The Winners of the 25th Annual MovieGuide® Awards


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.


Melissa Joan Hart, God’s Not Dead 2


Adam Greaves-Neal, The Young Messiah

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for TV


Faith Ford, The Bridge


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.


The 2017 Oscar Nominees


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



La La Land




Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life Animated

OJ Made in America


Best Documentary Short Subject


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


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



Sound Editing


Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land


Sound Mixing


Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Production Design


Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land


Visual FX

Deep Water Horizon

Dr. Strange

Jungle Book

Kubo And The Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Costume Design


Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins


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



Hidden Figures



Animated Feature

Kubo And The Two Strings


My Life As A Zucchini

The Red Turtle


Animated Short

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes



Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomi Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Film Editing


Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land


Lead Actress

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins


Arrival, Denis Villeneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Best Picture



Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

Lala Land


Manchester by the Sea







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

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



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.

Sleep Isn’t Coming Easily This Christmas Eve


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.

Embracing Beauty • Day 28 • Appalachian Spring


We’re getting to the end of my little experiment of embracing beauty, and it’s had its ups and downs. The main up has been the experience of being purposeful in seeking out beauty each day. As I wrote when I began this project, things had just become overwhelmingly ugly online – in large part thanks to the elections – and I had grown weary.

“Do not grow weary in well doing,” the Scriptures say, and so I decided to busy myself with some well-doing in the hopes that it would combat that weariness. And for the most part, it worked.

However, if there was a downer to this experience, it was that so few people joined me on it. I have quite a number of social media friends, and still, only a handful visited the blog over the course of the month. This is a bit of a bummer, not because I was hoping to become a viral sensation, but because I wanted to expose lots of people to beauty. Oh well, I can only hope that over time, people will find this series on their own, and that it will encourage and uplift the ones it is meant to encourage and uplift.

And if you are actually reading these words, then perhaps you will be encouraged and uplifted if you go back through these past few weeks and let the journey take you where it will.

And that brings us to today’s look at beauty. I decided to return to music today, as music plays such an important role in our lives, and a melody or lyric can have the unique power of transporting us across time and space. The piece of music that has that power over me, which I’m embracing today, is Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring.

martha_graham_erich_hawkins_ppalachian_springA little history – Copeland wrote Appalachian Spring in the mid 1940’s for Martha Graham’s dance company. It premiered as a ballet in 1944 at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. as a piece for a smaller chamber orchestra. Copeland went on to expand the piece for full orchestra the next year. In 1945, Copeland won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for the piece.

I first discovered Appalachian Spring when studying for a music degree at King College in Bristol, Tennessee – in the heart of the Appalachian mountains – and the music wound up serving as a soundtrack for many of those days and nights. Even now, when I listen to it, I’m carried back to the rolling hills of north-west Tennessee and some of the best years of my life.

And so, I’m pleased and feeling a bit nostalgic as I present today’s example of beauty. Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, played by the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Leonard Bernstein.

Stay tuned for more examples of embracing beauty, and please share this post with your friends! Let’s help spread beauty all over the internet.

Also, if you have an example of beauty that you want to share, drop me a line at and I’ll be happy to include it!

Embracing Beauty • The First Week & Some New

Embracing Beauty • The Second Week & Some New

Embracing Beauty • Day 21 • The Third Week in Review

Embracing Beauty • Day 26 • Star Trek


Embracing Beauty • Day 21 • The Third Week in Review


This week brought us our final debate, which means that the end of the 2016 season is upon us. That is good news, except that the next two weeks are liable to be the ugliest of the last year and a half, if that’s possible. This is the time when we really need to be intentional in balancing the cynicism, the propagated fear, the muck-raking, the uncloseting of skeletons, and the overall general nastiness one thing that has the ability to overcome it all – beauty.

Last week, we explored and embraced a diverse sampling of beauty. If this is your first visit to the blog, enjoy a snapshot of the last week.

Embracing Beauty • Day 15 • The Bus Scene from Swiss Army Man

I first heard about The Daniel’s Swiss Army Man this summer when I was in Beverly Hills for the Variety Faith and Family Film Summit. I took a Lyft from my hotel to a nearby cinema to watch the new Star Trek movie, and the driver – a hopeful actor named Joe – shared that one of the benefits to living in Los Angeles is that you get exposure to all sorts of unique indy film experiences as well as the big blockbusters.

As an example, he told me about an indy film that he’d just seen, Swiss Army Man. Joe shared the unlikely premise, insisted that Daniel Radcliffe (famous for playing Harry Potter) demonstrated that he had acting chops like we wouldn’t have expected, and said that it was the most original and unique film that he’d seen in ages.

swiss-army-manConsidering that I was in town to discuss a genre that is not known for originality and uniqueness, my interest was piqued. I made a mental note to see the film when the opportunity presented itself.

That opportunity came last Friday, on my birthday. I had invited some friends over to watch the film, and while the film disappointed in some ways, in most ways it was a big success. I found myself both moved and confused, and all in a good way. I also agreed with Joe’s assessment all the way. It was absolutely unique, and Radcliffe was amazing.

It seems a bit obvious to say that the film is not for everyone, because that’s true of all films. In this case, I would say if you demand typical film fare, don’t have the stomach for discussions of bodily functions, and need your films to make immediate sense, this film is probably not for you.

Otherwise, I’d highly recommend it to mature audiences.

On Day 15, I shared a scene from Swiss Army Man that I found to be one of the most beautiful examples of effective filmmaking. I also found it worthy of note that this scene is the six minutes of filmmaking that Daniel Radcliffe is the most proud.

If you didn’t watch the bus scene on Day 15, give it a look now.

Embracing Beauty • Day 17 • “For the Beauty of the Earth” John Rutter

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about the past two weeks is when someone has made suggestions of beauty, suggestions that I otherwise would never have considered.

On Day 17, I featured one of those suggestions, from Lyndall Cave of Lacombe, Alberta, Canada. Lyndall actually wrote with two suggestions, and so you’ll be seeing that name again over the next two weeks. But the first suggestion that I took from Lyndall was for the choral work of composer John Rutter.

I was a music major in college, and I directed the student choir at my small Presbyterian college. And so I was very familiar with the work of John Rutter. But having lived overseas for the past fifteen years, and attending church in less traditional and formal settings for most of that time, I hadn’t thought about Rutter in years. It was nice to revisit his work, and to share one of his most famous compositions, For The Beauty of the Earth.

Embracing Beauty • Day 18 • Animated Short, Borrowed Time

I don’t have a lot to say about this day, except that you need to go and watch this short video if you haven’t. It’s a brilliant piece of animation.

Embracing Beauty • Day 19 • Unplug Part 2

You know, this is one of those things that we know we should do, but we’re just so hooked on looking at that screen. I know I am. I want to make a concentrated effort to not be looking on a screen as often as I can, and to notice the world right in front of me.

At first, I thought this was quite possibly the most beautiful idea I’d had this month so far.

But then I realized that it was only the second most beautiful idea.

Embracing Beauty • Day 20 • The Café

Unplugging in a nice little cafe, nursing a hot cup of coffee, nibbling on a homemade chocolate chip cookie, all while writing in an actual paper notebook or reading an actual paper book… this is the most beautiful idea to me right now.

As my friend Scarlett reminded me, having the ability to do this used to be mundane; a part of the daily grind if you will. But now that I have a family, the idea of relaxing anywhere in solitude warms the cockles of my introverted heart.

But in a cafe? Yeah, that would pretty much be the summit.

As a final example of the kind of cafe I’m talking about, I present the Vintage Emporium Cafe in London. These images were found in a Messy Nessy article, “10 Inspiring Cafés Around the World“.

Stay tuned for more examples of embracing beauty, and please share this post with your friends! Let’s help spread beauty all over the internet.

Also, if you have an example of beauty that you want to share, drop me a line at and I’ll be happy to include it!

Embracing Beauty • The First Week & Some New

Embracing Beauty • The Second Week & Some New