Sunday, June 11, 2006

Movies I want to See

It seems like there are a bunch of movies I want to see. I thought I would make a list for myself. They are in no particular order.

Crash, Cinderella Man, Walk the Line, Ray, King Kong, Syriana, Good Luck and Good Night, The Aviator, The 40 Year Old Virgin, A History of Violence, ...

Well that's a start. If I had to pick one, I think I'd pick Walk the Line.


PressingOn said...

Hey, Brian. Just checked in on your blog and was surprised to see your list of movies that you want to see. I would be interested in hearing why you picked some of those, especially the last two, "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "A History of Violence." Even though some would say that both movies have some sort of redeeming theme or ultimate moral message, I've read Christian reviews that say both are extremely offensive and filled with language and images that should be avoided.

I think this is a very interesting topic. I would never assume to know your thoughts or whether you've even looked into the content of the movies you listed, but I've been looking really hard lately at the movies and television I justify to watch, and I'm pretty convicted! Would love to read your thoughts on the subject.

Shawna said...

Walk the Line was ok. (Though I'm sure Kaleigh would disagree!) A bit boring for me. It wasn't awful, I just expected more. The same with Ray. Only I was wowed by Jamie Foxx's performance and more interested in the story.

I haven't heard of Syriana--what's that about?

Danelle said...

OK, this may be really off-the-wall and someone may choose to tell me that I'm insane, but I'm interested in seeing Brokeback Mountain. Before you write me off, here are my reasons: 1) I've heard that cinematographicly (is that a word?) it is phenomenal, that it deservably won awards for the greatness of the movie itself 2) I've been left out of good conversations at work about this one. I feel that, as a Christian, I need to be "in the know" on some of these current issues. How can I be an example or have a conversation that could influence a nonbeliever if I always turn my back on what they are interested in?

Some movies aren't worth the time and effort; others have to be considered if for nothing more than understanding the impact it is causing on the very lost ones we are trying to reach.

OK, you can roast me now.

dan h. said...

I thought Crash, Walk the Line, and Cinderella Man (in that order) were all excellent - especially for a pastor looking for illustrations.

Brian said...

I would have to say there are images and themes in the Bible that I would think would best be avoided. There is language in the Bible (vulgar and sarcastic) that would probably best be avoided. The Bible is not family friendly.

The last two films - 40 year old virgin and history of violence - plus the first film Crash (which though I haven't seen it is probably the best film of the bunch), and my wife's intriguing pick which was I was most likely afraid to list - Brokeback... these are the films that I don't know if I would consider redeeming (though possibly), but speaking to the issues that separate (virgin is probably a stretch). Syriana and Good Luck also speak some to the issues of separation as well.

Cinderella Man, Walk the Line, Ray, King Kong, and Aviator are probably more in the line for me as entertainment, and would be the ones that perhaps I should give more question to their worth in taking my time.

Jesus has called me into the mess to bring redemption to it. Does that mean I have to see these films? Well, yes, I think some of them. The question isn't whether those films are going to redeem me. The question is will they make me redeeming? The movies Crash, Syriana, and a History of Violence are probably movies that are at the core of a lot of peoples struggles and questions.

American History X, Blackhawk Down, Schindler's List, and Fightclub have all been movies that have been important for me to see, that have given me insight into the world around me without (my opinion) pulling me down.

A movie that I have not seen is American Beauty. It has themes that I don't think would be appropriate for me, meaning I think that movie would affect me adversely. A movie I did see, which I wish I hadn't, was Titanic. But I am not blanketing those as two movies that people should not see. It is about the way I am wired that is the problem.

One thing I think I did get wrong is that the movies I should start with are Crash and Good Luck and Good Night.

The reviewers at least had the context of having seen the movies.

God came down and took on flesh. I can't think of one good reason to do this except to have experienced our life. Schindler's List and Black Hawk Down did that for me. It took into a place that I hope I never know and yet help to experience what others may. Perhaps it will make me a better priest.

Hebrews 2:17 says, "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God..." Yet he was without sin.

I'm trying to be honest here without moving toward preachy or defensive. Jesus always left himself vulnerable when people wondered about him. I wish I was better at that.

This is becoming long but a recent movie that really moved me into the insight of myself and how others think has been Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly.

jlance said...

Wow, good list and good comments and discussion. Danelle.... you may be off the wall and insane, but not because you're interested in seeing Brokeback Mountain. Brenda and I watched it about a month ago and I'm glad we saw it. The cinematography is spectactular and its story is one which enters into the depths of human brokenness and suffering. It was a very powerful and very disturbing movie that we need to deal with as Christians.
As to allowing Christian film reviews to guide my film decisions, I guess I don't because I have yet to find one that really evaluates the quality of the film. Most Christian film reviews reduce their criteria to the number of swear words and nude scenes in the movie and thus completely miss the point. If we were to judge the Bible on the same type of criteria, we'd have to eliminate large portions of the biblical narrative (starting with most of Genesis). I believe these type of services might be helpful for folks with children who are trying to decide age-appropriateness for their children, but I have found that they generally miss some wonderful and powerful stories because they become obsessed with how many f-bombs are dropped in a film.

PressingOn said...

Thanks, Brian! I appreciate your thoughtful and thorough response. Like I said, this is an issue that really hits home and I think needs to be discussed. I hope my "wondering" didn't make you feel too defensive. It's okay to come at this issue from different angles and even to disagree. And, for the record, I do disagree. :o) At least on some points. We can do that in love right? :o)

You made so many points, and I'm sure I won't cover them all, but I did want to say a couple of things that I think will be edifying, or at least thought-provoking.

I understand that we as Christians, not only as Pastors, are called into the "mess." In order to be the body of Christ, we need to understand and engage our culture. I have no problem with this whatsoever.

I'm just not sure that subjecting our hearts and minds to such movies is the way to do that. There are many factors as to why I have come to that conclusion, but I'll only share a couple. Thought you'd appreciate that. :o)

First, I don't believe that we are called to be "redeeming." We are called to proclaim the Gospel to the world, teaching them to obey the Lord's commands, and to bring glory and honor to His name. The Holy Spirit through the truth of the Word convicts, calls, redeems. We are called to be in the world, but not of it, to not allow ourselves to be stained by it. We can't stick our heads in the sand or keep to no means! But, we shouldn't take so much of the burden of redemption on ourselves. We need to remember the simplicity of preaching Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

I don't, for a minute, think that Jesus would sit in a theatre and watch "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" or "History of Violence" in order to understand man better, relate to him better, or be more adept at conversing with him. There are plenty of ways to understand our culture today. The internet is an awesome tool for research, and the library is packed full of books. Danelle mentioned "Brokeback Mountain." (No, I won't call you insane, sis. :o) Tempting though!) I think that two hours would be better spent reading a biblically sound book about homosexuality or better yet, actually sitting down with a homosexual over coffee and talking for two hours. Wouldn't one learn more about the reality of his/her situation than one will ever see in a propaganda piece put out by hollywood? Again, if you want to know about the movie and its content, the internet is a great resource.

That brings me to my second point. While our intentions may be good, subjecting ourselves to certain images, themes, and language slowly desensitizes us to the unholiness of it all. I know this is the case with me. For example, I didn't use to watch CSI on television, thought it was grizzly and not even realistic. Then one night I watched an episode and liked it. So, I watched another. Suddenly one night I came to the realization while watching a particularly graphic and shocking episode that I didn't even flinch. It's like the old analogy of the frog in the pot. If you put a frog in boiling water, he'll jump right out. If you put him in a pot of cold water and then heat up the pot, he won't notice until too late that he's been cooked to death. Let's face it, the Church isn't near as horrified at sin as it used to be, and I believe that our culture's influence on us has caused us to view God in a smaller way. "Be ye holy as I am Holy," is no longer as awesome of a statement.

One woman on a Christian review site said that the "History of Violence" movie contained a couple of graphic sexual nude scenes between a husband and wife, but that it was okay because they were married. HUH??????? First off, it's just wrong to depict such intimate scenes, and secondly, these kinds of scenes just add to the already confusing world of sexuality in marriage. They cheapen it, foster feelings of inferiority (especially in women) and make men desire things they don't currently experience.

I'm too long! Sorry. I guess what I'm saying is that as Christians it may not be okay to be naive about things, but I think it's imperative to protect our innocence as best we can. I fear that we are losing our saltiness and our true influence in our culture. In our quest to be relevant, we're losing our relevance.

And, by the way, I believe there's a huge difference between "Schindler's List" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin". :o) And, I don't believe there are any images or themes in the Bible that are best avoided. Again, big difference in reading the Living Word and subjecting ourselves to Hollywood's imagery and interpretation of culture.

PressingOn said...

In response to jlance--- I understand what you're saying about Christian review sites. I do however think that as Christians one should consider the content over the quality of a movie first and foremost. One site that you might like is the spotlight at They do a 5-star rating according to movie-making quality and they comment on that aspect in their reviews. I find the comments and reviews left by moviegoers particularly helpful. It gives you a better idea of the average moviegoer's reaction (both postive and negative) to what they've seen. Here's an example of a review of "History of Violence." Hope this helps. If the link doesn't work, you'll have to copy and paste. Thanks!

Brian said...

I am a terrible debater. For that I apologize in advance. For some reason I think sarcasm makes my point stronger, and of course, I know that it doesn't.

Duska, you are very astute to see the difference in our theology right at it's heart. You said, "But, we shouldn't take so much of the burden of redemption on ourselves. We need to remember the simplicity of preaching Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

I disagree. Jesus said in Matthew 25 that he would separate the sheep from the goats by their actions toward the least of these. He makes it clear (to me) in the sermon on the mount that it is his desire to redeem people through relationships. I must love my enemies, which means more than just feeling fond of them, it means to serve them. "If I am forced to go one mile, I should go two." Paul tells a woman married to an unbeliever to stay in the marriage and through her love, he may believe.

I'll continue with he says to the husband in Ephesians to love his wife like Christ loved the church, giving himself up for her, to present her radiant. Is that not redemption? And finally I am called, as we all are, to walk in the steps of Christ (Peter wrote this). To me, that means sacrificing myself in order that some might find Christ.

And so you could say what does this have to do with movies? The Apostle Paul was well known at Mars Hill for taking their poetry and philosophy (pop culture really) and finding a place to redeem the message of God. Wouldn't you find it outrageous if I took an unknown pagan god and talked about him as if he were my God? Paul did exactly that.

It is hard to argue whether Jesus would have went to a movie, but he did go to "sinful people's houses" as they were throwing parties. So much so the Pharisees questioned his motives. Paul seems to have been comfortable going to an idol feast, though he understands not everybody should.

Watching movies is not my main means of bringing redemption to the world. It is a very minor aspect, just to be clear.

To say that Brokeback was Hollywood propoganda is not a fair statement. The movie was barely made, as no one would put up the needed amount of money to make such a controversial film. It's success was a surprise to everyone, and may be an indicator that it isn't propoganda, rather that it is probably a reflection of our culture.

You suggested my wife have coffee with a homosexual. It may be unfair but I will ask, how many homosexuals have you had conversation with in the last year? I have had several, as well as several conversations with other people with whom I disagree. And the reason I ask is that by not limiting myself to a "Biblically sound book about homosexuality," I have shown myself open to a conversation, a dialogue, which I have found to be very fruitful in leading people toward Christ. And so perhaps you have had many fruitful conversations as well.

I appreciate your honesty about your struggles. The scenes you described in History of Violence might be a problem for me. I was not aware of them. And actually, I do often read Focus on the Families reviews and despite the swear word count, often find them very helpful. What prompted my list was just the fact that I was realizing there were many movies I wanted to see, but had not, and just wanted to start a list. Would Jesus have had a blog?

I am a sinner, at a very deep level in my soul. I wish that I wasn't. But it is my opinion that it isn't that I watch such movies that keeps me in such a state. I feel honestly that these are not even close to the root of the sin that lives in me. I wish it were. I believe the root of my sin is that I am selfish and prideful, and by sacrificing my desires for others, I not only help them, but help myself, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

You finished with "I believe there's a huge difference between "Schindler's List" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin". :o)" I thought this was a bit cheap because in a previous post I said, "...but speaking to the issues that separate (virgin is probably a stretch)."

Again I am a terrible debater. And I responded rather quickly which is almost always a bad idea.

I would actually be willing to concede to you that History of Violence and 40 Year Old Virgin could be taken off my list. But I would continue to contend that Crash and Brokeback might be worth viewing.

PressingOn said...

Just one last post and I'll move on to the uncanny resemblance between Tom Toner and Taylor Hicks. :o) That is so funny.

I think it's important to say, for your benefit and the benfit of those visiting your blog, that I love you! :o) One of the things I love most about you is your heart for lost people and your willingness to sacrifice for their benefit. That is just so "Jesus" of you. Same goes for my amazing sister, Danelle, who because she is my sister is genetically disposed to the same insanity that I have been blessed with. So, I guess I can't go pointing fingers at her. :o)

Brian, I don't think our theology is different on this issue. I just think that our interpretation as to the lengths we should go to "be all things to all men" differs. It's not about theology, but more about methodology. At least, in my view. I think there is a line of compromise that should not be crossed. You have the same line, I know, but it just may be in a different place. I trust the Holy Spirit will lead us to move those lines if need be as we grow in Him.

All the scriptures you share are beautiful examples of the responsibility we are given as members of Christ's body to minister and reach out to the lost world. This is imperative! God absolutely does use our relationships with others to draw the lost to Himself. I'm sorry if anything I said made it appear that I felt otherwise. I'm saying that while we should make personal sacrifices in order to do that, the sacrifice of our own purity isn't necessary. The Holy Spirit will do the real work without us going to those lengths. That's what I mean by taking too much on ourselves. Sometimes I think we give ourselves too much credit....if we say the right things, act the right way, show them that we understand them enough, engage in the modern culture enough, we might win a few. In the meantime, the Church becomes a poorer reflection of God's holiness and in the end loses its effectiveness. That is my concern. We should defintely be willing to make sacrifices in order to see the lost saved. Todd and I understand this well, or else I wouldn't be typing this to you from Texas. :o)

No, these movies aren't at the root of the sin that lives within you. However, they don't help keep us on the road to Calvary either. And, I'm not saying that all the movies on your list are worthless. I was most surprised by the last two you listed, and that prompted my initial post. I can see how the others could be "debatable."

I also understand the Mars Hill reference. Unfortunately, that scripture passage has been used by many in ministry to justify otherwise unbiblical methods of outreach. I'm not saying it doesn't apply here. It may. I just think a lot of care needs to be used in applying that passage, as with all of scripture of course.

I'm sorry if you think calling "Brokeback" a propoganda piece was inappropriate. Whether the movie was intended as such, I believe it has been used a such, and Hollywood is at the center of the entire movement to create acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. I can't ignore that.

Also, suggesting that Danelle have coffee with a homosexual was only mentioned to make the point that there are better ways to reach out to the homosexual than to spend money and time watching a movie like "Brokeback." And since you did ask, I haven't had coffee lately with one, but I've had an ongoing friendship for a decade with one and have gone to great lengths to help another friend whose close friend is struggling with the issue. My heart goes out deeply to them, and if presented the opportunity I would certainly sit over coffee this very evening with one, and engage in conversation with an open heart and attentive ears. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that you hadn't done that as well. Just trying to point out better alternatives to the "need" to see the movie mentioned.

Lastly, I apologize if my comment pitting "Schindler's List" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" against one another seemed "a bit cheap." I know that you acknowedged the difference. I was merely stating that I would certainly not classify every rated R movie in the same category. I've seen Schindler's and other rated R movies that were rated such for the maturity of the theme and violence related to the movie's subject matter, like "Saving Private Ryan" or other such historical movies. Again, no head-burying going on here. The movie is a powerful medium to help one visualize the reality of war. As with all things, discernment is the key.

I'm sorry if this turned into a "debate." (By the way, you're better at it than you let on!) That has such a negative connotation. I prefer "discussion." I think that's what makes blogs so great. Iron sharpening iron. Notice I haven't had the nerve to start my own yet. I'm too obsessive/compulsive, and I think I'd get addicted pretty fast!

And, thanks for that final concession. That's all I really wanted in the first place. :o) lol

I praise God for your ministry and heart for the lost. And I miss you guys!

P.S. "Hello" to Shawna and Nikki if they read this!

Danelle said...

Just a note of clarification -- My original idea of seeing Brokeback wasn't so that I could reach out to homosexuals, although it may be of some use for that. My intent was that my coworkers are intense movie-goers. They see EVERYTHING. I certainly don't intend to watch all that they do, but when the controversial ones surface, I'd like to have a voice. A Christian needs to engage in these conversations. Trust me, my coworkers have opinions -- and they are usually very non-Christian. Won't I be of greater use in this conversation if I can show them Christ's view rather than sit in silence?

Another situation: Two co-workers love "House" (TV). I had seen one, but hated it. However, they mentioned an up-coming episode that dealt with a teenage faith healer talking to God. I TiVo-ed it the second I got home, forced myself to watch it, and was ready for the conversation that would take place the next day. The show took an unfair view and basically blew the kid's beliefs out of the water. Wasn't it worth watching to try to explain what faith really is?

Media is a tool. And yes, we have to guard ourselves. This conversation that we are having is a great way of holding each other accountable to our reasonings. We have to be careful, but I really don't think it healthy to shut outselves out.

And just remember, sis -- you came first. If I'm crazy, I'm merely taking after you ;o)

Shawna said...

Hey Duska :)

Just wanted to let you all know that I was lurking reading your responses :)

I appreciate the excellent model on how to lovingly disagree with one another (sincerely)!

Great points on both sides.