On Watching Movies by: Blaine Grimes

Posted: May 23, 2014 by jperritt in Uncategorized

photo 3We never talk about watching movies in my film classes because we don’t watch movies; we read them. That the words ‘reading’ and ‘movies’ could fit together in the same sentence may, at first glance, seem like a preposterous–even contradictory–claim. However, the reading of films is, fundamentally, a special kind of watching. It is a reflective, thoughtful, and contemplative viewing. Far from being a passive act, watching movies is a deliberately analytical endeavor; and cinematic analysis, as film scholar David Bordwell notes, “is a matter of breaking up whole phenomena into relevant parts and showing how they work together.”[1]

The problem is that the majority of people do not watch (or read) films in any sort of active or analytical manner. Bordwell puts it like this:

typical talk about movies isn’t very analytical. It doesn’t explore how the parts of the film relate to one another in systematic ways; it doesn’t dissect strategies of plotting or aspects of style; it doesn’t examine the ideological maneuvers the film might execute.[2]


Indeed, the majority of movie talk consists of comments and opinions about a film’s spectacle, action scenes, and special effects. If you’re skeptical about this claim, go see a movie at your local theater and listen to conversations when you leave.

This is where you’re expecting me to sneer at the thought of being entertained by a movie, urge you to become an academic film nerd, and never to watch a movie in anything but its original aspect ratio. Brothers and sisters in Christ, you should enjoy a movie’s spectacle. Allow yourself to get caught up in the story; sit on the edge of your seat in an action scene; be amazed by the special effects; sing along to the music (if you’re watching in the comfort of your own home). A snobby and stoic attitude toward art does not please God. Consider David’s response to God’s artistry: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork”(Psalm 19:1). God didn’t make the Grand Canyon or the platypus just so that we could stroke our chins and write dissertations about them. In other words, respond emotionally to your movies—but please don’t stop there. Make it a point to respond intellectually as well. God gave us the ability to emote, but he also gave us the ability to think. The next time you watch a movie, get emotionally and intellectually involved. Think about a film’s worldview as well as its special effects. This is the best way to bring glory to God while watching a movie.

[Blaine Grimes has been a friend and supporter or Reel Thinking from the beginning.  He has also been ridiculously patient with us getting this post up.  While we have been inconsistent in posting lately, we do hope to get back at it one of these days.  Until then, please enjoy this guest post from our friend.]


[1] Bordwell, David. “Studying Cinema.” David Bordwell’s Website on Cinema. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <http://www.davidbordwell.net/essays/studying.php>.

[2] ibid.


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