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The Big Picture

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I've been thinking a lot about this site in the last few days, and I've been wondering where we all see it going. What is it for? Who is it trying to serve? How can we broaden access, is that something we want to do, how can we best serve that aim / purpose? etc. We tend to do a lot of this kind of big picture stuff at our church (and it's my work) so I naturally think of things like this. I guess I wondered what everyone thought about things like this. What is our purpose and what is the best way to acheive this?

By the way in the current climate it would be easy to look for a hidden agenda. Please don't there isn't one, I just tyhink this is something it would be usful to look at.

Matt

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Great question and great timing, Matt. For me anyway, it would seem this forum is a place to discuss the arts and how they integrate with faith and life -- sorry if that seems too simple and superficial an answer, but there it is.

However, there is much more going on here, for the active participant:

- a chance to be directed to new films and new ways about thinking about them

- an opportunity to be challenged intellectually and spiritually, out of stale ways of thinking

- a chance to build relationships with people with similar interests and demonstrate Christ-like charity

Those first two have been extremely important for me - in retrospect, I was spiritually starving for these things before coming to this board. Only in the past year or so have I seen the importance of the last one, as I've gotten to know some of the people here better, and we've been given the opportunity to pray for one another.

With some of the rancor and harshness of debate lately, I'm worried as to what kind of appearance we're providing to newcomers. I hope that some of the heavy participants in some of the uglier debates can work on the size of their egos during this hiatus time -- I know I've been guilty at times here of reversing the command of having my speech full of grace and seasoned with salt, and I'm trying to work on it, too.

In thinking about it a bit more, with the current conflicts on the board, the bigger question may be: who is this board for? Is it merely for those who are paid for their writing or other artistic skills, or is it open to those with a strong interest in these subjects. The intensity and vehemence of some of the artistic debates of late can be rather off-putting for those in the latter category.

(For instance, my Sunday school class is discussing films at present, and I'd like to commend this board to folks at some point, but I'm hesitating to do so at this point, for the reasons mentioned in my last 2 paragraphs.)

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One simple reason for me to come here is merely to be part of conversations that I can't have anywhere else, with similarly-interested people. This is my street-corner, my coffee shop, my pub (that one was for you, Matt!).

When people become passionate about their viewpoint, it's not surprising, not unexpected, and not really a big concern. I guess I sometimes have chimed in with an occasional "calm down" (as I would in a coffee-shop setting, to carry the analogy), but I'm not looking for closely moderated discussion. I really believe each of us needs to hold ourselves to account, to strive for kindness in our conversation, especially since body language and tone of voice are absent in this forum. (Experienced moderators (not me) may know that certain controls are necessary, but I for one am willing to hear full conversations.)

The best things about this board is the serious treatment of film as art, and exposure to films, CDs and books that I otherwise would miss, as well as viewpoints that I wouldn't hear any other way. Thank goodness Jeff raved about Stevie, for example, because it nudged me to watch a screener that I initially set aside. These primary (for me) functions rely on the continued participation of serious critics, reviewers, writers and artists; their participation will rely, as will yours and mine, on a welcoming, stimulating environment.

One of the main ways I use this thread is for research and (obviously) discussion, especially for films as I watch. It's great to be able to explore a film through these conversations -- almost like going to the theatre with friends. I do find some threads hard to find, or multiple threads on the same film, so I'd love to see a directory of threads by film title. That way, someone wishing to comment on Big Fish or The Passion of the Christ could -- instead of searching for threads -- simply go to "B" or "P", select the film from a list of titles that have been discussed, and add their two bits.

And I also enjoy ancilliary conversations with people whose acquaintance I've made here -- chatting about TAR with Ann, Mark, crimsonline, et al, or hearing about Leary's research. Yup, I like the regulars at this here coffeeshop.

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However, there is much more going on here, for the active participant:

- a chance to be directed to new films and new ways about thinking about them

- an opportunity to be challenged intellectually and spiritually, out of stale ways of thinking

- a chance to build relationships with people with similar interests and demonstrate Christ-like charity

Those first two have been extremely important for me - in retrospect, I was spiritually starving for these things before coming to this board.  Only in the past year or so have I seen the importance of the last one, as I've gotten to know some of the people here better, and we've been given the opportunity to pray for one another.

One simple reason for me to come here is merely to be part of conversations that I can't have anywhere else, with similarly-interested people. This is my street-corner, my coffee shop, my pub (that one was for you, Matt!).

....

The best things about this board is the serious treatment of film as art, and exposure to films, CDs and books that I otherwise would miss, as well as viewpoints that I wouldn't hear any other way.

Excellent responses, Andrew and Tim. I couldn't articulate my own viewpoint any better.

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For what it's worth.

I first discovered this forum four years and three incarnations ago, and it came at the perfect time. My wife and I were both growing frustrated by our small group Bible study and, in particular, (if I may make a sweeping, completely unfair generalization) by the group's laziness. After several years together, we had slipped into that comfortable routine of reading a chapter together, working through some discussion questions, taking prayer requests, and sipping coffee. We had developed this habit of reducing the ambiguities of the Bible into easily-digestible and comforting platitudes. And it was just about to make me crazy.

At the same time, I had begun to dig into world cinema, working my way through the Sight and Sound Critics Poll with some people on another, "secular" forum. By the time I hit Cries and Whispers, Winter Light, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Ordet, and Andrei Rublev, I was desperate to find some Christians to share these films with. And I found them at this forum. Many of us were discovering the radical potential of these films then. I can honestly say that my faith was strengthened greatly by those discussions and at a moment when the more traditional practices of contemporary evangelical life were doing me more harm than good.

I've taken two long sabbaticals from the forum since then. The first was caused by my embarrassment with the way I behaved during the months leading up to the Iraq war. I won't rehash those arguments here, but suffice it to say I won

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Alright, I'm old enough to admit it. I'm somewhat of an intellectual dilletant. I've always had wide interests and (Andrew take note) little focus in my intellectual wanderings. What I always found, in younger days, was good fellowship with bright people of solid opinions, even when violently disagreeing with them on some of them. I found that there was still something that could be shared, maybe in other areas wher views were more common. Maybe in some exploration of a thing or concept some of us stumbled on together. That pretty much sums up my college DNF. Then I got married.

Hardly a Bible study even as exciting as some of Darren's. Try to spice it up and you get kicked out. When I found this place, I was pretty much unchurched and unconcerned about it. The guy I occasionally wrote film reviews for gently chided me for this, but he's not much of a forceful chider. It is all of you that kept me in the game, even when I was the lone "C" word. I was used to that, so no problem. I kinda got burned out on much of the film discussion because my tastes never really conformed to the crowd here and you all weren't always convincing me that it should.

STILL. What is great here. I mean REALLY GREAT here, is the coming together of folks from all over with often dovetailing at best views on practically anything. Yes there is learned discussion on much of modern film and music, and even a little bit of literature. There is also incredibly learned discussion of Process Theology and Open Theology going on as well. Not all of our political discourse has been hostile. Heh, some of our aesthetic discourse has veared close to hostile. Heck, I lurked through some of it and got singed myself. What is great about this place is that vibrant minds can clash and not clash and broaden each other on practically anything that would get angry stares if brought up in church Adult Education (trust me, I've had plenty of 'em and more rolled eyes and groans than anyone can count).

Healing. God always provides it, anytime, anywhere. He also pitches my habitual stupidity and self absorbtion into the deepest sea and waits for me to realise that we can begin again, afresh together. I'm realising this a little quicker these days. OTOH, sometimes in trying to mirror God's patience with me, maybe I'm too soft when I could be more firm in conflict. Sometimes I lash out in protection of old wounds long healed out of habit. See above in this paragraph for His response.

What we need are folks who are willing to engage each other and give and expect a little slack. Some of us are highly accomplished in our fields, some of us on the way, some of us intimately acquainted with failure. If we all met at a bar, we'd prbably wonder who all the wierdos are, but we met here and we have the ability to inspre, challenge, and bring each other along here. The important thing is to actually be willing to do it together and be willing to actually forgive each other of the mortal offense ohmy.gif of disagreeing on stuff, even passionately held, long held stuff. Gentlemen and ladies, not to provide as much of the Grace within us as possible to each other, regardless, is how the Spirit is quenched in any fellowship, Reformed, Wesleyan, sacramental, pentacostal. This is how the Spirit is quenched, doesn't matter where. Why quench it here? LOOK WHO ALL WE HANG OUT WITH HERE!!!!! We shouldn't be moping about what happened before. We should be about constantly beginning again and giving each other a break, because we all will be needing it constantly.

I'm done. Sorry for the sermon.

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What would you suggest? It is newsworthy and worthy of comment, isn't it? If not, how do you propose 'policing' people who innocently find it so?

Alan, trying to answer those questions has given me a new appreciation for your job. I don't envy it. wink.gif

I saw Matt's opening post as an invitation to talk a bit about why I keep coming back, day after day, after all these years. Rich is right, of course, that it has much to do with the variety of conversations that goes on here and the types of relationships that emerge from them.

But, while there are a wealth of entertainment sites and religious forums out there, and while there is no end of sites where one might argue politics, I do think that the depth and breadth of the film discussion is what really sets this place apart. And it's no coincidence, I think, that that is also where the most vitriolic exchanges occur. Which is to say, if this period signals some kind of transition phase (and maybe it doesn't), then it seems that the film discussion is the one area that demands our most serious attention.

The only practical suggestion I've come up with so far is that you and the other administrators might consider discouraging members from starting threads that simply link elsewhere without comment. I figure that if a story is worth having its own thread, then the thread-starter should at least feel some obligation to justify why he or she thinks it's worthy of our attention. This forum should be about fostering discussion rather than posting announcements. Isn't that why we all have blogs now? Talk about a technology perfectly suited for soundbites and navel-gazing. wink.gif

Of course, all of this is just one man's opinion. I genuinely appreciate your hard work, Alan, and have benefited greatly from it over the years.

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Here is what this forum has meant to me:

My movie-love didn't really take off in a quantitative sense until I got a DVD player in '99. We liked great movies, and I'd seen a pretty wide range of things while in college, but most of my time spent in actively looking for movie info and discussion was directed toward genre and sci-fi stuff. James Bond, Star Wars, superheroes, Indiana Jones. On occasion somebody at the more genre-centered websites I'd frequent would mention films I'd never seen, and I'd do a little digging and see something that would blow my mind.

I'd always wondered what a specifically Christian film aesthetic would look like; most specifically, whether the films would be significantly different from what I'd come to appreciate from otherfilmmakers. In early 2001 I found The Decalogue, then later on that year The Passion of Joan of Arc. I was blown away by those films, but my outlet for discussing them was pretty limited. I wasn't looking specifically for Christian conversation on them-- I didn't really have access to much of any kind of conversation about them (though I'm not claiming I looked all that hard). I started talking up Babette's Feast to some people at church and showed it at another church. I posted something about it in a topic at the Home Theater Forum directed toward the question of "Why are Religious Movies So Bad?", which took as its point of departure all the rapture movies, etc. From there I was linked to an earlier iteration of this forum, and I've had the following amazing blessings as a result:

I've seen way over a hundred movies I'd never known about, and am looking to see many, many more. I looked via google but couldn't find the thread where I was flooded with Netflix recommendations that have absolutely changed me. The list is pretty staggering.

More than just seeing the films, though, I've had an opportunity to meaningfully work through them with the people here in a spirit of friendly but rigorous dialogue. Yes, some of those dialogues have been more productive than others, and I regret my part in any of them becoming unproductive, but the ratio of good ones to not-good ones is very, very slanted.

Last, I've met a number of people here who will be my friends forever. Many of them I've met personally, and many more I will meet personally someday.

It's no exaggeration to say that this forum is one of the most significant influences in my experience.

Alan, I understand what you're saying with regard to celebrity sleaze quotes and related stuff, and I'm not sure I can give you any particular advice about setting down a rule for how to "police" discussion except for this one: this forum is greatest from the inside, and looks best from the outside, when we rise above the stuff that characterizes (1) Christian ghetto pile-ons and (2) the celebrity worship cult. I know I've said things here and elsewhere that I shouldn't have, so I'm not the paragon of virtue, but that Will Smith thing bugged me for the same reason that the threads devoted to the former Governor of New Jersey bugged me. It's an invitation to pile-on with no real purpose. We all know what behavior pleases God, and there's no one here who'd defend Will Smith's decision to write infidelity into his marriage as a moral or beneficial decision, or defend a sex-for-employment blackmail racket as anything other than a sad and corrupt end. With that sort of consensus in hand, the potential for any sort of productive discussion is so overwhelmingly outweighed by the potential for crude jokes, self-righteous proclamations and tsk-tsking that does nothing but play to all sort of negative stereotypes about uptight and judgmental Christians to a non-Christian who happens upon the site. I have no problem with looking stereotypically Christian when it matters, but it doesn't seem to me that occasions of celebrity sin even remotely matter. I know and you know that marriages are in trouble without looking at the pages of Variety. To the extent this sort of moralistic shooting-fish-in-a-barrel is tolerated or initiated by the Board leadership, I see it as a structural weakness.

Going to Matt's other question re: what do we want to see out of the forum: I want to see the participants of this forum continue to discuss the very best of film art in the very best way. I want each of us to experience God's truth and God's beauty in more profound and abiding ways as a result of the films we see and the interactions we have. I'd like new people to find this place and contribute in a way which deepens their faith.

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New to this forum, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to talk with others who do what we do - comment on the spiritual values presented in film. Part of what I love is the passion with which people make their case. To know that there are people who care deeply about our Lord and deeply love film is a joy - whether they do it full-time for pay or part time just for love. I benefit greatly from the insights of both.

I come here looking for the opportunity to "think through" the ministry that I have and do it more effectively - not just as a Christian commentator, but as a film viewer. But it helps me to have people who do both, in a thoughtful way, as this forum does. I can find Christians who count nude scenes and secular reviews that praise "novel" nude scenes just because its never been done that way but it degrades us. What I want are thoughtful Christians who help me see the films and the values and the theologies and the art and the impact and.... ALL together.

It is my prayer that all of us can overcome our "humanity" and join together as Christians in what I think is one of the most important ministries the church should be doing in our day - giving guidance to the viewing of films, both before we view them (reviews) and after we view them (commentary).

Denny

Edited by Denny Wayman

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Alan and Russ,

I can see both sides of the issue for having a thread about celebrities and their personal lives. Although I find no interest in this and would seldom participate in such a conversation, there are many people who make "celebrity worship" a cult.

To have respectful Christian writers thinking through what happens to the souls of our actors - who often play parts, for example, of getting married to another beautiful actor or actress on screen and then in real life get confused about their feelings for their real-life-mate. That is an area of guidance that would be valuable - but probably more to the actor's guild than to the general public.

But having said that I agree with Russ when he says:

"It's an invitation to pile-on with no real purpose. We all know what behavior pleases God, and there's no one here who'd defend Will Smith's decision to write infidelity into his marriage as a moral or beneficial decision, or defend a sex-for-employment blackmail racket as anything other than a sad and corrupt end. With that sort of consensus in hand, the potential for any sort of productive discussion is so overwhelmingly outweighed by the potential for crude jokes, self-righteous proclamations and tsk-tsking that does nothing but play to all sort of negative stereotypes about uptight and judgmental Christians to a non-Christian who happens upon the site. "

What do we say on this site to one another that is actually beneficial? I suppose we could use it as "examples" of "lives not lived in God's power" and the "consequences of this." But that is what films do. We don't need to get personal about the actors and actresses. We need to pray for them when the only films they are offered are ones that put their souls in danger. We need to pray for the writers and directors to invite them to participate in uplifting films.

I think of Don Cheadle. In HOTEL RWANDA he had the opportunity to "BE" a man of conviction and integrity and a deeply faithful loving husband. In AFTER THE SUNSET he played an evil gangster who objectified and degraded women in addition to being a thief and murderer.

Denny

Edited by Denny Wayman

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Without detracting from the significant, primary purpose of this thread, I'll jump in to say that I would have no problem with a 'celebrity news thread', though I think it could have good and bad outcomes. Russ is right, it could be merely a forum to sneer at excess or failure, and I think it could also be mere gossip -- even 'bearing false witness'. I would hope any postings in such an area would be truthful (and honoring).

But I do think that the nature of the film business trades in celebrity and notoriety, and that film is often better understood when we know the people behind it. When I write about or discuss film it is VERY helpful for me to understand some of the back-story of those involved. Would a music writer benefit from understanding the personal journey of an artist in discussing a disc? Usually, I'd say, as per our Sam Philips discussion.

Edited by Tim Willson

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Well, to start, the content of that thread is outside of what I was railing against-- namely, threads devoted to pointing out the immoral acts of others.

I guess I've set myself up as the judge of whether threads are worthy. I don't think I intended to do so, and I've certainly participated in and enjoyed some fairly frivolous threads (read: those started by stef loy and involving Mandy Moore). Well, I guess if asked to adjudicate that thread, I'd say it doesn't really offend me, but it doesn't interest me, either.

First, one problem both Christians and non-Christians fall into is identifying someone within the faith and then immediately asking how the person squares X role or Y nude scene with their faith. Yes, we have much responsibility as the bearers of Christ's name, but it's the sort of question we can so easily ask of others but so reluctantly ask of ourselves. I just don't want to do it.

Second, apart from trivia, it has pretty much no effect on my enjoyment of art to be made conscious of which people are playing for the home team. I certainly can't bring myself to enjoy a lot of bad Christian art simply by virtue of the fact that the makers are believers. There have been a couple of occasions where I thought some critic or other was trying to rain on my parade by insisting that Kieslowski was an atheist, or that Dreyer had no actual interest in faith, or that Bresson was an agnostic, and I simply decided I was going to judge them by their works. I'll leave their souls to them and God.

And, partly in response to Tim's post, I think there's a significant difference between biographical criticism and the sort of unfettered celeb news that passes for movie journalism these days. Knowing that he spent years in a German prison camp before having his wife murdered by the Manson clan before he fled the country on a statutory rape charge provides integral insight into Roman Polanski's work. On the other hand, I've heard no one argue that knowing about Will Smith's marital adjustments or Keanu Reeves's view of spirituality had any appreciable effect on understanding their latest movies.

I'd like this group-- the people on this forum-- to be savvy enough to recognize that Hollywood celebrities rarely say anything insightful or telling about their work, and that what they say about their work is usually tied to some sort of cross-marketing promotional purpose. Will Smith isn't talking about his view of marital commitment in November, when he doesn't have a movie out. He's doing it now, so that his movie gets publicity. If we're going to look to biographical information as a relevant source of insight-- and we think we can distinguish ourselves from the infotainment consumers who buy People magazine and watch E! News Daily-- it seems to me we have to look at separating it from what are tantamount to publicist's press releases.

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It's hard to expand upon what's been said. And I started to skim over even the most beautifully written posts I saw because they were lengty and often stating the same things, and this is my spring break - good and valuable things about this site. So, I'm going to post my thoughts in bullet form to give them more importance and attention that they probably deserve:

This website has caused me to:

-> See countless great films (especially foreigns and those from before 1970)

-> Write film reviews for four separate publications and even receive moneys from said organizations

-> Begin an Exploring Films ourse at my the Christian High School where I am a teacher - in which 70 students who had not seen anything deeper than "Dude Where's My Car? have seen and loved, Lynch, Welles, Hitchcock, Miyazaki, Redford, Mann, Besson, and others.

-> Vote in the 2004 Preseidetial Election - my first.

-> Choose a church based on my desire for intelligent faith. (I investigated and ultimately attended a PCA church as a resut of the discussion here)

Therefore, I think the following:

-> We should be wary of limiting any discussions purely for subject matter. As long as they are kept neatly out of the wat of the central purpose discussions, it is often the rabbit trails that are the richest, even if by accident.

-> We are unfortunately made up of a bunch of humans. And we often lose our temper. However, I think the three strikes policy may be harsh. (Perhaps it would be wise to have a small group - 2 or three other than alan - to help determine detrimental coments or personal attacks.) Even when Alan makes a great call, he's unsupported in his decision if he has to make the call himself.

-> Rich Kennedy is remarkably attractive.

-> I like the intermingling of great, prolific, amateur and idiot critics here. And the discussion here acts as its own filter. Like any group, if you don't like the conversation in one small setting, move to a different part of the room. you're more likely to hear something you like here, than any other room on the web.

->I have to help my wife grill the chicken now or she'll get really pissed.

Edited by DanBuck

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While I used to post every once in a while, I pretty much lurk on a consistent basis (I hit the site at least a couple of times a week for the past couple of years) so in some ways I feel a part of the board, but I also feel pretty distant since it's a one way street of communication. But this thread pushed me out of voyeurism to reply to issue of the big picture.

I have really appreciated the discussions on the board. Without trying to rehash the issue of professional critics, I have found discussions of films that are less "Hollywood" more rewarding. I think this is because that by a time a film, say like Constantine, comes out, there really isn't much to say (not that there was much to say any ways) - it's all been covered. So I just lurk and learn - and I have learned so much from reading this board. It could also be that indie and European films tend to speak more to me and my artistic sensibilities. So I pretty much skip over the Passion threads and the U2 threads in favor of less mainstream fair. Which brings me to what I appreciate so much about this board - I have been exposed to so many films I would never have heard of, much less considered seeing.

The comments in this thread have motivated me a bit to be a part of the discussion. (I would like to say that I will start posting, but as is usual in my life, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions.") Theologically I understand and appreciate the importance of community as my faith matures. Sometimes it's easy to just wall flower it and sit on the side lines. But I am so grateful that there is a group of believers who are wrestling with the issues associated with faith, art and culture and allow others to look on. If only I could find other such people in Madison...

So I hope this board keeps up the critical and artistic discussion about film and the arts. While I may wander to blogs to hear what individuals say or check out EW.com for the latest gossip, I will always come to Arts and Faith for dialogue and discussion, which for me is the best way to learn.

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This community has changed my life. I cannot even count the ways.

I met Doug on the original chia-threads nearly five years ago. I am a completely different person today than I was back then, and I'm proud of most of the change. Because of this site I can actually string a sentence together. Because of this site I no longer fear my own views. Because of this site, I do not fear changing my own views when I realize that I am wrong. And I have been wrong now, for 35 years, but becasue of this site I've learned that I'd rather be "good" than "right." Because of this site, I received new vision for my life, when my older, quite realized dream was fading "like a watch still ticking on a dead man's wrist." My mind has been challenged and shaped by everyone here, and I've been given more opportunity to try to find my own voice and grow here than I have anywhere else. People have put up with my rants, my judgements, my poor sense of humor, my lack of control and my terribly fat looking pictures that end up on Flickerings sites. (I am going back down to 135 lbs starting NOW, after looking at that picture, thanks a freaking lot, Alan.) I am back in school and will some day be a college professor because of this site, and it was this community that led me to one of the best friends I've ever had in life, and we dragged another friend to the boards right along with us. (m)Leary and Asher have nurtured me in so many ways that I would be negligent and irresponsible if I didn't mention them by name.

I love everyone here. (Even you, Alan.) And I have been destroyed at the thought that some of the so-called "Big Dawgs" will not be around for some time. One can only hope that their departure will be much like Darren's, and that time will eventually bring them back to us.

I have maintained for two or three years now that this site is more important than any other on the internet, that the people that come here will learn how to change culture, both "Christian," whatever that means, and secular. I hope to see many of us here when we are 70 years old (if my worn out lungs can make it that far), feeling good at what we've accomplished over the years. If there is ever going to be a change in the way people of faith have learned to perceive art, the change begins right here, right now, Thy Kingdom come!

-s.

Edited by stef

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The comments in this thread have motivated me a bit to be a part of the discussion. (I would like to say that I will start posting, but as is usual in my life, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions.") Theologically I understand and appreciate the importance of community as my faith matures.
Edited by Rich Kennedy

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I realize I'm not the most active poster on the forum - I usually just drop in something about offbeat anime or Asian film wierdness (or Sufjan Stevens), and call it good - but I can honestly say that, even with its shakeups and flaws, this forum is among one of the most mature and upstanding places I've ever come across on the Web.

You know, I hear about heated threads and nasty discussions, so I go check them out to see what's going on, and I find myself wondering just what in the world everyone is making a big stink about. Admittedly, what transpires on here may just be the tip of iceberg. But when I compare that to other forums I've frequented that can get just downright mean and where personal baggage is often tossed about on a regular basis, I find myself marvelling at the dialog that goes on here (and find myself equally saddened when this forum does lean towards that end of the spectrum).

I'm not trying to simply write off things that have happened here, and if there issues that need to be resolved than let them be resolved quickly. But at the same time, I think we need realize just how good we have it here. Compared to the glut of crap that pervades the Internet, especially when it comes to film-related sites, this place is an oasis.

I will admit that I often feel a bit intimidated when I come on here. But at the same time, I consistently find myself challenged to think that much more deeply about, um, Arts and Faith. Seriously, these place is a freakin' treasure trove of discussion, criticism, and analysis (I'm still chewing on stuff from the Bresson threads). When I was leading a film discussion group, I looked to this forum for pointers on just how to go about doing so, because I wanted to avoid all of the typical Christian film discussion cliches. And, more often than not, I found what I needed to do. And like Stef, this site has forced me to become a better writer for my own reviews, blogging, etc.

What's more, while I don't know too many of you, I really appreciate the fact that I do feel somewhat included. It's so encouraging to see people that I've never met get excited about my upcoming marriage, or to offer help when it comes to buying a home, or to share their current struggles and see people respond with mercy and prayer. I love seeing photos of people's kids, of hearing about people's academic studies. And it's very humbling that people think my views on Hero or OldBoy or Miyazaki are worth listening to. And I look forward to the day when I do get to meet some of you face-to-face, be it at a hot, dusty tent in Bushnell, IL or in a smoky pub.

Seriously folks... even with the recent stresses and issues (which certainly need to be dealt with), we have it very good here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some crazy ninja films to watch. biggrin.gif

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You know, I hear about heated threads and nasty discussions, so I go check them out to see what's going on, and I find myself wondering just what in the world everyone is making a big stink about.
Edited by coltrane

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I think I'm very much like Nate - in my current situation, I find myself constantly fighting people who constantly put down any type of artistic expression except for what is pragmatic for church use. It is comforting for me to find a group of people who think and interact with artistic output as much as I do. I cannot tell you how much I've grown as a person, as a Christian, and as a musician/artist because of the consistant dialogue on this board.

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I really love this site especially because it disproves two common, and lazy, opinions.

1. The one held by Christians who feel that moral value is the sole criterion by which to judge a work of art.

2. The one held by secular people who feel that all believers hold opinion 1.

When you think about it it's bizarre the condescension of the secular community towards sites like this given that a great deal of Western Art was created in a specifically religious context and can't really be understood otherwise.

Just to finish, I'll mention Bresson because I think of him, if you'll excuse the expression, as the patron saint of this site and he's provoked much of the best writing.

Au Hasard Balthazar is one of the greatest movies ever made. However, and this is just an opinion, someone who doesn't believe that the characters will be redeemed by grace must find it metaphysically bleak beyond belief. Discussion of that film, and Ordet and most of Tarkovsky and Bergman, without a genuine engagement with the religious themes is, almost pointless. It seems to me that only on this site do you get those particular visionary film-makers seen in their totality. It's a great site.

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One great thing about this thread is that it seems like most everybody who is posting here to express what they love about this forum is mentioning specifically the things I think are best about it. And nobody's mentioning the things that I think aren't so great-- the things that you can get just about anywhere else.

For example, look at the number of people who have mentioned how this forum has exposed them to Bresson, Tarkovsky, Dreyer and others, or exposed them to a great place to discuss and synthesize those works.

Nobody, in contrast, is bringing up that they enjoy this place because they value a place to talk about summer blockbuster movies, or to talk at length about box office, or about celebrities who are talked about ad nauseum in every other form of media.

I think that's telling. And very, very encouraging.

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I think folks are saying more than just that, Russ. I just scanned through the whole thread before doing this and many are expressing appreciation for an elevated discussion of the arts in general, not just film. Commercial is not just "pop" as Wilder, Hitchcock, Soderberg, and plenty of others can attest. The same with Beethoven, Mozart, U2, and Hendrix. It is the elevated discussion by those of us of faith and not the counting of offenses, real and imagined on screen and possibly in lyrics that also sets us apart.

Even more important, some have confessed to bringing in the off the wall for discussion and have been impressed by how laconicly we can contend against each other on baser subjects too and take it all in stride. Something that the "higher minded" threads can emulate.

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Hm. It's a little late to post, I guess, but I'll do it anyway.

When I first came to this site (Jason suggested it -- blame him!) I admit I was a little put off. The title was "Arts & Faith", but after looking through everything it seemed a more accurate title was "Movies reviewed by Christian Critics," because that did seem to be its focus.

Now, that was just a knee-jerk reaction, and obviously there is a whole lot more here than that. But it does still seem like the board leans in that direction, mostly because (in my opinion) that is where the majority of the experience of the active posters can be found.

It's not, alas, where a large majority of *my* experience lies. I'm an artist -- writer and musician primarily -- and I'm not really interested in criticizing other people's work, at least not any more than "I liked it" or "I didn't like it." At one point in time I was indirectly criticized for spending too much time in the politics forum, but you know, my artistic endeavours come directly out of what I believe, and as such I spend a lot of time in areas where my beliefs intersect with the real world. I don't, as a rule, spend a lot of time talking about the things I'm actively working on, save with a few friends...

... knee-jerk survival instinct #24 for artists is "never discuss something you're actively working on in front of an opinionated critic." smile.gif

All that relatively mild criticism aside (*I* think it's relatively mild) I think this is a fabulous site -- fabulous enough that I was willing to pony up the dough to become a member... and I'm extraordinarily cheap about those kinds of things, so that actually says a lot. *That* said, I'm not entirely sure what role the artist actually has on this board, other than the role of artist-as-critic. But I'm not sure if there's really any other effective kind of role an artist can take.

Well... that's all I can think to say at the moment. I hope it didn't come off sounding negative, because that wasn't my intent. This is a great board -- despite numerous frictions with... well... just about everyone here, I do keep coming back. But I do wonder about which aspects of discussing the arts make a better fit here than others.

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