Great book for movie lovers or those interested in finding new meaning in cinema. His style and structure made for a quick read, and he covered all genres of movies - citing examples from the last 100 years. This book is a great addition to what Josh discusses on "Filmspotting" (podcast).
I've enjoyed watching films my entire life. I've also been a Christian my entire life. I've never considered weaving the two together as a way to enrich the experiences that both offer. Larsen does just that without being too preachy. Even if you don't consider yourself to be religious this book offers what all great books do...a chance to consider something from a different perspective.
Hard to believe, but Josh Larsen dissects his faith and how he prays through this amazing book about where art and expressions to God meet. I recommend this book to anyone who loves film and would like a guide to view films through a new lens. Also, for those who would like a better understanding of the conceits if different forms of prayer.
Larsen's book dives into different types of prayers and shows how they echo in an array of movies. I really enjoyed spending time reading about a lot of these films again and seeing the way Josh would bounce his ideas and spirituality off of each of them.
The discussions come in nice sized pieces, where you can jump in and peek at a movie or thought for a few minutes, or you can sit down for an hour and read several. Each chapter gives a few examples from several different genres of film too, so the book moves nicely. Josh has also done the heavy lifting on a lot of the religious text so you don't have to. My college required a few religion classes as part of the core requirements, and while I enjoyed the in class discussions I always struggled to keep up with the reading. This book really operates as a free flowing conversation and without ever slowing down, it expertly weaves in some really good thoughts from all sorts of notable texts.
As a committed atheist, I wouldn't typically select Josh Larsen's "Movies as Prayers" as a film book of interest. However, I'm a huge fan of Larsen's work, particularly as co-host of Filmspotting, and I'm pleased to say that "Movies as Prayers" is a thoughtful and illuminating read, even for non-believers. Larsen argues that prayer "is a human instinct, an urge that lies deep within us" and that movies are one way that audiences can communicate with God through the emotions and ideas they provoke. He identifies nine forms of prayer (praise, yearning, lament, anger, confessions, reconciliation, obedience, meditation/contemplation) and then illustrates each with interesting examples from a wide variety of films. To his great credit, Larsen cites films both old and contemporary, American and foreign, and classic and cult. Introspection is the key here and, whether you choose to pray or not, Larsen makes a compelling case for how movies express our most human and critical desires. His observations, even on the most famous of films, are consistently thought provoking. For example, though "Godzilla" has been frequently discussed as a commentary on nuclear fear in the wake of Hiroshima/Nagasaki, Larsen points out that Godzilla's roar is "actually a wail of sorrow" and that "the giant beast isn't terrorizing; it's crying." Another critic might not have achieved this insight, yet Larsen does so by viewing the film as a prayer of lament. Similarly, when discussing reconciliation, Larsen offers a thoughtful discussion of "Tangerine" the recent independent film about transgender prostitutes. He explains how the film encouraged him to identify with characters radically unlike himself. In a beautiful combination of self revelation and film criticism, he notes, "We must recognize before we can reconcile - especially in instances where we are too blinded by privilege, comfort, and tradition to even notice that reconciliation is needed." Throughout the book, Larsen cites a variety of religious sources to support his argument and, for the uninitiated, some of these prove a bit dull. I also found it unusual that Larsen cited almost no film criticism - popular or academic - and I think the book might have improved by incorporating the wide range of voices available on the intersection of film with philosophy and religion. However, Larsen achieves a lot with this compact and highly interesting book, an approach to film that I hope others will explore further.