What’s this site about?
Can we talk here? Good. Do you think the world ought to be a better place? Yeah, we thought so. Most people do — even if you know it only by how they complain about everything. Sometimes it gets tiring, all that complaining. You start wishing people would take a look at themselves instead of whining about everything and everyone else. Which leads us to what is all about. For any given film, there are plenty of folks out there telling you what’s wrong with it. We go the other direction, asking what a movie might be saying about us, how it might be a mirror to show us a bit of ourselves.
The best times at the theater are when a film reaches in and grabs us, when it won’t let us go, when it gives us a vision of a better world and how a better world begins with us — sort of like the old song: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” So when we talk about film, we switch things around: Rather than talking so much about how we would make a movie better, we talk much more about how a movie might make us better.
It’s not that we ignore what’s wrong with a film — we love excellent filmcraft — it’s just that if we get caught up in criticizing a film, we’re less likely to catch what the film is saying about our lives and how we live. So, we’re willing to look past some flaws to find the heart of how a film is exploring life — assuming, that is, that the film does good exploration of this life. Not all films do.
In other words, we want to enjoy a film, but a lot of the enjoyment is in finding something more, something beyond ourselves and bigger. The way with film involves two main ideas: we get better from the inside out and switching things around means being thoughtful about film.
We get better from the inside out
Did someone ever tell you to straighten up your act? Maybe, “You shouldn’t drink so much”? Or, “Floss your teeth every day”? Or, “Be nicer to people”? Think of one of those times when they were right — and you even wanted to do it — but you tried and just couldn’t. Why not? Well, good on you that you wanted to get better, but getting better doesn’t happen very well by being just told to get better. Something has to reach inside, changing your heart, to give you the best chance of actually getting better.
This “inside out” kind of change can happen by chance, but it’s also something we can go after on purpose. is about connecting with the heart of a film’s situations and characters, letting the good of it sink in, wanting to come away strengthened and changed. It’s great to escape to other worlds at the theater, and we also want it to help us become who we need to be. As we see life played out before us on the screen — both good life and bad — we can see life more clearly and, if we pay attention, what we see can make us better. And, getting better is all about loving those around us and building richer relationships in our lives.
Being thoughtful about film
Being thoughtful about film isn’t a head game where we stop having fun at the movies, but it does mean we don’t mindlessly accept whatever heartless material that Hollywood throws at us. It’s about how we watch a film, much more than what films we see. It’s about paying enough attention to what we’re watching to catch what a film is saying about how the world ought to be. When we laugh, what actually are we laughing at? Is it the wonderful craziness of life, or is it spiteful and hurtful sarcasm at another person’s expense? Can we appreciate true loving tenderness, or is that all just sentimental rubbish to us? Don’t get us wrong: There’s no problem with a film having spiteful sarcasm or even stuff that is sentimental. The question to ask is why such stuff is there: Does it point to something bigger that the film is doing?
Great films dive deeply into the issues of this life — even if they do so with a light-hearted and fun perspective. In doing so, along with beautiful things in life, they will portray things in life that are truly ugly. On the other hand, some films simply revel in ugliness as if we should all be that way (and enjoy it). Being thoughtful helps us wrestle with whether a film is reveling in ugliness or exposing it. Then, to see ourselves more clearly, we can ask whether we actually enjoy the ugliness, or whether it make us long for a better world. Or, maybe our problem is that we avoid ugliness in film because we can’t face it that the world can be an ugly place.
As these perspectives sink in, we start to be more thoughtful about which films are really worth our time and money. We start to more often notice what sorts of things in a film move us toward the bigger life of knowing who we need to be and pursuing heart-level change to get there.