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Lacking the Necessary Vocabulary or What Would the Amish Think of Transformers


In my lifetime, I’ve only watched five silent films. Sadly, that is probably more than most people have seen. In chronological order of release, they are:

I watched The Docks of New York (beautiful screenshot below) a few nights ago. It was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who is considered one of the first auteurs, and is considered a masterpiece.

The Docks of New York Still

While watching it, it occurred to me: Although I know it is considered a masterpiece by film historians, what basis do I have for determining whether it is a masterpiece or not?

We have a cinematic vocabulary with which to evaluate movies. Americans grow up watching movies. We start watching movies before we can speak. I don’t know if anyone’s ever researched how many movies the average American has watched by the age of twelve, but I’m sure it’s in the thousands.

When we watch The Lord of the Rings or Transformers then, we have a cinematic vocabulary with which to evaluate whether they are good or bad films. If an Amish boy who had never seen a movie before watched Transformers, would he have anyway of knowing whether the film was trash or a masterpiece?

I’ve watched 374 movies that were released between 2000 and 2009. But does that prepare me to evaluate silent films? Silent films seem to have a cinematic vocabulary of their own. Before I can determine for myself why The Docks of New York is a great film (in contrast to just accepting what I’m told), I need to watch a lot more silent films.

Have you watched any silent films? Which ones were your favorites?

Decadent Miley, Boring Cyrus


Miley Cyrus' Can't Be Tamed Album Cover Arsenio Orteza, World magazine’s music critic, reviewed Miley Cyrus’ latest album, Can’t Be Tamed, in the July 17, 2010 issue of World. The album’s cover shows Cyrus dressed like she’s trying to imitate Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson when they were teens a decade ago. In other words, provocatively.

Orteza begins his review, “Sometimes we conservatives inadvertently generate free publicity for what we oppose by criticizing as morally abhorrent something that’s really an aesthetic failure needing to be put out of its misery on artistic grounds (Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, most TV shows not on Fox News and a few that are).”

Later in the review he wrote:

[P]op artists and their artifacts can be can be decadent and boring at the same time. And when they are, the boring part is the bigger problem. It indicates that decadence has become so commonplace we take it for granted. It also means that the artist’s artifacts aren’t very good.

If an artist is talented, American culture is usually willing to overlook that artist’s notorious behavior. But increasingly pop culture is becoming enamored with artists who behave badly but whose talent is arguable if not nonexistent. In that case, is it the bad behavior instead of the talent (what there is of it) that we’re praising?

Is truly good art lessened when the artist makes a fool of herself? Can the artifact be admired separate from the artist?

Talking about "Talking about Anne Rice"


Anne Rice's Facebook

On Friday Daniel started a discussion about Anne Rice’s recent statement that she quit Christianity. Since then the internet has been ablaze with discussions about Rice.

Unfortunately, not all of the discussions have been gracious or even intelligent. Here’s a round up of the discussions that did deal with Rice in a gracious and intelligent manner:

Popsickle contributor Emily commented on Daniel’s post:

If you don’t want to label yourself a Christian because of the negative image it gives people (meaning that it hurts your witness), then that’s fine. But if you shove away all the fellow “believers” around you because they call themselves Christians, you’re not doing the right thing.

My favorite title of an article discussing Rice’s break-up with Christianity was over at the religion blog Religion Dispatches: “Anne Rice Quits Christians, Still Dates Jesus.”

Brian LePort, who always offers intelligent perspectives on theological and religious issues, wrote:

[T]here is no following Christ without being part of the church. That is like speaking of being born absent being part of the human race. [Y]our Christianity is not necessarily the right Christianity. Contrary to belief you are just as messed up and mistaken as the rest of us. We remain faithful to the church because we recognize we all are flawed.

Roger Yadon, another blogger who continually offers intelligent perspectives on theological and religious issues, draw our attention to the Bible:

Rice’s comments remind me of the elitist Corinthian assertion, “I am of Christ.” “I am above your petty differences, and am a truly enlightened Christian because I am not Christian… I follow Christ.”

Paul’s response was simple, “Is Christ divided?” Certainly her motive of pure religion is honorable, but making aloof accusations and brushing broad strokes across the very faith she professes is not what Paul encouraged in Corinth. I think he said, “not cool.”

Finally, Jason Boyett, author of the both hilarious and informative Pocket Guide series, observed:

I’ve grown weary with the constant delineations (this week by Anne Rice and, well, all the time by less famous believers) that they can be Christ-followers without being a part of “Christianity.” Or I’ve heard it put this way: I’m not religious…but I’m a follower of Jesus. Look, if you follow the religious figure Jesus Christ, then you are aligning yourself, whether you like it or not, with his other followers. That makes you a Christian, and that makes you part of the Christian religious system. You’re not making a legitimate distinction by trying to separate the religion from your personal faith. You’re just using cute wordplay.

Anne Rice herself followed up:

My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.

Rice just defined what it means to be a Christian: to follow Christ! Her declaration that she was quitting Christianity was just, as Boyett put it, “cute wordplay.” I understand Rice’s frustration with Christians who are anti-gay and anti-feminist, but I wish she would have phrased her frustrations in a way that would have inspired meaningful and intelligent discussion. Instead we get meaningless wordplay.

Christ Our Lord Author, Anne Rice, Quits Christianity


Anne Rice Last Wednesday Anne Rice announced that she has left Christianity. Rice is known for her Vampire Chronicles series including Interview with the Vampire and The Queen of the Damned. In 2005 she began publishing a series of books based on the life of Christ. Christ Our Lord: Out of Egypt was published in 2005 and followed by Christ Our Lord: Road to Cana in 2008.

Via her Facebook page, Rice stated “For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten…years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

Would you stay a Christian if it conflicted with your conscience? Is is possible to advance Christ’s kingdom without bearing the title Christian?

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