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  #46  
Old Mar 4, '12, 3:17 pm
patrick457 patrick457 is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Not Sure View Post
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."
It comes from a letter Tolkien sent to family friend Fr. Robert Murray, S.J., grandson of the founder of the Oxford English Dictionary Sir James Murray, dated to 2 December 1953. Fr. Murray had read the galley proofs of LotR and had, at Tolkien's instigation, sent some comments on and criticism of the work. criticism. According to him, the book left him with a strong sense of "a positive compatibility with the order of Grace," and compared Galadriel to Our Lady. He also doubted whether many critics would be able to make much of the book, since "they will not have a pigeon-hole neatly labelled for it." Here is Tolkien's reply in part:
It was wonderful to get a long letter from you this morning..... I am sorry if casual words of mine have made you labour to criticize my work. But, to tell you the truth, though praise (or what is not quite the same thing, and better, expressions of pleasure) is pleasant, I have been cheered specially by what you have said, this time and before, because you are more perceptive, especially in some directions, than any one else, and have even revealed to me more clearly some things about my work. I think I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded. The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the
imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little; and should chiefly be grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know; and that I owe to my mother, who clung to her conversion and died young, largely through the hardships of poverty resulting from it.
Here meanwhile are some of Tolkien's comments about people reading his work as an 'allegory':
But in spite of this, do not let Rayner [Unwin] suspect 'Allegory'. There is a 'moral', I suppose, in any tale worth telling. But that is not the same thing. Even the struggle between darkness and light (as he calls it, not me) is for me just a particular phase of history, one example of its pattern, perhaps, but not The Pattern; and the actors are individuals – they each, of course, contain universals, or they would not live at all, but they never represent them as such.
Of course, Allegory and Story converge, meeting somewhere in Truth. So that the only perfectly consistent allegory is a real life; and the only fully intelligible story is an allegory. And one finds, even in imperfect human 'literature', that the better and more consistent an allegory is the more easily can it be read 'just as a story'; and the better and more closely woven a story is the more easily can those so minded find allegory in it. But the two start out from opposite ends. You can make the Ring into an allegory of our own time, if you like: an allegory of the inevitable fate that waits for all attempts to defeat evil power by power. But that is only because all power magical or mechanical does always so work. You cannot write a story about an apparently simple magic ring without that bursting in, if you really take the ring seriously, and make things happen that would happen, if such a thing existed.

(To Sir Stanley Unwin, 31 July 1947)

I dislike Allegory – the conscious and intentional allegory – yet any attempt to explain the purport of myth or fairytale must use allegorical language. (And, of course, the more 'life' a story has the more readily will it be susceptible of allegorical interpretations: while the better a deliberate allegory is made the more nearly will it be acceptable just as a story.)

(To Milton Waldman, ca. 1951)

The Lord of the Rings as a story was finished so long ago now that I can take a largely impersonal view of it, and find 'interpretations' quite amusing; even those that I might make myself, which are mostly post scriptum: I had very little particular, conscious, intellectual, intention in mind at any point. Except for a few deliberately disparaging reviews – such as that of Vol. II in the New Statesman, in which you and I were both scourged with such terms as 'pubescent' and 'infantilism' – what appreciative readers have got out of the work or seen in it has seemed fair enough, even when I do not agree with it. Always excepting, of course, any 'interpretations' in the mode of simple allegory: that is, the particular and topical. In a larger sense, it is I suppose impossible to write any 'story' that is not allegorical in proportion as it 'comes to life'; since each of us is an allegory, embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life. Anyway most people that have enjoyed The Lord of the Rings have been affected primarily by it as an exciting story; and that is how it was written. Though one does not, of course, escape from the question 'what is it about?' by that back door. That would be like answering an aesthetic question by talking of a point of technique. I suppose that if one makes a good choice in what is 'good narrative' (or 'good theatre') at a given point, it will also be found to be the case that the event described will be the most 'significant'.

(To W.H. Auden, 7 June 1955)

Last edited by patrick457; Mar 4, '12 at 3:28 pm.
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  #47  
Old Mar 4, '12, 3:27 pm
patrick457 patrick457 is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

(Continued)
Thank you for your letter. I hope that you have enjoyed The Lord of the Rings? Enjoyed is the key-word. For it was written to amuse (in the highest sense): to be readable. There is no 'allegory', moral, political, or contemporary in the work at all.
It is a 'fairy-story', but one written – according to the belief I once expressed in an extended essay 'On Fairy-stories' that they are the proper audience – for adults. Because I think that fairy story has its own mode of reflecting 'truth', different from allegory, or (sustained) satire, or 'realism', and in some ways more powerful. But first of all it must succeed just as a tale, excite, please, and even on occasion move, and within its own imagined world be accorded (literary) belief. To succeed in that was my primary object.
But, of course, if one sets out to address 'adults' (mentally adult people anyway), they will not be pleased, excited, or moved unless the whole, or the incidents, seem to be about something worth considering, more e.g. than mere danger and escape: there must be some relevance to the 'human situation' (of all periods). So something of the teller's own reflections and 'values' will inevitably get worked in. This is not the same as allegory. We all, in groups or as individuals, exemplify general principles; but we do not represent them. The Hobbits are no more an 'allegory' than are (say) the pygmies of the African forest. Gollum is to me just a 'character' – an imagined person – who granted the situation acted so and so under opposing strains, as it appears to be probable that he would (there is always an incalculable element in any individual real or imagined: otherwise he/she would not be an individual but a 'type'.)

(To Michael Straight [draft], ca. 1956)

There is no 'symbolism' or conscious allegory in my story. Allegory of the sort 'five wizards = five senses' is wholly foreign to my way of thinking. There were five wizards and that is just a unique part of history. To ask if the Orcs 'are' Communists is to me as sensible as asking if Communists are Orcs.
That there is no allegory does not, of course, say there is no applicability. There always is. And since I have not made the struggle wholly unequivocal: sloth and stupidity among hobbits, pride and [illegible] among Elves, grudge and greed in Dwarf-hearts, and folly and wickedness among the 'Kings of Men', and treachery and power-lust even among the 'Wizards', there is I suppose applicability in my story to present times. But I should say, if asked, the tale is not really about Power and Dominion: that only sets the wheels going; it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness. Which is hardly more than to say it is a tale written by a Man!

(To Herbert Schiro, 17 November 1957)

Theologically (if the term is not too grandiose) I imagine the picture to be less dissonant from what some (including myself) believe to be the truth. But since I have deliberately written a tale, which is built on or out of certain 'religious' ideas, but is not an allegory of them (or anything else), and does not mention them overtly, still less preach them, I will not now depart from that mode, and venture on theological disquisition for which I am not fitted. But I might say that if the tale is 'about' anything (other than itself), it is not as seems widely supposed about 'power'. Power-seeking is only the motive-power that sets events going, and is relatively unimportant, I think. It is mainly concerned with Death, and Immortality; and the 'escapes': serial longevity, and hoarding memory.

(To Rhona Beare, 14 October 1958)

[In reply to the Åke Ohlmarks' introduction to the infamous Swedish translation of LotR]
Here [in Mordor] rules the personification of satanic might Sauron (read perhaps in the same partial fashion [as other identifications Ohlmarks has made] Stalin).
There is no 'perhaps' about it. I utterly repudiate any such 'reading', which angers me. The situation was conceived long before the Russian revolution. Such allegory is entirely foreign to my thought. The placing of Mordor in the east was due to simple narrative and geographical necessity, within my 'mythology'. The original stronghold of Evil was (as traditionally) in the North; but as that had been destroyed, and was indeed under the sea, there had to be a new stronghold, far removed from the Valar, the Elves, and the sea-power of Númenor.

(To Allen & Unwin, 23 February 1961)
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  #48  
Old Mar 4, '12, 4:02 pm
patrick457 patrick457 is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringil View Post
I don't like films about the end of the world unless they are horror movies or super-disturbing.
I think it's very unfortunate that Christian films about the end times (at least those that I know of) are usually written from POV of Evangelical eschatology: the examples I gave such as Left Behind and The Omega Code (and Megiddo: The Omega Code 2) fall into this.

That is to say that not all films based on Revelation is bad: The Apocalypse, starring the late Richard Harris as the aged St. John, is in my opinion a decent film (although it does suffer from a few bad acting and dialogue and has some clicheish romantic subplot inserted within), much more than these other eschatological movies, precisely because it is set in the historical time period in which John received his visions and wrote his book, the late 1st century, and thus is at least in its original context. (For the record, the miniseries - part of The Bible Collection series of films - is produced by the Italian company Lux Vide, makers of some other Catholic-oriented films: so yeah, you would notice that they are all speaking Latin in Heaven! )

A few small samples of the film on Youtube for the interested (the whole thing is also there, but I'll just give teasers):

John sees the Throne in Heaven (Watch out for the twenty-four elders chanting Sanctus to God - see? I told you they speak Latin up there - and John quoting the Song of the Three Young Men)
The Lamb opens the first four seals (note: switch video quality to 240p)
The fifth seal (featuring more Latin!)
The seventh seal, the trumpets, and the Woman (Switch to 240p)
The New Jerusalem (I cried when I first saw this. And I still do. Again, switch to 240p)

Much of the other films seem to take the view that Revelation is all about the future, to the point of neglecting the history.
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  #49  
Old Mar 4, '12, 5:44 pm
Cat Cat is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diotima View Post
This got me thinking. Yes, Southern Baptists and other evangelicals used to frown on movies. But I think that's just one aspect of a larger problem in their culture: suspicion towards images and other sensory experiences. Protestants approach God primarily through the intellect--they read the Bible, listen to sermons, etc. Catholics, on the other hand, experience faith in a more direct and visceral manner. Jesus enters us through food and drink; we express our reverence towards him through kneeling, through contemplating images, through crossing ourselves.

I think that's why the best Christian movies tend to come from a Catholic or Orthodox point of view (Passion of Joan of Arc, Andrei Rublev). It might not be a coincidence that his thread began with a discussion of a Protestant movie.
Yes, I think this makes a lot of sense.
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  #50  
Old Mar 4, '12, 7:23 pm
Arizona Mike Arizona Mike is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

A lot of the great film directors were Catholic (Ford, Hitchcock, Coppola, Scorsese, Capra, De Palma), and whether they turned from the faith or not, the Catholic view of the world definitely informed their films, whether they are considered "Catholic" or "Christian" films or not. Some explicitly are.
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  #51  
Old Mar 4, '12, 7:35 pm
Calgar Calgar is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diotima View Post
This got me thinking. Yes, Southern Baptists used to frown on movies.
When was this? Watch out! You might date yourself!
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  #52  
Old Mar 5, '12, 8:06 am
George_2007 George_2007 is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringil View Post
So I watched this movie "Courageous" which is a Christian-themed movie about Fatherhood. It was pretty awful. This review from Rotten Tomatoes sums up my sentiments nicely regarding this filmspecifically, but also much of the Christian movie making industry in general.

"Fails to answer the more pressing question of why religious sagas such as this treat subtlety as a sin"

Some religious movies I actually have enjoyed are "The Mission", "Black Robe", and "The Passion"- though this is a very specific type of film. These movies have great acting and impressive settings and present complex moral questions in a mature and intriguing way- at least the first two. The passion, I enjoyed more as a depiction of a specific event- the Passion ofcourse- so was presented in a different, but authentic and moving way.

Why are Christian movies so bad in general though as pieces of film making? Why do they lack any sense of subtlety and generallly, come at you like a moralistic sledgehammer to the head? This movie "Courageous" is a sachrine-sweet, American-as-apple-pie, shallow, and dry trolip through the most basic moral questions presented in the most obvious manner.

Have other folks noticed this and why do you think this is. I suspect that Christian film makers may be too worried that they could offend their audience, or don't believe that their prospective audiences are sophisticated enough to grasp but the most basic moral dillemas..
Maybe the makers of these film are more concerned about the average kid, father or married couple out there who are bombarded by filth and spiritual poison every day in the popular film and other media and less concerned about folks who think they have it figured out what good film is supposed to be.

Is there anything shallow about loving your son and taking parenting and fatherhood seriously?

With these films, a bunch of regular folks got a small dose of good. As other posters have mentioned, the makers are amateur folks who want to spread the gospel and want to help reverse the decay of the family in our culture. They felt a calling, didn't know what they were doing, but did it anyway. One of the actors is a youth pastor with no experience. Should they have checked with the smart people first to know all the rules that they shouldn't be breaking?

These folks have done something huge for the Body of Christ. I have never done anything that approaches the scope and reach and effort of what they have done to spread a good message. Have you?
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  #53  
Old Mar 5, '12, 8:33 am
Bezant Bezant is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

I don't know how much lack of funding is to blame. Some of the best plays and films I've seen were thrown together on a skeleton budget.

The problem, as other posters have said, is the obviousness of the main theme or message, and sometimes, the characters (e.g., Jesus, Mary).
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  #54  
Old Mar 5, '12, 9:13 am
Publisher Publisher is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringil View Post
So I watched this movie "Courageous" which is a Christian-themed movie about Fatherhood. It was pretty awful. This review from Rotten Tomatoes sums up my sentiments nicely regarding this filmspecifically, but also much of the Christian movie making industry in general.

"Fails to answer the more pressing question of why religious sagas such as this treat subtlety as a sin"

Some religious movies I actually have enjoyed are "The Mission", "Black Robe", and "The Passion"- though this is a very specific type of film. These movies have great acting and impressive settings and present complex moral questions in a mature and intriguing way- at least the first two. The passion, I enjoyed more as a depiction of a specific event- the Passion ofcourse- so was presented in a different, but authentic and moving way.

Why are Christian movies so bad in general though as pieces of film making? Why do they lack any sense of subtlety and generallly, come at you like a moralistic sledgehammer to the head? This movie "Courageous" is a sachrine-sweet, American-as-apple-pie, shallow, and dry trolip through the most basic moral questions presented in the most obvious manner.

Have other folks noticed this and why do you think this is. I suspect that Christian film makers may be too worried that they could offend their audience, or don't believe that their prospective audiences are sophisticated enough to grasp but the most basic moral dillemas..
Usually Christian movies are geared toward a very limited audience...a very limited budget...with writers that have a limited sense of faith....or a particular faith focus..with a limited number of actors that want to be associated with a Christian movie.

I did not like "Courageous" either....too plastic. The last Christian movie I actually enjoyed was "The Grace Card".....simplistic but moving in parts.....it's not Oscar material by any stretch of the imagination...but a nice feel good movie.
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  #55  
Old Mar 5, '12, 9:56 am
Della Della is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by George_2007 View Post
Maybe the makers of these film are more concerned about the average kid, father or married couple out there who are bombarded by filth and spiritual poison every day in the popular film and other media and less concerned about folks who think they have it figured out what good film is supposed to be.

Is there anything shallow about loving your son and taking parenting and fatherhood seriously?

With these films, a bunch of regular folks got a small dose of good. As other posters have mentioned, the makers are amateur folks who want to spread the gospel and want to help reverse the decay of the family in our culture. They felt a calling, didn't know what they were doing, but did it anyway. One of the actors is a youth pastor with no experience. Should they have checked with the smart people first to know all the rules that they shouldn't be breaking?

These folks have done something huge for the Body of Christ. I have never done anything that approaches the scope and reach and effort of what they have done to spread a good message. Have you?
It's not that they made the effort with little expertise so much as their films are overly preachy. It's fine to show a loving family doing the right thing, but they beat their audience over the head with their brand of puritancalism and think they've done their job. A lot of people find such films overly simplistic, and wrong-headed in their theology. Even bad theology could be overlooked if the stories weren't shallow and obvious or poorly written. For example, "Amadeus" gives us a lot of bad theology, but it makes you think and you care about the well-rounded characters. If one is going to make an effort one should make the best effort one can not pass off poor material under the guise of good intentions.
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  #56  
Old Mar 5, '12, 12:33 pm
Cat Cat is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Della View Post
It's not that they made the effort with little expertise so much as their films are overly preachy. It's fine to show a loving family doing the right thing, but they beat their audience over the head with their brand of puritancalism and think they've done their job. A lot of people find such films overly simplistic, and wrong-headed in their theology. Even bad theology could be overlooked if the stories weren't shallow and obvious or poorly written. For example, "Amadeus" gives us a lot of bad theology, but it makes you think and you care about the well-rounded characters. If one is going to make an effort one should make the best effort one can not pass off poor material under the guise of good intentions.
But how can you know that they didn't make their best effort?

I'm sure they did the very best they could.
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  #57  
Old Mar 5, '12, 12:39 pm
Della Della is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

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But how can you know that they didn't make their best effort?

I'm sure they did the very best they could.
Their best effort would be to learn something about film language and film history before plunging into a medium they apparently know little to nothing about. Whenever people don't make that effort it's painfully obvious and doesn't achieve the very thing they most wanted--to reach their target audience.

Your daughter, for instance didn't become a producer without getting the proper education and putting in her dues. It takes discipline and hard work to make a good film. Some of the people who make these films seem to think all that matters is their good intentions. That's not good enough and it shows.
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The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. -- Pope Benedict XVI

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Inklings!

"Sanctum erit, facere bonum" Della's blog: http://dellakmg.blogspot.com/
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  #58  
Old Mar 5, '12, 1:01 pm
4Squarebaby 4Squarebaby is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

I am reasonably sure that Roger Ebert or his partner on the TV review show gave their second film, Facing The Giants a thumps up review. I am not saying they are (fill in the name of your favorite filmaker) but they have done just as well as Steven Segal or the latest rapper trying to break into acting making a direct to DVD film.
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  #59  
Old Mar 5, '12, 1:14 pm
ringil ringil is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

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Originally Posted by 4Squarebaby View Post
I am reasonably sure that Roger Ebert or his partner on the TV review show gave their second film, Facing The Giants a thumps up review. I am not saying they are (fill in the name of your favorite filmaker) but they have done just as well as Steven Segal or the latest rapper trying to break into acting making a direct to DVD film.
I agree whole-heartedly!
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  #60  
Old Mar 5, '12, 3:35 pm
Castello Castello is offline
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Default Re: How are Christian films so awful?

The makers of these films are less concerned with winning awards, their primary goal is to get every viewer "saved" (that includes those Catholics).
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