Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 03/15/21

And the Woke winner is…The 2021 Academy Award nominees are out today. The eight nominees include two excellent films, The Father and Minari and, honestly, six other movies I haven’t seen. Chances are you haven’t either. Beyond that, my first thought is why are there eight nominees? My understanding is that, under rules adopted in 2009, up to ten films can be nominated whereas previously there were five nominees each year. Five seems like a good solid number to me. Theoretically, you really have to be good to be in the top five of something. Plus, it’s a small enough number that you might actually be able to remember the nominees. Of course, in those days the Academy members tended to nominate film you’ve either seen or at least have heard of. These days the whole presentation seems less a celebration of great storytelling that everyone can relate to than a Woke exercise in getting out the message that Hollywood tastes are just better than those of ordinary film goers.

Regarding this year’s Best Picture nods, I’m a little surprised that Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom didn’t make the list. It’s a good film but I’m guessing that, at least, the late Chadwick Boseman is about as close as a shoo-in as there is in the Best Picture category. He gave a great performance and the sentiment is, understandably, with him. I’m disappointed – but hardly surprised – that Hillbilly Elegy was snubbed in the category.  It’s the best movie I saw last year but, as I wrote in December, it delivered “a daisy cutter missile exploding the deliberately-divisive myth that privilege in America is a function of racial identity and not class identity.” So, it’s lucky to have even been made and will have to settle Glenn Close’s Best Supporting Actress nomination. Close, BTW, delivered an extraordinary performance but it’s, I think, safe to predict she won’t win.

In that same post, I also wrote “As I often do, I find myself at odds with the majority of Wokester critics, a measly 25% of whom gave the movie positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Its score among the actual audience is a far more robust and positive 85%.” Which brings me to what I think is an interesting personal anecdote that I believe reveals something about how the Woke media ecosystem works. A publicist I’m often in contact with, and who represents a lot of quality faith-themed films that I’m inclined to give favorable reviews to, contacted me with word that March is the month when Rotten Tomatoes opens itself to accepting new entries to its roster of so-called Tomatometer-approved critics whose reviews are aggregated by the site to present a supposed cross section of critical opinion regarding movies and TV shows. S/he wrote “Becoming a RT approved critic truly is a win as it’ll hopefully benefit you as a journalist/critic, and will definitely benefit us and the films we work on — a win/win/WIN.”

So, even though I’ve been reviewing movies and TV shows for Beliefnet for over a decade and had never given much thought to Rotten Tomatoes, I thought “Okay, I’ll do it.” I went to the application page and began filling out the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer questionnaire.

The questionnaire began with expected queries about such things as how long I’ve been reviewing movies, how often and for whom? Further in it inquired about the film festivals I’ve attended or plan to attend. There was an assortment of LGBTQ+ and race-centric events on the list. Unless I somehow missed it (and I’m pretty certain I didn’t), The Waco Family & Faith Festival, for which I actually served as a judge, wasn’t on the list. Likewise, I didn’t see any other faith-themed festival on the list. I can only conclude from that that Rotten Tomatoes isn’t too interested in faith-themed films.

The questionnaire also got into the expected stuff about my gender, ethnic background and the color of my skin that is certainly par for the course for any form you fill out these days. Like most of these forms, I was given the option of refusing but even that puts out a sort of unintended message so, like most people, I answered the questions. But then I came to one that actually did really take me by surprise. I was asked if I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community. But, in this case, between the Yes, No and choosing not to answer boxes was a fourth option which read “No, but I identify as an ally.” I thought that was curious because when it came to African-Americans or any other group, I wasn’t given the option of proclaiming myself an ally. I wasn’t even asked about my faith identity, let alone whether I consider myself an ally of the faith community.

Anyway, I really had to think about how to answer the question. I’m not a member of the LGBTQ+ community and I’ve been choosing to answer all the other questions. So, it would be weird to suddenly not answer this one. So, am I an ally of the LGBTQ+ community?

On the one hand, I would certainly say “Yes” in the sense that I wish for them what I wish for all people – health, happiness and the right and ability to pursue their dreams and live their lives free of bullying and harassment from the government, religion or anyone else.

On the other hand, if the question implies support of a political agenda beyond that, I’d have to think about that on a case-by-case basis. For example, I support the right of Catholics to live their faith but whether or not a person with a small photography business, and who believes in his or her heart that the Church is a repressive and dangerous organization, should be forced to work a Baptism is another question. I tend to look at these issues through a live-and-let-live lens that focuses on who is aggressively and unnecessarily getting into whose face. That may flip from issue to issue.

So, from a human rights and liberty standpoint, I’m an ally of everyone. From a political standpoint, I try my best to adhere to solid principles and not decide issues by which group I happen to identify with. For the record, I simply answered that I am not a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I could be wrong but I get the feeling that that is a threshold question which I answered wrongly.

Bottom Line 1: Rotten Tomatoes (which, according to Wikipedia, happens to be a small cog in the globalist Comcast (75%) and AT&T (25%) media empires) has every right to decide which critics it includes in its Tomatometer. We just shouldn’t have any illusions about its  criteria which, to this critic, appears to be less than all-inclusive. If you get the feeling the movie and TV critics tend to veer to the left, this could be part of the reason.

Bottom Line 2: I don’t think I’m going to be a Tomatometer critic. If you care to apply though, have at it.

Journalist John Stossel, BTW, is out with a similar point about the Oscars.

Bringing Silly Putty to a knife fight. On his HBO show Friday night, Bill Maher made some solid points about how America’s obsession with divisive and, increasingly, silly issues raised by the constantly backward-looking Church of Wokeness is diverting our attention from the real and growing worldwide threat of the human rights-abusing totalitarian regime in China.

Here’s what I don’t understand. Maher sees the situation so clearly yet he continues to argue that the answers to our problems lie in electing politicians of a party that has been captured by the very silly – but deadly serious – Woke ideology he bemoans. I mean I get the he doesn’t like Trump, the GOP and organized religion but. as President Biden might say, “Come on. man!”Do you really think these are the people to save us? That said, I give the guy credit. He works for HBO which, like Rotten Tomatoes, is but a cog in the globalist AT&T corporate machine whose financial interests are very much intertwined with China which, of course, is all for a divided American citizenry and clueless American leadership. So, he’s probably walking on egg shells a bit when he calls this stuff out. I give him credit for having the guts to say what he does.

Finally, Fox News’ Jesse Watters managed a simultaneously comprehensive and concise breakdown of how the Woke agenda may often seem silly but is in reality a threat to liberal democracy. That’s right. “Liberal” democracy. It’s about time liberals who have traditionally supported free speech and opposed the curtailing of civil liberties, whether by the government, religion or globalist corporations, speak up and stop allowing their legacy to be hijacked by illiberal Woke Totalitarians. According to Watters, the four-pronged plan involves control of education from kindergarten through higher indoctrination (aka college), control of the media, corporations and general speech through Cancel Culture, the very intentional virtual canceling of America’s borders and taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to permanently change election laws and remove protections against voter fraud (which we are to believe rarely, if ever, actually happens).

IMHO: Watters does a great job articulating the Totalitarian strategy for demoralizing and tearing down America. Whether you’re concerned about religious liberty or just plain liberty, what’s needed now is a proactive strategy for standing against the gaslighting tactics of wanton America shaming and for the values free speech, mutual tolerance (which doesn’t require agreeing about everything) and simply understanding that to hold onto freedom we must appreciate its value.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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