Q&O = Question & Overstreet! On Muppets, Korean Cinema, U2, God’s Not Dead!, and more.

Q & O = Question and Overstreet.

Some of these questions came to me via email, Facebook, Twitter, or some other internet source. And some of them came to me as answers first… suggesting unspoken questions.

So, if you’re interested in MFA programs, Korean cinema, Muppets, God’s Not Dead, U2, or my dubious opinions… here we go!

A real question from a reader:

Why did you decide to pursue an MFA?

Overstreet:

Lots of reasons.

Here are a few:

Seattle Pacific University MFA in Creative Writing students on Whidbey Island in March 2014.

I want to grow as a writer, especially in nonfiction.

Seattle Pacific University’s program is amazing — I know because I’ve attended every MFA graduation ceremony that has taken place in Santa Fe at the Glen Workshop over the last several years. I’ve kept in touch with students and graduates of the program. I’ve read their writing. The program has obviously had a powerful influence on them.

The SPU MFA faculty has included some of my favorite writers: Robert Clark, Gina Ochsner, Lauren Winner, Paula Huston, Jeanine Hathaway, Jeanne Murray Walker, Bret Lott, and others. They also bring in amazing guest lecturers who spend time with the students. I recently had breakfast with Pinckney Benedict and lunch with Richard Rodriguez!

And since I work at SPU, I’m constantly aware of the enthusiasm within and around the program. I had to take the plunge. I’m grateful they accepted me.

Also, I’ve had many fantastic teaching experiences over the last several years. Serving as Writer-in-Residence at Covenant College this fall was a thrill and an honor, and the responses of the students were very inspiring. Teaching fiction writing at the Laity Lodge Writers Retreat in the company of Lauren Winner (nonfiction), Stephen Lawhead (fantasy), Over the Rhine (songwriting), Scott Cairns (poetry) and others… those were similarly inspiring times. The idea of pursuing more teaching work someday is appealing to me. Maybe someday I’ll do that. If I do, an MFA would be a good thing to have.

A headline that I took as a serious question:

Cannes Film Festival — Could this year’s Croisette lineup of big names and academy favorites lead all the way to Oscar? (via)

Overstreet:

Who cares?

Oscar is not a destination. Oscar is a rigged game show. Cannes remains a film festival of some integrity. The films selected for inclusion must demonstrate some substantial integrity. Why not celebrate Cannes, instead of pretending it only matters as a possible qualifying round for a commercial extravaganza deeply contaminated by money and celebrity? If I were a filmmaker, I would consider it a much greater honor to be selected for a screening at Cannes than to win an Oscar.

A real question from a reader:

What are your top five Korean films?

Overstreet:

Korean cinema is not my strong category. I’m not sure I can offer a solid list of favorites.

Korean cinema tends to be a little too fiercely melodramatic for me. I need to read more to gain a greater understanding of “how to read” Korean cinema.

But a few memorable titles that come to mind are Bong Joon-ho’s hilarious The Host, Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry, Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, and Kim Ki-duk’s visually enchanting Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring. 

I tried to enjoy Secret Sunshine, because its treatment of Korean Christianity was interesting, but the movie seemed more interested in going to extremes than going in-depth on anything.

I can’t get excited about Park Chan-wook’s obsession with revenge stories: Oldboy was skillfully made, but it turned my stomach.

I’m curious about Bong Joon-ho’s upcoming Snowpiercer.

Question suggested by an extra on The Muppet Movie blu-ray:

Is Fozzie Bear a real bear?

Overstreet:

Kermit and Fozzie pondered this question during a screen test. It remains their most candid discussion on record.

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Question from Facebook:

Are you going to review God’s Not Dead?

Overstreet:

Absolutely not.

I’m not interested in “Christian entertainment” that breaks the world into false “us versus them” conflicts. Nor am I interested in films that portray Christians as people without character flaws, or unbelievers as monsters doomed to destruction or dramatic conversion scenes or both. I don’t accept as “Christian” any storytelling that conveys a condescending or contemptuous attitude toward our neighbors.

I stand with Madeleine L’Engle, who said,

“We do not draw people to Christ

by loudly discrediting what they believe,

by telling them how wrong they are

and how right we are,

but by showing them a light that is so lovely

that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Several of the critics I trust most have lined up to find the film severely lacking in those terms, and severely lacking in most aspects of cinematic art as well. I’m grateful that I can choose to spend my time on more promising cinema.

But if you want to read opinions from reviewers I highly recommend, check this out.

Question from Facebook:

What are your thoughts on Noah?

Overstreet:

I posted a two-part reflection on the film — and the controversy surrounding it — earlier this week. Here’s Part One, and here’s Part Two. And if that’s not enough, here’s a huge list of stuff to read.

Question I asked myself while listening to new releases:

Since there is no new U2 album this year, what’s your favorite U2 Postponement Album this year?

Overstreet:

Elbow’s The Take Off and Landing of Everything. This is the best 2014 music for scratching a U2 itch.

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A question from Twitter:

What are some of your all-time favorite TV shows? And do you ever plan to write about them?

Overstreet:

The Muppet Show. Twin Peaks. Firefly. The Wire. SportsNight. Spaced. Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Mid- to late-80s Late Night with David Letterman.

And I have no plans to write about them anytime soon. I want to write well, and to write well about television would take practice. I’m still learning to write well about cinema, the intersection of art and faith, and my own life, as well as learning to write fiction. I may have to leave the writing on television to others who have the time and energy to do it well.

But thanks for asking!

A question from Twitter:

Is there a film genre you enjoy more than others?

Overstreet:

Is “beautiful” a genre? “Sacred”?

I love films that persuasively capture the rare and wonderful sight of human beings deep in thought.

I love great films for children. I think that is the most difficult genre to do well.

Here is a list of my favorite films. Browse, and you’ll see why I’m having trouble with this question.

I do notice, however, that the top 10 almost all deal with a sense of a grand and benevolent mystery that calls out to the human spirit. It calls out to humans and angels in Wings of Desire, to a grieving widow in Blue, to John Smith and Rebecca in The New World, to a banjo-playing frog in The Muppet Movie, to a master chef in Babette’s Feast, to Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back, to H.I. Mcdonagh in Raising Arizona, to Roy Batty and Deckard in Blade Runner… and to the people of Paris, who seem to be dying for the lack of it in Code Unknown. 

ASK A QUESTION FOR THE NEXT ROUND OF Q&A. I JUST MIGHT ANSWER IT.

Email me at joverstreet@gmail.com, or post it in the Comments below.

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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.

  • jonnyflash

    If you find Bong Joon-ho’s work interesting, then you must watch “Memories of Murder.” Fantastic, haunting & noirish. Vastly superior to David Fincher’s Zodiac, and that wasn’t a bad film by any stretch.


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