Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cinematographicus: September Yawn

Director Christopher Cain's ill-fated attempt at directing a pseudo-historical film about the Mountain Meadows massacre is consistently getting awful reviews. This post over at T&S gave some good excerpts from the various reviews. My favorite: the New York Post says,

“‘September Dawn’ succeeds completely at failure; the unified incompetence of its writing, directing and acting suggest a man who manages to be on fire and drowning at the same time, just as the bus runs him over.”

A three-in-one unholy trinity of failure.

But even funnier is Eric Snider's reaction to the fact that the film apparently includes a castration scene with some bizarre and disturbing things coming from the prop shop:

"There's one flashback sequence where they drag an adulterous man outside, cut off his testicles, and nail them to a wall. Cain briefly shows the ball-laden scrotum hanging from the knifepoint, and my only question is why, if he was going to show it, didn't he find a set of fake gonads that looked more realistic and less like a rubber novelty item? I mean, if it were me, and I wanted to include a pair of severed testicles in my movie -- and why wouldn't I, really? -- and this was the best the props department could find, I think that's where I would start to question just how integral this particular shot was to my overall vision. 'Hmm,' I would think. 'It's really, really vital that my film include the image of someone's ball sac stuck to a wall with a knife. But the only thing my people could produce is comically oversized and disturbingly hairless. What would Spielberg do in this situation?'

But that's just me. I am not the director here! The director here is Christopher Cain. You will remember him as also having directed such fine films as 'Gone Fishin',' 'The Next Karate Kid,' and 'Young Guns.'"

Read the entire review here. It's worth it.

Prophets of doom have been saying for a few months that September Dawn would bring terrible waves of persecution upon the church. The reaction of critics appears to confirm four things:
1) Anti-Mormon propaganda, whether in film or in print, is almost universally work of poor quality.
2) Smart people tend to recognize work of poor quality and give it the appropriate level of respect.
3) The mainstream media is generally smart enough to recognize that religious bigotry is unacceptable.
4) Perhaps there is less anti-Mormon feeling in America than the doomsayers seem to think there is.

It is interesting to note that many, though not all, of the media sources blasting September Dawn are on the liberal side. A few examples: the New York Times calls the film a "maudlin, grotesque western," and accuses it of "ap[ing] 'Schindler's List' in hopes of creating a Christian holocaust picture," the Washington Post calls it "soap opera posing as moral outrage," and the Baltimore Sun calls it "ham fisted," a "melodrama of the most lurid kind," noting that "there’s a big difference between historical fact and emotional screed." (Speculation: will this undermine attempts by the Romney campaign to dismiss his critics by accusing them of anti-Mormon bigotry?) The doomsayers' prophecy that the Church would have to hunker down to take the mainstream media's heat did not come to pass.

This whole situation reminds me of two scenes from Children's stories: The ending of C.S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy, and the ending of Disney's Peter Pan. In both these stories, the great and terrible villain is defeated not through violence, but by ridicule. Rabadash, the fearful and ruthless becomes "Rabadash the Ridiculous," while Hook, the bloodthirsty buccaneer is laughed to scorn. In both stories, the villain's most crushing defeat is embarrassment, and the most powerful weapon is the laughter of children. In any event, nobody had to become the great defender of the faith to fight off the evils of September Dawn because people tend to see such blatant bigotry for what it is, and to ridicule it. Maybe Christopher Cain should have to appear on Larry King (or better yet, Fox News) and exclaim "I'm a cod-fish!"

1 comment:

Cabeza said...

I've shared this link and the Eric Snider link with a few people--everyone agrees that this is a fine review of reviews and all have enjoyed Snider's piece.

Personally, I don't understand the anti-Mormon literature movement. It seems that they could accomplish so much more with just a bit of subtlety. I suppose it's good that anti-Mormon authors and filmmakers lack finesse, though, so I'm really not complaining.

Like you said, they really cause their own undoing by making themselves the object of ridicule.