Monday, March 16, 2009

"Dog Days of Summer" — movie review

This is a direct-to-DVD movie [— or not; IMDB gives the release date as 2007 and lists no external reviews, but one commenter claims to have seen it in a theater] that was offered me to review. It will be released on April 21, 2009, and has a web site through which those who wish to may see a trailer, do some investigation, or place advance orders.

But should they? Should you?

I'll be candid. I'm fairly selective in what I choose to review, particularly when it comes to books. First, I have limited time, and don't like spending it on unprofitable or irritating things if I've a choice. Second, as a rule (with few exceptions), I just don't like writing negative reviews. Particularly, I hate to have to be critical of products whose authors or artists (or producers or publishers) have provided them to me in the hopes I'd say a kind word. One day, God willing, I'll hope someone has something positive to say about a book with my name on it, and I know how discouraging and hurtful a thoughtless or carelessly negative review would be.

I accepted this, then, in the hopes that I could enjoy it, show it to my family, give it a glowing review. After all, it is "Dove Family Approved" for ages twelve and over. And it won "Best First Feature" at the 2008 Sabaoth Film Festival in Milan, Italy. It starred accomplished actor Will Patton, whose work I've appreciated; had glowing user-reviews at IMDB ("good!" — "inspiring!"), was supposed to have a Twilight Zone / coming-of-age vibe. So, I had a positive attitude.

So: Did I like it? Do I recommend it?

Regrettably No, and No, respectively.

Spoiler-light

More positively, I can say that the camera-work had a professional feel and a good "eye." The musical scoring was evocative and atmospheric, with a tone of dread and anticipation. Patton was indeed good, enigmatic and eery. The young actors who played the two boys at the center of the story were natural and fun to watch; in fact, all the actors were more than adequate. Only R. Keith Harris, who played "Pastor Salem," had a forced feeling to his performance that didn't ring quite true; similarly, some of the opening narration felt melodramatic and had an amateurish edge to it.
Negatively, I think the movie tries to be a lot of things, and largely fails. It does try to combine Twilight Zone with coming-of-age movies such as Stand by Me and The Sandlot and all, with books and movies critical of small town life and small town people. That is, it throws those elements together in a bowl and stirs vigorously. But they don't really blend, and what comes out of the oven is nothing you should eat.

The single best comment came from my 13yo Josiah, who watched it with me. (Valerie bailed after about twenty minutes, which should tell you something; but I hung in there for you, Dear Reader!) With one sudden development at the movie's end, we both said "What?!" — and Josiah chuckled, "Wow. That was totally random!" The same could be said for much of the movie.

Basically, the plot sets up a nice town with nice people, and then kills and/or corrupts them... or exposes them as corrupt, or whatever defilement you'd like to choose. There is no redemptive message. Well, no coherent redemptive message that I understood. Unless "Embrace your inner child" is supposed to be a redemptive message.

Actually, that probably was supposed to be the redemptive message: embrace your inner child, with its capacity for hope and faith. But everything before that had torn down any basis for vertical hope and faith, and offered no clear pointer to vertical hope and faith.

I left the movie thankful that I had not made it the weekly family-movie for Burger Night, as I had considered doing on the basis of the trailer. Something gave me pause, and I'm glad I "listened." If I'd done it, and my dear wife hadn't clanged me in the head with a cast-iron skillet, I'd have done it to myself.

Now, be warned. The next section is...

Spoiler-heavy

Movie starts out with a guy walking into a ruined town, and commences some effectively-done flashbacks, with accompanying ominous narration. We begin to meet the cast of characters in this delightful old town. In comes creepy Eli Cottonmouth (?!; Will Patton) in his black truck, proclaiming it a beautiful town. You know you're in trouble now; and boy, howdy, are you.

See those two delightful little boys? Don't you love them? Yessir. One of them expresses his thought that drowning would be a terrible way to die. And later, drown he does, and terrible it is. You watch him drown, little tiny boy, struggling for his life, and drowning. It's horrible, and there is no happy turn to it. His friend watches, too, inexplicably uninvolved. Then, too late, he jumps in (he can swim, he just chose not to) and searches for his friend frantically and fruitlessly. He's heartbroken and shattered. We're not too happy, either.

Wow! That's some family fun! But wait, there's more!

See that older brother? Loves his brother, plays baseball, likes this girl: really a fine young man. Except for where he beats an old man to mush with his bat. Hey! Family fun!

And that girl. What a sweet young thing. Has a crush on the boy. Reads to a blind man. Aww. Except then the blind man goes cranky and nuts on her (we're never sure why), they have an ugly scene, and then stomps off bitterly, and then turns up missing.

"Missing"? That's what the Bible-preaching pastor reports. She's moved on. But then we find she was pregnant. And we suspect the big, old-man-batting brother. But it wasn't him. It was — can you guess? — the pastor! Yes, of course, the pastor got her pregnant. Wow, who could have seen that coming? But wait! There's more! He also killed her and hid her body! That's right! Because that's what pastors always do!

(Remember Phillips' Law of Movie Clergy: if they really believe their religious claptrap, they're hypocrites; if they're worth anything, they're losing their faith.)

Oh, and the blind guy? He killed his wife! And let everyone blame the old guy who the nice big brother puréed with his bat!

Say it with me. "Wow. That was totally random." (Maybe I'll just let Josiah do the movie reviews.)

I lay in bed afterwards, trying to get to sleep, asking myself "In what possible way is this a Christian movie, or a movie that should appeal to Christians and get Dove approval?" I may have hit on the answer.

I think the movie is "redemptive" in the same way Flannery O'Connor stories are "redemptive." Which is to say, Not.

I know I brand myself as a literary Flintstone when I say that, but I'm sticking with it. I'd heard and heard about what a deep, wonderful Christian author O'Connor was, so I read a stack-full of her stories. First, I learned she wasn't Christian, she was Roman Catholic. Second, those stories were the most joyless, loveless, graceless, hopeless piles of darkness I can recall reading. I wanted a shower. They made Stephen King look like the gaily-skipping, daisy-flinging Joel Osteen of horror writers.

And so here's a story set in the South, clumsily "exposing" a bunch of nice people as horrors and hypocrites, and... The End! Have a nice night, folks! Thanks for coming!

But I have this little theory that, in order for anything to be "redemptive," there actually has to be some, you know, redemption.

Which this movie doesn't, in any coherent way that I got.

In sum: sorry.

Wanted to like it, wanted to recommend it; didn't, and can't.

You want a redemptive message?
Here it is.

Truth of the matter is, we're actually worse than the movie says. Whether we mistreat others or not (and we do), we are all rebels against God and His law, by nature and by choice. Our fate is worse than exposure here on earth as hypocrites. Our fate is exposure before God as justly-condemned criminals, traitors, and would-be God-killers.

But God, in His mercy, has provided a way of redemption, but only one way. His way. God the Son became man, to do what no man ever did: to fulfill God's righteous demands from the heart, from conception to death. And then God made the One who had never been tainted by sin in any way to be sin, to represent sin, on the Cross. And He judged Him for that sin, in the stead of guilty sinners.

When Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead, He signalled that God the Father had accepted His sacrifice in full. So now, anyone who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and trusts in Him alone for salvation, is redeemed, saved, changed, transformed, adopted, grasped, guided, and guaranteed eternal glory in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So there is hope. But hope is not found in embracing our inner child. It is found in embracing God's eternal Child, the divine Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now that is my idea of redemptive. It has bad news, true. But it points just as clearly to the Good News.

Which this movie, I must report, doesn't.

49 comments:

Shinar Squirrel said...

Thanks, Dan. You just saved me a couple of hours. I'm usually disappointed by "Christian" themed films. Sad, but I prefer secular films... they're often more coherant (and honest.)

I would really, really like to see a film where a pastor is portrayed as honest, intelligent, faithful, good, flawed-but-transparent, & committed to the truth of the Bible. You know, like in 1 Timothy and Titus...

Your point at the end is well stated. We all too often discount the sinfulness of our own sin.

The Squirrel

Fred Butler said...

Evangelical, Red-state Christians make cruddy movies.

I am sorry, it is just true.

There are generally two types:

The ones that lack the gospel message entirely and speak of faith and Christ in vague terms and images. This is done so as to have a wider audience appeal. We don't want to turn away those potential film goers who don't want to see a "religious" movie. It is believed there will be enough of a "inspiring" message to make the film goer think and ask questions.

Then you have the pure evangelical films that are so churched they are unrealistic. Cartoonish pastor characters, supported by syrupy Christians who talk about Jesus in an unnatural way. As if the writers just inserted the name in the dialogue thinking if it is said enough someone will walk an aisle. When the gospel is presented, it is usually a poor presentation of poor theology.

On top of all of that, these movies are terribly acted, poorly produced, and the story is usually lame. And I am expected to like them and support these films because I am a Christian and we need to beat Hollywood, or whatever other excuse I am given to embrace unworthy mediocrity.

I want to see a Christian version of Saving Private Ryan with all the blood and guts, but a Christian character as the primary focus, who dialogs with the unbelieving characters about sacrifice, death, the meaning of life, that sort of stuff from a biblical perspective as they move through the action. Is there anyone who has the backbone to make such a film?

Heck, I would love to see an accurate portrayal of the book of Samuel with the swords and Philistines being smashed in a temple, Saul going mad. That would be outstanding. Or Elijah gutting the prophets of Baal. But alas, it won't be made and I will have to endure another flannel graph version of a biblical movie.

My rant is off

Shinar Squirrel said...

Fred,

You nailed the problem with todays "Christian" films!

Remember when they used to make movies like The 10 Commandments, Ben Hur, The Robe, and others where Biblical themes were treated with respect? They were not perfect, no, but they were well made, well produced, and stared the top talent of the day.

How about a film depicting the fall of Jericho, made with the same production values as, say, the Lord of the Rings?

Or, hey, how about they just get the next Narnia movie right...

The Squirrel

James David Beebe, Jr. said...

After this busy weekend you hit Monday morning with a movie review. Thank you Mr. Phillips, for the conference posts at pyro, and this useful review.

I have a template book/movie review that, unfortunately, often fills the bill with little modification:

"Except for One Thing.

The substitutionary death of Christ on the cross was atonement for mankind's sins, the way for reconciliation with the righteous, just, holy aspects of God's character that every person needs. This, with his subsequent resurrection indicating God's acceptance of his sacrifice on our behalf, is what Christians call "the gospel" -- which means, "good news". That is the central tenet, the core idea, of biblical Christianity -- what the people in this movie believed. If someone made a movie about, say, Charles Darwin, without even mentioning the idea of evolution driven by natural selection, everyone would see how ridiculous the omission would be. But you can make an "otherwise" great movie like this, or [Amazing Grace, End of the Spear], or countless others, without even one brief statement of the core belief that defined who the main characters were, what they were, and why they did what they did."

Desia said...

Yesterday a visiting pastor had a good sermon about Joseph, and I was thinking what a good movie Joseph's story would make, in the epic vein, like those Squirrel mentioned.
(I remember watching an animated Joseph movie with my kids, but it was not true to the Biblical account.)

Stefan said...

Another good movie with a Christian theme was Chariots of Fire, ne c'est pas?

And speaking of Will Patton in Christian-themed movies (good or bad), I saw Remember the Titans just this past weekend.

Knowing that the movie was based on a true story—the newly-integrated T.C. Williams High School football team's state championship the face of all manner of racial friction, Patton's character—Bill Yoast—sacrificed himself and did things out of service to the team, the school, and the community that wouldn't have been believable if (a) it were fiction, or (b) he were merely doing it for the higher ideal of racial harmony (as noble an ideal as that is).

It turns out that coach Yoast was (and is) a believer, and had been well before that autumn of 1971, and seems to have taken Christ's call to servanthood to heart. (I don't know if Coach Boone—Denzel Washington's character—was [is] a Christian or not.)

Now, being a Disney movie, the allusions to faith were fairly superficial—prayer before a game; I vaguely recall Coach Yoast invoking the Lord God in a non-profane way—and I had to do research after the movie to validate my hunches. I'm also wondering if the white-on-black racism was overplayed at the beginning of the movie for dramatic effect—or was it really that bad, even in Northern Virginia, as little as forty years ago?

On the plus side, it was for the most part a family-friendly movie: a tough theme, but no gratuitous sex, violence, or profanity; except for one (non-consensual) kiss between two men, but I'm not sure where exactly the writers were going with that...except that the initiator of the kiss went on to save a game.

Stefan said...

...With the caveat that neither Chariots of Fire nor Remember the Titans has any presentation of the Gospel in it, and are fundamentally both feel-good sports docudramas promoting ethnic and racial harmony: not overtly Christian films per se. But the underlying stories wouldn't have happened, had it not been for real men of real faith.

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angela Walker said...

Good call, Dan. I just reviewed the film last week for ChristianCinema.com and had similar issues, as well as others.

I work for Christian film producers, and can tell you that it's extraordinarily hard work to make a movie. And no matter what movie you make, there will be those who don't like it.

Most people making Christian films, or films with Christian themes, are independent filmmakers who do not have studio resources available to them. And when they approach investors, the investors want to see their money returned, so they have to make what people will buy tickets for.

The biggest "Christian-themed" film in recent years - on a budget to box office ration - was "Fireproof." Low budget, amateur acting except for the 2 leads, and very predictable story. That's what Christians will pay for right now.

The evangelical, red-state Christians are making movies that the churches can use as a ministry tool, because that's what the churches will promote and buy out theaters for.

DJP said...

Thanks Angela.

Here is Angela's helpful (and much briefer!) review.

(It appears we disagree about "Fireproof," though. But hey; put two movie critics together, get three opinions. Except about "Dog Days!")

P.D. Nelson said...

Wow "Stephen King look like the gaily-skipping, daisy-flinging Joel Osteen of horror writers." that did it for me I appreciate the warning shot across the bow.

Aaron said...

You had me at "Valerie bailed after about twenty minutes."

Your review probably could have been four lines. It's not Sci-Fi. It's not Kung-fu. It's not an action packed Western. And finally, my wife didn't like it.

DJP said...

Critics.

I got dem.

LeeC said...

Ick, wasn't much chance of me watching it anyways, but thanks for the warning!

Be sure and check out a movie coming out with our former Jr. high pastor Jay Underwood (he pastors a church in Weaverville CA now) called No Greater Love.

I'm very much looking forward to it.

Aaron said...

Angela:

When you say "Christian themed" I assume you mean that the movie has to have the feel of sitting in the pew on Sunday morning (although in my church we at least talk about more than just John 3:16).

Honestly, Christians feel that if artwork is "Christian" it must be a painting of Jesus. This thinking permeates all Christian arts. If more Christians understood that you can paint a bowl of fruit and it be "Christian" so long as it was done for the glory of God then we stsart getting some better products.

The last great movie I saw that was "Christian themed" was Luther.

Solameanie said...

Joel Osteen and Stephen King . . .

Hmmmm.

Solameanie said...

I should have also commented, the filmmakers were probably trying to be "edgy." You know how popular being "edgy" is these days.

Fred Butler said...

As a follow up to my previous morning rant, I would add that I can entirely understand, as Angela stated, that investors want their money back with a good return.

I would certainly agree that big budget films are just that, big budget, and small, independent film makers don't have the bucks behind them. But I think the area where all of them could improve is with script and dialog, and such an area does not require big budgets to do right. Also, put your money behind getting half-way decent actors, not the troupe from the Easter morning sunrise passion play at your local 300 member church. People who can actually act their lines and not just read them with some fake emotion.

As long as Christian don't demand excellence from Christian film makers, all they can expect to see are more "Fireproofs" and "Facing the Giants" and this movie Dan reviewed.

Rachael Starke said...

Thanks for the reminder that "redemptive" is rapidly becoming one of those cringe-inducing, totally misused and abused terms that has become thoroughly devoid of meaning. Like "conversation" and "community" and "change".

And FWIW, the single best piece of Christian cinematography I've seen recently was the little piece from the Desiring God conference on the power of the tongues. Five minutes about a typical family getting ready in the morning, no dialog, and brutal in the very best sense.

Rachael Starke said...

Ahem. "Tongues" should read "tongue."

Mixed up Piper and Warnock. :)

RT said...

There was a time, of course, when the very best of art in all existing forms was within the almost exclusive purview of the Church. Sadly, now, when it comes to the arts in general, let alone with respect to film, we are subjected to mostly misguided mediocrity when the label "Christian" is attached. For what it's worth, I could not disagree with you more about O'Connor but would never call you a "literary Flintstone", Philistine perhaps, but never Flintstone. Anyway I don't think she purports to be redemptive, which as Rachel points out is a much over-used term. Rather she presents characters very much in need of redemption, leaving the reader to ascertain the denouement, if any, of the struggle. Certainly not as powerful or as satisfying as the straightforward statement at the end of your post, worthy if I may say it, of printing out and keeping on the bedside table. And certainly an O'Connor story is not a particularly effective tool for bringing a lost soul to Christ, but one can scarcely suppose that was intended by the author in the first place. The stories are merely, in my view, profound and evocative. Because "Dog Days" apparently is neither, I will take your advice and avoid viewing it.

jmb said...

I was going to write the movie off until you mentioned my favorite American author, Flannery O'Connor. Now I want to see it.

At least you gave her a fair reading, and didn't quit after one or two of her stories. I know I can't convince you of her greatness, but I'd like to make a few points.

Her Catholicism was as idiosyncratic as her fiction. "Graceless" was one of the adjectives you used to describe her work. Grace is really all she cared about. She saw the awfulness of this world as few others ever have, and knew that God's grace was our only hope. She made fun of what her characters thought were "good" works.

Your saying that she made Stephen King look like Osteen is funny and true. Her grotesques mirror the grotesquerie of a secular world. But her severe vision never lacked for ironic humor.

I don't pretend that she was a straightforward writer clearly delineating her themes. She takes a little work. She never does anything that's expected. But she's dead serious. And, as you demonstrated, you can't read her and be indifferent about her work.

DJP said...

Yes, I actually had meant to write: if you like O-Connor (and obviously many do), you may like this movie.

I'd be truly interested to hear what you think of it.

jmb said...

I'll rent it from Netflix when it's released.

Dan S said...

Stefan (and others),

I saw this film when it was in theaters last year (not sure why they said straight-to-DVD in the post above) and had a very different take than Dan the blogger.

The film is not anti-Southern or anti-red State. The film is not set in any specific place to begin with. The film was made by Southerners who love the South. The filmmakers were at the theater answering questions, so I had the opportunity to hear more.

The film was meant to be a modern day allegory on the Garden of Eden set in a small town... and not to be a straight Christian film like "Fireproof" or a film like that.

Dan missed the point and judged it on that basis more than just its merits as an independent film... sure, I remember the film having issues (especially trying to pack too much in), but that's the kind of stuff you run in to when you see these younger filmmakers working out the kinks in their first films (should have seen the filmmakers in person, looked like kids).

Personally, I thought the film was beautiful and had a lot of thought put into it. And if they can pull a film off like this when they're barely out of school (the filmmakers said that no key member of the crew/writing team etc was older than 23 or so when they were shooting), then imagine the kind of good films (Christian or regular) they can make once they become seasoned filmmakers...

DJP said...

I think I watched the film more carefully than you read my review. Who said the movie was anti-Southern?

My task isn't to review who made the film, what they felt or thought, or what their intentions were. My task is to review the film. That's what people are being asked to buy and/or see. You feel I missed what was there on display? Fair enough; make your case, and be specific. But I'm not trying to review how ___ the film is for a ___, but what is actually there on the DVD.

Dan S said...

I just took your review differently, but that's the point with reviews and the way we all look at things... we all have a subjective view point that differs from each other.

Like I mentioned earlier too, I saw the filmmakers speak in person so I probably got an added perspective from them that came out in the Q&A sessions that maybe wouldn't have otherwise if I had just seen the film and left the theater. So take that for what it's worth too.

Also, the comment about Anti-Southern was not directed at you, it was directed at Stefan who was gathering that point after reading your post. I must have not been specific enough with that. But yes, this film is definitely not anti-southern at all...

candy said...

Stefan, you said: I want to see a Christian version of Saving Private Ryan with all the blood and guts, but a Christian character as the primary focus, who dialogs with the unbelieving characters about sacrifice, death, the meaning of life, that sort of stuff from a biblical perspective as they move through the action. Is there anyone who has the backbone to make such a film?

Rent the DVD, To End All Wars. Excellent movie, redemptive...and a true story. One of the best movies I have ever seen.

Stefan said...

Dan S:

Okay, to say that the film is "anti-Southern," etc., was a flippant, subjective, second-hand, derivative observation by me, based on Dan's summary of the film:

"And so here's a story set in the South, clumsily 'exposing' a bunch of nice people as horrors and hypocrites, and... The End!"

To prevent other readers from unfairly overreading what Dan actually wrote, I've deleted the original comment.

To both Dans: my apologies for unnecessarily muddying the waters.

Stefan said...

Candy:

That was Fred Butler, who wrote that he wants to see a Christian version of Saving Private Ryan.

Dan S said...

Stefan,

Thanks for deleting your original post to prevent further confusion. My take on this film was very different from the post so I say it's worth checking out (at least as a rental) to form your own opinion.

Also, adding to Candy's suggestion for Fred about other films with great central Christian characters, but are not Christian films... check out "AMAZING GRACE" - (directed by a guy who directed one of the Pierce Brosnan "Bond" films) - based on Christian character working in a secular world. Wonderful film if you haven't already seen it.

~Mark said...

Dan,

your description of reading the Roman Catholic author (as well as being talked into it) reminds me of how several Christians, including an Elder and his wife, told me I just HAD to see "City of Angels". They told me how touching it was and how they loved it.

I rented it.

It was possibly THE most depressing movie I'd seen to that date, and I'm hard pressed to come up with one more depressing!

Aaron said...

Mark,

I had the same reaction to city of angels. Is it too much to ask for a happy ending? And how about the good guy is actually good without demonstrating overtly feminine qualities?

Fred Butler said...

Candy, I saw To End All Wars and I liked it as a film. But the movie still fell into that first category I mentioned where faith and Christ are vaguely discussed or are a secondary aspect to the story. The film makers genuinely thought this movie portrayed Christianity in a thoughtful way, but I was a bit let down that they even accomplished this.

mdeane said...

Totally agree w/ Rachel on the degradation of the word 'redemptive.' Somebody told me once that Bridget Jones's Diary was 'redemptive' b/c Mark Darcy's love for that tramp Bridget reminded him of God's love for us.

I have to say I'm with jmb on O'Connor (but I still don't think I'd like this movie.)

Aaron said...

Hmmm...I thought the last Rambo was redemtive. Or one of my favorites, Hang Em High. Now that was redemtive. Of course, there is Pale Rider, which was good except for the implied sex.

DJP said...

You are a funny man.

Don't forget "Princess Bride," "Drunken Master," and "Galaxy Quest."

Aaron said...

I actually didn't care for Princess Bride. But I love Galaxy Quest. My wife, not so much. She also doesn't like to be subjected to hour after hour of Star Trek either, so you have to take her failure to fully appreciate Galaxy Quest with a grain of salt.

Aaron said...

I need to get a profile up. I have a great picture of my family on the bridge of the Enterprise and my daughter and I with a Borg.

Stefan said...

I love Drunken Master (the original one from 1978), but even the folks at C— T— would be hard-pressed to see any hint of the Gospel in it.

Bob said...

Now THAT'S what I call a movie review... can't work the Gospel into the movie? No problem. Let Dan review it!! I may not recommend the file to my friends, but I will definitely recommend the review. Thanks, Dan.

Bob said...

ooops, sorry about the typo. Make that "film" not "file"

~Mark said...

And how about the good guy is actually good without demonstrating overtly feminine qualities?

~True that, true that.

Want a redemptive movie? Kung Fu Hustle! To a lesser extent, Shaolin Soccer.

Angie B. said...

Eww. Ugh. What's the point? Why on earth would this have been recommended to Christians?

Oh, I read Flannery O' Connor as part of my Christian lit. class. I didn't ever hear a lot of explanation as to why her stories are Christian. I figured that the point was to starkly show the wickedness of human nature, and the stories did do that for me. I was interested to see your perspective.

DJP said...

Right, Angie, you're right. I keep hearing that.

But if that's "redemptive" in any way, then why isn't Clive Barker, or why aren't snuff movies, or why isn't hardcore pornography equally "redemptive"? Don't they show the depravity of man?

jmb said...

O'Connor's novels and stories are genuinely redemptive because in most of them people actually get saved! Her descriptions of these events are unusual and subtle because she wants the reader to think about what he's read rather than have everything spelled out for him. Also, she was writing mainly for non-believers.

This last point is discussed by her in a talk she gave entitled "The Fiction Writer and His Country." The following excerpt is a little long, but I think it's revealing.

"Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock - to the hard of hearing you shout, and to the almost blind you draw huge and startling figures."

candy said...

And how about the good guy is actually good without demonstrating overtly feminine qualities?

Atticus. To Kill a Mockinbird is not a Christian movie, but Atticus is such a great character. My all time favorite screen persona.

Angie B. said...

jmb, thanks for sharing. That makes sense.

Dan, I was reading one of her stories as an assignment once. The story built up to a scene in which a repugnantly self-righteous woman allows a Polish man against whom she had prejudices to be killed in an accident. In a flash, I related to that evil woman (whom I detested) and thought "that could have been me--I could easily have done the same thing." It was a strange and awful moment, and though it's been many years, I've never forgotten it.

If O'Connor was deliberately orchestrating unpleasant epiphanies, she was brilliant.

jmb said...

Dan,

You told me that you'd like my opinion of this movie after I had defended Flannery O'Connor. I saw the movie last night.

I thought the film was a half-baked, semi-coherent, semi-allegory about "something" (maybe that American obsession, "the loss of innocence"). Your son's "Random" is appropriate. In short, I agree with you.

It took elements of "High Plains Drifter" (the judgment of a small town) and "The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao" (a traveling sideshow reveals the sins of the inhabitants of a small town), mixed them together, and got what I described in the last paragraph.

In the "Making of..." featurette, the director said that, when he discovered the beautiful southern town, he determined to make his first feature there. Then he and some friends concocted a story. A movie should begin with a story the director has to tell, not with a story to fit a location.

Concerning O'Connor, I can see why you thought of her: The grotesque deaths, the Scripture quotes, the location, etc. But it's really closer to Ray Bradbury (specifically, if you can stand another movie reference, "Something Wicked This Way Comes," which deals with two boys in, yes, another small town, against a demonic carnival owner). O'Connor would have been sickened by the inner child "redemption" of this film.

The only movie that I know of that is based on O'Connor is "Wise Blood," directed by John Huston. He did a pretty good job of capturing her on film. I don't think it's on DVD yet.

Finally, I want to commend you on your work online. Every day I look forward to seeing what you have to say.