The Golden Compass

My friend Quinn Fox has written a great article for the PCUSA on the Golden Compass. I highly recommend you read it. I was quite stunned in a few cases. The most troubling for me, however, was this:

“…director Chris Weitz has not been the least coy about his strategy for the project: do whatever it takes to get the first film sold big and then refuse to compromise on the adaptation of books two and three (which are far more explicitly anti-religious).”

Quinn’s strategy for addressing the film and novel – taking the time to discuss it with your children – is excellent. I question the value of endorsing this sort of thing with my dollars. However, it is hard to argue against creating opportunities to help your children grow in their ability to face the culture and think critically about what they are seeing and hearing in media.

Rated PG for ‘Proselytizing’

Did you know that between 1933 and 1967 the church had veto power over hollywood scripts? Prior to the motion picture ratings system, you could fairly safely take your child to the matinee without even knowing what movie you were going to see. The reason for this, is that both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches worked together to review, edit and approve scripts at the behest of hollywood. Unfortunately, when more resistance mounted to their edits in the late sixties, rather than persevere, both churches walked away. Now, nearly forty years later, we’ve reached a new low. Now religious content is viewed by the MPAA is dangerous for children. Unbelievable!
I don’t know a thing about this film, and have only read the article linked above, but I’m pretty staggered by the implications of this.

UPDATE: Here’s another article covering this. (Warning: the author uses some offensive language in the process of explaining the distinction between PG-13 and R ratings) The most interesting tidbit for me was this:

But here’s the interesting and somewhat ironic kicker: The movie was made by Provident Films, a Tennessee-based production company that specializes in faith-based entertainment and is owned by Sony. Yes, Sony. The same Sony that put out The Da Vinci Code. (The company is in the Christian film business via its Sony/BMG Music division.)

HT: Powerline

Right Now…

If you have met with me in person, you’ve heard me detail why I believe Europe is the most strategic mission field on Earth. I think I make a pretty compelling case. If you haven’t met with me… Let’s do lunch. I came across this article today by Mark Steyn. He has often tackled religious considerations in Europe but I found this article particularly apropos, as he discusses what happens in a Europe that doesn’t believe in anything but is increasingly overwhelmed with Muslims. From the article:

As English and Belgian and Scandinavian cities Islamify, their inhabitants will face a choice between living as a minority and joining the majority: Not all but many will opt for the latter. At the very minimum, Islam … will seem environmentally appropriate. For many young men, it already provides the sense of identity that the vapid nullity of multiculturalism disdains to offer. As for the gals, I was startled in successive weeks to hear from both Dutch and English acquaintances that they’ve begun going out “covered”. The Dutch lady lives in a rough part of Amsterdam and says, when you’re on the street in Islamic garb, the Muslim men smile at you respectfully instead of jeering at you as an infidel whore. The English lady lives in a swank part of London but says pretty much the same thing. Both felt there was not just a physical but a psychological security in being dressed Muslim. They’re not “reverts”, but, at least for the purposes of padding the public space, they’re passing for Muslim in public.

Shortly after putting this together, I came across another unrelated but very interesting fact. The DaVinci Code (film) has just broken $500 million gross box office mark. What is interesting is that it’s making the vast majority of that sum in Europe. Why would secular humanists be so interested in a film which seeks to uncover the life of Christ (however erroneously)?

I am convinced that the Western European is no longer truly a secular humanist. He’s a seeker. That means, as Mark Steyn notes above, he may well become a Muslim, given the right social pressures. But far more importantly, it means he is seeking that something which is missing from his life. The best part is: we know the answer! Once again, it appears that this is an incredible moment to share the gospel with Europe. We hope you will pray about partnering with us, if you haven’t already.

End of the Spear

I would be remiss if I did not recommend you get out and see this film. The movie has generally not faired well with reviewers, although based on what I’ve read they have been more offended by the clear religious message than by any error in the film making. The only legitimate complaint I have read is that the film is somewhat marred by it’s musical score. This I will grant. Particularly at the beginning of the film, the dramatic moments are undermined by melodramatic, over the top music. However, the story is so compelling, the visuals so stunning, that problems with the music are infinitely forgiveable. For me, the music faded into the background after the first 10 minutes anyway, and only rarely jarred me after that.

If you’re not familiar with the story of the Waodani Indians, you owe it to yourself to see this film, and if you are familiar with the story, it has never been as real to you as it will be after seeing this film. If you’ve looked at the film and thought it’s too violent or it looks too depressing, I have to tell you it is neither. The violence of the Indians is indeed present, but it is presented in a realistic but not gruesome fashion. You see worse violence watching nature shows on PBS. While the story is certainly heart wrenching, it is also filled with hope and redemption. The movie opened to about 1100 theaters nationwide, 4 weeks ago. It’s not winning any prizes at the box office and is unlikely to linger. Get out and see it. You won’t regret it.

BTW, as a point of interest — and to tell you how biased I am — if you stay for the credits you will note the name Evan Derrick as Production Assistant to the Second Unit. He was my film school room mate. Go Evan!

Naked Hollywood doesn’t sell!

Because of my career, I try to keep an eye on what’s happening in Hollywood. I don’t mean that in a “People Magazine” sort of way. I’m not interested in who is dating whom and why. However, I am very curious about how things are done, and even more curious about the economics. What is selling? This information is vital as I try to understand the culture and tailor my own work so that it is most effective in reaching out to people.

That’s why I was so heartened by one of Edward Jay Epstein’s Question of the Day articles last week:

Is movie sex an asset or a liability in Hollywood’s economy today?

His conclusion is one that has long been well known. G and PG-rated movies do much better at the box office than their R and NC-17 Rated brethren. What Epstein brings to the table is the recognition of how those ratings further affect Hollywood’s bottom line after the box office:

In the after-market of home entertainment, where today’s profits are almost entirely made, nudity is even more of a liability. Consider DVDs. In 2003, most DVDs were sold by mass merchandisers, who frequently use them to build storewide traffic for other products, such as plasma TVs, game consoles, and toys. Most of these merchandisers restrict their more prominent shelf space to DVDs that will not offend the family-oriented consumers whose business they seek. For example, Wal-Mart, by far the largest seller of DVDs (and videos), reserves strategic shelf space for DVDs that conform to its “decency” policy on nudity. DVDs that do not hew to these guidelines rarely, if ever, attain multimillion-copy sales. On the other hand, DVDs that pass the Wal-Mart shelf test can sell more than 10 million copies, as did, for example, Shrek, Finding Nemo, and Harry Potter.

Movies with nudity are also a problem for the studios’ other main moneymaker: television. Because the FCC regulates broadcast television (though not pay-TV or cable channels), television stations cannot show movies that violate the FCC’s standard of “public decency,” which prohibits salacious nudity.

And also that Hollywood is finally waking up to it:

So it is not surprising that in the last 5 years, the number of R-rated films produced by Hollywood has dropped from 212 to 147.

This is good news. The battle is hardly won, as the quality of G and PG movies still leaves a lot to be desired, however, it is heartening to know that most Americans aren’t buying all the garbage that rolls out of Los Angeles.