would save and enhance the lives of truly needy people (Vox, May 12).