The first movie I can remember seeing is Walt Disney’s Bambi. My mother took me to the theater to see it, and I cried when Bambi’s mother was killed. I was about five.
That first movie experience contained two themes that affected the rest of my movie-going life. The first is that I cried; I am a schmuck when it comes to crying at movies. I have embarrassed myself countless times with dates in high school and college and my wife for the last 40 years. I cry at movies.
The second theme is “my mother took me.” From That first experience with Bambi until I was about 12, I was my mother’s movie partner. She loved movies (she called it “going to the show”); my father did not. The two movies that had shaped her adolescence and movie-going life were The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Consequently, they shaped mine as well.
The last movie I can recall her taking me to was Mary Poppins. I can still sing most of the lyrics from the movie’s songs. The same is true for the lyrics for The Sound of Music and Hello Dolly.
By the time I was in high school, movies were changing. The Sound of Music gave way to The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde. My college years brought Easy Rider and Deliverance, although I did manage to sneak in Man of La Mancha (Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren) and Cabaret.
Movies have helped shaped my life, as they have most of us alive today. I still go to the movies. My wife and I prefer “smaller” art house movies like Babette’s Feast and Chocolat; this past weekend we saw Philomena with Judy Dench and enjoyed it. But we also like the bigger blockbusters, too, like Chariots of Fire (perhaps my all-time favorite movie), Slumdog Millionaire (I love the Bollywood ending) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
We’re both more discerning about movies now than we used to be. We’re more conscious of propaganda masquerading as art, although I think that’s more common to commercial television entertainment than to movies. I don’t like movies with violence, especially violence involving children (although that was certainly a theme of Slumdog Millionaire). I don’t generally like war movies, although The Lord of the Rings movies were filled with it, and I thoroughly enjoyed The Book Thief recently. But I pay attention to reviews and movie trailers, both of which help the decision-making process for what movies to see.
I don’t participate in movie boycotts. If something seems blasphemous or offensive or disgusting; I simply don’t go to it, no matter what the local and national critics might say. But I don’t sign petitions and all the rest of that stuff; they only serve to give publicity to what otherwise will likely sink out of sight into the pit of mediocrity and bad films.
In Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty, Brett McCracken truly shines in his three chapters devoted to movies. He loves the cinema; he’s been a movie critic since his college days; and the reader can sense his deep, profound engagement with film. But that doesn’t mean he embraces everything, regardless of content. In fact, he offers what he calls “five considerations for how far is too far” in choosing to watch a movie (or a TV program):
· What is your own weakness, one that may be affected by what you see?
· What are the weaknesses in your community?
· Is it beneficial?
· Has the filmmaker earned the right – does the content serve an aesthetic purpose?
· Have you prayed about it?
Those are necessarily easy questions to answer, but they are good questions for determining what movies to see.
Over at The High Calling, we’re discussing Gray Matters. To see what the discussion is this week, and what others have to say about movies, please visit The High Calling.
Photograph by TaniaMaria Cabrera via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.