I wrote a blog post for Portland Seminary (I’m an alumnus, 2017 MATS grad) on being both a film critic and a pastor-theologian, as well as my predictions and recommendations for the 2019 Oscars.
People often ask me if being a film critic doing a PhD on cinema and theology takes all the fun out of watching movies. I can understand the sentiment. Film-watching is supposed to be an enjoyable diversion, an escape from reality for 90-120 minutes into an imagined world of drama and wonder. Won’t academic research and writing film reviews drain all the pleasure out of cinema, slowly turning me into a critical curmudgeon? Now, midway through my PhD at the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts at the University of St Andrews, I can confidently state that growing in the knowledge of film history and theory (as well as philosophy and theology) has only enriched the experience and expanded my love for the Seventh Art.
Yet I still have a love/hate relationship with the Academy Awards. On the one hand, art shouldn’t be a popularity contest or a game to win. Art is for invigoration, provocation, and contemplation, not TV ratings. On the other hand, I absolutely love cinema, so anything celebrating movies offers attracts me like a moth to a flame. Often the “bests” of the Oscars aren’t truly the best films of the past year. And this year in particular, the Academy has made a number of blunders which reveal a focus more on consumer ratings and less on film itself, such as their proposed “Best Popular Film” category, or presenting four awards—including Cinematography and Editing—during commercial breaks (a decision they rescinded after severe backlash).
I want to offer a few comments on twelve Oscars categories, highlighting what I predict will win, what should win out of the nominees, and what is actually the best in that particular category, regardless of the nominations. Consider this my small way of highlighting the true, the good, and the beautiful in cinema from 2018….