Friday, July 29, 2016

Sports Churches -- Chariots of Fire (1981)

Let’s get this out of the way right now. Chariots of Fire should not have won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1981. That was the year of Raiders of the Lost Ark -- arguably the greatest action movie ever made and certainly one of my all time favorite films -- was released. But Raiders isn’t the “serious” kind of film that the Academy likes to honor, so even though director Hugh Hudson can’t be compared to Steven Spielberg as a director, that’s how things shake out.

Fortunately, as always, we aren’t here to discuss the merit of the film but rather the church and clergy in a film and, this month, how those elements interact with sports. And in Eric Liddell*, we have one of the greatest sports preachers of all time.

The film tells the true stories of various members of the British Olympic track team of 1924, focusing chiefly on Liddell (Ian Charleston) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross).

Strangely, the film opens with a 1978 memorial service for Abrahams, apparently in a Christian church. This seemed odd, because much of the film deals with the man’s struggle against anti-semitism, but research indicates that Abrahams converted to Roman Catholicism after his college years. The film then flashes back to the years prior to the Olympics in France.

Based on how people who call themselves Christians act toward Abrahams, one wouldn’t feel warmly toward the Church. Upon his arrival at Cambridge, someone says about Abrahams, “With a name like Abrahams he won’t be in the Chapel Choir.” Fortunately, in the person of Eric Liddell, we get a very different view of the church.

We first see Liddell officiating at a track meet for young men in Scotland. Children mob Liddell asking for autographs, idolizing him for his career in rugby. But at the time, Liddell is planning to follow in his father’s footsteps and go to China as a missionary.

We later see Liddell reprimanding a boy for playing football (soccer, as it is rightly known by Americans) on a Sunday. Then he makes an appointment with the boy to play a game with him and his friends on another day of the week. (“I don’t want the lad to grow up thinking God’s a spoilsport.”)

Liddell’s plan to go to China is interrupted when he is urged to prepare for running in the Olympic Games. Eric’s father reminds him that it’s his sacred duty to use his God given gifts to God’s glory. He is told by others that the church needs an example of a “muscular Christian.” He should “run in God’s name and let the world stand back in wonder.”

Eric’s sister Jennie is not at all pleased with the decision to delay his journey to China for something as juvenile as running. He responds with a great speech, really the highlight of the film: “I’m going back to China, after I first do a lot of running. I believe God made me for a purpose: China. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure. To give it up would be to hold Him in contempt.” This is probably the best theological defense of the value of sport (and by extension art and craft) that has been ever made in a film. (Not that there are loads of such things out there.)

The film’s crisis for Liddell comes when he learns that the heats for the 100 meter dash will take place on a Sunday. Someone asks him if that will make a difference and he said, “Yah. It does.”  The English Olympic Committee is not pleased to hear about Liddell’s decision of conscience not to run on the Sabbath. But they are also unwilling to humble themselves and ask the French to make accommodations for Liddell to run at another time.

Great pressure is put on Liddell, even calling in the Prince of Wales to appeal to his patriotism. Liddell insists God must come before country. (A stuffy old Englishman on the committee says, “In my day it was country first, and then God.”)

The impasse is finally breached when another runner volunteers to withdraw from the 400 meter, allowing Liddell to take his place. Abrahams runs in the 100. Both men win the gold.

While in France, Liddell climbs the pulpit of the Church of Scotland in Paris (does such a place still exist?) where he preaches from Isaiah 40, a passage that resonates both with the Scot’s clash with authority and his running. (Verse 15 - “Behold, the nations are as a drop in the bucket and are accounted as dust on the scales”.  Verse 31 - “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength… they shall run and not be weary.”) Those who listened to LIddell preach knew that he was a man who sought God’s approval over the approval of men. They knew that his call to live by faith in the love of Christ was true.

So, though I wouldn’t have given the film Oscar gold, I’m glad Liddell received Olympic gold. I’m sure he has received a more greatly desired heavenly reward as well. As for the MovieChurches reward? We give Liddell and the Church of Scotland in Paris our highest rating, 4 Steeples.

* Joseph Fiennes will portray Eric Liddell in a new film, The Last Race, which should be released this year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rhode Island Movies on the Big Screen

 “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” This question was asked in the commercial running before our film in Misquamicut, Rhode Island. I’ve complained this year about ads before movies, but usually these have been ads for Geico or Hulu that are currently running on television and Youtube. The ads before the drive-in screening of 1994’s Forrest Gump were not exactly timely, which made them much more tolerable.

The group that organizes the drive-in screenings (most obviously not the Regal Corporation, as this was a community run function) decided to play a number of commercials from four decades ago. Along with a variety of “Let’s all go to the lobby” commercials, there was the one about a boy asking the wise owl for an answer to candy mysteries. They also played the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” Coke ad (which was also used in the series finale of Mad Men). I was most amused by the single tear Indian public service announcement about littering (back in the day there was a brouhaha when it was revealed the actor was not actually a Native American).

For all I know, they might always screen these same ads before films (the next night they were showing Jurassic World), but I hope not. The ads made a certain sense playing with Gump which is partially set in the 1960’s. Of course, their thinking may be that the ads fit the nostalgic mood of drive-ins in general, which makes a kind of sense as well. Looking at the schedule of films, the earliest film on the summer calendar is 1975’s Jaws. Many of their featured films are from the eighties (such as Dirty Dancing and The Goonies).

Forrest Gump at Misquamicut drive in, Rhode Island
Forrest Gump was, and continues to be, immensely popular. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Tom Hanks received his second Best Actor Oscar. It spawned a slew of catchphrases and a real life seafood chain. But best of all for us, it features a church with a wonderful Gospel choir. Gump finds encouragement in the church, and in my favorite subplot of the film, Lieutenant Dan finds hope in God.

So a good time was had at the drive-in. I just wish they’d showed a Bugs Bunny cartoon. That's a big part of the drive-in experience in my book.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rhode Island movies on the small screen

I often complain in these posts about movies and states about how often films aren't produced in the real locations. Canada is used for Alaska, Arizona is used for Oklahoma, Louisiana is used for Georgia... Well, Hollywood did it again with 2012's Moonrise Kingdom. Why didn't they film on the actual location of New Penzance Island, that beautiful and enchanting place in New England? I guess the fact that New Penzance is fictional has something to do with the decision.  But fortunately, they were able to make the film in its entirety in Rhode Island, which shares with New Penzance Island gorgeous natural beauty, charming centuries old buildings, and a plethora of lighthouses.

The film tells the story of two troubled kids, Sam, a Khaki Scout, and Suzy, a seeming juvenile delinquent in the making, who run away into a quite idealized wilderness. The child actors are delightful, but even better is the surrounding cast, a who's who of cult favorites: Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, and more.

Even better for this site is that there are two peculiar churches in the film. There is a a chapel located in a Khaki Scout (not Boy Scouts) camp, Fort Lebanon. Sam and Suzy go to the chapel to be married by a shady scout leader (Jason Schwartzman) who is willing to don the cross-covered stole and perform an underage marriage to earn a can full of nickels. The other church is St. Jack's, a place that annually performs Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde, a one act operetta about Noah's Ark. St. Jack's also provides shelter when the island is hit by a fierce storm. It is a beautiful building; one can find a strikingly similar place, called Trinity Church, in Newport.

Fortunately, there are more films that are set in Rhode Island and filmed in Rhode Island. If Rhode Island has auteurs, they are the Farrelly Brothers, masters of crude comedy. Peter and Robert Farrelly were raised in Cumberland, Rhode Island, and most of there films are at least partially set and filmed in the state, including Dumb and Dumber; There's Something About Mary; Me, Myself & Irene; and Hall Pass.

Another film set filmed in Rhode Island is 1996's American Buffalo based on the David Mamet play. The film has only three cast members, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Harris and Dennis Franz. (I met Franz one time and he seems to be a very nice guy.)

1990's Reversal of Fortune is based on the true story of the trial of Claus von Bulow who was accused of trying to kill his wife Sunny. The film won on an Oscar for Jeremy Irons' performance as Claus. The film used true Rhode Island estate and courtroom locations. Another film that claims to be based on a true story is 2013's The Conjuring, about paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who investigate a dark presence in a Rhode Island farmhouse. It is interesting for this site that the Warrens claim to submit to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Though the film is set in Rhode Island, however, it was filmed in North Carolina.

When we were in Pennsylvania, we wrote about the comedy The Philadelphia Story. That story was remade as a musical in 1956's High Society, a Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra comedy set in Newport, Rhode Island. Some location filming was done in the state. (This was Grace Kelly's last film before she went off to be a princess.)

We can't cover all the Rhode Island films, but we'll finish with the Steve Carell 2007 comedy, Dan in Real Life, because -- unlike Moonrise Kingdom -- it is set and filmed in the very real life place of Rhode Island.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sports Churches -- Rolling Home (1946)

What? You’ve never heard of Rolling Home? According to the opening credits, it’s “a simple story of a man, a horse, and a boy.” Still doesn’t ring a bell? You’re not alone. I don’t think this choice offering on Amazon Instant Prime has come to the attention of very many people at all for the last eight decades or so, if it even did back then.

So why are we at Movie Churches watching it? Because this film had some of the most innovative ideas for church fundraising ever purposed.

As we’ve seen before, throughout much of the twentieth century (before churches on the screen became the home of repression and homicidal clergy), the primary mission of churches in films seemed to be raising enough money that they didn’t go under. Rolling Home is certainly not an exception to that rule. The Reverend David Owens pastors Winona Community Church which is, not surprisingly in a film of this period, on the brink of bankruptcy.

Fortunately, almost everyone in the church seems to have the same idea about how sufficient funds can be raised. Early in the film, we see the pastor talking with a young woman, Pamela Crawford, and it’s apparent they are fond of each other. But when talk gets around (as it always does in this community) to the church’s financial woes, Pam suggests the best way to deal with the financial problem would be for the Pastor to marry her sister-in-law, the Widow Crawford. The discussion becomes awkward, to say the least.

Later, the pastor goes to a meeting of the church trustees to discuss the financial situation of the church, where he mentions that members of the congregation live in nice houses and seem to be prospering, and yet they aren’t giving enough to the church to keep it going. (This might be a good time for Pastor Owens to cite Haggai 1:4: “Is it time for you to be living in paneled houses while this house [the Temple] lies in ruin?” We never do hear Pastor Owens cite Scripture anywhere in the film.) The chairman of the trustees brushes the suggestion aside that the solution to all their troubles would be for Pastor Owens to marry the Widow Crawford.

The Widow Crawford is not too subtle about suggesting this plan as well. We are treated to an odd scene of Pastor Owens wearing his suit and collar talking to the Widow Crawford as she swims laps in her pool. She gets out of the pool, showing her attractive figure, and the Rev hands her a towel as they discuss (what else is there to discuss?) the financial situation of the church. She indicates that matrimony would be a dandy path to solvency for the church.

When it comes right down to it, everyone is suggesting that Pastor Owens should be a gigolo to support his calling. This is all made a bit more bizarre by the fact Russell Hayden, the actor playing the role of Pastor Owens, is a rather plain man who looks too old for the widow, let alone for Pam. But he holds fast against the temptation of a pretty young woman citing “an ideal of marriage” which won’t allow him to go against his conscience. Notably, he does not cite Scripture to uphold his ideal because Scripture often has a much more practical picture of marriage. Arranged marriages for financial and political purposes are common in Scripture, but that doesn’t suit Hollywood’s ideals for marriage.

Ultimately, Owens finds a moral solution to the church’s financial problems when a little boy enters a stolen horse in a race (and it is a wholesome trotting race, one where they do NOT sit down right on the horse). The pastor has to slug the man who tries to recover the horse right before the race, and he takes the place of the drunken jockey, but all’s well in the end.

We have to take the word of congregants that Pastor Owens is a good, if unconventional, preacher, because we never hear him preach. We hear him say a few kind words at a funeral where -- surprisingly -- “Ave Maria” is sung at a Protestant service.

Some good came of the film: it gave Harry Carey Jr, who had just returned from World War II, his first adult role (which led to his long-lasting career as a character actor). The story credit for the film goes to William Berke, who also produced and directed the film. (Berke also directed Ding Dong Williams, That’s My Baby!, and Pardon My Gun, should you wish to research more of his oeuvre.)

Since the building they’re constantly talking about saving has a nice belfry, I’m giving Winona Community Church Two Steeples.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Connecticut movie on the big screen

Luxury Cinema, Mystic, Connecticut
When I was young, we had an antenna for our television; we received five channels. We had KTVU, an independent station, along with the networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC -- and on a good weather day, PBS. At best there were five viewing choices, and let's admit it, most television was awfully lame back in the day. The odds of anything actually good being on the air at any given time were slim. (Which, of course, didn't hinder me from watching. I guess I thought I'd finally find something of value the sixth time I watched the Brady Bunch go camping.)

On the other hand, movie theaters were just becoming multiplexes, and double features were the norm. Our county had theaters in almost every city, and the drive-in was an option in California throughout the year. Looking at newspaper theater ads from that time, there were always a couple dozen films to choose from.

Now there has been a strange inversion of television and the movies. By using the internet, all the lame shows of my childhood are available along with the hundreds of new shows produced every year. There's Christian programming, nature shows, thousands of films, premium cable shows with budgets greater than many films.... but at the movie theaters, especially in small towns, often only three or four films, the main releases for the week, are available.

Last Friday, looking at a number of theaters in a wide geographical range, all of them seemed to be playing the same three films: Finding Dory, Ghostbusters, and The Secret Life of PetsBut we did find one theater in Mystic, Connecticut, and that was playing something different. Sure, they were playing Dory and the Pets and the Busters, but they had one other film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes to find it was scoring 100% for critics. I found it was written and directed by Taika Waititi, the creator of the film What We Do in the Shadows, which I had really liked. So that's the movie we watched.

The Mystic Luxury Cinema itself is a charming little theater in the midst of Olde Mistick Village (a touristy mall which includes a honey store with over twenty varieties for sampling). It's always a good sign when real butter is used for the theater's popcorn. We overheard a gentleman, apparently one of the owners, saying his partner goes to a number of film festivals, which was where he came across Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

The film is set in New Zealand, and it tells the story of a foster kid's rocky search for family. Much of the film follows the boy as he ventures into the bush to evade authorities. There aren't many familiar faces, except Sam Neill. (Did you know that in 1993, Neill was named the top drawing actor for the year? It was the year he appeared in Sirens, The Piano and Jurassic Park. Although it's possible the T-Rex was the bigger draw than Sam.)

The Hunt for the Wilderpeople is great fun -- I highly recommend it. And even better for this site, it has a church. There is a sparsely attended funeral in the film in a church with a clergyman who seems to be having an off day. He seems to compare heaven to a place with unlimited Fanta soda and Twizzlers. And whenever he asks a question, a woman in the audience always answers with "Jesus."  (Which reminds me of an old joke, with which we will conclude this post. In a Sunday School class, a teacher once asked, "Tell me class, what has a big, bushy tail, climbs trees, and gathers nuts?" A world weary kid answers, "That sounds like a squirrel, but I'm going to say 'Jesus.'")

Monday, July 18, 2016

Connecticut films on the small screen

Hollywood seems to love the idea of an idyllic, quirky small town in Connecticut, but as is often the case, they don’t want to bother to go there and find a real Stars Hollow (to use the TV example from Gilmore Girls, filmed in California and Canada). There are any number of real charming, picturesque villages to choose from, but Hollywood continues to just imagine them.

Not that there is much that is real in any way in 1988’s Beetlejuice. In the film Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin) Maitland live in Winter River, CT, which does not, of course, exist. The town used for filming, East Corinth, is located in Vermont. So why didn’t the screenwriters set the film in Vermont in the first place? All very puzzling. Fortunately, for the sake of this blog, there is a church prominently seen in the establishing shots using the town (and in a model replica of the town). But we never see inside the church, and it is never referenced in the dialogue. Which is unfortunate, because Barbara and Adam die in the opening minutes of the film, and it would be nice to have some Christian perspective on the afterlife. I suppose in this increasingly materialistic world, it’s something that an afterlife of any kind is proposed. Apparently the scenes in the netherworld were not really filmed on location either, but Michael Keaton’s role as a “bio-exorcist” makes this a very funny film.

Connecticut as a location seems to be popular with filmmakers when it comes to the supernatural and horror, though the film The Haunting in Connecticut was shot in Canada. (I need to note here that this awful film spawned a sequel with one of the worse titles in film history: The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia -- which was filmed not just in Canada but in Louisiana as well.)

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, a horror cult classic that is explained fairly well in its title, was set and filmed in Connecticut. The science fiction/horror/satire, The Stepford Wives, based on the Ira Levin novel, was also set and actually filmed in Connecticut. (I’m writing about the superior 1975 Katharine Ross version rather than the lame 2004 Nicole Kidman version, though it too was set and filmed in the state.)

Connecticut has also been used as the setting for more realistic kinds of horror. 1968’s The Swimmer, based on a John Cheever short story and starring Burt Lancaster, deals with a more existential horror. (It was also filmed in the state.)  The Ice Storm, an Ang Lee film made in 1997, shows how horrifying domestic life in the 1970’s could be. And the great dramatist Eugene O’Neill set many of his works in Connecticut, including Long Day’s Journey into Night, which won a posthumous Pulitzer. This play, about one of the world’s most dysfunctional families, has been brought to the screen a number of times, but the 1962 version with Katharine Hepburn was filmed in New York. (Worth noting that Katharine Hepburn, star of this film and the next mentioned, was born in Hartford, Connecticut.)

On the brighter side, a number of comedies have also been set in the state. Howard Hawks’ classic 1938 screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby, was set but not filmed in the state. That filmed starred Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Grant returned to the state (but not really) for the 1948 comedy, Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, which was also set but not filmed in the state.
Finally, Hollywood found a real, live beautiful Connecticut small town it could present under its real name and could film on real locations for the romantic comedy Mystic Pizza. We have been to Mystic. It is lovely and real. The film marked the beginning of Julie Roberts’ climb to box office success.

Connecticut has a rich film legacy so I won't get to all the films set and filmed in the state but we'll close by noting Hollywood has for some reason through the years linked the state with yuletide traditions. The classic Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, was set in an old farmhouse in a quaint Connecticut town. The film introduced the world to the song White Christmas and was filmed in California studios -- as was 1945’s Christmas in Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck as a food writer who pretends to have a perfect domestic life on a Connecticut farm. A film that has a much less heartwarming take on Christmas is 1994’s The Ref starring Denis Leary and Kevin Spacey. It’s about a bickering, dysfunctional family held hostage on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t filmed in California. It was filmed in Canada. An early Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sports Churches: The Leather Saint (1956)

 "If every clergyman had a right like yours, there wouldn't be be many sinners left around," Father Gil's gym buddy tells him. Boxing evangelism hasn't caught on over the last half century as some would have hoped, but the good work of this Episcopalian pugilist is preserved in Paramount's 1956 release, The Leather Saint.

Here at Movie Churches, we're used to seeing fundraising as the primary goal of the clergy and churches in films. At least Father Gil (played by Bo's future husband, John Derek) is raising money for something other than paying the church’s mortgage before Simon Legree forecloses. Because of a recent polio epidemic, the local children's hospital is ill-equipped to meet the needs of the community, so Father Gil says, "Whatever I have to do to help the kids, I'll do it."
Early in the film, we see Father Gil meeting with his superior within the church. Gil is asked why he hasn’t pursued the suggestion that he to get married and have children. He’s told congregations find such pastors more relatable. Father Gil replies that having a wife and family of his own would take attention away from his kids. In fact, he’s taken a year-long vow of celibacy to concentrate on work with the kids.

Father Gil asks if the denomination is going to come through with money for the hospital and is told he’s going to need to be patient. But as the doctor at the hospital says, “Paralysis doesn’t understand patience.”
A solution to the money problems comes when a boxing manager sees Gil working out with the punching bag. Manager Gus asks Gil if he’d like to get in the boxing game. Gil says he has a job, and Gus says, “I don’t know what racket you’re in, but you can make some dough in the ring.” Gil agrees to fight, but doesn’t divulge what “racket” he’s in, attempting to keep the worlds separate.
Gil also catches the eye of a boxing promoter, Tony (Cesar Romero, TV’s Joker), and his moll, Pearl (they seem to be interested in Gil for different reasons). I assumed, Hollywood being Hollywood, that Gil would eventually end up with Pearl. But Gil ducks and weaves from her advances as well as he dodges blows in the ring. He even brings his gym buddy along when he goes to see Pearl rather than be with her alone.
Manager Gus and Promoter Tony both worry that Gil might not have the killer instinct necessary for a good fighter. In the ring, he tends to bob and weave before making one devastating knockout punch.  After the fight, he always checks on the condition of his rival. Gus says, “It’s like representing a Bible salesman.”
We never do see Gil preach or meet with adult congregants. We do see him talk and play with the children in the hospital. He promises them a swimming pool to help with their physical therapy and a second iron lung. We also see him giving the money from each fight to a priest at the hospital without admitting it’s prize winnings. He claims to have benefactor in the  “leather glove business.”
We also see him -- often -- go to church to pray by the altar. This is the one time we hear him quote Scripture, using Psalm 23 as his prayer. He asks God to forgive him if boxing is the wrong approach to getting the money but he sees no other.
The paucity of Gil’s references to God and especially to Jesus keep him from getting our highest rating, but he wins by decision with a solid Three Steeples.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On the big screen in Washington State

Finding Dory
I asked the young guy tearing tickets at the Regal in Redmond, WA is anyone ever called him “God” for short and he said, “Unfortunately, no.”

The employees at the theater wear name tags that, in addition to their first names, give and the name of their favorite movie. His name tag read, “Godzilla.”  (I should have asked him if he prefered the 1998, 2014 or original 1954 [“Gojira”] version of the movie, but  I’m pretty sure he just wanted the name.) He said that another guy had “The Dark Knight” on his tag and soon every referred to him by that name. A gal who worked there went with “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope", and there was barely room for her real name.

If you’ve followed us through the States, you know we’ve had our differences with Regal Cinemas. But we have no complaints about the seats in this theater: big, comfy recliners with reserved seating.

A treat for us was being with our whole immediate family. One daughter and her husband live in Redmond, Washington, and our other daughter and our son flew out to be with us. So we went together to see the new Pixar film, Finding Dory. We went to the first Pixar film, Toy Story, as a family; we’ve seen many other Pixar films together since then (including 2003’s Finding Nemo, the origin film for Finding Dory).

Before the feature, the Pixar short titled Piper (about a baby sandpiper) pressed the federally regulated recommendations for cuteness without quite crossing the line. Finding Dory was quite enjoyable, probably mid-range Pixar -- which is far above the average film released these days.
We learned some interesting science in the film. Apparently fish just need to be in water. It doesn’t matter if it is fresh or salt water. The temperature of the water doesn’t matter either, fish are apparently fine with any H20. Octopi are capable of driving motor vehicles. Basically, the physics in the film bears a striking resemblance to the physics found in your classic Golden Age Warner Brothers Looney Toon (think of the coyote with rockets and magnets). I was fine with all of that.

The theme of the film, as with many animated family films, was the importance of family. Family is given a very broad definition, probably closer to a tribe than the 1950’s American definition of a nuclear family. The kind of family these films promote is really something that churches should emulate.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Washington state films on the small screen (Part 1?)

We may well be coming back to Washington state again. We have 52 weeks in the year (as do most of you) and 50 states to visit, so even with one week in Washington, D.C., we still have a week to spare. It could be that the minivan could say “no mas” or one of us could be hospitalized with a case of the Mondays and throw off our schedule. But as of now, we plan to use that extra week back in Washington state. If that’s so, I’ll be writing about WA films again in December, and thankfully, this is a film rich state. So I’ll split things -- I’ll do Washington dramas now, and plan to do comedies (chiefly romantic comedies) in December (so you fans of Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan and Cameron Crowe will just have to wait).

David Mamet is widely considered one of America’s greatest playwrights, but back in 1987 he became a film director as well. House of Games is about  a psychiatrist (played by Mamet’s then wife, Lindsay Crouse) who investigates the world of con artists. We watched this film at my daughter’s apartment using the local library video app chromecasted to her TV (#weirdworld).  Joe Mantegna as Mike, the lead con, explains that the confidence game is about giving people confidence. Ill placed confidence, sometimes especially confidence in one’s self, leads to trouble. There are no churches in the film, but the doctrine of original sin is well supported. The film is set in Seattle and was filmed in the city.

Sin and social ills are darker still in The Accused, in which Jodie Foster plays a woman who is raped in a bar. Because of the character’s trampy reputation, no one believes her. Foster won an Oscar for the film which, though set in Washington, was filmed in Canada.

Another Oscar winner was Lou Gossett Jr. for his role as a drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman. The film is supposed to place take at Naval Flight School in Pensacola, FL, but the Navy was not thrilled with the way the program was depicted in the film, so it was filmed in Washington state.

I can’t imagine the Army was too excited with First Blood, the first Rambo film in which Sylvester Stallone played a soldier who returned from Vietnam as a guy who just wanted to mind his own business but when pressed becomes a killing machine. Though set in Washington state, it was filmed in Canada.

Also set in Washington but filmed in Canada was Robert Altman’s 1971 classic western, McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Though it’s a film about brothels and gunslingers, the film does have one aspect that fits nicely into this blog: it’s set in the town of Presbyterian Church, WA.

Two well regarded horror films, 1980’s The Changeling (a ghost story with George C. Scott) and 2002’s The Ring (a cursed videotape story with Naomi Watts) were both set and filmed in Washington.

Of course, even scarier than ghosts is world wide thermonuclear war, which just about breaks out in 1983’s WarGames. The scary concept of computers that can reach outside of the home into the world is the basis of the film. But such things can’t really happen, can they Matthew Broderick? That film, too, is set and was filmed in Washington state.

The Twilight films were set and filmed in Washington state. But I can’t decide if those films are dramas or comedies, so they won’t make either list.