In the film reviews I have written in recent weeks, like this one on The Kids Are All Right or this one on The King’s Speech, I have been inspired by, if not exactly modeling, some of the recent editorials in Traces as well as the flyers that have been written by Chris Basich with the help of others in Communion and Liberation. In New York last weekend, Chris spoke of these flyers and of the reasons behind them, which amount to judging current events from the perspective of what we are learning in School of Community. . . .
In attempting to judge movies, it occurs to me to ask just what we can ask of them. The answer with the lowest common denominator is, of course, entertainment, as in the contemptible TV “news” program “Entertainment Tonight” or as in “the entertainment,” the eponymous video in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, a video so mesmerizing that it causes catatonia and, because the viewer has no desire to move away from it, eventually death. Surely we can ask more of movies than this? And can we do so without moralizing, without the knee-jerk application of ratings for sex, violence, and language?
In my trolling of the Web, I have come across an interesting blog that I will follow from now on, from the Brehm Center at Fuller Theological Seminary. (Here, for one example, is their list of best and most over-rated films of 2010.) One of the writers on that blog, Elijah Davidson, has a post today over at Patheos today that is worth a special look, if only for the question it asks, “Can a film be just?” Davidson offers some pretty interesting examples of “just films,” including Paris, Texas, “socially conscious documentaries,” and just about anything from Pixar.
Of Paris, Texas, the 1984 film by Wim Wenders about a man trying to figure out why his family fell apart, Davidson writes:
It is a film that embraces people in their brokenness, that accepts the unexplainable in life, and that holds up the all-healing power of covenantal love. Paris, Texas is a beautiful film because it is so just.
Can a film be just? This is not my question precisely, “covenental love” is not from my lexicon, and I’m not even sure Davidson sticks to his theme properly in this short post. But it is a thought-starter.
What should we be looking for in today’s films? Beauty? Justice? How about truth?
How do we judge a film today? And isn’t it our responsibility to do so?