Browser: Scott Cairns. “Fireproof.” “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

A new Scott Cairns poem is posted at the Denver Literary Examiner, one of several included in the new issue of Poetry. Cairns also has new poems in the new 20th anniversary issue of Image.

Did the recent movie Fireproof inspire you or change your life?

Have you been waiting for me to publish a review of it?

If so, forgive me. I missed a lot of movies in 2008, and that was one of them.

I was recently informed that, since I write reviews for Christian readers, Christian readers will “justifiably be expecting [me] to make an informed decision” on Fireproof — moreso than, say, Wendy and Lucy — because Fireproof is a movie “squarely” in a Christian moviegoer “demographic.”

I replied that I had very little moviegoing time these days (with my long-overdue novel on my desk), and if I did have a couple of hours I would probably make it a priority to see something from the top of the list of the year’s most acclaimed films, I was informed that I was “showing signs of elitism and film critic snobbery.”

My goodness, I hope not. I apologize if I’ve come across as snobbish for prioritizing Rachel Getting Married over Fireproof. I haven’t taken the time to catch up with that film yet. (Nor have I had time for many of the films that are regularly appearing in the top ten lists of other film critics, Christian or otherwise.)

To help make up part of my debt to those expectant Christian moviegoers, I’m opening the phones here. I have no desire whatsoever to turn up my nose against Fireproof, or against Christian filmmakers, or against anything that might have “a positive impact.” I’m happy to provide a platform for people to sing this movie’s praises, and to talk about how it has impressed them or changed their life. I haven’t seen the film, so I cannot, and should not, make any presumptuous judgments.

So… I pass you the megaphone. If Fireproof is one of 2008’s most inspiring films, let the world know here. And forgive me for neglecting it or spreading any kind of “snobbish” or “elitist” vibes…

And while we’re at it:

What were the most inspiring and uplifting films you saw this year?

For me, a film’s “message” isn’t enough to make it inspiring. I need beauty. Excellence. Poetry. Truth. Something real, crafted with integrity. Blatant messages accompanied by sentimental music or close-ups of tear-stained faces don’t inspire me. Might as well send me a Hallmark card. No… I’m hungry for something real, something that lets me discover meaning, rather than something that shovels meaning upon me.

(And by the way, have you seen Flight of the Red Balloon? It’s as buoyant as the subject of its title. Or Silent Light? If there was any film this year that inspiringly portrayed the beautiful scandal of Divine Intervention, well…)

I’m hope I find a good opportunity to see Fireproof. If and when that happens, believe me: I’ll share my thoughts without holding back.

At Image, A.G. Harmon considers The Day the Earth Stood Still

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  • Hey, Jeremy. Your experience of Fireproof was not a one-off deal, strictly the result of circumstances. It’s had the same effect on an awful lot of people, me included — and I’m about as snarky and skeptical when it comes to “Christian” film as anyone (short of being actually mean-spirited).

    I just watched the film again with my wife yesterday morning, and it had her (and I, again) pretty well wracked with emotion at several points. Low budget and flawed, yes, but some really powerful filmmaking at work, too.

  • Jeremy Landes

    I’ll bite the bait. I can’t stand certain Christian movies where the creators heap cliches atop each other to spoon-feed a message to hungry/thirsty Christian-only mouths. So I’m not sure why I even bought a ticket for Fireproof. I was at a church men’s retreat at the time, during a several-hour break, and I just wanted to redeem the few personal hours I’d been given. I considered going to see Righteous Kill instead–my faith was minimal that Fireproof was something worth seeing. Things were tense at home, too, and I wanted to forget marital stress, rather than watching characters in the same boat. The movie grabbed me during the first scene, when we hear a little girl tell her mom, “I want to marry daddy.” Tears started forming, as I realized that I wanted my own infant daughter to be loved by a husband who would truly respect and honor her–the way I hadn’t been doing lately with my bride. I saw my own selfishness reflected in Kirk Cameron’s character. I felt the wife character’s pain as she coped and reacted with anger/resentment to her husband’s anger, his porn addiction, his choosing work over her, and many other elements. Yet, I didn’t ever choose a side in the fighting–a tricky script manuever, I thought.
    Basically, God helped me see a lot of sin patterns in my life through watching Fireproof, I wept, and then I went through some catharsis. It was powerful. Maybe it was a one-time event that weekend when God wanted to speak something specific to me, but I was grateful. The comic relief was…very relieving when it needed to be. The movie was suspenseful in places, and I was pleasantly surprised by the slow, careful character development. I think the filmmakers didn’t do such a terrific job with the conversion scene in the middle–could have been a lot more artful and less quick. I respected the effort, though, since something needed to happen in the character of Caleb or the movie would have just kept going Groundhog Day style–an endless cycle of failure. It was refreshing to see that everything didn’t immediately get better afterward. I’m more tempted now to watch Facing the Giants, despite the description of it by Nicolosi(?) as porn for Christians. In Fireproof, he filmmakers created a two-hour drama that related to my life and, it seems, many other men who have seen it–not sure what it’s doing for women. It wasn’t a commercial for Christianity–I believed these characters could exist, hurt each other, and change. For that reason, I recommend seeing it.

  • Rick de Gier

    Hi Jeffrey,
    One of the most uplifiting films I saw last year was Mike Leighs Happy-go-lucky. The main character comes across as naively optimistic at first, but as the story unfolds, you realize she does understand what the world is like, but chooses not to let it get her down. In a brilliant climatic scene where she’s attacked by her obsessive driving instructor, she shows her true colors, not judging him, reaching out, but also standing up for herself. Because she’s portrayed as a normal, flawed person we can relate to, she’s one of the most inspiring movie characters I’ve seen. A lot more Christ-like than some characters I’ve come across in Christian books and films.
    One that also touched me was another British movie, And when did you last see your father? The direction is a tad heavy-handed at times, but it features the most true to life father-son relationship I’ve seen in a movie. There’s no big resolution, but there are subtle hints of hope and comfort.
    I find often movies can be uplifting and comforting just by showing the world as it really is, with a lot of ugliness, but also unexpected beauty.

  • The current issue of The Other Journal, which ends this week, also includes a new Scott Cairns poem (with audio) and some other cool stuff, like a two-part interview with Kathleen Norris. Anyway, here’s the Cairns poem:

  • iowaboy277

    Most inspiring and uplifting films this year? I’ll start the nominations with two movies that feature characters who find themselves reaching out across cultures to help others they might normally try to avoid. I hope Richard Jenkins gets some Oscar love for his excellent first starring role in The Visitor. And I’m still feeling the charm of the Israelis and Egyptians from last night’s viewing of The Band’s Visit.

    And what I wouldn’t give to see a show on the “Three Girls and Their Buddy” tour….