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Everything posted by Josie

  1. Great thoughts, Josie. I suppose that, at least for some of us, the very idea of "Christian films as a genre" is abhorrent. And it is abhorrent because we don't believe that Christians were ever meant to use art in this way - at least in the sense of working in separation from the rest of the world, working within a subculture that judges by different standards and appeals to some desires or sensibilities are are supposedly "Christian" rather than human. So I wouldn't say that it's not so much a matter of decorum or comprehension. Instead, I'd argue that the only way to understand the reason why films exist is to understand the history of the movements within the church that shaped the way the people who are making these films think. The fundamentalist and evangelical movements are recent developments in church history, and they both had separatist tendencies. They also both, in reaction against more liberal theologians, very heavily emphasized doctrines like Sola Scriptura which excludes many of the corollaries of the traditional Christian doctrine of general revelation. A belated thank you for these responses. I wanted to say more at the time and hopefully I still will. . .
  2. I'm sorry for not responding to this much sooner. I saw it days ago and meant to, but I'm really bad at keeping up with internet conversations. (Evne this afternoon I was searching for this thread, and got sidetracked) Actually, I think there could be wrong, deplorable reasons for liking works of art. But they're beside Gombrich's point. I also think he touches on capacities of art and reasons for liking it that are vastly underrated and under-examined. I'm sorry that things are so discouraging for your daughter but impressed she's still dancing. I have a great deal of sympathy for artists whose medium is essentially performative (like dance) or costly (like sculpture or film) because the money/work pressures seem to hit so much harder, and to be imbricated in simply practicing and developing your art. I know everyone can struggle to be published or the equivalent, or to find an alternate source of income that gives their art room to breathe. But there are still these gradations.
  3. Not Christian, but would Ki-duk Kim's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring qualify?
  4. "And I found myself wondering who ever uses the term "Christian film" to mean that first category." I do. Once, I had no idea that the second category existed. I grew aware of the industry and the niche market at the same time and for the same reasons I discovered that "Christian" could mean Evangelical. (Or a segment within Evangelicalism?) In my mind, a film can now be Christian in the narrow, serviceable - precisely descriptive - sense of this thread: made by and for Evangelical Christians or to proselytize. Or it can be Christian in the larger, more diffuse sense of Alyssa's pairing and SDG's recent questions and these forums: bearing Christian ideals, concerns, questions, often made by Christians, often giving centrality or an explicit role to Christian faith. I don't think it's that the two usages collide or contest one another. For me, it's that at the level where naming things makes them so, where names delimit as well as define, the first category can seem to eclipse the second in people's minds - its very existence, as well as its plenitude and relevance. If I'm not mistaking his meaning, I've had the same wish as Darrel, over the fine line between self-realization and self-deprivation. But even though I don't and couldn't use the first category to disparage the second, my favorite thing about kenmorefield's piece was it made me ask why a film couldn't be Christian in both senses. (Not in reality, where it clearly could be; in my personal taxonomy, where I'd unconsciously refused the possibility.) I also liked what he wrote for assertions I wouldn't know how to make, least of all with clarity and assurance, whose absence I still felt. When the sheer awfulness of Christian films comes up, I always wonder about those who flock to them and find goodness. It seems clear the films are flawed. But also that they may be judged by the criteria of other genres, and inevitably found wanting. I've asked if the harshness were ever a form of misrecognition, or a distaste/ discomfort with the genre they do embody (I hazard didactic literature, because that's as close as I can come) or a bias for the genres they don't. And if their conventions and purpose have been defined. Not in light of perceived failings or promise (what they ought not to be or still might be) but what and why they are right now. Speculating about films unseen from a position of cultural illiteracy isn't very useful. But this is the first time I've even heard these things discussed, and with expertise that's both close range and formal. I think we also move between these approaches and sublimate them to each other within a single critique. And that we're probably most exacting and unforgiving with the genres whose purpose or milieu (vs. form) we don't understand or approve. Mistrust of religiosity, especially conservative religiosity, surely tinges the critical response. Because genres are always being ranked hierarchically, like when a writer of crime fiction is praised for producing 'literary novels'. Those whose payoff is seen as cheap and somatic (laughter, terror, disgust, lust) rather than emotive and cerebral get short shrift. And aesthetic calls or isolable cases become fixed attributes, and comparative quality becomes absolute. From genre 'a' is better or worthier than 'b'/so far the films of genre 'b' have been really bad, to genre 'b' is trash, to 'x' film is trash by association. I have an idea that Christian films are situated beneath or outside mainstream criticism, in the strange company of genres that breach decorum or defy comprehension.
  5. Josie

    Gone Girl

    If you haven't watched Marnie in a while, you should. Or even just the first part, where hair color and femininity and disguise and the assertion/transferal of power are so disturbingly intertwined. And the sequence with the heels . . . I only know Gone Girl as a book. I thought it was shallow (and really disliked its view of humanity) but compulsively readable. I also thought it might work better onscreen: one of those novels that are either inherently movie-like or written with a movie in mind. This discussion doesn't quite make me want to reread it (I was genuinely surprised by Christian's comment about Flynn's reputation) but it's very intriguing and convinces me the movie is far, far richer.
  6. Thank you, that's very kind and heartening (especially because I tend to compact ideas and leave out connections and can end up just muddying a conversation). I can reciprocate. I've found the discussions you and J.A.A. Purves sometimes hold interesting and helpful too! I didn't look at all the links yet and hopefully will come back to them. But I read part of the Art Renewal thread and it made me want to say much more. Sadly, from what I could tell, at least two of the (very well educated) voices in that thread are missing. Both, from my weak recollection, provided striking points we can only infer at best. Too bad. Joe But you are still here and your own posts had insight and vestiges of one missing (and clearly knowledgeable) voice. One of the refrains in that thread was the economics of art, the narrow channels of funding and support and the pressure to earn. I hope things went well for your daughter, whether she stayed with dancing or moved on. I was thinking that 2009 (?) was a tough year to graduate.
  7. I didn't look at all the links yet and hopefully will come back to them. But I read part of the Art Renewal thread and it made me want to say much more. To speak plainly, I don't actually take this man for a teacher, nor Prager for a university, nor his subject for art history. Instead, I think he revives early identifications of modernism as degenerate and amoral. I've glimpsed that before, probably through links in A&F, and I know, dimly, that it's socio-political/-religious in motivation. Here it seems at once breathtakingly naive (shot through with fallacies and fabrications) and calculated (not letting the actual record spoil a good dichotomy, taking the measure of its audience). Except that I care - I'm dismayed - when someone who's either unapologetic in his ignorance or pedagogically dishonest postures as an authority, because of how hard it might be to see through that. Imagine little contact with art, no loose grasp of Modernism, no more lucid narratives from other sources. In good faith, the complex stage of visual art divides into a before of old masters and an after of naked emperors. The Renaissance ushers in integrity and succeeding generations abolish it. - "Ditto any critique that boils down to "it's ugly" or "it doesn't deal with uplifting classical themes" " I want (and know I fail) to imagine past my own distortions of art and history, received and self-made. I'd like to take the thread's question seriously: copping to verdicts of edifying/debasing, beautiful/ugly, which I pass all the time; admitting that the reputation of modern art (which in the video is essentially art after Expressionism) as fake, cryptic and ugly is hard-won. - "any critique of Modernism that reduces it to "individual expression" without taking into account the massive social and economic changes that gave birth to the movement is seriously flawed." In a way, pure abstraction and unmooring from the 'real' is impossible. No matter how abstract or representational their work, artists try to do - describe - what only they can, both as individuals and as denizens of a unique historical moment. You can call the 'ugly, bad' examples in the video their own defense, art liberated from decorum and formalism. But that's still incomplete, as if freedom and the shock of the new weren't also achieved within restraint and through convention and fidelity. I can't furnish good examples right now. But in the late Renaissance, Arcimboldi concocts human faces from fruit and fish and books: bizarre portraits filed under but not really explained by Mannerism. A century on, while Vermeer paints the good, edifying Girl with a Pearl Earing, his contemporary paints the carcass of an ox, as numinous as his overtly religious subjects. And other artists are accused of profaning the holy because, e.g., their Christ is paradoxically too real, too radically human. - "So grain of salt and all that." One of my own is to value the unschooled personal response, however snubbed, without denying that taste and appreciation are accretive and cultured. Sometimes my dislike for an artwork is matched only by my sympathy for the conditions that produced it or the horrors that it strove to describe. Like I learn to see European avant-garde, Dadaism, Surrealism &c., as art of trauma, borne of the conviction that nothing could ever be the same. I lament the lost works, destroyed in the Nationalist Socialists' frenzy of purification. But I still cringe at Hans Bellmer's oeuvre and still find so much from this period clinical, dehumanizing and repellant. It can happen that you're handed the key or cypher (science, psychoanalysis, protest, sweeping revolutionary trends) that makes art intelligible, deeply analyzable, even fascinating. And something, maybe your heart, stays obdurate. This defense from the earlier discussion is perfect. To supplement (not contest) it with another trajectory: the abstract, idealized art of the Middle Ages gives way to the realistic impulse of the Renaissance, which far from being extinguished, persists through the 19th c. and in a sense, ultimately calls photography and then cinema into being. New technology records what people see, precisely. But there's also excitement over capturing what the naked eye can't: whole new realms of perception. (The hoaxes with fairies illustrate this, if also its gullibility and abuse). There's this great, fecund interplay between the traditional arts and the newcomers. And the 'machine eye', the camera, also shoots the surreal, in montages and still lifes and altered negatives. I think why I love some of the realistic art of the same period (and find it quietly revolutionary in its own right) is for its embrace of the ordinary, what Whitman called 'common lives'. One of the defining changes after the Renaissance is that the landscape comes into its own - it moves from the background to the foreground of the canvas. But I've felt those landscapes as remote and grand as the mythological or historical tableaux that once upstaged them. (In America, maybe they stand in for mythology and history.) The movement I find transcendent and beautiful is really away from the spectacular - metaphorically, it's zooming in on details that were hidden. Not in condescension, as idealized or diverting spectacle, but with respect and compassion. Lewis Hines and his photographs are exemplary for me, because they are both art and explicit social document - his 'Ellis Island Madonna' and many of his portraits of immigrants and workers.
  8. SDG quoted Lloyd Alexander and Philip Pullman in a thread on how books begin, shunting my thoughts back to this one. I didn't write them down before because they seemed too simplistic and impressionistic and long. And now I wish I could tuck them under N Booth's last post because they seem too belated. But moving squarely back to Graham, if you've outgrown children's or YA books - whether select titles or the whole genre - you should feel neither shame, nor pressure to read them. If you find delight, wonder, refuge, lost memories and sensations - any rewards - you should feel neither shame, nor pressure not to read them. Out loud to children you know or to yourself. Graham offers her own inability to reconnect with The Westinghouse Game and Tuck Everlasting as proof that even good books kids love can't satisfy or nourish adults. Because she rolled her eyes at key points she scoffs at any adult reading any book for teenagers. That simply doesn't follow, inductively. And it's belied by my own reading habits and my reluctance to see children's literature as less or lesser than, any more than I see children themselves as scaled-down, unfledged adults. I know it's more complicated: we're drawn to stories that could be about us and put off by characters and situations too remote from our own experience. We outgrow erstwhile stimulation. But as a child I read adult books and as an adult I've continued to read - possibly even need - children's (and YA, if you like) books. The proportions shifted markedly and I saw things that had been hidden and lost sight of others that had been clear, because age and familiarity do that. But till this thread, I never questioned my taste or wondered if I were in small or large company. I always want terms and categories to be clarified. And in Graham's piece and this thread, there's a distinction that begs asserting or just repeating. I think it's between the body of literature that holds special meaning and appeal for teenagers, irrespective of nomenclature or shelving (whose best endeavors are searching, sensitive, beloved) and a more recent rash of YA books that chase profit and fleeting trends. The first is predated by the novel itself and arguably, narrowly, by children's lit (though in my own mind and here I collapse YA lit into children's lit). If the second draw criticism it's probably not because they're aimed at 13-17 year olds and appropriated by adults (or delay exposure to classic adult books). It's probably a question of quality and not readership. Even a century ago, and more, as childhood assumed the form we know today, play was held integral to creative development. Yet certain toys and past-times we now associate exclusively with kids were the province of adults, and vice versa. In one sense, fluidity is the only constant. In another, who we are (collectively and individually) holds the versions of who we were and escapism is inherently nostalgic. I have imperfect stamina for difficult art: for art that harries my intellect or unsettles my emotions. Often I read for consolation, to unfray my nerves, and to find what's not real but true. When I need a story that lets me lower my guard and succumb to hope and trust, difficult art doesn't seem to work. And the kind of literature we deem 'for all ages' very often does. I question if that literature (not just books, but poetry, or as film is the medium of choice here, works like Harold Lloyd's) is children's fit for adults, or the other way round, or if the distinction is even remotely meaningful. But I am so sure there's no direct correspondence between the forms of complexity and maturity that mark art as adult-only or not-YA, and beauty, richness, solace, grace-full-ness. A list of names would be more eloquent and here are two. When I read Laura Halse Anderson's Speak, and Jamila Gavin's Surya trilogy, they impressed and moved me as literature (with no modifier or disclaimer).
  9. I think the same things you do, Tucker. There's a certain irony in a professor who delivers five minute video lectures for a virtual university founded by a conservative radio talk show host mounting this argument. A sense in which his podium is the academic/critical quintessence of the free-for-all he sees in art - of eroded standards and traditions. (I don't mean that's my view; only it seems like having his ideological cake and eating it too.) And as this is a talk about taste, the irony seeps into design: his captions and illustrations &c. I don't love the Impressionists. I like certain Impressionist figures very, very much but on the whole I love the Naturalists. That's petty but typical of how I see his thesis, as an elephantine over-simplification made up of many more: Since the 19th c., only abstract art or art as statement has flourished - much of it scatological; before the 19th c., art was apolitical and authentic, uncontroversial and majestic, consisting of Michelangelo's Pieta and like masterpieces; art is like figure skating, and the critics and consumers of art are like judges of a competition; beauty and transcendence are only present in realism; incoherence and fakery in abstraction; expression and merit are reducible to technique; the ugly cannot be beautiful; the shocking and repulsive, disorderly and radical cannot be (good) art; they have not shaped art throughout history. I like the idea of the video. I like knocks to complacency and being made to step back and wonder how differently the course of art (or science or philosophy or geo-politics) could have run. I'm personally drawn to classicism and naturalism and realism, from Caravaggio to Hammershoi to Andrew Wyeth. My taste isn't exploratory or adventurous or political. But there are works of modern art I can't get over, that I too find extremely beautiful and stirring, sculptures he could have juxtaposed with David. I think any such juxtaposition is pointless and specious, but his counter-examples seem especially so. So I agree: "It seems rather easy to find works of great beauty from a particular era and proclaim that era as good, and conversely find ugly works from other eras and proclaim those eras bad" (Though I was interested to see Levitated Mass, because it's the subject of a documentary that Darrel Manson and I think Ken Morefield reviewed.)
  10. J.A.A., I've felt the opposite. That film criticism can align with literary criticism and draw upon the same movements and conventions. (I've wondered if it does so more than with visual culture studies and how else it could have turned out.) In academia, where the border between literature departments and film or cinema studies can be so porous, you could probably find that fusion in descriptions of majors and courses and even syllabi. Definitely in the critical works published by university presses. And if you look to the font of film criticism, people like Bazin or Deleuze, I think you'd sense it at the level of theory. I suppose I didn’t word that as clearly as I should have. Josie, I whole-heartedly agree with you. I think film criticism not only can, but ought to follow in the traditions of literary criticism. When I said that the vast majority of today’s film reviews seem to have cut themselves off from it, it is because most of the reviews that I read have. Any comprehensive perusal of the most popular/professional reviews of a given film (looking at the list at RottenTomatoes), and almost none of those reviews are actually really interested in ideas. Almost none of them discuss the questions and ideas that have been discussed in literary criticism for centuries. They discuss whether the reviewer liked or didn’t like the film personally. They make a few comparisons to other films. And then they all repeat the same comparisons. I always feel like I’m pulling teeth whenever I’m looking for a substantive discussion of a newly released film. (There are exceptions to this, and there are specific reviewers like Zoller Seitz or Sicinski whose reviews offer more than most. But they are rare, and the films they review are limited.) Thank you, I don't know if I was more confused or confusing myself. But I did want you to clarify that by film criticism you mean film reviews. That's because in my mind or lexicon, literature often includes the genre of film. And beyond movie reviews, film criticism can comprise more academic and theoretical writing, much of it book length. That work tends to follow in the tradition and adhere to the conventions of contemporary literary criticism. In fact, many of its authors are primarily or jointly literary critics. And I may have just been projecting my own weaknesses and impasses, but I think it must be so different to review by assignment - e.g. to need to be entertaining and clever about a movie that failed to even pique your interest. I mean different than writing about art selectively, when the desire strikes you and you're all excited about ideas and aesthetics and urgently want to do them justice, only hobbled by time, space and energy constraints and your own incoherence. For reviews that are highly disciplined, ruminative and original, I was thinking that critics need a certain freedom and leisure as well as dedication and talent. Or advance the same metaphor. I link that homogeneity to how reviews are produced (critics seeing and discussing and writing about movies in short order and almost in tandem) and how they're processed (pressed into a binary of yes/ no, fresh /rotten, thumbs up /down). When there's a specter of right and wrong answer, you probably second-guess yourself more and feel more anxious about the verdicts of your peers. If you focus harder yet more diffusely on ideas, you can still make a fool of yourself. You can still be at odds with the critical consensus. But it's a lot less obvious and quantifiable. Well, academic writing has its own conventions, in breaking the rules of basic English grammar as in other things. But to be honest, I think the state of academic writing is also pretty dismal: derivative, passionless and just poorly, ponderously written. I'm not sure if you're using 'literate' and 'illiterate' in the sense of cultured or of a rudimentary command of reading and writing. Either way, I don't find it defensible that every film review needs to be literate any more than that every film needs to be cinematically literate (or every utterance standard and grammatical). Insofar as art is necessary and elemental, I just want people to create and respond to it as best they can, and rejoice that they do keep wanting to. So I'm happy for there to be forums without virtual bouncers or gatekeepers, to host popular reviews. But you're a film reviewer yourself and you have a very different stake and perspective, as well as being far better-read in this swath of criticism than I am! I would love for there to be more support and motivation for the flowering you imagine. I turn to film reviews myself to read about ideas and meaning and craft. Ideally, that's the 'why' reviews that say I liked or hated this film go on to explain or at least to touch upon. And this sounds wonderful. I hope it can materialize:
  11. sends a sort of thrill down my spine when I read it - not quite sure why, but something to do with English nostalgia and being a hopeless Romantic. I have (read it). I also love the symmetry of its ending and how that idiom and the core dramatic elements come full circle. From the final passage: I tend to reread books I love, not just once but cyclically, making it hard to separate my affection and personal associations from more objective merit. But I do think this one stands out. It's so finely wrought and beautifully imaginative and grows on me. I have wondered that it's not more widely read or never attained the status of say, The Good Soldier. It might be that old-fashioned nostalgic quality; even in the 50s, it drew comparison to 'the work of the great Victorians' and 'the great days of Edwardian novel writing'. But I think maybe the real reason is a kind of smallness, almost inconsequence, to plot and setting. Here are two more openings I like a lot, from The Long Goodbye and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: and
  12. I misheard this dialogue or else interpreted it differently. Doesn't Emil (or Bruno?) explain that their families came over on the boat together and that the two cousins grew up in the same house. . . or maybe across the street? I took that to mean that Bruno and Emil aren't immigrants themselves or at least that their birth country, rather than the title of the film, is ambiguous. (But for me, to disambiguate the title isn't to limit its scope or symbolism - only to concentrate them.) One of the bleaker suggestions is that to advance one rung on the ladder of assimilation just means you have someone to prey on or (in the uncle's case) turn your back on. For the son of Jewish immigrants, choice is still very circumscribed and social and institutional tolerance most precarious Add to this Poland's position between vying powers, its long history of partition and subjugation and blighted resistance. Before the conflict with Russia, it's a WWII battleground, its people slaughtered and deported, its towns razed. Ewa is a refugee as well as an immigrant and she comes from a people newly independent but schooled in oppression and survival. I watched The Immigrant under such fragmented, unideal circumstances and missed so much that I don't want to read reviews or formal analysis till I've seen it properly. I was also plagued by parallels to a Korean film in which prostitution and complete loss of bearings and autonomy are central. It was a jarring but really insistent comparison and made me wish for another lineage or work I could relate the film to. Pamela or The Phantom of the Opera or Beauty and the Beast or Hardy. I don't know what would make sense. I'm interested in perceptions of passivity as a fault in the film or in Ewa's character and need to see it again to know my own response. I do remember that at one point her stillness seemed so incredible and contrived as to become the dramatic nexus. She had seen Emil unload the gun and could have said so and spared Bruno and averted disaster. I was waiting for her to speak or move. To act; it was so protracted, a torture scene. But like so many other elements - Bruno's eavesdropping on the confessional, the various acts staged within the film, &c. - roles and composition seem to make sense in terms of theater and spectacle and illusion. It's like the bluff is called on the magician's death-defying act, where Bruno is the assistant and the weapons the props and Ewa the audience, as when she is first rapt and spellbound by Emil. When she follows at a distance and watches the disposal of his body, it seemed a continuation.
  13. I feel less confused after Andrew's explanation but more guilty for misunderstanding usage. Though I do think that when Christians speak of being 'spiritual but not religious' the religious connotation is actually preserved. J.A.A., I've felt the opposite. That film criticism can align with literary criticism and draw upon the same movements and conventions. (I've wondered if it does so more than with visual culture studies and how else it could have turned out.) In academia, where the border between literature departments and film or cinema studies can be so porous, you could probably find that fusion in descriptions of majors and courses and even syllabi. Definitely in the critical works published by university presses. And if you look to the font of film criticism, people like Bazin or Deleuze, I think you'd sense it at the level of theory. (My 1st film class was actually a philosophy class. The professor was visiting from Chicago and probably brilliant but I struggled terribly with his approach. I'm sure it was partly that I wasn't smart or educated enough but beyond that I related so strongly to the films and had *so* much to say about them as literature, it felt like being asked to read art mathematically or poetry through the thin lens of prosody.) I am curious if in your comments (as in the criteria for membership in the circle) film criticism is ever synonymous with film reviewing? Book reviews seem far less prolific and widely read and enmeshed in an industry. And far likelier to be written by academics and practitioners of the genre than film reviews are by professors and film makers. And I wonder if besides the youth of the medium and cultural shifts over time, you are seeing differences between journalism and scholarship, between a primary text that you may only view *once* in a theater and be uninspired by, and one that you choose and move through freely and annotate, and between a readership whose decision to see the film, or let their kids, or reconsider their first response can hinge on your review and a readership - well, I can't encapsulate why people turn to literary criticism right now. I've written more than I wanted and will try to remember to delete this as it's such a tangent. But last words: I've read beautifully lucid and eloquent reviews, some by A&F members. (Not yours yet, because I'm hoping to see the films first) So I would never dismiss the genre or commitment to quality and learning. No confusion or questions there.
  14. I'm also glad to see you here, Rebecca! Evan, I have a confused impression that faith implies belief in God (or gods) while spirituality implies belief in or openness to the metaphysical/supernatural, and that atheism and spirituality can go hand in hand. But I suspect I'm completely wrong.
  15. Yes, I think this too, because cinema is about us as well as for us. When the imposition of dress and speech codes inhibits its power to imbue its forms with meaning and tell stories - especially stories of victimhood and moral crisis - we cross a line I care about deeply. Probably far more deeply than Trevor Wax's. I know I don't perceive literature or sin through the same religious lens. I wish I understood better. I wish that Wax were more explicit than 'sewage' and the slippage of ratings standards, and assume (maybe wrongly?) that his primary concern is sexual/erotic content. In my own hierarchy of moral transgression and desert, it's a billion times worse for certain stories never to be told because their crucial events are R-rated, than it is for certain members of their audience to feel impure desire or temptation - to be titillated or to witness sin. I don't know if WoWS would be that kind of story to me or if I will want to see it, but I trust that it's greater than the elements Wax inveighs against. I've read that the circuitry of our minds is reconfigured by 'passive' viewing and reading. Without understanding the science or the incontrovertibility of interpretations (e.g., that novels and films really do inculcate empathy or apathy) I think I embrace them because they seem to confirm what I already know. Being sad or fearful for a character might not lead to succoring actual need. But I still believe that heeding each other's experience is key to our evolution as moral beings, and dismissing or exploiting each other;s pain and degradation, to our devolution. A film isn't harmful because it features nudity or violent death or profanity or drug use any more than it's unimpeachable and benign because it's art or 'family friendly'. So arguments that nod to deeper concerns only to implicitly fall back on 'R = bad for Christian's health' (as there's no further explanation or analysis of what places a film beyond the pale) just founder for me. In case I've implied otherwise, I respect and sympathize with this approach. I think that's a good example of a corrupt (and in its day, corrupting) film and the complexity of prohibition. Knowing its plot, I hope never to see Birth of a Nation as however seminal, it's just not salvageable for me. Still, I understand why people who love film yet abhor this film's ideology continue to watch it. Even why we might need to, as an exemplar of culpability and indoctrination. Its very resilience and eloquence as a work of art should challenge the moral ascendancy history confers. For decades after BoaN's release historians would praise its veracity and we've got to assume our own blindspots. I was thinking, apropos of a turn the discussion took here and in an artist and model thread, how behind so many paintings is a model who took off her clothes and held poses for agonizing intervals, through cold, hunger, thirst, exhaustion. And how the filter of the canvas is not so different from the filter of the screen. (Though I agree that to liken the physical or even psychological demands of these professions to torture is hyperbolic.) I once saw a film that seemed to instantiate what people are reaching for here. An Academy Award nominated documentary, critically respected. It records the lives of a small band of Romanian street children, the youngest only eight, and you utterly despair for them and for a country despoiled past caring. It's a masterpiece of journalistic detachment, as the camera never flinches or shies. For the same reason, the film itself - it's titled Children Underground - horrified me. I felt its very material as well as its subject was child abuse and neglect. I've not read the entire (uniformly positive) reviews, only excerpts, where the adjective 'depressing' recurs. It is unconveyably bleak, the kind of film you cry through without catharsis. But I also felt anger at the camera, and a kind of vicarious shame to look on in tandem. I tried to be fair and temper my own emotions. To take stock of moral inertia, personal and collective, and how easy it is to be aghast at others' derelictions of duty. And how even so, this film makes you think: here's a culture that regards children and their welfare differently. And the moral nuances of bearing witness vs. walking away and how need always dwarfs intervention and is mostly met by apathy or helplessness. But sometimes it really is this black and white. No one should keep a camera trained on kids sleeping on cement, going hungry, inhaling paint, being knocked down and kicked by adults. No one should be able to. That's pristine reportage at the expense of humanity. So for me, and maybe only for me, this is both a movie that documents tragedy with great force and fidelity and a movie that should never have been made. And yet, I don't know whether - let alone how - to relate my personal condemnation to other's approval or to 'dangers' posed to viewers.
  16. I read the article and skipped the comments (Sorry!) I sympathize with most of the posts in this thread and with Wax's larger idea that art can change us, for the worse as well as the better, I just disagree about how that happens. Some thoughts: My division between neighbor and self isn't coterminous with one between secularism and Christianity. If the most rudimentary definition of church is a building or the people it harbors, even there, my closest approximation is metaphorical and my church is the world. I don't know how to relate to an Evangelical citadel. Or a Hollywood that makes movies for a secular audience, movies that Christians stoop to see as a parent might set aside taste and decorum to play with a child. I think those films are ours, too. (And if ever unequivocally harmful to Christians, they are surely harmful to others.) Referring back to the examples in the article, triggers are because you have known a kind of hell and certain simulations bring it back. They are the haunting of the present by the past. Other recoils are fear or squeamishness. (e.g., I can't bear to watch a blade drawn through flesh, from a tiny incision to a slit throat. This could happen in a police procedural, horror, a medical documentary. . . Rarely are such moments unannounced, but if they ambush me I can't shake them). But these analogies of relative susceptibility are inadequate. If we are talking about corrupt and corrupting art, aversion is almost a moral and spiritual imperative, and tolerance or impassivity a sign of decay. As framed, this question begs others. How do we define sewage? Or health? You can tally the occurrences of 'fuck' and all its variants. The shots of a woman's breasts. But unless you believe that there are select words and parts of human anatomy that Christians can't encounter with impunity and whose sound or sight besmirches us - unless you invest MPAA ratings with spiritual authority, or at least refinement and rectitude - it's as empty as the question: 'Why do Christians watch R-rated movies?" I agree with J.A.A. Purves & N Booth that in art (and beyond), sex and nudity and profanity take their meaning and affect from context. If literature is as unendurable as the ways we maim each other and ourselves, as human suffering, and that truth is what the film laments rather than enacts, I will try to wade through sewage - sit through the cinematic equivalent of offal. I'll blame my reluctance on misplaced fastidiousness or old wounds. Loving my neighbor means more than watching the same movies. It means listening to her story, harder still to the ugly, sad passages. Filth, smut, dirty - I don't think I trust that metaphor. But if I feel a film is decadent (beyond the puritanical associations of that adjective), I really, *really* don't care that it's also art. Being art is not an alibi or antidote or badge of merit. And being less-than-art or merely escapist or entertaining isn't a fault. There's an important distinction between on the one hand, a critic's perception that a film is pernicious and immoral, and that to watch is a form of collusion or self-defilement, and on the other, a critic's conviction that *if* you think that, you should abjure it. If both pronouncements are subjective and incomplete, the 2nd seems infinitely less so. Articles like Wax's can seem to fold in that distinction or declare it moot. They worry that Christians can't be trusted to choose and say no, to tell art or amusement and garbage apart, and most bizarre, not to ingest art *as* garbage and be polluted. There are many films I wish I could unsee, because the darkness that they were about left a residue. There are relatively few whose own darkness appalled and sickened me. I tend to be quiet about those, in the face of their popularity or acclaim, and maybe that's wrong? It's almost as if confirming that no one sees what I do will only empower it.
  17. From the little I know of this Christian subset, I sometimes get an almost surreal impression of insularity. It's as if all the dialogue and all the cultural artifacts are self-serving: self-flagellating, self-affirming &c. At their worst - or at least, most alarming for someone like me, who genuinely trusts that familiarity breeds acceptance and trust - they say America is rabidly anti-Christian and degenerate and the devout have been stripped of religious freedom. I don't know what it feels like to enjoy such privilege, yet believe that. If you are defiant or fearful. (I do know it has a liberal counterpart.) But it seems to turn Evangelicalism in upon itself, battening down the hatches instead of living out this: I have heard people suggest Christian Films as evangelical tools. I wonder if it's a reflexive gesture or if they appreciate the slim odds that those films could be noticed by non-Christians and how absolutely they are created by and for their niche market . When I hear about God's Not Dead tweeting I just think that's part of the movie's branding and the wave of triumphalism is lapping a little beyond the screen. Like car horns celebrating victory after a game. Clearly there are Christian Films that nurture faith and community positively or that function more like honest sermons or illustrations of Scripture. The success of God's Not Dead seems sad because if what I read is true, it can only make us despise each other more and become more defensive. Either it confirms your low opinion of the fans, or if you embraced the movie without qualms and to the hilt, of those it demonizes as vicious and unprincipled. And one of the hurtful stereotypes that is overthrown inside the film - that Christians are intellectually naive - dumb, really - gets reinforced in the process. I've seen remarks that the movie could really happen, that the writer has experienced or witnessed something comparable. I'd very much like to hear one of those stories. Not because I'm sceptical that they happened; because I believe they did and they might help me understand why the digetic defense of faith is so compelling. I think so too!
  18. That is such a wonderful, subtle review. From Peter's: Even if I see God's Not Dead I might try to withhold judgement. I have too little understanding of the culture that summons and embraces it, and enough of literature to sense that didactic art has its own conventions and purposes, and will fail by those of other genres. My insecurity extends to Christian Cinema in general, especially because its audience has already been so condescended to by outsiders. I can't meet the art on its own terms, only assume that it flourishes because somehow, for some people, it really works. And I've probably learnt more from discussion here, the linked reviews and personal accounts and expressions of frustration, than I ever could from the movie. I think this is a remarkable thread. There are a couple of things that trouble me about the premise/plot that do fall within my own realm. The first is purely subjective: if apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him. The other is hopefully more objective. From all I've read, including here, the atheist professor is meant as a mirror to reality, not a fiction or a projection of fears and tensions. I know mainstream academia fairly well (and Bible schools not at all) and it is mistrustful of religiosity and conservatism, most markedly where the two intersect. There's a passive censorship of alternate voices- a hegemony of liberal complacency - that I think I've chafed at most when it coddled my own beliefs. This has always struck me as shameful and wrong, and it needs to be confessed. But it's a far cry from a professor bullying students to deny their faith. Few (any?) American schools are truly secular, because they aren't lifeless infrastructure or curricula. They're the people who attend and teach and administrate, run offices and libraries and tend to grounds and buildings. Many of them are Christian, and more still identify with some religion. Schools aren't truly "unChristian" either, because the models of Western art and culture so predominate, despite canon shifts and culture wars. But what obviously sets mainstream schools apart also precludes the God's Not Dead scenario. Without religious affiliation, learning can no more be predicated upon atheism or agnosticism than it can upon a belief in God or the primacy of one religion. I've seriously tried, and I can't begin to imagine the department chair or administrator who would not be horrified and rush to intervene in that classroom. The Department of Education would treat it as a civil rights violation, which it incontrovertibly is. So while that professor could happen, and his flagrant abuse of authority and disregard for how philosophy is actually practiced and taught* could flourish unbeknownst to his peers and administrators, as the foregone conclusion of liberal Godless academia, he's a lie. Persecution fantasies are fine as long as they're recognized as such (and as long as oppressors aren't using them to cast themselves as victims) but it sounds like this one might be passing for reality. *if Peter hadn't already covered that point so well, I could have spoken to it too.
  19. I enjoyed the piece on Alec Guinness's introversion too and Attica, I love that film. When I 1st read Ann Hornaday's confession, I wished I could append it to things I wrote in the Noah thread. It expresses what I badly wanted to, but was afraid might seem like a rebuke. Something about the hazards of letting a single strand of Christianity become definitive and of imagining that people who are shy of explicit or public displays of piety or who move in 'secular' or non-Evangelical circles, are not Christian. Or are less fully Christian. I'm not sure which surprises me least: that Ann Hornday is a practicing Christian or that she expects the disclosure to surprise *us*!
  20. The book has haunted me for at least a decade. I forgot its name and Michael Faber's long ago and I never want to read it again, but now and then it comes back to me and I silently interject it. (The last time was an A&F thread on Martyrs.) I give most horror a wide berth and read very little science fiction, so this may not mean much. But I thought it both the most repellant novel I've ever read and the most unflinching look at systemic cruelty - at how we bring ourselves to treat each other like animals and animals like things - and I felt that those two superlatives were linked. That the book was as horrible as the real life phenomena it critiqued and if only for that reason, I should read on. I have no idea if my response was like any one else's or in tune with Faber's vision. If the movie leads people to the book, maybe I'll find out? Anyway, it sounds as if the film has muted what I took to be Faber's most pressing ideas and concerns, or at least that it's made desire and sexual predation more central. SPOILERS UPON SPOILERS (just of the novel)
  21. Josie

    Noah (2014)

    Thank you, I'll try to be more clear too. I meant to paraphrase your words but by mistake I changed your meaning. Having low standards for art isn't the same as being a philistine. And my response to your comments was surprise that few mainstream critics would be Christian and that Christians would have low standards in art. But after reading your last post, I see how I misunderstood your use of the proper noun/adj. 'Christian'. It has a more capacious meaning for me, even though I know it very often describes what you call popular Christianity. Sometimes I just lose my conversational and cultural bearings; e.g. hearing 'Christian art' invokes Caravaggio or Bresson - hearing 'Christian viewers', the whole mass of people who would say they believe in Christ or identify themselves as Christian. I think that's why the landscape of 'high' art and Christianity looks very different to me: teeming and promising. Further down, you mention Barbara Nicolosi's lectures on youtube. I listened to the opening of one (I don't when I could spare an entire hour) and she's a good, engaging speaker. I wish she'd framed her critique of Noah and its fans in terms of people excusing bad art, or even bad theology, for its biblical associations; I wondered why not at the time I read that review. But I also wish the shift she calls for could run even deeper, till Christians enlarged their defintion of what constitutes Christian art in the 1st place. If not to include art imbued with certain themes and concerns, at least to embrace art by Christians 'working outside of the mainstream of popular Christianity. ' Because barring that, they're cut off from their own heritage.
  22. Josie

    Noah (2014)

    (apologies to Kenmorefield) I think (perhaps unfairly) that if you demonize the makers and supporters of the film, you probably don't want to discuss it with them! The form that Christian defenses and objections to Noah are taking is quite new to me. So I've been quietly processing the discussion and where it pivots on interpretations of Scripture and approaches to art very unlike my own, trying to understand. Above all, trying not to be close-minded and condescending and illiberal. It's not so hard with viewers who feel the film corrupts God's relationship to humanity, or even that it's unconscionable for Bible-based art to brainstorm and invent. But I will *always* struggle with the phenomenon whereby if someone feels differently about a movie (or point of theology or social justice), instead of crediting them with integrity and good intentions where that's most plausible and charitable, you impute sinister, adversarial, or just really petty or base motives. Though if he weren't kicking you, you might not mind if he misquotes or misapplies Shakespeare. But yes, if the accusations seem delusional I just assume the critique is too. Definitely. I want to think more about this when I have time. I'm sorry, my last post was a bit scattered and I ended up responding more to NBooth's comments, which I think I also excerpted. I do feel that qualities and choices which intrigue me and seem essential to the film's vision have been downplayed or excused by Christians trying to defend it, as part of their defense. But also that where mistrust of the film comes from misunderstanding Scripture and religion, there's been a concerted effort to dispel it and educate people. And I pretty much agree with your points here. What really struck me in your last post (though I promptly forgot to address it) was your sense that most movie critics are not Christian and have screwy theology and most Christians are philistines. If that's true, I don't understand why or how it arose. here it is again: "(though I sometimes like what she has to say, and I do think she offers some great critiques of Christians' generally low standards in the arts)."
  23. Josie

    Noah (2014)

    Tucker writes: & NBooth writes: I've been bewildered by the need to mollify and placate and make excuses for this film. (Not the desire, which seems to spring from a rift within Conservative or Evangelical Christianity) I want to ask pointless questions: clearly this is not the case with all books, but with the Bible, is necessity the only justification for invention? When you aver that Genesis left Aronofsky no choice but to fill its vast blanks with dialogue and events, you are stating a limited, obvious truth. But are you also implying that adaptations are only imperfect mirrors and that the crowning ambition of Bible-inspired art is regurgitation? If so, the difference between Noah and Son of God is one of breadth and degree rather than kind. When it *is* so, Noah becomes alienating and baffling. I understand that the same viewers who would flock to Son of God might hate Noah. A few days ago one such woman speculated in response to SDG's articles that the earthquake in L.A. could be a mark of God's displeasure. I think I even understand her, too. And I sympathize with the many Christians who welcome creativity and spiritual inquiry - just not this time, because for them, Noah warps or elides essential truths of the Bible. They shouldn't be shamed into softening their criticism, or told it's not legitimate. I'm out of my depths when the talk turns academic. I mean, to questions of religious pedigree and provenance. Even when I've seen the film, I won't be able to weigh in, because I have no foundation in religious studies at all. But again, I understand why it matters. But my private bewilderment and sorrow is for those who theorize Noah as a Trojan Horse in the assault on Conservative Christianity. (Unless I'm misreading the brouhaha over leftist/ pagan /Gnostic / environmental agendas.) I'm grateful for voices like SDG's and Peter's to restore a sense of balance and fairness. But when Nicolosi calls the rating at Rotten Tomatoes proof of how much 'secular' critics hate Christians, or when I reach this point in Brian Mattson's piece the attacks lose all credibility. I expect no less of Aronofsky, no less sensitivity or truth in his handling of the Noah story, becaues he is Jewish or even (as I keep seeing repeated) a self-described atheist. And no less from myself and my ability to grapple with his ideas. If anything, my own reverence for the Bible and faith in the divine imprint - Imago Dei- alters the cast of the question: is Noah a Christian film. On the most personal level, what I call Christian art is not strictly by or about or for Christians. Quite simply and crudely, it's art that cares about suffering - about people in trouble - and makes me care too. Art of obligation. I have never found that the poignancy of art, or its power to give form to our formless terrors so that we can comprehend them morally, or to elaborate our understanding of humanity and divinity - I've never found these things bound by Church or religious caste. So that dimension eludes me too. J.A.A. Purves writes: Parts of the old Testament , including this one, harrow me. They always have. They are like fontanelles in my trust and understanding that I leave to knit on their own. I know I'm lifting your point out of context, but I wuold gently suggest that it's the phrasing of 1) that's preclusive) I think both 1 & 2 can be questioned and probed and explored. But in my own need to reconcile how I feel with what I believe, both help and neither is enough. Darryl writes: I love this whole post, but would add that this is the very nightmare dreamt by environmentalism. It's the end of nature. That is brave and so heartening!
  24. Title: The Secret Life of Words Director: Isabel Coixet Running Time: 115 min. Language: English IMDB Link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0430576/
  25. Josie

    Noah (2014)

    Yes, you do, in a sense. I'm the one who actually went into the console and made your articles disappear. I;m not authorized to do that without instruction, but in a case of copyright infringement, I would anyway.
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