Sep 1, 2009

Theology 101

I have decided that movies are my religion. I worship at the altar of film. This religion, I've decided, is called Kinoism. It has a nice ring to it.

Movies give me solace, inspiration and insight; wonder, terror and awe.
Like in any religion, one has to be careful where one worships, but I see no difference from what I get from the movies to what I would get from a temple.
Actually, I do see the difference: with the movies, I get the spiritual nourishment I need and then some, whereas I picked a fight with regular religion since I first had use of reason and to this day I just don't buy it.
Plus, with Kinoism you get popcorn (our version of manna).
So here's the Theology of Kinoism for those who may want to worship with me (there are many of you already out there, you just don't know it):
• Kinoism is a pantheistic religion; not a monotheistic religion. It is pagan and definitely idolatrous, but nothing wrong with this. Beats arguing forever with the Main Bully.  Kinoism has many different gods, like ancient Greece, Egypt, Japan, Mexico.
• The Gods of Kinoism are the directors and writers, on occasion cinematographers, on occasion some outstanding actors (like Cary Grant or Gene Hackman or Anna Magnani or Mastroianni or Jeanne Moreau, Buster Keaton, Shirley Temple, etc.).
• You can worship different Gods of Kinoism for different reasons, seasons and needs. You can go to Buñuel, or Polanski or Kurosawa or Ozu or Hitchcock or Truffaut, or even Spielberg, when you need to. You can go to Billy Wilder, John Huston, Kubrick, Chaplin, Fellini, Lucrecia Martel... you get the idea.
• There are Demi-Gods, who are also a part of the Pantheon and can become Gods by their feats of wonder. Many of them are younger Gods, like the Coens or Spike Jonze or Kathryn Bigelow or whoever you choose.
• Unless they are Actor Gods (see above), the actors are the vessels through which the Gods communicate.  In the hierarchy of film adoration, actors take up plenty of worship. You can also adore production designers, composers, cinematographers, editors, foley artists, sound editors, costume designers, prop people, key grips. Some of them have the caliber of Gods, some of them are household idols, but this is a generous religion and you can worship them all. The more the merrier.
• As far as I'm concerned, this is the one instance where the concept of free will actually works in a logical framework, because it is unattached to a Creator that seems to operate on sheer whimsy.
You are free to choose who you worship, but be careful, because you can end up worshiping false idols. For instance, worship of Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich will rob you of your soul. It's like believing in Jimmy Swaggart, or the Reverend Moon, or Joel Osteen, but hey, you worship at your own risk (just like regular religion).
As in true free will, you have to make some choices -- distinguish truth from cliché; good from evil: Miyazaki or Pixar? Tarantino or Sam Peckinpah?
• You don't have to like all the Gods. I much prefer Quetzalcóatl to Huitzilopochtli, like I much prefer Truffaut to Godard.  Some Gods (like Godard) are a pain in the ass.
• This is a dialectical religion. It thrives with passionate argument. Like in the Talmudic tradition, there is endless parsing to be enjoyed in Kinoism. You can parse scenes, angles, twists, the deliveries of lines of dialogue, turning points, dramatic ironies, establishing shots, etc. Feel free to go to town. It will only deepen your faith.
• As for the spiritual element of Kinoism, I have learned as much or more about human nature and life on Earth from movies than I have from the Bible (which is nothing but an epic movie before the invention of cinema). I will give you an example:

Yesterday I was stewing in anger the entire day. I was so furious, reason unimportant, that I had to get away from my own skin, it was so distracting. I decided to go to MoMa because Art is also a balm for harried souls. One look at some Art and I already felt better, but then I learned they were showing The Treasure of The Sierra Madre. I went in. Absolute rapture. RAPTURE.
But I was still angry.
Then I saw my friend Marta and we went to see Still Walking, a wonderful Japanese film. By the time this film was over, my anger had turned to forgiveness; indeed, it seemed petty and ridiculous, and I had been through a magnificent journey of discovery of the nooks and crannies of the human heart.
This never happened to me in Yom Kippur. Amen.

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