Christian Oscars Honors the “Best of Hollywood” in 1999

By: Dan Wooding; ©2000
Members of the Movie Guide staff report on the “Christian Oscars.” Honors are given to movies and television programs with inspiring, godly, and/or family themes. Dr. Baehr also reports on Hollywood insiders who are working to reform the industry. Find out who they are, and pray for them!

“CHRISTIAN OSCARS” HONORS THE “BEST OF HOLLYWOOD” IN 1999

A bevy of Hollywood stars was given the red-carpet treatment at what has become known as the “Christian Oscars”—the 8th Annual MOVIEGUIDE(R) Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry, held on March 15, at the Hilton Universal Hotel in Universal City, Calif.

Before an audience of stars, celebrities, filmmakers, and major studio executives, The Winslow Boy (Sony Pictures), won the prestigious $25,000 Epiphany Prize for the Most Inspiring Movie of 1999.

The Epiphany Prize for the Most Inspiring Television Program of 1999 was given to an episode of JAG called Second Sight (CBS, Bellisario Productions).

The John Templeton Foundation sponsors the two $25,000 cash prizes each year to the best movie and network television program that is “spiritually uplifting, inspiring and results in a great increase in man’s love of God or man’s understanding of God.”

GRACE PRIZES

Two veteran actors, Richard Farnsworth and Chuck Norris, each received the Grace Prize at the event for the most inspirational performances in movies and television. Farnsworth took the movie award for his title role in The Straight Story (Disney) and action star Chuck Norris took the Grace Prize for television, for his role in the A Matter of Faith episode of Walker, Texas Ranger (CBS).

Philanthropist Morgan H. Grace, Jr. sponsors the Grace Prizes.

Farnsworth is the oldest man to receive a best actor Oscar nomination. He revealed that he turns down a lot of work because he doesn’t care for movies filled with “sex, vio­lence and four-letter words.”

Norris, whose TV program received the Epiphany Prize two years ago for an episode about the need for salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, mentioned from the podium his show’s decision to produce a couple of Christian spiritual dramas each year.

A GLITTERING EVENT

As the stars and celebrities arrived for the festivities, they waited patiently to be inter­viewed and photographed by the large number of reporters and photographers on hand.

The awards ceremony was taped for national broadcast by PAX-TV, the seventh largest TV network, and had a star-studded lineup of presenters. Actor Tim Reid (Sisters, Simon & Simon, and WKRP in Cincinnati) and his lovely wife Daphne Maxwell Reid (Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Snoops) hosted the event.

Among those who presented awards were Patricia Heaton and Doris Roberts of Everybody Loves Raymond, actress Hunter Tylo formerly of The Bold and the Beautiful, Richard Thomas of The Waltons and It’s a Miracle, TV legends Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows, music legends Smokey Robinson, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, and the host of NBC’s Main Place, Nancy Stafford.

Dr. Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE(R), the authoritative family guide to movies and entertainment, handed out his annual “Teddy Bear” and “Papa Bear” awards to Toy Story 2 (Disney) for the best family movie and The Straight Story (Disney) for the best movie for mature audiences.

JESUS FILM HONORED

The JESUS film was given a special Faith & Values commendation for extraordinary technical and evangelistic achievement.

In presenting the award to Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ, the organization behind the JESUS film, entertainer Pat Boone told the audience that more people “than any other movie in history” had seen the film. Pat Boone went on, “This movie, originally made for and released by Warner Bros., has been seen by 3.3 billion people in 566 different languages. It’s a story of one whose life has impacted the world like no other.”

LARRY KING TALKS ABOUT JESUS

A clip was shown of Larry King speaking on a special Christmas release of the JESUS film in which celebrities talk about Jesus. “As a talk-show host,” King said, “I have nothing but the greatest and most profound respect for Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He was, after all, Jewish; born Jewish, died Jewish. Jesus Christ was the greatest single individual of both millennia and He had the most profound effect on mankind of any individual ever born. If there were one person I would like to interview, it would be Jesus.”

In receiving the award, Paul Eshleman, International Director of The JESUS Film Project for Campus Crusade for Christ, said, “It’s 2000 years since the birthday that we celebrate this year. In the script, based on the best seller of all time, the Bible, I know that the words of Jesus will last forever. The words that give hope, meaning and assurance of life everlasting. Thank you very much, MOVIEGUIDE(R), for this award. We are very grateful.”

Other Faith & Values Awards included a special documentary award, a special dis­tributor award and the Clay Turner Award.

Valerie Red-Horse, the co-director, star and producer of Naturally Native, an inspirational movie about faith, family and culture, was given a special lithograph of mouth artist Clay Turner’s “Horse Trading at Big Prairie” for her fine work in that movie.

Ms. Red-Horse said MOVIEGUIDE(R) honors both Jesus and her Native American ances­tors with this award. She said she refused to make her movie more “edgy” and sensational to please secular distributors. She added that she’s extremely grateful for the award because it’s important for MOVIEGUIDE(R) to continue honoring Christian movies like Naturally Native. Her movie was also one of the nominees for the Epiphany Prize.

Day of Discovery won the documentary award for its three-part video, The Eric Liddell Story. This documentary tells “the rest of the story” about the Olympic runner and Christian missionary from the Oscar-winning movie Chariots of Fire who refused to run on Sunday.

Finally, Providence Entertainment received a special distributor award for releasing redemptive movies like The Omega Code and Grizzly Falls. In 2000, Providence will distribute a major motion picture based on the very popular Left Behind novels by Timothy LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

GOOD GUYS FINISH FIRST

During the ceremony, Dr. Ted Baehr, founder of MOVIEGUIDE(R), presented his much-awaited Report to the Entertainment Industry.

“Good guys finish first,” he told the audience. “Movies with good content do much better at the box offices than others. The myth is that bad guys finish first, but if you look at the top grossing films, you will see that that is not true. Even last year, when I expected this not to be true, movies with strong moral content had an average of $209 million in the top 25 films. The top 25 films were not made up of the Academy Award nominees, but rather of films that people went to see in spite of the fact that the newspapers, and everybody else, were hyping movies like Cider House Rules, which had only made $23 million when it was nominated for an Oscar, while Toy Story 2, which the newspapers ignored, posted $300 million.”

Dr. Baehr also noted, “We are not here to annoy or to confront you in Hollywood, but rather to commend you for doing movies that reflect the faith and values of the large church-going community. All the movies that we honored this year had strong elements that reflected the faith and values of the Christian community. Some of them were quite extraordinary.”

Dr. Baehr presented several other interesting facts about the box office figures for movies released in 1999. For example, the more sex, nudity and foul language a movie had, the less it earned. Also, movies with a strong Christian worldview earned more than movies with a mild Christian worldview. Finally, movies that completely met MOVIEGUIDE’s(R) moral and spiritual standards earned eight times more than those movies which had an anti-Christian, evil or false worldview.

WHAT THEY SAID

During the event, many of those attending the gala agreed to be interviewed.

One of them, Billy Davis Jr., appealed to the Christian community to not “give up on us in Hollywood.” He added, “There are a lot of us out here who are working as Christians in this field. We are doing Christian work in the trenches and we are witnessing to people that most people don’t even think would hear the Gospel. We are on the firing line and we are trying to bring a lot of the Hollywood people into the Kingdom. We need your prayers. We can’t do anything without prayer.”

Lindsay Felton, an actress on TV’s Caitlain’s Way, was asked why she supported MOVIEGUIDE’s(R) award program.

“I’ve been coming to the awards gala for the last three years,” she said. “I really enjoy this awards show. They are so focused on family values and high quality that all the other awards shows have sort of balked at over the years.”

Chris Buck, co-director of Tarzan, which also won a “Teddy Bear” Award, said, “For me, I have three young boys at home, 9, 7 and 3. I knew I wanted to make a film that they could watch, get something morally uplifting from it, be fun, be entertained, but also get a message from it. It’s a subtle goal throughout. We wanted to make a great family film that everyone could enjoy.”

When asked what the award meant to him, Jason Clark, executive producer of Stuart Little, another “Teddy Bear” Award winner, said, “I think it has to do with being able to make movies that the entire family can enjoy. For me, personally, this means that maybe this is being embraced by the community as having a sense of family. It is a movie that I am proud of, that they can see and enjoy. We had filmmakers on this movie that were just so happy to be on a movie that they could take their families to.”

Rob Minkoff, director of Stuart Little, added, “What affected me about reading the book, was how the humans in the story could accept Stuart as one of them, even though he was a mouse. They didn’t really make much of the fact that he was a mouse. The theme of tolerance was something that we really wanted to put across, the idea that it didn’t mat­ter what you looked like, you could be accepted as a member of the family. I suppose that theme informed all the choices and decisions of making the movie. Even though the cat doesn’t like Stuart, he has to love him anyway.”

Jim Muro, camera operator on The Insider, which received a “Papa Bear” Award for being one of the ten best movies for mature audiences, said about receiving the honor: “That brings to light what Ted was saying in his opening comments that there are some films represented here this evening that don’t know what their role is in the Christian com­munity, and I believe this to be one of the films that he was referring to because, frankly, it is a film that shares with people how serious the effect of a corporation is on a family as well as the rigors of tobacco use and nicotine addiction.

“I don’t think the film is targeted to the adult Christian. I believe it is more or less an expose, the sad story that does occur in the conundrum of corporate life and lack of integ­rity sometimes, and what happens in that arena. As a result, it is nice to be recognized by MOVIEGUIDE(R). I was a little shocked that a lot more people didn’t say ‘This film is really important for you to see.’ It just goes to show that people have a certain amount of igno­rance as far as their health goes. It’s amazing that it is a dark horse candidate for the Oscars. It has six or seven nominations. That to me is really amazing. It was interesting politics.”

Steve Allen, legendary actor/comedian and a presenter at the awards gala, was asked why he thought it was so important to attend the MOVIEGUIDE(R) awards:

“Because the problem of lack of morality in entertainment is so enormously serious. Television, especially the comedies, have become increasingly vulgar. The fact is, TV has become steadily worse in recent years.”

After the event, Dr. Baehr said, “We are delighted with the turnout this year. Last year 74 Hollywood executives attended—not counting actors, actresses and filmmakers—this year 102 Hollywood executives came to the event. People brought their whole production crew along! People from the industry are calling us saying they want to work with us and be more involved.

“Through our work,” he added, “we try to accentuate the positive, commend the good and be an advocate for Christian faith and values.”

All in all, March 15 was an evening to remember. A time when Jesus Christ was hon­ored in Hollywood, instead of a place where His name is taken in vain or ignored!

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