Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gene Veith - The Vocation of Movie Critic

I generally do not go to movies and if someone brings a DVD home I usually leave the room like the cat who hates visitors. Most movies insult my intelligence with predictable plot lines and shallow characters.

A while back Gene Edward Veith posted an article on his blog regarding the vocation of being a movie critic. The context for the blog entry were competing reviews of the movie "Sex and the City" by a reviewer at Christianity Today and another at Focus on the Family (Note: this is a film that I will not be watching). I like the nuances of his line of reasoning which are refreshing in light of the normal fundamentalist responses to movies (Stay away!). Here is a sample of his article:

* A review is not an advertisement or an endorsement but an analysis. Just condemning or just praising a movie or other work of art is not enough.

* The word “good” has different senses. It can be used in a moral sense (”helping the flood victims was a good deed”) or an aesthetic sense (”that movie had good acting”). A movie can be good aesthetically and bad morally. Or, to bring the other absolutes into the discussion, a work of art that is true and good may not be beautiful; or one that is beautiful and good may not be true; or any of the other possible combinations. Part of the critic’s job is to sort all of that out.

* Not everyone should watch every movie, and thanks to the vocation of the movie critic, they don’t have to. Recall the principle that what is lawful for one vocation may not be lawful for someone without that vocation (e.g., soldiers, police officers, and executioners are called to do what civilians may not). Just as physicians must deal with repulsive diseases, critics may sometimes have to deal with repulsive movies. Not that even critics may fall into sin. If watching a movie is an occasion for sin, the critic should stay away, but experienced professionals usually get pretty detached, like a physician operating on a naked body. But if you can’t be detached, this may not be your calling.

* Even if the critic is going to condemn something, there is a right and an effective way to go about it. The purpose of every vocation, as we have discussed, is to love and service to the neighbor, so a sense of compassion can make negative criticism sink in more.

The rest of the blog entry can be found
here. Also note that his article generated lots of comments.

He wrote two other posts on this topic which can be read here and here.

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