Saturday, May 17, 2014

Another Faith-Based, Feature-Length Music Video Panned by Critics

Article written by George Stefano Pallas.  Ridicule or endorsement of Christian cultural reactionism/alternative religious fads expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect nor should be construed as those of the Author.

After the overwhelming financial success and overwhelmingly negative reviews reeled in by 3D Christian-oriented concert-experience movies “Courageous” and “God’s Not Dead”, Spotlight Pictures is adding another critical dud to its roster that’s nonetheless expected to perform exceedingly well against another Godzilla remake this weekend.  “Write Your Story” currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 3.16%, but professional Hollywood number-crunchers at Breitbart, Fox News, and Christian Broadcasting Network have predicted that it should feature enough Christian celebrities for the Christian Rotten Tomato readership to redeem its unpolished writing and direction.

Although neither Newsboys nor Casting Crowns were free to appear in the new documentary, director and co-writer Alex Kendrick isn’t pulling any punches with the radio-friendly cameos, assembling a star-studded cast of evangelical heartthrobs that’s virtually a covenant of box-office gold.  Among those confirmed to have a place in the congregation are hip-hop emissaries Lecrae and TobyMac, heavy-metal emissary Skillet, bubblegum-pop emissary Britt Nicole, inspirational self-help speaker Joel Osteen, the anti-gay Benham brothers who almost stole an HGTV renovation show dedicated to helping poor homeowners, and, last but certainly not least, catchy song-printing-machine Francesca Battistelli, whose hit single lends the film its title.

Also thought to be involved in the film’s production was U2 lead singer Bono, popularly recognized as the world’s richest F-bomb-dropping, capitalism-praising, Clinton ***-kissing, philanthropizing closet Christian artist, occasionally outed.  To the regret of many, this rumor appears more dubious in recent days following the expulsion of fellow mainstream artist Justin Bieber over his widely reported and repeated violations of church teaching on drinking, church teaching on drug abuse, church teaching on strip club attendance, church teaching on profanity, church teaching on self-idolatry and Belieber cult leadership, church teaching on vandalism, and church teaching on cellphone theft.

Producer Pierre Tann said that the studio “[is] very much concerned with gathering an ensemble of God-fearing men and women, people who will serve as positive role models to the predominantly young audiences our film was made to entertain.  If any one of Write Your Story’s performing acts gives us cause to reconsider – to think, you know, is this really someone who would best suit an occasion of worship and praise, or will his mistakes end up being too much of a distraction and negative influence on viewers? –, then we’ll definitely look elsewhere for artists who better fulfill our mission.  We’re not looking to attract controversy.”

Indeed, Mr. Tann has already refused the advances of such noted Christian reality stars as anti-dating fundamentalists Jim Bob and Michele Duggar, straight white Republican quarterback Tim Tebow, and unkempt redneck homophobe Phil Robertson.  While Tann respects all these men for clinging to their guns in religion, he still maintains that accepting them to the project would invite a score of risks that would ultimately undercut Write Your Story’s appeal among its prime demographic, one of which is that they would actually quote the Bible during production.

“Let me stress that we are trying to make as safe a film as possible, one that’ll be easily digested by those of all denominations and religious persuasions, so what we’re really most interested in is making sure people have a good time and get to spiritually bond with their brothers- and sisters-in-Christ through some powerful and uplifting music.  We could care more about theology, making people think, all that stuff.”

This approach sets the film apart from thinking Christian men’s films like “Facing the Giants”, “Courageous”, “Noah”, and “The Passion of the Christ”, all of which had complex character development and challenged viewers to deeply ponder the reasons for their faith.  “We’re just rocking out and praising Jesus’ name, you know?” Tann explains.  “Critical thought is kind of a secondary priority to us.”

And the priorities show, at least according to most critics.  Rex Reed scathingly drawled, “Write Your Story’s script is an empty page torn from an empty book and stretched out over a very painful hour and a half, its very title an unfulfilled plea to the authors for its hope.”  Notwithstanding the apparent lack of any sort of plot beyond the 3D glasses, other commentators took issue with the plausibility of what little action did play out in scenes, with Scott Bowles of the New York Times emphasizing, “I want to tell you now that I believe it.  I want to tell you now that I believe it.  I do.  But I just can’t.”

Foreign citizen and philosophical Progressive Piers Morgan was unable to critique the credibility of the script using logical reasoning, but nonetheless savaged the singing across the board, commenting, “It sounded in many places like drowned rats getting strangled.  I couldn’t tell you what that sounds like, but it’s definitely not good.  You would be an unbelievably stupid man to pay for this rubbish.  In fact, you would be a dangerous man helping to espouse dangerous nonsense.  You shame your country if you support this fundamentalist indoctrination.”

On a much different note, USA Today’s Claudia Puig lamented the lack of ethnic, religious, and sexual diversity in the movie, calling Lecrae’s inclusion “a forced effort” to meet poorly enforced racial quotas and Caucascian TobyMac’s role an “insult on top of injury… even more offensive than Mackelmore’s victory over certified African-blood rappers Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West at the Grammys.”  Though she conceded that Kendrick had technically enlisted a number of women to figure in the show, she contended that these didn’t count because not one of them has yet lobbied for free abortion, Lilly Bedletter fair pay, or contraception rights and because all are faithfully married to their husbands, perpetuating the “bourgeoisie institution of the family.”

Rotten Tomatoes’ summary of licensed film critics’ evaluations reads, “‘Write Your Story’ desperately wants to be a work of art, but too often stumbles from the path of righteousness.  This is your life.  Don’t let them do with it whatever they like.”  But despite universal backlash from the secular moviegoing population, the movie has been met with general praise by its target segment, which consists largely of teenage girls and youth group members.

Said host Rick Skycrest of Air 1 Radio, “If you liked hearing ‘Write Your Story’ every single time you got into your car, then you’re going to love ‘Write Your Story’ on the big screen.”  Pastor Cliff Shane said that “the movie is going to take them all to church, like literally.  It’s amazing.”

Not to be outdone, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints is mulling an initiative of its own to capitalize on the faith-based concert experience’s ever growing momentum.  Initial reports postulated that Stephanie Meyer would write a script to be shot by Youtube sensation Devin Graham that would star David Archuletta, Imagine Dragons, The Piano Guys, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but this concept was scratched when developers realized that they could more effectively fulfill the church’s missionary goals without smashing together an array of genres and dudes so stylistically incompatible they’d implode under the pressure of their diversity and maleness.

The focus of the unfolding project changed dramatically when Aaron Darylfonsky joined the producers’ team. “Frankly at this point we’re more concerned about getting non-LDS believers into the theater or people who are less religious.  Single, male, right-wing bloggers like Mr. Josephos Rex.  So we think to ourselves, how can we most effectively lure these people into the cinemas while still creating a music-based film that represents the church, its moral philosophy, its commitment to Christ-like living, and its revelations as passed down to us by the golden tablets of Joseph Smith?  From here, the answer to our dilemma was clear.”

The Author almost wanted to go see “Write Your Story” for this week’s review material, but he’ll probably save his ticket money in light of Darylfonsky’s intriguing statements to the press...  and maybe a little extra for this.


The next post will concern Obama’s importance as a Kenyan-Hawaiian-American father figure for the young men of this nation and his dismal failure therein.  I.e., it’s an invective.

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