“Knowing” Remarks from Ebert and… Well… Others

Roger Ebert bothered many film critics and moviegoers when he turned in a four-star review of Alex Proyas’s new film Knowing. Today, he’s defending his rave review.

Meanwhile, Christianity Today’s review was posted last week — more high praise.

But that review inspired backlash too. Here are a few of my favorite lines from the comments of CT Movies readers:

“Although there are some shorts which may show a little cleavage, it’s never done sexually…”

Shorts which show cleavage? I’ve gotta see this movie!

“The fowl language is brief and very infrequent.”

Is it sparrow language, or seagull language? Personally, I find myself most commonly offended by waterfowl language.

“Don’t look for a biblically based movie.”

I wouldn’t normally expect a “biblically based movie” from mainstream entertainers composing a work of science fiction about the future. But frankly, even though the Bible is a lamp to my feet and light for my path, I tend to find that “biblically based movies” are usually very preachy and poorly made. I normally find more profound inspiration in films from artists who never intended to make a “biblically based movie,” but who made something that reflected the truth through beauty and excellence nevertheless.

“…the last 15 minutes of the film turn out to be what I would label as blasphemy against our Creator.”

Must we label it as “blasphemy” if a work of science fiction, created by non-Christians, falls short of reflecting our worldview? Must we be so swift and severe in “labeling” things and condemning worldly people for being, well, worldly? Or might we instead be encouraged to find “rumors of glory” and evidence of “eternity in their hearts” when we find glimmers of truth in worldly entertainment?

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  • Rob

    I watched it over the weekend, and I felt like it was quite an experience.
    While the movie did not directly come out and say it, I felt that parts actually were an analogy with religion. To be honest, at the end, I saw the “aliens” more as angels continuing human beings right to free will. The feel of the cinematography at the end when the children were dropped off at the new planet also gave me the hint of biblical-ness with the giant lone tree in the field.
    Along side that I felt the movie also stressed how everything happens for a reason.

    I left the movie theater very pleased and inspired. My buddy and I actually had a religious discussion in the car home.
    I felt this movie could be comparable to Donnie Darko, The Fountain (2006), and the ending of the movie Sublime (2007).
    But this is just my two cents worth.

  • Hey Jeffrey-
    Your post made me laugh. Thanks for that! As always, nice commentary and reflection. This year I’ve started a program through my church that takes you through the entire Bible in three years, through small daily readings. Having gotten through Genesis & Exodus recently, I was actually reflecting recently on how much “R-rated” material actually is in there. That often gets forgotten amongst the fundie backlash against movies….but of course it’s always a matter of context too.

    I just watched ‘Casino’ again recently and the intense violence actually deepened my longing for God and really made me aware of our need for His grace, in a way that shook me up a bit. I think this is a good thing.

    We gotta have coffee one of these days, man.

  • Dan


    I appreciate your response. I see where you are coming from and, in fact, agree with most, if not all, of what you are saying. I just felt that your remarks were a little biting and sarcastic. I wasn’t offended by them; I just didn’t feel they were very productive or a good reflection on you. But I am by no means judging you and I am sure many others just saw it as amusing and witty. And I am flattered that you were willing to change your post just because of my thoughts on it, but I honestly believe I better understand the points you were trying to make now that you have revised it.

  • I saw some shorts that showed cleavage once. They were on a plumber. Wrong kind of cleavage.

  • Dan,

    I’m sorry that my post came across as “cynical, self-serving … pointless … snobbish … bitter” and “degrading.”

    I suppose I did not communicate the tone of what I intended… which was really just a bit of chuckling over some amusing typos and some statements that I found confusing.

    I’ve posted plenty of typos myself, and when I’ve noticed them I’ve been the first to have a laugh over them.

    I felt no bitterness reading the remarks left on CT, and felt no “superiority.”

    Now, on the issue of “labels” … my comment was meant to expose what seems an prevalent attitude in Christian culture… a need to slap condemning labels on things that bother us or that we don’t understand. So my comment about “labels” was intended to highlight yet another occasion of the need to condemn something as “blasphemous” when, in fact, what we have here is just another case of a secular film proposing a speculation — a fantastical speculation in a work of science fiction — about the future, not some kind of strategic attack on God.

    My intent was to focus on the content of someone’s comment, and expose a problem there, rather than to make a mockery of a particular person. That’s why I refrained from calling anybody’s name or getting personal.

    This seems to me to be very different than posting a video of someone for the sake of mocking them.

    I’m certain that I could have expressed this in a way that avoided offending anybody, though. So forgive me. I’ll go back and edit my response to make it less likely to ofend.

  • Dan

    I love reading your blog and your reviews, Jeffrey, but I don’t understand when you put up these cynical, self-serving, and, quite honestly, pointless posts. The first half is fine and quite interesting, but then you descend into a snobbish attitude of superiority. You are extremely intelligent and have wonderful thoughts and insights on film, so I don’t understand why you have to stoop low enough to make what appear to be bitter, degrading remarks about people who clearly just don’t understand the art of film. You blogged a few weeks ago about how people feast their eyes on the misfortunes of the likes of Joaquin Pheonix or Christian Bale, yet you then gleefully mock the ignorance of your own fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for others to feast their eyes on. I’m not angry about it; just disappointed. You are my favorite film critic, and I love your blog, but I wish I could enjoy it more for what it is: a fascinating and insightful take on how you see art and culture.

  • On the contrary, Jeff, guys-standing-in-the-woods movies are some of the best out there. The fowl language, however, gives me nightmares.