Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Will and Dis-Grace-ful?

posted by

On an upcoming episode of “Will and Grace,” Jack’s “OutTV” network is bought by a Christian TV network… great idea. Casting Britney Spears as a conservative Christian who hosts a cooking segment on the new network… another great idea. Calling said cooking show “Cruci-fixin’s” and airing the episode on April 13th, the day before Good Friday–the day Christians believe that Jesus was crucified–not such a great idea. Perhaps the network, which just abandoned “The Book of Daniel,” an ill-fated attempt to attract people of faith, should have checked its calendar before scheduling this one.

Hollywood & the Church: Don’t Blame Everything on Oscar!

posted by kris rasmussen

I certainly agree with my fellow Idol Chatterer Paul’s observation that we haven’t exactly seen a post-“Passion” wave of successful, thought-provoking, overtly religious films coming out of Hollywood, much less being nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. But before those in the religious community pass judgment too quickly, there is one important point to consider. In the dialogue about spirituality, movies, and little gold statues, the issue of apathy and neglect is a two-way street.

While spiritually thought-provoking movies such as Junebug and inspirational movies such as “Mad Hot Ballroom” were, to my disappointment, more or less snubbed by Oscar, they were also snubbed, or just plain ignored, by a large segment of the church-going community–a community that claims to be clamoring for more religious-themed entertainment. Yes, Oscar was apathetic about that lion who roared his way into becoming a blockbuster hit, but how many in the church community overlooked the opportunity to watch and discuss one of the most provocative and important films of the year, “Crash,” a movie that reflects the spiritual hunger and poverty of our culture?

There’s also something else that those of you patiently waiting for a movie worthy of winning a “Mel”–as Paul dubbed the fictional awards for movies with strong and explicit appeal to conservative Christians–must keep in mind: It takes at least two to three years for a movie to be produced in Hollywood. So all of those post-“Passion” movies that are spiritually significant and religious relevant may still be making their way to a theater near you. Or maybe they were already there, and you just didn’t go to see them. Either way, we can’t blame everything on good ol’ Oscar.

What “Passion” Effect?

posted by burb

Remember how “The Passion of the Christ” was supposed to be a wet smack in the face for those jaded sybarites of Hollywood/Babylon? How church basements, not focus groups, would be the new proving ground for America’s blockbusters? After the success of Mel Gibson’s thanato-pic, the theory went, the suits on Melrose would finally get it, and they’d greenlight a host of imitators, full of spiritual intensity and religious relevance.

If today’s Oscar nominations are any measure, it’s clear that Hollywood still doesn’t get it. If Mel were handing out the awards instead of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences–call them the “Mels” instead of the Oscars–which of the current crop of nominees would win big? “Brokeback Mountain,” in which two cowboys get it on in the heart of Red America? “Capote,” in which an effete New York writer seduces a murderer to tell him his tale in ghastly detail, and then roots for the dead man walking to hang for the sake of book sales? Spielberg’s ambivalent take on the events of Munich in 1972?

The Oscar nominations, of course, may not be an adequate measure. “The Passion,” after all, didn’t get a nomination either. But if Gibson’s film has a legacy at all, we’re still waiting for it to show up somewhere in Hollywood. Even the one spiritual film of the year, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” neither sought nor got prior approval from the evangelical Christian community that Gibson rallied before going wide with “TPOTC.”

Out of the Closet, in the ‘End of the Spear’

posted by ellen leventry

Actor Chad Allen and I have two things in common: (1) We share the same birthday, and (2) we both like boys. That’s right, the man chosen to play the dual role of evangelical missionary Nate Saint and his son Steve Saint in the film “End of the Spear,” is gay.

Based on Steve Saint’s book of the same name, “End of the Spear” follows five Christian missionaries who make first contact with the Waodani tribe of Ecuador, a society that is thought to be the “most violent that ever existed.” The missionaries are slain by the tribesmen, but some of their widows and children, including young Steve, go to live in the Waodani village and befriend the tribe, including the men who killed the missionaries. Steve later becomes a successful businessman in the U.S., only to return with his wife and son to live, again, with the Waodani. He and the man who killed his father, Mincayani, become close friends–an inspiring story of acceptance and forgiveness.

As for Chad Allen’s association with the film, Christianity Today reports:

Allen told Christianity Today Movies that he didn’t tell “End of the Spear”‘s filmmakers about his sexuality until after they had offered him the job in late 2003. The filmmakers also say they didn’t know about Allen’s lifestyle until after they offered him a contract, but they felt obliged to honor it even though it had not yet been signed.

The explanation is hard to accept; in Hollywood, even a signed contract isn’t a guarantee that you will end up on screen. Actors get replaced all the time. Just ask Stuart Townsend (“Nightstalker”), who was replaced by Viggo Mortensen in “The Lord of the Rings” after just four days of filming. But perhaps, being Christians, the producers felt they answer to a power higher than Hollywood legalese and that the right thing to do was honor the contract.

But I’d say that Every Tribe Entertainment, producers of the movie, need to hire new casting directors or at least find a production assistant to do a search of Chad Allen’s name on IMDB.com. If they would have done that, they’d have learned that the actor has been featured in The Out Traveler magazine and runs a production company with actor Robert Gant from “Queer as Folk.” Just to be clear here, the “out” in Out Traveler doesn’t mean Outward Bound, and “Queer as Folk” is all about folks who are, well… you get the point. In fact, Steve Saint himself said in an email to Christianity Today Movies, “I could not imagine how something like this could slip through a professional screening process.”

Indeed, Allen is probably the least-closeted celebrity this side of Elton John. Very publically outed in 1996 by “The Globe” tabloid while he was still on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” he has since gone on to pose on the cover of publications such as “The Advocate” and works with charities such as the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which helps elect gay candidates to political office, and a suicide hotline for gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens. In fact, when I first heard that Allen would be starring in an evangelical Christian film my confusion meter went off the scale. But at the same time, would there be a brouhaha if Allen–who was clearly chosen because he was right for the role–was not gay but also not Christian?

Perhaps Allen, who attends All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif., should have been more upfront about his homosexuality before he was offered the role. But, again according to Christianity Today, he did offer to “walk away from this—contract or no contract, even if that means I’m liable for breaking the contract.”

But then, God does work in mysterious ways, according to Steve Saint himself:

[In a dream I was] being chased by a mob of Christians who were angry with me for having desecrated “their story.” The answer to their hostility was easy: Just ask Chad to remove himself. But as quickly as this thought came to me, I found myself standing before God. His look was not as compassionate as I had expected. God said, “Steve, you of all people should know that I love all of my children. With regard to Chad Allen, I went to great lengths to orchestrate an opportunity for him to see what it would be like for him to walk the trail that I marked for him. Why did you mess with my plans for him?”

Saint continues:

Mart [Mart Green, Founder and CEO of Every Tribe Entertainment] has told me that he feels responsible for putting me in a difficult position by hiring Chad…. I don’t think this is Mart’s doing. God planned the death of his own Son. I believe he planned the death of my dad and his four dear friends. Now, I believe God is at work again. I don’t pretend to know what God is going to do with this controversy, but I am confident that he is behind this.

Perhaps God knows that one good story of forgiveness and acceptance should beget another. Or maybe He just knows there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

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