Dr Film

FIREPROOF SIZZLES, HOLLYWOOD CHOKES

Last weekend, two smaller independent films opened in limited release. Both deal with sexual addictions. Both hold up Jesus as central to their characters’ transformation. One featured the former star of Growing Pains, Kirk Cameron and a cast of nonprofessional actors. The other won a Special Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival for an ensemble cast that includes Angelica Huston, Sam Rockwell, Clark Gregg and Kelly McDonald. One arose from the famed pen of Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club. The other came from two brothers at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. So guess which movie surpassed expectations and surprised Hollywood this weekend?

Evidently, sex doesn’t sell (or at least, not as depicted in graphic detail within edgy, independent films). Fireproof debuted at number four on the weekend box office charts. It earned almost $7,000,000 in three days with a per screen average of over $8,000. Choke didn’t crack the top ten, netting $3000 per screen and $1.3 million total.   Fireproof will offer a massive windfall for tiny Samuel Goldwyn Films. It is already hugely profitable compared to its modest $500,000 budget. Choke will not duplicate the Sundance success of comedies like Napoleon Dynamite or Little Miss Sunshine for Fox Searchlight. They will struggle to recoup their $5 million purchase. What made one film click with moviegoers while the other fizzled?

Fireproof satisfied an underserved niche. Christians who normally avoid movies came out to support Fireproof. The earnestness and sincerity of Fireproof connected with viewers eager for reassurance. It allows couples to renew their wedding vows in small but tangible ways. Choke is a satirical farce decided to wake up audiences from their self-destructive behaviors. An oversaturated market of independent hipsters greeted Choke’s blatant provocation with a collective yawn. These cult film watchers decided to wait for it on DVD.

Fireproof depicts the pornography addiction of firefighter Caleb Holt with considerable restraint. He has neglected his wife, Catherine.. In Choke, we follow Victor Mancini to twelve step meetings for sex addicts. He doesn’t attend to cure his addiction, but to pick up equally desperate women. Fireproof follows a forty-day “Love Dare” toward marriage recovery. Choke deals with Victor’s downward spiral, his desperate quest to discover his origins before his memory-impaired mother passes away.

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Tags | Film

Letterman reacts to McCain cancellation

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Dave goes from appreciative and apologetic to angry as he discovers Senator John McCain getting make up for his appearance on Katie Couric's show instead. What do you think?
Tags | Politics

Wake me up when September ends....

The shuffle on my iPod has a remarkable track record of matching my moods.  Not since those groovy mood rings has a device proved so capable of coming alongside my acedia or my euphoria.   Hurricane Ike put quit a hurting on Galveston.  The stock markets free fall finally illuminated the cost of blowing more than $1,000,000,000 per month destroying and rebuilding another country.  And as I followed the Presidential candidates duel over Friday’s scheduled debate, I found myself vacillating between outrage and incredulity.   One friend text messaged, “Are we witnessing the fall of an empire?”  Even President Bush rose from his slumber long enough to hold his first press conference in a year.

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Tags | Music

Nick Cave at the Hollywood Bowl: DIG!!!

Given the apocalyptic dread flowing from Wall Street, I welcomed the prophetic, rock and roll doom emanating from Nick Cave’s concert at the Hollywood Bowl. No one offers scary, Old Testament warnings with more swagger. Cave has lived so many lives—from heroin addict to rock star to screenwriter. His evocative soundtracks composed with Warren Ellis for The PropositionThe Assassination of Jesse James, and the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road are moody, minimalist masterpieces. Alongside his murder ballads, Cave has also remained obsessed with the New Testament, particularly the Gospel of Mark. His concert to close the Hollywood Bowl season was simultaneously frightening, energizing and inspiring.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have been dropping heavy news upon their audience across fourteen albums. The lanky, Australian has always been an acquired taste. For years, only goths welcomed his singular blend of Gospel and gloom. My colleague, Barry Taylor, rhapsodized about Cave’s spiritual insights in our book, A Matrix of Meanings. At age fifty, Cave brings more energy, wit and warmth to his concerts now than ever before. 

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DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: Infinite Tragedy

When I open my daily newspaper, I don’t usually expect shocks to my system. I expect to be mildly perturbed by the latest political posturing. I’m well beyond outrage at the way we’ve wasted billions in Iraq while Osama bin Laden continues on his merry way. Another day brings another Wall Street meltdown. So it came as a great surprise to see that David Foster Wallace, the most iconic novelist of his generation, hung himself in his Pomona, California home. The news of his suicide has haunted me.

What does it mean when the most insightful literary observer of our postmodern condition punches his ticket? If Kurt Cobain was the musical voice of Generation X, then David Foster Wallace was the novelist who brought the same punk rock energy to his scathing satires. But Cobain’s anger was counterbalanced by Wallace’s rapier wit. They railed against similar issues (consumerism, boredom, meaninglessness) but with markedly different styles. Two of our strongest voices proved incapable of finishing the race. Perhaps they suffered from the burden of genius.

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Craig Detweiler Conversant, Part 3




Here's the third part of three conversations I had with Peter from ConversantLife.com. We discussed the tension around art and images in my new book "A Purple State of Mind: Finding Middle Ground in A Divided Culture." I hope you enjoy this conversation.

Are you a movie lover? Take the Quiz


Are you a movie lover?  Do you find yourself quoting random lines from TOMMY BOY or LORD OF THE RINGS?  Then you should take the INTO THE DARK quiz.
 
My smart and savvy publishers at Baker Academic are giving away cash and prizes.  All you have to do is take the short, sweet, but tricky INTO THE DARK quiz. Yes, to promote the release of my new book, Baker Books has created an online movie test.   This is exactly the kind of trivia that has attracted my attention since I first saw Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.   It features twelve questions about films featured in my book–contemporary classics like MementoEternal Sunshine, and No Country for Old Men.   Only one week left to enter, so take the quiz here.
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Tags | Film

Tyler Perry's THE FAMILY THAT PREYS

Tyler Perry is the most prolific, successful and unapologetic filmmaker blending faith and film.  His comedic first feature, Diary of a Mad Black Women introduced Madea, the broadest, most imposing and insightful black “Mama” since Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind.   Perry put on a house dress and high heels to offer Madea’s comedic observations and moral corrections.    It was a tribute to his aunt and the mother who raised him.

Born outside the studio system in Perry’s Atlanta home, Diary of a Mad Black Woman became an unexpected hit, earning $50 million on a modest $5 million budget.   Only indie studio Lionsgate understood how many black moviegoers had already discovered Madea through Perry’s popular stage plays.   Years of touring on the ‘chitlin circuit’ with his melodramas had created brand loyalty.  Lionsgate and Perry have teamed up for a string of hits aimed at his devoted audience, from Madea’s Family Reunion to Why Did I Get Married? and Meet the Browns

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Tags | Film
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General
Ph.D., author, filmmaker and professor. I direct the Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture (the EMC) at Pepperdine University.