Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dark Grace

"All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." Flannery O'Connor

I have a new favorite author, and I haven't even read anything by her yet.

Grace hurts. Grace is painful. Grace isn't pretty.

But it is beautiful.

How can both be true?

Because from God's perspective, Grace is Beautiful. God is Grace.

Yet from our perspective, grace hurts. How easy is it really to love your enemy? The person who acted as if they were your friend, but hid their true self from you? How can you love those who have stabbed you in the heart and betrayed you? How easy is that?

Grace isn't easy. It hurts. And it isn't light and fluffy. Grace doesn't always give us the same feeling a Hallmark Channel movie gives us. No warm fuzzies.

No... It hurts!

It hurts to put yourself aside and give someone something they don't deserve.

They may deserve a blind eye, but that isn't grace. Grace gives attention. It hurts.

They may deserve to never hear from you again, but that isn't grace. Grace picks up the phone and calls. It hurts.

They may deserve death, but that isn't grace. Grace went to the cross for all of us. And it hurt!

Grace is painful, because Grace is the way of the cross.

And we are called to no less than a life of daily cross-bearing.

I have a new favorite author, and I haven't even read anything by her yet. Anyone who is so in tune to grace deserves my attention.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Film Philosophy

I've had time to do some Wikipedia searches today. It's interesting... Most methods and approaches to film theory come from philisophical views... And most of them are from philosophers who didn't embrace any sort of Christian worldview...

It got me thinking... What would a type of film theory based off of Christian philosophy look like? What would a film look like that structurally shares the same basic views as Christianity? I'm not talking about characters and messages for the story... I mean how would it affect the editing? Lighting? Shot composition? Shot selection?

In theory, every part of a film would be impacted by Christian thought... To give an example of what I mean... A film noir is basically about the meaninglessness of existence... What about a type of film that celebrates meaning and seeks to define it?

It's not exactly something many Christians have thought about... But never fear! I, your neighborhood friendly Film Theorist am here to get such laboring thoughts off your mind and allow you to sleep at night! (I guess I've listened to way too much Rush Limbaugh in my life!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

thefilmtheorist vs. thefilmcritic

In case you are wondering why I chose "theorist" over "critic" (admit it, you haven't been able to sleep at night pondering the great mysteries and depths to my name!), then read this article.

Thanks to our good friends at Wikipedia, I have discovered myself why I chose the name I did. I guess it fits. I've never really enjoyed traditional film criticism. The reason, I guess, is because I don't agree with the basic presupposition most film critics begin at.

Most critics think that a movie is a good movie if it accomplishes what it set out to do. For example, a comedy is a good movie if it is a good comedy. But by this reasoning, American Pie, no matter what moral issues one might have with it, is a good movie because it accomplished what it set out to do.

This idea is completely foolish. That's why I don't trust film critics. Not even the "Christian film critics". On one hand you have people reviewing movies only focused on how many profane words it includes and how much offensive behavior it contains. Don't get me wrong, we need to prepare ourselves in case a movie is so debased it's just not worth seeing.

Yet at the polar opposite in Christian film criticism are those who completely ignore moral issues, calling a movie like "A History of Violence" a good movie, despite the violently graphic sex scene.

Where do we as Christians draw the line? Where do we expose ourselves to the world's art to combat ungodly worldviews? There's no fine line. But what I think is obvious is to NEVER violate your own convictions and standards. If a movie is offensive to you, don't watch it, no matter how uncultured you are labeled. Yet we should not live in fear of the evil world out to get us through art and culture.

"We destroy arguments and every pretension raised against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ." 2 Cor. 10:5

This includes our art and entertainment choices. I choose to watch some movies whose worldview is completely ungodly simply so I can understand where a person is coming from, and be prepared to combat that worldview.

How does this relate to film theory vs. film criticism? Film theory examines a movie as a whole, not simply focusing on a "good" vs. "bad" movie, examining the movie only on the surface, but in my terminology, digging deep into the heart and soul of a movie and determining whether or not the movie agrees with my worldview.

Sorry for the epic post, but obviously this is something I am passionate about. Movies are the untapped art form for the Church. We are just beginning to understand how effective they can be, and get serious about making them. But the movies that are being made are still surface-level movies that are barely watchable. We give them a pass because they are "Christian films", but in artistic quality they pale in comparison to the films the world is producing.

When is a film going to be made that is as thought-provoking and emotionally stimulating as Forrest Gump, yet is based on a Christian worldview?

I am trying. And I encourage the rest of you who love movies and stories to write as well. You are needed.

Don't focus on surface-level, supposedly evangelistic stories that no one ever responds to. Dig deep. Do the hard work.

Let the story spring from the depths of your soul.

Thank You Joben!

Our resident genius, philosopher, deep-thinker, and tech-savy Joben has discovered a way to link to our friends. It was such a good idea, I just had to steal it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Hobbit

Ok, I can't figure this one out...

Peter Jackson has been dropped from The Hobbit. By dropped I mean "fired".

What was the studio thinking? Ok, I admit... King Kong wasn't the best film in the world... But The Lord of the Rings grossed 3 billion dollars worldwide...

This sounds like firing your star quarterback right before you go into the Superbowl!

Once again the Almighty Dollar has prevailed in Hollywood, and story quality and substance will be set aside to make way for Profit.

If they ever do make the Hobbit, I'm leaning towards not seeing it now, just out of protest.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Taking an informal, completely scientific survey...

What book would you like to see made into a movie next?

(By completely scientific I mean that it's on my blog, so it must be true and accurate!)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Citizen Kane

I felt it was only fitting to begin my first blog with what many consider to be the best movie ever made. If you've never seen it, look past the acting and focus on the story and filmmaking.

In short, this movie is near perfect.

What is Rosebud? That's the question this film seeks to answer, along with a much more obvious one, who is Charles Foster Kane?

Kane dies in the first few moments of the film, and his dying word is "Rosebud". In case you are wondering where that came from, you have your answer.

Now, I'm not going to go through the movie moment by moment. I'm not going to examine the entire film.


What is Rosebud? The final moments of the film reveal to us that it was the name of his childhood sled. So what? What does that really matter? Well, Charles Foster Kane was a complex man, and to truly understand him is to understand his childhood.

He's a lot like Scrooge, only Scrooge turns out for the better. Kane dies a miserable, lonely old man. Scrooge is forged back into society. Kane died in tragedy. Scrooge was redeemed. But the analogy still holds. Both men were formed by what happened to them in their childhood.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, about how our childhood forms and molds us. About how eventually we are robbed of our innocense as children and introduced to a world full of dark and depressed people like Kane and Scrooge. What is it that drags us down? What rips us away from that childhood innocense?

Well, as the Bible says, "We're all screwed up." (Romans 3:23, my paraphrase)

But what is remarkable is that even though these two characters, Kane and Scrooge, are similar, the way Orson Welles and Charles Dickens approach life are much different. In Citizen Kane, it is obvious that Welles believes that even though people desire to return to that state of innocense, they are stuck with who they are and can never change. There are certain pits which humans fall into that they can never climb out of. Dickens, however, has a much more optimistic view. He criticized the society around him through creating the character of Scrooge, but he showed us that even the worst of characters can change.

Ironically, both authors deal with childhood as a way to understand their characters. But they take a different approach. Kane is haunted by his childhood, longing to return but doomed to stay as he is. Scrooge is reminded of his childhood, and is touched by it, deep in his soul. He is changed from the inside out, and is no longer the same person.

These two points of view show the dramatic difference in worldview between Christianity and the secular world. Christianity believes in redemption, that even people as messed up as Scrooge can start fresh, and even, dare I say, be born again. The old person, the old character of Scrooge, dies a painful death, giving way to a completely different Scrooge. A new creation. The world believes that people are who they are, and that real change cannot happen. Change is only circumstantial, not deep and spiritual. Kane, despite his longing to return to who he once was, is doomed to remain the corrupt, lonely man he has become.

So as perfect as a film that Citizen Kane is, with its innovations in filmmaking technique and storytelling ability, it is deficient in its worldview. Unlike many film critics, I do not believe that a film is good just because it achieves what it set out to do. Some think that for a comedy to be a good movie, it only has to be a good comedy. But that means that any sort of moral or ethical standards one might adhere to are irrelevant in determining whether or not the movie is good.

Ah, how deep and how wide post-modern thought has invaded our culture!

To quote my history teacher from the sixth grade, "Balderdash!" We must not check ourselves at the door, who we are and what we believe, to determine what a good, strong movie is.

So while aesthetically I would argue that Citizen Kane is a perfect movie, the deeper you dig you discover that its themes present problems for anyone with a Christian worldview.

How ironic that the man remembered throughout literature as the most grumpy, self-absorbed character would turn out to be the better poster-child for a biblical worldview!

Well, I surprised myself! I set out to argue that Citizen Kane was the best film ever made, and in the process I discovered something. It may be aesthetically perfect, but is thematically deficient. I think we've seen enough movies that end on a downer. We've seen enough corruption. Seen enough despair. If we are going to tackle these serious issues, let's be real and show that there is a way out, because there is.

So if you were to give me a choice tonight between watching Citizen Kane and reading Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", I would now have to pick the latter. Besides, as much as I love movies, occasionally it's time to turn the TV off and pick up a good book.

Maybe if more filmmakers did that these days, they'd come up with better movies. Maybe someone would make a film that is aesthetically perfect and pleasing as Kane, but gives us the hope of redemption in Scrooge.

Can't Let a Good Fad Die!

Ok, I'm weak! I just can't help myself... Am I a crowd follower? Maybe so... Did the same thing with Xanga...

But I'm not abandoning Xanga... Just adding this one... As the title suggests, this is going to be film related... A chance for me to practice my chops at film criticism... Relate it back to God... Have some fun!

So, here's my serious thought for this post...

I read an article that says that filmmakers and musicians are the chief theologians of our time... I think that's true... That's why I was inspired to start this blog... Think about it... Christians seem to be losing the culture war a little more each day... We are having very little success reaching people... We are trying to change their outward appearance and habits without changing anything inside...

The reason I agree with the statement is that I believe the best of films reach us deep inside, deep down in our soul... It stirs us up.. Makes us laugh... Cry... Be afraid... Be angry... It evokes all sorts of emotions...

Films are doing the work of speaking to people right where they are at, and leaving the changing up to God...

I love movies... Always have... Lately I've denied it for the sake of religiousity... No more... I'm not going to be obsessed... But I am going to enjoy my passion...

Hope you enjoy what's to come!