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Blue Like Jazz (2012)

Steve Taylor Christian film

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#141 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:47 AM

I'm a little surprised that no one here has linked to that Atlantic article that Josh linked to on Facebook yet ('Why 'Blue Like Jazz' Won't Save Christian Cinema'), but anyhoo, there it is.

At Facebook, I re-linked to the article, and added the comment:

Thirty years ago, Christianity Today reviewed a Billy Graham movie called The Prodigal and concluded, "An encounter with Christ should propel the action, not end it." Now it looks like the next generation of Christian movie is earning a different sort of critique: "From what I've witnessed—in the Bible, in my own life, and in the lives of those around me—an encounter with God elicits a desire to share the good news, not to say sorry for it."


Scott then added a comment noting that, as he sees it at least (I haven't seen the film myself, because it hasn't played anywhere in Canada yet), the apology at the end of the film is misrepresented here, since the character in question does not apologize for the good news but for something else.

Steve Taylor wrote:
: Exhibit A: The Executive Pastor of Sherwood Baptist (where the Kendricks Brothers movies are produced) issued what amounts to a fatwa against Blue Like Jazz when he made it known that nobody who worked on our movie would be allowed to work with them in the future.

Just wondering, did anybody ever figure out why, exactly, a church that produces movies with an almost all-volunteer, non-professional crew would have ever issued a statement like this? Was Blue Like Jazz itself relying strongly on volunteers?

Nick Alexander wrote:
: Having read the book (and disagreeing w it somewhat at the time, without remembering why), wouldn't a proper comparison be that documentary " Lord Save Us From Your Followers"?

Oh! oh!, THAT'S the movie whose title I was trying to remember earlier today, during those Facebook discussions regarding the appropriateness of the climactic "apology".

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 17 April 2012 - 02:48 AM.


#142 Greg P

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:45 AM

I'll have a conversation with Steve Taylor later this week. I might bring it up, for amusement, but I want to find out what *he* wants to talk about at this point.

Send him overe here! Why can't A&F with all its Image-muscle and cred, invite various artists like Steve to do a realtime "Ask Me Anything" thread, ala Reddit?

#143 Thom Wade

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 08:09 AM

Baffled, I replied like so:

If I am listed as an associate producer, that's news to me! I didn't donate a penny to the effort. At one point, I was asked to be a script consultant, but I was under deadline for my novel and had to politely refuse. I'm guessing it's a coincidence, and somebody else has my name, or else ... well, frankly, I don't know what other explanation there might be. I'm interviewing Steve Taylor later this week. Maybe he can shed some light on this. (Forgive me, but I didn't take the time to read that long list of names. It was a very, very long list, and I was paying attention to the music credits that were going by simultaneously.)


To be continued...


Did you contribute to the Kickstarter campaign they did for the movie? Nearly everyone who did is listed as an "associate producer".

#144 Overstreet

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:39 AM

As I said, I didn't donate a penny to the effort.

Edited by Overstreet, 17 April 2012 - 09:39 AM.


#145 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:58 AM

I read Miller's book (wow, it's almost been a decade ago) and really liked it. Then, over the years, as I thought about and discussed it more, and as I read other authors more, I grew into disliking it. Now, I hestitate to recommend or condemn the book. It's still got some good questions, some quite unhelpful generalizations, and may have reached required reading status just as a purely educational/cultural frame of reference now.

... even though Steve doesn't want it to be labeled a Christian film, that's what it is. It's a good Christian film, but that might make it the tallest midget in the room. The film has some significant flaws, no doubt -- it may be a great deal better than his first film, but it is still feels quite a ways short of being a great film or a film for all film lovers. The audience for this movie is exceedingly small - but I'm in that demographic, which is why I liked it as much as I did. But conservative Christians will hate its liberalism and tolerance preaching, while most Christians open-minded enough or left-leaning enough to appreciate it won't bother to see it because there are too many other top-quality films out there for them to see.

The thing that bothers me the most about this film is purely personal. From all the previews and trailers, this is absolutely not the kind of, or quality of, a film I'd be interested in. Because of the Christian content, it is a film I'm interested in. I am contradicting myself?

My review ballooned into an essay.

And your review is probably convincing everyone here into seeing the film. But I can't help but get the impression that your argument is that in terms of film quality, it's not worth seeing, but in terms for purposes of Christian discussion, it is worth seeing.

For another thing, the films themselves have radically different perspectives: one poses difficult questions about the shifting faces of good and evil in a resolutely post-Christian society, while the other, I gather, seeks to offer reasons not to give up on Christianity. When a film is made by Christians and purports to be about Christianity, then it is appropriate for a Christian reviewer to apply theological questions that probably aren't very useful for other types of films. That does not amount to a double standard.

A Girl with a Dragon Tattoo "poses difficult questions"?

Actually, my assumption here that your comment reminds me of again is that I'm a Christian and that, therefore, I ought to see films made by Christians which purport to be about Chrisitianity. I thought I didn't have this assumption anymore. I thought I'd chucked it. Blue Like Jazz is reminding me that it's still been there this whole time.

I'm a little surprised that no one here has linked to that Atlantic article that Josh linked to on Facebook yet ('Why 'Blue Like Jazz' Won't Save Christian Cinema')...

And it's a good review, btw. Barkhorn makes you ask what the film could have been and then points out a few simple things that, if it hadn't refused to do them, would have made the film so much more interesting. Oh good grief, now there's a "pro-life subgenre"?

Steve Taylor wrote:
: Exhibit A: The Executive Pastor of Sherwood Baptist (where the Kendricks Brothers movies are produced) issued what amounts to a fatwa against Blue Like Jazz when he made it known that nobody who worked on our movie would be allowed to work with them in the future.

Just wondering, did anybody ever figure out why, exactly, a church that produces movies with an almost all-volunteer, non-professional crew would have ever issued a statement like this? Was Blue Like Jazz itself relying strongly on volunteers?

It only tangentially related to their filmmaking. It's the sort of thing they do in regards to all aspects of life, like boycotting Target or Walmart if it turns out that some CEO's nephew's girlfriend's aunt donated some money to Planned Parenthood.

I was hoping I could just ignore this film. Pretend, on the weakness of the trailers, that it wasn't worth another look. Then you guys had to come along with all your reviews and discussion.

#146 Thom Wade

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:02 AM

Hmmm...then that would not explain it. I do not see anyone named Overstreet in the general producer credits.I am wondering where this person saw a Jeffrey Overstreet in the credits. Unless another effrey Overstreet contributed to Kickstarter. How wierd.

#147 mrmando

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:26 PM

A Girl with a Dragon Tattoo "poses difficult questions"?

"Where is the moral center in a secular society?" might be such a question ... but, you know, maybe that's my question and not the film's. Anyhow...

#148 Gina

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:13 PM

My review's up.

http://www.breakpoin...s/entry/4/19227

#149 Bob Lamonta

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:35 PM

Hello. I stumbled upon your forum while obsessing over reviews of the Blue Like Jazz movie. I worked on the film, and I expected a wide variety of responses, but I must say I've been surprised by how angry it has made some people. The A.V. Club review is my personal favorite (and not simply because it's a positive notice from the notoriously fickle Nabin), but because it seemed to appreciate the film as a fun, small indie that tackles some big ideas you don't normally see addressed at the multiplex. Nothing more or less. I absolutely cannot speak for Steve or Don or Ben or any of the others who labored on the film, but I was always under the impression that this was our primary goal. Also, and this is a question I'll likely never have answered, but I'd love to know the median age of the critics (and audience members) who have been the most passionate supporters or detractors of the film. This always seemed like a movie for college kids and was crafted with them in mind. I honestly didn't expect people over 30 to give it much thought, but that was clearly naive on my part. Again, this is all my personal take and should no way be construed as a reflection of Steve or Don's thoughts or intent.

Edited to note that of all my family and friends who've seen the movie, the people who were most enthusiastic (I know the difference between perfunctory praise and genuine kudos) were my friends who have no interest in church, never heard of this book, have never seen anything resembling a "Christian" movie. I don't know what that is worth (if anything), but to a person, all those folks who were really into it are people who told me they rarely, if ever, think about God, religion, et. al.

Edited by Bob Lamonta, 17 April 2012 - 05:06 PM.


#150 Attica

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:21 PM

Edited to note that of all my family and friends who've seen the movie, the people who were most enthusiastic (I know the difference between perfunctory praise and genuine kudos) were my friends who have no interest in church, never heard of this book, have never seen anything resembling a "Christian" movie. I don't know what that is worth (if anything), but to a person, all those folks who were really into it are people who told me they rarely, if ever, think about God, religion, et. al.

Hi Bob. Welcome.

That's interesting. Thanks for sharing. I haven't seen the film so I shouldn't say to much. But my observation is that the film is going beyond the possibility of being an indie film geared towards college kids to becoming a vehicle for people to make points furthering their positions in the ongoing culture debate, as well as the debate/discussion between "liberal" and "conservative" Christianity (I use those terms loosely because for me they are starting to become more and more confused and meaningless). Also, as a vehicle for Christians to touch on the contemporary discussion of Christian art, which is relevant to this film. Not that I necessarily think that any of this is wrong in and of itself, but I'm not sure how many folks are viewing the film through the lense of how a college student or someone not particularily interested in religion or God might see it. Which is too bad.... especially if that was part of the filmmakers intentions.

Edited by Attica, 17 April 2012 - 05:35 PM.


#151 Overstreet

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:21 PM

I most certainly did not say it isn't worth seeing because of "film quality." I had fun, beginning to end. I just said it's not a "great work of art." I also praised the cast, the comedy, the imaginative sets, the music, the Portland specificity... but that's all in the review for those paying attention. I found it to be a very engaging, high-spirited comedy, and I laughed out loud several times, which rarely happens. It's bumpy and stylistically uneven, but not so much that it spoiled the experience.

Edited by Overstreet, 17 April 2012 - 05:22 PM.


#152 Overstreet

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:26 PM

By the way, back to the issue of whether or not I need to declare that I'm an "associate producer" ... I asked Steve whether or not my name is in the credits, and if so, why. He says:

I put you in the thank you section, along with others who have provided me inspiration over the last few years, whether they knew it or not. (It is, admittedly, a pretty long list, but not as long as the 1600 Associate Producers on the right side of the screen...)


I'm surprised and grateful, and hopefully this will satisfy the fellow who's disgruntled about this.

#153 Nick Alexander

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:33 PM

THAT'S. SO. COOL.

****CONGRATULATIONS!!!!****

#154 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:46 PM

Bob Lamonta wrote:
: I honestly didn't expect people over 30 to give it much thought, but that was clearly naive on my part.

Heh. I recently saw someone post a link to something about this film on Facebook, and one of their commenters asked if this was the same Steve Taylor who did 'Smug' and 'Cash Cow'. Y'know, the songs from his COMEBACK album. I felt so old.

Speaking of which, I'm wondering if anyone who has covered this film -- which seems to tie into the culture wars on one level or another (even if only to disavow them) -- has explored how this film may or may not mark an evolution in Taylor's own approach to culture and politics etc., given that his first album, I Want to Be a Clone, very much played into the "abortion and homosexuality will be the death of our culture" side of things. (I remember asking Steve a similar question when I bumped into him at Greenbelt, easily the most "liberal" Christian music festival I've ever been to, in 1994, and I wasn't sure at the time that he had thought about the juxtaposition all that much. But that was almost 20 years ago, so...)

#155 Overstreet

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:55 PM

Along those lines... anybody have a question for Steve? I plan to interview him soon.

#156 Overstreet

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:10 PM

Speaking of interviews, here's Steve talking about the making of the movie.

We have our Christian faith, but we interact in the workplace or in school or in different environments with a culture that is not, that does not subscribe to our subculture. That’s a messy place to live, it’s a messy place to work, it’s a messy place to learn. And it’s tough navigating that environment. We wanted to show the tension that we all live in which, frankly, we feel is missing from a lot of Christian movies. And the hope is that that people would relate to that better and that it would actually give us a sense of “I’m not alone” and “there are other people like me.”

...

I saw Facing the Giants, it’s a football movie, and it struck me as like a massive version of the prosperity gospel where if you pray, God’s going to make everything perfect, that God’s going to turn your life around and it’s going to be great. And I don’t find that realistic on any level. I haven’t seen their latest movie Courageous, but I certainly think at a minimum there’s a lot more room for films that explore Christianity and issues of faith with a lot more nuance and maybe a lot less agenda-driven content or purposes.


Edited by Overstreet, 17 April 2012 - 11:24 PM.


#157 Stephen Lamb

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:16 PM

Speaking of interviews, here's Steve talking about the making of the movie.


We ended up shooting partly at Reed and partly at another campus near Vanderbilt in Nashville that looked a lot like Reed.


Um, I wonder why he didn't just say "Belmont" instead of "another campus near Vanderbilt." Did they have to promise not to mention they shot anything there?

#158 mrmando

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:37 PM

Maybe Steve's becoming forgetful in his old age.

#159 Jeremy Ratzlaff

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 12:52 AM

Along those lines... anybody have a question for Steve? I plan to interview him soon.

I'd love to hear what his vision is (if he has one in particular) for the future of faith-informed films created to engage honestly with culture. What steps does he feel the church needs to take in order to become culturally relevant by utilizing the film medium correctly, and what is the potential?

#160 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:12 AM

Eep. "Relevant"?

Speaking of which, Brett McCracken:

It’s easy to understand why Jazz felt the need to get defensive about the “Christian movie” thing. Jazz is made by Christians, based on a bestselling Christian book, and directed by a veteran of Christian rock (Steve Taylor). And there is indeed a case to be made for Jazz not being part of the “Christian film” genre: it contains quite a few s-words, a good amount of drug use, lesbians, a dope-smoking Pope, book-burning, steeple-sized condoms, and so on… all things you don’t typically see in a “Christian” movie.

But the self-aware “Hey! We’re edgier than Courageous!” undertones in Jazz–which labors to create a quirky, indie, Garden State-esque ambience of coming-of-age rebelliousness–are precisely what end up sabotaging Jazz‘ claims of being something truly different. The film–like the book, to a lesser extent–feels deliberately constructed to be “edgy,” “non-religious,” and “controversial.” Jazz goes out of its way to usurp what people expect a story about faith to be, and in the process it loses its authenticity. . . .

Ultimately, Blue Like Jazz is more like a typical “Christian movie” than it is different, which is disappointing. As is widely, embarrassingly known, Christian movies are typically characterized by amateur-looking, low-budget, undisciplined filmmaking. And Blue Like Jazz unfortunately fits that bill. Is Jazz better made than the Courageous-type Christian film? Yes, but not by much. It’s not preachy, saccharine, or “safe” in the way Courageous is, but it’s pretty much equally as minor, from a filmmaking point of view.

Talking about “Christian films” wears me out, partly because it’s such an obvious and easy target, and partly because I wonder why we are even still having this conversation. The Blue Like Jazz conversation didn’t have to be one about “Christian film,” but the filmmakers opened themselves up to it with the whole pre-release “us vs. the Christian Movie Establishment!” controversy. And sadly, Jazz falls into just as many Christian movie pitfalls as it avoids. In its own way, Jazz is just as didactic and message-heavy as Fireproof, albeit with a message that is more rough-edged, meandering and “nonreligious.” And like those other Christian movies, Jazz lacks a coherent stylistic vision and a genuine, infectious interest in beauty. . . .


Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 18 April 2012 - 01:12 AM.






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