Dr. Ted Baehr’s MOVIEGUIDE® Awards commemorated its 22nd year with another star-studded gala at the Universal City Hilton.
The Red Carpet was abuzz with actors, writers, directors, producers, singers, and other artists who gathered to celebrate inspirational works of faith and traditional values, and family-friendly fare in television and the movies. But the conversation among the presenters and artists often focused on keeping and maintaining a faithful and committed stance in Hollywood, creating and embodying substance, depth, and significance in their work, and the importance of reflecting and honoring these for future generations.
Actor Zane Stephens, who most recently starred in The Internship, has set his focus on writing “stories that I like to tell, ultimately. As an artist here in Hollywood I've been asked to do things I don't want to do and stories I don't want to tell. I don't think they're edifying, I don't think they benefit anyone in society. I think it's something you do because you can. So I'm writing my own stuff.”
The big coup of the awards night was Dr. Baehr’s invitation to the songwriters and singer of “Alone, Yet Not Alone”. This song was first nominated, then eliminated from Best Song consideration at the Academy Awards. Paraplegic author and advocate Joni Eareckson Tada, along with lyricist Dennis Spiegel, and composer Bruce Broughton discussed how the Academy’s action worked a more divine purpose.
"Well, I'm amazed that the song was even nominated,” Joni said. “And it tells me that many, many people in the Academy must have liked the song a great deal to have voted it above 75 other songs. That underscores that people are looking for inspiration. They are looking for words in a song that uplift; that elevate the human spirit, not degrade it. And there's so much of degrading of the human spirit, so much of defaming of the human heart. And this song is different. I think that shows a shift in people's preferences, and I'm very vocal about what this may mean for Hollywood in the future. We'll see.”
Bruce Broughton initially criticized the Academy’s decision, but is now grateful for the increased publicity and presence that has come to the song because of it. “People have been finding the song. We get letters about how inspirational the song is, how much the song means to them, which actually far outstrips the purpose of the song which was simply to advance the story in this film. So, as the song's popularity increases, as people keep finding it, the message spreads. We're very happy about that.”
Joni recognized the divine hand from the beginning of the partnership. “When I was asked to sing the song, I thought it was so unusual, because I'm not a professional singer. But I thought, isn't that just like the God of the Bible to hand pick the unskilled, ill-equipped, not trained, non-professional, to do a job so that everybody knows that it's God who has done it, and not man, or by our physical ability. I think that's really cool.”
“Alone, Yet Not Alone” wasn’t the only values-focused controversy of 2013. Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E’s reality series Duck Dynasty, came under fire and increased scrutiny for comments about the Christian faith and homosexuality that are not popularly held. Erin Bethea of FireProof and The Redemption of Henry Myers recognized the parallels in both of these cultural skirmishes.
“I think it's interesting. I truly believe God works all things together for the good. I think the controversy with ‘Alone, Yet Not Alone’ has really opened up an awareness of that film that might not have existed before. I hope that maybe it will encourage more people to see it who wouldn't have seen it before. Because, I think the heart of filmmakers that are making inspirational film is not to win awards in Hollywood anyway; it's to impact people, for people to see their films and for it to make a difference. So I think regardless of the Oscars controversy, more people will see the film, because of all the talk about it—which is a good thing. The same thing with Duck Dynasty, I think probably more people will end up tuning in, and see what's happening with those guys, and following them.”
This year’s MOVIEGUIDE® Awards saw a new host in Bill Engvall, known for his clean comedy in Blue Collar TV and his family-oriented The Bill Engvall Show, which ran for three seasons on the TBS network. Bill spoke about the struggle in Hollywood to produce works of quality, without the language and sexuality.
“When I did my sitcom on TBS it was a throwback sitcom,” Bill said, “and we caught a lot of flak for that, which I didn't understand. It was like, why can't we just do our show? Why do we have to have this or that? There were a couple of scenes that I had to have rewritten, because I didn’t want Jennifer [Lawrence] walking in wearing her bra. I don't need that.”
The battle of substance over salaciousness is all too common in Hollywood, and substance is more often-than-not the loser in the equation. “I'm not a prude,” Bill continues. “There's things I know that are going to go on. I would just like to see a little more effort put into these movies and shows. We don't have to shock every time. I'm not an idiot, I get it. Everybody has sex, I get it. I don't have to see it.”
Bill’s participation and support of the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards stems from his desire to impact the next generation of young people and artists.
“I would love to be a part of that movement. I'm not quite sure what I can do other than preaching my ground, standing on my soapbox saying, ‘Hey, we don't need that.’ The other problem you got is you have to write what people are going to watch. If they're not going to watch it... you know how it is—it's the money.”
If the MOVIEGUIDE® and the awards show have revealed anything, it’s that the money is moving in the direction of family and faith-based entertainment. The rise of social media has allowed people to become more vocal about what they agree or disagree with, and many are showing their stance with their pocketbooks. Box office profits for blow-em-up, sex and violence driven movies have been lackluster; whereas family-oriented and redemptive fare has led the weekend grosses. Lone Survivor spearheaded the best January box office in four years, and the Lego Movie has dominated the month of February, besting all competitors for the last four weeks.
Sterling Jones, one of Lone Survivor’s stars was very excited to be a part of the festivities.
“Any time that we can bring different walks together for the sake of art, I'm here. I'm here to support. I have some friends presenting tonight, and performing, and stuff like that. So, I'm excited to see a little bit of everything. This is my first time here. This is beautiful people everywhere, so I think I'm in the right place.”
But it’s not just the older adults who are focused on producing quality work that represents their vision and values; the young adults are equally as passionate and focused for their lives and work to reflect substance and eternal significance.
Actor Graham Patrick Martin played the son on The Bill Engvall Show, along with Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, who played the daughter . Both Graham and Jennifer first attended the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards at ages 15 and 16. “It was the first red carpet I ever walked. It was me and my TV sister—who was an actress named Jennifer Lawrence. So it was her first red carpet too!”
Now a young man, Graham understands more than ever the place the MOVIEGUIDE® and the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards holds in an industry that impacts youth, and not always in a good way. “Hollywood, and movies in general, they're just such a heavy influence on our youth—I'm part of that youth, and I think things are now taken for granted whereas back in the day—even 10 years ago I'll say is back in the day—the topics that were shown to our youth, people were definitely more aware of it. And now, I feel like it's anything goes. So to have an awards show that celebrates the good and the appropriate, I feel that's really important and really cool.”
Jacob Latimore, the 16-year-old breakout star of Black Nativity feels the focus on promoting family-oriented films is “definitely important, because a lot of youth grow up without family, you know what I mean? I think it's just so cool to put that message in movies to go out there and try to find that family, build those relationships that you can while people are still here. So I think that was a great message that we had in that film, and I think it touched a lot of people.”
Grace Unplugged star AJ Michalka delights in the positivity of the atmosphere, and the family-friendly focus. “I like being here with like-minded people who want to support the family film industry, I love being here for that.”
Beverly Hills Pawn star Cory Oliver sees honoring God and honoring oneself as essential to her influence with her 14-year-old daughter. “I think the best way to witness to her is to be an example, and to lead, and not just say. And so, picking projects that will either glorify God or honor myself or God are important. I think the MOVIEGUIDE®, they do honor those movies, and they let them stand out.”
Game show host Wink Martindale and his wife Sandy have attended all 22 of the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards. “We look forward to this, as much as we look forward to the Oscars every year,” Wink said. “Because to me, this is the Oscar of the business for what Ted does.”
Wink’s work could be considered the prototype for family-based programming, as game shows like Tic-Tac-Dough brought families together before there was a Nintendo Wii.
“I think game shows for the most part appeal to the general family audience. It goes back to the days of radio, and of course, when television came along the same was true. So I'm glad to be a part of that community.”
Sandy had this to add to the conversation about culture and values. “I think the people that aren't faith based, they're out there screaming what they want. And the people that have belief and feel that everybody has a right to their opinion, we just have a better way of expressing it. We're kind of getting the short shrift because we're not out there screaming like they are.”
Wink interjected, “I think [the key is] just being honest within your own values, making them known. I like to think that we try to live by the Bible and what the Bible teaches.”
Rodney Peete and Holly Robinson-Peete came to present an award, and celebrate the MOVIEGUIDE®’s positive influence on the entertainment industry. “We're really excited. It's great to encourage Hollywood to make movies like this. We got kids, it doesn't always have to be Bad Grandpa, which was funny, but let's have some movies with a message, what's wrong with that?”
As the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards continues to grow in prominence and influence, people of faith, values-loving families, and artists who delight in creating inspirational works of substance would probably say, absolutely nothing.
The MOVIEGUIDE® Awards airs March 1 on the REELZ Channel at 2:00 p.m. Eastern and 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Check your local guides for future air dates and times.