Monday, February 26, 2007
Someone suggested that I ask my august body of blog readers to suggest thoughtful and artistically satisfying movies of recent vintage. Please feel free to do so, with a brief discription. I may see "Amazing Grace" in the near future.
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Since you missed the '90s, you might start with The Shawshank Redemption.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Jim Carrey is great here in an unusual role for him
Little Miss Sunshine - brilliant acting from all involved. Story line is a bit suspect, but the artistic brilliance of the acting is worth the viewing.
Inside Man - If you teach ethics you need to show this movie to your class. Al Pacino and Russell Crowe at their best. It won an Oscar for best picture. Probably my favorite movie ever.
As a musician I would be surprised if you have not seen "Ray" and "Walk the Line" - unreal performances by the leading characters.
If you see these movies I think you should review them. I posted on my blog concerning your post about Schaeffer and culture and there is one interesting comment that you might want to consider.
BTW - one of your students, Eric Weaver is one of my best friends in the world. Say hi to him for me.
*The Insider* is Michael Mann's takedown of big tobacco with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. *Inside Man* is Spike Lee's recent heist film with Denzel Washington and Clive Owen.
"The Son" is a film from Belgium made a couple years back. It is a powerful study on revenge and loss. A similar film, with a slightly different perspective is "Mystic River"
"Flags of Our Fathers" is a great war movie that looks at heroes and heroism.
"Run, Lola, Run" is a great German movie. It is very philosophical and looks at time and free will and chance.
I commend you for your abstinence of movies. It inspires me. It seems to me, (and my wife) that most movies are simply disappointing when it’s all over. As a result, I am very skeptical of recommendations and have hardly ever found them to be accurate. If ever. Nonetheless, I offer you three:
1. The Sound of Music. (for its beauty and purity)
2. A River Runs Through It. (for its pain of brother relationships and human reality and great scenes of sweet fly-fishing)
3. Amazing Grace. (for your inspiration to fight for truth and the gospel)
Let me add that Amazing Grace did for me what few movies do. It challenged me as a minister of the gospel. Many movies can inspire me, move me, and challenge me if I strain to apply and appreciate different characters and themes. But only if I strain, and even then, only sometimes. This movie is different. It’s more direct. By far, this movie is the most worthwhile of the three. All that being said, it will still disappoint in comparison to a good book or a good biography (like Piper’s on Wilberforce). The end.
I believe the list of movies worth seeing is too long to even begin compiling, so I will not.
Movies (if one calls them films, do they gain respectability?) are not just dimwitted entertainment. They can draw attention to social, political, and philosophical issues, or be a poetic medium. Surely books and all forms of written matter can do that, too, but why deny a whole medium (cinema) the respect it deserves just because of Big Momma's House or other forms of mindless entertainment? It would be tantamount to saying that all books are drivel because Ann Coulter has had books published.
Aren't you throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Isn't it self-defeating obscurantism? Why not stress the value of discernment instead, rather than condemning a whole category of communication-art?
"Why not stress the value of discernment?" This is the heart of the matter. We think we ARE discerning, because we're adults. But this is thinking from the world's "mature audience" point of view. Many of the comments here refer to the quality of acting. Which has absolutely nothing to do with discerning the quality of a movie from a Christian standpoint.
As I write a blog for singles, I continually stress that it is important what enters our eyes, because it goes straight to our hearts. A Christian should be cautious about seeing a movie with excessive, graphic violence, sex and language just because the acting is well done. My point is that most Christians want to be considered discerning and still go see every movie everyone else is seeing. We want to be discerning about quality, acting, etc. We just don't want our discernment to actually limit our actions.
If you're looking for the pulse of the zeitgeist you may as well get hold of the Oscar nominee list for the past ten years, since the academy seems to represent the middle of the road in many ways. If you want great films, you'll have to do a lot of work to developing discerning tastes. It is not different than jazz. I'll throw a few into the mix:
Krystof Kieslowski's Decalogue - the Polish master's "jam" on the ten commandments. While not always agreeable, these are finely crafted and deeply interesting.
Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev on the Russian icon painter, his The Sacrifice on fear and dying, or The Stalker about a quest.
From another angle, Nathaniel Dorsky is our greatest living filmmaker, bar none, and when he returns (in a few years most likely) with some films, he is not to be missed. Jonas Mekas is also engaged in a wonderful (daily) web project at jonasmekas.com.
This is really sad, that you would even be taking suggestions on what movies to watch! Part of your ministry, your call for us to weep, to reflect, and to think, is the very fact that you live what to me is an austere life.
I realize you have your joys in jazz, books, and your marriage, but you are disciplined about your use of time in a way that few people can match. I may not agree with everything you say, mostly because I rarely understand, but I definitely respect you as you are and as you live.
Why take your mind, your ability to reason, your ability to read and comprehend so many books so quickly just because Schaeffer watched and commented on films? I can watch movies, dissect the acting, plot, cinematography, direction, themes, moods, etc., but I cannot think on your level, read on your level, or communicate on your level. To me, it's turning your back on a gift.
If you must, watch Amazing Grace, I won't begrudge you. However, in regard to other movies, some of which I might enjoy to watch myself, consider long and hard if it is something you really need to do to connect. And as you consider it, ask yourself what John the Baptist would watch.
Doug, don't do it. I have to agree with cecdaddy. You are as a voice crying out in a vast cultural wasteland. Perhaps if you were to search intently, you might find some film that aspired to "high art," but I think that you will find most is of the low brow variety. Your choices have inspired me to persevere in eschewing much of the drivel dished out by contemporary media outlets (television and movies). Keep up the good fight.
Don't worry, some of you; I haven't promised to actually watch any of them you have recommended! I'm pondering it.
Thanks for all the reflections.
I would nominate Chariots of Fire as something worth seeing if you haven't already. I see few movies myself, but I would be interested to know what folks think of Amazing Grace and I might be persuaded to see it.
Thanks for this little exercise. After suggesting it, I almost missed it! A brief sampling: Sophie Scholl (German, 2005) for prayer-empowered courage to face down Nazism. World Trade Center (2006) for bringing 9/11 down to a personal scale. Merry Christmas (French, 2006), for reminding us of what we (once) had in common. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005) for the pluck and poise of an ordinary woman. Thank You for Smoking, for the way we can justify anything. Tsotsi (South Africa), just to watch the transformation of a thug. Millions, a precious film about a precious heart. Witness, for a gentle judgment on our broken culture. Hotel Rwanda, for the courage of one man. The Mission, just to hear Robert DeNiro read 1 Cor. 13.
Here's a list of three movies that have changed my life.
3. What the Bleep Can We Know?
2. I Heart Huckabees
And the top prize for earth-shattering revelation, utter artistry in film-making, legendary acting, and the ability to connect to the soul's search for truth goes to...
1. An Inconvenient Truth (gosh, I hope he becomes President)
If you feel like a cartoon movie with some good worldview underpinnings try Finding Nemo...I AM serious.
I found enough things in Finding Nemo to write about 8 devotions off of, and I still had more. Great family movie, no worries about gratuitous violence or words that you care not to remember. It is just a good flick about a father remembering how to be a father and to let his son Grow...and the process they both go through when Nemo is separated from his father due to rebellion. (sounds kind of familiar)
Sorry if this is snippy - please delete along with my previous post if necessary.
Jeremy, why the sarcasm? Aren't all of the movies mentioned here simply redundant expositions of the unchanging human condition or anesthetics/anaesthetics of the mind? Can't we just do away with movies, novels, poetry, music unless they are somehow acceptable as entertainment for entertainment's sake? I apologize for posting some thoughtful films - I was clearly out of line.
Jeffrey Overstreet's (lookingcloser.org) final "Film Forum" at Christianity Today closed with a line from Frederick Buechner's "Whistling in the Dark." Overstreet says it "should remind us to pay close attention to the films of people from all perspectives, from all corners of the world":
"If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in."
"Chariots" is one of my all-time favorites. It was used to make a strong point in a sermon I heard two weeks ago. I have seen it twice, probably should again. It was made when I was still watching films regulary--early 1980s.
'Twas but a joke.
Besides, I think you're absolutely right about the Oscar lists (but maybe not so much about them being "middle of the road," but close to it). As for the films you suggested, I've never even heard of them, so I have nothing to say in regards to how thoughtful they are.
It's interesting that you thought I was singling you out.
Jeremy, I got the joke, and I didn't think you were singling me out (I'm not that sensitive) - the tenor of the comments changed with your sarcasm.
I had counted you out of the conversation, since movies seem to be simply palliative entertainment for you, and Dr. Groothuis asked for a thoughtful list - which he got in spades.
Another vote for "Run Lola, Run." I think you'd like it
If foul language, smoking,and promiscuity, or as some one would say, "realism" were defining characteristics of good acting, then you will definitely not want to see this film. “Facing the Giants” is a low budget film produced by a church near Atlanta GA and in my opinion is more than an inspiring movie, it also signifies the hole in the dike of Hollywood’s strangle hold on the movie industry. I personally look forward to the onslaught of entertainment opportunities that not only entertains, but does so without offense, not to mention the entertainment value of watching Hollywood producers, blinded by the god of this age, bumbling around in their search for what decent Americans want.
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