Posts Tagged ‘scott young’

2014 Movies: Critics/Awards/Cinephiliacs

February 19, 2015


2014 Movies: Critics/Awards/Cinephiliacs

The thunderous buzz of film culture has enveloped us yet again. The year-end critic’s top ten lists, the non-stop awards promotions, and the favorite films-of-the-year verdicts of movie-lovers is an annual social ritual that both pleases and annoys. Reviewing, reflecting, rehearsing the good, bad and ugly of cinema is an unavoidable staple of our contemporary culture. This process is pleasing because retrieving the best cinematic experiences is an emotional, intellectual, and moral stimulant. Annoying, because the inflated and outsized importance bestowed on the process is a huge distraction.

This seasonal activity now has the significance of religious holidays—film is one of the world’s great religions. The pilgrimages we make to the theater, video store, Redbox, even the short walk to home entertainment centers are indicators of the religious dimensions of the film- viewing experience. Nurturing the soul and enlightening the mind is more frequently experienced with sights and sounds—the ocular and the auditory—than by printed texts. While the literary arts remain crucial to a vital culture, moving images and rock & roll—film and music—increasingly are where most people connect to things that matter most. The enthusiasm generated during this period approaches the fervor found at a feast, a revival of sorts.

I will join the 2014 ritualistic celebration with my own set of categories and winners. I simply cannot resist the stampede in registering my own preferences and perspectives on the films released and exhibited last year.


Here are the Best Picture categories with top selections:

1. Films likely to be discussed ten years from now (long shelf life):

  • Goodbye to Language
  • Boyhood
  • Nymphomaniac I & II

2. Films that will likely have cult status:

  • Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Birdman
  • Inherent Vice

3. Films that will likely show up in revival programming:

  • Nightcrawler
  • Young and Beautiful
  • Gone Girl

4. Films that did not get deserved attention:

  • The Immigrant
  • Two Days, One Night
  • Venus in Fur
  • The Past
  • Missing Picture

5. Films delivering spiritual vitality:

  • Calvary
  • The Normal Heart
  • Trip to Italy
  • Wild
  • A Theory of Everything

6. Awesome retrospective screenings:

  • Alphaville
  • Babel
  • Dead Poets Society

7. My favorite films not mentioned in previous categories:

  • Chef
  • Gloria
  • The Double
  • A Most Wanted Man
  • St. Vincent
  • A Most Violent Year
  • Noah
  • Foxcatcher
  • Interstellar
  • Gore Vidal: The U.S. of America

* Notable films not screened:

  • Selma
  • Leviathan
  • Whiplash
  • The Imitation Game
  • American Sniper



May 20, 2014


(Apocalypse Now; 1979)

Culture Connection Executive Director Scott Young, in collaboration with Professor Lowell Gallagher from UCLA English Department, is presenting a class entitled “Religion Goes to the Movies: Eating Beauty, Welcoming the Stranger.” It is being offered as a Fiat Lux course in this Spring 2014 quarter. The class is executed in seminar style, involving viewing entire film in class with student interaction posted on Internet discussion board. “Religion Goes to the Movies” is Interdisciplinary & Interreligious in content & perspective. The films selected for screening are:

Apocalypse Now (1979)

The Visitor (2007)

Doubt (2008)

The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)

Babette’s Feast (1987)

Critical readings are required in addition to screenings. A sampling of themes to be discussed are: the gaze, hospitality, transcendence, symbol, myth, icons, moving images, the sacred manifested in the secular, and food & spirituality.


The Tree of Life – special screening with panel Saturday, January 14, 2012 UCLA

January 5, 2012

Urban Mystic

April 26, 2011

Last year Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP, interviewed me at the intersection of Florence and Normandie, the flash point for the civil unrest following the acquittal of Los Angeles police officers in the beating of Rodney King. The story of my annual pilgrimage to this place was published in the National Catholic Reporter: Urban Mystic at the Crossroads.

This seven-minute video, edited by Chris Gipson, is an outtake from the interview. Many thanks to Chris, Srs. Rose and Tracey, and the board of Culture Connection that made this possible as we approach the 19th anniversary of this pivotal event in the life of Los Angeles.

“Death of the Critic” – Scott D. Young to moderate panel at April 2 event

March 11, 2011

Here is a description of the panel session that I will moderate at this upcoming conference:

“Who needs critics?” What use are film critics?” asks Nick James, film critic and editor of Sight and Sound. What is the difference between reviews, commentary, and criticism? Are there any distinctions to be made? Where can you discover great writing on film? Who are the really good critics and why? Is there a connection between cultural critique and movie criticism? Is there inherent conflict between amateur and professional critics? Is it inevitable that electronic communication will hasten the demise of print culture? Why is film criticism important for cinematic art and technological delivery mechanisms? Is there any space for the Religious Critic in a world preoccupied with the extinction of the movie critic? What do Godard and Schrader possess that the mass of blogger critics do not? Who is going to write the obituary and officiate at the critics’ memorial? Questions galore and conversations aplenty on this theme of the “critic in dire straits.”

I hope you to see you at the conference.

Click HERE for the Reel Spirituality website to register.

Urban Mystic at the Crossroads: an interview with Rev. Scott D. Young

June 12, 2010

The Rev. Scott Young talks about his yearly pilgrimage to the intersection of Normandie and Florence, flash point of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. (photo: Sr. Tracy Dugas)

The worst riots in urban U.S. history, or civil unrest as some prefer to call them, erupted on April 29, 1992, a reaction to the acquittal of four white Los Angeles policemen for using excessive force in apprehending a black motorist, Rodney King.

Racism and brutality, the lack of opportunities, poverty, historical and current official negligence on the part of the city governance and police, and reverse racism, all these socially flammable realities contributed to the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Most years on April 29, Scott D. Young, an ordained Baptist minister, campus minister, and film lover, makes a pilgrimage to the intersection of Normandie and Florence in Los Angeles’ South Central district, the flash point of the 1992 riots. City officials don’t say “South Central” anymore. They know language and geography are important and by broadening the vast and racially diverse conceptual plain of urban life, perhaps some of the stigma will be dispersed and unrest forgotten. Scott is committed both to eliminating the stigma and remembering an event that cannot be erased.

For the rest of the article, click here

Chatting with some of the people we met at the crossroads

The Best Movie Priests: Creative Characters or Product Placements?

June 12, 2010

The June issue of    St. Anthony Messenger magazine ran an article by Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP: The Best Movie Priests. Rose invited me to write a sidebar which I titled: “Creative Characters or Product Placements?”

City of Angels Film Festival March 12-14, 2010 DGA

March 10, 2010

The City of Angels Film Festival is arriving this weekend (March 12 – 14, 2010) at the Directors Guild in West Hollywood. I had the great fortune of being a co-founder, festival director for several years, and now one of the programmers. The theme this year is “Hidden Gems, Buried Treasures” and information can be found at City of Angels Film Festival 2010

I am directing a sidebar to the festival on Saturday, March 13, also at the DGA, called “Cinefiles: Revivals & Retrospectives”.

1 pm FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES Director, Gerald Peary

Documentary on the (melo)dramatic story of film criticism

“a fascinating look at the vibrant personalities who changed the way we look at film”  Chris Gore

Screening followed by panel discussion: “Writing On Film”

Panel Moderator: Scott Young

Panelists: Claudia Puig, USA Today film critic, Scott D. Young, and Sr Rose Pacatte, FSP, film journalist and author


KILLER OF SHEEP Director, Charles Burnett

Considered one of the finest student films ever produced. Selected as one of the 100 Essential Films by the National Society of Film Critics.

“an American masterpiece,independent to the bone”   Manohla Dargis, New York Times

Post-screening discussion: Scott Young


MULHOLLAND DRIVE  Director, David Lynch

Voted Best Film of the Decade by Film Comment (survey of 100 international moviemakers/critics/academics)

“Hypnotic”  Roger Ebert         “A Maniacal Thrill”  New York Times

Post-screening discussion: Scott Young

Manifesto: Movies to Live By

February 18, 2010

Cinematic art provides us with provocative images and stimulating ideas. Moving images and visual stories trigger questions and supply guidance in our quest to interpret our private and public lives. Cinema is becoming the primary cultural process for finding meaning in our individual and social existence. Movies are still largely perceived and experienced as escapist entertainment; a parenthetical fantasy zone where we hide for a couple of hours to avoid laborious work, stress-filled relationships, boring religion and fear-inducing world events. Escapist entertainment in the Cineplex is a useful and even necessary function of movies.

Films, however, have evolved to be much more. They assist us in negotiating who we are, where we are going, and why it matters. Films such as “Babel,” “Children of Men,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and “3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada” from four Mexican directors in 2006 treat us to a feast of beautiful images and disturbing stories that generate enduring questions about human life.

Recent Academy Award-winning films such as “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008),” “No Country for Old Men (2007),” “Babel (2006),” “Crash (2005),” “Million Dollar Baby (2004),” “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003),” “Chicago (2002),” “A Beautiful Mind (2001),” “Gladiator (2000),” and “American Beauty (1999)” deliver enduring images that both entertain and enrich.

2007 releases were especially potent: “There Will Be Blood,” “Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “The Savages,” “Sicko,” “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Starting Out in the Evening,” “Michael Clayton,” “American Gangster,” “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,””Mary,” and “I Am Not There,” among many others, stir our emotions and enlighten our intellects. Going to the movies can be a life-enhancing experience.

“Citizen Kane,” “The Wizard of Oz,””It’s a Wonderful Life”: Why are these movies still popular? What is their perennial appeal? These films offered previous generations a framework of images/visual narratives to live by.

“Taxi Driver,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Decalogue,” “Chinatown,” “Blue Velvet,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Paris, Texas,” “Blade Runner,” are a few of the films that inspire and inform me. These films are my companions in the adventure to discover and discern the mysteries and puzzles of existence.

More recently, “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Fight Club,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Magnolia,” “Donnie Darko,” “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Superbad” have ignited the spirits of a younger generation.

All of the cinematic treasures I have mentioned are merely a sampling – a selective, not nearly a comprehensive, itemizing of films people live by. Notorious omissions have undoubtedly occurred. Many of you could add important movies to this litany I have proffered.

Sights and sounds, moving images and contemporary music are the lingua franca for our life and times. Big screen / Small screen / Micro screen delivery systems are changing the scale and scope of our relationship to visual stories and knowledge. The future will be showcased on screens more potently than read on a page.

We are in the middle of award season for 2009. This reflection on the significance and undeniable importance of movies is prompted by this annual ritual of selecting movies that matter for commercial and cultural reasons. It seems appropriate to summon larger horizons as we deliberate on last year’s movie theater offerings.

“Traveling Down Boulevards”: an Interview with Scott Young By Scott Kushigemachi

January 27, 2010

The Emerging church should meet Scott Young.  Why?  He was practicing emergence before the words “emergent” and “emerging” became part of the public discussion about the church.  He’s “premergent,” or perhaps “protomergent.”  I met Scott when I was a student at a conservative Evangelical university in Southern California.  I took his “Film and Society” and “Religion and Society” classes.  He challenged our basic assumptions about Christianity and played the role of the provocateur in the classroom.

In addition to having taught at my school, along with Fuller Seminary, and Art Center: College of Design, Scott founded the City of the Angels Film Festival in 1994 and co-directed it until 2005.  Scott’s been deconstructing the spiritual/secular binary for a while now.  And for the last 30 years, Scott has worked as a campus minister with a well-known Evangelical organization.  I found it helpful to hear him talk about living and working in these kinds of communities and not always “fitting in” theologically, ideologically, etc., especially as I negotiate my life as a post-Evangelical in my own Evangelical church community.

I got together with Scott to talk about some of these things in May of last year (2009.)

Scott Kushigemachi: It occurs to me that for a long time you’ve been wrestling with questions that have been taken up by many in the Emerging church movement—the appropriation of continental postmodern philosophy, the deconstruction of certain ecclesiological and theological structures, the suspicion of Foundationalism.  Could you give a broad overview of the shape of your theological/spiritual journey, starting as a student at a conservative Evangelical college, up to the point where you are today?

Scott Young: When I was in college, I started a lifetime of questioning and engaged in what Paul Ricoeur called the hermeneutics of suspicion or Derrida’s sense of deconstruction.  For me it was that my inherited faith structure didn’t make a lot of sense.  The basic foundational pieces that I had been told were indispensable for a life of truth and goodness didn’t seem so essential.  There was a shaking of the foundations, to use Paul Tillich’s term.  Probably the most important thing that happened while I was an undergrad was I had a protracted period of doubt that was both spiritual, intellectual, and emotional.  It was not an experience for which there was a lot of hospitality, or even tolerance, in that place, so it was very privately experienced, but it drove me to the library, and I started ransacking the library for books.  There, I discovered two Christian thinkers who helped me reconnect a sense of intellectual curiosity and vitality with a Christian commitment.

In fact, one of the books was called Christian Commitment, by E.J.  Carnell, and it was Carnell’s first attempt at reflecting on an experience he had encountering Søren Kierkegaard.  I also ran into a book called A Place to Stand by the Quaker philosopher Eldon Trueblood, which was really an attack on Foundationalism without using that terminology.

After my undergraduate education, I attended seminary, which for me was not a time for career training, but an opportunity to continue to explore these questions that I was plagued with.  In seminary, what I was really interested in was theology and culture, including philosophical questions and motifs, but also including the arts and things like street life and pop culture.  Also, having come from a semi-rural area, I was really intrigued by the city, and so while going to seminary in Denver, I became a student and enthusiast of the city.

SK: In describing your life, you draw from Derrida and Ricoeur to help explain your autobiography as though these ideas “fit” the narrative of your lived experience.  How did postmodern or poststructuralist ideas and theologies influence you?

SY: When I had a serendipitous discovery of Eldon Trueblood and E.J.  Carnell, that set a pattern for me for looking for thinkers.  That sent me into a discovery mode that continues to this day, where I consider myself—well it’s in the name of my blog: “culture vulture report.”  I’m a scavenger, and I’m always looking for good ideas, and I have this primal curiosity that isn’t clustered but scattered: it goes in so many different directions.

Having been introduced to Kierkegaard, I later discovered all of Kierkegaard’s friends.  And then there’s another layer after that, which is all of Kierkegaard’s commentators, and then Kierkegaard’s critics.  And tracking that for over 40 years basically introduces you to the entire thought world, to all kinds of boulevards of ideas, and…I like traveling down boulevards.

I’m motoring down those intellectual boulevards, often taking joy rides, and sometimes I get out and window shop, and sometimes I hang out for a while and stop at a park along the boulevard.  If you think of intellectual life as a kind of roadtrip, I’m both a flaneur, an observer and a watcher, as well as a participant—I walk the sidewalks, I get up close and personal.  Discovery of salient thoughts requires both distance and proximity.

SK: If you had to identify where you’re stopping right now, who are you window shopping or hanging out with on that boulevard?

SY: To switch up the metaphors, let’s say I went into a theater for this one.  So I’m looking at a stage, and in this play the marquee level actors would be John Caputo interpreting Derrida and Kierkegaard.  Then there would be Rene Girard.  And then there would be Mikhail Bakhtin.  I’m currently enthralled watching this play in which they are performing the theatrics of thinking.

Paul Ricoeur I already mentioned.  Gianni Vattimo.  Then there’s Zizek, who’s an intellectual celebrity.  I would have to include Cornel West.  It’s a crowded theater—it’s more than three acts, so it’s kind of crowded up there.  But those are some of the key figures.  This gives new meaning to the theater of the absurd.

On the theological side, the powerful influences for me that anticipated this move towards deconstruction or postmodernism, or emergent, or whatever term you want to use, were Paul Tillich, both of the Niehbur brothers, and Harvey Cox.

In addition to that, among the liberation thinkers that really influenced me would be Kosuke Koyama, a Japanese liberation missiologist.  Also, Dorothy Sölle, and I would have to add Gustavo Gutierrez.

SK: Another theme you’ve mentioned is the city.  I know that your love of the city is connected to a sense of social justice.  How did that aspect of your faith emerge?  What prodded you in that direction?  The intellectual curiosities and philosophical questions don’t necessarily lead a person in that direction.

SY: So how did this develop for me?  During orientation week at college in September of 1969, I became the tour guide for a lot of people I met at orientation week who were from the Midwest and had never been to LA.  So I ended up giving tours into the Hollywood Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, but also I would take them to Olvera Street in downtown LA, which is the symbolic starting point, 250 years ago, of the city.

Olvera Steet is center city, so there was a large population of Skid Row panhandlers, the homeless variety of street people.  They’re still there, but they’re more hidden now.  At any rate, I just had a natural compassion—I’m not sure where that came from.  And I went back to the staff person that was in charge of the “Christian service assignments” at my school and told him I wanted to start a ministry to Skid Row people on Olvera Street.  And I can’t believe he said “Go ahead.”

But what I discovered was that there was something needed beyond mere personal charity.  One story to illustrate it: I ran into a former boxer who was obviously an alcoholic.  I promised that I would help him, and I was going to take him down the street to a hamburger joint to get him something to eat.  As I was helping him in his drunken stupor across the street…what the LAPD used to do back then was they would drive up in these big patty wagons and they would literally just throw homeless people, and especially people who were intoxicated, they’d just throw them into the back of a truck, almost like piling trash.  And here I had just promised this guy that wouldn’t happen.  This was my first experience with the LAPD—it was a very negative one.  I realized that personal compassion, caring, acts of charity, thousand points of light—that’s one piece of it…that’s not enough.  I understood that there was something really wrong with the system.

SK: Since you became more conscious of the systemic and structural dynamics of social problems, how did you find ways to act upon that?

SY: My real activist life didn’t kick in until I became a campus minister at Cal State Long Beach as part of an Evangelical organization in 1980. Between 1980 and 1984, which would’ve been during the first Reagan term, the US military interventionism heated up in Central America, and the information about poverty in Africa became even more widely available.  Additionally during the Reagan era was a reigniting of the nuclear arms race.  As a campus minister, the two areas of activism that I became most prominently involved in were peace marches protesting nuclear weapons development and protesting military interventionism in Central America.

SK: It’s interesting to me that your initial activism took root during your role as a campus minister.  It’s a departure from the traditional Evangelical campus minister role.  I’m interested in how you fell into that role.  Not only that, but how did you develop your own version of campus ministry, and how did your understanding of yourself in that role differ from some of the dominant ways of thinking about “Evangelical campus ministry”?

SY: The general conception of ministry of the organization I was employed by was a preoccupation with large group worship and small group Bible study.  Convening and protecting students—it’s almost like congregational life.  It’s about gathering people away from the evils of the university to practice Christian piety.

Fortunately, there’s another philosophy of campus ministry available that views following Jesus to mean social involvement and activism of one sort of the other.  I felt like both of those approaches were legitimate, but I found the pietistic expression to be largely escapist.  I do believe there are aspects of piety that are important, and I did provide those kinds of activities on occasion, but it seemed more important at the time to show that Christians shared a concern for the good society, the good life, the good person.  I don’t think Christianity can be limited to the good or to the moral, but we certainly have a shared interest with other people in it.  Much of my activity was trying to find collaborative ways of working on justice and peace ministry, and the denominational (including Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist) campus ministers shared that vision of campus ministry more than my Evangelical colleagues tended to.

SK: We first met in a conservative Evangelical university.  You have had significant interactions with Evangelicals during your professional and personal life.  I know that our discussions are often critical of that tradition, but I’m curious—what do you take from that heritage that is good and that you still hold on to?

SY: One of the things that Ricoeur juxtaposes with his hermeneutics of suspicions is a hermeneutics of retrieval.  And I often use the terms continuity and discontinuity: what are the things that need to be continuous, what are the things that need to be changed, shaken up.

Evangelical Christianity’s focus on a personal relationship to Jesus and it’s insistence on the individual can be challenged, and there are a number of questions that should be raised about it—but it does highlight a reality for me: the value of the human person.  For all the legitimate attacks on individualism, I do think that there is an appropriate individualism that was accented in my religious upbringing that I think remains important.

I have often said that I have an irreverent piety because I embrace the full use of the English language.  And I like scatological humor.  Granting this caveat, emphasizing holiness and practicing a piety that isn’t judgmental towards the gutter, but is respectful of the human in all of our manifestations and dimensions is a part of Evangelical life I admire.

The politicization of Evangelicalism starting in the late 70s, and the Dobson-Falwell-Robertson version of it (the Christian radio stuff you hear)—changed the whole arrangement.  I have zero interest in, a lack of respect for that version of Evangelicalism.  I find it objectionable in every kind of way, and in fact I feel like practicing my impiety with some choice profanity to communicate my qualms.  In a charitable mood, I recognize this approach appeals to many good people.

SK: There’s a whole area of your curiosity and “scavenging” as you refer to it, that we haven’t touched on, which is your love of cinema, of sights and sounds.  You’ve taught film classes, founded the City of Angels Film Festival, and sat on the jury at the Berlin Film Festival.  Can you comment on the role of images in our culture?

SY: Starting with the “sixties,” sights and sounds, images and music, that is to say popular culture, is the way most people experience reality and make sense of the world.

It’s no longer ideas with images being illustrative, it’s images embedded with ideas in which explanation of ideas are now the illustration.  In my mind, or my eye I should say, the ocular and the auditory experiences are the power agents.  We’re not going back to a logo-centric world.  Ideas, books, words, and print will continue to be extremely important, but they are in the process of losing their domination.  Image makers and sound designers are the agenda setters for the foreseeable future.

SK: What are some particular films that have influenced you?

SY: Taxi Driver.  I really resonated with Travis Bickle, but not at a literal level.  I wasn’t a Vietnam Vet with PTSD, which wasn’t in the language then, but we now know that’s what he was afflicted with.  Travis Bickle saw there was something wrong with the world.  He was frustrated that he couldn’t fix it.  Taxi Driver, being art, uses an extreme story to try to describe how he’s going to change the moral degradation of the city of New York.  But really what it ends up being is a journey into not futility, but inutility.  So Travis Bickle, after all of his efforts at trying to help Iris, really discovers the limits of his ability to deal with how “f …..” up the world is—instead of lapsing into futility he recognizes inutility.

Probably why I prefer film noir, or some combination of that with crime/drama, or what we might just call gritty city films, is the extremes of the criminal world give you critical distance to see how those same dynamics operate in the suburbs or in high society.  And if you have the imagination, you can see the connection points—you have to connect the dots yourself.

Art house or independent film requires a lot of effort from the viewer.  For me they are really powerful spiritual experiences, and more powerful in my case than most of what we would usually think of as sacred spaces or church experiences.  And this goes all the way back to the beginning of this story when I realized I was a theology and culture person.  I’m looking for God in culture, and my most primal and formative religious experiences have always been in the world, in what we would call cultural locations.  This is why I’ve become so interested in cultural/public intellectual life: that’s where I connect up with God.

Scott Kushigemachi is a community college English instructor.  He lives in Gardena, California with his wife Amy.