Two things about The Nativity Story, which opens this Friday.
First, at the junket two weeks ago, producer Marty Bowen said at one roundtable interview, “Frankly, what I hope is controversial about this film is the lack of controversy. I really do. I think this is a movie for families, and I hope that people embrace it for that.”
But controversy can help a movie’s box-office chances — just look at The Passion of the Christ — so it may or may not be a good thing, from a marketing standpoint, that a genuine controversy, however isolated, has emerged in connection with this film.
The Associated Press reports:
CHICAGO – A public Christmas festival is no place for the Christmas story, the city says. Officials have asked organizers of a downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to reconsider using a movie studio as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film “The Nativity Story” might offend non-Christians.
New Line Cinema, which said it was dropped, had planned to play a loop of the new film on televisions at the event. The decision had both the studio and a prominent Christian group shaking their heads. . . .
An executive vice president with New Line Cinema, Christina Kounelias, said the studio’s plan to spend $12,000 in Chicago was part of an advertising campaign around the country. Kounelias said that as far as she knew, the Chicago festival was the only instance where the studio was turned down.
Kounelias said she finds it hard to believe that non-Christians who attended something called Christkindlmarket would be surprised or offended by the presence of posters, brochures and other advertisements of the movie.
“One would assume that if (people) were to go to Christkindlmarket, they’d know it is about Christmas,” she said.
Victor Morton at Rightwing Film Geek responds, and Joe Leydon at MovingPictureBlog writes: “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: I give you Bill O’Reilly’s next great crusade. (And for once, I must admit, I will share his scorn for the PCers involved.)”
Second, as a movie-music buff, I have been a wee bit frustrated by how it is often very difficult to get review copies of the original scores for films that are pitched to the religious market, yet the publicists will gladly pass out review copies of so-called “inspired by” albums — collections of songs, many of them by CCM musicians, that don’t actually appear in the film, but they may or may not have something to do with the film’s subject matter.
Thus it was that, at the Nativity Story junket, filled with happy memories of getting the CD of James Horner’s score for The New World at that film’s junket last year, I asked the New Line publicists if the goodie bag would include this film’s “soundtrack” — I should have been more specific — and they said, “Yes,” and I opened the bag, and I saw that what the bag actually contained was The Nativity Story: Sacred Songs, a CD that consists mostly of Christmas carols. And I already had a copy of this album!
Now, to be fair, this album’s cover does not contain the words “inspired by”, even though it is obviously meant to be that type of album. If anything, the process worked in reverse this time, and the movie was inspired by the Christmas carols themselves — it even begins with ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and ends with ‘Silent Night’, both of them sung in Latin — though presumably it was not inspired by the versions of those carols that appear here.
However, it turns out that one of the non-carols on this album had a somewhat direct influence on the film. Sr. Rose Pacatte’s article on the film in the current issue of the St. Anthony Messenger includes this interesting tidbit on screenwriter Mike Rich:
“I wanted to write during the Advent season so I could be immersed in its spirit,” Rich tells me over the phone. “Shortly after Thanksgiving in 2005, I made my way through my home office—there is barely a path to get from the door to my desk because it is surrounded with research and junk,” he says with a laugh—“with a sense of peace and purpose. This is not always the case, because scripts are difficult to write. But I began each day by playing Amy Grant’s song ‘Breath of Heaven,’ what she calls ‘Mary’s Song,’ about Mary contemplating the wondrous thing that had happened to her. I also surrounded myself with figurines from the crèche to visualize what I wanted to write.”
Reading this, I get flashbacks to Philip Glass‘s score for The Hours (2002; my interview), which recycled elements of a few of his earlier scores and albums, and which came out on CD with a liner note by author Michael Cunningham, who, IIRC, said that he had listened to Glass’s music while writing the original novel.
Because that’s the only music that counts, really.