Please Support these Most Courageous Storytellers in Hollywood

Here is an opportunity to do something active regarding changing our culture for the better.

Phelim McAleer and his wife Ann McElhinney, are the most boldly courageous filmmakers I have met. I am working with Phelim on a project so this is very personal to me. This is not just an idea or a distant and cold cultural observation.

Take a look at their trail of storytelling righteousness…

They spoke truth to the power of Big Green by making the documentary Frack Nation. This doc uncovered the malicious lies of the anti-fracking movement and “documentary” Gasland. They raised their own funds through Kickstarter to make it. It’s now on Netflix and Amazon Video. They showed the truth about fracking, that quite literally has saved our nation.

Phelim and Ann made history by raising their own funds of a couple million dollars to make a feature film (and book) about America’s worst serial killer, Hermit Gosnell. The press and everybody ignored this monster because he was an abortionist who engaged in infanticide. You read that right. Infanticide, not merely abortion. I’ve seen the movie, called, Gosnell. It’s a good movie. And it’s a courtroom drama, not a politicized piece. It has no gruesome pictures. It’s about the humanity of those who uncovered his dark crimes. But no distributor in Hollywood will touch it, because, well, Infanticide is a woman’s right to the Left. So Phelim and Ann are raising their own funds to distribute.

The New York Times suppressed their book about Gosnell from their best-sellers list, because, well, infanticide is a woman’s right to the  NYT.

When Kickstarter found out about the Gosnell project, it banned them from their website, because, well, infanticide is a woman’s right to Kickstarter. So Phelim and Ann went to Indiegogo, a more tolerant and inclusive fundraising website for their next projects… Continue reading

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Delusionary Hysterical Fear of Christian Theocracy

Hulu series about a dystopian world where infertility has become widespread, threatening the survival of the human race. A Christian theocracy has taken over and has enslaved the few fertile women as concubines for birthing children to the leaders—and to oppress women everywhere, because, well, that’s what Christianity is all about, don’t you know. Or something.

This won an Emmy for Drama Series. So I tried to watch it. I couldn’t get very far. It was an unending parade of Christophobic stereotypes, cliches and demonizations of Christianity. A litany of the fevered delusions and projections of left wing paranoia. But even worse: It was just bad storytelling.

It’s clear why this series is getting critical accolades. Not because it’s good. It’s terrible. But because it reflects the collective intolerance and bigotry of the Hollywood elite.

The storytelling here was more preachy, more juvenile in it’s exaggeration, more ridiculously melodramatic than any Christian movie I have ever seen. And if you know me, you know I do not like preachy Christian movies.

It was like watching a sincere yet laughable horror movie from the 1950s with every shot a “scary” melodramatic exaggeration of ugly lighting, ominous music, dour acting and extreme dialogue. And more ominously ominous music. Dr. Evil has nothing on this.

The Christian leaders in this story are of course fascists with Nazi-like traits, rituals and decorations. Their barren wives are begrudging enablers of the evil patriarchy who abuse the handmaidens out of their resentment, thus damning Christian women as traitors to their gender.

The heroine is a newly enslaved handmaiden who is taught that pollution caused the worldwide infertility, which is God’s punishment. In the first episode we see that the Christians execute Catholic priests, abortionists and gays. So, it is Evangelical Christianity who is the real villain here.

Or at least Atwood’s bizarre twisted misinterpretation of what Evangelical Christianity is. Continue reading

Because of Gracia: Standing up for Your Faith Against Anti-Christian Bigots

Timid undercover Christian, Chase Morgan, hides his faith at his high school, you know, like it’s supposed to be in our brave new world of secular regressive politics. When beautiful and bold Christian, Grace Davis, arrives as a new student, Chase becomes close friends and falls for her. But their experience of faith being suppressed by a double standard at their school, finds Grace standing up for God in her debate class, which challenges Chase to stand up, speak out and find his voice.

Okay, I have a love/hate relationship with the Christian movie genre. I don’t really care for them. But unlike cynical Hollywood “Christians” who condemn all Christian movies because of their own self-loathing “faith,” I actually see a place for the genre.

But to be honest, it takes a lot to get me to watch one. Because, usually they’re just so poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted, that I can’t get through the first ten minutes. My bias is that I was raised on Hollywood quality production values. So yes, the first hurdle you must overcome before you can be considered respect-worthy is the basics of good filmmaking.

But this I will say. Christian movies are getting better. And Because of Gracia is one of the best I’ve seen. This is not saying much, I will admit. Yes, there still needs to be work on the writing, directing and acting. But this movie was very watchable, and emotionally connective in a way others I have seen have not been.

Because of Gracia rang true to the human experience, especially for Christians.

Here’s how it does… Continue reading

A Clear Lens Podcast: I just can’t shut up about Silence or The Shack.

I love these guys. They love movies and Jesus, and we don’t always see eye to eye, but that’s what makes it such engaging discourse. We talked about how powerful the Shack was, but where it failed in a full picture of the Gospel. And with Silence, we dug deep. Some of them liked it more than I did, but after talking, we did agree on the most important thing of all, and that was quite profound…

Take a listen to us talk about The Shack and Silence on their podcast here.

The Shack: The Good, The Bad, and the Heresy

A man returns to a small shack in the mountains where his daughter was abducted and murdered years ago. While there, he meets with God and learns to cope with the evil of his daughter’s suffering in light of the goodness of God.

The Good

This is a film in the vein of Miracles from Heaven and Heaven is for Real, a well made, well-told Hollywood attempt to penetrate the “faith-based” market. I have to say right up front, that I had read the book and was quite dubious going in. The book was certainly less than orthodox in its understanding of God, even unbiblical at times.

But as it turns out, apparently, the producers and Lionsgate, learned a bit of a lesson from past “Biblical” movies by pagans and atheists, that maybe they should have some real Christian influence on a product for that audience. I could tell that there must have been some Christians involved in the development of this story that desperately tried to keep it inline with that demographic.

For that, I applaud the filmmakers.

This story tackles THE most important struggle in the human experience: If God is good, why does he allow evil and suffering? And it does so with some rather powerful moments of truth worthy of the best of Christian apologetics (the “defense of the Faith”).

The first half of the movie builds on the relationship that Mack, the lead character, played with subtlety and nuanced emotion by Sam Worthington (Yes! Sam can act.) We see the precious sweetness of his youngest of three children, five year old Missy. We feel the abject horror of the number one universal fear of every parent, the abduction and murder of their child by an evil person.

This gut-wrenching dramatic incarnation is truly one of the most powerful and poignant I have experienced in movies (As it was in the book). And Mack’s hopeless aftermath of withdrawal and rejection of God rings with universal truth. This is an honest film of man’s spiritual struggles to make sense of a world of evil, suffering and God. There wasn’t a moment of inauthenticity in this part of the story.

But a few years later, Mack gets a letter claiming to be from “Poppa,” the name for God that little Missy used to use. It says to meet him up at the shack in the mountains where they found Missy’s tattered dress (never having found the body).

Mack reluctantly goes there and soon finds himself in the second half of the movie in a personal discourse with the Almighty in the form of three people, an Asian woman, Sarayu, who is supposed to be the Holy Spirit, a Middle Eastern young man who is Jesus, and the Father, a black woman named Poppa (We’ll deal with that later).

The rest of the story is a dialogue between Mack and the godhead. God compassionately forbears with Mack’s anger and tries to show him that he is too blinded to understand the truth of the bigger picture in relation to suffering and the goodness of God. He/She leads Mack toward his redemption and forgiveness.

But is it biblical? Or is it another Hollywood bastardized subversion of Christianity?… Continue reading

OSCAR WATCH: Hidden Figures – Fighting Prejudice with Beauty and Grace

The true story of the positive influence that African-American women had on the success of the early years of NASA’s space program.

WOW. Watching this movie made me tear up with hope over the heroic dignity of its characters more than I have in a long time. (Well, actually, Hacksaw Ridge moved me as much, but before that, not in a while).

We follow the stories of three particularly brilliant young black women: Katherine Johnson, played with graceful fortitude by Taraji Henson; Dorothy Vaughn, portrayed with courageous strength by Octavia Spencer; and Mary Jackson, played with witty womanliness by Janell Monae.

The three are friends whose mathematical intelligence is each off the charts, but whose status as black women in 1950s America does not afford them much opportunity for advancement or success, as they face the prejudices of a society that still needs change in its treatment of women and the black community.

As the women go to work at NASA, we see them face the everyday prejudice of segregated “colored” water fountains, bathrooms and schools. But also, they suffer under the compounded factor of women in a male-dominated workforce, where they just don’t have the respect they deserve. The title of the movie, being a clever double meaning of how these women, along with many others, were “hidden” in the background of the achievement of America because of social prejudice.

But this isn’t a propaganda film of the SJW grievance industry. Quite the opposite… Continue reading

OSCAR WATCH – Silence: Scorsese’s Epic Apostasy

In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit priests face violent persecution to their faith as they track down their teacher and predecessor who is rumored to have apostatized.

I confess I have not read the book, so I do not know how faithful Scorsese is to Shusaku Endo’s original novel. But in movie adaptation, stories are shaped to the vision of the director, oftentimes subverting the original. So, despite some helpful appeals to the source material, a movie must nevertheless be understood in its own context and presentation apart from the book. And Scorsese seems to have made this story his own.

Christian Bashing is Nothing New

Silence is a timely and poignant, though at times overly long, exploration of the nature of faith in the face of persecution and suffering. For that reason, I applaud the discussion that Silence raises and the soul searching it inspires in the faithful.

Especially in this era of rising Christophobia and persecution of Christians by all forms of fascism worldwide. From the Muslim torturing and murdering of Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other Islamic nations, to the growing tide of violence directed at believers in America, hatred is being increasingly focused on Christians, not for being hurtful in their actions, but simply for believing in God’s Word. And such spiritual devotion is considered a hate crime by many in our culture.

The ultimate end of demonizing Christian beliefs as “racist, bigoted, homophobic, sexist, Islamophobic” and other phobias, is the justification of violence against Christians, the elimination of Christian cultural artifacts and history, and the suppression of the Judeo-Christian faith.

That is why Silence is so poignant at this time. Remember my mantra, movies are not made in a cultural vacuum. They often reflect the zeitgeist of the era, the spirit of the age they are made within. And this era no longer believes in freedom of thought and speech and the free exchange of ideas. It now says to Christians, “Shut up. Your beliefs are bigotry, so you must renounce them and outwardly support the zeitgeist.”

We are not in a post-Christian culture, we are in an anti-Christian culture.

But the trials and tribulations experienced by the Roman priests in this story are rooted in a deeper struggle that all honest believers wrestle with: the silence of God in the face of suffering, spiritual doubts, and weakness of faith.

Christian Lives Matter

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The Birth of a Nation: Black Braveheart or Black Paul Hill?

birth-of-a-nation

True story of a Virginia slave uprising in 1831, led by literate religious slave Nat Turner, who, with a group of seventy slaves, rose up against their slaveholders and killed close to sixty men, women and children in a 48-hour period. The rebellion was quashed before Turner and his men could attain their goal of securing artillery from a local armory to advance their cause.

Though not the only slave uprising in the Antebellum South, the Nat Turner Rebellion was certainly one of the most tragically fascinating.

Monsters That Should Not Be Downplayed

I got to see an advance screening of the movie, and I have to say first off, that the title of this movie is a brilliant subversion of the old 1915 silent epic, The Birth of a Nation, a racist tale of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan of the Democratic Party depicted as heroic. D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking filmmaking techniques gave the film historic significance as a landmark in the history of cinema. So it is only apropos that this new film reclaims that title, subverts it, and redefines our nation properly, by illustrating some of that origin as drenched in the blood of black slaves.

Writer-director Nate Parker reveals the atrocities of Southern slaveholding with artistic restraint. Rather than exploiting the suffering of Nat and his fellow slaves with gratuitous shock and gore, he effectively captures the mounting violence against them without losing the horror so necessary to the heart of this story. He deals with the monstrous evils of sexual abuse of slave women, the gang rape of Nat’s wife, and the brutal whipping of Nat, by showing the aftermaths rather than the unwatchable acts themselves.

Unfortunately, one of the monsters that is also not portrayed in the movie is Nat Turner… Continue reading

Fargo the Series: Good is Sexier Than Evil

fargo-high-resolution-and-quality

I am posting this way too late. Oh well. TV series are no longer time bound anyway.

I watched the first two seasons of Fargo when they came out. The last one was I don’t know how many months ago. I have been meaning to write about this. Now, I won’t remember all the details as I should, but that’s okay cause I just want to hit the broadbrush strokes anyway so I don’t spoil the good stuff.

I found the original movie Fargo by the Coen brothers to be fascinating and carrying their usual quirky, dark, but hopeful worldview. When the series came up, I thought I wouldn’t want to see the movie redone as a series, and didn’t think there would be enough to hold it through 10 hours.

I was seriously wrong.

Fargo is one of the best series on TV (I hate that term TV. It’s got a negative stigma and doesn’t even apply anymore. I watched it online). It captures the original spirit of the Coen brothers and repackages their thought-provoking storytelling in a way that quite frankly I find much more satisfying than the original movie.

Here is why I love Fargo the series so much… Continue reading

Ben Hur: An Epic Movie of Christian Forgiveness in an Empire of Hate

Ben Hur

Adaptation of a famous fictional novel by Lew Wallace about a first century wealthy Jew, Judah Ben-Hur, and his pursuit of revenge against an adopted Roman brother who betrays his family.

Chances are, you have heard of the classic movie of Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston in the lead role. But if you’re young, you probably haven’t seen it. Look, for those of us who have seen the “original,” it’s pretty hard to live up to the grandness of it because Heston was so legendary. But the truth is, when I watched the old one again some years ago, the actual quality of filmmaking and acting, even the famous chariot race, was not as good as my memory of it. Modern filmmaking is simply more sophisticated on many levels.

Enter, the modern reboot

Judah and his family live in Jerusalem, but his adopted Roman brother, Masala, never feels welcome with his pagan ideas and desire to make his own name in life. So Masala goes to Rome and becomes a highly placed military leader, who ends up at Jerusalem aiding Pontius Pilate at the time of Christ.

Judah begins the story as a Jew who scorns the extremes of both the Zealots, who seek to rise up against Rome, and of the way of love that he sees a young carpenter preaching to his followers. Judah seeks to protect his family and stay out of trouble. Self-preservation. And isn’t that really the desire of most of us, if we are honest? (Zealots were kind of like ancient “Social Justice Warriors” or terrorists)

The problem is that the family gets falsely accused of a Zealot crime, and is punished accordingly. Rather than execute Judah, Rome prefers to enjoy him dying slowly by putting him as a slave on a Roman galley ship. I have to say, this part of the movie was the most excellent surprise of the experience. I remember that part of the Heston movie as being a bit boring: guys rowing in dirty sweaty grunge with the quartermaster pounding the drum and the slaves getting whipped and yelled at.

But in this version, the experience of the sea battle by the oarsman from their perspective was a powerful action sequence. It captured the experience of what it might feel like to be there, helpless in those cramped quarters being bashed and battered around and sinking during a battle. And only being able to see what is going on through cracks and oar windows as they row. It reminded me of the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan, how it made you feel like the first time you ever really got a true sense of real battle in a movie from the individual’s perspective.

More Bread and Circuses!…

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