So you think you can dance

Then don’t measure yourself against Cyd Charisse, who died this week. Notice how in “Singin’ in the Rain” with Gene Kelley, she projects two polar opposite feminine archtypes: the temptress (the dark lady) AND the romantic ideal (the fair maiden):

Christians reviewing movies

Hey, thanks for carrying the blog yesterday. You alerted me to lots of interesting things, some of which I might blog about. For example, thanks to Tickletext for this:

Is anyone following the mini-controversy over Christianity Today’s 3-star review of the Sex and the City film? Basically, a writer for CT Movies gave the film a qualified, moderately positive review. On the basis of that review, some outraged Christians questioned CT’s commitment to scripture, and CT published a response accordingly. Ted Slater of Focus on the Family then accused CT of “relishing sexual perversity” and endorsing pornography, and called for the magazine to “repent.” Many of the comments on his blog post echoed his sentiments. Others have responded critically to Slater.

CT’s review

CT’s editorial response

Ted Slater’s condemnation

A response to Slater which includes links to other responses

There are interesting questions here. Does a positive review amount to a promotion, as Slater says? In Areopagitica, John Milton says that truth and falsehood grow up entwined together in this fallen world, and we Christians must work to discern the true and the false. When engaging works of culture, is it possible to praise what is good without reveling in what is bad, or must Christians throw out discernment altogether? Furthermore, when another Christian praises what we regard with spiritual or moral dubiety, what should our attitude be?

I want to weigh in on this, as a long time movie reviewer for WORLD, but I’d like to hear what you have to say first.

UPDATE: See the take in Patrol Magazine.

Tedious havoc

Bob Myers, in his comment on the “Dean Jones” post identified my “tedious havoc” quotation as coming from “Paradise Lost.” Milton was criticizing epics that are nothing but battles, ignoring the “better fortitude” of patience and heroic martyrdom; that is, internal battles of character. That applies perfectly to today’s action movies. I am finding mere cinematic havoc–fighting, chase scenes, explosions, special effects–to be increasingly tedious. Seriously. I find myself dozing off during the “action” sequences. There was a time when they were impressive but they have become so conventional, so repetitive, so expected, that they do nothing for me. Am I the only one who finds what is supposed to be exciting in movies to be unexciting?

Dean Jones

We did see the new Indiana Jones movie last weekend, and while it was mostly “tedious havoc” (identify that quotation), it did support my point in the “Professor Jones” post that the series is really all about academia. The best line in the new movie: After Prof. Jones does some amazing deeds against the bad guys, the smart-aleck teenager, astonied and amazed, says, “Y-Y-You’re a TEACHER?” But the best part to me is that Indiana Jones, through much struggle, rises in his career to the point of going into ADMINISTRATION! I always knew he was a potential dean, even provost, due to his facility with a bullwhip. Now he is in a position to really do heroic deeds!

Professor Jones

My favorite scene in all of the Indiana Jones movies and the key to their true meaning, in my opinion, is in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The swashbuckling archaeologist is, remember, a college professor, and in that movie we see him in front of a classroom. He is droning on in his glasses and tweed suit, as the students in his class for the most part are dozing off or not paying attention. Then during his office hours he begins the process of saving the world.

This is academia, as I know from experience and vocation, a perfect encapsulation of us professors’ self-image. Yes, in our obsessive preoccupation with our fields we are boring and inconsequential. But when we do our RESEARCH we are exciting and world-changing!

I would love to see more of Indy’s day job in the movies. While he is flying on that DC-3 with the line on the map tracing his route to exotic climes, is he grading papers? Before taking off for the Temple of Doom, did he struggle to get his grades in? As he was trying to find the Holy Grail, did he have to interrupt his quest for committee meetings and to deal with student complaints? I know that he prevailed over Nazis, cultists, and Communists, but, given his retrograde attitudes and his politically-incorrect archaeological practice of plundering indigenous peoples of their culturally-significant artifacts, I’d like to see his battle with the college’s tenure committee.

All of his adventures would have had to take place, apart from a few sabbaticals, over summer vacation, that blissful time for academics that we are now entering.

Indiana Jones and the Holiness of God

As we psych ourselves up for the release of the new Indiana Jones movie this weekend, read this discussion of the character and of why the first movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” was so good. Note the good lines about how the evil archeologist dared to looked into the abyss of the Ark of the Covenant and “the abyss looked back,” the folly of looking into the face of God, how Indy somehow knew that sometimes one must look away.

This reminds me of the great theological message of that fun popcorn fantasy, which, for all of its lightness and entertainment value, conveyed back to our jaded and secularized imagination in an unforgettably tangible way that God is holy, as poor Uzzah learned when he so much as touched the Ark while only trying to help. We have so abstracted and sentimentalized and domesticated God that we sometimes forget why we need a Mediator to come into His presence.