What could this year’s Oscar’s tell us about Christian Films?

The other day I was watching one of this year’s Best Picture Nominees, it doesn’t matter which one, this isn’t a blog about well made movies… this is a blog about Christian movies.  But seriously, While watching this particular movie I began to think.  This year I have seen less of the Best Picture Nominees then I have in a long time.  Why is that? It is actually the first time I actually set out to see all of them but for some reason I didn’t get a chance to see many before the Oscars where actually awarded.  The reason was that many of the movies this year where independent limited release movies and even the ones that had a wide release did not make it to my part of the world.  So I began to think about this.

I have been a long time supporter of Christian films.  I have purchased VHS, DVD and Blu-Rays of some pretty bad films because I wanted to support them.  I still shell out my money on Christian films because I want them to succeed! I want them to improve.  In the past I have been very gracious when I watch a Christian film.  I would often think in my head “Well, they didn’t have the budget of a Hollywood movie so I need to be lenient.  However, this year’s Oscars confirmed to me one of the reasons I decided to start this blog!  Please allow me to throw some numbers around to make my point.  The following is a list of the Best Picture Nominees with their budget:

American Sniper – $58.8 Million

Grand Budapest Hotel – $30 Million

Selma – $20 Million

Birdman – $16.5 Million

Theory of Everything – $15 Million

Imitation Game – $14 Million

Boyhood – $4 Million

Whiplash – $3.3 Million

As you might have already noticed, these films are not a collection of the most expensive movies Hollywood offered us this year.  Even American Sniper at nearly $60 Million is less than many war movies that have been presented in recent years.  So, how do the budgets of these “Best Picture Nominees” stack up against recent Christian Movie budgets?  Do recent Christian Movies have enough budget to make a movie that could be considered Best Picture of the year? Here is a list of a few Christian movies and their budgets.

Son of God – $22 Million

Soul Surfer – $18 Million

Left Behind (2014) – $16 Million

The Identical – $16 Million

When the Game Stands Tall – $15 Million

Heaven is for Real – $12 Million

Mom’s Night Out – $5 Million

God’s Not Dead – $2 Million

With the above list, I must pose a question to everyone.  Is it still true that budget stands in the way of quality when it comes to Christian films?  Please, do not misunderstand.  There are some movies on the above list that I love.  There are a few that I do not, but I am simply asking the question, are we still in an age where the quality of directing, or of acting, or of writing of Christian movies can be blamed on the lack of funding?  Let’s say that the threshold for the budget to be in this year’s Oscar’s for Best Picture was between $60 Million and $3.3 Million, how many of the listed Christian films would have made the cut? Seven… Seven out of eight Christian films made it within the budget range of the nominees.

Now let me just be fair here.  Let’s remove Soul Surfer because it wasn’t this year.  Therefore, it wouldn’t have been eligible for this year’s Best Picture no matter what the budget but the other Seven would have been.  Let’s also say, God’s Not Dead is disqualified because it did not have enough funding (Which is something the Academy never does.) We now have six films that were released this year and are TECHNICALLY eligible for a nomination for Best Picture.  Now, you might say, yes, but Mr. Reel… I mean.. Mr. Pastor… Mr. Reel Pastor… even if a film was nominated it doesn’t mean it had enough money to make a good enough quality film to win.  To which I would say, everyone of these nominees could have won.  However, the winner was Birdman.  If only we had some movies that had as large of a budget as Birdman.  WE DID! We had Left Behind (2014) which is probably my least favorite movie on the Christian movie list, and we had The Identical, which was decent, it had its issues but over all I feel it was a step in the right direction for Christian films and makes me hope the film studio tries again.

Some of you might be thinking, “I am glad Christian films aren’t like these films, they are too weird!” That is ok, I am not saying that a “Best Picture” win means everyone must love the movie.  There are many “Best Picture” winners that I personally didn’t like or connect with.  That is a matter of taste.  I personally do not like sushi.  You could give me sushi from the most world renounce sushi chef and I still will not like it.  It does not mean that I think he prepared the sushi wrong or that it wasn’t high quality sushi.  I love stuffed shells! When I order stuffed shells I don’t want them to be bland or taste old or frost bitten.  I want them to be made to the best of the ability of the Chef, and if the Chef can’t make good stuffed shells then he should step aside and allow someone else to do it who knows what they are doing.  My wife makes the best stuffed shells; I am going to let her make them instead of trying to make some inferior batch myself.

I don’t want to seem like I am complaining about Christian movies, I love them and the reason I am pointing out these things is because, as you can see, we should start holding Christian films to a higher standard.

Christian Film makes History by winning FOUR AWARDS!

I long for the day, if it should ever come, when a Christian movie is done with such quality and skill that it could one day be nominated for an Oscar.  Do I think it will ever happen? I really don’t.  However, this year was a historic year in Christian Film Making.  For the first time in the 35 year history of the Razzie Awards, a Christian film has won.  And not just one award, but four! I know, I wrote about this before, but lets just say that I was not expecting four awards… and if either of the two Christian films nominated, I was not expecting this movie to be the one who won!  The big winner at the 35th Razzie Awards was Kirk Cameron and his film Saving Christmas!

The Awards won are as follows:
Worst Picture

Worst Actor – Kirk Cameron

Worst Screenplay

Worst Screen Combo – Kirk Cameron and his ego

I already laid out in a previous post that you can view HERE why this is a good thing but let me summarize.  This is not religious persecution, Christian movies have never even been nominated in the past, and if you wanted to mock Christians, the much lower hanging fruit is “God’s Not Dead.” I am not saying it deserved it, I am just saying it has name recognition, poor quality and a more overtly Christian message. The reason it was nominated was because finally, Christian films are being held to the standard of secular films.  It is a win for Christian movies!… well.. partly… See, in order to actually make this a win the Christian Movie Industry needs to take note! It needs to realize that they can no longer slide by with substandard films.  My hope is that this will lead to pressure to be mindful of quality while making a film.

Do I think it is fair that Cameron’s film was the winner? NO! I have not seen the film but it seems like a random pick to me. I felt Left Behind Should have won.  Do I also think the award for Worst Screen Combo is fair? NO! Actually, it was the only one of these nominations that actually made me feel they went too far.  I am a fan of Kirk Cameron, I am not one of those people who rolls my eyes because he is in a movie, the guy has talent and don’t even try to tell me he doesn’t! Some people roll their eyes because the movies he is choosing are very in your face Christian.  Do I feel there is anything wrong with that? No. Let the man make the type of movies he wants to make.  Hollywood if full of people who make movies with a message in it that they want to push.  Cameron has a message he wants to push.  A message that I personally like and agree with.  I am rooting for him to succeed in his efforts.  Do I think he has a big ego? I don’t know him personally but I have not seen anything that would make me say that especially over Nicholas Cage and his ego or Megan Fox and her ego.  By putting him in this category like this without doing the same to some of these others really does frustrate me but, oh well. It happened, time to move on.

What would I say to Kirk Cameron right now? If I was sitting next to him when he discovered he won four Razzies I would remind him that he is being watched.  That is a good thing.  However, the reason I think he was chosen over some of the other movies like God’s Not Dead is because he is Kirk Cameron! He has been doing this a long time and maybe some people are feeling that someone with his experience and name recognition should be capable of something better and to that I would agree.  Cameron has the resources and the talent to do fantastic things.  He really could be helping to elevate the perception of Christian films.  I would say:

“Kirk, can I call you Kirk? You had a bright career ahead of you.  You fell out of the spot light for a little bit but you came back into it.  You have fans and you deserve to have fans! Now is the time to elevate your name and in doing so elevate the name of the one you represent! Hire good writers for projects and don’t settle for anything less than great!  Find projects that are high quality! Guard your career because you have set yourself up as an actor who represents the name of Jesus.  When you find substandard projects and put your name to it you are also putting his name to it.  Now, I have not seen Saving Christmas, it was not playing anywhere near me so maybe this movie totally doesn’t deserve the flack it is getting but I do believe this advice is still relevant.”

Winning these awards is because the standard has been raised.  I am happy for this because this is the same reason I started this blog.  I want to help raise that standard! I want Christians to demand movies that are worthy of the name of Christ not just settle for movies that tug on your emotions.  Sometimes I feel this is all the Church has come to expect of God.  They believe God showed up at a church services because they became emotional, therefore if a movie makes me emotional than it is worthy of the name of Christ.  The problem is that having an emotional connection to a film does not speak to the quality.  We can have movies that are emotional… and good.  This is what I want!  This is what I want Christian movies goers to want! The capability is there! We just need someone to stand up and raise the bar for themselves! Mr. Cameron is in position to do that and I hope he does.  He can be the hero I am looking for within the Christian film industry.

So, congratulations on winning the Razzie! Congratulations that the film industry WANTS to take you more seriously! Congratulations for having the spotlight! Congratulations for being in the position to push Christian film making to the next step! I pray God blesses you and that through you we can be blessed by the content you will put out from here on out!

Christian Movies Nominated for Awards for 2014!

It is award season! And after the “Year of the Bible” two Christian movies have been nominated! You might ask “What movies? What awards? An Oscar? Academy Award? Critic’s Choice?” No, none of those.  I hope one day, but that day is not today. The Award that has seen the nomination of two Christian films is… The Razzies, or The Golden Raspberry Award.  What is this award? Well, the categories are things such as “Worst movie of the year””worst actor” “worst actress” you get the picture.

How does that make you, as the reader, feel? I am going to make a case for why that is a good thing and it has nothing to do with “any publicity is good publicity.” Let me start by sharing the nominees.

And The Nominees for the 35th Golden Raspberry Award for worst picture of the year are….

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Legend of Hercules

Left Behind

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Before I share why this is a good thing let me share something I take issue with.  You see, I completely understand Left Behind, but Saving Christmas? Let me make one thing clear, I did not see Saving Christmas, so I am not saying that it was or wasn’t bad.  The reason this one surprises me is because it was a much smaller release that would have been more in line with former Christian movies.  Not to mention that I feel that fifth spot could have easily been filled by The Amazing Spider-man 2 or Transcendence, both of which were highly anticipated and disappointed across the board.  Spider-man was so disappointing that it has caused the entire franchise to be called into question.

The temptation for Christians might be to look at this and accuse “Hollywood” of choosing these because of their Christian slant.  I considered this for a moment but there are two major reasons why I feel this has nothing to do with their Christian message. The first reason is that if it was because of the Christian message, God’s Not Dead is low hanging fruit.  It’s message was bolder and still very low in quality.  So if the point was to make fun of Christians God’s Not Dead would be the way to go… The Rolling Stone Magazine included it in their 10 worst films of 2014. The second reason I don’t think this decision is religiously motivated is because the Razzies have been around for 35 years.  I could not find a single other Christian film that was nominated in the past 35 years and I promise you that there are plenty that could have been.

So why is this a good thing? Well, because, for the past 35 years Christian movies have been left alone by the Razzies.  Why had the Razzies gone this long before they nominated a Christian film? Because they were not taken seriously before! The same reason that they nominated these movies this year, is the same reason I began this blog! The film industry knows that there is money in Faith based movies! Now that it is known that faith based movies make money it should be easier to find investors but with that, quality should begin to rise.  Why is it good that Left Behind was nominated for a Razzie? Because with the Left Behind budget and content it should have been a better movie and the Industry knows it.  They are treating the Left Behind movie like any other film in the industry.  They are calling them out and saying “If you want to run with the big dogs you got to run harder!” I see these nominations as a message from Hollywood saying “Come on! We know you can do better than this!” In this light, suddenly it does not seem like the movies are being included to make fun of them on the grounds of religion, but rather they are finally getting the respect of being acknowledged! They aren’t being ignored anymore!  This is fantastic news! This is a great time in Christian film making! It is now very important that we respond by respecting our own work.  Lets produce work worthy of respect.  Let’s demand a product from our Christian movies that is worth of respect.

I am so very happy that two Christian movies were nominated for awards and I can promise you I will be rooting for Left Behind to win Worst Picture of 2014…. Because it deserves to win! Even the Dove Awards decided to ignore it!