THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS is one of the most amazing, inspirational, poignant, loving movie about rural life in Northern Italy at the turn of the 19th Century. The movie won the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize award and is considered by many to be a masterpiece. What is amazing is that it’s Christian through and through.
The movie opens with a priest telling a mother and father that their little son should go to school. The father says nobody in his family has gone to school. The priest replies that God has given the boy intelligence, and you shouldn’t deny his God-given gift. Unfortunately, going to school means the boy has to walk four miles from the farm to the school.
Five families live on the farm. It’s owned by a landlord who gets a portion of the crops and livestock as payment. Otherwise, he leaves the farmers alone. They are not only extremely industrious, but they are also very Christian. When a cow gets sick, and the veterinarian tells them to slaughter the cow, but the wife prays a beautiful prayer, and the cow recovers. When a baby is born, it’s a gift from God. In fact, every aspect of their lives is a sacrament, which means an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.
Although this is a beautiful, happy, industrious community, there are problems. One member of the community isn’t a Christian. He terrorizes his son. He puts rocks in his carriage so his produce gets more money when it’s weighed by the bailiff. He also steals a gold coin he finds on the ground. He does get his comeuppance.
Another threat to the rural, bucolic lifestyle is the socialist movement to unite Italy. A socialist agitator spreads lies. When the newly married couple goes downriver to Milan, the army is fighting a war with the rebels.
On the other hand, the clergy is good, caring, and thoughtful. Also, the nuns shelter the newlywed couple and help them make wise decisions.
The ultimate problem, of course, is the little boy walking to school. He wears out his wooden clogs. So, his father cuts down one of the tress that shade the lane to the farm, which gets him and his family evicted just after their latest child is born.
THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS is a commentary on the passing of a Christian world as humanism advances. Humanism is the villain, whether it’s manifested in socialism or the breakdown of morality in the next generation. The order of life that has society flourishing under a vibrant faith in God is clearly shown. Aside from what occurred in Italy, another example would be Russia, which was growing increasingly wealthy prior to the Communist revolution that not only murdered so many people, but brought an agricultural powerhouse to the state of famine.
Ermanno Olmi was considered one of the great directors in Italy, but his health took a turn for the worst after THE TREE OF THE WOODEN CLOGS; so, he never completed all the wonderful historical epics he intended.
THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS is a European movie in many ways. It’s almost like watching a documentary of real people living real lives. It’s amazing it got so much acclaim, because it’s so thoroughly Christian. It’s hard to believe such a movie was ever made.
STORIES WE TELL is a sad documentary telling the story of an affair resulting in a child, Sarah Polley, as seen through the eyes of family members. Sarah grew up with and Harry, the man she learned was her actual father. The story is of a search for feelings of love rather than true Godly love.
Sarah Polly made the documentary about herself. She discovers that Michael, the man she grew up thinking was her father, was not. As the truth became known, both the father she knew and the biological father she met later found the story compelling enough to want to write about it. Sarah then took it upon herself to turn the stories of several of those involved into the movie STORIES WE TELL.
Diane, the mother at the heart of the story, died of cancer when Sarah was 11. Diane had a failed previous marriage and lost custody of two children to the father. She then met Michael Polley, had sex outside of marriage with him, then married him. She was very spontaneous and outgoing, but Michael wasn’t. The marriage produced children but was not satisfying to Michael or Diane. She had an opportunity to star in a play out of town, and Michael was actually pleased that she could go away for a spell. While in the play, Diane had an affair with Harry. They supposedly found “love.”
STORIES WE TELL is boring and overlong, with multiple endings. It’s also self-indulgent and contradictory. For example, the filmmaker, Sarah Polley, sometimes implies that her movie is about how different people in a family can have wildly different views of the same event or situation. However, if you examine the details of the different family stories in the movie’s various interviews, you will find that everyone tells basically the same story, though some clearly knew more things than others.
The biggest problem, however, is that the movie confuses love with lust and implies that “love” causing and resulting from the adultery in the story was a good thing. This perpetuates the false notion that the purpose in life is to feel loved. You must do whatever it takes to feel loved, regardless of marriage vows or existing children. Of course, Godly love is much greater than just a feeling (though it is nice to feel loved). Godly love isn’t about what you need. It’s about what you can give to others. It’s about faithfulness, integrity, kindness, forgiveness, and unselfishness. Someone who learns to love in this way is often loved in return.
When happiness is measured only in feelings, marriages and families can be torn apart. The kind of physical love in this movie is the kind of lust that wanes quickly. It’s the children born to parents who fall out of lust who suffer the most. However, the children raised by parents who love each other, as God would have them do so, are blessed.
STORIES WE TELL may warm the hearts of those seeking love in all the wrong places, but to those who understand God’s true love, it’s a very sad story. The movie also seems to promote the idea that truth is relative.
By Mike McManus
The Academy Awards garnered an audience of 43 million – the largest for the Oscars in a decade and the largest outside of the Super Bowl.
My yardstick for evaluating them was the analysis of MOVIEGUIDE, a publication of The Christian Film & Television Commission. It reports that all 10 of the top movies in terms of sales had “strong or very strong Christian, redemptive, moral or biblical content.” The top ten films earned $4.95 billion.
By contrast, the nine films nominated for Academy Award Best Picture earned a total of only $792 million. The only picture, with uplifting moral themes – GRAVITY – earned a third of that total, $270 million. By contrast, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, which won best picture, earned only $50 million.
I was moved by the powerful film “42,” featuring Branch Rickey, head of the Dodgers, who hired Jackie Robinson as the first black player in Major League Baseball. Rickey told Robinson that would be harassed by other players and crowds. But he also told him that Jesus Christ was the strongest man who ever lived because he was strong enough to turn the other cheek. Jackie did so as well, and opened the door for many blacks to play in the Majors.
In MAN OF STEEL, Superman manifested many Christological allegorical characteristics.
Oscar Diggs, the future Wizard of Oz, confessed and cried to God for help in OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.
What’s common about those films? None got an Oscar nomination.
However, GRAVITY won many technical awards and Best Director. FROZEN was chosen the best Animated Movie. MOVIEGUIDE had selected it as Best 2013 Movie for Families. Many families must have agreed, for its sales were $389 million! Christian hymns lifting up Jesus Christ were sung in FROZEN.
On the other hand, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET was packed with endless fornication, 506 obscenities, adultery and orgies, cocaine and the glorification of fraud, deceit, lying, cheating, smuggling and forgery. It was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, and won none.
“That is a miracle,” asserted Ted Baehr, president of MOVIEGUIDE.
Perhaps the Academy is beginning to get the message that a depraved film does not deserve an Oscar. Another negative film with 10 nominations and no Oscars was AMERIAN HUSTLE, that MOVIEGUIDE called “a strong pagan worldview” of characters involved in thievery, corruption and adultery, with 130 obscenities (90 “f” words).
On the other hand, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS was about a ship captain (Tom Hanks) whose vessel was overtaken by pirates, who was willing to give up his life to save his crew of shipmates. It was also nominated for six Oscars, but won none.
However, there is wonderful news about the films of 2013 that was overlooked at the Academy Awards. Two-thirds of the top 25 films produced last year with the best sales “had a strong or very strong Christian redemptive or moral worldview,” reports MOVIEGUIDE’s 2014 Report to the Entertainment Industry.
In 1985 when Ted Baehr founded MOVIEGUIDE there was only one positive film out of 25 highest grossing films. MOVIEGUIDE began reviewing every movie Hollywood produced initially in a magazine, then in brief radio reviews now aired by 600 stations.
In 1992 MOVIEGUIDE began sponsoring its own “Faith & Values Awards Gala” just before the big Academy Awards evening. That gave public recognition to the good guys. And to drive his message home, Baehr also published an annual “Report to the Entertainment Industry” packed with data proving that the public preferred positive movies without nudity, obscenity and glorification of evil.
The result: the percentage of movies with positive Christian content and moral, biblical values increased more than five-fold.
Among the big positive films this year were IRON MAN 3, DESPICABLE ME 2, MAN OF STEEL, THE HOBBIT, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, BLACK NATIVITY, GRACE UNPLUGGED, THE CONJURING, HOME RUN, KING’S FAITH, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER, FAST AND FURIOUS 6, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, THOR, THE DARK WORLD, FRACKNATION, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2, and THE ULTIMATE LIFE.
This year, 52% of MOVIEGUIDE’s award winners are in the Top 25 Movies at the Box Office in the United States and Canada.
By contrast, most film critics’ top picks for best films, none or at the most, two of their choices made it into the Top Ten hits in sales.
The former head of one of the six top Hollywood studios told Baehr, “You have shown through your Report to the Entertainment Industry that producing good movies is morally responsible and financially lucrative.”
Ted Baehr is the David who has almost tamed the Goliath of Hollywood. Go to movieguide.org.
Copyright © 2014
Note: Michael J. McManus is President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.
Mike McManus is President of Marriage Savers.
He also writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column,
Ethics & Religion.
Potomac, MD 20854
THE ARROYO is a riveting modern-day western about a rancher trying to defend his property from a Mexican cartel smuggling people and drugs.
Jim Weatherford, his wife, Carolina, and their son struggle to keep their border Arizona ranch economically viable. One day, he goes out to find why his fences keep breaking and his cattle keep getting loose. He finds an illegal immigrant woman in an arroyo who was left behind by a Mexican cartel smuggling immigrants and drugs into the United States. Jim decides to take a stand to protect his property.
Meanwhile, the hitman for the cartel, Torres, has just slaughtered an American family in Tucson. The drug lord meets with Torres in a bar on the border and tells him not to anger the Americans. Torres gives a great speech that the Americans hate themselves and want to be conquered. Of course, Torres has not counted on Jim Weatherford standing up for his family and his property.
The government, as represented by the local Congressman and the police department, has adopted the defeatist attitude Torres has described. They are part of the problem. Jim enlists a neighbor to go out at night and scare off the smugglers. Their success gets other ranchers to stand with them.
This united action results in an all-out war with the cartel where Jim’s wife and son are taken captive. Jim is caught between the corrupt police force and the Mexican smugglers. His survival and that of his family is at stake. Of course, Jim’s survival is a metaphor for the survival of the United States.
THE ARROYO is a jeopardy-packed movie. It resembles the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that came out last year, THE LAST STAND. In many ways, the dialogue is better than the Schwarzenegger movie. It’s clear that it’s a low-budget movie, but the director does a lot with the small budget. Some of the acting is on the nose, but the camerawork is beautiful, and the story is exciting, covering up a multitude of minor plot problems.
Best of all, THE ARROYO is a well thought-out translation of American values into an action adventure movie reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood. There’s a lot of shootings and beatings, however, plus some foul language, so caution is advised.
ON MY WAY is a French movie about a former beauty queen on the verge of becoming a senior citizen who finds a new chance to renew ties with her estranged daughter and grandson. It’s an episodic movie that doesn’t quite live up to its potential. Also, it clearly takes place in a Non-Christian or even Post-Christian pagan world with no solid moral guideposts.
The movie opens on the stifling life of a former beauty queen named Bettie, who runs a small provincial restaurant but lives with her elderly mother. Her elderly mother is slightly controlling. Bettie’s restaurant is heavily in debt, and her lover has just jilted her for a younger woman.
One day at the restaurant, Bettie gets so exasperated that she just walks out to her car and drives away to clear her head. She doesn’t stop driving, however.
Bettie ends up in a saloon and befriends some other older ladies there. She even has a one-night stand with a younger man who’s not bothered by the age difference.
Out of the blue, Bettie gets a call from her estranged daughter. Her daughter is an unemployed single mother. She has to go out of town on a job interview and needs Bettie to take her son, Charly, to her father-in-law’s rural farmhouse house. Reluctantly, Bettie agrees, but the trip with her grandson takes more unexpected twists and turns.
The story in ON MY WAY is funny and touching at points, especially during the adventures involving Bettie and her grandson. However, the movie is episodic by design, so the story and characters are kind of aimless. The famous French actress Catherine Deneuve does a good job playing the female lead, but her character could be written in a more interesting way.
Besides the aimless quality of the story and characters and its strong foul language, ON MY WAY has a big moral, philosophical problem. It takes place in a Romantic, pagan world where everyone pretty much does what they please, regardless of what’s right or wrong. The world isn’t totally without morality, however. For example, it’s clear that the mother and the grandmother truly care for the grandson. That said, these two women aren’t the most reliable people in the world. The mother can’t hold down a job, and one of the grandmother’s goals seems to be having someone she can count on to share her bed. Eventually, she apparently finds what she’s looking for here, but such a message isn’t very uplifting, much less enlightening. Media-wise viewers won’t find what they’re looking for in this French movie.
Big Oscar Voting Scandal:
Some Voters Didn’t Watch Best Picture Winner 12 YEARS A SLAVE
By Ted Baehr and Tom Snyder
A big scandal has reared its head in the wake of last weeks Oscar ceremony:
Some Oscar voters are admitting they simply didn’t want to watch the Oscar winner for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor and Actress, 12 YEARS A SLAVE. One voter actually said she didn’t want to watch the movie because she didn’t want “more terrible stuff to keep in my head.”
And, at least two anonymous voters admitted they didn’t see the movie, but voted for it anyway because, given the movie’s political message and historical relevance, “they felt obligated to do so.”
In fact, during her Oscar monologue, even host Ellen DeGeneres joked, “Possibility number one: 12 YEARS A SLAVE wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists.”
Ellen’s comment is, of course, very funny, but it also reveals a very sad truth about today’s society, that years of political bullying and overt intimidation by the radical left and its crypto-commie flunkies in the media and the press has scared too many Americans into going along to get along.
After all, isn’t this also how Barack Obama became president in the first place? Not because of any demonstrated leadership, competence, or insight, but because of socialist canards, deceit, slander, hoaxes, fear-mongering, flagrant propaganda, and overt indoctrination?
Unlike the Oscars, which has always been just a politically correct popularity contest, Movieguide®’s Annual Faith & Values Awards uses objective artistic, spiritual, biblical, and moral standards in determining who should win its top awards and prizes. Also, Movieguide® analyzes each nominee and potential nominee by watching every one at least twice, and sometimes three or four times.
Admittedly, we are indeed looking at the spiritual, moral, and even political messages in the nominees and potential nominees. But, at least we watch the nominees, the whole movie, and closely analyze them in great detail, with great precision.
This year, we had a very competitive list of contenders and nominees, so it was hard to pick some over others. However, that’s why we watch them more than once or twice and why we do a detailed, comprehensive analysis to pick the top winners.
Consequently, this year more than other years, Movieguide®’s Faith & Values Awards are the standard by which all other award shows are measured.
They certainly seem far more reliable than the Oscars.
You can count on Movieguide® when it comes to deciding what entertainment you and your family probably will find acceptable or unacceptable.
MOVIEGUIDE® Announces Winner of First Annual $50,000 Chronos Prize for Inspiring Screenplays by Established Filmmakers
Movieguide®: The Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment, founded by Dr. Ted Baehr, awarded the winners of the First Annual Chronos Prize for Inspiring Screenplays by Established Filmmakers at the 22nd Annual MOVIEGUIDE® Awards on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Universal Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.
Supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, to be presented annually by MOVIEGUIDE®, the Chronos Prize awards $50,000 to the top screenplay as chosen by Hollywood leaders. The prize, the first ever of its kind, honors established writers whose work seeks to “increase man’s love or understanding of God.”
Matthew Hill and Landon Johnson captured the attention of the judges, bringing home the inaugural Chronos Prize for their script, BURNING AT BOTH ENDS.
“Through the Chronos Prize, MOVIEGUIDE® has given us the gift of exposure to some of Hollywood’s top execs and producers,” reflects Landon Johnson. “Because of that gift, we can now look forward to finishing the race and making a film that gives God the glory.”
Set during World War II, BURNING AT BOTH ENDS reveals the tale of a group of dissidents hiding from the Nazis as they secretly broadcast a message of hope and sabotage to the world. Hunted by the head of the Gestapo, they are forced to trust the help of a stranger.
“Winning the Chronos Prize has been not only a tremendous honor, it has also further established Landon and myself as the professional writers we have worked hard to become,” Matthew Hill said just after the Chronos Prize was presented by Rich Peluso, SVP, Affirm Films of Sony Entertainment.
In addition to the cash prize, MOVIEGUIDE® sends out the winning script to top industry leaders who have requested it.
“Matt and Landon have brought us an impressively powerful script,” Dr. Baehr said. “They are a prime example of the character and talent that the Chronos Prize represents. We are excited to see their work take root in Hollywood.”
The 22nd Annual MOVIEGUIDE® Awards are set to air on the ReelzChannel Saturday, March 1, 11 a.m. Pacific Time and 2 p.m. Eastern.
Since 2006 MOVIEGUIDE® has championed the brightest new voices emerging from the world of screenwriting through the $50,000 Kairos Prizes, which are designed to recognize new and beginning writers. The Chronos Prize has been established to bridge the gap as it honors the professionals whose focus is to bring inspired and compelling stories to the screen.
The Second Annual Chronos Prize will open for entries April 2014. For more information about the Chronos Prize, please go to www.chronosprize.com.
In addition to the Chronos Prize, the highlight of the Faith & Values Awards each year is the presentation of the two $100,000 Epiphany Prizes for Inspiring Movies & TV. Also supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the Epiphany Prizes honor the best, most inspiring movie and television program of the previous year.
1. Something to look up to
“I want to thank God because that’s who I look up to”
2. “God has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand”.
via: Reuters: Lucy Nicholson
3. “When You Got God you Got a friend.”
(Credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
4. Something to look forward to.
“My family, that’s who and what I look forward to”
Source: Getty / Christopher Polk
5. Respect ourselves in order to respect others.
Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
6. People Need Someone to chase.
By Dr. Tom Snyder
Back in 1944 there was a song called “Accentuate the Positive” that instructed people to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, and latch onto the affirmative.” Although the song’s lyrics, written by the great Johnny Mercer, were inspired by a heretical preacher in the 20th Century named Father Divine, the lyrics echo, in a way, what God’s Word, through the mechanism of St. Paul, teaches us in Romans 12:21, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This is exactly Movieguide®’s approach to movies and television. Although we do advise people that they probably don’t want their family to see certain movies, especially movies that we rate Minus 3 or 4, our focus is on the more positive movies, the ones rated Minus 2 and above, and especially the ones rated Plus One to Plus Four and given three stars and four stars in artistic quality and entertainment value. We urge people to support these movies instead.
Recently, some conservatives started a boycott of the Liam Neeson action thriller NON-STOP because, in the ending, the villains turn out to be two former American soldiers, one of whom had a family member murdered on 9/11 by Muslim terrorists supported by the Muslim group Al Qaeda. Also in the movie, a doctor wearing a Muslim hat turned out to be a “good guy.”
Using St. Paul’s recommendation to “overcome evil with good,” Movieguide® doesn’t support boycotts. Instead, we recommend that moviegoers practice the strategy of “Othercott.”
The Othercott Strategy goes like this:
When a movie you want to oppose comes out, like NON-STOP or 300: THE RISE OF AN EMPIRE, the best way to deal with that problem is not by staging a boycott of that movie. Instead, start an Othercott Campaign to promote the good movies that are in your local theater at the same time.
Using the Othercott Strategy, Movieguide® urges moviegoers to oppose NON-STOP by going to see the good movies that are out now, starting with SON OF GOD, THE LEGO MOVIE, and the new animated feature from DreamWorks, MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN.
In this way, media-wise moviegoers can show Hollywood that, instead of making movies like NON-STOP, they should be making more movies like SON OF GOD, THE LEGO MOVIE, and MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN.
In this way, media-wise moviegoers can “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and overcome evil with good.”
After all, Jesus Christ didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us.
Note: By the way, this is also the strategy behind Movieguide®’s Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry. And, since we began holding our Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry, the number of movies with strong or overt Christian content has increased from eight or less to more than 65 each year, an increase of more than 712 percent!
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
- The Bible, Philippians 4:8 (NIV).