Tim Chey’s Suing the Devil • Thimblerig’s Review • Part 1

A month or so ago, I came across a trailer for David & Goliath, a new Christian-made film being released in April.  The film caught my eye because it was a Christian-made film being touted as having an unheard of $50 million budget, and the filmmakers seemed intent on comparing themselves to Darren Aronofky’s Noah, and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, making the heady claim that unlike those atheist-helmed endeavors, their film would be “biblically correct in every way.”

Setting aside the “biblically correct” statement for a moment, a few things came to mind as I watched this trailer.  First, why do filmmakers continue to give the people of ancient times British accents?  Second, why do filmmakers persist in hiring caucasian actors to play Middle Easterners?  Third, why – in the age of CGI wonders – would you make a 50 million dollar feature film about David and Goliath, and then proceed to make Goliath seem so… unimpressive?

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One of these is a scary giant. The other is a big Canadian. Which is which?

 

But I was curious, because it seemed like the filmmakers were being very persistent and quite verbose in talking up their film.  So, I went searching for more and in the process discovered writer, director, and producer Tim Chey.

tim-pic-1-427x284Timothy A. Chey is a filmmaker who has been making faith-based films for the past several years.  Some films he has either written or directed (or both) include Freedom (with Cuba Gooding, Jr), The Genius Club (with Steven Baldwin), Final: The Rapture (with several actors I didn’t recognize), and the subject of today’s review, Suing the Devil (with Malcolm McDowell).

Curious, I scoured the internet for anything I could find out about Mr. Chey.  I discovered several print interviews with a variety of Christian websites, and a handful of televised interviews where Mr. Chey appeared on Carman’s talk show (the well-known Christian singer who was quite popular in the 80’s), Christ in Prophecy, and other similar broadcasts.  After reading and watching everything I could find, I was left with a split opinion of Mr. Chey, or at least the Mr. Chey we can see online.

On the one hand, in his video interviews Mr. Chey came across as a good natured and passionate Christian, a man who understands that Christians should embrace cinema, and he seemed like the kind of person I would enjoy sitting around with, talking movies.  I also can appreciate that his movies have reportedly had positive spiritual impact, encouraging believers, and even being a tool that God has used to draw people into faith in Him.

On the other hand, in his print interviews, and sometimes on video, Mr. Chey often played the role of the persecuted Christian filmmaker.   Did he truly experience the sorts of persecution to which he eluded?  Or was this a strategy on his part, to stir up some controversy and make his films more interesting to the evangelical audience?

I really don’t know, but I wanted to address two things that he talked about in multiple interviews, that seem to be a recurring theme in the narrative he paints of David and Goliath in particular, and his career in general:  Hollywood’s response to David and Goliath, and Christian criticism of his films.

In an interview on Godvine, Mr. Chey wrote about the resistance he faced finding distribution in Hollywood for his film, saying “The Hollywood studios have rejected ‘David and Goliath’ for being too Bible-based and religious. One studio executive said, “You mention God in almost every scene.”

The reason why the studios decided they would not distribute David and Goliath was that it was too Bible-based?  It talked about God too much?  It was too biblically correct?

Mom's Not Dead for RealHere’s where I have a problem with this suggestion:  2014, Hollywood’s “Year of the Bible”, was the year that the Hollywood movers and shakers watched several Christian-made projects do quite well, including a little evangelical indie Christian film called God’s Not Dead, which made over $80 million in box office and DVD sales.  Hollywood continued to reel from Mel Gibson’s enormous success with The Passion of the Christ a few years earlier, with most of the studios rushing to create “faith-and-family” divisions in an attempt to exploit evangelical Christian desire for entertainment.

After all, Hollywood is a city built on profit, not ideology.  And considering that neither Noah nor Exodus: Gods and Kings were the box office blockbusters that the studios had hoped they would be, and this was largely because the films didn’t please the evangelical Christian audience, one would think that the studios would greet a well-made “biblically correct” film with open arms.

One would think they would smell the box office cash from miles away.

But according to Mr. Chey, his film was too Bible-based, too religious, talked about God too much, was too biblically correct to qualify for anything from the Hollywood studios but rejection.

Does that strike anyone else as… odd?

Secondly, in one interview, Mr. Chey complained that his films were being mocked by “fellow jealous Christians… saying the acting was bad, script was horrible.”  In another interview he said that one of his personal weaknesses was “not loving those carnal Christian movie critics who continually stab Christian filmmakers in the back.”

“Jealous Christians”?  “Carnal Christian movie critics”?  Ouch.

“The mistake Christian filmmakers make repeatedly,” Mr. Chey continued, “is they give into their fears of being maligned by the carnal, world-loving Christian who drools over Hollywood product…”

“Drooling over Hollywood product”?  Is that just a snarky way of saying Christians who appreciate well-made movies?

Finally, Mr. Chey dropped the bomb.

“One person wrote me and said 7 people went forward to receive Christ after showing ‘Gone‘. I can just imagine these carnal Christians rolling their eyes at the horror of that. But the true horror will be on Judgment Day when Christ says to them, ‘Depart from me for I never knew you.'”

I actually had to read this quote several times to make certain that I understood the ramifications of Mr. Chey’s comments.  If I understood him correctly, Mr. Chey was saying that he had experienced negative criticism from Christians, and that these film critics – because they had been critical of his films rather than just encouraging – were actually “carnal Christians” who would be damned on judgment day.

Because they didn’t like his films?

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Having never actually seen any of Mr. Chey’s films, I was now truly interested.  Although as a person who is purposefully critical of Christian-made films, I was concerned that this might lump me into the category of being either a “jealous” or “carnal” Christian.

I ran over to his IMDB page and began looking into his films, especially for the ones available for viewing online (one of the downfalls of living in China).  I passed immediately on his two end-times movies (the most overdone of Christian-made genres), and while his John Newton film looked interesting, I couldn’t find a way to watch it online.

Then this film poster caught my eye.

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Suing Satan?  Malcolm McDowell?  A very eye-catching poster?  I was intrigued by the whole idea.  And since Amazon offered streaming rentals of the film, I proceeded to watch.

Stay tuned for part 2, Thimblerig’s review of Suing the Devil.

This post is a part of my 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge, where I’m doing my best to consume nothing but Christian media.  This has led me to make some good Christian media discoveries, as well as some real clunkers.

Day 16 down.

 

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Day 13 – The Bad Day

star-trek-ii-wrath-khan-spock-mccoy-katra-meldIsn’t it interesting that on the 13th day of the 40 Days and Nights of Christian Media Challenge, my computer dies?  Yep.  This morning, Bessie was working fine, and then she just up and died.  No last moan, not a peep, just a silent final death.

You’ll be missed, Bessie.

So, today, I’ve had very little access to media, thanks to a dead computer.  I wonder if God is trying to send me a message?

One message I’ve received is that now I have to go to Hong Kong and get a new computer.  So, the 13th day has cost me dearly.

And then I’ll have to open poor Betsie up like a tauntaun on Hoth, and pull out her innerds until I can find the hard drive, so I can save Bessie’s Katra.  (Sorry, I’m doing a J.J. Abrams and mixing Trek and Wars).

The pity is I had downloaded some good Christian media to watch this weekend, and now it’s kerplunk.  Oh, well!

Not sure how much media I’ll have this week, but I’ll hopefully be reporting it on a new laptop by Sunday.

Cheers!

Nate

Day 12 • The 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge

twelve_logoMy Christian Media Challenge led me to a revelation today, and it might seem like a painfully obvious revelation, but I’m actually okay with the fact that I’m slow on many things.  After all, the disciples were all pretty slow, weren’t they?  So I’m in good company.

My revelation today was this: man shall not live by Christian media alone.

I believe that this is an important revelation, even as obvious as it is.  After all, there are people out there who get all of their spiritual nourishment from Christian media, and they think it’s enough.  They listen to the right music, read the right books, visit the right websites, see the right movies, but spiritually, they’re as dry as a bone.

They’re doing all of the stuff, but their spirits are crisp and brittle.

What are they missing?  I think that the argument could be made that the list of things they’re missing is quite long.  But the most important thing they’re missing is also the most obvious.

They’re missing Jesus.

They’re so busy working, doing all the right things as they see them, checking off the right boxes, and avoiding all the naughty bits along the way, but they’re missing the reason for it all.

He’s the reason for it.

The way he treats us is the way we’re supposed to treat others.  The way he treated others should underscore that reality.  The choices he made, the people he spent time with, the way he taught, the things he deemed important and valuable to say, these are the things we should be driven to by our media consumption.

And yet, during this 40 Day event, I’ve not found any media that truly fulfills me.

But is that really so bad?  Christian media shouldn’t exist for the sake of the media, or even for my sake.  Christian media shouldn’t even be fulfilling.  In fact, it should actually have very little to do with me at all.  What Christian media should do is point me back to Jesus, and it should also serve as an encouragement for me to go searching for Jesus in the pages of Scripture.

Everything else is just white noise.  And there’s a LOT of white noise out there.

Seek out Jesus in Scripture today.

 

Against the Exodus From Exodus: Gods and Kings

thimblerigsark:

I haven’t seen Exodus yet, but I am very excited to read a balanced analysis of the film from a fellow believer. A Thimblerig recommended article!

Originally posted on Karen Marya:

Yes, black leather in the desert is completely unbelievable. Yes, black leather in the desert is completely unbelievable.

Am I the only person who liked Exodus: Gods and Kings? Having just caught up to the controversy of Ridley Scott’s big budget epic, on DVD, I’m befuddled that both mainstream and Christian audiences have orphaned this film. In his review for Forbes, Scott Mendelson, weighing in for the secular audience, commented, “Nearly all of Exodus is a routine by-the-numbers retelling of an oft-told tale with little to justify itself beyond improved special effects.” Going on, he criticized wooden acting and casting problems, the latter addressed by Scott prior to the film’s release.

I’m a Christian, so I want to speak to the Christian film viewer, and dare you to give Exodus a fair shot on home release. I’ve been scouring the web for a Christian critique that makes sense to me, and so far I’ve come up with…

View original 1,473 more words

Day 10 • The 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge

Day-10aI’m one quarter of the way through this challenge.  In other words, what I just did, I have to do again – three more times.  30 days to go.

The good news is that I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine with my media consumption.  I get up in the morning, brew a cup of coffee, and hit Syke Jethani’s daily devotional.  Then, I peruse Facebook, my email, and hit some of the Christian news websites.

On my way to work, I listen to one of the dozen Christian-made podcasts that I’m trying out.  There’ve been a few clunkers, but I’ve found others that really strike me as well-produced, entertaining, enlightening, even convicting.  More to come about the podcasts later.

My big find this week was when I discovered that you can buy seasons of The Andy Griffith Show at different Christian retailers!  So I have started to allow myself an episode or two during the day.  Some people may call foul, saying that Andy Griffith was not a Christian program.  Technically, that is correct, but the rules I set up for myself stated clearly that I could only consume media that one could purchase at Christian retailers, so in my opinion I’m in the clear.  Remember, one of the things I was attempting with this experiment was to better understand the people who consume only Christian media every day for 365 days a year – and those folks would probably not have a problem with Andy.

REVELATION-ROAD-O-card-v7I also decided to go against the better angels of my nature, and download an “end-times” movie.  I chose Pure Flix’s Revelation Road, which is sort of like God’s Not Dead meets Mad Max.  And do you believe, I was pleasantly surprised.  The film had some good action, a premise that was not typical for these kinds of movies, and say what you will about the preachiness of his movies, but David A.R. White is immensely likable on screen.  I still wouldn’t recommend the film to my non-Christian friends (still preachier than I prefer), but it made for some pretty solid “for-the-choir” entertainment.

Next up on the list?  Pure Flix’s Marriage Retreat.

I was also able to get hold of a very interesting little film, which I plan to write more about later.  It’s called Rocket Pack Jack, and it’s a fun little (50 minutes) movie for kids.  RPJ sports fairly impressive special effects, a good dose of humor, and quite a bit of on-the-nose Gospel talk that should have bothered me more than it did.  Again, more to come later, but you can watch the trailer here.

Finally, I’ve felt stronger spiritually these past ten days, but I don’t think this is because I’ve been finding such strong and enriching spiritual content to consume.  No, I attribute this mostly to my purposeful refocusing on my relationship with God, taking more time for prayer, and reading the Word.

The lesson I’m learning?  While there’s some good in all the stuff that the Christian media machine tries to convince us to buy, in the end those things aren’t the things that will really help us to grow.

 

 

The Christian Response to Film Critics

screen-shot-2014-11-21-at-2-12-32-pmRemember last December, when Kirk Cameron put out the call to his fans to “storm the gates of Rotten Tomatoes” and help increase the audience score for his Razzie award winning film, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas?  It was Cameron’s attempt to balance the critical reviews, which in the case of Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, were abysmal.  Thus, the Razzies.

Unfortunately, for Kirk Cameron, his efforts backfired when word got out to those outside of his fanbase.  Having the faithful bring up the audience score was seen as gaming the system by many, and they decided to do some storming of their own.  Suddenly Cameron found his audience score bottoming out (currently 30%), and his reviews filled with all sorts of derogatory nonsense.

The most recent Christian-made film to be released was this weekend’s Do You Believe?, put out by Pure Flix, the same film company that brought us last year’s surprise hit, God’s Not Dead.  As seems to be par for the course, the film has been receiving fairly negative reviews from the critics (currently 10% on Rotten Tomatoes) and overwhelmingly positive reviews from the core audience (currently 82%).

And predictably, the Rotten Tomato plea has gone out from the folks at Pure Flix to the faithful.

10337720_875483579174765_1755178833449566882_nIn spite of what the anti-Cameronites thought about Kirk Cameron’s efforts, I don’t see anything wrong with encouraging your fans to rate and review your film.  It’s grassroots campaigning, and say what you will about their films, but Christian-owned film companies are experts in grass roots campaigning.  Pure Flix in particular has been hitting the core audience pretty hard these past few months.  They’ve been using all sort of methods to get people excited to see Do You Believe?, posting pictures on Facebook, hosting several advanced screenings for big fans, doing interviews all over the world of Christian media, all in an effort to build word-of-mouth excitement.

It’s a given that the people who make up Pure Flix’s core audience are Christians.  I think it’s also a pretty good bet that they are Christians who primarily interact with Christian media – watching mainly Christian-made films, listening mainly to Christian-made music, and reading primarily Christian-written books.  Therefore, it stands to reason that Pure Flix would help nudge that grassroots audience in the right direction to increase the legitimacy and reputation of the film in the eyes of the world.

After all, don’t most of us feel like the critics are rarely right?  If the critical score is low but the audience score is high, most of us will accept the audience score, because we’re audience, too.  This means that if someone is on the fence about seeing a film, a high audience score might be just what it takes to nudge them into buying the ticket.

Having established that I don’t have a problem with the strategy of encouraging fans of a film to rate and review a film on a site like Rotten Tomatoes, I will say that I do have a problem with the attitudes that many Christians show to the reviews of secular critics.  While Do You Believe?’s Facebook page is full of glowing comments about the film from the die-hard fans, it’s also sprinkled with the victimized viewpoint that the disagreeing critics are either evil, blind, or ignorant.

Here’s an example:

Please go to Rotten Tomatos and Post the Same review there as right now Only a couple positive ones are posted the majority have a Anti-Christian bent/agenda.

And another:

I can’t be surprised that critics knocked it. They are blinded by the ‘angel of light’ the counterfeit. However I thought it was incredibly impacting even a step above God’s Not Dead and I thought that was an awesome movie. These critics need a lot of prayer because I’ve watched movies they destroyed and I enjoyed them and those they rated so wonderfully absolutely horrible. Don’t give up the message will reach many.

And another:

I loved it. Go see it and decide for yourself dont be turned away by the ignorant critics reviews

I do believe that critic bias towards Christian-made movies exists.  I’ve seen it with the reviews of Mom’s Night Out, The Song, and Believe Me, three films that were – in my opinion – the most accessible Christian-made films of 2014.  These three films deserved to be judged on their merits, and not the fact that they were being marketed to the faith-based audience.  But if you read the reviews, it doesn’t take long for the anti-Christian-film bias to become evident.

20512493_main_zoomIncidentally, even The Passion of the Christ only has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 49%, and oddly enough, the highest ranked Christian-made movie is Phil Vischer’s Jonah: A Veggietales Movie (69%).

The problem is, if a bias does exist, then it’s a bias of our own making.  Christian-made and Christian-subculture-marketed films have been so preachy, so poorly made, and so Christian-subculture-focused for so long, that I don’t know when secular critics will be willing to give our films the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve made our bed and now we have to lie in it.

But here we are, living in an interesting time when our films are starting to become mainstream, playing alongside secular films.  This is vastly different than the story with most of our books and music, which tend to stay firmly entrenched within the subculture walls that we build for them.  Our movies have such potential to burst the Christian bubble, but only if we Christians don’t screw it up.

So far, it’s not looking good.

But I’m a hopeful person by nature, and so Christians, rather than calling foul or lamenting the spiritual deficiencies of people you don’t know, I have a few things for you to understand that can help you become an intelligent player in the conversation, as our films gain legitimacy in the eyes of the world.

1)  Film critics know their business.

ebert-siskel-favoritesGet it?  Critics are – by and large – professional journalists.  While there are exceptions, most of the critics you find represented on an aggregator site like Rotten Tomatoes have spent years studying and learning film.  It’s their job, just like it’s the job of the elementary schoolteacher to know 6th grade Mathematics, or the job of a endocrinologist to know hormones.  To dismiss their criticism outright as some form of religious persecution or spiritual blindness is – in and of itself – ignorant, and in doing so you miss out on an opportunity for growth both for yourself and the filmmakers you are trying to support.

The fact is, if the movie has artistic or cinematic merit then the critic will usually acknowledge that merit, regardless of the agenda of the film.  We can actually see this in the current reviews for Do You Believe?, and the fact that most critics are saying things like the movie is well-filmed, Mira Sorvino’s performance is effective, and the car crash at the end is impressive.

However, their job is to look at films critically (thus the name of the occupation).  This means that they will clearly point out bad writing, plot holes, structural difficulties, unbelievable characterizations, and so on.  Again, Christian filmgoers, understand that this is their job.  And guess what?  They actually don’t only score Christian-made films in the low range.  Currently, the number one movie of the weekend was Insurgent, and it only has a 32% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Sean Penn’s The Gunman has a 14% (and he’s *gasp* an agnostic liberal!), and Accidental Love (a film with a star-studded cast and extremely worldly subject matter) has a bottom-scraping 6%.

2)  Practice contextualization.

Paul preaching at the Aeropagus

Paul preaching at the Aeropagus

In missions, contextualization is the process of learning a new culture so that you can learn the best way to present the Gospel message to that culture in a meaningful way.  Christian filmmaking, while not new, has become a new force in the cultural landscape, and we must learn that landscape – both as audience and artist.

How do we do that?  We learn about quality of film by watching acclaimed films that aren’t necessarily Christian.  Since our films are playing alongside secular films, we must understand what makes secular films good so that we can make our own films better.

If you’re comparing the Christian film you’re watching to other Christian films, then you’re making the same mistake of those biased critics I mentioned above.  You aren’t understanding the culture, and you’ll continue to find yourself both rejecting and being rejected by that culture.  Sure, Scripture tells us being rejected is a part of being a follower of Christ, but that doesn’t mean we actively seek rejection by not learning the craft.  Imagine if a doctor was proud that he was rejected for having patients die on his table, saying, “Jesus was rejected, and so am I!  What a happy man I am!”  It’s a ridiculous example, but it’s what happens so often for Christians regarding filmmaking.

I’m not suggesting that a Christian watch hours of R-rated material (although the rating should never be the sole arbiter of your decision process), because there are plenty of critically-acclaimed PG and PG13 rated films.  Watch those films and pay attention to why they’re good.  Read the reviews after you’ve watched to see why they are appreciated.  Disagree if you will, but understand the critic point of view.

In other words, actively watch acclaimed films so that you can understand why people appreciate them, then you might come closer to understanding why our films get reviewed the way that they do.

3)   Let the story be the message

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I’ll keep my final point simple.  As you accomplish #2, I would hope that you would learn the importance of wanting more than just a good message in the films being made for you.  Love the message, sure, but don’t stop there, demand well-told stories.

The clarion call is, “Support Christian movies so that we can send Hollywood a message!”  But here is the problem:  if the message you’re sending Hollywood is that we don’t care what you make for us as long as you include the message, then all you will get will be message movies, poorly made.

That should bother you, especially as you think about my first two points.  But the point has been made over and over again on this blog, as well as other places, so I won’t belabor it.

Finally, with regards to Pure Flix’s latest call for improving the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, the people that love the film should absolutely go and review and rate the film.  But when you do, be prepared for two things:

First, don’t be surprised if the word gets out, and the haters do the same thing to Do You Believe? that they did to Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas.  Just be prepared.

Second, when that happens, remember the message of the cross that the Pure Flix guys were trying to convey in their film, and respond to those haters the way that Christ responded to you when you came to him.  Not with more hate, not with hostility, not with complaints of persecution and abuse, but with love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  Same goes for the critics who may seem as hostile to our message as they are to the medium in which we present it.

Because when you think about it, it’s not our movies that will ultimately transform the cultural landscape – it’s when Christians truly act like Jesus to the rest of the world, especially in the face of rejection.

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Day 8 • The 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge

I love the Sabbath, because it’s a good discipline to pull myself away from most media for most of the day.

An interesting thing happened today – I taught Sunday School for middle schoolers (we are part of a rotating team of teachers – we teach about once a month), and I felt like I had a lot more authority in my teaching than I’d had in the past.  The sad thing is that it wasn’t because of the new Christian-made material I’d been taking in, but rather, because of the non-Christian material that I’d been avoiding.

Garbage in, garbage out… it’s a real thing, it would seem.

But I am still trying to consume nothing but Christian media for these forty days, and so the march continues.   Thanks to the advice of a Facebook friend, I found a couple of more Christian Netflix sites: www.iamflix.com and Morningstar Video.  I’m hopeful that their streaming will work better than Parables.tv has been working, as living in China, streaming is always a challenge.  I’m also happy to find that one of these streaming sites offers The Beverly Hillbillies.  If I could just find The Andy Griffith Show on a Christian streaming site, I’d be set.

Do-You-Believe-Christian-Movie-Film-DVDI did spend a good bit of the morning perusing reviews for the new Pure Flix film, Do You Believe?, and have not been surprised at what I have found:  Christian reviewers praise the film, non-Christian reviewers pan the film.  Big surprise there.

Do you know what would make my day?  My year?  If a successful film company with a Christian mission (like Pure Flix) would shake it up a bit and release a film that breaks with their formula, a film truly aimed at non-Christian audiences.  With their clout and budgets, they could potentially do something really cool.

But I suppose they must be hooked on simply preaching to the choir.  It’s a pity.

A day with less media, Christian or otherwise….

It’s been a good day.

 

 

Unbroken: The Alternate Ending

unbroken_ver4_xlg[Read to the bottom to find my faith-based alternate ending to Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.]

The 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge is on Day 7, and I’ve been pleased by some aspects of this journey (starting a daily devotional habit, discovering some interesting music, connecting with lots of fun people), and disappointed in others (that Christians have this weird fascination with copying the world’s fads, that the big players in Christian media like perpetuating a pretty myopic view of the world, that if our stories don’t have specific “come to Jesus” moments, the Christian media marketers won’t touch them).

Ultimately, I’m finding that I don’t like or appreciate the various machines that exist in Christian media, but I don’t doubt that each machine represents lots of people who are doing their best to live faithful lives for Jesus.

One happy surprise I found was that Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken is sold by Christian retailers.  This surprised me, because it was a film made by a filmmaker who doesn’t appear to be a Christian, and (spoiler alert) it lacks a conversion sequence.  My family sat down to watch the film last night, and like so many, we were touched by Louie Zamperini’s amazing life experiences, and the strength that he exhibited time and time again.  The film handles issues of faith carefully and respectfully, which throws a bit of cold water on the idea that the movers and shakers in Hollywood have it out for Christians.

After the past week, I’d say that it’s more likely that the movers and shakers in Hollywood have it out for the corporate, industrialized, politicized Christianity that is so prevalent in America these days.  And with good reason.  Corporate Christianity can be irritating, holier-than-thou, out-of-touch, unintentionally and imminently mockable.  Corporate Christianity (like it’s secular brothers and sisters) loves to stir up controversy, to sensationalize for profit, and they love that the vast bulk of the faithful will eagerly swallow whatever pills they ship out to the neighborhood Christian bookstores.

The problem I have with the corporate side of my faith is that it runs so counter to the faith we’re called to in the Scriptures.  Christianity is supposed to be relational, but Corporate Christianity is driven by profit – not people.  Christianity is supposed to be about humility, but Corporate Christianity is about putting our stars up on pedestals to be loved and admired.  Christianity is about loving your enemies, but Corporate Christianity is about building bubbles so that we don’t have to interact with those who believe differently than we do.

Keep in mind, once again, I’m talking about the machine, not most of the people behind the machine.  My interaction this past week with some of the people behind the machine is that they are doing their best to follow Jesus.  Many of them are incredibly creative, and are just looking for ways to express that creativity.  They are intelligent, passionate, and concerned for those people outside of the Christian faith in a sincere and loving way.

But back to Unbroken… watching Jolie’s film got me thinking, what if some film company that produces films for the typical Christian audience had gotten their hands on Louie Zamperini’s story?  A version that would have pleased the machine?

Just for kicks and giggles, I decided to imagine how that faith-based version of Unbroken might have ended.

In case the PDF doesn’t show up on your screen, you can also click this link:

Unbroken Alternate Ending

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Day 6 • Unbroken

six-fingersIt’s late Friday night here in China, and I’m pretty tired.  So I’ll just report that we enjoyed watching the Louis Zamperini movie, Unbroken.

More to come tomorrow.

Do you believe?  Me?

Day 5 of the 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge

5-hand_woodelywonderworksI decided from the beginning of this challenge to be honest in my daily reports.  Whatever I was experiencing, I was going to record, for better or worse.

So, yesterday was on the worse side.  Sorry about the downer.   Today was much better.

Five observations for day five:

1)  The tiny little men who live in the internet really do pay attention to what you do when you’re online.  If you spend your time looking at a lot of Christian media, the tiny little men will notice and start shifting the adverts around until you get more and more adverts for Bibles and Chris Tomlin music, and fewer ads for Budweiser and Viagra.  Thanks, tiny little internet men!

2)  Watching streaming television or movies in China is more frustrating than sleeping on a bed with scratchy sheets and a couple of hungry mosquitos buzzing around in the room, while someone sits nearby in a squeaky rocking chair softly humming “Baby, Baby, Baby” slightly off key.

I wish I could download more Christian-made movies.

3)  I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing online Christian bookstores these past five days, and I’ve decided that Christian consumerism is a funny animal.  On the one hand, there are many wonderful products that are created and sold to build up and encourage followers of Jesus to be better followers of Jesus.  On the other hand, they say that over half a billion dollars in Bibles alone are sold every year.  Half a billion dollars.  Just for Bibles.  So, that would mean in my 12 year old daughter’s lifetime, over $6,000,000,000 of revenue has been generated in Bible sales alone.

The big business side of Christianity makes me feel just a bit icky, and this challenge is exasperating that feeling.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 10.41.22 PM4)  I mentioned in my first post that I’m a big-time movie soundtrack guy, so these past five days I’ve really been missing my Thomas Newman, Hans Zimmer, and Christophe Beck.  But, I’ve actually found a Christian film composer whose work I like!  His name is Ben Botkins, and you can hear some of his compositions on soundcloud.  I found him because of his work on a recent indy Christian film about the life of Polycarp, called – wait for it – Polycarp.

Any Christian filmmakers out there looking for someone to score your new film?  Give Ben a listen.

5)  Christian filmmakers can make misleadingly good movie posters.  This has caused me to begin watching several movies that I think will be decent based on the professionally produced movie poster, just to find out it was filmed on a hand held camera.

Yeah, Samson, I’m looking at you, bud.

Therefore, I recommend we come up with a new ratings system for faith based films.  Sure, the MPAA will make their own ratings if the film is released theatrically, but I think we need something to help folks like me understand what we’re getting before we put down our hard-earned coconuts.

My suggestions, which I propose should be called the Thimblerig Ratings System:

Rated N (newbies) – the film was made by newbies.  Their hearts were in the right place, but they had no money, no training, and it shows.  Only watch if the filmmakers are your friends or relatives.  Lots of overt Gospel talk.

Rated V (veterans) – the film was made by veterans, who were only just newbies a couple of  years ago.  They made a couple of trainwreck movies, and learned from their mistakes, managed to get some funding, and so they’ve improved.  You still wouldn’t want to watch this film with anyone who isn’t also a die-hard Christian, but it’s a bit more entertaining for the choir.  Still lots of overt Gospel talk.

Rated P (preachy) – the film is pretty good technically, so they must have actually hired some professionals to be behind the camera.  The film is still very preachy, so unless your non-Christian friend really loves you, don’t show them this film.  Still lots of Christianese being spoken, and lots of overt Gospel talk.

Rated A (amazing) – the film is amazing!  The Gospel is there, but as in the parables of Jesus, you might have to work a bit to find it.  The film is well acted, well scripted, well filmed, and well directed.  You can freely take your non-Christian friends to see this film, and it will definitely provoke some good seed-planting conversation afterwards.  There may be some non-family-friendly elements, but it services the story, so get over it.

And a special rating…

Rated HMJ (Help me, Jesus!) – never mind about anything else, the writing in this film is so poor that you want to fill your ears with honey, cotton balls, and centipedes to avoid having to listen to the corny, canned, Christianese dialogue.  I mean, the dialogue is not even as good as the dialogue used by George Lucas in Star Wars Episode 2:  The Attack of the Clones, and that’s saying something.  Buy a copy of this film and then bury it deep in the ground.

That’s it for day 5.  Tomorrow, I’m excited that my family and I get to watch Unbroken for Friday Family Movie Night!  (available in Christian retailers!  Yay!)

Nate is taking part in The 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge.  Read about it here, and follow along for the next 35 days.

Follow Nate on Twitter, too.  @RNFleming

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