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February 25, 2009

Column #1,435

Did The Right Movies & Actors Win?

By Mike McManus

Did the right movies and actors/actresses win Academy Awards?

If the crown is given to films which uplift the spirit, promote good character and reflect high moral, biblical and Christian standards – a few movies were among those winning Academy Awards.

WALL-E won for the best animated feature.  Interestingly, it was also #5 in box office receipts during 2008, earning $223 million. “Who would guess that a movie with minimal dialogue and a love story between robots could emerge as one of the best films of this summer?” asked Claudia Puig in “USA Today.”

How about a movie that begins with the seduction of a 15-year-old boy by a NAZI war criminal? “That is pedophilia,” asserts Ted Baehr, President of MOVIEGUIDE, published by the Christian Film & Television Commission.  Years later, the boy is a law student who goes to a trial where the woman is convicted crimes at Auschwitz. Yet the film makes viewers feel compassion for her.

“If you told me that Hollywood would make a heroine of such a person, it would be beyond my imagination,” Baehr said. The actress was Kate Winslet, Academy Award winner for Best Actress in THE READER.

Is this a movie people want to see? NO! Box office receipts: a dismal $6 million.

Who should have won?  I supported nominee Meryl Streep in DOUBT.  She is cast as a stern Catholic nun in the 1960s who suspects that a priest, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is a pedophile – decades before the scandal of priests molesting boys made national news.  It takes courage for the nun to confront the priest. 

Yet it is unclear whether he is guilty.  Thus the apt title, DOUBT.  Walking out of that theater, my wife and I debated the issue with others leaving the theater. In 60 years of movie-going, that never happened before. A memorable movie experience.

Box office receipts: a more respectable $31 million, but not a blockbuster.

By contrast SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, which won Best Picture plus seven other awards is called a “modern day fairy tale about hope and hard times in the slums of Mumbai” India by “The New York Times. “It is a rousing, romantic film” about a young man who is bright and loyal, but “is not a person I want as a hero,” says reviewer Ted Baehr. “He lies, cheats and steals though he has very good characteristics. He is bright, loyal and determined to do what he thinks is right.

He falls in love with a girl taken under the wing of a gangster. To win her, the “slumdog” enters a TV show contest, wins a million dollars, and ultimately, the girl.

The feel-good movie earned $100 million in sales, though it cost only $6 million.

How about MILK the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to a major public office?  But only after Milk framed his political opponent, unfairly stacking the deck against him.  The movie extols homosexuality as if it were a Christian virtue. Sean Penn, who won Best Actor, earned his Award.

MOVIEGUIDE gave it four stars, its highest ranking for quality, but its lowest moral ranking, -4.  Box office receipts?   Only $17 million in 2008.  Few want to see a movie celebrating homosexuality.

Brad Pitt, nominated as Best Actor in THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, is a man with a mysterious disease that causes his body to grow younger as he ages. As a baby he appears to be a decrepit old man.  His father takes him to a home for the elderly, where he becomes younger. He falls in love with a young woman who becomes a ballerina.  They are separated, meet in middle age as she ages, but he does not. Clever computer graphics add to the story.

Box office: $142 million.

Robert Downey Jr. plays an imperious, sarcastic, boozing arms merchant captured by terrorists in Afghanistan.  He creates a high-tech armor suit enabling him to thwart his enemies and fly away. The IRON MAN comes home a changed man who leaves business.  Meanwhile the terrorists put together the remains of his suit, requiring him to come out of retirement.

MOVIEGUIDE named it the best picture for adult audiences; it cleaned up at the Box Office with $318 million sales in 2008, but no Academy Award.

MOVIEGUIDE”s conclusion? The top 25 movies in sales” reflecting high moral, biblical and Christian standards do much better at the box office than movies that violate those high standards.”

Why make money losers like MILK? Hollywood’s political agenda.

The most inspiring film of 2008?  MOVIEGUIDE chose FIREPROOF, which won a $100,000 Templeton Prize – but no Academy Awards.  However, it has saved thousands of marriages. 

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