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March 8. 2006
Column #1,280
For Release March 11, 2006
Academy Awards vs. MovieGuide's Faith & Values Awards
By Michael J. McManus
      Three days before the Academy Awards were given out,  MovieGuide's  Faith and Values Awards Gala honored quite different films. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE won a $50,000 John Templeton Foundation Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring Movie. It was also chosen as Best Family Movie of 2005.

      Clearly, the public agrees with MovieGuide's selection. The film has already grossed $288 million in box office receipts - that is more than all five of the Academy Award nominees for best picture, which total only $235 million. For example, CRASH, the surprise winner for Best Picture, earned only $53 million. CAPOTE pulled in a meager $25 million.

      PRIDE &PREJUDICE was picked "Best Film for Mature Audiences of 2005" by MovieGuide, a biweekly review of movies from a Christian perspective, created by Dr. Ted Baehr in 1985. Runner-ups were BATMAN BEGINS, MILLIONS, and THE INTERPRETER.
      Why would MovieGuide pick such radically different pictures for its best films?  The Academy Awards use traditional yardsticks of quality: high production values such as the plot's credibility and tautness, the quality of the acting, its ambience - the feeling one has been immersed in an exciting new world. For example here are comments by critics on CRASH:

      "This riveting fable about racial stereotypes" got Scott Galupo's highest mark "because it at least tried to tell the truth" about the consequences of racial profiling. A cop's negative comments about an HMO's social worker prompted her to refuse treatment of the cop's father who suffered from a severe prostate condition.

      James Deutsch said that CRASH "has more pitch-perfect dialogue than any film I've ever seen - explaining why the windows on public buses are super-sized, why some people park their cars on their front lawns, and finally, why Angelenos keep crashing into each other."

      By contrast, MovieGuide comments on those qualities, but goes beyond to measure the film's morality and its worldview.  For example, CRASH was 4-Star in quality, a "captivating look at clashing cultures," which is "at times startling, redemptive, moral, funny, wise provocative and ultimately uplifting."  But "Extreme Caution" is urged on grounds of too much strong foul language (101 obscenities) and some startling violence, though it is not gratuitous.

      "It has something to say about the sinful nature of all of us" that "bad and good exists in all of us, including heroes and villains."  It is also redemptive, asking "viewers to take a step back from their own attitudes and ask themselves what they can do to make a better world."

      However, the movie is not even on MovieGuide's top 10 list, because there are so many others which offer an explicitly Christian worldview, that defines goodness in Scriptural terms.

      For example, MovieGuide's founder, Dr. Ted Baehr, called NARNIA and PRIDE &
PREJUDICE "incredibly inspiring works that reveal a deeper truth about God." 

      Sir John Templeton, the financier underwriting $200,000 worth of Epiphany Prizes, said at the Gala: :"None of us has ever understood even one percent of the reality of God, the infinity, the eternity of God.  All we have learned is still tiny compared to what is still yet to be discovered as we search for it."

      Why did MovieGuide consider NARNIA to be the most inspirational film? It praised the film's "very strong Christian worldview with clear incarnational insight into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only way to break the power of sin and defeat the powers of darkness."

      Also the movie "retained most of the Christian focus" of the C.S. Lewis's book "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," on which the film is based, which sold 100 million copies. The magazine's review of the film quotes a letter C.S. Lewis wrote to a young girl named Anne in 1961, explaining his purpose in writing the book.

      "The whole Narnia story is about Christ," who is represented by Aslan, the lion, known as the "king of beasts." He wrote "Christ is called `The Lion of Judah' in the Bible.' And I'd been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the book.

      You may hear MovieGuide reviews on Christian radio. However, I recommend
subscribing to the magazine for $30 a year to consider every film you or your family might watch with a Biblical and moral framework unavailable in daily newspapers. (Call 800 577-5689.)

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