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Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Heart of the Beholder

Heart of the Beholder is based on the true story of Mike and Diane Howard, video storeowners in St. Louis in the 1980’s. All is going along well for them until 1988 when The Last Temptation of Christ is released. The Howard’s refuse to pull the video from their shelves, and are targeted for financial ruin by a fanatical religious group, the Citizens For Decency. The group has blackmailed the Prosecuting Attorney to file obscenity charges against the Howard’s for carrying X-rated videos, a move supremely ironic since the Prosecuting Attorney frequents prostitutes. The case is taken to trial, but that is not the end of the difficulties for the Howard’s. Mike becomes very depressed and nearly throws his life away before bouncing back and strategizing a way to bring down the Prosecuting Attorney.

Early on in the film, a comment is made that not all Christians are like these fanatical groups who bomb family planning clinics and ban books. And that is important to remember. However, groups like the Citizens For Decency are still very vocal in their attempts to regulate other people’s lives, often in extreme and violent ways. Their members are damaged, vulnerable people who have found their way into the group, desperate to have a place to belong.

One such person depicted in this film was played by Silas Weir Mitchell as Lester, a mentally ill man easily influenced to commit crimes ranging from arson to intimidation and near kidnapping of a child. I recognized Mr. Mitchell from his playing an equally psycho young man in last season’s hit sitcom My Name is Earl, and his performance is outstanding.

This story is so incredible, I wondered how much was cooked up to make the story thrilling in a Hollywood storytelling way, and how much was truly factual. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief, such as when the movie Splash is presented as a target for banning, because their “rationale” was so ridiculous. But those who ban books and films are not rational. Since I am a lover of story and film and its potential to enlighten, educate and entertain, I feel that we should all protest censorship. It is up to individuals to decide, based on reviews such as mine, whether a film is something they want to watch or not, and leave everyone else to decide for themselves as well.

Heart of the Beholder is an entertaining and engrossing film. I liked the opening sequences as we follow the mighty Mississippi to its banks in St. Louis, but it soon has a made-for-TV movie feel to it. It is still worth renting or buying the DVD as this is a fascinating story that echoes the present as extremist groups still attempt to regulate how people should think and behave in our country today.

1 comment:

  1. Sue,

    Thanks for taking the time to view our passion project, HEART of the BEHOLDER, that took us 12 years to make. You're right about the "Movie-of-the-Week" feel because that is what it was supposed to be. But it was too controversial for broadcast TV and the cable companies like HBO and Showtime kept picking the project up and then dumping it with each change of management.

    Before I optioned the project, I researched the entire story by meeting and talking to those that were directly involved from attorneys, employees, customers, two prostitution madams, police officers, reporters, and even some of the religious folk who had actually participated in the picketing, but have since had a change of heart. To tell the whole story in detail would have made a 14 hour movie. With our small budget, $500,000 that I raised by hocking my home and taking personal loans, we had to combine characters and minimize locations.

    I've worked in Hollywood for over 30 years and I'm currently the VP of Broadcast Standards and Practices at a major television network, which makes it ironic that I produced an anti-censorship movie even though I work as a professional censor.

    Most people don't know how "true stories" are categorized. Movies that show factual accuracy are called "Documentaries". In regard to feature films, there are "Based on a True Story" movies and "Inspired by a True Story".

    "Based on a True Story" format requires that factual accuracy and true events be shown. "Inspired by a True Story" format does not require that any factual element be represented on screen ; this is the "ripped from the headlines" type story . We estimate that our percentage of factual accuracy is 80% even with the occasional use of artistic license to increase the entertainment value. FYI, the scene involving "Splash" happened as we've portrayed it and was not enhanced in any way.

    Our mentor on this movie was the late Academy-Award winning Director Robert Wise who directed such films as "Sound of Music", "West Side Story", "The Haunting", "Star Trek - The Movie" and many more. Mr. Wise confessed to us that less than 15% of "The Sound of Music" was based on actual fact. Even "Apollo 13" and "Shindler's List" were less than 50% accurate.

    Lest people forget, the main priority of a movie is to entertain. We tried very hard to not only entertain as factually accurate as possible, but also to educate about what happens to those who dare to stand up to any kind of censorship whether it comes from the government, or a local group of religious fundamentalists.

    We were recently allowed to make public the name of the reporter who setup the prostitution sting. Below is a link to his memorial and there is also more detail on what really happened in the story that was not shown on screen.

    http://www.rivercityent.com
    /Beholder/HerbHumphriesMemorial.aspx

    NOTE: The Blog entry would not put the entire link so I split it. Just cut and paste together to access it.

    Thanks again for helping us spread the word about our movie.

    All my best,
    Darlene Lieblich

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