Here is a sobering question: Has there been a single substantial, positive depiction of Catholic faith or identity in a major Hollywood non-horror film in the last 10 or 15 years?
One area of representation is disproportionately ignored: how Hollywood deals with religious belief and identity.
Whether one sees The Revenant as a spiritually rich, profound meditation on good and evil or an overwrought attempt to transmogrify atrocity into transcendence, Christians should recognize that when it comes to media depictions of violence, there are two potential dangers, not just one.
All violence is not the same. There are obvious, important differences between realistic war violence, violence in a serious social drama, cartoon violence in an action movie, horrific violence in a crime movie, slapstick violence in a comedy and so forth. Ultimately, though, I think it’s important to give ourselves regular breaks from violence of any kind. Violence is unavoidably part of human nature, but it’s far from the most interesting part.
As a Catholic film critic, one of the top questions I get from parents during the summer months — right after “What’s good in theaters in this summer?” — is “Do you know anyone who does what you do, but for television?”
Only Pixar regularly impresses on viewers that just because you’re the hero of your story doesn’t mean you’re right about everything: that you may make serious mistakes, there may be consequences, and you must take responsibility.
Recently I had the opportunity to field 18 questions from Sean Salai, SJ for a profile piece in the Jesuit magazine America. I had a lot of fun answering Mr. Salai’s thoughtful, sometimes surprising questions, ranging from how my faith informs my film writing to what I gave up for Lent.
Reader response to the lovely family film The Secret World of Arrietty, I’m delighted to say, has been almost entirely positive. However, I did receive one negative email from a reader who not only didn’t enjoy the film, but considered it downright immoral. Why? Because the Borrowers, tiny people who live in secret in big people’s homes, survive by “borrowing” (i.e., taking) the things they need from the big people.
Last night at the Academy Awards, my favorite film of 2010, True Grit, went 0 for 10, winning none of the impressive lineup of nominations it had garnered including best picture, director, actor, supporting actress and adapted screenplay. (Read full Oscar coverage.)
Hat tip to reader Rachel for her combox suggestion that I follow up my “best family films” post with a post on “worst family films.”
The greatest family film of all time? Respondents polled for a Radio Times magazine survey ranked Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial as the best, with The Wizard of Oz in the runner-up spot.
A reader raises interesting questions relating to chastity, modesty and raising children in a note about the movie Babies, now in theaters.
I would like to think that the time and energy I’ve devoted over the last ten years to Catholic film criticism—work I’ve always seen as an apostolate to families and individual moviegoers, especially Catholics but also non-Catholics and non-Christians—has contributed in a small way to the kingdom of God. I’m still a little taken aback at how some Catholics seem to feel in effect that the whole endeavor is basically pointless, since movies are such a complete wasteland that there is little or no value in trying to discern good from bad and it would be better simply to wash our hands of the whole business.
Have movie previews gotten to be too much? Parents have been complaining for years about inappropriate coming attractions playing before movies aimed at younger or more innocent viewers—and it’s getting worse.
Last week the US bishops conference released a survey inquiring about parental concerns about inappropriate media content and its effect on children. Called Parents’ Hopes & Concerns About the Impact of Media on their Children, the survey suggests that most parents are concerned about their children being exposed to inappropriate content, and that many are interested in parental control technology such as the V-chip.
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.
Must a decent film deal only with uplifting or wholesome subjects, or may dark or disturbing themes also be dealt with? Can a film include nudity or profanity and still be “decent”? Can “humane culture” include popular films or genres like action films and romantic comedies, or do only highbrow “art films” count as true culture?
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.