Wednesday, September 04, 2013
the return of soul food movies
I've always loved film. For about a decade - let's say 1997 to 2007 - it was my Big Non-Theatre Obsession. (I cycle through those. Six months to three to ten years each on, say, The Beatles, baseball, hard-boiled detectives, the life of Christ, the history of jazz, New York city, etc, etc.) For that stretch - a particularly fertile one for movies in general, and for spiritually-themed movies in particular - I worked away on a book, and a blog, called Soul Food Movies. Made thousands of posts to the Arts & Faith conversation board. Saw everything that came out that was good, or had some sort of spiritual angle. And wrote about them.
Then I had to set the book aside - at that point it was PT or the book, and I know the difference between a marriage and a fling. And around the same time, a certain cultural moment passed. The internet - which had super-charged the whole cultural conversation about the movies - started to kill the print media, and career film critics fell like Aussie soldiers at Gallipoli. Around the same time, TV series started to be the big rental item at video stores, and people started watching thirteen or fifty hours of Seinfeld re-runs rather than a couple dozen real movies. (I will restrain myself from making gratuitous comments about the Anti-Christ.) And then the internet got the whole streaming and down-loading thing figured out, and between illegal tormenting and legal netflicking and iTuning, the video stores died, and the cinemas finished dying, and... And now it's now.
The other day I had a chat with a friend who'd been a movie nut last time I saw him. I didn't even ask him what movies he'd seen lately: I asked him if he was still watching movies. And the answer was, pretty well, no. So we chatted about cultural forces, and the death of Roger Ebert, and Hollywood economic forces, and the stuff I already mentioned in that last paragraph, and... That was that.
But afterward I thought about this summer's discovery that's got me mainlining DVDs again. And about the fact that there are still films worth seeing in the theatres - I saw several this summer that I really liked. And that even Netflix has the occasional film that people ought to know about.
And then at the coffee shop I picked up the latest copy of the Cinematheque schedule. And realized there's still Soul Food Movie news that's fit to print. Most definitely.
So neither the cinema, nor God at the cinema, nor either on one's home video screen, are in fact dead. Movies, and movies dealing with matters of faith, may not be at the centre of the cultural conversation the way they were maybe a decade ago. But hey, I'm used to that - I work in live theatre, after all. Who needs to be at the centre of the party? I'm quite content to chat off in a corner, thank you very much. That's where the best conversations happen, anyhow.
There won't be any full-fledged revival of the Soul Food Movies project. But from time to time...