Plugged In Talks Content: Conclusion

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Plugged In Talks Content conclusion

Editor’s Note: Plugged In movie reviews are split into content sections, and sometimes Plugged In is asked, Why? This series of blogs seeks to answer that and many other questions. We’ll unpack each content section in turn and explain why we believe each is important. We’ll give you a peek at how we think and talk about movies—and in so doing, perhaps you’ll learn something about us, the movies we watch and maybe even how can you watch them with a discerning eye, too.

Our eighth post in this series deals with the conclusion. (See previous post on Other Negative Elements here.)

To sum up …

We all know what a conclusion is. When I was in high school chemistry, it was the summarization of what we just learned in a given experiment. For instance, it might look like this: Conclusion: Just as I suspected from my hypothesis, hydrochloric acid does dissolve the common household sponge. Also, textbooks. And skin.  

In a forensics debate, a conclusion might add a final argument to the summary.  As we can see, a high school debater might conclude, Paul Asay should really not be allowed to handle hydrochloric acid.

The Plugged In Conclusion encompasses both of those elements and more.

Often, we do summarize what a given movie has showered us with. We remind readers about any severed limbs or tawdry sex scenes. We might talk about the film’s attitude toward drinking and drugs, if it feels warranted. We often revisit some of the movie’s positive elements, too.

And sometimes, we make a final argument, too. Should you go? Should you not? We always stress that we’re here to provide information you need to make your own decision (for you and your family), but sometimes we’ll offer our own opinion, too. You can do what you want, but honestly, going to Saw 37: The Return of the Revenge of the Bride of Jigsaw might kill off more of your brain cells than the movie kills attractive college students—and that’s saying something, we might write.

But the conclusion is often more than either of those things. Yes, it’s a summary of what the movie contained. Yes, it might be the place where we either praise the film for being so family friendly or bash it a bit for its content. But it’s also where we reviewers can step into the narrative ourselves a little bit.

What does that mean? Well, if the rest of the sections are about what the movie contains, the conclusion might contain hints about how that movie made us feel or what it made us think about. We might actually say whether we thought the movie was entertaining or not, or whether the acting was good, or the script was bad. Was it funny? Was it sweet? Was it moving?

 And occasionally, we bring our own baggage to the party, too.

Watching a movie is, inherently, a deeply personal experience: If it wasn’t, we’d pretty much all like the same movies, and that’s clearly not the case. We don’t go into a theater as a blank slate. We come into it with our own experiences, our own scars, our own hopes and fears. For instance, as a dad, I tend to react really strongly to stories about fathers and sons. As a Christian, I resonate with stories dealing with faith and doubt.

It’s funny: We’ve mentioned in this series that we sometimes avoid reviewing movies that we’re particularly sensitive to—movies that might tempt or trigger us in some way. That’s very true. But when it comes to difficult movies—movies whose stories might bother me more than the content—I often seek those films out to review.

It seems counterintuitive, and perhaps it is. As a moviegoer, I might run the other way if faced with a film like The Father, a movie that deals with some issues that hit close to home and touch some of my own fears. But as a reviewer, I push myself the other way—toward the difficult film. Why? Because the raw connection I have to it just might add something to the review. If a film touches me—even in a painful way—I’ll engage with it more deeply and write about it differently. And that might give you (I’d like to think) something deeper or meatier to take from the review than just go or don’t go.

And I think that’s ultimately why we do this crazy job. Sure, we want to help parents make good moviegoing decisions for their kids. We want to give readers the lowdown on what a movie contains, from its positives to its negatives, from its views on faith to its attitude toward drugs. All that’s really important. But it goes deeper than that. We reviewers, as moviegoers and (sometimes) movie lovers ourselves, want to think about the movie’s messages, to struggle with its paradoxes, to grapple with its ideas. And we want to help you do that, too.

We don’t do that with every movie, of course. Sometimes it’s enough—more than enough—to summarize and be done with it. Clifford the Big Red Dog will probably not have you pondering existential questions. (Although who’s to say, right?)

But sometimes we want, and perhaps need, to talk about a movie beyond a litany of dutifully counted profanities or documented drinking scenes. Sometimes a movie is more, or less, than its parts. And the conclusion is where we tackle it all.We hoped you enjoyed this series on our content sections. And perhaps we’ll go deeper yet in future blog posts or podcasts. We’re not just talking about entertainment, after all. We’re talking about stories, and we are creatures of story. And the best stories are inexhaustible. They have the potential to shape our hearts, minds and perspectives on what’s right and true and good. So we’ll keep reviewing ‘em, and we hope you’ll keep coming to check out what we have to say.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

2 Responses

  1. -Do you watch a movie you’re reviewing just once? I would think it would be more difficult to get the mood or message of a movie if you’re zeroing in on counting every swear word, slap, glass of wine, etc. I would watch a movie once to get the whole picture, feel, and enjoyment level. And a second time to do all the counting, note taking.

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