Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

God’s Not Dead

August 31, 2014

The other evening we attended a get together with some friends from church. We ate pizza and enjoyed one another’s company. I think I can speak for everyone by saying that a good time was had by all. For entertainment, we watched the movie God’s Not Dead, which had come out on DVD not too long ago. As is my custom, I looked up the movie on Wikipedia, etc when I got home. I was not too surprised to learn that the critics generally hated God’s Not Dead, panning it for having one dimensional caricatures as characters and ham handed messaging. I was also not too surprised to learn that it was a box office success. The fact that a film that appeals to the faith and sentiments of a large section of the American people has been described as a “surprise hit” says a lot about the disconnect between the values of the entertainment industry and the people they expect to buy their products. I doubt if any other industry that was so clueless about their potential customers would long survive.

God's_Not_Dead

There is not much to be said about the plot of God’s Not Dead that isn’t already generally known through the publicity the film has generated. A professor of philosophy, Jeffrey Radisson, played by Kevin Sorbo, demands that the students in his class write out “God is Dead” in order to receive a passing grade in his class. Every student writes the statement and signs their name except for Josh Wheaton who finds that he cannot act against his faith. Professor Radisson then demands that Josh prove the existence of God in three debates that are to take place at the end of the next three classes. The premiss may seem rather outlandish, then again maybe not. The environment on many universities does seem to be increasingly hostile to religion, particularly Christianity. The influence that causes many young Christians to lose their faith on campus may be far more subtle than depicted in God’s Not Dead, but it is there.

On the whole, I think that the criticisms leveled at God’s Not Dead are just ones. The message of  Christians being required to defend their faith is not very subtle. Professor Radisson and the other atheists in the movie are caricatures of the stereotypical angry, obnoxious atheists. However, in defense of God’s Not Dead, I have to say that its failings are not, in fact, worse than much that comes out of Hollywood. If atheists are offended by the shallow depictions of their beliefs found in God’s Not Dead, then now they know how many Christians and conservatives feel  as we sit in a theater. I also have to say that many atheists really do come across as the sort of obnoxious arrogant jerks that Kevin Sorbo plays. For the person whose exposure to atheism consists only of the writings of Richard Dawkins and the antics of internet trolls, not to mention the Freedom from Religion Foundation who seem to be deliberately trying to make atheists pariahs, Sorbo’s depiction rings true. I have also seen movies with some environmentalist or generally left-wing message presented with far less skill than God’s Not Dead.

I don’t think that the arguments presented by either Josh or Professor Radisson were very good ones. There was not enough screen time devoted to the actual debate to really develop the arguments. This is part of the reason why although I generally liked God’s Not Dead, I did feel a certain frustration while watching it. This movie was not as good as it could have been. The premise is interesting. Kevin Sorbo and the other actors were good. The production values were as high as could be expected, yet it was all somehow not quite enough. This could have been a thought-provoking movie, but it didn’t quite reach the mark. I think that most of the extraneous subplots ought to have been cut out to make a leaner, more straightforward narrative. The movie also could have done without the cameos by Willie Robertson and the Newsboys. These subplots and cameos only served as distractions. Professor Radisson ought to have been depicted in more sympathetic fashion, rather than as almost a cartoon villain. Perhaps they ought to have had him challenge Josh after a class discussion. This might have made for a more interesting movie.

God’s Not Dead is a movie worth watching but it could have been so much better.

 

Advertisements

Obvious Child

July 11, 2014

Obvious Child is the name of a new film which seems to be a romantic comedy exploring the lighter side of abortion. Apparently some critics like the idea while most conservatives hate it, along with the audience, whose opinion should matter most considering they are the ones who are expected to buy tickets to see the movie. Jonah Goldberg has some things to say about the wider implications of this film’s failure at the box office which I caught in his column at Real Clear Politics.

In the film Obvious Child, Jenny Slate plays Donna Stern, a stand-up comedian who specializes in making jokes about her private parts, with the occasional foray into fart humor. She is about to go onstage. Her friend offers her some encouragement: “You are going to kill it out there!”

Donna replies: “I actually have an appointment to do that tomorrow.”

Donna’s talking about her abortion appointment.

Get it? It’s funny because it’s true. Or if you’re like me, you think it’s not funny because it’s true.

Many critics think it’s funny. One dubbed it “far and away the most winning abortion-themed comedy ever made.” Of course, as an artistic genre, that’s setting the bar pretty low, like serving the best gas-station sushi in the state of Oklahoma.

Since it opened last month, the film has grossed less than $2 million. Compare that to 2007’s Juno, a brilliant film widely seen as pro-life (at least among pro-lifers), or Knocked Up, a raunchier romantic comedy also hailed by abortion foes, both of which grossed more than $140 million domestically. Obvious Child, then, seems less like the cultural watershed its friends and foes make it out to be and more like a barely successful art-house flick.

 

My late friend Andrew Breitbart liked to say that politics is downstream of culture, meaning that any truly successful political turnaround needs to start by changing popular attitudes. Adam Bellow, a storied editor of conservative books, has a similar conviction and is trying to launch a conservative revolt in the world of fiction.

I wish them great success. Still, I think there’s something missing in this ancient conversation on the right (conservatives have been making such arguments since the 1950s — if not the 1450s, with the publication of the Gutenberg Bible). Conservatives refuse to celebrate, or even notice, how much of the popular culture is on their side.

Sure, Hollywood is generally very liberal, but America isn’t. Judging by their campaign donations, Hollywood liberals are very supportive of abortion rights. But there’s a reason why sitcoms since Maude haven’t had a lot of storylines about abortion. Indeed, nearly every pregnant TV character treats her unborn child as if it’s already a human being.

The Left may be anti-military, but such movies tend to do poorly, which is why we see more pro-military films. Similarly, it’s a safe bet that Hollywood liberals loathe guns. But you wouldn’t know that by what they produce. Not many action stars save the day by quoting a poem. Most Hollywood liberals probably oppose the death penalty, yet they make lots of movies where the bad guy meets a grisly death to the cheers of the audience. The Left rolls its eyes at “family values,” but family values are at the heart of most successful sitcoms and dramas.

I think he is right, as far as it goes and certainly Hollywood is missing opportunities for profit by taking up such a position of opposition to the values of so many mainstream Americans, but I think there is a more fundamental reason why Obvious Child is not doing better at the box office. Abortion is not funny.

Abortion is a serious matter. As with most matters of life and death, it is not a subject that can be taken lightly. For people on the pro-life side, abortion is murder on a large scale and a comedy about abortion is in as much poor taste as a comedy about the Holocaust. People on the pro-choice side may not feel quite the same way about abortion, but except for a few extremists, the sort that Rush Limbaugh used to call “feminazis”, they are aware that it is a serious and controversial subject. Thus, a movie like Obvious Child which seems to treat abortion as of no greater significance then getting a pedicure, is going to offend everyone but those few extremists.

I am glad that Obvious Child is not doing well. The degeneration of our popular culture seems to be accelerating at an ever faster pace and I am glad for any sign that there are still limits to  what we are willing to watch.

Tax Hollywood

August 4, 2012

Here is an interesting idea on how to decrease the deficit, raise taxes on Hollywood. This seems appropriate since entertainers are always talking about the need to make the 1% pay their fair share. Since many actors are part of the 1% it’s only fair that they pay more, right? No doubt they will be happy to do so.

Today, Hollywood is a playground for Democratic fundraisers and Obama has found that Hollywood remains loyal to his vision and re-election. While those on Wall Street are having second thought about the guy they helped put in the White House, there are no second thoughts among Hollywood elites.

Instapundit Glen Reynolds made the suggestion that if we are going to raise taxes to cut the deficits, why not start with a 20% excise tax on the film industry? Since many of these Hollywood stars and producers are forever telling us how we need tax increases to help close the deficits, why not let Hollywood lead the way? The tax, which was imposed on the gross income and not the net, took a 20% hit off any Hollywood bottom line and can you imagine how much a major star can contribute with a 20% tax on a gross income on one of those 10 to 20 million dollar salaries for a single movie?

Let face it, much of Hollywood may talk of the down trodden, but the reality is Hollywood is the home of the 1%. So if the Hollywood 1% are going to help elect the most leftist President, then let them lead by sacrificing the first 20% of their gross income!. As Glen Reynolds argued, tax the Hollywood 1%. Or at least let them squirm. Who knows, maybe George Lucas or Steven Spielberg might just produce their own film defending supply side economics if they are faced with the idea that the first 20% of their income will go to the government even before they even cash that big eight or nine figure check!

Well, Jon Lovitz criticized Obama over his plans to raise taxes on the rich. He is even not so sure he is a Liberal. Maybe an excise tax might turn some of the people in Hollywood into Conservatives, or at least Libertarians.

Hollywood Hypocrites

March 29, 2012

Hollywood Hypocrites is a sequel of sorts to Jason Mattera’s first book Obama Zombies. In Obama Zombies, Mattera demonstrated how legions of young brain-dead zombies elected the most unqualified candidate to the presidency in living memory.

In Hollywood Hypocrites, Mattera attacks the industry most responsible for creating those legions of zombies, the entertainment industry. He attacks those politically active actors, directors, musicians, and even politicians who wag their fingers at us and preach how we should change our lives and become more socially conscious while refusing to practice what they preach.

Mattera is witty, illuminating and entertaining is this book and it is a quick and fun read. I cannot help, however, feeling a certain sense of disappointment after finishing it. For one thing, this book is not long enough. Hollywood Hypocrites is only 256 pages long, which is not nearly long enough. To fully catalogue the whole spectrum of hypocrisy found in Hollywood and elsewhere among the Left would require a work as long as the Encyclopedia Britannica in print. Mattera barely scratches the surface.

I also can’t help but feel that Mattera doesn’t really have anything new to say. While some of the stories he relates are new, anyone who has paid attention to the entertainment industry should already know that the great majority of its members are morally depraved, intellectually vapid, hypocrites. One has only to pick up a supermarket tabloid to realize that the stars are no role models, either in their personal lives, or in politics, or morals, or anything else imaginable. Mattera is only covering ground others have covered and while I enjoyed this work, I hope he will blaze a new trail in his next book.

My Secret Vice

July 17, 2011

I have a confession to make, something that I have never told anyone before, but I feel it’s time to come out of the closet.

 

Okay, maybe not quite that shocking. Here it is. I like to read Shakespeare’s plays, for pleasure.

The problem with Shakespeare is that over the centuries, the literary critics and the intellectuals have gotten hold of him. They have given the impression that the only way to read Shakespeare is with furrowed brow, studying the great themes he put in his plays, etc. Shakespeare himself, if he came back from the grave, would probably laugh at all of the interpretations of his plays, and explain that Hamlet was a rush job, or that the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet was written while he was drunk. Isaac Asimov actually wrote a short story, The Immortal Bard,  in which a scientist brings Shakespeare to our time. He is amused by all of the commentary his plays had produced and takes a college course on his own plays. The scientist has to send him back in humiliation when he flunks out.

Shakespeare was not writing for the ages. He wrote his plays for his audience. And, they are good, really good. They are full of action, romance, even humor. The language is a bit difficult but not insurmountable. The meanings of most of the more archaic words can be deduced from context. The blank verse takes a little getting used to but it’s not so hard. After a while you get to actually enjoy the rhythms.

Shakespeare’s characters talk more than is usually the case in modern plays and movies. This is because he did not have the advantage of modern technology to create special effects. Nor could he use such camera techniques as close-ups or various angle shots. He couldn’t usually show a battle with hundreds of soldiers on stage. A lot of the action had to take place off stage with the actors describing what was happening. He couldn’t show a flashback. An actor had to say what had happened before the events of the play. The soliloquys were the best technique he had for telling the audience what was on the character’s minds.

When you take into account the limitations that Shakespeare had to work with, his genius is all the more incredible. I can’t help but wonder what he would have made with all the technology of modern Hollywood, and why there are no contemporary Shakespeares.

Anyway, try reading and watching his plays. You’ll like them, trust me.

Oh, and if you want to insult someone and don’t want to use the usual stand-bys, there’s the Shakespearean insulter, thou weedy, common-kissing pignut!


%d bloggers like this: