I like movies. I enjoy pop culture. It’s not very fashionable for a pastor to acknowledge such a thing. For a few of my evangelical friends, pop culture is an outright sin. At best, it’s often simply so shallow and empty as to be a waste of our time. For most it’s a guilty pleasure, enjoyed, but only in the way a dieter enjoys a forbidden piece of chocolate. On the other hand a few of my relatives (my brother and my niece in particular) love movies much more than I do, so I’m claiming no special expertise here. Only that I like movies. In truth some pop culture is empty and shallow and a waste of our time. In fact, I rarely pay to see a movie in the theater precisely because the expense of time and money is rarely worth the experience. I do occasionally leave a movie feeling cheated of two hours (or more) engaged in a movie which promised but never delivered (thank you Quentin Tarentino).
All that said, I enjoy story. I love story actually. The media is less important to me than the story: film, song, book, blog, sermon, poetry… This is not to say I don’t enjoy visual art or music, or poetry without story, only that I enjoy story. I like story for its own sake but I also believe the way people tell a story reveals a lot about them, and the stories we like as a culture reveals a lot about our culture.
This is, at least partly, why I have had a tradition for many years, of preaching an Academy Award sermon each year. After viewing the movies nominated, I then put together a sermon, usually with popcorn and a red carpet, in which we explore together what the selected movies say about our culture. My goal has never been to merely bash the movies for their “worldliness” but instead to try to understand the longings, needs and perspectives of our culture by the movies “we” select as best. For the first time in over ten years of this tradtion, I do not have a pulpit to preach from, except of course this bloggy one. And so I will use what I have.
Typically I’ve utilized Pastormac’s Theory of Seven inescapable themes, as a framework for my sermon/reviews and I will do the same this year. So over the next few weeks I will be posting my reactions to the Oscar nominated movies. On Academy Award Sunday I will post my thoughts on how these movies reflect the Seven Themes and what it says about our culture, or at least our pop culture this year.
Yes, there will be contests! Four, in fact.
1) Predict the Oscars: I will assign certain values to certain categories and the one with the most points wins. I will share my scoring system soon, but essentially if you predict the most winners, you win.
I have invited two ringers, my two most frequent winners from previous contests: My brother Andrew Megill, and my friend Connor Bradley. I expect these two to be unbeatable (except perhaps by each other) so if you beat both of them I will give you an extra prize.
2) Predict the Ringers: Predict whether Andrew or Connor will come out on top. Predict what the winning point value will be. IN the case of a tie, predict also the points spread between Connor and Andrew.
3) Predict the host. Unlike my two ringers, I will post my predictions here online before the ceremony. If you can predict how well I will do (what my points will be) you win this contest. I am typically not very good.
4) Predict Acadamey Award ceremony events: How many Times will President Obama be mentioned. How many speeches will be shorter than 5 minutes… Such questions will be the elements in our fourth contest. Predict the most of these non-movie related elements and win a prize. As we get closer, we’ll reveal more details, such as prizes (I guarantee you movie tickets will be involved) and point systems, and how to enter. So stay tuned!
For now, print out your ballot, from somewhere like here, and start catching up on any movies you missed.
Tonight, I go see Philomena with my wife. I’ll let you know my reactions soon.