As I sat watching the Oscars and writing the last installment of Film Forum for Christianity Today, I was inspired by all of the thank-you speeches made by the winners.
So I’ve started this week’s edition with thanks to a few people who have supported me in this work over six years. And I want to repeat those thanks here.
This column began even before the Christianity Today Movies website existed—it was created by Steve Lansingh and Ted Olsen in November 1999, even before the famous Rotten Tomatoes site started excerpting different critics’ reviews. I would like to thank them for their vision and courage in establishing Film Forum. And I am grateful that they invited me to carry it forward. It has been a privilege.
Thanks to Mark Moring for being so supportive and working so hard at Christianity Today Movies. I greatly admire his courage, conviction, and enthusiasm, and I’m thankful for his thoughtful editing week after week.
And thanks to the critics from so many publications and websites, who are doing such inspiring work. You’ve changed my understanding of what a “Christian movie review” can be, and given me hope that we can carry Christian engagement with film to a deeper, more rewarding levels.
Finally, thanks to the readers who have corresponded with me over the years. You’ve challenged me, corrected me, given me new ideas, and introduced me to great films I might otherwise have missed.
And of course, in the spirit of Jennifer Hudson, I’d like to thank God.
Where is Film Forum going? And why?
When Film Forum began, it was the only weekly film coverage at ChristianityToday.com. It provided a new perspective on the diversity of Christian opinions about film, entertainment, and popular culture. Since then, so many Christian perspectives have become available that it’s become difficult to keep up with them all. ChristianityTodayMovies.com has rounded up a whole team of active film critics, and they are providing plenty of coverage to keep readers informed. It’s time to focus our energies on those articles.
Nevertheless, since the “round table” format of Film Forum provides an interesting way to compare and contrast differing Christian perspectives on film, I intend to continue providing it (in a slightly altered format) at my website, LookingCloser.org. And I will continue to write film reviews for CT Movies.
I have a passion for this column, and here’s the reason why: As I was growing up, I came to believe that a “Christian movie review” consisted of these things:
- a brief summary;
- an explanation of the film’s MPAA rating;
- an exhaustive, detailed list of all of the things in this film that might offend people; and
- a judgment of the film based on those troubling elements.
Things have definitely changed. These days, many Christian film critics are more ambitious in their engagement with art. They aren’t preoccupied with what might be offensive (although they do provide helpful cautions). They focus instead on finding and celebrating truth, beauty, and excellence—all of which glorify God—and noting shoddy craftsmanship, mediocrity, and weakness, which cripple creative work.
They are recognizing that there is meaning in all kinds of stories and images, because whether it’s a feel-good story or a hellish nightmare, imagery and storytelling can reveal the truth about choices, consequences, human nature, and the sacred. They’re discovering that films by all kinds of artists—even those who deny the source of their talent—can reveal beauty, truth, and glimmers of the Gospel.
And they’re showing me the difference between celebrating evil and merely portraying it. How will we make meaningful art if we cannot illustrate the darkness in the world? How will we “catch the conscience” of our culture if our representations of reality do not convincingly and compellingly represent the truth of our messed-up world?
I love listening in on these debates and discussions. It is humbling and challenging to observe such diversity and passion in Christian engagement with art. Often, these reviews dig deeper than any mainstream movie coverage.
Before we get to this week’s reviews, I want to leave you with a quote from Frederick Buechner’s Whistling in the Dark, that should remind us to pay close attention to the films of people from all perspectives, from all corners of the world:
“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
That explains why I value the wide variety of insightful interpretations I’ve encountered in Film Forum. That’s what inspired me to eventually share my experiences in a book, Through a Screen Darkly. And that is why the Forum will continue elsewhere. Stay tuned. We’re just getting started.
(To read this week’s Film Forum, click here.)