White On Rice – a full review and ticket giveaway

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 tigerindustryfilms@gmail.com. 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.

Continue reading “White On Rice – a full review and ticket giveaway”

The Most Satisfyingly Quirky Mormon Movie You’ll See This Year

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.


Four pieces of Mormon cinema news

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.

Full details after the jump. Continue reading “Four pieces of Mormon cinema news”

Half Faked

Jolie Hales’s Latter-Day Fake and the elusiveness of Mormonism.

It is with a certain degree of reticence that one examines a student short film with the intention of extracting profundity from its cluster of amateurish sights and sounds. This is not to say that student films cannot strive for and achieve a professional feel, but rather that they are, by definition, primarily a learning experience. Nevertheless, regardless of whether or not one is reaching for global box-office dollars or simply trying to make the grade, all films — no matter their length, scope, budget, or aesthetics — share one unassailable goal: To be seen. Miss Hales’s film has begun to realize that very simple ambition, as evidenced by being pronounced the winner of a recent silver student Emmy for comedy at the College Television Awards. In addition to comedy, her film has also received accolades recognizing its family-friendliness and even redemptive plotline. And since there is talk that Miss Hales will be adapting this project for a feature, it seems relevant to review the ideological foundations in this, the model-home phase. Continue reading “Half Faked”

My sister Katherine’s review of “The Errand of Angels”

Christian Vuissa’s film”The Errand of Angels” opens in theaters in Utah and Idaho today. My sister Katherine saw the film when it was screened at the LDS Film Festival (which Vuissa founded) back in January and posted a review for her personal blog. She has kindly agreed to let me republish it here at AMV. Note that the editing and other post-production on the film may have changed for the official release. ~Wm

A wide-eyed sister missionary from Boise arrives in Austria to begin her 18-month-long mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite having to make a few cultural adjustments, Sister Taylor meets every challenge with optimism. Her enthusiasm to share the Gospel makes her indomitable, until she finds herself with an abrasive companion whom she doesn’t understand and doesn’t particularly like. This challenge, along with the ordinary vicissitudes of missionary life begin to wear on her, and thus in the process of sharing the Gospel, Sister Taylor finds herself gaining a better understanding of its key precepts: faith, repentance, forgiveness, and charity.

The missionary film is a well-known sub-genre of Mormon film. In fact, some of the most notable and successful films, such as God’s Army, The Best Two Years, and The Other Side of Heaven have fallen within this genre. Even in Mormon films that haven’t been explicitly about missionary work, the missionary element usually makes an appearance.

If the missionary story has been told, why make another missionary movie? In the Q&A following the 5:00 showing of The Errand of Angels Friday night, the director/writer, Christian Vuissa, said that while many films have been made about missionaries, none has told the sister missionary story. The source of Vuissa’s material came originally from a woman named Heidi Johnson who simply wanted to tell the story of her mission. Having no previous experience in script-writing, she decided to make a go at it anyway. The film in its present form is the result of much re-writing by Vuissa, but still retains many of the elements of Johnson’s story. Continue reading “My sister Katherine’s review of “The Errand of Angels””

Artificial Reality

A comparison of the imagery in Russell Holt’s Lamb of God (1993) and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004).

“I do not look forward to the feelings that will grip my heart when The Passion suspends me in time and space and brings me to the feet of the suffering Christ. But it is a feeling I want to experience. We speak and preach so casually about the sacrifice of Christ, the “price he paid for us,” the blood he shed and the agony he suffered. Such phrases have become so familiar to us it is more prosaic than real.”

So concluded LDS filmmaker Kieth Merrill in an article published in Meridian Magazine prior to the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, a controversial visual narrative of the final twelve hours of the life of Christ. That Merrill – the director of church-sponsored favorites such as Legacy and The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd – should anticipate the viewing of such a charged film is not so unusual when considered in a vacuum. However, when one considers that Latter-day Saints have their own film chronicling the Easter story, one begins to wonder what the “feeling” is to which Merrill is referring.

But the focus of this piece is not simply to point out that Mel Gibson’s film is a more graphic representation of the Easter story than Holt’s. Not only does that go without saying, but it would be equally foolish to stand these two films side by side in light of their vast differences on grounds ranging from production budgets to the purpose behind their production. Lamb of God is a church-sponsored film with a proselyting simplicity packed into its lean twenty-seven minute running time while Passion of the Christ is commercial entertainment designed for consumption by the paying masses. Certainly, Gibson’s staunch Catholicism indicates a goal that was loftier than mere dollars and cents, but it seems erroneous to assume that he was ignorant of the financial risk/reward scenarios presented by his film. Conversely, Lamb of God never had a commercial theatrical run and video and DVD sales are, like most church-produced media, zero sum at best. Continue reading “Artificial Reality”

Overanxiously Engaged, or “What’s Mormonism Got To Do With It?”

Tyler Ford’s Anxiously Engaged: A Piccadilly Romance and an examination of the intrusion of Mormonism in Mormon Cinema.

“The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.” Carl Gustav Jung

Upon initial viewing, Tyler Ford’s Anxiously Engaged: A Piccadilly Romance (2005) is a difficult film to classify in the academic sense as it suffers from a number of idealogical flaws. The purpose of this piece, therefore, is to investigate the symptoms in an attempt to isolate and identify the central malady.

The story focuses on a young Mormon named Carson Welles (Jaelan Petrie), a ranch-raised Montanan working at an international beef company in the heart of far away London. The film begins when Carson’s engagement to Lucy Armstrong (Katie Foster-Barnes) is derailed when her grandfather (James Green) refuses to give his blessing unless Carson first finds a husband for Lucy’s older sister, Jema (Sophie Shaw). Carson’s attempts to set Jema up with a suitable suitor meet with continual disappointment until he introduces her to his supervisor, Nigel Backman (Tom Butcher). While sympathetic at first, Nigel’s motives for dating Jema seem to be rooted in his overarching scheme to embezzle the company, which happens to be owned by Lucy and Jema’s grandfather (it’s never made clear what the embezzlement scheme has to do with Jema). Eventually, Nigel frames Carson for the crime, which leads to a showdown in which Carson proves his innocence and finally marries the right girl.

The title is itself an unwitting invocation of what turns out to be perhaps the film’s primary ailment. The double entendre is, of course, descriptive of the predicament in which Carson finds himself. Engaged but unable to marry, he is certainly anxious. But the Mormon audience will unmistakably recognize the term from LDS canon.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness…” Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

This throws the story into something of a new light as Carson is understood to be anxiously engaged in the good — indeed righteous — cause of finding Jema a husband. Clearly, scratching at this conceit unearths the smell of Mormonism. To a culture that idealizes marriage as much as Mormonism, matchmaking may very well strike one as a good turn. If there’s joy in bringing converts into the waters of baptism, how much greater must the joy be in bringing them into the bonds of matrimony? For this reason, more than any other, Carson begins to question his testimony. “Sometimes” he confides to his secretary, Alice (Gwyneth Powell),” I feel like everything I’ve been taught is a lie.” Yet at this point in the film, Carson’s only real conflict is brought on by his inability to introduce Jema to a decent marriage prospect, let alone marry her off. It’s curious that something as alien to Mormon doctrine (and practice) as matchmaking, in effect, should cause such a grievous crisis of faith. This is but one instance in which a Mormon cultural ideal (if it can indeed be called that) takes precedence over Mormon doctrine within the film’s subtext. Continue reading “Overanxiously Engaged, or “What’s Mormonism Got To Do With It?””