A History Lesson on Transforming the Culture
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher
Christian leaders gather often to honor the prominent names and significant achievements of their peers. At one such event, several people stood up to commend a boycott years ago that had to do with Brandon Tartikoff when he was president of NBC and, later, chairman of Paramount Pictures.
Here is the rest of the story.
The late Brandon Tartikoff was a significant figure in Hollywood. The boycotts didn’t work as well as intended. Dr. Ted Baehr, however, helped Mr. Tartikoff by analyzing his script for LEAP OF FAITH and eventually was one of the people God used to turn Brandon Tartikoff to Jesus Christ when he was struggling with his only injured child, Calla. Tartikoff went from being cutting edge, typical Hollywood to being a strong advocate of family, faith and morality.
In fact, Tartikoff told Premiere magazine in November 1992, “You’ve got to have moral standards; you’ve got to believe your logo stands for something.”
In the final analysis, Movieguide® has seen tremendous positive changes in the movie industry. Some of the statistics are staggering.
For example, in the past five years, movies with very strong Christian content and values have averaged $82.97 million per movie, but movies with very strong Non-Christian or offensive content averaged only $21.28 million. This compares to $30.13 million versus $22.49 million per movie, respectively, in 1999.
One of the reasons for such improvements is because we help people by showing them how they can make more money with movies that reach a broader audience. Another is that we always remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news and calls us to love one another when dealing with our friends in the entertainment industry.
This doesn’t mean we don’t take a strong stand on obscenity or other content that’s offensive to the 129 million Americans who go to church each week, but we do so with a vision of always helping people, through gentle instruction and firm exhortation, understand the truth, which is the love of Jesus Christ that sets them free.
That’s how we’ve been able to redeem the values of many in the entertainment industry, encourage the develop of many more positive movies, and transform the culture for the benefit of our children and grandchildren, the world’s future leaders.
THE AUGUSTINE STORY is an animated movie for children that comes from The Torchlighters series from the Christian History Institute and Vision Video. The Torchlighters series is a compilation of short movies that help teach children and families about Christian heroes in history.
THE AUGUSTINE STORY begins with Augustine leaving his home for Rome to be a great intellectual teacher. His mother, Monica, in the meantime prays constantly for Augustine.
In Rome, Augustine’s reputation as a great debater gets him placed as the Emperor’s spokesperson in Milan, the capitol city at the time. The Emperor’s manipulative mother sends Augustine to destroy the Christian Bishop Ambrose’s influence over the people. As Augustine seeks to find arguments to use against Ambrose, the Emperor’s mother prepares to take over Ambrose’s church by force. All they need Augustine to do is convince the people that Ambrose is a fake.
However, Augustine decides to stand for the church against the empire. He loses his position as the Emperor’s spokesperson and is soon converted to Christianity. The influence of his teaching and preaching grows and affects the whole world.
THE AUGUSTINE STORY is a fantastic short video for children. It teaches children about history and great biblical lessons for life. The video is written and animated in a very entertaining way that even adults will enjoy. Filled with humor, suspense and good lessons, THE AUGUSTINE STORY has no objectionable content and is a great video for the whole family. The DVD contains a huge bonus, an insightful 58-minute documentary about Augustine, including further information about his mother, Monica, Bishop Ambrose and Augustine’s conversion to Christianity.
Hollywood’s War on Women?
By Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
A new study shows that it’s not the Republican Party that’s waging a war on women – it’s Hollywood!
A study by the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism shows that roles for women in Hollywood movies are drying up.
For example, of the Top 100 movies at the U.S. box office in 2012, only 28.4 percent of the 4,475 speaking characters were female, a decrease of 13.4 percent from the 32.8 percent number three years ago. Also, only six percent of those movies had a “balanced” cast, which was defined as a percentage of 45 percent to 54.9 percent.
“When they do get screen time,” the study said, “31.6 percent of women were depicted wearing sexually revealing clothing in 2012, the highest percentage over the five years [of the study].”
Deplorably, this sinful depiction was even more true for teenage female characters, where 56.6 percent of teen girls wore sexy clothes, an increase of 20 percent since 2009!
It’s also interesting to note that, according to Big Hollywood on the Internet, the Cannes Film Festival’s lineup this year includes only one female director (last year’s festival had none!).
“Hollywood needs to re-examine its moral standards,” said Dr. Ted Baehr, founder and chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry (CFTVC), which also does business as Movieguide®: The Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment (www.movieguide.org).
“The Sexual Revolution ushered in by Hollywood, the psychology profession, the secular education establishment, and the Supreme Court in the 1950s and 1960s has been a disaster for American society, but especially for women and children,” he added. “Because of the Sexual Revolution and other factors, millions of single mothers and their children are at risk to deadly sexually transmitted diseases, poverty, and violent gangs, which just repeat the cycle of unwed mothers, poverty, diseases, and violent crime…even though, there is an antidote to the problem: media wisdom.”
There is Good News to report, however, Dr. Baehr said.
“Movieguide® and the Christian Film & Television Commission® have made great inroads in redeeming the values of Hollywood and influencing Hollywood leaders to put more Christian faith and values, and more traditional, patriotic values, in their movies and television programs,” he said.
Dr. Baehr cited the recent high ratings for such family-friendly, faith-oriented, and patriotic television programs as “The Bible,” “Duck Dynasty,” and “NCIS,” as well as the increase in successful faith-oriented movies like “The Blind Side,” “42,” and “Soul Surfer” and the popularity of family-friendly movies like “The Blind Side,” “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” “The Croods,” and “Oz the Great and Powerful.”
“People are crying out for good faith-based, patriotic entertainment that’s morally and spiritually uplifting,” Dr. Baehr concluded.
The Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry and Movieguide® (www.movieguide.org) are an international non-profit ministry, advocacy group, and watchdog dedicated to “redeeming the values of the entertainment industry by influencing industry executives and by informing and equipping the public about the influence of the entertainment media.”
Movieguide® Down Under:
Redeeming the Media Through Australia
By Tom Snyder, Editor
Movieguide®’s efforts to spread media wisdom in Australia are going well, said Founder Dr. Ted Baehr, author of “The Media-Wise Family,” about the first leg of his current speaking trip to the land of kangaroos, koala bears, sunny beaches, and crocodile hunters.
“Australia produces a lot of people who go to Hollywood,” Dr. Baehr said, naming Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Director Baz Luhrman of THE GREAT GATSBY, Nicole Kidman, and Hugh Jackman.
“So, it’s a big influence on America. Therefore, Movieguide® and the Christian Film & Television Commission® [CFTVC] need to be an influence on Australia.”
CFTVC and Movieguide® (www.movieguide.org) are nonprofit companies dedicated to “redeeming the values of the entertainment industry, according to biblical principles, by influencing industry executives and by informing and equipping the public about the effects of the mass media.”
Media wisdom is learning how to discern good media from bad media and learning to choose the good media and reject the bad media, as well as teaching children to tell the difference and teaching them about biblical faith and values, including God’s biblical standards for living.
During the current trip, Dr. Baehr and Movieguide® Vice President Robert Baehr so far have talked with producers and other people in Australia who want to make movies, including one of the Australian deans of the New York Film Academy.
In Hobart, Tasmania on Saturday, they talked with a group of parents about teaching their children to be media wise.
Tuesday, Ted spent the day with 25 Entertainment Industry leaders and then talked with about 200 business leaders in Gold Coast, Queensland in Australia.
“They were really enthusiastic and interested in the things we were doing,” Robert Baehr said.
Thursday through Sunday, Dr. Baehr and Robby will be speaking several times at the World Congress of Families VII conference in Sydney, which includes family advocates from around the world, international civic leaders, and many people from the Australian government.
One of the media panels includes a special advance screening Friday of the movie RETURN TO THE HIDING PLACE, a movie about a Christian Resistance fighter opposing Hitler’s National Socialists in the Netherlands during World War II, slated for release later this year.
One of the stars from the movie, Rachel Spencer Hewitt, will appear on the panel, as will the movie’s Producer/Director Peter Spencer.
Dr. Baehr will also be speaking at the conference on “A Culture Worth Preserving: The Importance of Storytelling,” “Blockbuster Stories that Build Character and Restore Family Values,” and “The Culture-Wise Family.”
Robby Baehr will speak twice at the conference, once on “Reaching the Next Generation with the Pro-Family Message” and once on “Social Media: Friend or Foe?”
For more information, visit www.movieguide.org or call 1-888-248-6689.
TO THE WONDER is a romance from acclaimed director Terrence Malick (TREE OF LIFE, THE THIN RED LINE). Though it’s not a masterpiece, it’s likely his most personal movie yet.
Ben Affleck plays Neil, an American spending time in Europe who falls deeply in love with a French single mother, Marina. The movie follows them as they explore different French landscapes, only catching snippets of dialogue here and there. Marina decides to move herself and her daughter to Oklahoma to live with Neil. Oklahoma is a big change for Marina. Everything is flat and largely unpopulated, so what seemed like a good idea clearly wasn’t.
Marina and Neil begin to divide and fight. Interwoven in between the dramatic clashes between the couple are moments at church, where Father Quintana preaches on love. In the midst of the couple’s interactions, Father Quintana’s excerpts on love and his prayers to God are heard through voice over.
“You love, whether you like it or not. Emotions come and go like clouds. Love is not only a feeling, you show love. . . Love is a command”
Father Quintana himself struggles with his faith. He’s seen meandering around his empty house, clearly lonely, praying for the closeness to God he once had, but his loneliness doesn’t stop him from doing ministry. If he’s not preaching to his parish, he’s in the community helping those who are less fortunate.
Neil and Marina’s dispute escalate to the point where Marina decides to leave and go back to France. After Marina leaves, Neil reconnects with Jane, an old friend he grew up with in his youth. A new romantic relationship begins between them.
The relationships and emotions portrayed in TO THE WONDER are incredibly honest. Malick breaks away from traditional storytelling technique more than ever with this tale. Everything in the movie feels authentic and real. The beautiful visuals of both grand and small landscapes, mixed with the powerful orchestral music, help bring out the story’s emotion. Ben Affleck in particular gives one of his best performances as the reflective and deep thinking Neil, even though he says very little.
Father Quintana’s voiceover provides an abundant amount of wisdom that’s both Biblical and convicting. He quotes Scriptures like, “Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the Church.” Sadly, Neil fails to exhibit any of the qualities that Father Quintana preaches so often, which is why Neil’s relationships end in a passionate mess.
What Malick fails to do is give the audience any sense of closure or fulfillment, either in the narrative or emotionally. Some positive lessons of love and faith can clearly be gleaned, but the story is overly ambiguous and ultimately not uplifting. TO THE WONDER also has brief graphic nudity, sensuality, and implied adultery, so the movie is excessive.
Julianne Moore plays, Linda, a high school English teacher who helps her former student perform his play, in THE ENGLISH TEACHER. THE ENGLISH TEACHER has a straightforward storyline and does have some funny elements, but overall it’s crude and has a mixed worldview.
Linda Sinclair is a high school English teacher in her middle 40s. Her highest passion and focus in life is to inspire her students to read and write. This has become such a focus that she’s never gotten married. Thinking that life should be as good as novels, Linda hasn’t found her “Prince Charming” yet.
One of Linda’s old students, Jason, comes back to town after living in New York and writing plays. Pressured by his overbearing father, Jason is about to give up writing for going to law school. When he lets Linda read his latest play, however, she believes it’s completely brilliant and should be performed by the theater students. However, she must convince the principal and flamboyant theater teacher, Carl, first. Carl falls in love with the play as well and thinks it would be so much more exciting then the stale plays they always perform.
Once they get the approval from the principal, Carl, Linda and Jason start the production. When Linda and Jason sleep together, however, everything gets out of hand and chaos ensues. Will they be able to perform the play?
THE ENGLISH TEACHER has a straightforward storyline. The acting is good, but overall the movie is pretty forgettable. Most of the comedy is crude, although the general theme is to sacrifice when you love something or someone. Thus, Linda sacrifices in order to get the play done. That said, a large part of the movie’s plot is Linda sleeping with Jason. THE ENGLISH TEACHER also has plenty of strong foul language, so extreme caution is advised.
PIETA is an artsy Korean thriller that doesn’t quite work, partly because it has some really disgusting, but thankfully brief, content and some pretentious arty attempts at symbolism that abuses Christian icons and imagery.
The movie, which takes its title from paintings of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus Christ, is about a brutal young debt collector who cripples poor workers who can’t pay his loan shark boss. A woman approaches him claiming to be the long-lost mother who abandoned him as a child. The young man brutalizes her because he doesn’t believe her, going so far as to rape her. However, when she expresses guilt and forgiveness, claiming that her abandonment turned him into such a mean, evil person, he starts to express kindness toward her and others. This leads, however, to a tragic, depressing ending that tries to use more Christian symbolism but ends up being rather pretentious and ultimately shallow and abhorrent.
PIETA is too artsy to be worthwhile aesthetically. That’s even more true when considering the movie’s entertainment value. Worse than this, however, is that the filmmakers try to take advantage of Christian symbolism in a tale with very strong sordid content. Thus, there’s an extremely disturbing rape scene, disturbing violence but little blood and gore, a suicide, a revenge theme, lots of strong foul language, and other lewd, disturbing content. PIETA also has an apparent anti-capitalist view, according to the director, who sees his movie as a strong criticism of a financial capitalism turning Korea into a “money oriented” society. Thus, the movie seems to have a strong Romantic worldview contending that it’s society that corrupts people. The director says he wants his movie to encourage the viewer to cry out, “God have mercy on us!” but that doesn’t come across in the movie at all.
Some may find PIETA interesting and profound, but, ultimately, it’s too cryptic, too sordid, too pretentious, and too much.