GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

Web sites, TV, films, books and the search for meaning.

How evangelicals rate movies

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Sorry about the silence last night; just back from a lengthy trip. On to the evangelical voices in our weeklong survey of religious movie review sites. Here are two of the better known.

Christianity Today Movies is a pleasure to use, though not always to read. Its critics are media savvy, but they keep their eyes on the “prize” of detecting spiritual values. The downside is that the critics often lapse into cliches.

For the good part, one reviewer notes that Away We Go captures the stresses of “so many young people Reel, brown, 72dpimade rootless by common features of modern life—nomadic living, fractured families, endless options for almost every aspect of life—who feel they are starting from scratch as they attempt to root their adult lives.” She also observes that the umarried couple are not rejecting marriage, but rejecting divorce.

Cliches? You got ’em in the review for State of Play. Critic Brandon Fibbs calls the film a “pulse-pounding political thriller” with “intrepid” reporters and a “battleaxe of an editor.”

But the CT site has lots of good parts:

  • You’ll find the reviews you want. A siderail lists current reviews, and an archives link gives them chronologically and alphabetically.
  • CT shows demographic wisdom with reviews of Spanish-language films like Rudo y Cursi.
  • When other sites — like Plugged In, Catholic News Service and Past the Popcorn — review the same film, CT links to them. Very neighborly.
  • Readers, too, are allowed to rate the films and post comments. They can also pick their top 10 films — a lineup that’s considerably different than the critics’ choices.

Crosswalk Movies could follow CT’s example. As part of the California-based Salem Communications conglomerate, the site speaks for a lot of conservative Christians. But it doesn’t always represent them well.

Quality of the writing can vary a lot, even in the same article. Christa Banister aptly calls The Soloist a parable of grace with “rich themes” and sensitive acting. Sadly, she adds her own cliches like “tied up in a perfect bow” and “can play the cello like nobody’s business.”

Christian Hamaker seems a better writer. He perceptively says the grossly gay comedy Bruno “is as much an examination of how different Americans react to his often outrageous language and mannerisms as it is a depiction of one flamboyant gay man’s quest to be a star.” (However, the Crosswalk editors add a squeamish warning about sexual terms in the review.)

Both Crosswalk and CT offer blogs, commentary and free emailed newsletters.

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Written by Jim Davis

July 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm

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