Shelley Winters, 1920 – 2006

The world bids farewell to Shelley Winters.

While Hollywood remembers her for so many classic appearances, what first comes to my mind is the part she played in Pete’s Dragon. That was one of the first movies I ever saw in a theatre. I loved it. It was one of the films that inspired my obsession with the big screen experience. Man, she was a nasty piece of work in that movie.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    epaddon wrote:

    You are the person who decided to use a crude metaphor as a subsitute for expressing a sincere difference of opinion over a movie and it’s potential value to an audience. I won’t apologize for calling that un-Christian behavior, because that’s what it is.

    Well, in that case, there some of the language of the Bible itself is very “un-Christian.”

    epaddon wrote:

    For someone who aligns themselves with those who hate the Movieguide critics

    Whoa. I’ve tried to make it painfully clear–what we hate is an approach to movies that judges them on “content” without an understanding of “context” or “form.” We do not hate people. We hate a form of discourse that leads with condemnation, almost ignores opportunities to praise what is excellent, and which judges art on “historical accuracy” and a very selective catalog of content judged as “immoral.”

    epaddon wrote:

    Your posts, and those I see at this blog, are a pathetic exercise in hypocrisy

    Hmmm. Speaking of using forceful and inappropriate language! You may as well be using expletives here.

    epaddon wrote:

    that make me feel quite comfortable in rejecting the notion that the anti-Movieguide reviews are somehow the ones that “thoughtful” Christians should be reading.

    There is very little thought evidenced in a Movieguide review. There are usually loud, heavy-handed condemnations and a catalogue of content. I don’t see much discussion of themes, metaphor, aesthetics, etc., etc., etc. Some of us see art as having to do with more than just what kinds of misbehavior we see on the screen.

    epaddon wrote:

    I have seen nothing but arrogance and self-rigtheousness galore at this place and in similar outlets.

    That tells those of us who post here regularly just how closely you have looked.

    epaddon wrote:

    from those who go way beyond their personal hatred of Ted Baehr

    Sigh. There you go again.

    epaddon wrote:

    the Movieguide review of this movie (which I will not see) was just one person’s honest opinion of an end-product, but based on the hysterical over-the-top reaction of Mr. Overstreet and yourself and others in this outlet

    When a Christian brother makes a film that echoes the story of The Prodigal Son (call it “The Prodigal Father,” if you will), and someone saying he represents Christians condemns the film because it shows this prodigal man involved in immorality, I throw up my hands in surrender. How can the storyteller tell the story? That’s like condemning Jesus for including the gratuitous detail that the prodigal son at the slop of the pigs! Who wants to listen to a story full of “trash” as “abhorrent” as that?

    epaddon wrote:

    There is absolutely *no* willingness to let Christians have a view of movies different from your own

    On the contrary, most of us posting here participate in a civil discussion at artsandfaith.com, where different persepctives on films and film reviews are shared and discussed productively every hour of the day. Links to this resource abound, so if you’ve missed them, then again, you haven’t been looking closely.

    epaddon wrote:

    and that is a standard I can not respect, especially when Mr. Overstreet’s approach to films gets praise in places that hail his approach as the kind Christians across the board should be emulating.

    I have never said everyone should agree with my perspective. I actively seek different perspectives. I reject Movieguide’s approach to movies because it doesn’t even have a perspective on the art. It has a detector that looks for a list of things that offend the “reviewers” there, and the majority of their “reviews” are merely reporting those offenses. I reject that approach. It is fundamentally flawed, and worse — mean-spirited. If we approached people that way, we would be demonstrating the antithesis of grace and humility.

    epaddon wrote:

    As to which person has more earned the label of “twit”, I think I can come away with some satisfaction that your lame substitution of insults for serious analysis, best reflects that of one whose insults merely reflect an attempt to project their own qualities onto those on the other side.

    So, after condemning him for using juvenile terminology, you’re happy to use some fancy wordplay to return the favor.

    I think the comments in this thread will be enough for readers to come to their own conclusions.

    You have effectively steered this thread away from the subject at hand: the Movieguide reviewer’s compelete and utter failure to perceive or appreciate any of the many virtues of this film. You have turned it into a relentless attack on us, making claims that show you are significantly unaware of the extent of our work elsewhere.

    If you continue in this fashion in other comments on this blog, your posts will be deleted, as will the posts of anybody who behaves in such a fashion.

    No, I don’t ask people to agree with me. But I do ask that they contribute more than elaborate and indignant attacks on people whose work, available in plain sight to anyone with access to the Web, clearly contradicts those accusations.

    Moreover, we must reserve the right to critique, even passionately take issue with, the behavior of other Christians operating in the spotlight. But this must not translate into hatred for that person. And if you confuse our critiques of Movieguide’s techniques with HATRED for them as human beings… as you have persistently insisted in this thread… then your posts will be deleted.

    For someone who is troubled at our critique of the technique of another reviewer, you demonstrate no concerns whatsoever about the demeaning labels you slap on others, sir.

    That’s the end of this discussion, folks.

    Peace, out.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Oh, one more thing.

    Look for my article on the virtues of Wim Wenders wonderful history of redeeming and eccentric films at ChristianityTodayMovies.com.

    Maybe that will help do some damage control on his reputation amongst Christian filmgoers.

  • ericpaddon

    Rather than stoop to your level, Mr. Derrickson, I will just remind you of a few facts.

    #1-You are the person who decided to use a crude metaphor as a subsitute for expressing a sincere difference of opinion over a movie and it’s potential value to an audience. I won’t apologize for calling that un-Christian behavior, because that’s what it is.

    #2-If by your definition, I’m a “Pharisee” for choosing to adopt my own personal standard as a Christian for judging a movie’s value to me that is different from your own, then with all candor, you have some whacked out priorities in life. For someone who aligns themselves with those who hate the Movieguide critics so much because of their lack of “humility”, it might help to get out of the glass house before you choose to then throw another rock.

    #3″Wow, you’d think that Satan himself created the human digestive tract, given how freaked out you are by my reference to it.”

    I’m not “freaked out”, Mr. Derrickson, I just have a greater respect for manners and civil discourse when I prefer to make my arguments then you do. I’ll let your obvious lack of maturity, which you confuse with Christlike behavior, be your problem.

    #4-If you’re incapable of figuring out plain English, I’ll give it to you again. Your posts, and those I see at this blog, are a pathetic exercise in hypocrisy, that make me feel quite comfortable in rejecting the notion that the anti-Movieguide reviews are somehow the ones that “thoughtful” Christians should be reading. I have seen nothing but arrogance and self-rigtheousness galore at this place and in similar outlets from those who go way beyond their personal hatred of Ted Baehr, and instead make insulting, condescending dismissals of those who agree with his standard for judging movies as functional illiterates when it comes to understanding so-called “art.” The entire subject of this blog is a perfect case in point, because the Movieguide review of this movie (which I will not see) was just one person’s honest opinion of an end-product, but based on the hysterical over-the-top reaction of Mr. Overstreet and yourself and others in this outlet, I’d almost think I was reading the kind of reaction the Vatican must have given to the posting of the 95 theses (no, I’m not likening Movieguide to the 95 theses, I’m just noting the reaction of those here). There is absolutely *no* willingness to let Christians have a view of movies different from your own, and that is a standard I can not respect, especially when Mr. Overstreet’s approach to films gets praise in places that hail his approach as the kind Christians across the board should be emulating.

    As to which person has more earned the label of “twit”, I think I can come away with some satisfaction that your lame substitution of insults for serious analysis, best reflects that of one whose insults merely reflect an attempt to project their own qualities onto those on the other side.

  • jasdye

    I apologize for saying they could eat my shorts. It’s not very edifying. But I do kind of feel that we’ve exhausted the arguments and that the same things have been argued and said time and again and that certain characters are not listening to reason.

    I know it’s not an excuse. Just cheap and wishful thinking.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Folks, contribute to the discussion… don’t just post insults. If you’re sharing a forceful, thoughtful opinion, that’s one thing. But this is not a thread for taking cheap shots.

    Let’s demonstrate the weaknesses of shoddy “Christian” thinking by demonstrating something richer, rather than calling names and throwing stones.

    If you don’t have something new to contribute to a meaningful discussion, don’t post.

  • jasdye

    scott derrickson,

    thank you. i know it’s totally unbiblical and unchristlike to call out the brothers/sisters with different opinions about art and art criticism than us. so i know i’m going to hell for saying this, but baehr ad paddon can eat my shorts. (write THAT in a review!)

  • Magnus

    When I was attending Briercrest Bible College we had to go through Movieguide and show the review to someone in the dean’s office to see if it met with the school’s standards. (which was whatever Movieguide had written) I had forgotten how extensive the content warnings can get.
    Reading that content warning reminded me of my original thought – how can any reviewer actually enjoy or get anything out of a film at all if they have to disect a film in the same way a 12th grader might disect a fetal pig?
    There is no way you can truly experience a film for what it actually is if you have to go into hunting for anything and everything that is objectionable to the legalists among us. I feel sorry for these people, I truly do.

  • Scott Derrickson

    Eric Paddon:

    You said: “What I have seen at this blog is nothing more than personal attacks on the people who write the reviews that cross a line that frankly makes a mockery of any pretense I read in any of the assertions by others that these kinds of reviews are what “thoughtful” Christians should be exposing themselves to.” That run-on sentence is so packed with poorly packaged clauses that I can’t even figure out what it means.

    You went on to say: “The idea that your remark rooted in vulgarity and bathroom humor (oh, I forgot, this is the place where those kinds of things can still be classified as “art” if done by the right people) is somehow less “self-righteous” and more reflective of a Christlike attitude in expressing your disagreement, is if you’ll pardon me, quite a dubious premise. “

    Nowhere in these posts have I laid claim to my own Christlikeness — something I admittedly find woefully lacking. However, following up on Jeffrey’s post, I don’t think it’s necessarily self-righteous to call out a Pharisee. Though in your case, I think Pharisee is probably too strong a term — you lack the verbal skill and fire-breathing passion to merit that Christlike accusation. From what I’ve seen thus far, you’re just a sanctimonious twit.

    I’ll let Jeffrey respond to your comments about his posts, but you did finish those comments by stating “at the very least, I can take some satisfaction in sticking up for my own perspective without resorting to the sewer of a bathroom metaphor.”

    Wow, you’d think that Satan himself created the human digestive tract, given how freaked out you are by my reference to it. Furthermore, you really ought not feel so mercifully free of the sewer, since you are so totally full of crap.

  • Ellen Collison

    Jeffrey, thank you for publishing this post and Sean – good on you. You’re right.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Derrickson already made this point, but let me make it again:

    Which is more Christ-like:

    A) To call out a self-righteous and condemning blowhard, the way that Christ called out the Pharisees and used phrases like “brood of viperss” to decribe them?

    or,

    B) To condemn the earnest work of a brother in Christ (Wenders is a Christian) as “boring trash;” to rate his telling of “The Prodigal Father” as “ABHORRENT” because it honestly reflects a sinful world (the way Christ’s parables and many Bible stories do); and to assess the complex fruit of Christian’s contemplation by looking at it with eyes intent on finding some fault with it?

    Again, there is not a single complaint in Baehr’s review that holds any credibility. It is a stellar example of what is wrong with so much of contemporary film criticism. And it is par for the course in his reviews. I am not *hating* him. I am merely pointing to the evidence of wrongful work that he so steadily provides.

    This is the man who responded to my claim that I found something meaningful in a Harry Potter film by telling the public on live radio that I “haven’t read the Bible.” (What clairvoyance!) And that, while I regularly berate the shoddy and materialistic Hollywood products, have been “blinded by the glitter of Hollywood.” Merely because I noted a theme of redemption in a Harry Potter story.

    Scott, if you want to learn more about just how generously the Christian community rewards Baehr for his weekly condemnations, I encourage you to look up his columns on WorldNetDaily.com. You won’t get very far before it hurts too much to keep reading.

    He heralded the retirement of Jack Valenti with an article letting us know that Valenti would soon get what he has coming in hell, because of Valenti’s influence with the MPAA.

    He declared that Ebert’s enthusiasm for “Monster’s Ball” was due to Ebert’s fondness for “ogling black womens’ breasts.” (It’s not just bad that he might “ogle breasts,” apparently… there’s something especially bad about wanting to see “black” breasts.)

    Anyway, I’ve listed these examples before, and they’re the tip of the iceberg. It’s not “hateful” to point to the obvious signs of disease in a body. Neither is it “hateful” to point out evidence of brazen self-righteousness, arrogance, and judgmentalism in someone who is acknowledged nationwide as the voice of Christian film criticism. He’s the voice of something, but it has very little to do with discernment.

    I know that I have been guilty of self-righteousness. I have made errors in judgment, even in my film reviews. And I occasionally let my anger get the better of me.

    But unlike you, Mr. Paddon, to quote your own words very much in context, I do not find it “amusing” to see “hypocrisy in action.” It makes me sick to my stomach, because it cripples the efforts of those who really want to highlight the joys and treasures of art, and to call out wrongdoing when it actually occurs.

    Two things:

    “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” – The Gospel of Matthew

    “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. It does much more than that, it tells us the truth about its readers.” – G. K. Chesterton, Heretics

    (Try replacing “novel” with “film review.” )

  • Gaffney

    Eddie asks, “What’s in it for Baehr, do you think?”

    Power.

    I’m sure Mr. Baehr started out truly wanting to help fellow Christians and their families. But, as the saying goes, power corrupts…

    Mr. Baehr now holds a lot of power, and that has become his center, his motivator, his idol.

    One sign of a tyrant is the inability to allow any dissent to the leader’s opinion. Notice that Mr. Baehr brooks no dissent; if one disagree with his opinion on a film, one is instantly branded a pagan, anti-Christian, anti-Christ, Bible ignoring S.O.B. (Please note the last sentence contains one use of implied vulgarity.)

    Perhaps we will someday see his return to his roots, to a love of the Lord, and a love of the Lord’s children.

    I feel convicted to pray for him.

    -Sean

  • ericpaddon

    Mr. Derrickson, I read that same review. It was one person’s honest assessment of an end-product. Choose to agree or disagree with it as you like. What I have seen at this blog is nothing more than personal attacks on the people who write the reviews that cross a line that frankly makes a mockery of any pretense I read in any of the assertions by others that these kinds of reviews are what “thoughtful” Christians should be exposing themselves to. The idea that your remark rooted in vulgarity and bathroom humor (oh, I forgot, this is the place where those kinds of things can still be classified as “art” if done by the right people) is somehow less “self-righteous” and more reflective of a Christlike attitude in expressing your disagreement, is if you’ll pardon me, quite a dubious premise.

    And now regarding the other points.

    Mr. Overstreet, your axe with Baehr is with a different set of subjective standards for judging a movie. You are entitled to have those beliefs, but those of us who prefer to judge movies by their content and their agenda, and by those fine points of language etc. and their graphicness are not functional illiterates when it comes to our capacity to judge so-called “art”. It’s a legitimate standard to me, and even if there are certain points where I might not agree with the Movieguide people, I nonetheless respect their right to express themselves as they see fit, and as people who for whatever flaws they sometimes show, nonetheless don’t deviate from the fundamental problem of Hollywood moviemaking that’s been present since the end of the Production Code era.

    Regarding the Valenti column. I have read it, and what you have done is use a debatable point centered in the last line about whether or not Valenti is going to get Divine Judgment or not. To me, that isn’t the important part of the column, nor was it the important part as Baehr presented it (his column was not “Jack Valenti Is Going to Hell”) the important part is the fact that Jack Valenti as head of the MPAA caused more long-term damage to the quality of the films in the market by engineering the destruction of the Production Code and the rise of a ratings system in which directors since then have as the years gone by shown no sense of self-restraint. Maybe I don’t necessarily agree with Baehr that Valenti is going to get condemned by God for that, but as to the major point, that Jack Valenti left a negative legacy for the long-term in areas we still can scarcely measure, I agree with that completely and make no apologies for doing so. OTOH, I suspect that you’d be more inclined to give Valenti a pass on whether the end of the Production Code was a destructive legacy or not, so the end result is do I sympathize more with an imperfectly worded column from someone who’s still spot-on on the big picture or a smoother talking person who I think is off base on the big picture entirely?

    And as for the “black breasts” comment, since I wasn’t impressed by a similar stunt of yours in which you attempted to impugn homophobia because of an accurate description of AIDS that was made in the context of ripping George Clooney’s grandstand at the Oscars (and I’m still laughing at the attempt to rip Baehr for the truthful characterization of “Syriana” as anti-American), I doubt very much your characterization tells the whole picture there either.

    So in short Mr. Overstreet, all you’ve done for a Christian like me is prove that while those like Baehr may be prone to state their points in the wrong way at times, I still more fundamentally secure with their perpsectives then I ever will with those whose standards result in the whitewashing of the anti-American garbage of a “JFK”, or the laughable assertion that “Syriana” is not anti-American as related to the ongoing war on terror (I am more impressed by the assessment related at frontpagemag.com on that point), or that “Brokeback Mountain” is not indicative of a pro-gay agenda. And at the very least, I can take some satisfaction in sticking up for my own perspective without resorting to the sewer of a bathroom metaphor.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Ummm…

    It’s still there. Never took it down. But you’re right. Just when I think I’ve got a good idea to parody his reviews, he does something even more… um… impressive.

  • Martin

    JO, I’m glad you lost the Baehr-parody you had posted. Not necessary. Let the man parody himself; he’s good enough at it that he doesn’t need your help.

  • eddie

    Well said, Jeffrey. I am always encouraged when I read your stuff. Don’t always agree, but am always encouraged.

    What’s in it for Baehr, do you think? Like, what motivates the man? I’ve read his stuff, and just can’t put it together. It just reads like so much vitriol.

  • Glenn

    Jeff,
    I am pleased with your assault/exposure of Movieguide and other ridiculouly fundamental missing-forest-for-trees “Christian” “movie critics.”
    Continue to let them have it with both barrels!

  • Scott Derrickson

    Oh geez. Sorry for the controversy Jeffrey. I pulled my angry statement out of respect for you and your site. I’ll be happy to put it back with your permission, but if not, I’ll just leave it deleted.

    As for you Eric Paddon: first of all, I expressed a justifiable distain for a publication, not an “unatural hatred of a brother in Christ.” Secondly, what I said was far less foul than Movieguide’s statements about “Don’t Come Knocking”. Third, there is no hypocricy in refering to one’s own body or bodily functions (it’s a rather popular metaphor, actually, amongst holy prophets and saints.) And finally, if by “Christian” you mean a believer in Christ and the orthodox teachings of the apostolic faith, then yes, I am a Christian. But if by “Christian” you mean uptight, snooty, and passive-aggressively self-righteous, then I’ll let you keep that term for yourself.

  • ericpaddon

    I find it more amusing, then making myself miserable, to see hypocrisy in action and then point it out, as I was more than glad to do in this particular instance. But hey, if you think a true “Christian” perspective in one’s writing means making foul-mouthed comments related to bodily functions to express one’s unnatural hatred of a brother in Christ (if I can assume that Mr. Derrickson actually considers himself a “Christian” which would really amuse me) who takes a different approach to assessing a movie (which was the subject of my comment), I’ll let that be your problem. It’ll just give me some more amusing fodder to share with some friends about who to take seriously and who not to, when it comes to this subject in general.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    And by the way, Eric Paddon, for someone who vowed to go elsewhere for movie reviews and to cancel his subscription to CT because of what I’ve written, you’re sure hangin’ around! Why make yourself so miserable?

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Because someone asked, I’ll just say that Movieguide is widely read and Ted Baehr, who writes most reviews along the same lines as this one, is the head of the Christian Film and Television Commission, and host of “The Christian Oscars,” which he has named “Teddies” (after himself, of course.) I’ll tell you more about him sometime, Scott, and the dishonest and condemning tactics he uses to put down other Christian film critics and to insist that his way is the only way.

  • ericpaddon

    My, my what a fine group of people with “Christian” perspectives you attract with rants like that of the gentleman (and boy, is that a reach) above.

  • jasdye

    yeah, are men supposed to wear men-nipple pasties when we show our fronts in public?

    i’m glad that movieguide isn’t, you know, focusing on the negative or showing an unhealthy obsession with sin or anything like that.

  • Sara Z.

    “Naturalistic”? As opposed to nekkid men with pec implants?

  • Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer

    I will always remember her from the Poseidon Adventure. Still a terrific film and a great cast.


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