I Watched 244 Movies in 2016

We are living in a Golden Age for original creative content. But how do we choose what to consume?

This year I made it my goal to watch over 200 feature films (not including short films and television shows). I had hoped this mission would push me beyond my comfortable "go-to" genres and into the strange corners of cinema. Many movies I had seen in previous years still stand the test of time.

Top Old Favorites You Should See:

  • The Game
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Amelie
  • Into the Wild
  • The Truman Show
  • Wall-E
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Dear Zachary
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Adaptation
  • Forrest Gump
  • Inside Man
  • Honorable Mention: Goon, American Ultra
2016 Top Films

I am a big believer in “hype.” The expectations we carry into a film, when/where we see it, how we are feeling that day, and the issues we are dealing with in “real life” all have incredible influence over how a movie resonates. This list isn’t trying to be objective to rate the “best” movies of 2016 for all people. It is a list of my Top 10. Each film includes a “Suggested Pairing.” These are other films that will resonate on similar themes and make for a more well-rounded film viewing experience.*

#10 - Rams 

Gorgeous and slow Icelandic film in which two estranged brothers are forced to interact for the first time in 40 years when their sheep get sick.

(Suggested Pairing: The Lobster, a dystopian critique of singleness and the degradation of social skills.)

#9 - The Barkley Marathons

Microbudget documentary following a quirky old man and the ultramarathon he invented following a prisoner’s escape route.

(Suggested Pairing: Tower, a rotoscoped retelling of the 1966 shooting at the University of Austin. Demolition, Jake Gyllenhaal trying to find level after the unexpected death of his wife.)

#8 - The Big Short

Revolutionary to be both so informative and entertaining. Adam McKay establishes himself as a talent across genres.

(Suggested Pairing: The Accountant. I really enjoyed the unique perspective on thriller/drama/action movie through the lens of an autistic man.)

#7 - The Revenant

A beautiful moving picture. The film is a slow burn, but it’s a cinematic triumph. Know you’re in for a very long, very slow, very stunning film.

(Suggested Pairing: Moonlight. Many people will have this film as their top for the year, and for good reason. I think hype was the downfall for this film for me. Going into the theatre I had been told it would be the best film I’d have ever seen. Moonlight deserves every single award it will get this year, and you should see it.)

#6 - Spotlight    

This film had me gasping and cheering for justice out loud in the theater. Amen for films that pursue truth and justice, giving voice to the powerless and persecuted. In this story, the journalists seeking to expose the truth are far more Christ-like than the Church, as it protected itself instead of the children it was wounding. I am grateful for shedding light on this still dark time/topic in the story of the Church.         

(Suggested Pairing: Holy Hell, a terrifying documentary recounting the twenty years spent in a cult as told by a survivor. How do these things still happen? Presents wonderful and timely critique of power and what it means to be complicit in evil by our silence.)

#5 - La La Land

I haven’t had this much fun in the theater for awhile. I had goosebumps and was dancing along in my seat for much of the film. Hollywood is swooning for this love letter to itself, layered with a tasteful nostalgia for jazz while commenting on the challenges of pursuing your dreams.

(Suggested Pairing: Tap dancing out of the theater, and watching old classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Singing in the Rain, & White Christmas. Also, if you haven't seen the writer/director's Whiplash, see that now.)

#4 - Captain Fantastic

Wow. This film hit perfectly on the struggle of growing up inundated with technology and what modernity has brought. How do we rebel against thoughtlessness? What would raising a child be like in this society?

(Suggested Pairing: Spend time reflecting on your upbringing. What are some things from your family of origin you want to emulate in your current life? What are some things you’d like to do differently? What is your current relationship with technology? Where are some places that it might be hindering genuine relationship?)

#3 - Arrival

This could easily be my #1. Amy Adams is a linguist tasked with making contact with a new species visiting Earth. Arrival is stunning, creative, fresh, and well-acted.

(Suggested Pairing: Dr. Strange. I saw these both the same week, and sharing what themes they have in common would ruin the films, but they complemented each other very well.)

#2 - The Hunting Ground

A documentary exposing the epidemic of rape on college campuses. This film should be mandatory viewing for all college students, administrators, teachers, and high school students, church youth groups, and parents of students. This is not an easy film to watch, but it is tastefully done and is terrifyingly relevant.

(Suggested Pairing: I was so devastated from The Hunting Ground that it was interesting what balance my next few days of film watching provided. As someone is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds in the USA, art and storytelling are important to tell their stories as well as to celebrate how beautiful life can be. How do we hold both tragedy and beauty at the same time? It is not “either/or” but “both/and.”  First Monday in May shows the process of the Met Ball fashion fundraiser. The Drop Box tells the story of a community in Korea who collects unwanted babies through a drop box and raises them. Can we hold rape, art, and hope at the same time?)

#1 - The Act of Killing    

Members of the 1960’s Indonesian death squads reenact the murders for which they are heros. The film takes time to develop, but it pays off as you watch the transformation of the main character. By the end of the film I was crying and almost threw up. I can’t remember a film that has moved me so much.

(Suggested Pairing: Take some time to reflect in silence. Maybe go on a hike without your phone? Ask: What are the stories I am telling myself that are untrue? Where have I wounded people and have not yet seen the truth of my actions? What does forgiveness look like? What are some steps I can take to reach reconciliation?)

What were your favorites?

*Please use discernment when viewing all the films listed. You know your own standards for language, drugs, and nudity in art/media. Please research the ratings of each film if you are sensitive to more explicit content.





An Election Day Reflection

On the whole, I’m not the most emotional person. But when I walked out of my polling place, I found myself choked up. I didn’t cry because I was thrilled to vote for a particular candidate, nor did I cry out of fear of another candidate. 

I cried because when I looked around, I realized that Jared was the only white male in the room. I cried because I realized that despite the claims that our nation was founded on liberty and justice for all, none of us in that polling place were guaranteed a right to vote in 1776.

Because until 1870 the color of your skin determined whether you were really a man. 

Because until 1920 by my gender I wouldn’t have been considered worthy to make an informed vote.

Because until 1965 most of my neighbors here couldn’t go to the polls without intimidation and attack.

I cried because an out-of-business Men’s Warehouse in a mall became a tiny testimony to equality and civil rights and we still have so much work to do.

Because I am mindful some people can’t vote, like those in my neighboring refugee community or our undocumented brother and sisters or my friends still in the the citizenship process or minorities who are suppressed by voter ID laws or amazing women I’ve met who have spent time in prison. 

I never want to take for granted that I get this chance to participate in the process. My vote for President won’t necessarily make a difference in the outcome, but still, my vote matters. 

Happy Election Day. Make your voice heard.

3 Movies Worth Watching

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

Spotlight  (narrative, lingering in some theaters/VOD) 

I cried, shook, and cheered when watching this film in the theater. As members of the Church, this is an important film to watch as a reminder of what we are when we are at our worst. The establishment became more concerned with preservation of the status quo than it did with seeking truth and justice. The true Church in the film are the journalists who sought to end the violence and sexual abuse against minors. Amen for their efforts to bring an end to suffering. They sought to bring the things that happened in the dark into the light. This is an important movie, and I am glad it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. 

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

The Barkley Marathons  (documentary, streaming on Netflix) 

When was the last time you did something difficult? When was the last time you set out to do something that is impossible? "The Barkley Marathons" has runners trying to complete 5 marathons back-to-back-to-back while running through trails, thorn bushes, over mountains, all without a clear path or map of where they are going. The film is very well edited and paced, and has you nervous right to the very end. It is a beautiful film about dancing to the beat of your own drum and challenging yourself. I loved it. 

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

The Act of Killing  (documentary, streaming on Netflix) 

I know I am a bit late on this film, as a couple of years ago it won every documentary film award possible, but holy cow. This is an important film about the psychology of our actions, and how we can convince ourselves that what we are doing is normal or right. The documentary follows former mass murderers as the reenact their killings while making a movie about what they did. There are multiple moments captured on film that are just out of this world. The Act of Killing is terrifying and convicting at the same time, as the film asks questions about guilt how we record history. 


Worth Mentioning:

  • Finding Vivian Maier
  • Big Hero 6
  • Sophie is watching the show Parenthood – and it is pretty great. 

What are you watching? 


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I am the Mass Shooter

Thich Naht Hanh's calligraphy.

Thich Naht Hanh's calligraphy.

My Voices of Nonviolence class continues to be poignant and relevant, mainly for the sad reality that violence continues to happen. Today as we discussed Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, we also learned of another mass shooting, the second one today. In my anger and hurt at today’s news, at a time when I feel like I can’t take any more bad news in the world, I began thinking of how to understand the suffering of both sides, and wrote my own version of his famous poem.

Hearing Both Sides

I am the child who went to school today. I am the adult with autism who went to a job skills class. I am the office manager who went to work for the day. I am the victim, the dead, the person who won’t come home tonight.

And I am the mass shooter. I am shunned and ignored, belittled and shamed, until my rage emerges. I am unstable and misguided, thinking my actions are necessary, and I don’t yet know the fullness of love.

I am the teacher who is learning emergency drills for how to shelter my students when the tragedy strikes my school. And I am the social worker, who chose a sacrificial career to help adults with disabilities find a better life, never expecting those lives would be threatened in my center of safety and care.

I am the police officer, the SWAT team, who has been trained carefully to manage my weapon, who regretfully must use it to eliminate the threat to my community.

I am the reporter, who can’t find new words to tell a story that’s already been told over 300 times this year. And I am the politician, who voted down gun control laws, trying to accurately represent my district and be faithful to my constituents, many of whom own gun related businesses.

I am the activist, who decries the accessibility of weapons and the power of lobbyists to keep it that way. And I am the NRA, who represents millions of Americans and is trying to defend a way of life protected in the U.S. Constitution.

I am the gun-owner, who is continuing a family legacy of hunting and feels threatened by these political conversations. I am the woman who lives alone, keeping a handgun in the bedside drawer because there have been multiple break-ins, burglaries, and assaults on my street and I can’t sleep at night feeling unprotected. I am the man who utilizes open carry laws, so I can be ready to stop an attack when it happens near me.

I am the citizen, who watches each unfolding story and wonders when it will happen in my community. I am the friend, who waits eagerly for an update and prays she doesn’t recognize the names of the dead. I am the pastor, who must bring a word of peace again, and again, and again, and again.

I am the Muslim man, who gets labeled a terrorist. I am the Black man, who gets labeled a thug. I am the White man, who gets labeled a lone wolf.

I am the parent who received a tragic call today, who has given all my energy toward protecting my child from harm and couldn’t extend that power far enough. And I am the parent, who realized with the news today that the child I tried to raise with love has acted with violence and hatred to take the lives of others.


Thich Nhat Hanh challenges each of us to listen to both sides, to understand the suffering of all people. Written in 1986, this quote still carries so much power:

“The situation of the world is still like this. People completely identify with one side, one ideology. To understand the suffering and the fear of a citizen of the Soviet Union, we have to become one with him or her. To do so is dangerous - we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don't do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.”

We spent the last moments of class meditating on his poem “Please Call Me By My True Names.” (read it here ) and a similar one written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat after September 11.

This practice, personally, was fruitful and challenging...particularly as I realized I still wanted to put my own spin on “the other side” and their perspective. I still want to think I am right. I still want to condemn gun violence and advocate for more gun control. Still, to work toward reconciliation, I must listen, I must pay attention to every side. I can condemn the violence and still be listening. 

Giving Thanks for Transforming Moments

printable from One Artsy Mama

printable from One Artsy Mama

[Every Thanksgiving, my family marks the day with a tradition we call the “Gratitude Tree.” Each person in our extended family brings an ornament to represent what they are grateful for. Whether you are are 4 or 80, you get to hang it on a Christmas tree and share your reflection. This year I’m celebrating Thanksgiving in Atlanta, so as my family hangs my ornament for me, I will share my reflections here.]

Since last Thanksgiving, I have been increasingly grateful for my academic and faith community at Candler School of Theology. My mom gave us a theme this year, and asked us all to reflect on one moment we can’t forget from the last year.

I remember prayers, laments, and praises. I remember actions, vigils, and protests. I remember discussions, lectures, and chapels.

I remember holding hands in prayer after the Ferguson non-indictment. I remember my classmate hugging her nine year old and crying because she was afraid for him to grow up as a black man in this culture. I remember lying on the ground outside our chapel for a “die-in” as students from across Emory’s campus proclaimed Black Lives Matter, lamenting the violence against black and brown bodies.

I remember tears of joy when a snowstorm, and then cloudy drugs, postponed the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. I remember vigils at the Georgia Capitol and calls to the governor to ask for mercy and true justice. I remember tears of grief as our community mourned the state’s decision to kill Kelly, despite her beautiful example of redemption and despite the damage the death penalty causes to all of us. 

I remember students, staff, and faculty signing their name to urge grocery chains to treat the farmworkers who pick our tomatoes with dignity. I remember so much joy and celebration when we learned all of our friends could marry the person they loved. I remember professors giving us space in class to lament and process recent terror attacks and discuss a Christian response of love. I remember each time the news portrayed attitudes of fear, hatred, xenophobia, and hostility, my Facebook page was filled with the voices of my community, calling for peace, non-violence, love, and hospitality in the name of Christ.

This community has been a safe place to learn and process. This community has lifted up diverse voices. This community has challenged my comfort. This community has encouraged me to speak up.

I don’t always know how to speak when our public discourse is so filled with division. The media favors the extremes and we too often feed into that polarizing rhetoric. Too often I remain silent to avoid this.

Yet my silence is a sign of my privilege, because no matter if I speak or not my life stays safe and comfortable. While I am quiet, others are suffering. And I realize I am being transformed by God through this community and this unique academic experience. I’m being shaped to go into the world and proclaim the gospel. So I must speak up to share what I'm learning.

I’m learning from my classmates - different denominations, races, and identities. I’m learning from my church - mostly white folks who are loving their refugee neighbors. I’m learning from my professors - people committed to the church and its ongoing vitality.

So I’m grateful for all the moments that have transformed me this year - the moments that have challenged me, inspired me, and encouraged me and are shaping me to go into the world and proclaim the gospel.

I’m grateful to be surrounded by a community that reveals God to me.

...The God of love, peace, mercy, and justice. The God who calls us to love our neighbor and our enemy. The God who made each of us in God’s divine image. The God who is always on the side of the hurting and the vulnerable. The God who desires flourishing and abundant life for all people.

...The God who dwelt among us as in the person Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Jesus, who taught us not the way of vengeance or violence, but of turning the other cheek and giving up your life for others. Jesus, who ate meals with the marginalized and had no place to lay his head. Jesus, who was born during a genocide, fled as a refugee, and was executed as a criminal by the government. Jesus, who rose again to give hope and new life.

...The God who remains present among us in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in all of us, who prays for us when we lack works, who comforts in suffering, and who is making all things new.

Mother and Father God, Savior Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer...I pray that You will continue to transform me every day, so I might serve you and live according to your will.

- Sophie Callahan

Not a Morning Reflection

How come it seems all the wisest people wake up super early? Blarg. I don't particularly mind being awake in the morning. Last week I was driving before the sun was up. It was pleasant, almost cathartic, to watch the sun rise as I drove south. I like the times I am awake in the morning, but couldn't pin down why I dislike mornings in general, until it hit me: getting out of bed is the worst.

Getting out of bed is the worst because it directly mimics the trauma of being born. Consider this, in the morning, you suddenly move from unconsciousness to consciousness. You've been lying in the fetal position in a warm and inviting, safe, environment. Then all of a sudden, at the beckoning of a loud noise, you are ripped from that comfortable cocoon and thrust into the cold, harsh, noisy real world. I dislike getting out of bed so freaking much. 

I've decided I need a good reflection device for nighttime, as mornings aren't going to do it for me. Last night I found it. I found it during my nightly Netflix scroll. I sat on my couch and pictured this scenario, "If I had to live this exact same day over again, what would I discover that I had missed?" This is not a Groundhog's day scenario where I can do anything else I want. What if I had to live this very same day and same actions again, and again. Or, what if this was my last day to live as a free person, and upon waking up I found myself in solitary confinement forever. This was my last free day on earth to reflect on, forever. 

I dove into my imagination and observed the day through my memories. 

What did I miss? What could I have said? I should have squared my shoulders to talk with the neighbor when she interrupted my mowing. I could have stopped on my run to engage the street worker who looked like he wanted to talk. What did the cut grass smell like? What was the temperature? What were the birds and the squirrels doing? Who did I reply to with short answers that needed longer ones? What did I read? What did I watch? What did I listen to? How can I squeeze any more memory or meaning out of those experiences recently passed? Where was there meaning that I missed the first time? 

So tonight, as you prepare to crumble into bed, I invite you to give it a try. What extra ounce of marrow can you harvest out of this day, this very special and once in a lifetime day? Share, if you dare, what you found that would have been lost in your mind if you had not made this effort to retrieve it. 

More than a day off: A Prayer on Labor Day

For many of us, Labor Day merely signals the start of a new school year or offers a chance for one last BBQ as summer winds down. It's like a bonus Saturday. 

Today, take a moment to reflect on the purpose of this holiday. Labor Day acknowledges the lasting impact of the Labor Movement and the contributions of workers to our country's well-being. 

Workers today are struggling to survive in our economic system. They are underpaid and over worked. There are severe injustices in the treatment of low-wage workers. Keeping in mind God's concern for the poor and desire that all God's children be treated as such, lift up this prayer today. May we be emboldened to pursue a transformative change for workers. 

Living God, we confess that we have not fully accepted the challenge of seeking Your justice in the world. We define justice in ways that preserve our own self-interest, forgetting that Your justice may call us to great sacrifice.

We pray for workers whose wages are so low that they face terrible choices between paying the rent and feeding their families.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray that the courageous cries of workers for justice will be heard by their employers, by the community, and by our government.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray for employers in our city, that they will accept their responsibility to pay their workers enough to live.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray for companies that abuse the dignity of their workers and refuse to see their employees as brothers and sisters.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray for all the citizens of our community, that we will hold our government and businesses in our community accountable for the ways they treat their workers.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

Hear now, O God the prayers that we lift to you.

[Rev. Rebekah Jordan, Mid-South Interfaith Network for Economic Justice]