Friday, January 31, 2014

Building a Better Mouse Trap - Part 2

When talking about the media, Laura Ingraham and other commentators seem focused on nudity, sexuality, bad language, and violence.They see this as the main problem. Unfortunately, they are only highlighting the symptoms of a greater disease. And, as we know, treating the symptoms will not cure the disease. There’s an underlying issue that they are missing.

What’s driving today’s media culture is the relationship between corporations, big business, media companies, producers, directors and writers who have a hidden agenda. They have created a business model where everyone profits whether you’re conservative or liberal. Media and entertainment has one primary message that is essential in making this business model function. The viewer must believe he or she is more important than anything else. “You” are the center of your own universe, and you deserve to have anything you want. This is a powerful message and, most often, is deliberately hidden within the media and entertainment we view.

What’s different today is we have a force that is capable of defining and creating culture unlike anything we have ever seen in human history. And it has tapped into the human condition as an energy source. It has reinforced three principles within our society.

First, media is teaching us that there is no right or wrong. Everything is relevant to the person and the situation; therefore, the concept of sin no longer exists. In the past, people may not have gone to church nor done the right thing, but they knew they were sinning. The things they were doing were against God’s law. They had a conscience. Today, we are developing a society without a conscience. This allows us to do hideous things and not give it a thought or lose a moment of sleep over it. We are being conditioned to believe that we must define our own right or wrong.

The second thing is today’s media has created a sense of entitlement. Whatever we see or want we should have it regardless of the consequences. It is our birthright to have it. This entitlement concept goes well beyond the government providing for us. We don’t care if it’s our employer, credit card, bank account, our parents, or our society in general. We are entitled. It’s somebody else’s responsibly. The media has been very successful in weaving this entitlement mentality through the distortion of the so-called American dream. We have become a nation that loves material things because that’s what brings happiness. Our value is determined by the pursuit of the American dream through possessions and products that define our lifestyle.

The third thing is our mass media is creating a self-centered society. It’s all about “me”. When you can convince an individual that he or she is the most important thing in his or her life, that individual becomes a good consumer. You don’t think about anybody or anything else except what can make you happy. Forget about your family, society, or you fellowman. It’s all about getting yours. A self-centered attitude is the perfect recipe to fuel today’s mass media culture, and everybody is profiting. I’m not saying that consumerism is bad, but the model that we have built is out of control and has the ability to take our society down.

Laura Ingraham might blame Hollywood or the Left for what’s happening to America. But the truth is everybody is participating. While each party is blaming the other, the checks keep rolling in, nobody cares about the consequences. Big business and corporations are making money hand over fist because consumerism and materialism are fueling the American dream.

Final Thoughts

Western civilization, as we know it, probably will not collapse tomorrow. There are still plenty of people who believe in morals and values. Christianity continues to have a strong influence in our society; however, there’s no question that we are facing enormous obstacles. It remains to be seen if future generations will continue to follow Christ or some other type of belief system. As the bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. The “cheese” is the same. We just have more of it these days. What is different though is we have built a better mouse trap thanks to the expansion of mass media and the emergence of today’s media culture

Building a Better Mouse Trap - Part 1

Are things as bad as they seem? Are we living in the worst of times? According to radio host and political commentator, Laura Ingraham, America is experiencing a total cultural and moral collapse. She highlights this in her new book, Of Thee I Zing. She believes the media is the source of America's decline. Of course, she’s not the only one who is pointing this out. Many social commentators believe morals and values are at an all-time low. Is this true?

Is there something different about today’s culture? Just like all complex issues, you’ll find no simple answer. How you address these issues will depend on your worldview. If you are a Christ follower, you have reasons for concern. On the other hand, if you identify yourself as a secular humanist, you probable believe we are living in the age of enlightenment.

Getting back to the question, what’s different today? Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new (NLT) and in Ecclesiastes 1:13, “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” NLT

The Bible makes it clear that we’ve seen it all before, and we’ll see it in the future. Human activity and the human condition have not changed over the years. Since the dawn of time, we’ve seen murder, jealousy, greed, corruption, sexual impurity, lust, etc.—the same things we see today.

Laura Ingraham and other commentators would have you believe that sin and bad behavior all started somewhere in the 1960s with the counter culture revolution. I’ve heard many argue that America in the 1950s was something like a utopian society. Most people went to church, believed in God, prayed, and always did the right thing. We believed in morals and values and expressed them in our daily lives. Does anybody really believe this? Perhaps, Ingraham’s concept of America is based on TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s and movies from the 1940s and 1950s that depicted America as a wholesome, family-friendly, and God-centered nation. I somehow doubt we were ever the society that Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best would have us to believe. It’s a nice myth.

Sin didn’t just pop up out of nowhere; it’s been with us a long, long time. But Laura is right about one thing in her new book. The media is playing a significant role in helping to advance the moral and cultural decline of mankind. What’s different today is sin in increasing and becoming more public and more acceptable. Laura points to the media as the source of the problem and blames Hollywood elitists for polluting American culture.

But it’s more than just the media. Media is no longer just media, and entertainment is no longer just entertainment. They have become something greater than their sum. That something is difficult to express in thought or words. The best way I can describe it is as a media culture or a force where media and culture have combined as one. This force is now capable of creating, shaping and defining a reality that we all accept as normal. In other words, what we see and heard in the media, we accept as truth and thus becomes important in our lives. The things that we don’t see become unimportant even though they could hold the greater value.

We no longer think about faith, Christianity, and belief as important and valuable because they are no longer reflected in any significant form in our media. The mass media acts as a giant amplifier helping to increase the effects of sin. It communicates the importance of wealth, power, sex, influence, materialism and consumerism as the things to desire and aspire to. Mass media therefore is the perfect vehicle or delivery system to highlight the human condition. That’s what’s fundamentally different today. Media is only a conduit. I believe in the power of media and that it can be used in a positive fashion to lead people to the truth. Unfortunately, in our society, it’s primarily being used in a destructive manner. 

Forecast: Super Bowl Weekend Could Get 'Awkward'

Counter programming is the name of the game over Super Bowl weekend this year. Both new releases—That Awkward Moment and Labor Day—are targeted at female audiences that may not be completely consumed by the insanely popular sporting event. Neither movie is poised to really break out, though, and it would be surprising if any title earns over $15 million this weekend.

Playing at 2,809 locations, That Awkward Moment could be in a tight race with Ride Along for first place. The R-rated romantic comedy is being sold mostly on the likeability of its three male leads, who have so far achieved varying levels of fame. Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan have seen their stars rise a bit in the last year thanks to their work in The Spectacular Now and Fruitvale Station; unfortunately, neither of those movies set the box office on fire, and it's unlikely that either actor is much of a draw yet.

Zac Efron, on the other hand, has a proven track record at the box office. So far, Efron has exclusively headlined three nationwide releases—17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud and The Lucky One. The worst among those was Charlie St. Cloud, which started with $12.4 million on its way to $31.2 million. That Awkward Moment is Efron's first major R-rated movie, though that shouldn't be too much of a deterrent; fans of his from the High School Musical era should be old enough now to buy an R-rated ticket.

Last Summer, FilmDistrict acquired domestic distribution rights to the movie for $1.5 million (at the time, it was called Are We Officially Dating?). Later in 2013, FilmDistrict merged with Focus Features, and That Awkward Moment marks the first release from the new Focus. The studio executed a targeted campaign geared toward younger women; while that's kept costs low, it also means the movie probably won't open too high. Still, it should earn at least $10 million this weekend, which is a fine start for a modest romantic comedy.

Labor Day
, adapted from Joyce Maynard's novel of the same name, opens at 2,584 theaters this weekend. Marketing is primarily focused on the movie's director (Jason Reitman) and two leads (Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin). Unfortunately, the movie is off-brand for Reitman—his previous outings all include a healthy dose of comedy—and Brolin hasn't really opened a movie yet. Winslet, on the other hand, has had modest success with similar fare, though a pairing with Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't enough to get 2008's Revolutionary Road past $23 million total.

Labor Day
's marketing has been geared toward older, more discerning moviegoers. Unfortunately, the movie was shut out of Oscar consideration, and is getting poor reviews (as of Thursday afternoon, it was hovering around 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Paramount is currently expecting between $6 and $8 million this weekend, which seems like a safe bet.

Forecast (Jan. 31-Feb. 2)
1. That Awkward Moment - $12.1 million
2. Ride Along - $12 million (-44%)
3. The Nut Job - $7.9 million (-35%)
4. Frozen - $7.7 million (-15%)
5. Lone Survivor - $7.3 million (-43%)
6. Labor Day - $7.2 million

Bar for Success

That Awkward Moment and Labor Day are modest movies—both in budget and in marketing costs. As a result, both are in good shape if they get past $10 million this weekend.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Golden Raspberry Awards Crown 'Grown Ups 2' With Eight Razzie Nominations

"Grown Ups 2" is making the most noise at this year's Golden Raspberry Awards.
The silly comedy sequel about four childhood friends starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade led the Razzie lineup Tuesday with eight nominations, including worst picture, sequel, ensemble, screenplay, lead actor for Sandler, supporting actor for Taylor Lautner, supporting actress for Salma Hayek and director for Dennis Dugan.
Sandler is no a stranger to the Razzies, which launched in 1980 as a spoof of Hollywood's awards season. He won the worst actor trophy last year for the man-child comedy "That's My Boy," and his 2011 cross-dressing comedy "Jack and Jill" made Razzie history the year before with a record 10 awards, with Sandler winning both the worst actor and actress prizes.
This year's other worst-picture nominees are the Wild West romp "The Lone Ranger" starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, Tyler Perry's holiday comedy "A Madea Christmas," sci-fi coming-of-age story "After Earth" starring Will and Jaden Smith, and comedy anthology "Movie 43" featuring the likes of Kate Winslet, Richard Gere, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Harris Poll: Americans Still Prefer Buying, Renting Discs

Survey respondents would rather consume home entertainment than frequent a movie theater — a trend that rises with age

Digital distribution of movies may be on the tip of the tongue of most studio executives, but Americans would rather buy or rent a title on DVD or Blu-ray Disc, according to a new Harris Poll.
In an online survey of 2,311 adults conducted Dec. 11-17, 2013, Harris found that 47% of respondents bought discs, while 37% rented them. By comparison, 32% of respondents opted to watch movies offered on demand through their multichannel video program distributor (i.e. Starz, Encore), while 31% opted for subscription streaming (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus), and 28% watched a flick recorded on the DVR.
Most respondents (60%) still prefer watching movies on live television.
The Harris Poll also found that while roughly two-thirds (68%) of U.S. adults went to the movies at least once in 2013, just about the same percent (66%) say they're going to the movies less often now than a few years ago.
When asked whether they prefer watching movies at home or in a theater, the majority say they prefer watching at home (57% total), while only two in 10 (21%) prefer watching in a theater. Indeed, 83% of “echo boomers” (born between 1977 and 1995) would rather watch movies in the theater compared with 73% of Gen Xers (1965-76); 59% of “baby boomers” (1949-64), and 44% of “matures” (before 1948).