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When Katherine Bigelow got her second chance at the mic last night, shortly after winning “Best Picture” for “The Hurt Locker,” my wife and I were more than a little worried.

“Oh boy… oh, she’s… she’s in trouble.  She’s going over… Oh boy.  She’s in shock.”

She looked ill.  And unsteady on her feet.  Maybe it was the thrill of beating her ex-husband’s 3D box-office rain maker.  Maybe it was the backstage champagne kicking in.  But you can’t tell me she actually planned ahead of time to dedicate the Best Picture Oscar for 2010 to… um… “anyone who wears a uniform… guys in Hazmat suits… uh… firemen…”

That was funny.  Albeit a little freaky to watch in real time.  I was concerned that she was losing consciousness.  Or her mind.  But it was a nice gesture, even so.  Those hazmat suit guys never get enough love.  Am I right?

Katherine’s unsteady dedication speech parallels my wavering, uncertain appreciation for “The Hurt Locker.”  Although I’m actually not suggesting it shouldn’t have won.  Technically, it was an excellent film in many ways.  Well written, well acted, innovative camera work and awesome sound production.  I can appreciate the excellence of the craft – but does a “well-made” movie’s (well-arranged song, well-painted picture, etc.) technical prowess make it “good art.”

I got to the end of the film and… *spoiler alert*

I got to the end of the film and thought, “You know, this just wasn’t worth it.”  Where was the redemption in any of these characters we have just spent 2 hours getting to know?  There was plenty of gut-wrenching violence, alcohol abuse, sleazy talk and foul language.  Good acting, yes.  Good story-telling, yes.  But morally ambiguous “heroes” in a story with what, exactly, to say?  Where was the life-affirming message?  Or the elevating philosophical underpinning that lifts the viewer?  Go ahead, film critics – color me unsophisticated, but I do like my movies to have something true to say.  I like a smattering of redemption mixed with beauty to trump the chaos and heartbreak and bad choices our protagonists make on the road to somehwere better.

I like a story with a moral.

Not a very high-brow meter for judging art, huh?  I know.  That’s fine with me.  I’m not a film critic for a reason.  But I do have an internal “redemption meter” that is applied to every movie, song, play, or story I experience.  Bottom line for me?  If art reflects the best facets of life – relationships that matter, personal growth, redemption, love, beauty, and passion – it most likely will inspire thanksgiving in me.  Thanks to God, both for His blessings in my life and that He is a God of Redemption.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

At the end of the day, I want to spend my time carefully.  I don’t have a problem watching movies to unwind and escape for 90 minutes.  But I do want to be careful to “think about such things” that are beautiful, elevating, redeeming.  “The Hurt Locker” may be a masterful piece of art.  But it doesn’t elevate the soul.

I’d much rather settle in with my bride and a big bowl of popcorn to watch “UP!” again, and have my thoughts and spirit lifted higher…

How do you judge the value of art?  Where do you set the bar for what’s worth watching… and what can stay on the shelf at Blockbuster?

 

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“the hurt locker, the oscars, and redemption :: hazmat suits… and firemen?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.jskogerboe.com.