Category: Christians working in Arts and Media

Golden Globes: Our Father Vince Examined Four Nominated Films

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik

The Golden Globe nominations were announced today, Dec. 6 — and a happy St. Nicholas’ Day to all the lucky nominees.

Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., our own producer-at-large and USC film-school grad, earlier took a deep dive into a quartet of nominated films, comparing them to earlier versions of the stories.

Click here for the full list of nominations, but here’s a look at the top awards, with links to Fr. Vince’s posts …

Best Motion Picture — Drama

Black Panther

BlacKkKlansman

Bohemian Rhapsody

If Beale Street Could Talk

A Star Is Born

Father Vince look at both BlacKkKlansman (click here) and A Star Is Born (click here).

Of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, he wrote:

Real-life encounters between Zimmeran’s “Stallworth” and Klan members are well-executed by [Adam] Driver. He quite capably feigns a racist persona for the sake of the investigation. Both characters, in effect, do as Christ did, not fighting ugliness with more ugliness, but absorbing some of the worst parts of their enemies and turning it against them, exposing evil for what it is. “Infiltrate hate,” the tagline goes of the film goes. Not “flee” or “fight” hate as the world often demands.

And of A Star Is Born (and the earlier versions):

The rise to fame of the four female leads enthralls, to be sure. But celebrity stars are more akin to what we see in the night sky: some stars may have died out long ago — the lack of light having yet to travel to our corner of the universe. So, our cinematic and cosmological fascination may not lie in when stars are born, but when, in fact, they mysteriously die.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama

Glenn Close, The Wife

Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

Nicole Kidman, Destroyer

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Rosamund Pike, A Private War

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

Crazy Rich Asians

The Favourite

Green Book

Mary Poppins Returns

Vice

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns

Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Charlize Theron, Tully

Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

Christian Bale, Vice

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Poppins Returns

Viggo Mortenson, Green Book

Robert Redford, The Old Man & the Gun

John C. Reilly, Stan & Ollie

Click here for Father Vince’s take on Redford’s new movie; here’s a taste:

I feel the director, himself the son of a college professor from the robustly Catholic University of Dallas, did the main character and story better justice in filling in the origin story — even if that origin details the abandonment of faith. The film admittedly, states in its tagline: “based on mostly a true story.” The director’s embellishing of Tucker’s lack of faith, nonetheless tells a truer story about the nature of crime than Grann’s first-hand interviews of the criminal himself.

Best Motion Picture — Animated

Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Mirai

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Director — Motion Picture

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Peter Farrelly, Green Book

Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

Adam McKay, Vice

Best Television Series — Drama

The Americans (FX)

Bodyguard (Netflix)

Homecoming (Amazon Prime Video)

Killing Eve (BBC America)

Pose (FX)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama

Caitriona Balfe, Outlander (Starz)

Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve (BBC America)

Julia Roberts, Homecoming (Amazon Prime Video)

Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Drama

Jason Bateman, Ozark (Netflix)

Stephan James, Homecoming (Amazon Prime Video)

Richard Madden, Bodyguard (Netflix)

Billy Porter, Pose (FX)

Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX)

Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Barry (HBO)

The Good Place (NBC)

Kidding (Showtime)

The Kominsky Method (Netflix)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Kristen Bell, The Good Place (NBC)

Candice Bergen, Murphy Brown (CBS)

Alison Brie, GLOW (Netflix)

Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)

Debra Messing, Will & Grace (NBC)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen, Who Is America (Showtime)

Jim Carrey, Kidding (Showtime)

Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method (Netflix)

Donald Glover, Atlanta (FX)

Bill Hader, Barry (HBO)

Surprisingly, after being nominated and winning Globes the last two years, NBC’s This Is Us was snubbed this time around.

First Man, about Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, also didn’t fare well, only picking up nominations for Clare Foy, for her supporting role, and the original score. And as anyone in Hollywood knows, when almost the only positive thing someone says is they liked the music, it’s not good news.

Father Vince wasn’t impressed with First Man either. Click here for the whole piece; below find an excerpt.

Maybe [Apollo 13 director Ron] Howard made the smarter decision, to a pick a failed success mission where the astronauts bypassed their moon landing. Because when we arrive at the moon in First Man, it feels staged, like we never leave the green screen of the Hollywood stage at which it was shot. The real Neil Armstrong, facing the incredulity of moon-landing deniers, said the only thing harder to do than landing on the moon would be to realistically fabricate it. The Oscar winning director of La La Land proves just how difficult that task indeed is.

Movie awards season is officially underway. Let the games begin …

Image: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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Chris Pratt Talks Love, Fatherhood and God at Disneyland Candlelight Ceremony

Chris Pratt at Disneyland’s Candlelight Ceremony (YouTube)

Actor Chris Pratt is at it again, spreading the hope and love of God – plus a rousing “Merry Christmas!” — whenever he gets a public forum, this time on Saturday, Dec. 1, at Disneyland in Southern California.

In many ways, Disney has yielded to the culture and to so-called “progressive values,” in its TV and movie offerings, and at its theme parks. But — according to Robert Niles at the ThemeParkInsider.com — since its opening in 1955, Disneyland has offered the Candlelight Ceremony processional and performance at Main Street USA’s Town Square.

The invite-only affair plays just four shows over two nights on the first weekend of December, featuring nearly 700 musicians, including a live orchestra, Disney cast members and local school, church and community choirs (non-invited park attendees can view the procession itself down Main Street USA).

Among the song selections are such sacred favorites as “Away in a Manger,” “What Child Is This?” and “Silent Night.”

The finale was the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.

Pratt, star of the hit Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World movies, was on hand this year to read the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke, and to deliver a personal message.

Wrote Niles of the “Hallelujah Chorus”:

That moment of silence before the final chords? Chills. I loved this work as a choir geek growing up and continue to adore the power and spectacle of it performed live. And with nearly 700 musicians performing it at Disneyland? Amazing.

Pratt followed the curtain call with some clearly heartfelt words, referencing his own recent fatherhood to talk about his new-found appreciation for a father’s love.

Pratt pointed out his son in the audience, calling him “this precious little creation of mine,” and spoke from the heart as a father, saying:

I watch the ways in which he tries to please me, I just fill with a love that I feel is so pure, and unending. The way we love our children, the more we love our children, the more we will understand the capacity for our Father in heaven to love us. Each and every one of us a precious creation, and he just marvels in the ways that we can try to please Him. That should give us a great deal of comfort. I know it does for me.

This holiday season, let us embrace every one of our tomorrows with hope and love. And through this holiday spirit may we continue to spread peace and goodwill throughout the world. Thank you, and Merry Christmas!

Pratt fans know that Jack, his son with ex-wife Anna Faris, was born two months premature in 2013. Pratt has often spoken how immersing himself in prayer while Jack was fighting for his life brought him closer to his Christian faith. Although his marriage has since dissolved, Pratt’s commit to faith, and willingness to talk openly about it, has continued.

Whether it’s at the MTV Awards or the Teen Choice Awards or through social media, Pratt encourages young people to connect with God and prayer.

And we thank God he does!

Here’s the whole Candlelight performance; Pratt is introduced at the 50:41 mark:

Image: YouTube screenshot

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Discovery Joins With ‘Fixer-Upper’ Couple Chip and Joanna Gaines for a New Network

Chip and Joanna Gaines/Magnolia

On last Friday’s episode of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Chip and Joanna Gaines, the Christian couple at the heart of the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper, revealed that they’ll be partnering with HGTV parent Discovery on a new branded network.

The two, who just had a fifth child, have been on a break since Sept. 2017, after juggling family, their design company Magnolia, various business ventures and television. But it looks like the time out is coming to an end.

From Deadline.com:

“We signed a non-disclosure and it said, quote/unquote, you can tell your mother but that’s it,” Chip said. “So mom, I just wanted to make a quick announcement, we are coming back to television. You are going to get to see the kids grow up, you are going to see us, well maybe a six-month delay like the rest of the world, but we are excited to be back.”

The couple’s Magnolia company also issued a statement. “We’re excited to share that we are currently in the early stages of talking with Discovery about a lifestyle-focused media network for Magnolia,” Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano said. “The details surrounding this opportunity remain a work in progress, but together, our hope is to build a different kind of platform for unique, inspiring and family-friendly content.”

Discovery then issued a statement to People, which read:

Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano also confirmed the news in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE: “We’re excited to share that we are currently in the early stages of talking with Discovery about a lifestyle-focused media network for Magnolia. The details surrounding this opportunity remain a work in progress, but together, our hope is to build a different kind of platform for unique, inspiring and family-friendly content.”

Chip Gaines says the plan is to have much of the busy parents’ filming done in their hometown of Waco, Texas, to minimize travel.

Along with Fixer Upper, the Gainses also have a lifestyle magazine called The Magnolia Journal, a new Magnolia Table restaurant, a product line at Target, and the Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, along with memoirs, cookbooks and a design book by Joanna, called “Homebody: A Guide to Creating Places You Never Want to Leave.

Image: Magnolia

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Tim Tebow Urges Contestants to Run LeBron James’ ‘Million Dollar Mile’ for CBS

Pictured (L-R): Matt “Money” Smith, Tim Tebow, Maria Taylor. Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS

Heisman Trophy winner, former NFL quarterback (and current minor-league baseball player) and very public Christian Tim Tebow has signed on as host for Million Dollar Mile, a new competition series from LeBron James’ company, SpringHill Entertainment, and WarnerHorizon.

Joining Tebow as commentators are Matt “Money” Smith, the voice of the Los Angeles Chargers play-by-play, and ESPN host/reporter Maria Taylor. Joining James and his production partner, Maverick Carter, are Fly on the Wall Entertainment’s (Big Brother) Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan.

From CBS:

“Watching good people compete at their highest ability is always inspirational to me,” said Tebow. “MILLION DOLLAR MILE is a show that does just that – it motivates, thrills, and is aspirational, and I’m excited to be hosting this show.”

In this unprecedented television event series, contestants will have the chance to win $1,000,000 every time they run the Million Dollar Mile. Standing in their way is the most challenging course ever designed and a group of elite athletes with one mission: to stop the contestants from winning the money at all costs. Currently, the series is in production in Los Angeles for broadcast on the CBS Television Network.

Tebow also has another entertainment product in the works, a feature film called Run the Race. Executive-produced by Tebow and older brother Robby Tebow, and filmed in Birmingham, Alabama, the film has been acquired by indie-film distributor Roadside Attractions (I Can Only Imagine), which is aiming for a Feb. 22, 2019 release.

From The Wrap:

Run The Race follows two young brothers with an unbreakable bond facing unbelievable odds. Reeling from his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, Zach (Tanner Stine), an All-State athlete, finds glory on the football field, working to earn a college scholarship in the hopes of earning he and his brother, David (Evan Hoffer), a ticket out of town. But when a devastating injury sidelines Zach, David laces up his track cleats to salvage their future.

“I wanted to be part of something that’s encouraging and inspirational to the viewer. I believe Run The Race accomplishes this by showing two brothers struggling with real life, but them getting through it by supporting each other and their faith,” Tim Tebow said in a statement. “I hope those who see it can walk away with more faith, hope, and love.”

Also starring are Mykelti Williamson (Chicago P.D., Fences, Forrest Gump) and Frances Fisher (Watchmen, Marrying Mr. Darcy, Titanic).

Post-football, the now 31-year-old Tebow has worked as a college-football analyst, author (Through My Eyes, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms, This Is the Day), philanthropist and left-fielder for the AA Binghamton Rumble Ponies, a New York Mets farm team. A broken bone in his right hand cut his season short in July, but he’s expected to move up to the Mets’ Syracuse AAA team for the 2019 season.

From a Nov. 8 story in USA Today:

“That’s a great next step for him,” newly hired Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said, via NorthJersey.com, at the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., on Wednesday. “We’re excited to get him back in camp, and hopefully, after a trip to Syracuse, he’ll be able to prove to us and everybody in baseball that he can make an impact in the big leagues.”

Tebow’s been counted out plenty of times, mostly by a media that seems obsessed with the unwavering faith of a guy who never puts a foot wrong nor has a bad word to say about anybody. IMHO, he’d still be a second- or third-string QB in the NFL if the media circus that follows him around hadn’t caused more trouble than his talents were worth.

But, Tebow has persevered, continuing to find a way to compete while branching out into other areas (including starting a program that sponsors proms for special-needs kids).

As his official website says, “True success is not measured in physical possessions, but in the amount of lives you change.”

Amen.

Image: Courtesy CBS

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

‘Last Man Standing’ Is Back … And Perhaps a Little Better

I have to admit, I’ve never been a die-hard fan of Last Man Standing. I didn’t sign the petition to keep in on air when ABC cancelled it, and it wasn’t a show where I eagerly awaited a new episode every week. But I did catch up on it every now and then.

Mostly, I think I’d just grown cold on the multicamera, laugh-track heavy format where storylines are wrapped up neatly in 22 minutes. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the occasional cheesiness of the show.

Still, though, Fox picking up the show to air new episodes an entire season after ABC cancelled it … well, it felt like kind of a cool victory for family-oriented TV and the representation of conservative values. So I had to give the new season a shot.

Last Man Standing ran for six seasons on ABC …

Since its start on ABC in 2011, the comedy (official site here) been about a conservative outdoorsy guy named Mike Baxter (played by Tim Allen) who has three daughters and runs marketing for a store called Outdoor Man. The storylines are mostly men vs. women, conservatives vs. liberals, or other light family conflicts.

The show is not so very different from the Tim Allen sitcom of the ’90s, ABC’s Home Improvement, where he played a haphazard handyman dad of three boys. And Last Man Standing has even made the occasional joke comparing the two shows (my favorite being when they insinuated that Home Improvement had better writers, which I think is true, but it’s extra funny when you realize that the Last Man Standing writers were actually digging on themselves when they wrote the joke…).

Unlike most other shows on TV these days, Last Man Standing tends to show things like family values and morality in a positive light.

How the new season started …

The most obvious differences of this new season on Fox are some new actors in old roles. Middle daughter Mandy is played by a new chick who is, uh, not as good at playing a ditz? I’m not a fan of New Mandy … Grandson Boyd had been replaced too, but the new Boyd is pretty comparable to the old one, in my opinion.

Beyond that, it’s mostly the same blend of light family conflicts, occasional cheese, and good values. But so far there’ve been a couple noteworthy high points that make me wonder if they’re upping their game just a bit.

Episode 2 of this season is about Mike grieving (and really, about him not grieving) his deceased father. A comedy show episode about death can be really hard to pull off well, and they did it here. I actually almost cried. Granted, I’m full of pregnancy hormones right now, but still, I’ve never even come close to crying at this show before.

The other noteworthy high point is a subtle shout-out to Natural Family Planning in Episode 3, where middle daughter Mandy and mom Vanessa talk about Mandy’s hesitance to get pregnant. They surprisingly don’t mention contraception at all, and instead Mandy vaguely mentions abstaining from sex during times of fertility! I almost fell off the couch, I was so shocked. Conservative values and all, I never expected to hear NFP mentioned (let alone put in a positive, this-actually-works-to-prevent-pregnancy light!) on this show.

Overall …

The show is still a little cheesy here and there. And I find the new Mandy’s acting pretty cringe-worthy some of the time. But so far, this new season has me feeling happy that the show is back on the air.

Last Man Standing airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox; full episodes online and on Hulu.

Image: Courtesy Fox

Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic mom, blogger and screenwriter.

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BASED ON: Father Vince Surveys Netflix’s Marvel Universe of ‘Daredevil,’ ‘Jessica Jones,’ ‘Luke Cage’ and ‘Iron Fist’

The Defenders (Netflix)

The latest in a series from Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a USC film-school grad and producer-at-large at Family Theater Productions … and a serious comic nerd.

Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, based on Marvel comic books of the same titles. (ADVISORY WARNING: TV-MA). I don’t consider The Punisher‘s lack of superpowers and, thus, his machine-gunning villains to death, worthy of superhero status. So, I agree with Walt Flanagan from AMC’s Comic Book Men on that point.

A Comics Nerd Is Born

I’ve followed comics since the beginning of grade school. The medium fostered a lifelong love for reading and, given the visual nature of comics, I am certain it played a factor in my current work in the film industry.

Comics and graphic novels only recently gained mainstream acceptance as a “serious” art form. Comic-book conventions were once just about the only place a parent (my dad) could look cooler than the nerdy child (myself) that dragged them there. Now, Comic-Cons mark the domain where glamorous stars like Wonder Woman Gal Gadot hang out.

As the medium matured, so did the storytelling. IMHO, Marvel’s Netflix shows comprise the most “grown-up” of the superhero stories. But, how well the streaming giant adapted the four stories — all set and filmed in New York City — varies across the board.

Daredevil: Catholic and Complicated

Daredevil, currently in its third season, stands as the singular best adaptation. I believe it’s no surprise that the show most Catholic — both visually and thematically — earns the top spot. Catholicism recognizes a world very much consumed in darkness, yet still points to the glimmers of hope and light.

Daredevil then inhabits this neo-noir look well in the TV series, surpassed only by the character’s red costume piercing the utterly dark monochromatic world of Mark Waid’s Eisner-Award winning comic book series from 2012. The title character, played by British Catholic Charlie Cox, absorbs a good amount of abuse in his fighting of crime, both in the courtroom as lawyer Matt Murdock — blinded in an accident but with heightened other senses, fearsome ninja skills and miraculous healing powers — and on the streets as the vigilante Daredevil.

Perhaps, the most intelligent thing going over the three seasons is the depiction of evil. Even the best superhero adaptations can’t seem to resist moving from supervillain to supervillain per season or per film. Daredevil sticks with Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) as arch nemesis for the entire series, thus far.

Evil is never forever defeated this side of life. It suppresses itself for a time and looks for ways to seep back in at an unexpected moment. In the current season, Kingpin, undaunted by his stint in prison, decides to cast his corruption net high and wide, involving the overweening FBI as the mechanism to keep local authorities in check, the same local authorities that led to his original incarceration.

Jessica Jones: Ex-Hero and Hot Mess

I found Jessica Jones (first season in 2015; second in 2018) to be the surprising runner-up to Daredevil. Her series truth tells in the “via negativa.” She’s vulgar, promiscuous and addiction-prone. Whereas Daredevil embraces his vocation and indeed his crosses, Jones (Krysten Ritter) tends to run far away from them.

Jessica possesses superpowers, but has long since hung up her cape. So, she fights crime as a hard-nosed private detective, but only does so with half the power God gave her. It’s this superhero “atheism” that leads only to measured professional success and contributes to her many depravities. It’s a road that quite frankly, I could only travel for one season, but her story nevertheless tells the truth of a vocation shirked.

Luke Cage and Iron Fist: Too Much of Good Things

While enjoying Luke Cage, I felt the comic equips him with too great a power: invulnerability to bullets. When that’s what consistently flies in his neighborhood, obstacles are not as tension-filled enough to sustain a narrative.

He’s also too good and earnest a character (with the exception of a weakness for superheroines), so his 180-degree turn to potential villainy at season two’s end seems unrealistic.

Likewise, for Iron Fist‘s Danny Rand (Finn Jones), it’s hard to relate to a billionaire better trained in the martial arts than Bruce Lee and further gauntleted with the supernatural Iron Fist.

The two canceled shows (both after two seasons) should have explored the Marvel canon more deeply. A season of the comic Heroes for Hire with Cage and Rand might have turned them into TV’s latest buddy-cop duo. The episode where Rand appears in Luke Cage’s second season features the best chemistry in either show.

Heroism Loves Company

Indeed, Marvel’s Netflix universe works better with crossovers, and best when all four characters jell together, as seen in The Defenders limited series. As a Church supported by its saints and angels, superheroes remind us we all need a little help from our friends.

UPDATE: Sadly, on Nov. 12, reports came out that Stan Lee, the man behind Marvel, had passed away at 95. From his columns in comic books to his cameo appearances, Lee has been a beloved presence in the Marvel Universe. RIP, Stan Lee … and, as he always closed his columns, Excelsior! More here.

Image: Courtesy Netflix

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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