Friday, October 18, 2013

Cameron, Santorum talk films about faith

Not playing at a theater near you: A love story pairing up conservative Christians and Hollywood.

Evangelicals have long cast the movie industry as a factory of filth. The disdain is mutual: On the big screen, churchgoers are often portrayed as narrow-minded.

Amid that backdrop, some conservatives are releasing Christian films outside the Hollywood system.
Enter actor Kirk Cameron and former U.S. Senator – and GOP presidential candidate – Rick Santorum.

I talked with both this week about their separate but similar quests to spread the Gospel cinematically.

Cameron, 43, came to fame as a teen actor on the ABC sitcom “Growing Pains” (1985-92). Now he appears in Christian dramas and documentaries, most notably “Fireproof,” a 2008 hit movie in which he played a firefighter trying to save his marriage.

As part of a live spinoff of that movie, Cameron will be at Charlotte’s Northside Baptist Church, 333 Jeremiah Blvd., next Saturday (Oct. 26)  at 6 p.m. for “Love Worth Fighting For.”

This evening of advice, music, humor and prayer is geared to husbands and wives who want to spend a few hours “focusing on the most important relationship they have on the planet,” he said by phone. (Order tickets here.)

Santorum, meanwhile, stopped by the Observer to plug his debut film as the new CEO of Dallas-based EchoLight Studios. “The Christmas Candle,” set in Victorian England and based on a novel by evangelical writer Max Lucado, is a handsomely produced film about an Anglican pastor who recovers his lost faith and an angel-touched candle that brings a miracle every Christmas Eve. It’ll hit theaters Nov. 22. (See a trailer here).

Santorum and Cameron said they want to fill a hunger in the heartland for movies that affirm Christian values and beliefs.

“My industry is responsible for so many evils in the world,” Cameron said. “It feels like a privilege to be here (in Hollywood), making movies that are actually producing good.”

He bristled at critics who dismiss “Fireproof” and other Christian movies as earnest but didactic and amateurish: “Who made (them) king of deciding what’s a good movie?”

Santorum sees his new job as a sequel to a 2012 presidential campaign that stressed social issues – and maybe a prequel to 2016.

“It’s consistent with going out there and fighting the fight,” he said. “Having an impact on the popular culture is, to me, part of the overall effort to bring America back to its senses.”

-- Tim Funk

Monday, October 7, 2013

Popular author Anne Lamott coming to Charlotte

Celebrated author Anne Lamott, who has built a passionate following with her funny-sad novels and autobiographical musings on everything from writing to prayer, will be in Charlotte on Nov. 10 to speak at Christ Episcopal Church, 1412 Providence Road.

Tickets are $25 for the 2:30 p.m. lecture and audience Q&A, but that cost includes a copy of her new book, "Stitches: A Handbook of Meaning, Hope and Repair."

She'll sign books at 3:30 p.m.

Lamott's novels include "Hard Laughter," "Crooked Little Heart," and "Blue Shoe."

In recent years, the San Francisco-based writer with dreadlocks has also written about brokenness, joy and Christianity in "Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith" and "Help. Thanks. Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.".

My personal favorite among her books is the hilarious and incredibly helpful "Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life."

Interested in hearing Lamott? Register here. There's no deadline for registering, but the event could sell out before Nov. 10. There's online registration only. On the day of her talk, present your ticket and pick up a book, starting at 1:30 p.m. Lamott will speak in the church's All Saints' Hall.

-- Tim Funk

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hating the sins, but loving the TV sinnners

Spoiler alert: Stop reading if you haven't yet seen last week's "Breaking Bad" finale on TV. 
Count me among those who believe we’re living in a new Golden Age of Television. 
While Hollywood caters to the tastes of teenage boys by churning out a never-ending series of superhero sagas for the big screen, complex and compelling human dramas are playing out on AMC, HBO, Showtime, FX, Sundance, and – most recently – Netflix
Producers of the best of these non-network shows have created morally murky worlds that look a lot like ours, then populated them with sinners – with a capital S. 
A Mafia chieftain in "The Sopranos." A serial adulterer in “Mad Men.” And a high school chemistry professor-turned-drug kingpin in “Breaking Bad.” 
All “Difficult Men,” which is, in fact, the title of a new book about this mostly cable TV revolution. But also very human men. Watching at home, getting inside their tangled emotional lives, we may recoil at their sins, but still feel tempted to root for these sinners. 
Our own misdeeds never rise to their levels, perhaps, but who among us can’t see a little of ourselves in the fears, the rationalizations, and the delusions of Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Walter White? 
But, alas, these TV characters live in worlds, again like ours, where crime rarely pays for long, where cheaters usually get caught, and where those who live recklessly nearly always crash and burn. 
Enter the creators of these shows, who must eventually step in and play God. 
Take last week’s “Breaking Bad” finale on AMC, which rained down more wrath on bad guys than anything since the Old Testament. 
Yes, the avenging angel in the final show was Walt, the brilliant protagonist who evolved over five seasons from Mr. Chips to Scarface, in the now famous words of the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan.

 But Gilligan wasn’t about to spare Walt, whose hubris – a sin as old as Adam and Eve – had led inexorably to the murder of his lawman brother-in-law and the alienation of the wife and son he told himself were the reasons he amassed millions in drug money. 
Clever Walt figured a way for his son and baby daughter to get their tainted inheritance. Still, for them, “Dad” will always be a dirty word. 
“If there’s a larger lesson to ‘Breaking Bad,’ it’s that actions have consequences,” the Virginia-born Gilligan told the New York Times in 2011. “It seems to me that (religion) represents a human desire for wrongdoers to be punished. ... I feel some sort of need for biblical atonement, or justice, or something.” 
Walt’s story, then, qualifies as a cautionary tale: Here was an Everyman who took the wrong road and perished. 
But there’s hope for 2014! 
Don Draper, the ad man on “Mad Men,” another AMC hit, has one more season to find a right road. And it just might happen: He’s hit bottom, he’s done hiding his past, and he’s acknowledged his addictions and sins. 

Forgiveness, redemption, resurrection – those things can save wrecked lives and, just maybe, produce terrific television.
          -- Tim Funk