Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Family Life

Whenever I recommend a film to my son-in-law, he immediately goes online to read the reviews ... and comes away with the same conclusion every time: I don’t know what I’m talking about because the critics always disagree with me.

Absolutely every film I insist he MUST see has been trashed by the critics. We’re not talking about an occasional poor review here or there; we’re talking about a popularity rating of under 20 percent, even worse than most presidential candidates.

Very often, a film that I love is ranked in the single digits by reviewers in the Rotten Tomatoes online service. My tastes are pedestrian, I suppose, probably because I like happy endings, spiritual motives and people with integrity who know right from wrong and try to do right. I should add that I hate violence, profanity and illicit sex in films, which raises an obvious question: Why do I even bother to watch movies produced in Hollywood?

Predictably, my all-time favorites include “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” “Going My Way,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Narnia” and “Saint Ralph.”

I’m tired of seeing violence and evil exalted in films. I’m tired of seeing Christianity condemned. I’m tired of people who believe in God being portrayed as the villains.

I often think about these issues during the awards season when celebrities are stumbling over themselves to congratulate one another on their “art” while the public sits mesmerized by it all.

I grew up in a home that had five TV sets, back in the era when many families had only one or none. My father always had the television on, whether it was during dinner, while he sat in his Barcalounger, while he did crossword puzzles or while he slept – it apparently induced a good night’s sleep for both my father and my mother.

He had a predisposition for war and crime movies, so the screen violence could get pretty intense in our home, particularly in the R-rated movies.

I still remember visiting my parents for Sunday dinner with my wife and four daughters and listening to constant gunfire and profanity coming from the television. It was so bad that I sequestered the kids in another room and made them watch Disney DVDs all afternoon. As for my wife and me, we went home stressed out by all the mayhem and madness. It was like passive smoke. We suffered the harmful effects just by being in the same room, and I’ve never gotten over that, which is why I don’t own a television.

Several hundred studies have proven irrefutably that violence in film has decided negative effects on people. It makes them anti-social. It makes them aggressive. They become desensitized to violence, not only on the screen but also in real life. We’ve reached a point in America where people are conditioned to violence because they view it constantly. And a growing number imitate the criminal acts and depraved behavior they see on television, film and video games.

Every film I love the critics hate and every film I hate they love. They always seem to hate Christian movies and sentimental flicks with happy endings. As a result, my movie-watching is generally limited to PG-13 fare, even though some of the movies are riddled with gross adolescence, double entendres and raunchy humor. While I was wandering through the selection of movies on iTunes recently, looking for something to rent and excited about spending Saturday night with my wife, watching a movie on my iPad, I came upon several dozen that looked promising, until I looked further. They all shared something in common: violence, sex, drugs and profanity.

One warning for a very popular action adventure said it was rated R for “brutal violence, language throughout, sex and drug use.”

I finally stumbled upon a PG-13 action adventure/science fiction flick that seemed to be ideally suited for the diffident viewer. I rented it, watched it, liked it and later went online to see what the critics thought. They said it didn’t have enough realistic violence and would have been better if it had an R rating.

What do I know anyway?

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.