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Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom & Discernment Paperback – July, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An award-winning Christian Hollywood scriptwriter offers this rather uneven book on how to watch movies discerningly as a faithful Christian. Godawa's purpose is not to help readers decide which films are worth seeing (for that he refers them to Christian Web sites), but rather how to "read" a film for its messages as opposed to absorbing it only as entertainment. One of his main arguments is that Christians should engage the world of popular culture in order to reform it. Unfortunately, it is not always clear who he expects his audience to be. Sometimes he writes very simplistically; he ends his definition of "worldview" with the phrase "it is our view of the world" and details elements of stories and myths that many high school graduates would be familiar with. But other sections use very academic prose about complex philosophies like existentialism and postmodernism. He reveals a clearly defined, even narrow, view of Christianity by asserting the "correct" way one should live or interpret the Bible. "Rare is the movie that paints an accurate portrait of heaven and hell," he tells us. (Just what, exactly, would an "accurate" portrayal look like?) The fact that each chapter ends with assignments and discussion questions gives it a strong pedantic twist. Despite these flaws, in the hands of the right audience conservative Christians willing to approach it as a textbook and who don't mind having a few movie plots betrayed this guide will encourage more thoughtful film consumption without killing the fun of moviegoing.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Godawa is an award-winning screenwriter. He has also taught and written on film and philosophy, screenwriting, and the art of watching movies. Four of his screenplays have won multiple awards in such competitions as the Nicholl Fellowship, Austin Heart of Film, Fade-In, Worldfest, Writer's Network, Chesterfield Writer's Film Project, Columbus Discovery Award and Reader's Digest Screenplay Competition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Intervarsity Pr (July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830823212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830823215
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,434,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Johnson on January 3, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brian Godawa tackles the issue of how to watch movies and be a discerning Christian at the same time. He believes extremes are wrong, whether it's the belief of being able to watch any and every movie that comes out (and not have it affect you) or being a Christian prude and declare that all movies are evil. He does an admirable job disecting movies--many of which were released in the past decade--and explaining the message that the producers are trying to convey. I esepcially appreciated the different charts that he laid out, including p. 37 and a comparison of The Matrix, Christianity, and Greek religion. Very helpful.
I found myself agreeing with Godawa in many places, including his analysis of various films. At other places, I found myself disagreeing out loud. Besides disagreeing with his analysis of certain films, let me give one example where I did not click with Godawa. In the appendix, much space was used to show how the Bible has sex, violence, and profanity, thus almost making it seem that watching practically any movie would be A-OK. He tempers this, especially in the last few pages, but I still think it's apples and oranges if we were to say that we can watch whatever we want because such issues are dealt with in the Bible. In a way Godawa acknowledges this and says that "a sense of balance is what a Christian needs...Christians tend to be either cultural gluttons or cultural anorexics. It seems we either avoid all movies or watch too many of them." I agree with him that, if we pick our movies wisely, there is much to gain.
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Format: Paperback
"God loves movies," Brian Godawa writes in the first sentence of Hollywood Worldviews. He goes on to explain that, "Movies are visually dramatic stories, and in the Bible the dominant means through which God communicates his truth is visually dramatic stories--not systematic theology, or doctrinal catechism or rational argument."

Like it or not, "In some ways, television, music and the movies are the modern arena of ideas." In light of that, Godawa advocates "interacting with the culture" rather than the two extremes of "avoiding it or embracing it." He favors a middle ground that encourages discernment but avoids reducing movies to just a set of ideas that are good or bad. "My goal," he writes, "is to help the viewer discern those ideas that drive the story to its destination and see how they influence us to live our lives--to understand the story behind the story. But we must be careful in our discernment not to reduce a movie merely to its worldview, as if knowing the idea is enough to understand it.... It is `entering into' the story where one comes into true contact with that worldview, not through mere rational analysis. This book is not a call to praise or condemn films simply because of their `message.' Rather, by learning to be more aware of worldviews, we will be more equipped to appreciate the finer elements of what is going on in our movie-watching experience." A good story is something you experience.

With that end in mind, Godawa educates the reader about the various elements of story, including the worldviews that shape them. Fundamental principles are reinforced with examples from different films, which makes this an excellent resource. There is a wealth of scholarly analysis covering several hundred films that can easily be found by using the index in the back.
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Format: Paperback
Hollywood Worldviews is a book that is as needed as it is almost singularly notable: a Biblically informed analysis of contemporary film that chooses to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. The author, Brian Godawa, is actively involved in the business of motion pictures as a screenwriter (a check of IMDB shows that he has a film, To End All Wars, due out soon). Godawa has clearly been influenced by one of the most influential Christian philosophers of the 20th Century - Francis Schaeffer - to whom in part he dedicates the book. He knows well Schaeffer's "Line of Despair" and does a brilliant job of demarcating it to a new generation to which film is the single most important cultural determiner.
Godawa begins by stressing the overarching importance of stories and mythology to film. Here he does an admirable job of explaining how influential mythologist Joseph Campbell's idea of the "Monomyth" has strongly informed modern filmmakers. He goes on to show where Campbell went astray in not seeing that the Monomyth is actually the suppressed image of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. In this, Godawa reflects the thinking of the Apostle Paul who saw in the Pagan idols of his age the unrealized yearnings for true redemption. And this yearning for redemption brings forth what I think is one of the most powerful chapters in Hollywood Worldviews, in which Godawa makes the case that all motion pictures are mostly, if not always, about redemption of one type or another. I must admit that I was floored by this idea, as it seems so elemental once you have read Godawa's thesis. The ultimate Desire of life expresses itself in our stories.
Godawa then outlines nine structural elements of film storytelling.
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