Hey! My name is Melvin Benson, I was born in 1995, and I’ve watched over 950+ movies. I’m hoping that, by the end of 2019, I’ll have watched 1,000 in my lifetime and I’ve watched roughly 130 movies between January 1st and now (July 11th, 2019), so I’d say I’m making good progress.
My favorite genre of film is horror, although I definitely have a passion for all styles of film. Drama, science-fiction, fantasy, comedy, I’ll watch just about anything. Of course, my best memories of watching anything is usually watching the absolute worst films with a bunch of my friends while scarfing pizza and guzzling it down with a couple beers.
I married my wife, Kathryn, July 22nd, 2017 after spending a few years enduring a long-distance relationship. We had met playing Left 4 Dead 2, and we’ve been killing zombies and playing games together ever since. Little did she know I was going to rope her into watching dozens upon dozens of movies, too.
We’ve been members of our church, Trinity Community Church, for quite some time and eagerly attend Sunday morning gatherings, weekly meet-ups, and encouraging our fellow brothers and sisters in their walk with Christ. I’ve linked their vision and mission statement so anyone curious about our foundations in the Christian faith can willingly and freely test our worldview. I recognize that, sometimes, it’s very difficult to discern the sort of theology or doctrine that an online voice has, so I figured I would make it easy for you.
Regularly you will see that I review movies that seem different. Some are movies you likely haven’t heard of. Some might be offensive. I try to pick movies that have a lot of meat to them, something worth discussing, or films that are really personal to me. I think art has a lot to dissect from it, even when it can seem joyless and, at times, abhorrent to the Christian life. But, I think there are times in which we need to talk about and engage difficult media.
In Plugged In by Daniel Strange, he writes about a form of cultural engagement he calls subversive fulfilment, a way in which we see how the gospel of Christ interacts with culture.
On this, he writes:
The gospel is the subversive fulfilment of culture… [it describes] how compared to the idolatrous stories that the world tells, the gospel both subverts and fulfils, confronts and connects.
It subverts in that it confronts, unpicks and overthrows the world’s stories. It calls for new ways of looking at the world because the old ways are so useless and harmful. It’s an appeal for repentance and faith in the better story of Christ crucified.
However, the gospel fulfils in that it connects and is shown to be worthy of our hopes and desires. The gospel is appealing in that it’s a call to exchange old hopes and desires for new ones, because these new ones are the originals from which our false stories are smudged and ripped fakes.Strange, Daniel. Plugged In. The Good Book Company, 2019. Print.
Strange pursues this way of engaging culture based on the evidence shown in Acts 17, as Paul directly engages the people of Athens and their ‘very religious’ culture. To do this, he needed to immerse himself in their culture. Paul needed to talk with people, see their homes, walk their streets, and then, when given the opportunity, rightly and confidently confront them about their errors, and encourage them in the fulfilment of Christ.
So, Like Paul witnessing the many idols of Athens, when a single film can make over $1.2 billion three days after its release, you know there’s something unique about film in our culture, and the voices that speak within film are the voices that reach millions of people. Not only are films indicative of the culture they’re in, they impact the zeitgeist of the culture they reach. That’s the wonderful, cyclical nature of art, and it’s something that demands our input.
How then can we engage our culture through film criticism?
Although not the exact same, as each culture requires different approaches, I seek to imitate Paul in this way: I watch the film in question, I ponder and meditate on its tone, themes, performances. I study interviews and learn about those who made the film. I learn the cultural importance and response of the film. Then, after all this deliberation, I write out a script for my review which spans about 12-18 minutes.
So, I pray that with each episode of Cinematic Doctrine, whether it be a review or any other future ventures I have, I am reaching out to the culture of film, respecting it and taking it seriously, pursuing a way that encourages others to love the Lord and use their passions to His glory, while also exhorting that which is wrong such as intentional or ineadvertant glorification of evils. Sometimes that can be hard to discern, and I request your prayer as well, as not every portrayal of evil in a film is in fact glorifying it.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Cinematic Doctrine and that you find my words encouraging and entertaining. One of my favorite things about film is sharing the joy this hobby brings me, and as I’ve learned to glorify the Lord in how I engage, interpret, and consume film, I’ve found more and more to love about God, about film, and about the people I meet through both.