Leaving Nash-Vegas. I spent much of the weekend in Nashville covering the inaugural meeting of the Boy Scout-alternative group Trail Life USA, but I was able to break away a few hours to spend time with my one of my favorite Christian musicians (and one of my favorite people) Michael Card. After a cup of coffee in one of upscale Franklin, Tenn.’s, hip coffee shops, we took a tour of a community just a few miles away, but in some ways worlds away. Hard Bargain is so-named because the community’s original African-American inhabitants, many of them former slaves, were forced into a “hard bargain” against the white former slave owners, who also owned the land. The community has seen hard times, but thanks to the work of Card, his friend Scott Roley (former pastor of Christ Community Church), and many others, the community is making a comeback. Roley lives in the neighborhood, among those with whom he ministers, and he’s written two books about his work—God’s Neighborhood: A Hopeful Journey in Racial Reconciliation and Community Renewal and Hard Bargain: A Beautiful Place to Live. I commend them both to you.
Big screen blahs. It was a pretty dismal weekend at the box office. The overall take for the weekend was down a full third from the week before, coming in at just $83 million. Riddick, the weekend’s No. 1 movie, brought in just $18.7 million. Movies faced tough competition this weekend: The start of the NFL season, college football, Friday night high school football, and beautiful weather in much of the country. This is an annual rite, so it’s a weekend most producers avoid. One family-friendly movie did release this weekend. The Ultimate Life opened in nearly 500 theaters and pulled in about $650,000. Those numbers are minuscule by Hollywood standards, but they were good enough to land Life just behind Riddick as the No. 2 new movie of the week.
Festival buzz. Because September is a dead month for movie premieres, a couple of big film festivals take up the slack. The Telluride Film Festival took place over Labor Day, and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) just ended. One movie getting attention at TIFF was Devil’s Knot, written by Christian filmmaker Scott Derrickson, who wrote and directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which got good notices from Christian publications (including WORLD) and went on to gross more than $140 million worldwide. He was also associate producer for the film adaptation of Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Devil’s Knot dramatizes the real-life story of the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The town thinks a satanic cult committed the murders. Three men were eventually convicted, but they have maintained their innocence. DNA evidence seems to support them. Therein lies the tale—and the title—of this film.
Baseball. Sports fans were mostly watching football this weekend, but one of the most interesting baseball seasons in a while is rounding third and heading for home. With just 15 or so games to go in the regular season, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays are in a dead-heat for the American League wildcard spot. In the National League, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are also essentially even. All four teams still have a chance of winning their respective divisions. My favorite pitcher, R.A. Dickey, is fighting a losing cause, as his Toronto Blue Jays are 19 games back in the AL East, and therefore mathematically eliminated. Nonetheless, he’s recovered his mojo, battling back to .500 with a win on Friday. He’s now 12-12, with an ERA of 4.29—not great, but better than the league average, and much better than where he was at the All-Star break.