According to Sun-Gazette movie critic Joseph W. Smith III, Christians don't need to sacrifice artistic quality for faith-based entertainment.
"The church nowadays, for all that it bemoans the 'state of the arts,' has not always been especially discriminating in the art it champions," Smith said. "We're trying to encourage folks to think about what they watch, to develop a set of criteria for explaining why, for instance, 'Vertigo' is a better film than 'Transformers.' "
So, with his "Christ & Culture" film series, which is celebrating its sixth year, Smith presents films that he thinks are high quality but also deal with important moral and religious issues.
“Fools’ Parade” will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday at Agape Church, 485 E. Third St.
Past films include "Rear Window," "Cry, the Beloved Country," "In the Heat of the Night," "Holes," "The Fallen Idol" and "The Apostle."
Smith said, "I definitely see 'Christ & Culture' promoting more old-fashioned, family-friendly films - though we've also watched some pretty brutal recent films, including 'Gattaca' and 'Hotel Rwanda.' But, in terms of 'morality,' I think of Blaise Pascal's remark that 'The first of all moral imperatives is to think clearly.' "
The next film to be presented is "Fools' Parade," starring James Stewart, which will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday at Agape Church, 485 E. Third St.
Besides the religious reasons, Smith had a few secular reasons for choosing this film, including its lack of availability.
"It's commercially unavailable, and the last time our series did that - with 'The Tenth Man,' a few years ago - there was a huge turnout," he said. "[Also], everybody loves James Stewart, and we've never covered one of his films."
But, most of all, he's excited for the post-film discussion the spiritual issues in "Fools' Parade" might inspire.
"It's got a strong theme of religious hypocrisy, exemplified by Stewart's line, 'God uses the good ones, and the bad ones use God.' We'll have a great time discussing that line!"
The film is based on a novel by Davis Grubb, who also worked on "Night of the Hunter," a film Smith previously has shown in the series.
" 'Fools' Parade' is set in Depression-era West Virginia, where James Stewart's Mattie Appleyard has just been released from a long stint in prison," Smith said. "Presented with a $25,000 check for his years of work while incarcerated, he is hounded by sundry seedy characters - including a washed-up madame (Anne Baxter) and a crooked prison guard (George Kennedy) who's in cahoots with a similarly crooked banker (David Huddleston)."
Stewart's performance is stellar, which is not-surprising for the much-loved actor, according to Smith.
"No matter what he was doing - even if it was a patently lousy film, of which Stewart made many - the man always gave his best. He was a consummate professional, and this film is no exception," Smith said.
The film wasn't successful when it was originally released in 1971, but Smith loved it then and said that it's still good now.
"It holds up quite well," he said. "There's some funny business with the Stewart character's glass eye, plus a young Kurt Russell and the veteran character actors George Kennedy, William Windom and Strother Martin (best known for his line in 'Cool Hand Luke' - 'What we have here is a failure to communicate')."
He thinks filmgoers will enjoy the movie and the experience of discussing it with others.
"Films were made to be enjoyed by a collective audience, so I think this is a great way to experience movies the way directors meant them to be seen," Smith said. "Folks often complain that there isn't much to do in this town. Well, here's something that's free and an awful lot of fun on a Friday night."
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