The film society is dead. With the advent of new technology we are now able to watch any movie we wish whenever we wish. Roger Ebert asserted that this has resulted in the neglect of great movies, and I agree.
The usual movie watching evening now follows an all too familiar trend. Perhaps one person decides to watch a movie by themselves, and after perusing Netflix, Hulu, and other sites, watches some lousy film whose greatest recommendation is either its availability or its cover art. Even more common is the strange group experiment of choosing a movie together. While this has its advantages, it is also true that this generally results in a compromise, and understandably so.
Let’s pretend that a movie is a person–a pretension not entirely strange. There is an interesting study which shows that a given group of people, upon slight acquaintance, is inclined to agree upon who has which attributes within the group: they all agree that Mike is the funniest, Joan the most artistic, Ben the most personable. But with time, and closer acquaintance, their opinions diverge more and more. Sara will find that John is the most personable, James will think Ben dull, and Anthony will find Joan the most personable, to the point of marrying her against the advice of Mike, who finds her a bore. The same is true with movies, with unfortunate results. Movies which do not stir us deeply, which remain mere acquaintances, are more easily agreed upon than those movies which strongly claim our hearts.
So, let’s watch great movies. We will use what seems like a subjective litmus test for films we recommend, but the couching of the terms does not subjugate the terms. So this is our criteria, the result of our principles: if I feel saddened by the thought that I cannot watch this movie again and again without sacrificing other movies I love just as much, than that is a great movie. Seem subjective? Yes, it does. Is it? No. There are movies I love which I could not possibly claim are great even by this seemingly subjective criteria (Hot Rod, and all the old Jim Carey films). But sorrow is, in the end, the result of a privation of some good, and so subjective. To have this sorrow for art is indeed high praise for that art, and it only arises for the most beautiful movies. Parenthetically, it is important to remember that criteria can be negative, or looking to a lose of the object, while the principle illuminated remains positive.
One movie shall be recommended each week. Watch it. If you’ve seen it before, show it to friends. Talk about it. If you don’t like the recommendation, tell me why. If you would like a movie recommended, recommend it to me. Let this be the beginning of a friendship ordered toward Christ and built upon our humanity as portrayed in great film.