I love movies.
I have always loved movies, since I can remember. When I was kid, and I saw a new film that grabbed me, I would watch it over and over again (as most kids do). I loved being transported to new place, watching sweeping stories unfold, or singing along with a great musical. “Star Wars”, “The Sound of Music”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and “The Land Before Time” were classics playing on repeat in my house growing up.
When I was a freshman in high school, I rented “Momento” from Blockbuster (remember them?). That movie is a masterpiece. I was so enthralled by what I was seeing unfold on my tiny television in my home. Why had I not seen this movie in theaters? Why was no one I knew talking about it? Were there more films like this, that moved past entertainment and into the meaningful, thoughtful exploration of humanity? Was their an aisle in Blockbuster I had overlooked all this time? (Side note: remember when you used to have to walk through aisles of titles instead of just scrolling through them on Netflix or Amazon Prime? No wonder I don’t get my 10,000 steps in….)
I know, I already sound pretentious (minus the step counting). Look, I am game for a mindlessly entertaining movie as much as the next guy, BUT something unlocked in me when I watched that film. I became hungry for better stories. I wanted to engage my mind in what I was watching. I wanted to be surprised by the ending, not just see some really cool VFX or action.
I started scouring the internet for any information about movies. I would read the rumor blogs about what was coming out, and the trades, and found awards pundits who wrote blogs I still follow to this day. I loved the way they talked about films. They would go to film festivals and discover new voices in filmmaking, new films that had small audiences because they were experimental, or made by someone who was just starting out, or didn’t get a huge marketing budget.
That was in 2001 — I know I am dating myself a bit — and my tastes have grown and changed over the last 17 years, but I still have that hunger. I want stories that are life changing, that show me the world as I have never seen it, through the eyes of someone else who’s life is worlds away from my own.
And increasingly, it seems, that most filmmakers have a totally different worldview then my own. I am a christian. And I don’t mean a cultural christian who goes to church a few times a year and votes republican; I mean a follower of Jesus Christ, believer in his life, death and resurrection, that he died for my sins and rose again on the third day defeating sin and death. It’s a belief that means something to me, and impacts how I view the world, including pop culture, entertainment, and filmmaking.
But something bothers me about how the Church (yes capital C; as in all christians as a formal group) engages filmmaking. Mostly we don’t. But if we do, its when we turn out in droves for “christian movies” that are, let’s face it, bad movies. And they aren’t just bad because the production value is low and the actors aren’t A-listers. The stories are bad; the writing is BAD. Its mostly cheesy or sloppy, and its rarely nuanced. They are broad sermons when they should be specific testimonies. And it makes me angry, because I believe we have the best story to tell! And, the impact of that story on our lives is also complex, rich, and worth telling to people in cinema. And should make a damn good film, regardless of budget.
Remember when the best art was done by christians? And it was done glorifying God? It hangs in museums and is on the walls of churches all over the world. But now, art is mostly godless. Especially filmmaking. And yet, some of the deepest and richest times in my faith are stirred on by movies, the stories they tell and the pondering I do after experiencing them.
So, just because art may seem godless on the surface doesn’t mean we don’t engage with it. WE HAVE TO ENGAGE. (sorry for yelling).
James 1:22 says, “Be doers of the word, not hearers only.”
OK, so I took some greek in college and am about to pull it out (I really may have a pretentiousness problem, but we can work through it). “Doers” comes from the greek word “ποιητής” (pronounced pō-ē-é-tés) — meaning a doer, performer, poet. This isn’t a verse that is saying “do the right thing” or even “follow the letter of the law”. This is a verse telling us to listen to the story God has told us and be apart of it, don’t just hear it. Live it out! Make something with it.
When I think about this verse, I imagine christians as artists. Artists have this creative urge and need to express it some form or fashion. The best artists are compelled to create their masterpieces. Christians should be creating culture with that same energy, because we have the best story to tell. And the best story wins. (Thus the title of the site: Saints are Poets)
It is from this desire, to create and celebrate film, and to enter the conversation about film, that I decided to create this site. Sure, I won’t be making a movie anytime soon, but you have to start somewhere. I want to engage the filmmaking that is happening, analyze it, and celebrate it where we can. I will also be offering my random thoughts and observations about other entertainment and culture, and probably politics from time to time (just what we need, more political commentary).
I understand that my thoughts on films are not universal. I know that most people aren’t asking me to review movies and won’t be making their movie watching decisions on my personal taste, but I love starting the conversation and moving it from whether a movie was good or bad to the WHY it was either.
I want to watch movies, good or bad (and probably mostly in the middle), and try to see what the real goal of the filmmaker was, and if they succeeded or not. As a christian, I want to understand the stories they are telling us, and what that says about God’s grander story. Are they in conflict or do they agree? What does this story tell me about the world I live in and how I can engage someone from a different point of view in conversation about it?
I want this to a be a place where conversations are started. Hopefully you will read about a film you never thought about seeing and then go watch it. And if you don’t agree with my beliefs, thats ok, because we can still agree on a good story and appreciate it together. Because the best story wins every time.
So, let’s get started!