Thursday, April 25, 2019

Just in time for Endgame: a review of Troy Kinney's 'Watching Movies, Watching Stories'

Title: Watching Movies, Watching Stories: An Interactive Guide for Engaging Culture Through Film
Author: Troy Kinney
Genre: Nonfiction, movies
Pages: 75

What Goodreads has to say:

If you love movies, then this is the book for you! It is a hands-on guide for those wishing to expand their enjoyment of movies. The book is embedded with over 90 film clips that can be viewed immediately on your smartphone or other internet connected screen. 

You will begin to watch movies with new eyes.
This book is useful for the individual or for small groups. It has indispensable helps on how to take what you learn and truly converse with those around you from a biblical understanding. 

Movie-makers are telling us about how they see the world. Learn to see and understand their messages. Take those messages and use that information to bridge the gap with others in order to share the gospel.

What I have to say:

I love movies and I love analyzing movies. When a writer or director puts a lot of thought into a film and creates something layered and beautiful, I love picking apart those layers and finding meaning within. I've even reviewed some movies on this blog, as faithful readers may remember! So needless to say, I found this book about how to watch and analyze movies very informative and interesting.

Some of it I knew already (having taken a couple film classes in high school and college), but I could definitely use a refresher. Other stuff I just hadn't thought about or didn't know. For example, the section about dinner scenes in movies was very interesting. I've never thought about the dinner (or any meal, I guess) scene as a recurring motif and the implications of it in different contexts. 

This book is full of insights along those lines--one eye-opener for me was the section on water, rain, and snow in movies. Sometimes these elements can have underlying meanings or, at the least, suggestions. The author used the example of the scene from the first Harry Potter movie when the First-Years ride across the Great Lake toward Hogwarts. Is it significant that they only do this in the first movie, their first year attending Hogwarts? Does the water signify some kind of baptism-like initiation? Whoa....

The first half of the book mainly points out the different tools filmmakers use to tell stories and convey meaning. This includes camera shots, angles, and movements. There's also discussion of the roles music, lighting, and editing play in movies, and how those elements can be used to create meaning.

If you're a visual learner like me (or if you just like watching movies, also like me), good news: there are lots of video clips throughout the book that the author uses to illustrate what he's talking about. And wow, does he pick good movie clips. For most of the clips, I'd either seen the movie and already love it, or was so intrigued by the clip that I now want to see it. Got a long watch list after reading this book.

The end of the book delves into Christian themes in movies: the good, the bad, and the ugly (incidentally, that movie shows up in a couple clips). This includes movies like Ben Hur and Narnia (both excellent films) that overtly convey a Christian message. It also includes movies like Harry Potter and The Matrix, that use the Christian "myth" or the hero's journey to tell a powerful story, without being a story specifically about Christianity (though I'm sure we could argue that point).

Then there are films like Evan Almighty. Yeah, IDK. But as I'm sure author Troy Kinney would point out, you could use Evan Almighty as a springboard for a very deep discussion!

This book is written with the goal of helping people use movies as a starting point for discussions about Christianity. It goes without saying that it's geared toward a Christian audience, and if you can't tell from the name of this blog and my frequent C. S. Lewis references, that includes me. If you're not a Christian, there's still plenty of good information about how to watch and analyze films, but you might prefer a different book. Then again, this one is very well written, engaging, and easy to follow.

I finished it just in time to go analyze the heck out of Endgame--which I'm watching tomorrow. I'll see you again on the other side.


Until tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment