support the troops

A week ago I reviewed the new film, Old-Fashioned. I mentioned that while the movie wasn’t perfect, it was provocative, deeply satisfying, and boasted high production values. I don’t see a lot of movies, but this one seemed as good, if not better, than most of what comes out of Hollywood today.

So I was surprised to read this scornful review, “Why Are Christian Movies So Painfully Bad?” The reviewer dismissed Old-Fashioned as a Christian knockoff of Fifty Shades of Grey, which it wasn’t. Rik Swartzwelder told our screening that he wrote the movie before he had even heard of Fifty Shades. He said he wrote it to tell his own story, which he had never found in a Hollywood movie. Old-Fashioned picked Valentine’s Day to open because it seemed like a logical choice to give an alternative to Fifty Shades. This was a marketing strategy, not the reason for the movie. This decision may have backfired, at least in the mind of the film critic.

The reviewer criticizes Old-Fashioned for bad writing and bad acting. But from the reviews of Fifty Shades, Old-Fashioned can hardly be worse than the movie it was allegedly trying to copy. The reviewer should have decided which way he was going to play this. He can’t criticize Old-Fashioned for being a Christian knockoff and then criticize it for being the sort of movie it was attempting to imitate.

I think he’s wrong on both counts. I’m not a film critic, but Old-Fashioned seems every bit as compelling as Gran Torino, the Clint Eastwood film that I’m halfway through. The dialogue and acting are similar in both. I thought the lead actor in Old-Fashioned seemed a bit extreme, but no more than Clint Eastwood’s character. Perhaps movies need extreme characters to drive the plot. Not much would happen in a room of levelheaded, emotionally healthy people. We call them “characters” for a reason.

Here’s my point. We need better books and movies written by Christians. I’m trying to contribute to the former, but have little chance to do the latter. Making movies requires an obscene amount of money. They are huge risks for investors. Christians who attempt such projects need our encouragement, not our disdain. I’m not saying we should lower our standards, but I am asking that we stop shooting our troops, and then complaining why there aren’t more movies made by Christians. Criticism is easy. Creating art is hard. Let’s give them our support.

3 Comments

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  1. Mike,

    I think the problem is that sooo many of “us” Christians were exposed to so many terrible Christian movies early on that we shudder when we hear its a Christian movie. I know I do. My parents subscribed to some program that sent us monthly a set of VHS tapes with the latest and “greatest” Christian movie in them and they were all terribly written, terribly acted and terribly produced. I remember wishing I didn’t have to watch the movie and could watch a “real” movie, you know one I could get from Blockbuster or Family Video.

    Until that memory can be overcome, I’ll have a hard time supporting a Christian movie without really understanding if it is a good movie or not.

    Also does it have to be a Christian movie? Can it be a good movie that has good acting and good dialogue and just be a good story about something with good morals? Do we have to call it a Christian movie? Can’t we just call it a movie?

  2. I think it’s the critics who call it a “Christian movie.” It certainly didn’t wear its Christianity on its sleeve. If anything, it was too subtle (which I think is good, for the reasons you gave)

  3. My image of a Christian film was forever colored by “A Thief in the Night” in the early 70s. Jack Van Impe’s productions and the Kirk Cameron “Left Behind” films were not very good either. They have so many theological problems that they lose any other appeal.

    Films with Christian principles will probably always be “B” films, but they needn’t be “D” films. But I’m rooting for them and wishing for sme good productions to come – and yes, I’ll go and see them too!

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