I’m still here at the City of Angels Film Festival, held that the Directors Guild in L.A.

I’ve had a marvelous time so far.

It began with a reception for the festival’s special guests, where I was deeply moved and flattered to receive the festival’s 2007 Spiritus Award for my writing about movies over the last several years. Dr. Michael Gose of Pepperdine gave me such a gracious introduction that¬†I found it difficult to speak clearly when I¬†stepped up to the microphone.

It’s unsettling in a way, to see a group of Christians gathered to offer a gesture of appreciation for film criticism… I’m not used to that. I’m used to another kind of gesture. Anyway, I feel I should just pass the award on to those filmmakers and critics whose work has been so inspiring and made such a difference in my life. All I’ve done is respond in writing.

Many, many thanks to the mysterious Spiritus Award Committee, which includes Craig Detweiler, Dr. Gose, and Robert K. Johnston (author of Reel Spirituality, and Useless Beauty). They have blessed me extravagantly.

I should say much, much more about this, but it’s so very late and I’m exhausted.

This weekend, I’ve seen:

  • Bella, which I liked better than I’d expected based on the responses of some of my friends. It has too many emotional breakdowns and teary-eyed close-ups, and I hit melodrama overload long before it reached its conclusion. But I enjoyed the performances and some of the memorable and authentic moments between characters.
  • Norma Rae, which I had never seen before, and liked quite a bit,
  • The Devil Came on Horseback, a harrowing documentary about Darfur, and
  • Unforgiven, which is still a thrilling, powerful big-screen experience… and still Clint Eastwood’s greatest work. (I was also on the panel afterward, discussing the film.)

Tomorrow, I’ll be seeing a collection of short films called Invisibles, featuring works about “invisible people” who we tend to overlook in the world. Wim Wenders is among the directors.

The panel discussions and special guests have been consistently interesting. I especially enjoyed hearing from television talents like Larry Wilmore (the diversity trainer on The Office, and a Daily Show regular), Nancy Miller (Saving Grace), and writers for Battlestar Galactica, The X-Files, and The Invisible Man.

And it’s been great to reconnect with friends like Brett McCracken, Sean and Catherine Gaffney, Ken Wales, Dean Batali, Dan and Peggy Rupple, Lisa Swain, and others.

My host and hostess, Rebecca Ver Straten-McSparran and her husband, legendary drummer David Raven, have given me sanctuary in their amazing home just a short stroll from Miracle Mile, and I am so grateful for their generosity. They’re amazing people.

Anyway, I’ll tell you more when I get home and catch up on lost sleep. I can hardly think straight.

Oh, one thing: When I make my Top Ten list at the end of the year, it is very very likely that The Devil Came On Horseback will be near the top of that list. The term “must-see” is not strong enough. This is a film I would like to show the whole world… immediately. And I say that urgently. I met the director and the photographer whose story is the film’s primary focus: Brian Steidle. What an amazing fellow. Immediately one of my heroes. It is important that we see and share this film… now.

How often do I give you a recommendation like that?

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