Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
M. Leary

The Future of Arts and Faith...

Recommended Posts

I hope critics will pay attention to Fox Faith. The studio will likely not appreciate all that is said of them, but WHO ELSE WILL SAY WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID?? The work of gifted writers and competant reviewers is vitally important in saving "Christian arts" from whatever imperfections it exhibits.

It's one thing to go along with the free publicity machine, but the people who write like that likely aren't the ones we see and love around here. When they get it right, they deserve kudos just like anyone else, and when they get it wrong, Christians deserve to hear a voice of dissent from people they can respect.

That said, Stef, I take your point: there is a vast world of significant cinema that cries out for engagement, and we can't afford to let a Christian subculture grow up around us while we are distracted with navel-gazing.

As to blogs... I'm happy to have links to blogs within a post here (as long as it's not self-serving). I'm not as keen on the list of new posts that is sometimes half-filled with posts from other blogs. (Although this one from Prins made me laugh!! It was from his wife, but the A&F imported version made it sound like Dale was delighted that his son called him Mama!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim Willson wrote:

: I hope critics will pay attention to Fox Faith. The studio will likely not

: appreciate all that is said of them, but WHO ELSE WILL SAY WHAT

: NEEDS TO BE SAID?? The work of gifted writers and competant

: reviewers is vitally important in saving "Christian arts" from

: whatever imperfections it exhibits.

Let's just hope that not ALL the filmmakers send snarky e-mails to Christian film critics like this one that I just got:

Thanks for your honest review, Mr. Chattaway. We did our best with this little film on limited resources. It would have been nice to have the luxury of a big Hollywood budget, but we didn't, so we strived for excellence in the places where we could find it. We know it's not a perfect film, but in test screenings, audience members have wept and we got standing ovations, so we'll take comfort with those reviews if we can't get the professionals to admire the film. And we'll try not to be, as you say, so "pedestrian or trivial," on our next one.

Now, it's interesting that this person -- one of the actual producers of the film, and NOT one of the publicists or FoxFaith people per se -- would mention the budget, because I sure as heck didn't mention the budget in my review. In fact, I consciously avoided nit-picking things like the cheesy special effects, precisely because I wanted to respect the limited resources these guys were working with (though I can see that quite a few "professionals" DID single out the effects for criticism).

My critique that the film was "pedestrian" (and that it rendered one of its themes "trivial", which is not quite the same thing as saying that the FILM was "trivial", but anyhoo) rested entirely on the kinds of artistic choices that the filmmakers made. Perhaps I should have spelled them out in greater detail -- perhaps I could have mentioned the dull alternation between medium shots and wide shots, back and forth and back and forth and..., in a scene that is SUPPOSED to communicate a girl's fear or anxiety when a certain other character approaches her community, or perhaps I could have mentioned the way the music lays it on a little thick at significant narrative moments. (I did THINK about mentioning these things, but for whatever reason, they didn't come up to the surface as I got into the flow of writing the review.) But I have seen many films that avoided these pitfalls even though they were made with budgets just as tiny as this one's.

And yeah, I can appreciate that some people may have cried or cheered at certain points. I can even point to a scene or two in this film that I found somewhat moving (though in one case, it would be hard to do without spoilers). But none of this changes the fact that much of the filmmaking on display here WAS rather pedestrian.

One extra note: I don't want to put words in stef's mouth, but I imagine he might say that he doesn't care for "Christian arts" in the first place -- that we need to smash the wall between sacred and secular, etc. I used to think somewhat along those lines, partly because I came out of a subculture which viewed "secular" as "bad" (and "sacred" as "good"). But nowadays, I actually value the distinction between sacred and secular -- without in any way assuming that a work of art is "good" or "bad" just because it falls on one side of that line or the other. Somewhere in there, I also value the existence of stories that are made with an eye towards bolstering our faith. I just don't want those stories to suck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter, I once wrote a negative review of a Billy Graham-produced (World Wide Pictures is the company, IIRC) movie and mentioned that its presentation of the gospel message could use a little freshening. Not there's anything wrong with a straight-ahead presentation of the gospel, but that sometimes, in a work of art, it's better to show rather than tell. Something like that. Along the way, I made a favorable comment about "Changing Lanes," which while not overtly gospel-oriented, was a more provocative film, I thought -- especially for mainstream audiences.

I heard back from someone at World Wide Pictures who wrote, "I wish Christian understood that we don't have the budget of 'Changing Lanes.'" -- as if my point were about film financing rather than storytelling. Oh well. I also received a reader e-mail informing me that someone the reader knew had seen the film and been converted through it, so there.

EDIT: I just now realized which forum I'd posted this to. I'd say the conversation is veering off track. My apologies.

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But I have seen many films that avoided these pitfalls even though they were made with budgets just as tiny as this one's.

I haven't seen the film you mentioned, but my favorite example of a film that is low budget but excellent is " "Brothers McMullen." If I remember it was made for something like $25,000 - yet is a wonderful film on a variety of levels.

Denny

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps "fall in line" is too harsh, so I apologize. And Peter, I did not mean to imply that you were THE ONE that is doing this (although, looking back through, you do seem to be guilty of pulling those threads up quite a bit).

Here's the dealio. Are these writers at FoxFaith even Christian?

Either way, I suppose I still see it as a very large company trying to write stories for what they see as the US Christian market, and if it's bought into than they've underhandedly proven that the Christians (at least the ones that they will trick into seeing the films) are the most boring and predictable people on the planet; that this demographic buys into certain kinds of (conservative) writings, story arcs and (hopeful and faithful) endings. If that's what they're making us out to be/do, I don't think they should even be discussed here, much less reviewed.

Do you honestly think that post-POTC Fox heads went out looking for Christian writers so they could get the right feel for this audience? Even so, are WE interested in Christian writers who pick very bad movie titles trying to shape their stories to tug on the heart strings of our supposed demographic?

The whole thing is contrived. It has left a bad taste in my mouth ever since I saw its name.

We should be living a story that is unpredictable -- if a company like this succeeds, basically they are writing a bland story that is "us".

-s.

Edited by stef

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

stef wrote:

: And Peter, I did not mean to imply that you were THE ONE that is doing this

: (although, looking back through, you do seem to be guilty of pulling those

: threads up quite a bit).

Pulling up? You mean, adding posts to them? I don't see a problem with that. Are you saying we should just ignore FoxFaith outright, whether it's good or bad?

: Here's the dealio. Are these writers at FoxFaith even Christian?

Heck, are they even "at" FoxFaith? My understanding is that at least some of the films FoxFaith picks up are actually produced by other people; FoxFaith merely provides theatrical and video distribution. One Night with the King was produced by GenerXion (or whatever it's called) and it sat on a shelf for something like two years, until FoxFaith came along and offered to distribute it. The (Final) Inquiry appears to be a foreign film that FoxFaith has picked up for North American distribution because of its biblical subject matter. I don't assume anything about the companies that make these movies, and frankly I don't care; it is the movies THEMSELVES, and what they say and do, that matter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

not to derail this veering off into film (though it seems that derail i must), but i would like to ask if there is more that happens here at the fora than simply discussion...

have you [more mature/ active] A'n'Fers formed relationships, partnerships and/or collaborations birthed out of these discussions? have you discovered someone among these nattering hordes (and i do enjoy the nattering) that you have chosen to walk with, mentor, encourage? shouldn't building this community of christian cultural creatives leak out of cyber-space and incarnate somewhere?

(speaking of which - anyone in canada? alberta? calgary? the bow valley?)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
not to derail this veering off into film (though it seems that derail i must), but i would like to ask if there is more that happens here at the fora than simply discussion...

have you [more mature/ active] A'n'Fers formed relationships, partnerships and/or collaborations birthed out of these discussions? have you discovered someone among these nattering hordes (and i do enjoy the nattering) that you have chosen to walk with, mentor, encourage? shouldn't building this community of christian cultural creatives leak out of cyber-space and incarnate somewhere?

(speaking of which - anyone in canada? alberta? calgary? the bow valley?)

Absolutely yes.

I have met Doug, Russ, Jeffrey, Peter, Dale, Rich, and I think I even saw a fellow who calls himself Crow. I think I met Alan, too... Weren't we at one of the same Flickeringses?

I have forged relationships with Mike H and JRobert, who are no longer on the boards but were instrumental in our discovery of the foundations for film criticism.

I have developed deep, intense relationships with (m)Leary and Thom(Asher), who I've become accountable to, and who have mentored me in ways they can and cannot fathom.

I look forward to meeting Diane, SDG, and others down the road of life.

I've been to Calgary, Alberta. I was back stage for a Steve Taylor concert there on my honeymoon. It was AWWWWEEEESOMMMMMMMMMeeeeeeee. :)

(But Banff may have been better.)

-s.

Edited by stef

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(speaking of which - anyone in canada? alberta? calgary? the bow valley?)

Ed, you must have missed my reply in the Visual Arts thread... I'm not far from you, in Edmonton. We ought to get together sometime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oops. Met Tim too.

And probably more.

-s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/13/2007 at 11:16 PM, techne said:

not to derail this veering off into film (though it seems that derail i must), but i would like to ask if there is more that happens here at the fora than simply discussion...

 

have you [more mature/ active] A'n'Fers formed relationships, partnerships and/or collaborations birthed out of these discussions? have you discovered someone among these nattering hordes (and i do enjoy the nattering) that you have chosen to walk with, mentor, encourage? shouldn't building this community of christian cultural creatives leak out of cyber-space and incarnate somewhere?

 

(speaking of which - anyone in canada? alberta? calgary? the bow valley?)

I have been reading through some old threads, particularly those from when I was not present on the board, to try to get a better understanding of historical trends and developments.

Anyway, I wanted to respond to this query, though I don't know techne...but, I would venture to say this inquiry is slightly different than the numerous, "who have you met in real life" inquiries that pop up from time to time.

For myself, I've edited three academic volumes of film criticism, and they have been populated with essays from a number of people who I have met here: Anders Bergstrom, Andrew Spitznas, Josh Hamm, Ryan Holt, Darren Hughes, Doug Cummings, and Nick Olsen. While it would be presumptuous to call myself a mentor, Nick asked me to do V3 of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema in part to get some experience in academic publishing and wrote a nice recommendation letter for me when I went up for tenure. I also provided space for Andrew as he was breaking into Patheos and helped him through North Carolina Film Critics Association.  Similarly, Jeff and Steven put in good words for me when I was trying to get space at Patheos (though that didn't work out for me long term), and Mike Leary put in a good word for me when Alissa took over at Christianity Today. The Internet isn't necessarily a good place for mentoring relationships because they require time to build trust and establish seriousness. As a result, more of my active mentoring energies get funneled into teaching or the NCFCA. 

That's just my end of it. There are/have been multiple collaborations through Image, some born out of the Glen. (My friend Gareth Higgins did a special issue to which he invited me to contribute.) The Ecumenical Jury and Top 100 (or Top 25) have been themselves partnerships/collaborations which I've thought are/were examples of the community incarnating even though they were taking place in cyber-space. 

Perhaps part of the reason this question resonates or strikes a chord with me is that I feel like there have been periodic complaints or comments about the board being divided between "professional" critics and "others." That hasn't always been my experience, but I don't dismiss it entirely. But, then again, techne's question makes me see that this isn't necessarily a bad thing either or necessarily the result of condescension or involuntary exclusion. There will always be some people who prefer to lurk and learn. There will be some people who prefer to interact but as a social outlet. There will be some who promote their own work and network. All are useful and valid uses of the forum. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, kenmorefield said:

Perhaps part of the reason this question resonates or strikes a chord with me is that I feel like there have been periodic complaints or comments about the board being divided between "professional" critics and "others." That hasn't always been my experience, but I don't dismiss it entirely. But, then again, techne's question makes me see that this isn't necessarily a bad thing either or necessarily the result of condescension or involuntary exclusion. There will always be some people who prefer to lurk and learn. There will be some people who prefer to interact but as a social outlet. There will be some who promote their own work and network. All are useful and valid uses of the forum. 

I would say my own status as a "professional" film critic has direct roots in my lurking at A&F back in 2007 or 2008, reading forums but never commenting. I only became a member in 2010, and I've yet to reach 1000 posts after 8.5 years. Yet I discovered the Dardennes through A&F, which has led to my PhD research on their lives and work, and I'm a film critic now in ways I never anticipated a decade ago. It's taken a lot of listening, learning, and self-growth to move from lurker to a more vocal participant. But I believe one can be an active and engaged listener--both online and in person--without always having to speak. So, regarding the question of mentors/connections, I've learned so much from reading the various film criticism perspectives from writers here--Jeff, Steven, Peter, Anders, Evan, Andrew S, Matt Page, Nick, Gareth, and many others (apologies if I forgot someone!). I've now met Joel C, Anders, Brian D, Peter, Josh H, and Nathan in person, and had a wonderful phone conversation with Andrew S. I genuinely love the A&F Ecumenical Jury, how its expanded and shifted over the few years of its existence, and the various perspectives and voices I've come to know through that list-making process. Even through its various iterations and folks' comings and goings, this feels like one of the good places on the Internet. And if any of y'all want to come to Scotland, you'll have a friend and a place to stay in St Andrews.

And Ken, while we haven't (yet) met in person, I'd also add you as a list of mentors/advocates who encouraged me to write more, accepted at least one or two posts for 1MoreFilmBlog when I was still a burgeoning critic, and pointed me towards membership in OFCS. So, if I haven't done so before publicly, thank you for your advocacy and ongoing support.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×