Informed Moviegoing

It’s been months since I submitted anything regarding Films or moviegoing for general consumption and discussion here at Addy, but Hollywood and Christendom are again locked in an epic battle of ideas and I cannot resist.

But before I go there, I think I need to talk about Informed Moviegoing.

See… I know a lot about going to the movies. I’ve never written a screenplay, never acted on camera, never sat in an editing bay, never composed a score. I am not in “The Biz.” I am, however, a regularly overzealous hobbyist when it comes to actually going to movies, pondering them, discussing them, and coming to something like an opinion about them both before and after actually seeing them.

Last night, Erica and I caught a late show of American Gangster. I knew I wanted to see it. Aside from Denzel, I am a big fat Russell Crowe fanboy. Aside from the often visually beautiful direction of Ridley Scott, is the fact that the screenplay was written by the great Steven Zaillian, whose work ranges from engrossingly entertaining, (Gangs of New York and The Interpreter) to downright brilliant. (Schlinder’s List, Awakenings, and, made a film in 1993 that may the greatest film you’ve never seen: Searching For Bobby Fischer)

A few weeks ago we caught Michael Clayton, which is a terrific film. The primary reason I wanted to see it was because it was written and directed by Tony Gilroy, whose screenplays for all three Bourne movies have been master clinics on how to write suspense in the 21st century.

All that to say… typically I know more about upcoming movies than the average joe. I grew up reading the Los Angeles Times Calendar section. Every morning. I read, and re-read Roger Ebert’s books. In High School, my Former Young Republican father took me to a weekly UCLA extension course where a film would be screened, usually ahead of it’s release, and then a moderated discussion with one of the filmmakers would follow. It was on one of these evenings, when I was 15 years old, that I challenged screenwriter Callie Khouri as to what would motivate Thelma to engage in a one night stand with Brad Pitt’s drifter boy toy, a scant 24 hours after her attempted rape and the subsequent murder of her would-be rapist. Aaaah the innocence of youth.

It was walking out of American Gangster that we saw a poster for the upcoming film The Golden Compass. “That looks… interesting.” Erica says. She’s leery of the fantasy genre, as a rule. “I got some email about that movie… what’s the deal?”

The deal, my friends, hearkening back to the first paragraph, is that The Golden Compass is slated to be the center of another controversy between Hollywood and Christian folks, just in time for the holidays!

I have never read the books, so I am but a simple messenger relaying information here. The Golden Compass is the first in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman is a former Oxford professor and children’s author and is also, brace yourselves: a noted atheist.

His Dark Materials has been described in the media as the anti-Narnia. It’s a children’s story filled with adventure, mystery, magic, moral dilemmas, good and evil and allegory and all the trimmings, but the allegory points to a world where the church is evil, God imprisons ghosts, and Polar Bears sound like Ian McKellan.

So the culture war is on! The Catholic League is protesting. Focus on the Family is going to put the evangelicals on alert. Even Snopes, the Urban Myth Debunking website, confirms that the story is anti-Christian, and to top it all off, your Aunt from Kentucky will send you an email about it that she got from this other lady at her church.

Hey everybody! Remember The DaVinci Code? Anybody? Came out like… oh 18 months ago? No? Well, You mean to say you vaguely remember it… you mean, yeah, you caught it that one time on the airplane or on TBS or something. Remember how it was like, the greatest threat to Christendom, like, ummm, ever?

You don’t? Know why?

Because it sucked. It was so boring and awful that a scant year and a half later, the only person who gives two shits about it is Tom Hanks’ CPA, and he only cares because he’s paid to.

May I again make a case for not getting our panties in a collective twist over this?

Get all informed about going to movies, I’m all about that. Make a choice based on what you read, and how it strikes you. Go on IMDB and check out the director, the writer, the source material. Have you enjoyed their work in the past? Do you want to spend another 2 hours with them?

Don’t be a lamb. Don’t go see it because it has cool looking effects. Don’t not go see it because your pastor told you not to. Please don’t believe that if you support or boycott this movie that it has a damn thing to do with God’s Kingdom or Jesus getting glorified or not. It’s. A. Movie.

Most movies that you see are created by people who believe that the Christian world view and belief systems are arcane and oppressive. Learn from them, or tune them out. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that by skipping this one, that you’ve somehow remained ideologically unstained.

Go see the movie and deconstruct it with your atheist friends. Do I even have an atheist friend? Do they care about this movie one bit? Do they care what I think of this movie? Are they watching me to see what I think or say about it? Am I being evangelized by this movie? How does that feel?

Avoid the movie all together and go hear some good live music. Or drink wine with friends at the Getty. Or grab your kids and start The Hobbit and thank God for Christ-follower JRR Tolkien and his ability to weave allegory with such a deft hand that it speaks into the minds of people of all creeds.

Just don’t get your panties in a twist. Please.

11 thoughts on “Informed Moviegoing

  1. Daniel Semsen

    Dave Burke told me recently that he doesn’t want to know a THING about a movie before he sees it. I am barely that man’s friend because of that.
    I’m with you, Chad–although slightly less informed than you–I’m still way more informed than the average Chuck and Larry.

  2. Isabella

    About 2 years ago, I wrote to Pullman via his website. I had bought one of his children’s books (Aladdin) and wrote to say how much my nieces and nephew enjoyed it. I also mentioned something about the fact that I am a huge CS Lewis fan and was disappointed to read some of his (Pullman’s) comments about Lewis’ work.

    Pullman took the time to write back to me….his letter was kind, well thought out and polite.

    I hope the Christian critics of Pullman manage to be kind, thoughtful and polite.
    But I doubt they will be.

  3. Natalie

    This entry is very well written and on a subject near and dear to my heart. My parents sent me that infamous email.

    And this is the best line I’ve read in a long time:

    “Please don’t believe that if you support or boycott this movie that it has a damn thing to do with God’s Kingdom or Jesus getting glorified or not. It’s. A. Movie.”


    I’m glad that there are other Christians out there that feel the same way I do. Thank you for being an open-minded, informed movie-goer!!!

  4. michael lee

    As of this morning, the anti-movie facebook group protesting this business has 59,000 people in it. Whew. That’s a whole lot of righteous indignation.

  5. Chad Post author

    It’s funny…

    Ever since we did a concert at a Baptist church in San Diego a couple of months ago, I’ve been on their email list. The pastor is a good old fashioned baptist preacher, a Harley ridin’ good ole’ boy with a big heart and a self-effacing style which (at least for me) always goes a long way in sidestepping the negative side effects of fundamentalism.

    Anyways, he wrote a note to his flock (in which I am now apparently bleating) regarding the movie, and I opened it with a mixture of fear and smug anticipation.

    It was a most concise, articulate, and thoughtful consideration of the problem, complete with links to educate ourselves and a plea for moderation rather then hysteria.

    I was floored.

    Good on ya, Jim!

  6. Chad Post author

    Uh oh…

    I just checked again and saw that it was a copy and paste job from a website. Oh well. Let it not be said that I don’t look for the good in people.

    Good copying and pasting!

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