The Winners of the 25th Annual MovieGuide® Awards

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Each year for the past 25 years, MovieGuide® has held an awards show where they award films and television shows using a completely different set of criteria than most awards shows. While shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes highlight films and television programs based on their artistic merit, MovieGuide® looks at the “moral and spiritual principles as well as… production values… movies that tell a story that is both redemptive and inspiring to their audiences.

I’m pleased to announce the winners of the 25th Annual MovieGuide® Faith & Falues Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry (gasp) which was held this past weekend at the Hilton Los Angeles / Universal City.

Once again, the results have not been easy to track down, and have been pieced together by scouring the social media accounts of people who were in attendance.

The 2016 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Winners

Lifetime Achievement Award

Pat Robertson

The Epiphany Prize for Inspiring Movies & TV

The Epiphany Prize for Inspiring Movies & TV is awarded to popular, entertaining movies and television programs that are wholesome, spiritually uplifting, inspirational, redemptive and moral.

The Most Inspiring Movie of 2016

The Young Messiah

The Most Inspiring Television Program of 2016

Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Bradley Foundation Faith & Freedom Award

The Faith & Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values are awarded for entertainment value, for craftsmanship, and for creating programming that is uplifting, moral, insightful, compassionate, and that shows America and its people in a positive light.

For Movies:

Hacksaw Ridge

For Television:

Operation Christmas

Best Movie for Families

Miracles from Heaven

Best Movie for Mature Audiences

God’s Not Dead 2

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for Movies

Awarded annually to an actor or actress in a motion picture or television program who exemplifies God’s grace and mercy toward us as human beings through their outstanding performance.

Actress:

Melissa Joan Hart, God’s Not Dead 2

Actor:

Adam Greaves-Neal, The Young Messiah

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for TV

Actress:

Faith Ford, The Bridge

Actor:

Devielle Johnson, A Time to Dance

And if I can take a moment to editorialize just a bit…

I feel like it’s important to note that while it’s not publicized on the MovieGuide® website, apparently box office also has something to do with the nomination process. Watch this video to hear MovieGuide® founder Ted Baehr say that there were so many worthy films this year that poor box office results might have kept some films from receiving a nomination. I find this odd considering that Ben-Hur, which only made about $26 million domestic, was nominated.

But this just highlights an issue I have with this awards show. While it’s certainly fine that MovieGuide® chooses to look at entertainment through a different lens than typical awards shows, their process for deciding nominees and winners is pretty opaque.

And so I’ll end this post by asking the three big questions:

Dear MovieGuide®:

Who decides the nominees?

Who decides who wins?

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, is it just a coincidence that your award statue is a crystal teddy bear and the founder of MovieGuide®’s name is Ted Baehr?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Thimblerig out.

Thimblerig’s Ark is Free, Feb 3 & 4!

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In honor of yesterday’s most important holiday Groundhog’s Day (why isn’t it a day off, Mr. Trump? That should have been your first executive order!), we’re pleased to announce that Thimblerig’s Ark will be free for download on February 3 and 4!

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The second book in the series is nearing completion, and so you want to make sure you grab the first book while you still can. And tell your friends!

You already know about Noah. Just wait until you read the animal’s story.

Thimblerig is a little groundhog with big problems.

He’s a loner con-artist who’s losing his mojo; the wild dogs who run the forest harass him at every turn; he’s having vivid nightmares of apocalyptic floods; and worst of all, he believes he sees unicorns when everyone knows unicorns are only the stuff of legend.

But what one animal might call a problem, Thimblerig calls an opportunity.

In a moment of inspiration, he comes up with the ultimate con: persuade as many suckers as he can that a world-ending flood is coming; the fabled unicorns have told him where the only safe place will be; and only he can lead them to safety.

All for a reasonable price, of course.

When the flood really does come, Thimblerig has a choice: either save the ones who trusted him, or lose everything.

And that’s when he discovers that his problems have only just begun.

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The Resurrection of Gavin Stone • Thimblerig’s Review

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[Note from Nate: Usually, I write the reviews for this blog. But, living in China, I’m restricted to films that have been released on DVD. However, every now and then a film will come out that I feel needs a review sooner rather than later, and so I’ll put out the word to see if someone else can watch the movie and write me a review. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is one of those films, because a comedy for the Christian audience is such a rare bird, and screenwriter Andrea Gyertson Nasfell’s last big comedy, Mom’s Night Out, was one of my favorite Christian-made films of 2014 (you can read my interview with Andrea right here). And so, I’m pleased to present guest reviewer, Lynn Moody, who saw the film and was gracious enough to write a review for Thimblerig’s Ark. Thanks, Lynn!]

“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” Film Review

20161019_ResurrectionOfGavinStone--5ebac77deb63d60662d560416998ac42.jpgThose of us who have been holding our breath waiting for some really good Christian films will breathe a little sigh of relief after watching Vertical Church Film’s The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. No cheesy stuff this, just solid storytelling with great performances by Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E. L.D.) as Gavin Stone and the rest of the cast.

The only scene missing the ring of truth plays in the first few minutes as washed-up child actor Gavin Stone is told by his lawyer (Nicole Astra) and agent (Kirk B.R. Woller) that he has been sentenced to two hundred hours of community service for his most recent intoxicated antics. His must serve them in his Illinois hometown, but he has a choice of where to serve: the sanitation department or the local mega church.

The film quickly slides past that rough spot into the believable reunion of Gavin and his estranged father, played by Neil Flynn (Scrubs), from whom Gavin must beg a place to stay, and on to the mega church where Gavin begins his service hours by mopping floors. Thankfully, the church is just holding auditions for their annual Easter production, for which Gavin pretends to be a Christian so he can be cast as the lead.

Christians will recognize and laugh out loud at our own modern religious trappings and foibles, especially if one has ever been part of an Easter production. Non-Christians will enjoy the truth of Gavin’s experience as an outsider who comes to understand who Jesus really is.

gavinstone.jpgAnjelah Johnson does a fine job as the grown-up PK (pastor’s kid), Kelly, who directs the Easter play, as does D.B. Sweeney as the Pastor. But the real standouts are the ex-con played by Shawn Michaels (former WWF superstar), and his two geeky companions, John Mark, played by Tim Frank, who is still in love with Kelly even though she has rejected his advances, and Anthony, played expertly by Patrick H. Gagnon, a star-struck church actor-wannabe who starts wearing his Gavin Stone fan club t-shirt everywhere.

The real drama comes when Gavin finishes his service hours three days before opening night and receives an offer for a TV-gig back in L.A. that could revive his career.

The editing by Kenneth Marsten is perfect, as the pacing of the film carries us right along to its heart-warming conclusion. With some nice cinematography by Lyn Moncrief, this smart script by Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has been expertly executed by director Dallas Jenkins and will make you remember what modern Christianity is all about.

With the recent release of some really great movies like Hacksaw Ridge (2016), Risen (2016), Little Boy (2015), and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, I’m hoping faith films have turned a serious corner.

Guest Reviewer Lynn Moody is a screenwriter, filmmaker and theater director living and working in northern Michigan. You may follow her work at PreciousLightPictures.com.

[This review has been edited to correct a name.]

The 2017 Oscar Nominees

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The 2017 Oscar Nominees are in! What do you think about these nominations? Any big surprises? Any disappointing shutouts? Will La La Land make another sweep like they did at the Golden Globes, or will someone else step up and take a surprise victory?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. But meanwhile, here are your nominees…

Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Cinematography

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life Animated

OJ Made in America

13th

Best Documentary Short Subject

Extremis

4.1 mile

Joe’s Violin

Watami My Homeland

The White Helmets

Best Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

Lead Actor

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortenson, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

Live Action Short Film

Enenemis Interieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing

Timecode

Sound Editing

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Sully

Sound Mixing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Production Design

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

Visual FX

Deep Water Horizon

Dr. Strange

Jungle Book

Kubo And The Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Costume Design

Allied

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

Makeup and Hair

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek: Beyond

Suicide Squad

Original Score

Jackie, Mica Levi

La La Land, Justin Herwitz

Lion, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka

Moonlight, Nicolas Britell

Passengers, Thomas Newman

Original Song

“Audition” La La Land

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” Trolls

“City of Stars” La La Land

“The Empty Chair” Jim: The James Foley Story

“How Far I’ll Go” Moana

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

Adapted Screenplay

Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight

Animated Feature

Kubo And The Two Strings

Moana

My Life As A Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

Animated Short

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper

Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomi Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Film Editing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

Lead Actress

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Directing

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

Lala Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Nominations

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With some sort of activity happening tomorrow in the far right side of the country, you may have missed a little announcement from the far left side of the country from a right-leaning entertainment organization.

Yes, over the past couple of weeks, MOVIEGUIDE® has been slowly (and strangely – not sure why they’ve been doing it piecemeal) revealing the nominees for their annual awards show. And as is our tradition at Thimblerig’s Ark (well, starting last year), we present the nearly complete list of MOVIEGUIDE® awards nominees for your pleasure.

The 2016 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Nominations 

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Movie of 2016

Ben-Hur

God’s Not Dead 2

Hacksaw Ridge

Hail, Caesar

Miracles from Heaven

Risen

Silence

The Young Messiah

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Television Program of 2016

Agents of Shield: Season 3: Episodes 20-22

The Bridge Part 2

Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Operation Christmas

The Passion: New Orleans

Pocahontas: Dove of Peace

A Time To Dance

Bradley Foundation Faith & Freedom Award for Movies

The Faith & Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values are awarded for entertainment value, for craftsmanship, and for creating programming that is uplifting, moral, insightful, compassionate, and that shows America and its people in a positive light.

Captain America: Civil War

God’s Not Dead 2

Hacksaw Ridge

Hail, Caesar!

Queen of Katwe

Sing

Sully

Best Movie for Families

Finding Dory

The Jungle Book

Miracles from Heaven

Pete’s Dragon

Queen of Katwe

The Secret Life of Pets

Sing

Trolls

The Young Messiah

Zootopia

Best Movie for Mature Audiences

Ben Hur

Captain America: Civil War

Eddie the Eagle

The Finest Hours

God’s Not Dead 2

Hacksaw Ridge

Hail, Caesar!

Risen

Silence

Sully

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for Movies

Awarded annually to an actor or actress in a motion picture or television program who exemplifies God’s grace and mercy toward us as human beings through their outstanding performance.

Rodrigo Santoro, Ben-Hur

David A.R. White, God’s Not Dead 2

Melissa Joan Hart, God’s Not Dead 2

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Josh Brolin, Hail, Caesar!

Rober Pike Daniel, Hail, Caesar!

Jennifer Garner, Miracles from Heaven

Kylie Rogers, Miracles from Heaven

Cliff Curtis, Risen

Joseph Fiennes, Risen

Adam Greaves-Neal, The Young Messiah

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for TV

Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Faith Ford, The Bridge

Ted McGinley, The Bridge

Alyvia Alyn Lind, Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Gerald McRaney, Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Dolly Parton, Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

Tyler Perry, The Passion: New Orleans

Devielle Johnson, A Time to Dance


The MOVIEGUIDE® Awards are scheduled for February 10, 2017 at the Universal Hilton Hotel. It’s usually televised a couple of weeks later, but right now that information is not available.

And if anyone from MOVIEGUIDE® happens to read this, I’d love to find out a couple of things from you: first, what is the process for selecting the nominees? Second, why don’t you air the show live?

Finally, for kicks and giggles, here is a picture of Thimblerig’s Ark author Nate Fleming with Dr. Ted Baehr himself. Taken last year at the Variety Faith and Family Summit in Hollywood.

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American Cultural Christianity Roundup • the film edition • January 11, 2017

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There have been several notable stories in the world of Christian-made film these past few days, and I wanted to summarize a few of them (and comment, of course) for my faithful readers.

1. The Case for Christ

Deadline ran a story this week about the upcoming PureFlix film, The Case for Christ, based on the successful apologetics book by Lee Strobel. The website ran the story with the provocative title, “‘The Case For Christ’ Teaser: Athiest Vs. Believers, From ‘God’s Not Dead’ Filmmakers

Three interesting points about this story.

First, the teaser trailer was actually released several months ago, but Deadline presented it as if it happened in the past week.

Second, while the title of the story is essentially correct, it does seem like Deadline’s editors are trying to stoke some sort of fires through the headline.

Third, I’m quite fascinated by the current trend in Christian-made filmmaking to take a popular book (even a nonfiction, largely non-narrative one like The Case for Christ) or song (see the other stories discussed in this post) and turn them into narrative movies. This seems like a studio mindset sort of thing to do, because it’s safe. Existing properties and familiar names are always the safer bet for box office returns, but doing this with songs seems to be a throwback to the 70’s and 80’s when it was done with some frequency in secular films (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Convoy, Take This Job And Shove It, Harper Valley PTA, Ode To Billy Jo, etc). But it’s something that has fallen out of fashion in recent years.

And while turning narrative books into movies is nothing new, examples of non-narrative books (like A Case For Christ) being turned into narrative movies are a bit harder to find. How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying did it in the late 1960’s, Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask) in the early 70’s, and more recently, He’s Just Not That Into You.

The Case for Christ is a bit different in that the book does contain narrative elements, but the bulk of the book examines the arguments for and against the Christian faith. It’ll be interesting to see how this material is handled in a narrative film.

Meanwhile, if it is successful, maybe we’ll see faith-based filmmaking pick up this trend and make narrative films for other hit non-narrative books like The Prayer of Jabez or Mere Christianity.

2. I Can Only Imagine

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Speaking of turning songs into movies, the über-successful Christian song I Can Only Imagine is being turned into a motion picture starring Dennis Quaid, Trace Atkins, and Cloris Leachman.

 

For those who live on Mars, or outside the Christian bubble, I Can Only Imagine is a song that was originally released by the Christian supergroup MercyMe in 2001. The song imagines a person encountering heaven for the first time and being overwhelmed by the reality of being with God and loved ones for eternity. While I’ve enjoyed the song from time to time (even if it is arguably one of the most over-played songs in Christian music) I never dreamed that anyone would consider turning the song into a major motion picture.

I Can Only Imagine has a shelf life that other songs can only dream of. Here we are, over fifteen years after the song was initially released, and it remains in the iTunes top 10 Gospel and Christian song list.  The song has also been named the most played single in Christian radio history.

No wonder someone decided to make it into a movie.

To get an idea of where they will be taking this film (which apparently will tell the story of the writing of the song) you can read this article from Christian Post. That article details Bart Millard’s journey to write the song, and the film will undoubtedly explore that time of his life.

While I’m not terribly keen on the idea of turning a hit Christian song into a film, I’ve generally liked the work of the Erwin brothers in the past. So, I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen the final product, which is due to hit theaters in Spring 2018.

Now I just need to start working on that treatment for Lord, I Lift Your Name On High: The Film

[By the way, if any of my readers are in Oklahoma City, they are filming the last scene of the movie this Friday at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall, and they’re looking for extras. Read more here.]

3. God Bless The Broken Road

The Hollywood Reporter recently posted a story about former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson taking a role in another upcoming movie based on a popular song.

God Bless The Broken Road is also an interesting song-to-movie project, maybe even moreso than I Can Only Imagine, for a number of reasons.

First of all, the song is not a “Christian song”, but a country music song that is being turned into a film that falls into the “faith-based” genre.

Second, the original song (first recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt band, and more recently by Rascall Flatts) was called “Bless the Broken Road”, but the filmmakers added “God” to the title. A small adjustment to increase the appeal to the Big Christian Audience or a more complete title, considering the song lyric is “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you”?

Third, the film is being brought to us by various members of the God’s Not Dead team – director Harold Cronk, actress Robin Givens, producers Troy Duhon and Dustin Solomon, distributed by PureFlix. A filmgoer’s anticipation for this film might be directly impacted by that knowledge – in a good or a bad way – depending on their opinion of the GND movies. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what this team does with a non-GND property.

Fourth, the description of the film in IMDB ends by saying “…the film combines elements of faith, country music, and stock car racing while paying tribute to those who serve in the United States Military.”

Do these categories represent the new four quadrants in American Christian-targeted filmmaking?

4. The Ark Encounter

Finally, in a non-film related note, this past summer I was able to attend the grand opening of The Ark Encounter in Kentucky. I detailed that visit in a review of my experience which you can read here.

However, the folks at the Ark Encounter recently tweeted an announcement about a new display which will be opening soon.

Yes, it is a viscious dinosaur being released into an arena filled with excited fans, like Gladiator meets Jurassic Park. See my review of The Dinosaur Kingdom II for similar displays.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Are Christian Filmmakers Being Tapped To Direct Future Star Wars Stand-Alone Films?

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A long time ago in galaxy close, close by…

The church had abandoned Hollywood. Then, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST struck box office gold, studios created FAITH-BASED DIVISIONS, and little Christian films made BUCKETS OF MONEY. Now Christian films have earned over a BILLION DOLLARS for investors and studios over the past thirteen years.

With the recent successes of Dr. Strange, directed by Christian filmmaker SCOTT DERRICKSON and Rogue One, the first Star Wars standalone film, are the forces behind Star Wars hopping on the faith-based bandwagon? Are budding Christian filmmakers being considered as the new hope for the venerable space-based franchise?

Only time will tell….

“The Erwin brothers, Harold Cronk, Kirk Cameron, they’ve all been discussed, especially for a movie about Yoda, which would involve all kinds of spiritual mumbo-jumbo,” an anonymous source told us. But this source, who met with us in a nearby Starbucks dressed in a stormtrooper costume and calling himself “TR-3R”, went on to say that the Christian filmmakers who have risen to the top are veteran brother team, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, creators of the Christian film hits Facing the Giants, Courageous, Fireproof, and 2015’s War Room.

tr3r“The big dogs at Lucasfilm like the Kendrick’s grass-roots style of filmmaking, as well as their overt handling of spiritual issues,” TR-3R said. “They think the Kendricks could take a Yoda standalone to some really interesting places, exploring the spiritual aspects of the Force, maybe telling about how Yoda became converted to the light side in the first place. Me? I imagine it happening in a golden field with lots of sunlight. The Kendricks like to do that. It’s their lens flare.”

Considering the Kendrick’s focus on family issues such as parenting and marriage, we asked the source the odds that a Kendrick-directed standalone film would also explore something of Yoda’s homelife.

“They never tell me the odds, but this is something fans have been clamoring for,” TR-3R said enthusiastically, trying unsuccessfully to sip his coffee through his stormtrooper helmet. “They’ve seen Yoda living as a crotchety old single dude, but was he a good husband? A good dad? He helped train all those force-sensitive kids, but what about his own kids? The big dogs think that the Kendricks could really explore a domestic side of Yoda that we haven’t seen before.”

The source went on to say that a successful Kendrick-directed Star Wars film would also open the door for other filmmakers of faith to step in, as the studio hopes to release a new Star Wars film every year from now until the apocalypse.

When we pressed TR-3R for more details, he grew noticeably agitated and began muttering something about seeing the new VT-16. Then, saying he had to get back to the office, TR-3R quickly slid a folded piece of paper across the table and bolted outside without another word. He jumped into a black 1976 Corvette and drove away.

Incidentally, the Corvette’s license plate read THX-1138.

Unfolding the paper, the first thing we noticed was that it was written on Lucasfilm stationary. It had been stamped multiple times with “TOP SECRET” in bright red letters, and the paper had the heading: “Potential Future Faith-Based Star Wars Projects.”

Then, the following items were listed:

forceThe Force’s Not Dead – set between Episode 3 and 4, a young Luke Skywalker attends Mos Eisley Agricultural College only to find that his moisture farming professor doesn’t believe in the Force. Luke stands up to him, determined to prove that the Force is real. The film ends with an extended Figrin D’an and the Modal Newsboys concert in the cantina while the professor gets run over and killed by a landspeeder outside. Potential director: Harold Cronk. Potential producer: David A.R. White. Release date: December 2019.

Ben Hutt – set in the time between Episodes 3 and 4, Ben Kenobi, masquerading as a Hutt prince, is falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother (a clone soldier in the Republic Clone Army). After spending years exiled in space, Ben returns to Tatooine to seek revenge, but ultimately finds redemption. Possible roles for Ewan MacGregor and Morgan Freeman. Potential producers: Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Release date: May 2020.

I’ve Got A Bad Feeling I’ve Been Left Behind – also set in the time between Episodes 3 and 4, this film would explore the chaos and mayhem resulting when the Jedi vanish in an instant, leaving behind smoking piles of clothes and lightsabers. Possible starring role for Nicolas Cage as a force-sensitive sceptic. Potential director: Paul LaLonde. Release date May 2021.

Droid’s Night Out – set in the time between Episodes 4 and 5, R2D2 decides to take C3PO out on a night on the town, leaving Luke, Han, and Chewie to take on all of the etiquette and protocol responsibilities at the rebel base. Of course, mistaken identities and disastrously hilarious mayhem results. Potential director: The Erwin Brothers. Release Date: December 2022.

Lumpawarrump’s Saving Life Day – set in the time between Episodes 5 and 6, Lumpawarrump is enjoying the annual Life Day extravaganza thrown by his sister until he realizes he needs to help out his visiting father, Chewbacca, who blames himself for Han Solo’s abduction by Boba Fett. Lumpy’s fresh look at Life Day provides Chewbacca the chance to see that the universe is bigger than his little problems, and that he needs to pull up his Wookie panties and go save his friend from the clutches of the vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt. The film ends with an extended wookie dance-off. Potential director: Kirk Cameron. Release Date: Life Day 2023, or perhaps Festivus.

star-war-roomStar War Room – set in the time between Episodes 6 and 7, Han Solo and Princess Leia’s marriage is in trouble, and it will take the efforts of the strange, wizened old Miss Maz to help Leia learn to tap into the force and save her marriage. The film ends with an extended force-enabled jump rope competition. Possible roles for Sadie Robertson as a young Leia and Alden Ehrenreich to continue playing young Han. Potential director: The Kendrick Brothers (if the Yoda movie is a success). Release Date: December 2024.

 

Sleep Isn’t Coming Easily This Christmas Eve

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It starts with Mohammed, the Somali refugee who drives for Uber to make ends meet. Mohammed, a father of four, drove us to our big fancy downtown Seattle hotel after the Christmas Eve worship service we attended at the fancy urban contemporary church. Mohammed, we discovered as we rode, has trouble getting work because of his status, and his wife also works to help support the family. He talked about living for eleven years in a refugee camp in Kenya before being shipped off to America, which he never asked to happen. And now, he drives Uber for eight to ten hours a day. It gets tiring, he says. And he looks tired, resting his head on the driving wheel when we get to a stop light.

After Mohammed dropped us off, we took a family photo by the Christmas tree in the fancy downtown Seattle hotel’s lobby and then went up to our room to watch A Christmas Carol and get the kids ready for bed.

And then there’s the fancy urban contemporary church we visited. This church is running a textbook operation. They had a flawless contemporary Christmas eve production with an extremely talented worship band and a funny and inspiring message from a hip young pastor.

But here’s the thing: nobody said anything to our family as we entered the church. No one said anything to us as we found a seat, and no one said anything to us as we put on our coats, made our way through the lobby, and then stood outside the church waiting to be picked up by Mohammed the Uber driver.

It was like we were never there. Like we were not a part of the production.

And then I think about the little country Methodist church we attended last weekend. This little mountain church was filled with so much blue hair that sitting in the sanctuary was almost like being blinded by the sky. The little church was the definition of unhip, with a definitively unslick musical production, an excruciatingly dull message about something blah-blah-Old Testament-blah from a 60-something pastor in 90’s era khakis, and a group of people who embraced us as if we were a part of the community.

Our kids were the only children in the church, but the childcare lady loved on all three of our children from the moment she saw us until the moment we dragged them away from her. Another family invited us to sled on their hill and eat some dinner, and a retired dentist/pilot invited us for a single-engine airplane ride the next day. Why? Because he loves showing people the area.

We were strangers, but not to these folks.

Finally, this Christmas Eve, I’m thinking about the manger. It always seems to come back to the manger, doesn’t it?

This started yesterday as I walked through the lobby of our fancy hotel, looking at all the elegant decorations, listening to the classic Christmas music, and considering all of the well-dressed shiny happy people sitting in lounge and lobby ordering $35 hors d’oeuvres and $100 bottles of Didier Dagueneau Silex.

As I looked at all of the comfort, wealth, and contentment, I couldn’t help but think about that blasted manger. Why couldn’t I just focus on “White Christmas” and “Santa Baby”? But I kept returning to that wandering Jewish family just looking for a place to shelter. Probably hungry, possibly thirsty, undoubtedly wondering where they could rest, and where they could have their baby.

They had to settle on a barn.

Suddenly, I’m back to thinking about that body of simple believers in the mountains who were more warm and welcoming than they should have been to a wandering family of strangers. They would have given us the clothes from their backs if we’d asked.

But I’m also back to thinking about that body of well-coifed and professionally prolific believers in the city, who were undoubtedly well-intentioned, but who didn’t seem to notice or care that they had a wandering family in their midst, even as they sang “Away in a Manger”.

I’m back to thinking about my family, taking a picture by the well-decked Christmas tree in the lobby of our fancy hotel. I think of my three children who are – even now – nestled sound asleep in their beds, with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

And I’m back to thinking about Mohammad, the refugee Uber driver, busting his butt to make ends meet and provide bread for his wife and four children. A man who wishes more than anything that he could just go back home where life made some sense.

Yes, this Christmas Eve, I can’t stop thinking.

And sleep isn’t coming easily.

Five Things The Media Is Not Allowed To Do, Post-Election

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Dear Media,

Regarding the recent election, you guys really yosted the poodle, didn’t you?

Sorry to be crass, but seriously, media? You gave away billions of dollars worth of free advertising to Donald Trump because you thought he was a big joke, and in the end, the joke was on you. And the irony is that even you couldn’t believe it.

Thanks so much, Media. The 52.8% of the country that didn’t vote for Trump really appreciates that you basically installed him in the office.

[edit: thanks to gilliebean, who corrected me on this: “…there were actually 251,107,000 people in the USA who were eligible to register to vote on Nov 8. Only 24.2% of those people voted for Trump. Only 24.6% of those people voted for Clinton. 51.5% did not vote. So technically, it was 75.8% of the country that did not vote for Trump (not 52.8%). And in all fairness, 75.4% of the country didn’t vote for Clinton.]

The good thing is that you know this, you’ve acknowledged it, and you’ve owned it. We can see examples of this in The New RepublicUSA Today, and MSNBC. But you can find it all over the place – stunned media elites, bemoaning the results, and recognizing their culpability in this scenario that the 52.8% [edit: 75.8%] considers to be nightmarish.

But Media, you must understand that owning it is not enough, not by a long shot. No, media, you also need to make atonement.

That’s right. Atonement. In the form of five things we are taking away from you during the next four to eight years of the Trump Administration.

You might want to sit down for this, Media. Because it’s going to hurt.

  1. No TrumpGate.

Ever since Nixon, you guys have not been able stop putting “-gate” at the end of whatever scandal might crop up. We’ve had BillyGate, DebateGate, IranGate, CableGate, FileGate, HairGate, MonicaGate, EmailGate, IntelGate, and even a GateGate! The list goes on and on and on, and Media, it’s time for you to let it go.

We get it! Gates are terrible things! But as your first act of atonement, you will avoid the temptation to label Trump scandals with names like WallGate, MelaniaGate, NepotismGate, Alt-RightGate, PutinGate, or – God forbid – P*ssyGate.

It’s time for some originality, Media.

But that’s only the beginning.

2. No Trumponomics.

I’m amazed that people complain about the lack of originality in Hollywood, but continue to give the fourth estate a free pass to be as unoriginal as you can be. It all started with Reagonomics, then we had Clintonomics, the Bushonomics, and – silliest sounding of all – Obamanomics.

The madness stops here. As your second act of atonement, you must never refer to the economic policies of Donald Trump as Trumpanomics.

That being said, if you want to use “Trumped-up Trickle Down Economics”, feel free. I don’t think anyone is using it at the moment.

3. No Trumpcare.

untitledYou tried to get this off the ground with Hillary Clinton back in 1993 with Hillarycare, but her healthcare plan flopped. Then, when President Obama announced he was going to push universal healthcare, you quickly grabbed the old nickname and applied it to Obama, and you gave us Obamacare.

And it stops there. Media, after your Election 2016 screwup, you’ve lost the ability to continue this with Trump. John Oliver has already snuck one of these past, but that’s as far as it goes.

As your third act of atonement, you will refrain from dubbing Trump’s new healthcare plan “Trumpcare.” You can call it TrumpHealth, or TrumpMeds, or even InsuriTrump,

But no riffing off Obamacare. You’ve forfeited your right.

4. No “You’re Fired!”

Over the course of these upcoming four years, people will undoubtedly come and go from the Trump administration. As your fourth act of atonement, you will refrain from reporting on that story with headlines like, “Bannon, You’re Fired!”

Also, Trump is liable to send our military to fight somewhere, and you are not permitted to report on that story with headlines like, “ISIS, you’re fired!”

You can extrapolate this out to any situation, and apply the same rule.

untitledThe use of “You’re Fired” is now fired. Take this off your list of possible headlines. Atonement act #4.

5. No “trumps” puns.

The final act of atonement is to avoid the temptation, as great as it will be, to say that Trump has “trumped” things, or someone else has “trumped” him (with the aforementioned exception of Clinton’s brilliant and erudite “Trumped up trickle down.” That, you may use to your heart’s content). But you must not say things like this:

China Trumps Trump When It Comes to Infrastructure

Or this…

Trump Trumps Hate

However, headlines like this are acceptable:

Trump’s Trump Trumps Trump’s Trump

In conclusion, we want you to know, Media, that we realize that you’re hurting. We know that you are apprehensive about what the next four years holds for people in your line of work, and that things don’t bode well for a transparent Trump administration.

But if you do your job from now on: reporting truth rather than promoting sensationalism; putting aside your own personal convictions and reporting with impartially; and holding everyone’s feet to the fire – Republicans, Democrats, whatever, then we might just start listening to you again.

Atonement is, after all, about reconciliation.

Meanwhile, we hope you’ve learned your lesson from this. And every time you have to stop yourself from using one of the easy choices listed above, we hope that it hurts just a little bit. And we hope the little pain that you feel reminds you of how important it is for you to do your job well.

We’re counting on you, media. Don’t let us down again.