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FIRST-PERSON: No Oscars for worthy ‘failures’

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Oscar once again has had his say. “Million Dollar Baby” was named Best Picture; Clint Eastwood, Best Director; and Jamie Foxx and Hilary Swank, Best Actors.

But Academy Awards do not guarantee a big box office. Neither do supportive reviews nor big-budgeted studio promotions. It’s a mysterious occurrence, the assembling of a movie, and an even greater one when audiences decide to endorse it.

Finding material that studio heads hope audiences will flock to has always been the toughest part of the movie-making business. In this new millennium, however, the results have been even more stupefying for the moviegoer who looks on the cinema as an art form. One safe bet for producers, it seems, is catering to juvenile boys who assume all humor is derived from gaseous bodily functions. Meanwhile, Hollywood has relied on the remake in recent years to capture the interest of moviegoers.

No matter how often they foul up a classic such as 1963’s “Charade” with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn by redoing it with anti-stars Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton, the entertainment industry never tires of cannibalizing itself.

This year alone, we will see “updates” of “The Pink Panther,” “King Kong,” “The Bad News Bears,” “Batman,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “The Honeymooners,” “The Longest Yard,” “The Producers,” “War of the Worlds,” etc.

But it isn’t just Hollywood award committees that overlook quality movies. So does the general public. This past year’s “America’s Heart and Soul” and “I Am David” each contained positive themes that deal with the upside of life, not the futility of it all. Sadly, few people saw them.

So far this new millennium, in fact, many a great film has gone unnoticed. Consider the box office earnings for these recent films:

“America’s Heart and Soul” (2004) $314,000

“I Am David” (2004) $284,000

“Together” (2003) $1,151,941

“Levity” (2003) $209,151

“We Were Soldiers” (2002) $78,122,718

“The Count of Monte Cristo” (2002) $54,282,104

“A Walk to Remember” (2002) $41,239,940

“The Emperor’s Club” (2002) $14,118,751

“Nicholas Nickleby” (2002) $1,587,173

“The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” (2001) $7,517,191

“The Dish” (2001) $2,252,970

“Almost Famous” (2000) $32,524,850

“The Basket” (2000) $609,042

“An Everlasting Piece” (2000) $75,228

(Numbers courtesy of Internet Movie Database)

Never heard of many of these films, right? And though Almost Famous, We Were Soldiers and A Walk To Remember had respectable ticket sales, they were far from being blockbusters (nor, come to think of it, were any of this year’s contenders for Best Picture).

Yet each of these films has detailed storylines, solid performances and a positive statement about the sanctity of life. Happily, each is now on video and/or DVD. To find other great films, it will take a little detective work.

The Bible declares that we should be careful what we put in our heads (Philippians 4:8, Ephesians 5:11) and the support of good films does send a message to movie moguls. Those who attend movies, yet want to be careful what they support at the box office, should heed the warnings of those who review films from a Christian perspective. You may not agree with their every critique, but the best reviewers include the reason for the rating. Given the reason for the rating, moviegoers can make an informed decision as to the worthiness of new releases. In other words, “Know Before You Go.”
Phil Boatwright, at moviere[email protected], reviews film from a Christian perspective.

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  • Phil Boatwright