Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #18

Re: Decent Films

My gosh, do you have any idea how amazing I feel finding this site? As a Catholic rediscovering her faith and using the internet to reconnect with many Catholics, I’ve come across many people who are very intolerant of “frivolous” art. As an artist myself, I just love a good piece of fiction, and felt so torn at such comments. I thought for sure my enjoyment of a compelling film was going to send me to hell! But reading through your site has been a wonderful eye-opener!

I’ve been giving extra thought to what I view since coming back to the Church, and have trimmed several unruly branches from my film collection, and your reviews are good to use as a guideline, even if I’m somewhat surprised! (Happy Feet, for example. It makes me overbubbly with cuteness and joy to watch)

My question lies with movies given a minus-4 in morality. If labeled minus-4, does it make the film morally wrong to watch? Does it put it on the list of films that cross the line and shouldn’t be viewed? For example, I greatly enjoy the film V for Vendetta, despite its many flaws, because I found the characters very powerful and moving, and loved trying to get into their heads, find their motivation, feel what they were feeling. And I saw that on artistic merit, you rated it highly. But, does being given such a morally inept show make it morally wrong to have enjoyed it? Such as when the USCCBA gives a film an O rating? (I’ve been told that films rated O shouldn’t be seen because we’d be supporting the making of a corrupt film).

I’m gratified that you’ve found my work helpful, and doubly so that it’s been a part of your reappropriation of your faith.

The moral-spiritual ratings, like the other ratings, are only a quick index of my opinion, representing my response to the film in question. The ratings are less important than the point of view and the arguments presented in the review itself. Even then, the point of view and the arguments of the review represents my opinion and my response to the film. Other people may have different responses which may be equally valid.

That’s not to say that different responses are always equally good, or that none are more adequate or insightful than another. But I don’t automatically assume that my response is better than a reader’s response; the reverse may easily be the case. And it’s not always a matter of better or worse. Tastes differ from one person to another, and often vary with age, experience, state in life and other circumstances. My taste in movies today is different from ten years ago when I started Decent Films, and certainly from 20 years ago. I don’t necessarily decry my 20-year-old taste, but I write as the man I am, even if my experience of the man I was broadens my perspective. Of course, my perspective is necessarily limited by other experiences I haven’t had, if you follow me.

To take the example you gave, V for Vendetta, I don’t say you’re wrong to enjoy it. You’ve evidently seen the film a number of times, and I’ve only seen it once. I’m sure you see things in the film that I didn’t. I evidently saw some things in a different light than you do. I hope that you consider my response thoughtfully, and that my review highlights certain questions and issues for you as you watch it; but you’re free to come to your own conclusions about them, and in principle they may be as good as mine or better. I might be curious to know how your response to the film potentially changes over the next decade or two — but I don’t assume that you will necessarily feel more like I do about it, or that it would necessarily be better if you did. I don’t mean to invalidate your response to the film, or the attachment you feel to the characters.

The USCCB ratings are advisory, not authoritative. An O rating is certainly a good reason to be cautious about watching a given film. At the same time, it’s a factor informing your decision, not a dictate you are expected to follow. The USCCB review database is a useful resource with an enormous library of reviews — far more than I will ever cover — and it’s both appropriate and prudent that Catholics should make use of it, particularly regarding older films. But it’s a resource to be used, not a law to be followed.

Link to this entry

Coming Soon

Recently Added

In Theaters – Latest

In Theaters – All