Watching Movies Should Be More Than a Passive Experience

Watching Movies Should Be More Than a Passive Experience December 1, 2022

Sacrifice and love are constant universal themes that make a story worth watching and thinking about. There is a scene in Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph when Ralph makes a sacrifice near the end of the film that saves the cute little Vanellope von Schweetz from blipping out of existence of her cyber reality inside a video game. It was a touching moment that made me tear up due to Ralph’s display of selflessness and sacrifice. It was a moment that my daughter would never seize to bring up from time to time.

“You cried at Wreck-It-Ralph.”

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By the way, Wreck It Ralph was totally worth a trip to the cineplex. It was a well together woven story that displays a story of depth humor and insight into the meaning of life and the value of sacrifice. Plus it is a nostalgic look back and the classic video games of my youth.

Good stories well told through movies, books and television have that power to invoke your emotions and cement lasting memories like that. I believe movies should not just be an isolated passive experience. Instead watching movies can be an opportunity for communion and bonding with others. And for crying real tears. And laughing real laughs. Thus I like to watch movies with my wife.

Watching movies with Kristin is quite the experience as she will often cry like she’s at a funeral, laugh like she had too much nitrous oxide, or else she will tell the people on screen not to make a certain decision with enthusiastic gusto. She will occasionally ask me what is going on in the movie or show as opposed to actually waiting to see what happens. Do you know anyone like her? Do you have someone you love to watch media with because there so lively when they do?

And often times we will discuss the story and speculate on what is going to happen in the next episode if were watching a TV show or reflect on something that happen in a movie and talk about it. Good movies and even bad movies can create avenues for discussions as they are a near occasion of conversation to make you think and ask all kinds of questions about life, reality, and morality. Depending on how deep the story takes you, a good or great film or tv show might even cause you to speculate or ask What If? It may take you beyond what you just saw on screen and to fun creative imaginative speculation.

Here is an example of what I mean from some Youtubers who specialize in that sort of thing.

The Pixar Theory is explained by the Super Carlin Brothers.

I clipped the particular video to a minute to illustrate the point I am making.

You can of course watch the whole thing.

At the Catholic Bard I like to share my love of particular visual storytelling in blog reflections with you the reader. I love any film that has some essence of the Catholic themes of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. A film doesn’t have to be specifically Catholic but can’t be anti-catholic in glorifying and justifying something against her teaching. For example I haven’t seen or would I ever watch any of the American Pie movies. The overall plot and main theme of any of those films are teens trying to have as much promiscuous sex as possible in as detailed and gross a way a way as possible.

It doesn’t mean that every movie or tv show has to have characters who display the fullness of Catholic moral teaching on sexuality. Some material can have inappropriate sexual moments but are not weighed down by it as an overall glorious theme. One such example of a show that is more than a few bad moments, is a show that I know many devout Catholics do enjoy, which is ‘The Office’. The characters, situations and displays of true and unbelievable human wackiness draw many viewers into its world of comedy. Office memes show up on social media on a regular basis.

I will watch shows or movies that contain bad language, profanity,  violence, sexuality and nudity. If a show tends to have too much graphic glorified bloody violence, prolonged sexual activity and nudity I tend to shy away from watching it. I hate God’s name being misused more then anything else. I try to utter a prayer blessing the holy trinity everytime I hear it being misused. I can however stomach rarely an over amount of non profanity fowl language if the story is so engaging that I can somewhat ignore the constant F Bombs. The movie Memento is one such example of a film that is so mind blowing in its writing that I overlooked the extreme amount of bad language. I have watched this film several times with several different people.

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There are shows that I loved in its storytelling but the sexuality and or swearing was too much for me to take. This includes the time traveling Dark, the dystopian Handmaid’s Tale, the mind blowing Westworld,  the hilarious Derry Girls, and the superhero epic The Boys. All great shows marred by visuals and sounds I can’t unsee if I put it in front of my eyes and ears. Too bad as the stories they told were  really told well.

For those who would like to watch shows with inappropriate content but who want to skip the inappropriate content there is always the option of VidAngel.

I know a lot of Christians have problems with any depictions of LGBT + relationships shown on screen. This is why I am addressing this particular topic. I do tend to think that a lot of gay romances shown in media storytelling are there just so that particular tribe can be represented and not because it naturally fits into the story. If it is shown in a story however, it doesn’t necessarily kill the film for me. It doesn’t necessarily make it better either. My friend Dave who has cerebral palsy has remarked about how often filmmakers want to squeeze in different races, nationalities, sexes, and those of different sexual orientation into a show. His big question is ‘Where are My People?”

But back to the other issue. I have come to believe that the gay agenda is not being always being pushed and forced on movie goers as propaganda simply because two women kiss on screen. Homesexual + lifestyles are a regular part of our society at this point and if it is shown in a movie it is showing a regular part of society. Cohabitation, divorced and remarried people, fornacators, and adulterers are shown much more frequently in films and you don’t always see certain Christians freaking out about that half as much as you do about LGBT + people. If your gonna be against one, at least be consistent about other types of relationships depicted in stories that also don’t live up to the church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. Is two woman just kissing as bad as James Bond’s promiscuous  sleeping with (sometimes several) different woman in his films?

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I love all types of genres of visual storytelling but tend to gravitate towards Sci-Fi  and Fantasy stories and write alot about them. I also tend to like motion pictures that tend to be specifically Catholic like Father Stu.  Overall I like anything that is a story well told whether it was made in 1922 or 2022. I like films that are silent and movies that are loud. I like well done slapstick, clean fun rom coms, action packed Jackie Chan style kung fu, imagative animation, insightful documentaries and straight real dramas like Maid.

I will watch anything that exercises deep thought, imaginative creativity and displays moral goodness and hope. I plan on writing reflections with this in mind. I said reflections as opposed to reviews. An actual review takes up more brain power then I have energy or time to compose. It entails being able to store and sift through various facts and aspects of a motion picture  and involves detailed accuracy on the many parts of a film. But a reflection enables you to give your opinion, thoughts and feelings on a particular film without having to recreate a complete summary or give a deep analysis of the themes and plot of a particular cinematic experience. You can offer some small insights into something someone has seen or may want to see.

I may or may not in each reflection I write give a formal or informal content warning of potential problematic themes or issues of concern to Christians.

For a more detailed and deeper look at how a Catholic film critic should think check out these articles from  Deacon Steven D. Greydanus.

No critic can offer a one-size-fits-all approach for all committed Christians. I can’t, and have never tried to, tell anyone what to think or watch, or make definitive pronouncements about good or bad movies. I’m not the Pope; I’m not even the pope of movies. There is no pope of movies. Even the Pope isn’t the pope of movies.

What I can do, and do my best to do, is this. I try to offer readers a responsible take on every film I see, one informed by serious reflection on historic Christian belief and Church teaching, along with enough information about the film itself and my thought processes in reviewing it to allow readers to arrive at their own conclusions and make an informed choice about whether they want to see it. I hope my work is a starting-point for readers thinking about films, not an ending-point telling them what to think.

I hope my writing sparks new lines of thought or new ways of looking at films after seeing them, that my efforts to articulate how I look at a film are helpful to others seeking to sharpen their own critical skills. Of course I hope it’s fun to read

Faith and Film Criticism: The Challenge of the Catholic Critic – Decent Films

Inter Mirifica outlines principles of a Catholic approach to film and other media that is much more positive and nuanced than the rigorist view. Where the rigorist view often regards entertainment as well as art and culture as indifferent at best if not frivolous, or even as a distraction or temptation, the Vatican II decree affirms entertainment, culture and art as positive goods. These are not the only goods that the media can and should serve, but they remain good in themselves, not merely as a means to some other end.

What Are the Decent Films? – Decent Films



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