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Silver screen

Saturday, 19 November, 2011

Because Annelise asked for it, I wanted to write a post on movie tickets and how you can somehow get by never paying full price for them. But as I started writing, I realise that there was all this other stuff surrounding the topic that I had to weed through and clear up before I could even get to that part. So here goes:

Money, money, money

I worry how this post will be received. I don't want to come across as being cheap for cheapness' sake. But at the same time, I don't want to come across as being greedy or covetous or overly focussed on leisure. I guess I worry that what I say will not be received the way I intend because you, my dear reader, may not share my perspective on and attitude towards money.

Ah money! That's a contentious broad topic on which I wrote half a blog post and then discarded. In terms of elementals, I pretty much agree with Tony Payne's Cash Values studies on money—that God owns all the money, but he graciously shares his wealth with us so that we may serve him with it; that things become problematic when you start worshipping money instead of God; that the Bible advocates prudence, wisdom and generosity in the way you use your money; that money is a tool by which you live (and pay your bills); and that one of the financial priorities of all Christians is to support those in gospel ministry so that they can get on with the specialised task of building God's kingdom in a more intensive manner.

However, with the third point—prudence, wisdom and generosity—I sometimes feel that I am a lot more relaxed in the way I use my money than other Christians. I recognise that in terms of material things, God has given me much. I also recognise that my family background has influenced my attitudes a great deal. When I was growing up, we never went without. One could even argue that we kids were pretty much spoiled. And yet my parents taught me to save and be (somewhat) disciplined with money. But at the same time, being cheap was never considered a virtue; if you had a problem that could be solved with money, it was never a waste to use money (if you had it, that is) to solve it. In contrast, I get the feeling that in the families of other people I know, their default position was to try to solve the problem themselves instead of throwing money at it. But in my personal opinion, one approach is not necessarily better or more godly than the other.

Generally speaking, most Christians are poor—or at least poorer than the majority of the population. It's partly to do with the way they use their money (e.g. in giving much of it away—to ministry work, to charitable work, to those in need). It's also partly to do with the fact that they serve and worship the true and living God, not material things. All of this is admirable and wonderful. However, sometimes this way of living translates into beliefs about money and the way people ought to spend their money that I think is rather ungodly—as if poverty were a virtue in and of itself. The rich are viewed with suspicion (perhaps with Proverbs and 1 Timothy 6 in mind), and anything the rich do is pounced upon and examined through this particular lens.

So I notice that often I feel like I'm being judged for what I do and the way I spend my money (not that I'm hugely public about that and not that anyone has said anything in particular). I know that you can't jump to conclusions about what someone else thinks of you and what you do; unless they reveal to you that that is what they think, you can never be sure so it's best not to assume. However, it can be hard sometimes for me to avoid thinking that someone else has formed an opinion about me and my spending habits just from comments they may utter or their facial expressions. I think that's why I am often automatically or unconsciously on the defensive when I talk about things like this—as if I have to justify everything.

Justifying a habit

I don't have to justify everything. But I wonder if it's worth trying to do so for the sake of argument. Or whatever. Basically, surrounding the topic of cheaper movie tickets is the related topics of rest, leisure, and Christians and art.

Rest

I think movie-watching partly falls under the category of rest and the theology of rest. In the Ten Commandments, we are commanded to rest because God rested on the seventh day from his work of creation (Exodus 20:8-11). It was supposed to be a day of enjoyment and fellowship—with God and with his people. The human body is frail and mortal; it can only be pushed so far before it breaks. Rest is essential not only for our physical, mental and emotional health, but also for our godliness: when we are well-rested, we are more patient, more compassionate, more forgiving, slower to anger and less irritable. In addition, resting demonstrates our trust in God—our confidence that he is in control and will carry on without us (because he doesn't need us). I keep thinking of this article which originally appeared in Christianity Today, which argued that perhaps the best way to love your neighbour was to get a good night's sleep.

“Rest”, I think, entails more than just sleep. It also encompasses exercise, leisure and, to a certain extent (because this also overlaps with work), creative pursuits.

Leisure

By “leisure”, I'm thinking of the things in life you enjoy. For me, it's reading, (some forms of) shopping, walking around looking at things, going to concerts/plays/musicals/gigs, spending time with friends and, of course, watching movies. (And TV.) I love the experience of going to the cinema—seeing something on the big screen with the surround sound, the popcorn, the trailers … really, just insert the content and themes of my five-page comic “Reel life” in this section and you get the picture. I don't expect everyone to enjoy movies as much as I do (and certainly I seem to be more in tune with what's coming out soon, what's currently shooting, what's considered “good” and what's not than most people I know). (I know I also tend to watch a lot more than most people I know.) But I don't understand people who elevate one artform over another—as if books are somehow inherently superior to the popular artforms (like pop music and television) just because they contain words.

For the time-poor (and being a parent of a young child, I am very much time-poor in the leisure department), movies are compact and easily consumable. I find that ever since Astrid was born, I have neglected reading (much as I love it) simply because reading takes up more time and requires more brain space (in that when you read, you need to keep the world of the book you are reading in your head for the next time you take it up again; it is near impossible to read a whole book in one sitting when you have kids [unless it's a picture book]). Going to the cinema also gets me out of the house for a couple of hours, giving me a fairly decent break, as well as feeding and nourishing my appetites for story, art and culture.

Christians and art

Which leads me to my next topic: Christians and art. It's a contentious one, and there are many passionate beliefs on both sides (the sides being those who have a more relaxed attitude towards the arts and those who have a more stringent view). Part of it, I think, has to do with the overlap of the ages—that we live in the world, even though we are members of God's kingdom, which hasn't quite reached its fullness and won't until Jesus returns, and so we are not of the world. Many Christians I know tend to view art with a great deal of suspicion—which makes it doubly hard, I think, to withstand the shadow of others' judgementalism if you are a Christian and an artist, for anything you do will always be critiqued and critiqued extremely closely. Furthermore, members of your audience who are Christian, if they know that you are a Christian too, will have very strong opinions about what you've created—and what you ought to have done (being a Christian artist—whatever that means in their minds)—opinions rooted in their own views on Christians and art.

For example, sometimes I get the feeling that if you are a Christian writer, you can only write about Christians. Or you can only allow your characters to commit moral actions—as if, as a Christian writer, you can never write about sin and sinners with any sort of verisimilitude. I can only imagine the sort of complaint letters Frank Peretti received because of the scene in Prophet (which really is only one extremely brief and discrete paragraph) in which his non-Christian protagonist has a one night stand with another character. I suspect that part of the outrage comes from the attitude that a Christian ought not to know so much about sin. But we live in the world (though not of the world), and as a writer and a Christian, you are always observing life around you with all its flaws, and I think if you are seeking to be faithful to God, you will do well to represent human nature in all its fallenness without whitewashing any of it—as if we mere mortals could ever aspire to the holiness and majesty of the divine.

Anyway, I digress. One thing more, then onto what this post is really about.

The artist and the critic

I enjoy watching movies as a leisure/rest thing, but at the same time, I am always critiquing and learning as I watch (as I do with all artforms—to varying degrees, of course; I feel I am not as educated when it comes to music). Movies teach me about narrative, storytelling, emotion and characters. I do not speak the language of film (and I don't think I ever will; I admire the collaboration that goes into making a movie, but I don't think I have the mentality to ever put my creative energies into producing that sort of art). But as a writer, I appreciate the writerly/narrative aspects of film that intersect with writing and the visual aspects of film that intersect with comics. (The former is more important to me, however; I'm not that visually minded.)

I tend to watch a fairly wide variety of things—documentaries, dramas, romcoms, superhero films, adaptations, animation, and so on. There are different things about each genre that interest me. For example, with adaptations, I'm fascinated by how the makers have translated a story from one medium to another, and whether they've been successful/unsuccessful (and why). With romcoms, I'm interested in the narrative and what makes it ring true emotionally (and whether they have managed to capture the true nature of love and convey that successfully to the audience). (IMHO, the best romcoms are less about the romance and more about the heroine's transformation/realisation about herself; the romance is really secondary and almost a metaphor for the internal journey of the character in a Jungian sense … I digress.)

So movies feed the creative part of me as well as functioning to refresh and rejuvenate me. I do not watch for the sake of watching; there is a point to all this consumption.

I don't know why I feel surrounded by all this judgementalism; just who is judging me? And why? Why do I need to be defensive?

Never pay full price again!

So we come to the meat of this post: how to obtain cheaper movie tickets. A standard adult ticket these days costs around AUD 18 (more if you're attending a specialty screening—3D, Gold Class, IMAX, etc.) That's pretty steep! But it doesn't have to cost that much. In fact, the cinemas and distributors make it very easy to see things for less:

One last thing: always read the fine print. Unfortunately some passes and tickets cannot be used for certain sessions (most significantly Saturday after 5 pm, which is really the worst time to go the cinema anyway: all those people!) Check and double check before you head to the box office. And enjoy!

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