Talkbacks are back, so please, treat me like a gentle flower. I was out tonight, and some guy told me about a drink with patron called a “Virgin Killer.” I asked if there was a similar drink named a “Bloody Mattress.” There is not. But there should be. Please use the talkbacks to suggest a recipe. Does it involve Tomato juice or grenadine?
WHY CHRISTIAN FILMS DON’T WORK
Thsi weekend brings the film Fireproof to the big screen on 839 screens. It stars Kirk Cameron, so it has to be some nutty evangelical film. I don’t say that lightly.
There have always been religious films in Hollywood, and some of the biggest have been some of the biggest successes the screen has ever seen (The Fifteen… er, Ten Commandments, The Passion of the Christ, and tangential films like Ben-Hur). but Christian films, aimed at the base – even with the emergence of Sarah Palin – have never crossed the threshold. Ultimately there are two reasons for this. One is that these films are marketed to the base, which turns off anyone who’s a non-believer, and the second is that the appeal of these films is that the audience is being preached to, so even those who might be empathetic to what is being said may get enough of the message during their Sundays. Ironically, these films should find a home and exist in a more comfortable theatrical niche. That is, in the sense that if Tyler Perry can court and seduce the audience he has, the people who should be supporting films like Fireproof should be able to assemble en masse. What Perry has, though, is something different in that he speaks to a group that truly is a minority, so it can feel that it is being spoken to by the films he makes. Though his films may traffic in some good tent-raising agit-prop, he’s also speaking to an audience that gets to see itself on screen in these films in a way that films like The Omega Code, or the Left Behind series cannot traffic in. White people are everywhere in pop culture. Black people, not so much. And black religious people? My point.
Ultimately, America has many denominations, and many people who believe in different ways of the same thing. Much of the cinematic movement for Christianity has erred on the side of extremist, apocalypic visions that may be rather cinematic, but are ultimately not palatable to a mainstream audience looking for escapism. Where Cecil B. DeMille might show biblical events, or Mel Gibson, there is a sense that the agendas of either are not really either conversion or (at least) too much preaching, but more often are examples of showmanship. Sneaking in messages into a larger text is not all that hard, but when you come from that angle, then there is no sneaking to be had, and in the examples I’ve witnessed, the filmmakers of these films are not great filmmakers, but people who get called in to make movies. Or maybe great filmmakers have to be more in love with filmmaking than preaching. Who’s to say. but the ultimate failing seems to be in getting churches to support cinema, which is often – by the very nature of escapist fare – a straw dog.
IT FEELS LIKE PREDICTIONS ARE HEATING UP, CAN I LEAVE WITH YOU?
Eagle Eye, the D.J. Caruso-Shia LaBouf reteam (hey, how’s it going Shia? Glad you like to read our site.) should take the weekend. The film, a mash-up of Enemy of the State and North by Northwest, has people jumping from high heights to other things, and it should make some money, though the date suggests a dump of “just ate six half pound burritos” variety.
There’s also Unbreakable 2, aka A Night in Rodanthe, with Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Lane is married to Josh Brolin. I don’t whom I’m more jealous of, though probably Brolin. It should attracted women who read bodice-rippers. I wonder if some men go to these films looking to get laid. I bet it would work. I love Spike Lee, but Disney seems to be treating Miracle at St. Anna as leftovers, so I expect it to die. But not as bad as the number of limited engagements, like Fireproof, Choke, and The Odd Iraq Vet Couple, but all should be outperformed by Lakeview Terrace and Burn After Reading.
I don’t know what I’m thinking about, can I leave with you:
1. Eagle Eye - $24.7 Million
2. A Night in Radanthe - $11.5 Million
3. Lakeview Terrace – 8.0 Million
4. Burn After Reading - 7.0 Million
5. Miracle at St. Anna - $6.9 Million
Sunday offers my return. So allow me to please reintroduce myself then.