CT’s Top Ten Lists: A Sign of the Coming Apocalypse?

If you’re reading Through a Screen Darkly, you’ve probably come across some of my “war stories” about the outrageous letters and emails I’ve received over the years as a Christian film reviewer.

I wish I could say things are getting easier. They’re not.

Here are a few examples of the letters coming in to Christianity Today Movies in response to the posting of the “Cream of the Crop” top ten list, and the “Most Redeeming Films” top ten list.

If you agree with these letters, no need to send your own. There are plenty where those came from.

If you disagree, how about writing a quick note to ctmovies@christianitytoday.com? Our editor, who believes intensely in the method and mission of CT Movies, is probably feeling a bit dizzy from all of these attacks.

You people are a joke with your Critics’ Choices. The devil lives in the extremes. Get back to the cross.
David Kelly

I’m really surprised that you didn’t include Facing the Giants on your list. I personally think it is the best movie I’ve seen over the past decade!
Jim Brubaker

Your Critics’ Choice Awards saddens me. The majority are rated R and PG-13 and so is it any wonder that we are dealing with such immorality in our churches. I can’t help but wonder how we pridefully think we can watch hours of sexual content and violence and not have it affect our minds. Violence has become the standard for entertainment and we no longer comprehend how our great Lord will ultimately deal with sin. With our focus so much on grace and understanding our culture, I fear we are becoming like it. However, I did enjoy The Queen!
Susie Hardin

I feel very disturbed that you would rate Little Children in your 10 Top Movies of 2006. Are you not supposed to be a Christian magazine? What is wrong with you? I will pray God conflicts your hearts and opens your eyes.
Jerry Allonas

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  • graycassettetape

    “Let is be the feelings that bring about events, not the other way.” (Robert Bresson)

  • Mark

    I’m sick and tired of people using the “go see this film or there won’t be others like it” argument. If I did that, my entire year of theatre-attending would have been consumed by mediocre Christian films. We don’t want more “Facing the Giants.” I didn’t even attend The Nativity Story cause I’m familiar with the director, and I don’t like her work.

    Having said that, I really disagree with some of these movies that made the CT top ten list. But I appreciate that they are being chosen out of excellence.

  • Joel K.

    “Sometimes rather than sing about the light, you need to sing about what you can see because of the light.”
    - T-Bone Burnett

  • Brett

    I can’t speak for the motives of the reviewers or the letter writers, but if I judge rightly based on what they’ve written, the reviewers seem interested in seeing films through the lens of their faith. That is, they use their perspectives as Christians to evaluate a film in its entirety, including what it may say about human beings, the divine, or the human condition. They do not have a simple checklist criteria such as profanity, sexual content, worldview or the religious character of the filmmakers.

    The letter writers, on the other hand, seem to want to see their faith expressed in their films. They will be happy with films that are perhaps not technically as good, according to some standards. But they think those films better represent their point of view in looking at the world. In fact, they may consider things such as profanity, etc, as standards by which to judge the quality of a film, which to them are as important as craft, script, camera technique, etc.

    I lean strongly towards the first point of view myself, but I understand and sympathize with the second. So I’m not surprised that CT‘s reviewers got some negative mail for their choices. I’d be surprised if they weren’t expecting those kinds of responses. And you know, in reviews, writers express their opinion and judgment of another person’s work (and they often do so with some glee or extra attention paid to being clever), so the letters seem a whole lot like sauce for the goose.

  • Steve

    I’ve been reading Jeffrey’s blog for a while now but I’ve rarely felt any need to comment. Until now.

    Now this is just my own opinion but the point of movies is to tell a story. Stories are endemic in the world and they give a voice to things that would otherwise remain unseen. This is God’s world, right from the smallest atom to the largest mountain. To argue, as the ancient church did, that some things should remain untold is to argue that some of God’s creations should remain hidden. But who are we to decide?

    There’s some, but mercifully not a majority, of modern Christian thinking that remains rooted in the middle ages back when priests argued that people of different colour skin were “savages”, that women’s duty was to be eternally subservient and that the poor were an encumbrance to be exploited. Even people as influential as Martin Luther saw Holy Writ in a set of principles that would be condemned in this day and age. And it cannot be a coincidence that so much progress has followed on the back of the wave of the free press and the art house that has given voice and vision to things that most Christians would never have seen.

    So you can argue that Harry Potter exalts witchcraft but who has truly ever come out of reading the book or the movie and feeling that Harry and his friends champion evil? Or are the lost souls in “Trainspotting” any less worthy of our understanding because they are shown in tableaux of sex, violence and drugs – all part and parcel of their existence? To understand evil, you need to see it. The Holocaust would never been as shocking if it had not been for those newsreel images of emaciated bodies.

    Christian filmmakers who feed us dry panegyrics of beautiful people living beautiful, holy lives in impossibly moralistic settings are doing the rest of us a profound disservice by showing a world that never existed and is never meant to exist. The truth is that the modern world is rife with promiscuous sex, unwanted pregnancies, drug use by the dozen and needless wars and the first step into saving the millions of lost souls caught up in them is to know both that they exist and the world in which they exist. That, and that alone, is the art of the modern film maker. To show us the things that would otherwise remain hidden. To give voice to the truth as it is and not as we would pretend it should be.

    So give me more “Little Children”, “Harry Potter”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, even Cronenberg’s “Crash” and “Debbie Does Dallas” have a purpose in our world. They don’t necessarily have to be the best of their genre. They just need to exist. That alone is enough.

  • D. Ian Dalrymple

    “However, I did enjoy The Queen!”

    That’s hilarious!

  • Wasp Jerky

    These angry letter writers are right. Everyone knows the Bible is the most G-rated book on the shelves.

  • Marc

    “I feel very disturbed that you would rate Little Children in your 10 Top Movies of 2006. Are you not supposed to be a Christian magazine? What is wrong with you? I will pray God conflicts your hearts and opens your eyes.”

    God conflicts your heart? My whole life has been spent with a conflicted heart, between my own selfish desires and God’s desires for me. I don’t think I need someone praying for more confliction. Perhaps he meant to say “afflict”? If God does that then maybe you’ll know “what’s wrong with you”?

    Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you.

  • M. Cruz

    Quick note. (I will definitely check this all out in detail later.)

    But I wonder if it’s a problem of people not understanding what film (or art in general) is about, what it’s supposed to do, and what the standards of film criticism are? There are films that are ‘clean’ or ‘moral’, but lacking in artistry. And there are films that are brilliantly done, but the bottom line message is a lie. And there are various combinations, I’m sure.)

    (I’m guessing your book addresses these very issues, so I need to hurry up and order myself a copy!)

  • Martin

    Ouch! Poor nail.

  • Martin

    At the conclusion of his talk with Michael Landon, Jr., the DJ makes a telling remark. He says something like, “The only chance for films like yours to succeed is for Christian moviegoers to get out there and support them.”

    What? Stuffing the ticket box is the “only chance” for the film to succeed? A film by a Christian filmmaker shouldn’t be expected to succeed on its artistic merit, or its compelling story, or its profound insight into the human condition?

    I’m all for supporting Christian filmmakers, but I’d like to be able to do it because the film DESERVES my support, not because it somehow NEEDS my support.

    As for Landon, he doesn’t address Peter’s remarks so much as dismiss them, and rather brusquely and unfairly at that. First he accuses Peter of having an “agenda” (without specifying what that agenda might be) and then says something to the effect of, “If you’d ever spent any time with someone who’s known the love of Jesus…” (Implying what? That Peter never hangs out with Christians?)

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Martin,

    You have hit the nail on the head.

    Jeffrey

  • Martin

    At the conclusion of his talk with Michael Landon, Jr., the DJ makes a telling remark. He says something like, “The only chance for films like yours to succeed is for Christian moviegoers to get out there and support them.”

    What? Stuffing the ticket box is the “only chance” for the film to succeed? A film by a Christian filmmaker shouldn’t be expected to succeed on its artistic merit, or its compelling story, or its profound insight into the human condition?

    I’m all for supporting Christian filmmakers, but I’d like to be able to do it because the film DESERVES my support, not because it somehow NEEDS my support.


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