Christian group picks its top films of '92


HOLLYWOOD -- One week before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces the film industry's nominees for the best movies of 1992, proponents of "traditional family values" came to Hollywood to reveal their idea of '92's Top 20 movies.

The Christian Film and Television Commission's selections for "family audiences" included the Walt Disney Company's "Aladdin," "The Muppet Christmas Carol," "Honey, I Blew Up the Kids" and "The Mighty Ducks," while the same studio's "Sister Act" was among the group of 10 selected as best films for "mature audiences."

The choices were announced by Ted Baehr, the president of the commission and publisher of the Atlanta-based Movieguide, a monthly magazine reviewing current films. Mr. Baehr has been among the biggest critics of Hollywood for not putting "traditional family values" on the screen.

The other family films selected are "Beethoven," "Where the Red Fern Grows: Part 2," "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," "Rock-A-Doodle," "Dark Horse" and "Little Nemo."

For mature audiences, the additional choices are "The Ox," "Forever Young," "Lorenzo's Oil," "The Last of the Mohicans," "Enchanted April," "The Quarrel," "A Day in October," "Daughters of the Dust" and "Efficiency Expert."

Early last year, Mr. Baehr joined with Los Angeles Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahoney to call for greater morality in film and TV, following a return to Judeo-Christian values that were a hallmark of the stringent Production Code formulated in the early 1930s. But the cardinal later disavowed that statement, suggesting it could mean an infringement on creative freedom. Last October, he issued a pastoral letter to the film and TV industry urging leaders to have a moral obligation to communicate "human values."

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Baehr said he had been "encouraged" by what he saw as "an improvement overall by Hollywood trying to make films that reach out to the broad audience."

The films with "pro-Christian themes" in 1992 numbered 40, he said, compared to 27 the year before. But he said that movies with anti-Christian and anti-biblical content increased slightly to 22 percent of all films released during the year.

He suggested the industry ought to heed the commission's opinions because 72 percent of last year's top 25 box-office hits were deemed acceptable by Movieguide. "There is a myth that to capture a large audience you have to have sex, violence, nudity and profanity," Mr. Baehr said. "Our point is that that is false."

He also said his group's views of films were more in line with publicresponse to movies than those of many of the nation's most prominent reviewers. Although there is no independent data available to verify Mr. Baehr's results, he said reviewers' choices wind up among the top grossing films less than 16 percent of the time. His own, on the other hand, are the top grossing films 24 percent of the time.

Mr. Baehr said the Christian Film and Television Commission reflects opinions of many denominations, including Jewish groups. Besides the monthly Movieguide, the commission's views are aired on some 1,300 radio stations and on local TV outlets nationwide.

In the interview Mr. Baehr said examples of 1992 films that drew the commission's scorn are "Basic Instinct," "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "White Men Can't Jump." The first two were criticized for sex and violence, while the third was for obscenities -- 319 by Mr. Baehr's count.

He said such films as "Mohicans" and "Home Alone 2," which have some potentially offensive scenes, ultimately have "redemptive values. It's a question of how violence or sex is portrayed," he said. In that sense, he said the commission's reviews are a more "in-depth" guide for families than the film industry's own ratings system, which he said has arbitrary rules about how many obscenities, for example, constitute a PG-13 or R rating.

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