Film reviewer Steven Greydanus is an omnivore, but a discriminating one. In his prolific reviews at his blog, DecentFilms.com, and at the National Catholic Register, he covers nearly every film that comes to theaters, from The Tree of Life to Mission Impossible to The Smurfs—with a particular but not exclusive focus on religious resonances. (He also does a number of thirty-second video reviews that are both playful and informative—and concise!) An unabashedly orthodox Catholic who is not shy about making moral judgments, he can be bracingly caustic about the vagaries and vanities of mainstream Hollywood, but he is willing to recognize profound and artful filmmaking wherever it may occur, from The Muppets to Moneyball. His prose is energetic and crisp (“Putting Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in Stetsons is clearly an excellent idea”), but it can also probe deeply, as in this quote from a review of The Way: “The catch-phrase ‘spiritual but not religious’ is among the most glib and insipid pieties of our times. The Way, with its centuries of tradition, its ritual gestures and formalities, its institutions and symbols, its physically demanding regimen, and its cultural, Christian and Catholic particularity, is a gratifying reminder of how religion grounds and enriches us in ways that ‘spirituality’ can’t.” A father of six, Greydanus gives special attention to films for children and families, in reviews that go deeper than warnings about sex, language, and violence, instead exploring what films teach children about culture, consequences, redemption, and the natural world.
Read an excerpt from his essay in Image issue 70 on family films about “broken homes”–where houses themselves are transformed by the dramas that happen inside.
In addition to my film writing, for the last two years I’ve co-hosted a cable TV movie review show. Doing television has given me a new perspective on film since I appreciate more the pressure of the camera and how it changes what it records. I’ve done a lot of radio, but I’ve learned that television is much harder because part of your brain power is taken up with physical performance, leaving less mental energy for what you want to say and how to say it — and of course you can’t close your eyes, pace about or quietly look up stuff on the Internet! On the other hand, doing “Reel Faith” has given me the opportunity to do a series of scripted 30-second video reviews, including a number in rhyming verse and some with props or costumes, which have been enormous fun to do.
Film writing, though, is my first love as a critic and I want to keep my focus there. One of the most intriguing critical theories I’ve ever encountered is Graham Greene’s philosophy that film should reveal both the world as it is and as it should be. If that’s true, we might also say that film criticism should reveal the film as it is and as it should be. How things “should be,” of course, is a judgment informed by one’s worldview. I explicitly write as a Christian. But I also think film criticism, like film itself, can be an opportunity to see the world through another set of eyes, potentially enlarging and enriching our own perceptions. That’s how I try to watch a film, and I hope that’s what I offer receptive readers of all stripes in my writing.
Steven D. Greydanus is film critic for the National Catholic Register, and writes regularlyChristianity Today and Catholic World Report. He has contributed several entries to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, including “The Church and Film” and a number of filmmaker biographies, and recently contributed an essay on “Film and Catholic Social Thought” to theEncyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy.
For the past two years he has co-hosted the cable TV show “Reel Faith” (NET TV) with former USCCB critic David DiCerto. He is also a regular guest on a number of radio shows. He has written in the past for the USCCB. He has a BFA in Media Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and an MA in Religious Studies from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, PA. He and his wife Suzanne have six children. They live in New Jersey.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.