Dear Prudish

An open letter to a new studio

Broken Hill
Studio: Audience Alliance Motion Picture Studios
Rated: PG
Cast: Luke Arnold, Alexa Vega, Timothy Hutton, Che Timmins, John Clarke (II)
Director: Dagen Merrill
WorkNameSort: Broken Hill
Our Rating: 2.00

Dear Audience Alliance Motion Picture Studios: Congratulations on your first feature film, or as you like to call it on your website, 'prototype.â?� It's not easy for anyone to make a film, or to be able to afford distribution through America's Bible Belt, of which Orlando is unfortunately a part.

And I must say that Broken Hill, a shiny, happy tale of a teen farmer who dreams of conducting an orchestra, the troubled American girl who helps him and the imprisoned bad boys who become his chamber group, is pleasant in a flavored-rice-cakes kind of way. As the American, Spy Kids' Alexa Vega, with her pouty face and vague ethnic features, does no harm, and newcomer Luke Arnold, as the dreamer, possesses enough CW charm to someday serve as a stunt double for Jared Padalecki. The next Tom Cruise he isn't, but some of us have to be content with minor victories.

I will scold the film for its utter lack of danger, edge, sex or any emotion other than optimism ' all of which are a normal part of every teenager's everyday life since the beginning of time and, coincidentally, every teen romance flick worth noting ' but you already know what's missing. In fact, that's your mission statement.

On your website is what you call 'The Audience Alliance Values and Virtues Matrix,â?� a manifesto of blandly Christian (yet still smiley) prerequisites for your planned films. Profanity is off-limits, reads one excerpt. 'Relationships will be handled with integrity, modesty and chastity,â?� goes another. 'Consistent with our support of the traditional family, same-sex relationships will not be shown or implied in films produced by Audience Alliance, but neither will expressions of intolerance to those who choose such relationships be permitted.â?� Doesn't the former (not showing gayness) take care of the latter (not showing gay-bashing)? Just asking.

If you want to make Touched by an Angel: The Movie, that's your prerogative. But my real problem with Broken Hill, with your company and your values is that you assume 'Hollywood moviesâ?� are a devil's den of baseless, consequence-free sin. Setting aside the demographic fact that your precious Middle Americans are the A-1, spot-on, exact revenue generators for sexy, shoot-'em-up action pictures (a Southern man's video library is 10 times heavier on James Cameron than Kirk Cameron, I assure you), why assume the worst about Hollywood?

'We have the clear and unalterable view that movies should both entertain and uplift. Unfortunately this is not a core premise in the majority of films coming from either 'Hollywood' or the independent film world,â?� you condemn. 'Breaking the laws of the land or the laws of God will never be rewardedâ?� in an Audience Alliance picture, you claim.

Here's where your premise is false: The consequence of bad choices or character is an inherent part of film language everywhere in the world, and has always been, since the villains were gunned down at the end of 1903's The Great Train Robbery. Last year's top-earning 'Hollywoodâ?� movie, The Dark Knight, left no character unpunished, either by death (Harvey Dent), disenfranchisement (Batman) or the straitjacket (the Joker). Last year's Best Picture, Slumdog Millionaire, was the very model of the heartwarming triumph of love-struck good over child-peddling evil.

What you're saying with this mission statement, AAMPS, is that you don't think bad choices in movies are punished the way you want them to be punished. It seems the very thought of premarital sex or whatever else you feel is corrupting America's youth should result in a ruined life. Yet in Broken Hill the prison inmates, who I assume have far worse on their St. Peter's list than taking their Lord's name in vain, are redeemed through the power of music ' and the power of the hero, virginal, well-meaning Tommy.

So I ask: Is the problem with Hollywood that bad deeds go unpunished? Or that characters in Hollywood movies are not shepherded to forgiveness by a long-haired, do-gooding deliverer? Because that old yarn, for all your talk of 'Story!,â?� is getting stale.


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