Well, I managed to swear off participation in all movie discussion forums for more than a year, but Stef's post pulled me back in. In particular, it was this line: A couple months ago I was invited to speak on a conference panel called "Film in the New Millennium," and I ended up saying very much the same thing. In my case, I've grown increasingly disenchanted with academic writing, and yet I still very much relish the types of conversations and ideas that, in my experience at least, are generated almost exclusively in the academic world. In other words, I hate the jargon that I'm forced to use, but I also recognize that the jargon is, in fact, impossible to divorce from the ideas it describes. Complex ideas demand complex language. The problem, of course, is that, because of these significant language barriers, academics end up too often just talking among themselves. We have little real influence on the culture at large (except, perhaps, in our teaching), especially in the face of the ubiquitous entertainment industry, for example. The same could be said, I think, of many of us here -- those of us who want to improve the discourse of arts and faith, particularly among (for lack of a better word) evangelics, and (this is important) have the training, expertise, and desire to do so. Stef concluded by asking the critical question: "Where does good film criticism fit into this?" Like Stef, I think we need humility and empathy, but we also need to be unafraid to claim some measure of authority (assuming, of course, that we're worthy of it). I'm really disappointed by that list at Relevant. Sean Fitzpatrick is clearly doing what many of you have already accused him of -- reflecting the pedestrian tastes of his readers and adding nothing to the larger discourse. His list reveals nothing that would lead me to believe that he has done the hard work necessary to make such a bold claim of authority. Popular film reviewing, for the most part, does the same. When asked about the social and political impact of his writing, Philip Roth said that what little "real" change his novels inspire often says more about the reader than about the writer. I think I agree with him. I'm moved or changed by a great piece of criticism, in large part, because I'm driven by an over-arching desire to be moved and changed. All Christians should be filled by that same desire -- we should -- but, really, how different is the typical middle class American evangelical from the typical middle class American non-evangelical? How different are their tastes? How different their desires? The editors at Relevant surely know the answer. What I'm getting at, finally, (I think) is that those humble, personal conversations are seperate -- but grow out -- from good criticism. Doug was only able to lead you all into the promise land because he does good criticism. I've passed up opprtunities to write film reviews because I just don't know how to make good criticism out of it: How do you write meaningfully about, say, Dogville without discussing the end? (Some of you seem able to do this -- I can't.) I do criticism, first and foremost, so that I can learn from and be changed by a work of art. If I do it well, others who are so inclined might benefit from my encounter with that work as well. And because I've done that work, I will be better prepared to shepard others into the fold, so to speak, should the opportunity arise. Patience and humility, for me, are the hard part.