Movie choices (part 2)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)--Studios were once regulated by a Motion Picture Production Code established in the 1930s to protect the values and moral concepts society considered the standard to live by.
Violent acts had to be filmed in a way that would not jolt the viewer. Actors could not utter "God" or "Jesus" in a profane manner. And nudity and perversity could not be shown. Sound restrictive? Many filmmakers believe it was. But when closely examined, films from that period were able to deal with the same issues moviemakers address today. The difference: The execution of the subject matter tended to be more profound when handled with discretion.
In my last column I argued that we shouldn't be putting stuff in our heads that affects our spiritual walk or our witness. So what do we do? What can we watch?
For one thing, we must retrain our thinking. Just as we've learned that recycling helps clean up the environment, so too, being selective in movie choices helps maintain a healthy spiritual walk.
Keep this in mind: If our secular friends and co-workers sense that we are motivated by a relationship with Christ, it may affect their futures. They may one day turn to you for guidance because they've come to trust your motives and opinions. They may decide that something is missing in their lives while you seem fulfilled. They study your character, and your character becomes evident through your stance. You're not being what some would call pious or fanatical. You're just saying the Bible sets our standard of living. Sometimes we show Christ's love through self-denial. (That's something I struggle with, too. Hey, I'm on the same journey as you.)
We make a statement with the movies we support.
One movie I had concerns about was the 2007 film "Cassandra's Dream" (PG-13), which tells the story of two brothers who are desperate to better their troubled lives. Their lives gradually become entangled in a sinister plot when their well-heeled uncle recruits them to commit a murder. But have you drawn the line when it comes to films that profane God's name? (And if not, why not?) To writer/director Woody Allen the name "Jesus" is nothing but an expletive for relieving stress. Try this alternative: "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950). This heist caper gone wrong is as much a character study as a suspense adventure. Intense, with realistic situations and dialogue, yet it contains absolutely no obscenity. Oh, I know the thought of watching an "old" 1950 film is a hurdle for some, but the storytelling in The Asphalt Jungle is exquisite. You won't miss the excesses allotted to today's filmmakers. You will, however, experience something new: It's called black and white, an amazing process that allows a filmmaker to create a mood with lighting and shadows.
In the 2008 film "Mad Money" (PG-13), three women decide to rob a bank. But, alas, the ladies get away with their crime. That's not giving anything about the movie away. After all, that's been the rule of thumb for nearly every heist film of the past 20 years. Want an alternative? Try "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963) -- a non-stop laugh-a-thon as a group of motorists learn of a fortune buried 200 miles away. Alright, you may not know any of the stars, but it is in color.
My point with these two examples is that it is difficult to find films of today that don't contain profane language, exploitive sexual situations or a redefining of social behavior. To find a film without explicit material or a flagrant disregard for scriptural teachings, I often have to go back more than two decades. Ah, but here's the good news –- there are exceptions to today's rule. And they're all in color! Here are a few:
For wee ones: "Bambi II," "Curious George," "Underdog."
For teen girls: "Eye of the Dolphin," "The Secret Garden," "Nancy Drew."
For teen boys: "Bullrider," "The Chronicles of Narnia," "Transformers."
For the family: "March of the Penguins," "The Bee Movie," "Meet the Robinsons," "Enchanted," "The Final Season," "National Treasure 2," "Pride," "Ratatouille," "Surf's Up."
For grownups: "August Rush," "Dan in Real Life," "Bella," "Amazing Grace," "In the Shadow of the Moon," "Flywheel," "I Am Legend," "The Ultimate Gift."
[Complete reviews of these movies, some of which do contain a mild use of objectionable language, are available at www.previewonline.org.]
Here's the point: There are still a lot of good films. It just takes a little effort finding them.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for previewonline.org.