Thursday, September 13, 2007

Do Christian films suck?

That's a question we address here at the SuperCandid podcast all the time. You might even say it's our modis operandi(that's "method of activity" for you non-Latin types). Well, another movie blog kicked up a sandstorm when they made the claim that Christian movies suck, and we would be remiss not to mention it. The start was this story over at Deadline Hollywood. It's a rather stupid post about how to make Hollywood better in view of some of the bombs of summer 2007. Most of the suggestions I either disagree with or the point is correct but the reasoning is wrong. Example, "Don't make threquels with cast and director intact." Sure, Spider-Man 3 sucked, but I think that was more the fault of the studio forcing Venom into the picture(Topher Grace's awesome performance notwithstanding) than anything else. All the other flaws to the picture were the same problems that have been there since the first film(which also sucked, IMO). But the quote that got people interested is this: "Don’t go after the religious market: There’s no surer guarantee of box office disaster than to make a movie aimed at appealing to The Passion Of The Christ audience. Look, that pic evolved from Mel Gibson’s deeply felt religious beliefs – not from a pitch meeting. Universal moguls dragged out every trick in the Christian playbook to Hail Mary make and market Evan Almighty's tired Noah’s Ark retelling. But the Passion crowd wants stories based on the New Testament. Heathen Hollywood didn’t comprehend that." Again, I'd agree with some of the broader points but the reasoning is stupid. Evan Almighty may have flopped for many reasons, but I think that Christian's lack of interest in Noah's Ark(WTF?) is not one of them. Maybe Christian's lack of interest in a modern day, poop-joke filled re-telling of Noah's Ark with a totally different message, but I think most Christian would agree that we like the story of Noah's Ark. Hey, it's a giant boat, a crazy guy with a mission from God, the end of the world, what's not to like? So the furor really kicked off when Dirty Harry at Libertas threw in his two cents: "No kidding. Christian films SUCK. Suck I say. Suck. All. Day. Long. They’re cynically produced, condescending, and dull. I disagree with Finke that we’re only interested in New Testament stories, but she’s even further off the mark blaming Heathen Hollywood. Other than The Passion, Heathen Hollywood has made the only decent Christian films of the last thirty-years: Sean Penn’s The Pledge, Tim Robbins’ Dead Man Walking, Magnolia, Signs, Tender Mercies, Places In The Heart… All came out of Heathen Hollywood. The Christian crap has come from Christian Filmmakers: The Omega Codes, The Left Behinds, Bridge To Terabitha, Facing The Giants…" I'd say that Dirty Harry, who I generally like(certainly more than Libertas's idiot founder), has the problem of seeing the wrong Christian films. And he's confusing Christian films with Christian-cash in films from Hollywood. Facing the Giants is many things, not all good, but cynically produced it is not. The problem is that there is a wide gap between stuff like Facing the Giants, The Second Chance and End of the Spear and films like The Nativity Story, Evan Almighty and The Hangman's Curse. Sure, The Hangman's Curse was produced for a song by Christians, but it represents the worst of the Christian independent film market's attempts to appeal to audiences seeking some kind of Christian version of secular films. I won't comment too much on stuff like The Omega Code, since I haven't seen that particular Rapturesploitation film, but I generally hate that type of film for vastly over-simplifying(or just stupidifying) Biblical prophecy. Plus, they're usually way too under-budgeted for a film that is supposed to be about the END OF THE WORLD and end up just being embarrassing for Christians and painful to watch or even discuss. So there is the proverbial storm of comments denouncing Libertas(which, as a "conservative" film blog has a large Christian readership), and then Dirty Harry published a somewhat retraction/revision. He said: "Not after all these Christian films failed. And this sort-of indie Christian filmmaking community either couldn’t handle such a large theme or would ignore it because they believe doubts and struggles hurt the message. In their films the story begins after the protagonist finds Christ at the end of the first act. I don’t want to see that. I can’t relate to that." This is very well said, but again it represents a limited knowledge of Christian films. I might have even said something like this back when we started this podcast. But now that I've seen films like End of the Spear and The Second Chance, I'm more than willing to believe that there are excellent Christians films that fulfil the potential of merging faith and art. Oh, and sorry Hangman's Curse. But you do suck. Hard. (Deadline Hollywood Story-Stupid story from a stupid blog) (Libertas-"Christian Films Suck"-uninformed rant) (Libertas-"Okay, Christian films only Kinda suck"-better, but still ignorant of the good Christian films) Save This Page Add to Technorati Favorites


Tiredofsteam said...

no need to apologize to Hangman's Curse. it never learned to read.

Angela said...

Here are some thoughts fresh from a couple of filmmakers I know who happen to be Christians.

Actors' agents are scared to death to have their actors' names associated with Christian films. Right now it's the kiss of death, apparently. So it is impossible to get first-rate talent attached to films. Then what you wind up with is TV actors, and as a result your film feels like a made-for-TV film.

Budgets. Need I say more? Budgets are extremely limiting, and that has an effect on the film. Most Christian films are on budgets less than $2 million, there are a few that are $2 - $5 million, and only a TINY number are over $5 million. Money doesn't buy happiness or a good script, but it sure buys a lot of great tools, and it buys the time needed to produce a really good film.

Writing. There are not a lot of great proven screenwriters producing for Christian films. Some, but not a lot.

Yes, there is some feeling in our industry that the message, rather than the craft, is paramount. But that is shrinking, hopefully.

But stop beating on the industry. Doctors "practice" medicine because they're always learning new techniques, new drugs, etc. Let's let the filmmakers practice their craft.