Not only is the film a new take on the classic “boy-girl meet in pre-existence and then meet again on earth narrative”, it’s an Italian (with English subtitles) LDS-themed comedy. Plus the press clippings (and people I know who have seen the film) say that Marco has a real gift for physical comedy. An Italian Mormon Modern-day Charlie Chaplin? That’s worth checking out.
Back in February, I linked to Randy Astle’s excellent essay on LDS film and criticism. Now KevinB has taken up the subject at AMV’s sister blog LDS Cinema Online. Part 1, which provides an overview of film criticism and reviewing, is interesting, but part 2 is where things really take off as Kevin brings things in to the sphere of LDS arts and culture. It will come as no surprise that he comes to the same conclusion as Randy, one that’s also been discussed several times over the years here at AMV and elsewhere — that LDS art, and LDS film in particular, needs a stronger culture of criticism. What’s interesting about Kevin’s approach is that he frames it in a gospel context: that of repentance. And illustrates it with, what seems to be an intractable problem — or not so much a problem as a byproduct of certain aspects of LDS culture — that is, the often lack of quality teaching in LDS gospel doctrine classes.
There’s a lot to like in his analysis so head on over and check it out. I especially look forward to part 3, where Kevin is going to talk specifically about film reviews and what’s fair criticism and what isn’t.
In the early days of AMV, I wrote briefly about the limitations of urban(e) critics who were trying to review Napoleon Dynamite and failing to get their minds around what Jared and Jerusha Hess were doing. I never reported back on that, but after watching the film several years later, I discovered that, yes, I was right to point out those limitations. And yet I didn’t seem to learn from that vindication and develop faith in my co-religionists because when Gentlemen Broncos ( Amazon ) was absolutely savaged by the critics I believed them.
Then earlier this year I ran across (and mentioned in a links roundup post) this brief Richard Brody review of the film for The New Yorker. Here was an urban(e) critic who made me rethink my earlier impressions — enough so that last week my wife and I watched Gentlemen Broncos. Brody writes, “…. it’s a work of visionary inspiration that, like many outrageous Hollywood comedies of the classic era (such as those of Frank Tashlin), tackles remarkably serious matters.”
It turns out that he’s right. What I’m less sure about is where he tries to give a Mormon gloss on the film: “In his jejune yet highly moral inspiration, Benjamin is the prophet of a pop-infused Gospel, an updated Book of Mormon, that speaks to a new generation of young people whose coarsened sensibility is paradoxically attuned to Biblical explicitness and ferocity.” Continue reading “Weekend (Re)Visitor: Gentlemen Broncos”
I’m pleased to announce that LDS Cinema Online has joined the AMV family. This new blog features reviews and criticism from Kevin B (also known as the Baron of Deseret, whose reviews previously were published at The Waters of Mormon) and Adam Figueira of Towards an LDS Cinema. By combining forces, they will, I’m sure, provide the best LDS-oriented film criticism around. Please welcome them by clicking on over and saying hello and subscribing to their RSS feed. For those who are so inclined, you can also follow them on twitter: @ldscinema.
If you are interested in contributing to the blog, e-mail ldscinema AT motleyvision DOT org. This does not mean that AMV proper is abandoning cinema, but we’ll focus on posting reviews and film-centric criticism over there.
I have a ton of updates for ya’ll so let’s get right to it:
AML Awards + Annual Meeting: Here’s a link to the AML Awards for 2009, including the award citations; Tyler has write ups of several sessions at chasing the long white cloud. I’ll reserve my take on this year’s awards for the comments section.
LDS Publisher’s Book of Mormon YA fiction contest: The results are in! Congrats to David and all the other winners. Here are the entries by AVVers and friends of AMV. Speak up in the comments if I missed you (and my apologies if I did):
Wm may be a Whitney Awards voter: So Rob twisted my arm (amazing how forceful he can be in spite of the shards of glass injected in to his heart [kidding, Rob. I hope the treatment works.]), and I’m in a LDS-Fiction-y mood so I’m going to try and hit two or more categories as a Whitney Awards voter. Historical Fiction is my best bet, and I may be able to do Speculative Fiction as well. Sadly, General Fiction will likely not happen because of a lack of review copies and the fact I need to do put my time over the next 29 days in to categories where I’m going to be likely to contribute (you have to read all 5 finalists in order to vote). If you are interested in what I have to say about the finalists as I read them, check out my GoodReads account and friend me if you haven’t already or subscribe to the RSS feed if you don’t have/don’t want an account.
In a post last February I raised the question of what kind of literature exists about the black Mormon experience. I got some great answers and decided to get my hands on some of it. Life conspired against me and I haven’t done as much as I’d hoped but I am now the proud owner of the Standing on the Promises series (I got them all in hardback for less than $20!) and I gathered a group of friends to watch the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. I haven’t finished reading the books yet and I wanted to write a formal review of the film, but I’m not a film critic so I didn’t. But I do want to plug the movie and share some of my thoughts regarding it.
The latest (v. 42, no. 4) issue of Dialogue features another important Mormon film article by Randy Astle* titled “What Is Mormon Cinema? Defining the Genre.” Astle pulls together work by Mormon (Preston Hunter) and non-Mormon film critics (Hamid Naficy, Rick Altman) in an attempt to position Mormon film as somewhere (Astle says “positioned in the interstices”) between genre and ethnic cinema.
The article is available via a subscription to Dialogue, but Randy has generously allowed me to excerpt a few passages here at AMV. To start out with I want to present his basic summary of the second point of his two-part purpose for the article (the first is to offer up the case for “approaching Mormon film from a taxonomical perspective” — I’m going to assume that most of AMV’s readers already believe in the merits of such an approach, or at least allow that such an approach can be a useful exercise in literary criticism). Continue reading “Randy Astle on “What is Mormon Cinema?””
I mentioned briefly the opportunity to see the Utah premiere of White on Rice last weekend. Well, the bad news is that I know nothing so far of future cities the film may open in and whether or not it will make it to Minneapolis, New York or Wichita Falls. (I’m leaning towards a bit of brutal pessimism towards the poor folks of Wichita Falls, but I’ll keep gunning for you!). The good news is, it’s been held over for another week in Salt Lake and Provo. The best news is that we here at Motley Vision have the opportunity to give away four pairs of free tickets for this weekend’s shows!
To enter the drawing for the free tickets, you may do one of three things: Give a shout out to the movie on Twitter, as your Facebook status, or as a group email to your friends. Then either send a cc of the email or a link to your Twitter/Facebook status to firstname.lastname@example.org. The drawing will be held at 5:00pm Mountain Time on Thursday, Oct. 1. Winners will receive a Fandango confirmation number to their show of choice. So the contest is done entirely by email and you have no tickets to pick up anywhere. Let the games begin!
Now, onto a little fuller explanation of the film.
Apologies for breaking into your Saturday with an impertinent spur of the moment AMV post, but I just saw the Mormon movie I’ve been waiting to see and there is a limited chance this weekend for those of you in Utah to get to attend a screening and meet the director and actors, so I thought I’d best get the word out.
Perhaps I’d better qualify my use of the phrase “Mormon Movie.” (Re-hashing the eternal question, of course) Director/Co-Writer Dave Boyle is a BYU grad and served a Japanese-speaking mission. His serendipitous friendship with Hiroshi Watanabe turned into a witty comedy idea and thus was born White on Rice. It’s only about as “Mormon” as Napoleon Dynamite, but it’s unique, refreshing, international, and thoroughly satisfying. I may just prefer it to Jared Hess’s work – it’s every bit as quirky and postmodern (without all the depressing postmodern existentialism that taints the almost-brilliant films like 500 Days of Summer that the American independent market produces) without being as over-the-top. It’s a comedy you still feel respectable after watching. And it reminds us that the world’s got a lot more stories to tell, even if we do have to film them on location in Salt Lake City.
I don’t want to predispose you too much one way or the other – just go to it with my word that it’s funny and unique and report back with your reflections. I’d love to hear some other perspectives.
The film opened a few weeks ago in California and is still showing in Orange County, San Francisco and San Jose, and it’s opening in Salt Lake and Provo this weekend and will be in the theaters for at least a week, more if it does well. There are dates scheduled in Denver and Honolulu, with more cities to be announced as the self-distributing film rolls on. See a complete list of theaters here.
Of special interest are the showings which will be attended by Boyle, Watanabe and child co-star Justin Kwong, with a question and answer period to follow. These will be today, September 26, at 11:55 am and 2:10 pm at the Provo Town Center Cinemark and then at 7:15 and 9:30 pm in Salt Lake at the Century 16. The movies will be showing at these two theaters throughout the week, but these specific screenings will also have the Q&A sessions.
This fall will see a flurry of minor but important developments in the evolution of Mormon cinema. I don’t know how things look on the ground in Utah (there were a few movies this year whose release dates came and went and didn’t blip my radar at all), but as far as I can tell we’re in a quiet period for the field so I’m pleased to see this much activity.
Here are the headlines: Randy Astle has started a networking site for filmmakers; Christian Vuissa’s new film is coming out this fall; the indie film “White on Rice,” by Mormon David Boyle, is gaining some buzz; and the Audience Alliance’s first film “Broken Hill” will test Kieth Merrill’s hope for a family-friendly alternative to Hollywood.