Classical education goes to the movies

Classical education goes to the movies April 3, 2014

Classical education does quite a bit with aesthetics and encourages deep reflection on works of art.  Thanks to James Banks for alerting me to a new website entitled FilmFisher.  It features movie reviews by classical educators and their students, as mentored by the classical educators.  The discussions of the films–which thus far include Noah, 300, American Hustle, Gattaca, Non-Stop–are very perceptive, going far beyond the usual reductionistic Christian movie reviews.  (Some of you high school or college students should sign up to be a reviewer!)

From About Us ~ FilmFisher:

FilmFisher is a movie review site by students and for students. Thoughtful high school and college students, guided by adult mentors, present reflective reviews of contemporary and older films. Films are reviewed for artistic excellence, cinematography, writing, acting, plot and the ways films succeed or fail at cultivating humanity and shape those living as Christians. In short, films are evaluated for their truth, goodness and beauty, or lack thereof.

In addition to presenting reviews, FilmFisher seeks to explore other aspects of film such as filmmaking, film history and cultural analysis prompted and suggested by film. FilmFisher seeks to provide practical guidance for watching and evaluating films for students and parents, but also seeks to prompt students to study and contemplate film as an art form that when used well can form and shape people and culture for the common good.


From Joshua Gibbs, Introducing FilmFisher:

Launching today, FilmFisher is a unique website dedicated to creating an expansive community of film critics committed to classical ideals and Christian convictions. FilmFisher readers will enjoy a wide array of film reviews and essays on genre, acting and principles of interpretation. Our writers are diverse in age, experience and ecclesial background; we house high school students, college students and teachers from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches. FilmFisher is a place where young writers can hone their craft and skill through tutelage from more seasoned writers, but FilmFisher also features essays on current films and classics from moviegoers who have written about film for years.

While Christian film review websites abound on the internet, the FilmFisher community is distinct not only for their aim to create a community of writers who edit and critique one another’s work, but for their interest in engaging deeply with the aesthetics, philosophy and theology of films. Too often, Christian film reviews are interested in stripping away “the husk” of a film and laying bare—exposing—an ideology (an –ism, like nihilism or materialism or secularism) which allegedly sits at the film’s center beneath layers of meaningless costuming, soundtrack, direction, acting styles, choreography, casting decisions, pacing, structure, silence and suggestion.

In short, Christians too often want to discern the “worldview” of a film as quickly as possible so that the film may be deemed trustworthy or not, true or not, damnable or not. On the contrary, FilmFisher reviewers are persuaded that costuming, soundtrack, direction, acting styles and so forth constitute not only the film itself, but the meaning of the film, and that while interpretation is a necessary aspect of art, all art is irreducibly complex. The message of a film is not buried beneath abject aesthetics and subterfuge and color and music. If a film could be easily reduced to a single maxim, a single truism, then the clever director would save time and money and simply plaster that maxim on billboards across the country. And yet, this is absurd. The truth of a movie shoots through every quality, every moment, every nuance and every claim of a film. However, we all intuitively know that the music, the pacing, the silence… these things are the meaning, the joy, the sublimity, the loathsomeness, the perfection of the movie and they cannot be reduced to anything simpler than what they are. FilmFisher critics do not praise films which project a Christian worldview and condemn films which lack a Christian worldview. When sitting down to watch a film, FilmFisher critics do not aim to “plunder the Egyptians,” as though the first obligation of the viewer was to steal every worthy thing and leave the rest for the dogs.

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