The unreview

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gabriel conroy

Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer.

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131 Responses

  1. Avatar Jonathan says:

    Yes, the unreview can be useful but is also flawed. I won’t blame Buckley for not choosing to watch the film and I won’t assume that he hadn’t already wrestled with the issues the film may have brought up. Sometimes, books or films come late to a topic, and others have already explored the ideas.

    A few years ago, Rufus wrote a post (or maybe it was a comment) about the film Irreversible. The film sounds interesting and challenging, in ways, but also gruesome and potentially offensive. Rufus suggested the film was not for evreyone and he didn’t advocate watching it. Yet because of the way he described it (and from other reading one could do on it), you really could have a discussion about it’s artistic/philosophical/whatever merits.

    So it certainly is possible to have a thoughtful unreview and undiscussion. Sadly, though, most that I see are really just dismissive rather than trying to find a different way to engage the subject matterReport

    • I can sign on to your last paragraph. It’s hard to do well, but I think it can be done.

      (By the way, welcome back! It’s possible you haven’t been away and I’ve just missed your comments, but it’s nice to see you around again.)Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Buckley was also an old who lived during a time when people still read the books that movies were based upon before seeing them instead of just reading criticism of the criticism of the books. Then, get this, you actually had to leave the house to go see the movie unless you wanted to wait a year.

    Remember when old people said something like “the book was better” and that was pretty much true for everything except Jaws, The Godfather, and Fletch and they weren’t even talking about the graphic novel?

    That was the world that Buckley unironically lived in.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      Sorry Gabriel… this is one of those types of criticisms that is more compelling if you write about the book/movie that everyone in your [OT] audience knows is “wrong,” but should (ought?) to go see.

      You mention The Passion of the Christ in passing… but rhetorically, unless you are critiquing your in-group’s “close-mindedness” then you’re not critiquing close-mindedness at all.

      What unreviewed movies ought OT readers go see? Seriously. What production is so “upsetting or offputting” to OT orthodoxy *and* that they (you?) ought to grapple with so that “[you] might learn more about them worth knowing.” I’m genuinely curious what if any productions since, say, 2000 would OT put in this category?

      We already know those people over there are close-minded. Are you? Are we?

      I appreciate that you are a very thoughtful commenter, poster and reader… so I offer this as a rhetorical observation. My substantive thoughts on “open/closed-mindedness” I’ll reserve for now.

      [edit: oops, misthreaded, not really a direct response to JB]Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Threaded correctly, kinda, because I have an answer to this question:

        What unreviewed movies ought OT readers go see? Seriously. What production is so “upsetting or offputting” to OT orthodoxy *and* that they (you?) ought to grapple with so that “[you] might learn more about them worth knowing.” I’m genuinely curious what if any productions since, say, 2000 would OT put in this category?

        The first thought (best thought?) that comes to mind involves a handful of video games.

        Kingdom Come: Deliverance and The Last Night are the first to come to mind… but maybe deliberately avoiding those games are more akin to deliberately avoiding movies by Polanski or produced by Weinstein so that might not map 1:1.

        Games that might do a better job of mapping would be stuff like the original Doom or the original Duke Nukem 3D. “You shouldn’t play violent video games!” was a thing… but the people who made those critics might be better compared to the Tipper Gore PMRC types and so also better compared to the closed-minded Buckleys than the open-minded people today who would only refuse to play a video game because they find one of the creators abhorrent rather than one of the characters.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          Interesting, sure, games could be something… though probably niche vs. mass media entertainment.

          Is Kingdom Come tainted by Koch and Last Night by gamergate (wrong sidededness)? I just wikipedia’d them and am inferring.

          If so, then, yeah, I’d agree with your concluding paragraph that maybe its not the same thing… *unless* Kingdom Come totally shows the Kochs in a fascinating new and revealing way so that we all come away with a new thing worth knowing about the Kochs themselves.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Kingdom Come is a game set in the 1400’s Bohemian countryside and people are upset that there isn’t representation of People of Color. When challenged on this, the creator of the game responded with some variant of the horselaugh rather than taking the concerns seriously.

            The Last Night is set in a dystopian future where The Feminists Have Won. (Here’s an argument about how it’s kinda bad, even though it looks kinda good.)Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine says:

              Heh (that’s a discreetly muffled chuckle, not a horselaugh, ftr.)… thanks for clarifying.

              On KC, I guess I’d say that unless the studio had invested additional dollars to research the racial aspects of Bohemia in the 1400s *and* built an algorithm that accounted for the likelihood of bumping in to an PoCNPC *and* that also illustrated the the chances were rarer than critics expected such that the critics would have their understanding of 1400s Bohemia improved; then in my definition, it wouldn’t rise to the level of something Unreviewed that challenges the assumptions of the unreviewer. A horselaugh might be the proper business response compared to the cost/benefit of such a thing… but then we’re just dealing with a sales faux pas.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                FWIW, @jaybird has touched on only one of many aligned reasons people are deciding to stay away from Kingdom Come.

                And getting back to perhaps one of the issues with the idea of the Unreview, I see all these reasons and while they might not put me off a game absolutely, my backlog of games is so long it’s nice to have an excuse not to play a game that looks moderately interesting.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                >shrug< then we're just back to matters of taste and not close-mindedness. I prefer neopolitan games to vanilla.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I think it’s extremely hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.Report

              • I’m in an awkward position here. I tend to say that matters of taste are just matters of taste. I think that’s true to a large degree. But I do agree that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two.

                I’d add a third category that I think is also often difficult to distinguish from either closed-mindedness or mere taste. I’m not sure what to call it–maybe “matter of principle”?–but whatever one would call it, it something not reducible to either closed-mindedness or taste. Or rather, it need not be reducible to either. After all, one person’s “principles” are another person’s instances of closed-mindedness and yet another person’s inclinations to take mere matters of taste and make moral judgments.

                I’m thinking on the fly here, so you can be forgiven if my response doesn’t particularly make sense.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                There’s a class of judgements, perhaps the one that you call “principles”, which tend to provoke a more resistance and even anger. I suspect it’s because the principled objections tend to read a lot like condemnation of the creators of a work, or even people who do enjoy it.

                That’s the conclusion of Buckley’s unreview:

                I shan’t see Scorsese’s film, any more than I would go to see a movie featuring George Washington as a drug trafficker or St. Francis of Assisi as a slave trader. Scorsese has given the Christian community a little op-portunity to show their loyalty to our God.

                It’s that potentially moralizing angle that causes the hiccups. And for whatever reason people will read in that moralizing even when you don’t actually include it in an unreview.Report

              • That makes sense. I confess that I read moralizing angles into some persons’ digs at movies/books I like, even though it’s not often stated explicitly, and sometimes it’s “implicit” only because I read it that way.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Speaking of the Gamer Thing That Shall Not Be Named, I’ve seen a lot of comments about how that seemed driven in large part by some of the same botnets used in the last election.

            Almost like a trial run in shaping opinion, targeting a very familiar demographic.Report

      • Thanks for your comment.

        First, I’ll note why I mention the Passion of the Christ. I did so mostly to critique (what I allege to be) the closed-mindedness of some people people who chose not to see the movie, or more accurately, the closed-mindedness of those (a smaller number) who were aghast that such a movie was made. I’m not sure how much those people are part of my in-group or not. They’re the people I’m likely to socialize with, but I resent some of the anti-religious posturing. (When I say “some” I really do mean “some.” I could see why someone would choose not to see it and by explaining their reasons I might learn about them.)

        What unreviewed movies ought OT readers go see? Seriously. What production is so “upsetting or offputting” to OT orthodoxy *and* that they (you?) ought to grapple with so that “[you] might learn more about them worth knowing.” I’m genuinely curious what if any productions since, say, 2000 would OT put in this category?

        That’s a good question (it flips my framing around a bit) and I haven’t thought of it that way. It’s hard to answer because I could recommend it only if I’ve seen the movie, but I’m probably part of the crowd that would have unreviewed it. Maybe Zero Dark Thirty?

        ETA: for the record, I did not like Zero Dark 30 and reject what I interpret as is pro-torture message (or if not “message,” then pro-torture sensibility).Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          That’s a good question (it flips my framing around a bit) and I haven’t thought of it that way.

          I’ve run through a bunch of scenarios in my head and I haven’t come up with any.

          The only reasons to not watch a film would be “because it was made by someone loathsome” or “it stars someone loathsome” but not because it tells a loathsome story.

          What are you? Some kinda prude? Open your mind.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Wait. I thought of one.

            It hasn’t come out yet, but it is coming:

            Death Wish. (Warning: That’s to the Red Band trailer.)Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              That looks like exactly the sort of appalling movie that I really want to see, and will probably enjoy a lot.

              So maybe I’m out of step with the OT orthodoxy. Or maybe I’m not, because “appalling” is not an adjective that will turn me away from a good revenge flick.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Stretch your muscles and write an Unreview for it in your head, though.

                I tried and I was able to write one. It came downright naturally.

                “I have no desire to see yet another movie where the abuse of women becomes the raison d’être of yet another violent man. I have no desire to see yet another movie where I see someone buy a gun and the expectation is that the audience thinks ‘good’. I have no desire to see yet another movie where I see someone take this gun and shoot someone in the (body part). I have no desire to see people tortured for information and to have the torture work as intended. I have even less desire to see yet another movie where the gruesome deaths that don’t involve guns are portrayed as even more entertaining than the gun deaths.”

                Throw some stuff in there about toxic masculinity if you think you could throw it in there without it being over the top. (I couldn’t make any of my toxic masculinity sentences not sound over the top.)

                Hey, I want to see the movie too!

                But it was easy to write an Unreview of it.Report

          • The only reasons to not watch a film would be “because it was made by someone loathsome” or “it stars someone loathsome” but not because it tells a loathsome story.

            Maybe this goes down to prudishness (and maybe you made this comment more in jest or ironically and not seriously?), but I can see not wanting to see something for fear of what type of person watching it might make me.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I can see not wanting to see something for fear of what type of person watching it might make me.

              Now *THIS* is an interesting insight! I dig it!

              I am 100% down with this sort of thing.

              …wanna go down a slippery slope?

              Are you down with not wanting children to see something for fear of what type of person watching it might make them?

              Of course you are, of course you are. You agree with the ratings system. Like most people, we all agree with the ratings system. If you want to see an ‘R’ in the theater, you need a grownup *OR* you need to wait until it hits Netflix.

              Are you down with putting labels on records that contain explicit lyrics or describe explicit situations?

              Of course you are, of course you are. Only crazy people would ever think to argue against the PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS sticker on the cover of albums.

              With me so far?Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                Are you familiar with The Day the Clown Cried, @jaybird ? Though it has never been released (an unreview if there ever was one) I can see many people, people like me, not wanting to see it for the… perspective it takes. Now, if the makers wanted to release it, I feel that is their prerogative with no labels. But I can certainly see someone coming out with an unreview.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                At this point, it’s a historical artifact.

                I could see not wanting to see it for reasons similar to not wanting to see Triumph of the Will or Birth of a Nation but it has been locked away from view since it was finished.

                Nobody, except a small handful of people, has been given the chance to decline to see it for decades.

                If it were released now, I’m not sure that a detailed essay talking about how I’m not going to do the thing I wasn’t given the chance to do until yesterday would have the same impact.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                Well, my point (granted, a bit lost in the writing) was that of an artwork being so offensive to oneself, due to history, that one can, in good conscience, not see it. And in not seeing it, maybe one would want to produce a note as to why.

                That particular film being simply an example of such.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                In that case, sure. Like Triumph of the Will or Birth of a Nation, I could see it worth writing an essay about how it’s good that you decided to not even view a work of art.

                To return to Marchmaine’s original question, though, is there anything that came out since 2000 that you’d put in this category?Report

              • To return to Marchmaine’s original question, though, is there anything that came out since 2000 that you’d put in this category?

                If by “in this category” you mean “movies that shouldn’t be seen,” then I think you misunderstand Marchemaine’s question. Or at least you interpret it differently from how I did. He seems (to me) to be asking, what movies that people here likely haven’t seen, should they see:

                What unreviewed movies ought OT readers go see? Seriously. What production is so “upsetting or offputting” to OT orthodoxy *and* that they (you?) ought to grapple with so that “[you] might learn more about them worth knowing.” I’m genuinely curious what if any productions since, say, 2000 would OT put in this category?

                Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I guess I was going to the movies that came out since 2000 that we could respond to like Buckley responded to Last Temptation.

                AND THEN we could jump to “but you should see it anyway”.

                Maybe we could put Tarantino in there.Report

              • I see. I guess we understand Marchmaine’s question in mostly the same way then?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, I think his emphasis is on “what movies that we here at OT would (most) all agree ought to be avoided were mistakenly miscategorized?”

                And my emphasis is on “We don’t have any movies that we think ought to be avoided. At least not when it comes to *CONTENT*. We might agree that we shouldn’t watch movies made by Mel Gibson… but not because they contain stuff that we find offensive. Heaven forbid! We’re offended by Mel Gibson himself!” (Or switch someone else out. It’s all good.)

                But I suppose I undercut myself by coming up with a movie that I could see (most) all of us here agreeing shouldn’t be seen… even though I’m going to see it. (And probably half of us are going to see it.)

                But I think that the main point that both of us have is that Buckley seems to have standards at all.

                And having standards at all will *NECESSARILY* result in movies that get unreviewed unfairly.

                Because content is no reason to say “you shouldn’t watch that”. Not anymore. What are you? Some kind of prude?Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                Mmm, I think his point was to some degree exactly that we don’t have movies like that, that we are taking “open-mindedness” as one of our pillars.

                To some degree anyway.Report

              • I’m not sure exactly the point you’re trying to make. I also think this is one of those times where you seem to be skipping maybe a step or two in what you’re writing so that, at least from my perspective, you might be assuming I understand what you mean when I don’t. I say that all as a prelude to explain why if this conversation goes in the direction I think it might, I might disengage from it.

                Now, to answer your questions, as I interpret them.

                I’m not sure exactly what slippery slope you mean. When someone posits a slippery slope, I expect them to articulate a mechanism by which the slope slips. I also expect them to ponder whether I think the slippery destination is actually that bad.

                I don’t believe that being concerned about what type of person watching something makes me necessarily means I have any prerogative to decide what children in general see or can’t see. Perhaps I do adopt that prerogative in how I vote or (more often) how I pontificate on blogs about things like MPA ratings or parental advisory notices, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that I do so because I’m concerned about how what I watch affects me.

                That said, while I don’t see a necessary connection, I do see a potential connection. If I’m responsible for minors (however, in the real world, I am not), I do think the fact I’m concerned about how what I watch affects me would in some ways feed my concern about how what the minors I’m responsible watch affects them.

                Now, I mildly support MPA ratings, or something like them, as a way to signal to potential audiences what a movie will be like. I also realize–and for the most part welcome–that theaters won’t enforce the R rating thing too much against pre-17 year olds. (At least that’s how it was when I was young.) I don’t like the idea that the MPA can give the “kiss of death” to an otherwise acceptable (by my standards) movie by rating it xxx or NC-17 or whatever.

                I also mildly support parental advisory stickers. If I’m a parent (again, I’m not), I might like to know if this 8 track my child wants me to buy has misogynistic lyrics. Because we’re talking about 8 tracks, we’re talking about the pre-internet era, and it’s hard for me to look up the lyrics myself. In that environment, I can see the benefit to having such labels. Maybe having an advisory sticker, however, would mean that “respectable” places like Target won’t carry the items and make the items hard to get. I’m probably not okay with that.

                Maybe my own self-concern for what I watch somehow feeds into my mild/tepid support for MPA ratings and advisory stickers. I really don’t know. I am inclined to say that before I worry about any slippery slope, I’d best keep my own house in order and, for example, not watch something or read something if, with reason, think it will somehow make me, or help make me, into a type of person I don’t wish to be. I can, of course, do that wrongly and on too little information and end up misjudging things. But the possibility that my doing so will somehow be part of a slippery slope that somehow leads to MPA ratings and parental advisory stickers is one of my lesser worries.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But the possibility that my doing so will somehow be part of a slippery slope that somehow leads to MPA ratings and parental advisory stickers is one of my lesser worries.

                That’s not at the bottom of the slippery slope. That’s, like, where we are right now.

                When I was asking you if you supported these things, I wasn’t asking you if you supported something like these things in theory. I was asking about the things we actually have right now.

                My assumption was not that you would support something like these things in theory, but that you *DID* support the things that we have that are like that.

                (I’ll take your caveats into consideration. You don’t want these ratings to result in prior restraint on the part of the artists. You just want the ratings to result in a better informed public who will *KNOW* that any given ‘R’ is likely deserved or any given Parental Advisory does contain content that deserves such a sticker.)

                Were these bad assumptions?

                Ought I made different ones?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Re-reading you, you weakly support the systems we have in place (though you’re not cool with the whole “kiss of death” thing that a bad rating can give when it comes to distributors not touching certain things with three meter poles).

                As for where I was going, I probably made some bad assumptions.

                You gave an interesting sentence above (from which here is the fragment I’m focusing on): ), I do think the fact I’m concerned about how what I watch affects me would in some ways feed my concern about how what the minors I’m responsible watch affects them.

                The question would come down to the extent to which you are, in fact, responsible for minors in your culture and in your community. Even if you’re not a parent to them, even if you don’t know their *NAME*… you’re still responsible and the boundaries of that responsibility are fuzzy.

                But if you don’t see yourself as responsible for kiddos (and I assumed that you would), I’d probably then go from the importance of protecting yourself to the importance of protecting those who don’t know enough (or, even if a few of them do, the most of them don’t know enough) to protect themselves.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @jaybird I don’t know about Gabriel but my problem with this line of argument is that I can’t discern what your purpose is.

                It seems to me as though you may be trying to convince him to understand people and sympathize with people whom, based on other things he’s said over the years as much as on this post, he already understands and has great sympathy for.

                If that isn’t what you’re aiming for, I’m frankly quite lost.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, it was just to build upon the bad assumptions I had made.

                Given that the assumptions were bad, it’s now an argument arguing against nobody.

                Which generates more heat than light.Report

              • One thing I realize from reading your responses is that much of what I write is longwinded and hard to understand! At least the sentences you quoted are so.

                I think your assumptions are mostly good, as far as they go. But where, then, is the bottom of the slippery slope I should be afraid of?

                As for “being responsible for minors” is concerned, I should have been clearer. I would posit (heck, I do posit) a distinction between being directly responsible for specific minors and indirectly responsible to minors in general.

                All the while, I’ll admit that it’s a spectrum of sorts. One can be more directly responsible for the wellbeing of some minors than others. I’m not the legal guardian for any minor, but maybe I am to some degree “responsible” for, in some indirect way, for the wellbeing of my nieces and nephews.

                I guess I also agree that as a member of society, I feel some responsibility to protect the wellbeing of minors in general. You ask “to what extent” I’m responsible fort the wellbeing of these minors in general. I can’t posit here a unified theory of how and in what ways I am responsible. But maybe on a case-by-case basis I can hammer out some of the ways. And maybe some of those are coercive. I’m uneasy about compulsory school attendance, but I think I support it. I’m uneasy about parental advisory stickers, but as I note above I tepidly support those. I wish our alcohol laws didn’t forbid the beverage so categorically to pre-21-year-olds, but I would like some prohibition against minors’ access to alcohol and other drugs.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I think your assumptions are mostly good, as far as they go. But where, then, is the bottom of the slippery slope I should be afraid of?

                It’s not that you should be *AFRAID* of the bottom of the slippery slope.

                It’s that, at one point, people are going to argue something to the effect of “If X, then Y… and we’re Xing.” And someone else will point out THAT’S A SLIPPERY SLOPE! and then, some years later, Y.

                And when someone points out “you know, they kinda warned us…” the argument turns into “Why are you so against Y?”

                I don’t think you should be afraid of Y. It’s more that I think you should learn to love it.Report

              • I don’t think you should be afraid of Y. It’s more that I think you should learn to love it.

                That’s really not my understanding of slippery slope. To me, a slippery slope by definition signals something we should fear happening. Or if “fear” is too strong, maybe it’s something we should (or would) regret happening.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                In one of the best scenes in Hellraiser 2, the antagonist gets put into the cenobyte maker. Wait, that’s not the good scene. The scene where he gets put in is pretty gross and gruesome and relies a lot on body horror.

                The good scene is when the antagonist comes back out of the cenobyte maker as a cenobyte. The first thing he says?

                “To think I hesitated.”Report

              • @jaybird

                I never saw any of the Hellraisers and don’t know what a Cenobyte is, but…..

                …..he did, apparently, hesitate. I presume he hesitated because he had some trepidation (fear?) about what becoming a cenobyte would mean or about what he’d lose in the process. He seems to have had some notion that becoming a cenobyte entailed something negative, maybe not wholly negative, but negative nonetheless.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sure, he hesitated *BEFORE*.

                But once he got to where he was going?

                Nothing but enthusiasm. (He shook his head at how he once thought he might not be cool with where he ended up.)Report

              • So….maybe the slippery slope does by definition signal something negative, at least in prospect?

                I can certainly see how people who may have said, in 1992, that if Colorado and other states don’t pass something like amendment 2, we might eventually have gay marriage legalized across the US, and that now it’s been legalized, some (maybe not all, unfortunately) are now saying, “legalizing ssm wasn’t so bad and in fact was a positive good.” None of that, in my view, changes the implication that those who invoked the slippery slope in the first instance thought the slope was in some way bad.

                Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe supporters of laws that discriminated against gays thought of these laws as the entering wedge for legalized ssm AND explicitly described such laws as a “slippery slope” toward their desired end. Maybe, therefore, “slippery slope” is sometimes used as an end to which something is desired.

                Still and evenso, in my experience, “slippery slope” is invoked to note something the invoker believes is negative.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                The good scene is when the antagonist comes back out of the cenobyte maker as a cenobyte. The first thing he says?

                “To think I hesitated.”

                I have nothing to add to this discussion but I love that part. The first two Hellraisers are great.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        @marchmaine I’d be curious what movies you think we should go see, if you have suggestions. I mean, I saw the Passion of the Christ with Jaybird and Fish (who sometimes comments here). I will admit I fell asleep when they started lashing him and didn’t wake up for a while, but that’s only because a) I had the beginnings of a flu and b) I can’t stomach graphic depictions of torture when I already even know the story, so my brain shut down. (I grew up not just Catholic, but Catholic *enough* that I’d heard the Mel Gibson version of that story before, and even seen it acted out at a Good Friday service or two. The female devil was an interesting twist though.)

        Sorry if I sound chippy but I honestly can’t think of anything we’d universally unreview here. Even stuff like The Notebook (probably closest I can come to a Not An OT Movie), I can think of people here who’d have watched and enjoyed it – and I make a point of watching a movie in its genre every so often, just to make sure I stay open to the points it’s trying to make.

        If you have suggestions that aren’t outright conspiracy theories and don’t involve child sexual abuse (not that you are likely to suggest such, just, I can’t watch those), I promise I will make some time to watch at least two of them.

        Even if they are by someone whom I would normally shun.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          I don’t have time now, but I’ll try to unpack my comment a bit more tomorrow.

          I’m completely uninterested in Temptation vs. Passion… the major premise of Gabriel’s post is that Open Mindedness is a virtue; I’m asking whether it is, and whether we really practice it; and if we practice it when and where.

          There are plenty of things that we don’t like, or things we think foul or wrong or dumb… that’s not the interesting thought… the question is whether we appreciate subversion from within; not crass “Greed is Good” (to pick something less godwinian and maybe easier to discuss) but rather a beautiful seductive beguiling subversion of things we hold good (and maybe even holy).Report

          • Avatar Maribou says:

            So are there films you think would be that, for the OT crowd?

            Or are you saying you would never suggest we watch them?

            Because I do think it’s good to expose myself, in controlled settings, to things that are exactly what you describe. (And to be fair, on some level, as much as you might think I was saying The Notebook is… .pablum, I wasn’t. I actually find that sort of romance, on a gut level, to be exactly a beautiful seductive beguiling subversion of things I hold holy. And I’ve struggled to find a way to break out of that dichotomy where things are either for me, or against me, mostly successfully I think.)

            (Also to be clear I don’t have a problem with Buckley writing an unreview of the Last Temptation of the Christ, although I do think, based not so much on the book as on what else I’ve read of his work and the perception of his strengths and flaws I believe I gained from that, that he’d probably have benefited from testing himself against the book – one way or another.)Report

            • Because I do think it’s good to expose myself, in controlled settings, to things that are exactly what you describe.

              I agree, especially with the part about “in controlled settings.”

              This is a tangent (but kind of not a tangent) some of this reminds me of how Gandalf describes Smeagol/Gollum’s earlier years. He focused on looking at dark things and roots, in the ground or under water, and that focus predisposed, perhaps, Gollum’s decision to let himself be corrupted by the ring. (Gandalf doesn’t say exactly that–I forget his quote–but that seems to be the implication.) That also seems to be how Saruman chose his fate. He focused so much on the lore of the rings of power that he permitted himself to be seduced by the One Ring.

              I don’t think Tolkien is saying curiosity is per se a bad thing, just that one needs to engage one’s curiosity either in controlled settings, or at least with as full awareness as possible of what one is doing and how one is being tempted by it.

              (Also to be clear I don’t have a problem with Buckley writing an unreview of the Last Temptation of the Christ, although I do think, based not so much on the book as on what else I’ve read of his work and the perception of his strengths and flaws I believe I gained from that, that he’d probably have benefited from testing himself against the book – one way or another.)

              Despite my praise of the unreview and my qualified praise of Mr. Buckley’s unreview, I agree. It probably wasn’t clear from my OP, but I do believe that many of those who chose to boycott* The Last Temptation were mistaken. And they, or at least some of them, might have gained much from watching the movie (or reading the book) and contemplating what it had to say. (Having said that, and speaking more about my personal taste than anything, I just didn’t believe it was a great movie. A good movie, but not one that changed my life.)

              ETA: I forgot to delete the asterisk. Sorry.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine says:

              So are there films you think would be that, for the OT crowd?

              Well that’s a two parter. First, the question isn’t ironic… are there any 21st century films that might be catalogued as subversive and not something people ™ should see… hence something in need of an Unreview. And second, what if there aren’t any, really. What would we make of the fact that nothing is subversive (from one ideological standard), only, maybe, transgressive? Maybe we really are at the end of history, but I don’t think so.

              Unreviews of things folks have mentioned, like Avatar2 or the next Superhero movie aren’t Unreviews… there’s no cautionary advice greater than not wasting your $$.

              On the other side of the spectrum, I’d be careful not to confuse subversive with “challenging”. As in, this movie was challenging me to be more xyz, to be a better xyz thing that I already am… that’s a reinforcing project that might appear subversive because it highlights our failures… our failures to be the thing we’re supposed to be… not to renounce our thing because… failures.

              So purely on the topic of Movies, I’m not sure there are any, but I’d be interested in OT thoughts if there were. And to the original critique, that’s the proper object of y/our open mindedness project… how are we grappling with the credible things that subvert our baseline beliefs.

              So back to your question… No, I can’t really think of a 21st century movie that fits the bill… but I’m not holding out that there positively aren’t any… that’s my question.

              But if we move to a medium which allows a broader array of actors, your old friends: books; I might suggest that OT might benefit from reading Wendell Berry’s Port William Novels… maybe start with Hannah Coulter. But whatever you do, don’t let your High School or College aged children read them. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Thoughts of movies that *MIGHT* merit an essay entitled “I’m not going to watch this movie and you shouldn’t watch it either.”

                I already mentioned Death Wish and threw together a quick unreview of that.

                In that same vein, most of Eli Roth’s oeuvre. Hostel, is first to come to mind. It’s torture porn! There isn’t even a *PLOT* except for in the first couple of scenes and the last couple of scenes!

                I’m pretty sure that an unreview of Hostel would be uncontroversial on OT.

                Feeling a little more feisty, I’d say that there are a handful of movies that *MIGHT* get an unreview from some OTers but would have various degrees of boisterous comment sections in which two sides with two different flavors of post-Protestantism would try to out virtue-signal each other.

                The first kind of movie would be something like “The Help”.

                You should not see this movie because the story is, yes, racist. And sexist! And Cultural Appropriation! Don’t see “The Blind Side” either.

                But those are pretty much glurge. What about movies that we’d actually want to see? Well, I’m drawn back to the Death Wish kinda movies. Revenge fantasies in which The Patriarchy is established as a reaction to the excesses of modern society. They don’t have to be violent. All they have to do is give a message that Babbitry might be better than our current race-to-the-bottom of Radical Authenticity. I’d kind of point to some of the wackier criticisms of Judd Apatow’s flicks, but, at that point, we’re at the beginning of the “maybe? somebody? might? write something about how they don’t want to see yet another one of the movies where a healthy boring is better than an unhealthy exciting? Maybe?” category and I admit that that is much less firm ground than the other two categories above.

                But those are my takes on it.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Lots of good thoughts… I’m amazed at how few movies I’ve seen.

                Eli Roth (wait, what)… pure transgression… Torture is wrong… HERES TORTURE. Clearly I haven’t seen anything of this genre, but unless we’re stipulating that the goal is to clear the way for TORTURE as a blood sport, it would seem rather a different sort of Unreview would be needed. Although to your point… what is the post-protestant-non-prude-content-is-just-content standards based argument you would use? Slippery slopes and all that.

                You mention Tarantino as well, but I’m not quite following… is this post-Weinstein Tarantino or Tarantino qua Tarantino? My read of Tarantino is that he is a post-modern-whig-historian. That puts his movies in service of the modernity project. But perhaps you have observations from a different angle.

                Regarding The Help now you’re on to something… and I take your point that it wouldn’t pass uncontroversially; my own take is that it isn’t really subversive, but what I outline above as “challenging”. It is “challenging” us to not be like them (and of course, we’re not, not really). Plus poop. In the end, the moral order is affirmed.

                Eh… I’d just a soon skip Apatow for now… my short take is that his movies are kinda Transgressive tweaking of the moral norm by suggesting that maybe we haven’t thought through our moral norms… but in the end letting us know, that’s ok. I mean, maybe if Apatow would commit to the subversion project… then we might see something. Once. If it got released. Maybe Netflix?

                But yeah… its the final thought where things get interesting; will there be a revolution in Movies the way there was a revolution in Music… not simply distribution (like YouTube) but also Production values via advancing technology?

                I mean, what if there were really compelling movies where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I, too, have not seen any of Eli Roth’s movies (Death Wish will be the first!) but I read reviews of Hostel that were, effectively, “don’t see this movie and here’s why” and I remember leaving Natural Born Killers feeling like I wanted to take a shower and that movie was, apparently, making some big important critical point about me and our culture or some crap like that.

                I didn’t want to watch Natural Born Killers But Without The Intellectualism. Not even close.

                Wait. I just wrote an unreview of Hostel. Damn me!

                Although to your point… what is the post-protestant-non-prude-content-is-just-content standards based argument you would use? Slippery slopes and all that.

                “You shouldn’t watch this movie because it contains cis-het white male content that I, along with all other Good People, find personally offensive.”

                “ART SHOULD BE SAVORED AND ENJOYED YOU PURITANICAL KILLJOY!”

                Those would be the strawmen version of the actual fight that people would be having.

                You mention Tarantino as well, but I’m not quite following… is this post-Weinstein Tarantino or Tarantino qua Tarantino?

                In the days following the Weinstein revelations, a whole bunch of “Big exhale: now I can finally write the essay I’ve been wanting to write about Quentin Tarantino!” essays came out where people explained that they always felt uncomfortable watching QT movies and now it was finally safe to talk about how he seems like a really unpleasant person and I never enjoyed his movies as much as everybody else seemed to but everybody was talking about how he was such a genius but now that the Weinstein revelations are out, I can finally talk about how I *REALLY* feel instead of being cowed into saying nothing.

                Also, a handful of revelations about how he creepily abused his actresses in various movies came out which were, apparently, open secrets. (Like not sexual assault, but the scenes in which we see an actress choked but don’t see the actor’s face? Those hands? Those are Quentin’s. There’s also a really awful story about Uma Thurman being made to drive an unsafe car and there’s apparently footage of a crash and this was kept under wraps until after the Weinstein thing. Open secrets all.)

                my own take is that it isn’t really subversive, but what I outline above as “challenging”. It is “challenging” us to not be like them (and of course, we’re not, not really).

                Yeah, that movie seemed to be calibrated to get you to say “man, I’m glad that *WE* aren’t like *THAT* anymore!” rather than “golly, that really makes me think!”

                Thinking more and more about “challenging”… what is there to challenge? We’re already bleeding edge.

                will there be a revolution in Movies the way there was a revolution in Music… not simply distribution (like YouTube) but also Production values via advancing technology?

                The next big thing is only 15 minutes away.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Challenging as self-affirmation.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Ooh. Maybe “Get Out” is challenging the way you’re talking about.

                But I haven’t seen it.
                But I heard it was really good!

                It, apparently, got a nomination for “Best Comedy” at the Golden Globes and… well… (It also only got one other nomination there and it didn’t win that. One argument that I heard involved Get Out actively challenging White Wokeness and the voters did not appreciate that.)

                So maybe that one?

                Which might also be part of the coming movie revolution?Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Aha, there’s one I’ve seen and you haven’t. Two, maybe three thoughts…

                The fact that it was named a comedy might be the best evidence it is subversive. If it was a comedy, I was watching it wrong (and it conforms to no classical or modern definition of Comedy).

                I think it fails as subversion because Peele flinches and changes his target… which I guess supports your notion that it is a challenge film. As the movie progresses, we can assure ourselves we are not they. All of the drama occurs when we are they.

                As a challenge film, it is less good than The Help… because it needs farce to keep the audience on-the-team (maybe why people think it a comedy?); but as the subversive critique to white liberal racial complacency… it might have been profound.

                Maybe that Peele felt he had to write it the way he had to write it is the meta-critique…Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @marchmaine I haven’t seen it but the African-American film students I know (all 3 of them :D) love it fiercely and concur among themselves that it is, among other things, a “subversive critique to white liberal racial complacency”. I mean, I think all they said was something more like, “He GETS it. I mean, we all get it, but I’ve never seen a movie where you were allowed to GET IT without having to spell it out before.” (they were being specific about the “it,” in question, obviously). But they mean more or less the same thing, I’m pretty sure.

                Whatever the failure you see (don’t spoil me!), they didn’t see it… or they didn’t think it mattered to the overall effect of the film, whom they saw themselves, rather than white liberals, as the primary audience for. Perhaps the subversion lies in that, in that it’s really a movie for them, as much as in anything else?

                (Is hard, and probably foolish, writing this sort of analysis of something you haven’t seen. Kinda like doing biology based on the blind men and the elephant…)Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw says:

                Slight spoiler: Peele changed the “horror” ending in light of the election as being too grim. There are about 12 alternatives on the disc, so you can choose the right one.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Interesting, did not know that.

                Without spoilers… are we talking the ending-ending like the driveway scene or 12 different denouements in the final arc going back further?

                12 seems excessive for the latter [it sounds kind excessive for the former too, but…]Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw says:

                The ending-ending: Here is a link to the original ending. The other alternatives were variations on the release version. It felt like a total of twelve were on the disc. Kind of a ground hog day effect.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw says:

                Correction, there are 7 alternative endings on the disc, not 12.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                @marchmaine

                From what I understand, the folks associated with the people decide what category to submit their film in, and some films (e.g., “Get Out”, “The Martian”) that can even loosely fit into the comedy category will opt for that one because it tends to offer better odds for a win.

                I can’t say with certainty that this was what Peele did, but heard the theory posited. So, it is possible that we’re putting more weight than we ought to in its categorization of it as a comedy.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @marchmaine Oh, I think you might be surprised by how many OTers already know and love Wendell Berry. Or perhaps I only think that because I do.

                Though I will admit to having read a lot more of his nonfiction and poems, than his novels; perhaps my subconscious has been avoiding them on purpose. I’ll take your suggestion as a nudge to stop doing that. (Though I think, very much, that it will be a challenging book, rather than a subversive book, for me. Given that I would’ve listed him as a favorite poet any time you gave me the opportunity to list more than three.)Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                There are so many vectors of subversion in our fragmented culture that maybe sometimes the traditionalist and progressive are pushing the same direction.

                Originally I assumed that I would prefer Berry’s analytical writing and stuck to that; I now much prefer his fiction. I wonder how the fiction will strike you, once/if you get to it.

                I once said to a Lit Professor friend of mine that “Berry has already written the best novels of the century… now we’re just playing out the clock.” Just to watch his expression. I wasn’t disappointed.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @marchmaine I agree about that.

                I also think there is a *broad* strain of … conservative progressivism that dates back to at least the 60s, which is much more concerned with kindness, hospitality, agape, stewardship, etc. than with, well, the march of progress. It ends up in similar places many times? But tends to be much more concerned with local than national or global concerns (except when those concerns become local through relationship). And insofar as I managed to focus not on my deeply broken family of origin, but on the other, healthier adults I had access to, I was actually raised within that strain. I’m not 100 percent faithful to it, but pretty close. Traditionalist-level close, even :). I may be rather different than the OT norm in that, but then again, maybe not.

                Wendell Berry was someone who had pride of place on the bookshelves of some of my most favorite adults growing up.

                If anything, I think I may’ve avoided his novels until now because I’m afraid I won’t love them as much as I think I will. That is its own sort of brokenness in my reading, one that slides into a difficult positive feedback loop with “avoiding running out of books by an author and thus ‘hoarding’ their work against need,” – so it’s good to have a nudge to break out of it.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                In that case, maybe don’t start with Hannah Coulter… I’m not sure how you will respond to his use of the female voice.

                But the thing about Port William is that there are many entry points and many stories and the more you read the more the previous stories make more better sense.

                I have a friend who is deeply melancholic (unlike my choleric self) whose wife had to impose a 1 book per year rule lest they break him.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @marchmaine If I can cherish the female voices adopted by Saki and Kipling, I suspect I can manage Berry’s.

                (Probably I’ll start with whichever one sings to me when I’m standing in front of them on the shelf… the college where I work has an extensive collection.)Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Godspeed.Report

          • he major premise of Gabriel’s post is that Open Mindedness is a virtue; I’m asking whether it is, and whether we really practice it; and if we practice it when and where.

            That’s a good question. I admit I premise my review somewhat on open mindedness being a virtue. I suggest unreviewing is a “declaration of closed mindedness” as one of the possible objections one can lodge against it. And yet, I’m also defending, in a limited way, this exercise of closed-mindedness.

            Regardless of my premise, though, I don’t believe it’s always bad to be closed minded or always good to be open minded. I say it’s “usually” better to read that book or watch that movie, but I’ll add (what I didn’t add in my OP) that it’s sometimes good, or at least defensible not to.

            There are plenty of things that we don’t like, or things we think foul or wrong or dumb… that’s not the interesting thought… the question is whether we appreciate subversion from within; not crass “Greed is Good” (to pick something less godwinian and maybe easier to discuss) but rather a beautiful seductive beguiling subversion of things we hold good (and maybe even holy).

            I really like that bolded part (and I think I interpret it differently from how Maribou does in response to you). If I interpret you aright, I think you’re saying we should sometimes forbear introducing ourselves to temptation, or at least be aware when we’re doing it. Whether it’s what you meant or not, that’s a premise behind one of the unreviews I may write in the future.

            ETA: I just reread Maribou’s answer to you and I think I misinterpreted her answer when I accused her of misinterpreting your statement. I think she and I probably interpret your statement similarly.Report

    • True enough. And seeing a movie then was (often) more of a time investment than now. But one can not want to read a book as much as one can not want to see a movie.

      Remember when old people said something like “the book was better” and that was pretty much true for everything except Jaws, The Godfather, and Fletch and they weren’t even talking about the graphic novel?

      You’re forgetting Rosemary’s Baby. The book I could hardly get through the first ten pages before returning it to the library. The movie, in my view, was better. (However, I would like to think that if I had known about Polanski’s past at the time I saw the movie, I would not have chosen to watch it. But that’s a slightly different discussion.)Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        The English Patient. Great book, very not great movie. Book is almost alway better is a solid rule.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        I think Silence of the Lambs is a considerably better movie than it is a book, though the movie takes the already pretty gross transphobia of the book and ratchets it up to 11.

        This does edge pretty close to “loathsome story” territory for me; I certainly don’t enjoy the movie the way I once did.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        The movie Rosemary’s Baby is incredibly faithful to the book. It’s very well made, but if you’ve read the book there isn’t a single surprise in it.

        Ditto The Maltese Falcon.Report

  3. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    Buckley has reasons and they are informed ones.

    I disagree, if by “informed” we mean by what is actually in the movie. I just read the piece, and his reasons are informed by the culture warriors of the day, who also were pointedly uninformed by the movie, much less the book. (Notice how Buckley’s piece gives no hint that such a person as Nikos Kazantzakis ever existed.)

    Buckley imagines the point of the movie is that Jesus has lurid sex dreams while on the cross: Har! Har! Snigger! This actively avoids the point. Kazantzakis portrays Jesus on the cross being tempted by Satan. This is a bookend to the temptation in the forty days in the wilderness. The one opened Jesus’s ministry. The other closed it. All that sex stuff wasn’t Jesus giving himself the jollies. It was Satan giving him a vision, offering to give him an ordinary life, with a wife and kids, living to a ripe old age surrounded by a loving family.

    The issue the culture warriors had with this was that they want it both ways. They want to acknowledge the human nature of Jesus, but in a demur way that is inoffensive to 20th century Evangelical Protestant sensibilities. Jesus was hungry after forty days in the wilderness and is tempted by an offer of bread? This is acceptable. Jesus doesn’t want to be tortured to death and asks if perhaps there is a way around this? Also OK. After all, the most respectable 20th century Evangelical Protestant will admit to getting hungry and a preference for not being tortured to death. But anything that touches on the pelvic issues is totally out of bounds. It is completely out of bounds to hint that Jesus’s humanity extended to being tempted by dirty, dirty sex.

    My brother, who lived in a small town in Ohio, told me that when the movie came to town the usual suspects set up a protest. One of the pastors, though, thought that someone perhaps ought to actually watch the film to know what it was they were protesting against, so he took that bullet. He came out of the theater afterwards and told the protesters that it was a deeply spiritual film, and they should all go see it right away. I’m pretty sure I would disagree with this guy on a lot of things, but he was honest. I could sit down over a cup of coffee with him.

    I’m with you on one thing, though. The film would have benefited from cutting about half an hour out.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      All that sex stuff wasn’t Jesus giving himself the jollies.

      Well, technically, the scene with Magdalene was them having sex, sex, and more sex and then The Angel of Death killing her. So *THAT* part wasn’t the whole get married, have many children, grow old scene.

      It was the scene where Jesus married Mary (the other other one) and got some on the side from Martha that was the get married, have someone on the side, have many children, grow old scene.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Your observations are interesting as compared to Jay’s.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

        I haven’t seen the film since it came out, so my memory of the details is undoubtedly scrambled. I stick to my larger point that nothing about it was gratuitous.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Was casting David Bowie as Pontius Pilate gratuitous?

          Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I’ve got a quick “And another thing about the Magdalene scene!”

          First off, it was lifted directly from the book. They didn’t create it out of whole cloth just for the movie.

          Well, before I get into my rant proper, I’m going to have to tell you about a 2005-ish era co-worker’s rant about Titanic.

          “Titanic is the *PERFECT* love story”, he told me. “It’s about a beautiful young woman who meets a beautiful young man, (redacted verb) the (redacted noun) out of him, then he dies. And she gets to hold him in her heart as perfect *FOREVER*.”

          He’d then go on a rant about how everything was going to hell in a handbasket.

          Nice guy. Wonder what he’s up to now.

          Anyway. The Magdalene scene (again, lifted straight out of the book) was pretty much that only in reverse. (Or Titanic is the reverse? Something?)

          Jesus and Magdalene get together and have the *PERFECT* honeymoon.

          Rabbits.

          And then Jesus goes out for a minute and the Angel of Death shows up and kills Magdalene at the moment of her greatest happiness.

          Now I suppose you could argue that this scene, being lifted directly from the book, was not gratuitous because, hey, blame Kazantzakis.

          But the scene in the book? Gratuitous. Perhaps even deliberately so in an effort to show that Evil Doesn’t Understand Good and put together a nice little temptation for Christ but still couldn’t stick the landing…

          But gratuitous it was.

          And we could discuss whether Jesus having Martha on the side was gratuitous (though that also was lifted directly from the book).Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            If you gender flip the Titanic and have the young man survive and the young woman die with the young man remaining true to her forever, he would be accused of having a very bad case of Oneitis. People trying to help him would tell him to move on with his life and go look for another woman, maybe a brunette or blonde this time. Yet, it is seen as romantic by many people of both genders for a woman to stay true to her man long after he died. I think that’s sick. Rose should have found somebody else.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          What I meant is that Jay seemed to imply that Buckley and many of the protestors knew of the book and read it. You are dissenting from that viewReport

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I admit to engaging in some light projection.

            If *I* knew about Kazantzakis all the way back when I was a teenager, surely Buckley also knew about him.

            “There’s no reason to assume that Buckley did, though.”

            I suppose that’s true.

            But if *I* knew about Kazantzakis all the way back when I was a teenager, surely Buckley also knew about him.Report

            • I would have guess, before reading the piece, that Buckley had read, or at least knew of, Kazantzakis, but his piece is entirely “Scorsese does this…” regardless of whether the “this” in question was in the book. This seems odd, if Buckley actually knew, or even knew of, the book.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                And of course Buckley was entirely above using the film as ammunition in the culture wars instead of describing it accurately.

                Not.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      IMO there really hasn’t been a truly offensive movie about Jesus. Even the ones that upset the Evangelicals and other really conservative Christians like the Last Temptation of Christ and the Life of Brian are ultimately respectful of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels.Report

      • In the case of Last Temptation, another part of the Evangelical reaction is that Kazantzakis comes at Christianity from the Greek Orthodox direction. Evangelicals, who aren’t noted for their cosmopolitan urbanity, tend to find this strange and off-putting. Life of Brian is, well, sui generis.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        IMO there really hasn’t been a truly offensive movie about (topic).

        Would that we could use my yardstick for what ought to be considered “truly” offensive!Report

    • I think there are two and and a half prongs to Buckley’s argument. The first prong has nothing to do with Bukley’s objections to the allegedly gratuitous sex scenes (and I agree with you, those scenes are not gratuitous). It has to do with the argument that Jesus wasn’t born divine but was made divine. You could argue that’s not Buckley’s real objection and I think I agree.

      The second prong, the one you rightly (in my opinion) point out is mistaken, is the claim that the sex is gratuitous. I agree that Mr. Buckly is misinformed on that piece. And yes, I guess it reflects the alleged prudishness you claim to see in American evangelical culture. (I’m inclined to say it’s prudish, maybe even mostly prudish, but “mostly” in the sense of, say, 60% and not “mostly” in the sense of, say, 90%….I wish to use a narrower paint brush.)

      The second and 1/2th prong dovetails a bit with your claim that Mr. Buckley is engaging in culture war. Any movie portrayal of Jesus in the late 20th century US by Hollywood* comes necessarily within a context in which such portrayals are viewed as something to laugh at or snicker at. I see your point that Mr. Buckley is wrong. I’ve seen the movie and it isn’t snickering at anything or anyone.

      *I assume Scorsese counts as “Hollywood,” although perhaps Last Temptation was an independent-ish film?Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw says:

        Buckley’s first argument is that this is not Jesus. There are certain characters that have reached a level of cultural saturation that they become types onto themselves. King Arthur, Robin Hood, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, and Peter Rabbit. (I use fictional characters to emphasize the point that this point isn’t premised on acceptance of any religious doctrine) A movie about any one of them should be fair game for the criticism that this is not Robin Hood.

        This “Jesus” is helping hold the feet of Jews to a cross while Romans hammer nails into them, splattering “Jesus” with their blood. This is not Jesus and it seems a fair, non-religious based critique for one to say I will not watch a Jesus movie without him in it.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          They actually handle this fairly well in the book. There’s a scene where… Peter? I think? Looks at Jesus the crossmaker and knows that the Romans would make someone else do it if Jesus didn’t and so he felt a moment of gratitude that Jesus would take this sin upon Himself rather than letting it sit on someone like him.

          That part didn’t translate to the movie, of course.Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw says:

            I only watched the movie in the theaters when it first came out, and my recollection is that “Jesus” was portrayed as a repressed neurotic with daddy issues. He was either helping executions because he is fearful of Roman authority or because he wants to hurt God.Report

        • I think I agree with your reading of Buckley’s argument.Report

  4. Avatar Aaron David says:

    Man, I haven’t thought about Last Temptation… in years. In fact, my biggest memory of it is a friend going to see it for the simple reason that watching it would piss of the fundies. Which, in light of Buckley’s piece, strikes me as being in the same vein. I don’t think either of them were actually trying to grapple with the film philosophical points, were in fact using the film as a surrogate in their political/religious struggle.

    And while we need to have some of the give and take of these moral battles, what we don’t need are the needles, thoughtless yes/no of partisan political BS. It makes it harder to see the art.Report

  5. Avatar Damon says:

    ” I guess, technically not an unreview. But he declined to see further episodes based on that one.” Yeah, I don’t think that’s an “unreview”. It was an opinion of one show extrapolated to the series. I’m in the same boat with Seinfeld…frankly, I don’t think the show was very funny…but neither do I think Friends was funny. I choose not to watch them for those reasons and choose to watch something else or do something else.

    If, however, I’m looking for a new movie, or play, or such to view/attend, I’ll want to read reviews and unreviews….because frankly, the ads and the positive reviews really can distort what the thing might be about.Report

    • I can’t really argue with that. That’s an example of me really wanting to put that example in even though it didn’t really fit.

      I do think Seinfeld humor can be a bit cruel, though, and therefore I think my acquaintance had a point.Report

  6. Avatar George Turner says:

    How about an unreview of Dinesh D’Souza’s “Hillary’s America”?

    Asking for a friend.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      Absolutely nothing about D’Souza’s career has provided any evidence of his value as an analyst or polemicist and he’s a racist paranoid crank who is right now on Twitter mocking high schoolers whose classmates were murdered last week. He’ll get neither my time nor my money.Report

    • I’ve never read it, but I’ve never unreviewed it, either. I did read Letters to a Young Conservative and while I don’t recall the specifics, I wasn’t too impressed.Report

  7. Avatar pillsy says:

    First, neither Passion of the Christ nor The Last Temptation of Christ held any particular interest for me, perhaps because I’m not Christian, so the spiritual and religious aspects don’t quite resonate with me the way they resonate with some others. Also, a lot of people have said Last Temptation is draggy and way too long, and I loathe movies that are draggy and way too long [1], while Passion was made by Mel Gibson, and I loathe Mel Gibson.

    None of these things strike me as incredibly interesting reasons not to see a movie. Most of the reasons people don’t see things are probably not tremendously interesting. That’s also true of the reasons that they do see things. The second most recent movie I watched was Star Trek Beyond [2], which I saw because I’ll watch and probably at least slightly enjoy anything with exploding spaceships in it.

    So it’s possible that people will be able to say interesting things about why they are, or are not, choosing to see a movie. But it doesn’t really seem the way to bet.

    [1] The most recent movie I saw was The Post, which had a dozen great moments spread out over roughly 3.2 billion years of movie.

    [2] For a not-terribly-serious action adventure in space, I thought it was pretty good, actually. Not sure why it wasn’t more highly regarded in my circle of friends.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      “Slightly enjoy” is pretty much exactly what I thought of Star Trek Beyond.Report

    • Speaking only for myself, I didn’t realize Gibson was so loatheworthy until that drunken incident in California, which according to wikipedia happened in 2006, about 2 years after Passion hit the screens. I didn’t find Passion to be all that interesting when I saw it. And I share your friends’ opinion about Last Temptation being too long.Report

  8. Avatar Jason says:

    I can see the value of some kinds of unreviews. I could see myself writing an unreview of the next Avatar movie because we don’t need to encourage Cameron. Heh.

    What I hate are the fishing social media posts that say things like, “I’m one of the 1% that hasn’t seen _____” (whether that’s Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, or maybe the variation of not caring about football). I don’t particularly care whether people like what I like (unless I’m thinking something is ART), but their (and my) like/dislike of something makes neither of us special. I’m sure there are billions of people who haven’t seen Game of Thrones.Report

  9. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Interestingly, The Last Temptation of Christ was the subject of my very first piece of public writing: a letter to the editor of my local newspaper which was published.

    I argued, in essence, what @richard-hershberger does in his comment above: if Christ was fully human as well as fully divine, then Christ must have felt sexual impulses and temptations to sin, though perhaps not succumbed to them in behavior. Why would it be so bad for a movie to depict this?

    It’s odd, thirty years later, to find myself back exactly where I started from.Report

  10. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I read the book long, long ago (never saw the movie). Its point is that when Satan tempted Christ, it wasn’t with something ridiculous like being king of the world, it was with having a wife and family and experiencing normal, everyday human love. It was almost impossibly hard for Christ to resist this, though of course he managed. This is very compelling. I’m sure it’s possible for people to find this offensive, but I can’t understand quite how.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      FWIW, the Catholic priests I knew at the time were quietly supportive of the film, using the exact argument you are making.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Having read the book and seen the movie, I have the same criticism of both.

      Up until the crucifixion itself, the story is really, really, really, really, really, really good. After the crucifixion, the story kinda falls apart until the last couple of pages at which point everything gets tied up nicely.

      Also, if you haven’t listened to the soundtrack, you should listen to the soundtrack:

      Report

    • When I first saw the movie, I liked it for the reason you found the book very compelling. I’m a little less thrilled with it now, not because of some alleged posturing into Christ’s sexual temptations, but more because I buy into the notion that lust is one of the lesser sins. (Of course, I don’t have a theology degree.)Report

  11. Thank you all for reading. I think the general sense is “The unreview can work well in certain, limited situations, but it usually doesn’t work well, especially if we’re talking about the unreview’s potential to introduce people to new ideas. Also, my example of Buckley’s ‘unreview’ is a poor example.”

    I’d like to say four things. Two are clarifications. The third is an amplification. The fourthis a further explanation of my intent.

    Clarification 1: When I say the unreview could lead someone to change their minds, I think more often than not that someone can be and will be the unreviewer. If I decline to see something (not merely out of taste, but for reasons), then that sets you up to explain to me why I should see it. And maybe I’ll give it a try.

    Clarification 2: The focus in this discussion (and in my OP) has been on things like movies and TV shows. I think the same holds true for books and other pieces of culture.

    Amplification: I meant it when I said it’s usually better to engage whatever cultural product we’re talking about directly rather than listing reasons why we won’t engage it.

    Explanation of motive: I might write some unreviews in the future and I wanted to write this post explaining what I meant by “unreview.” One work I have in mind is something I suspect almost no one here has read or will read (and because it’s an unreview, I haven’t read it either), and while most of you will probably agree with my decision not to read it, you might be interested to know my reasons. Another work is something many of you have seen and that has gotten favorable reviews both here at OT and in the larger world. But I decline to see it for reasons you will probably disagree with.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    One of the wacky things about an unreview is how it relies on review-reviews to fuel it.

    You have to know somebody who saw it and have them give you enough good information to get you to form a coherent enough position to say “Yeah, I’m not going to see that.”

    I mean, above and beyond the whole “yeah, I’m not in the mood for a Superhero movie” or “yeah, I’m not in the mood for a romance”.

    But if someone writes a really, really good review (and you know that their compass is topsy-turvy) or they write a really, really scathing review (and you know that their compass points true), you can then take their word for it and take the best tidbits and use those tidbits to put together a decent unreview.

    Which I bring up because I got pointed to this fascinating review of Black Panther written by, it was told me, a Black Panther.

    It takes a moral stand against the movie. (Check out this one and this one too.

    Fertile ground for an unreview. (I’m probably going to see it anyway.)Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw says:

      I don’t see many movies, but I do enjoy a good unreview; that way you get not only the writer’s ideas, but also the ideas of the person reviewing the film, as well as the filmmaker’s ideas. Three persons as One.Report

    • I think you’re right about that, Jaybird. Without others having seen the movie (or read the book) and “reviewed” it in some way, the unreviewer usually won’t have much to go on.

      But not nothing. People can still look at the creator’s summing up of her/his product or watch the trailer or read the book flap. Richard above mentioned Buckley’s engaging in the culture war and I concurred with his (Richard’s) assessment that it’s partially a culture war thing. I can see how one can suss out the dynamics of the culture war and take one’s stance without necessarily having read/listened to reviews of something. That’s iffy….as far as convincing another person that the unreview has something to say to them. But it’s something.

      That said, I do, mostly, agree that unreviews depend on non-unreviews.Report

  13. I’d like to comment on something
    Marchmaine said above
    :

    Unreviews of things folks have mentioned, like Avatar2 or the next Superhero movie aren’t Unreviews… there’s no cautionary advice greater than not wasting your $$.

    I suggest, that one may indeed offer a thoughtful unreview–and one that could be thoughtfully engaged–that incorporates either or both considerations. I think that’s especially true with “wasting money.” There’s a lot I could see that I won’t see because of money (even despite recent developments…..”money” can be a stand in for “the hours I have left on this earth”). How I choose what’s worth my dollar (or time) hews closely to how much I value the engagement I’m undertaking by, say, watching a movie.Report