Magazine article Insight on the News

Hollywood's Right Stuff

Magazine article Insight on the News

Hollywood's Right Stuff

Article excerpt

Though Hollywood makes films filled with sex and violence, it's those films with wholesome content that now make the most money and win the Christian Movieguide Awards.

The scene outside the Hilton Universal Hotel was the usual crush of paparazzi hoping for at least one celebrity shot to pad the week's pay as well as a geek chorus of onlookers out to catch a glimpse of a rising or tailing star.

The occasion was the Christian Film & Television Commission's 7th Annual Movieguide Awards Gala. The nonprofit organization directed by Ted Baehr, an award-winning producer, writer and director, tracks film and video trends through its Movieguide:

A Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment. In addition, Baehr also acts as an industry consultant on Christian content in film and television.

Anxious TV-tabloid producers speed-dialed their contacts trying to find out if Jim Carrey really was going to show up to accept an award for the film Simon Birch. Blackout-windowed sport-utility vehicles loomed over fleets of Lincoln Town Cars that discharged their ball-gowned and tuxedoclad occupants into the heat of the midday sun.

And actor Gary Busey, whose career has roller-coastered along with his personal life, was not in a good mood as he was ushered along the velvet rope for his two-minute grips and grins with the entertainment media. Snapping at a network-television reporter who asked him in time-honored tradition what he "is working on," Busey huffed, "I'm working on myself right now." Minutes later, an official explainer advanced the thought that Busey's pain was caused by a missing button on his jacket.

Ah, Hollywood, the city where good things can happen to bad people. But if the wattage of the star power inside the ballroom was not the equivalent of the Oscar-night crowd, the message was more compelling: Forget R-rated sex-and-violence extravaganzas, according to Baehr's Report to the Entertainment Industry. Americans want to see movies and television programs with religious and biblical-based themes, says Baehr, and he has the statistics to back up his claims. "For the last six years, Movieguide's top 10 movie choices have performed two to three times better than the top movies picked by the major secular critics because our choices correlate with the preferences and concerns of the largest audience in America," Baehr told the crowd.

The biggest award winner at the Movieguide Awards was the Dream-Works SKG film The Prince of Egypt, which won the Epiphany Prize bestowed by Sir John Templeton. Actors Carrey and Ian Michael Smith won the Grace Award for Most Inspirational Acting in Simon Birch. Also honored were A Bug's Life, Antz and Madeline. It's this kind of film, says Baehr, that should receive critical support, not the Natural Born Killers or I Know What You Did Last Summers.

At a time when the country's attention has turned inward as a result of the Littleton, Colo., mass shootings by two high-school students, more and more parents are questioning the relationship between what their children (and their childrens' friends) are watching and their behavior. While Vice President Al Gore groans lest Julia Roberts light up a cigarette during My Best Friend's Wedding, plenty of folks think that the depiction of cigarette smoking in movies is the least of the industry's problems. At the head of this pack of critics is Baehr, who has become a tireless voice in arguing that Hollywood is directly responsible for the current state of our mass culture, even as he trumpets statistics that indicate the vast majority of Americans would prefer a different type of fare altogether.

In his exhaustive report to the entertainment industry, Baehr lays out a powerful case for an increase in the production of family-oriented entertainment, based on an exhaustive analysis of 286 films released in 1998. According to that analysis, Grated movies grossed on average 234 percent more than R-rated films. …

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