Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Bunch of Christians Watch Year-End Movies

Between late night parties, reading up on Luke, noshing on good kebab at Sultan Kebab and cards from the usual suspects who didn't quite make overseas mail in time for Christmas, the last few days of 2006 were spent in a completely different fashion from the rest of the year: watching blockbusters. Going to the movies is fun and all, the hot popcorn, the candy floss (if your movie theatre of choice is The Cathay), the shared experience, the discussion and meals after, but the movies themselves always seemed gratuitous frittering of money and time*.

When the female advance party returned with gushy reports of Daniel Craig's bulges and his charming vulnerability, Casino Royale was relegated to the ranks of an unwatchable kissy movie.


Daniel Craig looking spiffy and noir
After some coercion (which included lots of popcorn), and some time in the darkened theatre, it didn't turn out to be half bad: the retro-themed opening, the breathless le parkour segment (current favourite armchair sport) starring the superb freerunning creator Sebastien Foucan, the dry wit of Dame Judi Dench as M, Ian Fleming's original "Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large slice of lemon-peel.", bluffing that wasn't just cards, misplaced trust and betrayal, a James Bond that fought with his fists, bled and drew blood. Gen X noir. And not too much of that kissy stuff.
Lush stuff10th century Maximisers
Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flowers, based on Cao Yu's "Thunderstorm", wasn't half bad either despite Jay Chou as Prince Jai. Yee Chung Man's luxurious costumes got the male segment of the audience giggling at very jiggle of a squished boob the result of 10th century Maximizers (there were many. Giggles, that is.). The sheer riotous intensity of colours on set was calculated to stun. There was nefarious scheming amongst members of the royal family and jockeying for power, loads of fighting and blood, some kissing, more fighting and blood and gore and people dying in many creative ways, incest and alot of melodrama. "Gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside."
An extraordinarily calm driving instructor and Borat who wants to make sexytime
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, alas, though much anticipated, turned out more bore than boor. Sure, there was the denigration of Jews and gypsies, misogyny, scatalogical references, a series of faux pas, a terrible green slingshot thong, hand parties, hairy naked men and incest (which must be this season's shock tactic). But Borat Sagdiyev's accent and standard of English varied widely between takes, there was a surfeit of contradictions and, really, sold as a shocker, it just wasn't shocking enough. A segment on Eurotrash would have been better.
Tony and Takeshi doing the whiskey thing
Confession of Pain, directed by Infernal Affairs pair Alan Mak and Andrew Lau, starring Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Shu Qi and Chinese blogger, Xu Jing Lei, was passable. There was a dark past, whiskey, betrayal, bludgeoning with heavy office decorations, beer, some product placement, less whodunnit than willtheguiltybecaught, and being sandwiched between 2 girls swooning over Tony and Takeshi, one leaning over to gush during a particularly emotionally-wrecked scene to say of the latter, "so cute hor".

(I suppose no one will ever offer me a job as a movie reviewer, but the movies weren't that outstanding.)

*This certainly stems more from aesthetic taste than from any theological conviction that movies are sinful per se. Movies are after all, merely a mode of communication like talking or singing or poetry.

Christian Difference
However, the way Christians view movies must naturally greatly differ from the way the world views movies. If we have been made new then how can we still live in our old ways? We are not to be conformed to this world, but are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds through the reading of God's Word, that by testing we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). And knowing what is good, we leave behind what is worthless and bad. We will not set before our eyes any vile thing (Psalm 101:3) because we see through such things and they no longer afford us any illusory pleasure.

It is all too easy to justify our movie-watching habits because it is the thing that everyone else does, or because Singapore-is-so-boring-what-else-can-you-do?, or because we get free tickets and don't want them to go to waste. Christians do not live by the standards of this world (2 Corinthians 10:2).

Let us examine our ways and test them. Let us exercise those lovely critical thinking skills in full awareness of what we are viewing: what worldviews are this movie promulgating? What messages are preached on that flickering screen in that darkened theatre? What does it say about our existence, or what is ultimately valuable or meaningful in life? Which parts are true? Which bits are false?

Christian Freedom
No one can dictate that this means Christians should only watch Merchant-Ivory films and not horror flicks. It is ultimately part of the Christian freedom that we can choose which movies to watch. In non-gospel issues, each one should be fully convinced in his own mind (Romans 14:5) that what we are doing is done in obedience to God.

Some may say then that "Everything is permissible for Christians". Ah, says Paul, but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12). Others may say "all things are lawful for me", but says Paul, we should be be enslaved by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).

So in our freedom, we must guard against that which replaces or threatens to replace the true and living God with idols of human construct. Depending on our age, gender, personalities and circumstances in life, we will be tempted by different things. Females, especially unmarried ones, maybe tempted to watch, revel and sigh at romantic comedies, where meaning in life is dictated by finding Mr. Right. Males may be tempted to define their worth in fast cars, proficiency in picking up beautiful women, ability to come up tops in any altercation and being generally competent. We need to check the idols proffered by movies against what we know of reality in the Bible. If the temptation is too great for us, what does it profit a man to watch a silly movie but lose his life?

Loving One's Brothers
In picking out a movie with a bunch of friends, it's best to ask if any one has misgivings about a particular movie. We would rather not to watch that movie, even if we think that someone's fears are unfounded, than have one person stumble because he watched something that he felt should not be watched by Christians. For if our brother is grieved by what we watch, we put a stumbling block, a hindrance in his way, and we are no longer walking in love. What we watch ought not destroy one for whom Christ died. The reasoning is the same as that found in Romans 14:13-15. And none of us should be so adamant about watching a particular show that we would not give it up for the sake of a brother or sister.

In our society, coolness and hardened worldliness are highly valued. We sneer at those are overly affected by violence, horror, sex or nudity. We think they are weak: losers. But as Christians we know we are weak and we boast in our loserness, for that is why we depend on God in the first place: we boast of our weakness because in our weakness is the power of God (2 Corinthians 11:29-30; 12:5ff).

*all images from
Sultan Kebab
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#01-15 Peace Centre
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At January 02, 2007 4:38 pm , Anonymous YouTube Fan said...

Your pointers are useful but practise is hard. I never really got too much trouble with movies but into YouTube you find all sorts of video clips and I often used it in sinful ways.

At January 02, 2007 5:05 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do we know for sure what is beneficial? When we become a follower of Christ we are given His Holy Spirit to live in us (Acts 2:38, 2 Timothy 1:14). Jesus tells us that this Spirit will guide us in the truth (John 16:13). One way God's Spirit guides us is by our conscience (Romans 1:12, 9:1). If your conscience is telling you that what you are watching is wrong, it probably is.


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