So this post is more of a groundwork set-up to tell you a little bit about how I watch movies and filter them. I watch a lot of movies in the British drama line, as well as a few modern ones. I've enjoyed everything from the Kendrick Brothers to Masterpiece Theatre to Star Wars to Andy Griffith to The North Avenue Irregulars. (Wide variety of genres there).
When we find a movie we like, we like to own it and watch it multiple times. (I am a hoarder and keep my personal stash in a separate place from the family collection.) And as I've grown older, and learned more about writing, I learn to appreciate good movie adaptations even more. A clever script. A really well-done variety of characters. A twist on the original novel (if it's a book adaptation) that enhances the story and remains in the original spirit of the book. There is so much to love and be inspired by.
(i'm still not hugely excited about movie commentaries, though.)
So I've never really written a formal movie review, and I don't want them to be too formal in tone. But in future, I'd love to share with you some movie discussion posts that go through what I think/especially appreciated, thought was poorly done, or got really excited about. We'll try to keep it light (lots of fangirling) but still productive (something to chew on). I'll also try to throw in a mini-content guide for sensitive and mature content.
Speaking of mature content, Schuyler, tell us how you deal with that.
That's a good question, actually. It takes longer to explain than it does to actually put into practice. There are several approaches to dealing with sin in movies. First of all, sin should never be condoned or celebrated. But if I'm watching a book-to-movie adaptation, I sometimes run into characters who commit sin and sometimes just plain tragedy that happens. What do you do when Fanny Price goes home to her drunken father and he takes the Lord's name in vain several times? Or when there's a flashback scene of Molly's violent back story in Great Expectations? Or when Andrew Davies decides we need a scene of Willoughby's philanderings at the beginning of the 2007 Sense and Sensibility? How about the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings? Should I throw out a movie because it has a bad statue in a couple of scenes? What about the objectifying comment a gentleman makes at the dinner table in Little Dorrit? These are good questions, and they should be addressed. The approach I have found that allows me to watch valuable, lovely stories while not relaxing standards with inappropriate content is to learn how to edit those sections.
Here are three hot topics and how I deal with them when watching movies:
Language: As you know, I'm pretty sensitive to language around here. If I watch characters use language without filtering it, it starts slipping into my mental vocabulary, and that's the kind of edifying thought life Christians are encouraged to have. Some people might not be affected that way, but I am. So whenever possible, I watch the movie, write down a list of keywords that will remind me where to mute, and then do my best to mute the instance whenever I watch the movie again. That system has worked pretty well in addressing the problem for me, because I like to think of muting the words as a way of signaling to my mind "this isn't ok". It's the same as using white-out in books. Since I'm going to watch it multiple times, and I don't like language, I might as well learn how to take it out. That's really worked, opened up a way to watch edifying movies I couldn't see otherwise, and made a lot of book-to-movie adaptations a lot more comfortable to watch. Some movies go above my preferred amount of language (like Middlemarch), and those movies I wait on until I can watch them with a filter like VidAngel that would filter out the language for me.
(Let's be honest though, watching 7.5 hours of Little Dorrit every 18 months doesn't give much practice time.)
Sex: Obviously I don't watch sex scenes. That should be a given. If I'm watching a book-to-movie adaptation that has a brief scene of a married couple in bed together, (The Young Victoria, for instance) I fast-forward. If there's a bad piece of statuary, and I'm watching it on my laptop, I cover it with my hand or find another place on the screen to look. If someone makes a crude comment, I mute it out. Again, it's another way of enjoying a good and profitable film while still training your eyes that modesty is important and to be maintained. It's not couch potato time.
Violence: While this isn't a hard and fast rule for me, if there is a murder on screen (Great Expectations, Little Dorrit), I generally fast-forward, but if it's a battle scene (Lord of the Rings), I generally feel comfortable watching it. Battles move faster, and in a lot of movies, are fairly bloodless. Murder scenes are full of malice and calculated violence, and often disturbing to watch on screen.
In saying these things, I'm not at all referring to filtering movies that are chock full of evil here (that wouldn't be profitable for anyone). I'm talking mainly about movies where you can spit out the scattered seeds and still enjoy the fruit of it. So far, in pursuing entertainment choices that match with my pursuit of Christlikeness, and my love for classic literature, this is a system that has worked well for me over the years. I really hope it can be helpful for some of you, too!
Future Movie Reviews
I'm really excited for the future of discussing movies with you all. There are myriads of good movies out there to talk about, laugh over, discuss, watch again and again, and celebrate. There are tons of issues we can unpack about fantasy movies, movie theatres, how to pick out and watch a good movie, and things like kissing and costumes. And, since so many movies are based on books, I feel like it will stay true to the spirit of this blog (book-related) while opening up a new avenue of things to think about.
Now for picking out the first one to be reviewed. ;)
Do you have a movie you want to see reviewed here? Questions about this movie watching process? I'd love to discuss with you!