Fans “startled” by Flanders’ “newfound” respect!

Last Saturday, the National Post ran an editorial on The Simpsons Movie by “Dr.” Ted Baehr and his colleague Tom Snyder — and as with so much else that gets published under their names, there are several bits that make you go “Huh!?” The article begins:

An interesting thing happens during The Simpsons Movie, which recently opened number one at the box office in the United States and Canada. Ned Flanders, often mocked in the television series for his Christian beliefs and strict moral standards, plays just about the most important role in the story.

This newfound respect for Ned in The Simpsons Movie startled young fans at the press screening.

“Startled”? I’d like to see some evidence of that, but this editorial offers none whatsoever. And “newfound”? Where were these guys when Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote her famous essay ‘Ned Flanders, My Hero’ for back in 2000? And where were they when Christianity Today ran an excerpt from Mark Pinsky’s book The Gospel According to the Simpsons (my review) under the headline ‘Blessed Ned of Springfield’ back in 2001?

Baehr and Snyder go on to write:

Throughout the 20-year history of the series we have witnessed the testing of his faith and learned that Ned’s character is not infallible. His home was destroyed by a hurricane and he was later institutionalized after his reaction to a failed rebuilding attempt by his fellow citizens of Springfield. His business, The Leftorium (specializing in merchandise specifically designed for southpaws), has had little success and almost closed due to stiff competition from the Leftopolis and Left-Mart. Later his wife was killed in a freak accident at the Springfield Motor Speedway.

Yet, despite the Job-like tragedies, Ned’s devotion towards charity never let up and his faith in God has grown stronger. As leader of the Junior Campers (similar to the Boy Scouts), Ned organized a volunteer day at the Springfield retirement home, he spends one day a week feeding the homeless at Springfield’s soup kitchen and can often be seen at the Springfield hospital reading to sick children.

Um, all true, as far as I know — but I do find it interesting that this article makes no mention of ‘A Star Is Born-Again‘, the 2003 episode in which Ned has non-marital sex with a movie star — a character development that some people thought at the time might have been a reaction on the producers’ part to the fact that Ned had become so popular with conservative Christians.

I guess Baehr and Snyder have forgiven Ned for that lapse in moral judgment — or they have chosen to brush it under the carpet so long as Ned remains useful to their cause of exaggerating the Christian elements in movies that happen to be big hits.

Warner Brothers spies on more moviegoers

Two years ago, Warner Brothers forced paying customers at the Vancouver International Film Festival to endure the sort of intense security measures that are usually reserved for invitational preview screenings — frisking, scanning the audience with night-vision goggles while the movie plays, the works. The Georgia Straight had a brief report on this at the time.

Oh well, at least the studio could always argue that festival screenings are sort of like preview screenings. But now, reports The Consumerist, Warner Brothers has started hiring security guards to spy on audiences after the movies have gone into wide release. That’s just creepy. Obsessive. Weird. And especially ironic, considering the film that was playing as the security guards spied on their audiences last weekend was The Invasion — you know, the remake of that movie about the pod people.

(Hat tip to John Campea at The Movie Blog.)

Canadian box-office stats — August 19

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — CDN $30,470,000 — N.AM $278,646,000 — 10.9%
The Simpsons Movie — CDN $17,730,000 — N.AM $165,117,000 — 10.7%

Stardust — CDN $1,940,000 — N.AM $19,087,000 — 10.2%
Hairspray — CDN $10,100,000 — N.AM $100,577,000 — 10.0%
The Bourne Ultimatum — CDN $15,620,000 — N.AM $163,806,000 — 9.5%
The Last Legion — CDN $239,138 — N.AM $2,597,000 — 9.2%

Superbad — CDN $2,480,000 — N.AM $31,200,000 — 7.9%
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry — CDN $8,700,000 — N.AM $110,383,000 — 7.9%
Rush Hour 3 — CDN $6,060,000 — N.AM $88,154,000 — 6.9%
The Invasion — CDN $396,318 — N.AM $6,000,000 — 6.6%

A couple of discrepancies: The Last Legion was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #12 in North America as a whole), while Underdog was #8 on the North American chart.

Walk Hard — might it be too irreverent?

Anne Thompson of Variety says the trailer below for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story — a Judd Apatow-produced parody of recent biopics like Ray (2004) and Walk the Line (2005) — “sank like a stone” when it premiered at Comic-Con last month.

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As a parody of a particular kind of movie genre, I think this film may have its merits, based on what we see here. But many of these scenes are based directly on scenes from Walk the Line that revolved around the intensely personal pain that drove Johnny Cash for much if not all of his life… and when I remember how respectful, if not reverent, everyone was towards Cash on the junket for that film, which came out only two years after he died… Well, “blasphemy” might be a strong word for what this trailer does, but I imagine some of his fans might feel that way.

Let’s put it this way. It is one thing for This Is Spinal Tap (1984) to have gags about drummers choking to death on their vomit — a fate that has, sadly, befallen more than one rock star — or for The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) to parody nearly every aspect of the Beatles’ public persona once they put themselves on the world stage. (In that case, George Harrison actually gave the parody his imprimatur by playing a small part in the film.)

But Walk Hard tries to milk laughs from things that took place before Cash offered up his life for public consumption, such as the fact that his brother died when they were both still children, or the fact that Cash’s father resented him for being the son that lived. Heck, I’m even a little uncomfortable with the way the film tries to milk laughs from the collapse of Cash’s first marriage (though I do love the punchline that follows “I do believe in you…”).

Even though these aspects of Johnny Cash’s life were dramatized in a major, popular, Oscar-winning movie, they still feel somehow private, almost confessional. They were entrusted to us. And I don’t know if it’s possible to mock the movie version of those private things without mocking the private things themselves.

Juggling to the Beatles — unbelievable!

Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with movies, but this is too awesome.

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Kidman: Golden Compass isn’t “anti-Catholic”

From Entertainment Weekly‘s fall movies preview and the blurb therein on The Golden Compass:

”It follows the novel as closely as it can,” promises Daniel Craig, who grew an un-Bondlike beard to play Lord Asriel, Lyra’s explorer uncle, ”but there’s still a lot missing. That’s always the case when you adapt a book into a movie. You have to focus more on the storytelling.” Conspicuously absent, for instance, is any reference to Catholicism; instead, the malevolent organization that snatches children to surgically remove their souls is referred to in the movie only as the Magisterium. ”It has been watered down a little,” admits Nicole Kidman, who stars as the icily evil Mrs. Coulter. Not that she’s complaining. Quite the contrary. ”I was raised Catholic,” she says. ”The Catholic Church is part of my essence. I wouldn’t be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic.” She wouldn’t be able to do any possible sequels, either, but Kidman and Craig have both signed on for two.

Nothing particularly new here, though this is the first time I have come across Kidman referring to her own Catholicism; prior to this, I knew of Kidman’s Catholic roots mainly because the Aussie priest who officiated at her wedding to Keith Urban last year told reporters that Kidman had made a “spiritual homecoming”.

I wonder if Kidman read the original books before signing on to do the sequels, which, at least in novel form, make the anti-religious aspects more explicit. She couldn’t have read the screenplays for the sequels, since last I heard, they were still being written.