You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Nicolae'd and Dimed

LISA SIMPSON: Dad, we love you, but we just don't think the world is coming to an end. Yet.

BART SIMPSON: Sure, in a hundred years, global warming-- we're goners, but for now, do you think you could lighten up on this "Left Below" stuff?

Slate recently published Grady Hendrix's review of the "Left Behind" movies. Now, I haven't seen any of these because I live outside the Deep South of the USA and my local video stores don't stock any of these opus-es. And every attempt I've made to actually read a LB book has failed: I have a princess-and-the-pea-like intolerance for corny writing. So Hendrix can blast LB all he likes for its hokey dialogue, its plot twists, and its espousal of Dispensationalism in contravention of ye plain and perspicuous teaching of Scripture.

But GH does make three (3) unfair criticisms, though:

[1] Low budget

"... While each installment's budget is estimated to be around $17.4 million, I think that number might be off by $16 million or so. In Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force, for example, Kirk Cameron has to take Ben Judah, a respected rabbi, to the Wailing Wall so that he can tell Jews everywhere that Jesus Christ is Lord. Israel is represented by a few stone walls obviously made of plywood, some Christmas-tree lights, and 500 volunteer extras wearing leftover costumes from a Nativity pageant. The Wailing Wall is patrolled by soldiers dressed in World War II army uniforms. The producers have also dubbed in the sound of goats during scenes set in downtown Jerusalem, which leads to the unusual notion that modern-day Israel is populated by WWII re-enactors, nervous-looking people in bathrobes, and goats. In low-budget movies there are just some things that you can't portray convincingly..."

Okay... so Dogville and Edward II were bad movies then, because of their low-budget, unconvincing sets? Or do they get a pass because their ideological message is more with-it?

[2] Bad guys

"... The United Nations can't even take a leadership role in getting rid of its parking tickets, but in the "Left Behind" universe, the UN wants nothing more than to disarm the world's armies, eliminate famine, and bring about a global peace. This, confusingly, makes them the bad guys...."

You would think anyone allowed to publish articles in Slate would have first been made to write out, four or five hundred times, "REMOVING SADDAM FROM POWER WAS A GOOD THING BUT THAT DOES NOT JUSTIFY THE IRAQ INVASION". Ends, means, etc.

[3] Switching actors

But the dumbest criticism of all is...

"Did the [producers] really think no one would notice that they've replaced Clarence Gilyard, a black actor who played a resistance minister in both previous movies, with a totally different black actor? Do they think that all black actors look alike?"

Oh, those horrible, racist fundamentalists! -- Not. Duh. Film series-es change actors all the time, for all sorts of reasons: actors die, or fall out with the director, or fall pregnant, or whatever. "The Oracle" in The Matrix, for one. "Lady Jessica Atreides" in the Dune and Children of Dune mini-series-es, for another. You want a white Anglo-male as proof? Batman, played by no fewer than four different actors in the past 16 years, three of them in the same franchised series.

So do movie producers think Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney all look alike, then? Did they think we wouldn't notice if Michael Gambon substitutes for the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore? Get real.

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