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Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes through the Lens of Contemporary Film [Paperback]

By Robert K. Johnston (Author)
Our Price $ 18.70  
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Item Number 144969  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   208
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.48" Width: 5.54" Height: 0.53"
Weight:   0.66 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2004
Publisher   Baker Academic
ISBN  0801027853  
EAN  9780801027857  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
This book analyzes how both contemporary film and Ecclesiastes attempt to reveal the beauty of life amid its apparent uselessness.

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More About Robert K. Johnston

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert K. Johnston (PhD, Duke University) is professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the coeditor of both the Engaging Culture and the Cultural Exegesis series and is the author or coauthor of several books, including Useless Beauty, Finding God in the Movies, and Reel Spirituality.

Robert K. Johnston currently resides in Pasadena, in the state of California. Robert K. Johnston was born in 1945.

Robert K. Johnston has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Engaging Culture

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
faith and film  Jan 18, 2007
Robert Johnston, long time professor of theology and culture at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, is one of a small number of Christian scholars who has made a serious effort across the years to engage the world of film and relate it to the life of faith. In this book he interfaces the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, with its paradoxical outlook on life, with eight important film makers and their work: Akira Kurosawa (Ikiru), Woody Allen (Crimes and Misdemeanors) , Alan Ball (American Beauty) , Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia), Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) , Marc Forster (Monster's Ball) , M. Night Shyamalan (Signs), and Alexander Payne (Election and About Schmidt). Johnston honors film makers as those voices who give us "our read on reality, our informing visions, our stories and myths." After unpacking these artists, their visions, and their works, Johnston looks at the apparently paradoxical message of Ecclesiastes, that life is beautiful, enriching and good, but at the same time often ugly, demeaning, and evil, a vanity of vanities in which we do little more than chase the wind. Yes, there is beauty, but at times it feels utterly useless. So, the films inform the Biblical text and the text the films.Three short appendices conclude the book, including one called "Christian Film Criticism." I would have wished for a whole chapter on this topic from Johnston.
A solid and insightful study  Mar 30, 2005
The moment I read that Johnston was covering three of my favorite films of all time ("Magnolia," "Run Lola Run," and "About Schmidt") in "Useless Beauty," I knew I had to purchase it.

The first chapter alone is worth the price of the book, as it profoundly sets up a study comparing Ecclesiastes to some hard-to-watch contemporary films. By interweving Ecclesiastes with films from some of the best filmmakers working today (Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne, Alan Ball, Marc Forster, etc.) Johnston makes a solid and at times, very insightful case for God working in films today. Comparing ancient Egyptian literature with "Election" or "Monster's Ball" might not be what the filmmakers had in mind, but I doubt any of them would frown on this near-perfect book that recognizes today's postmodern generation's embrace of paradoxes, mystery and the importance of pain and suffering. The Christian faith has always been hard to articulate and at times, seemingly contradictary. But Johnston juggles playfulness and seriousness, life and death, beauty and ugliness, meaning and meaninglessness in such a captivating and compelling way, I wouldn't be surprised if this book sets off a whole genre of future theology and film dialogue writings.

Of course, if you're young and already a fan of many of these films there probably won't be anything new here (in terms of insight about the movies themselves) until you come to the chapter on Alexander Payne, where Johnston fearlessly draws truth from films not often talked about in mainstream Christian circles. He connects so many dots (but yet, thankfully, leaves many ambiguously unconnected) and this is what I loved most about the book: it seemed to understand Ecclesiastes better than any Old Testament or Religious scholar ever has.

Though far from perfect, it's a satisfying read that will make you once again realize the power of mainstream and high pop culture films, and the absolute relevance of the real Christian gospel of faith---with all of its ambiguities.

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