TMP: Truly insidious Moral Piety from the Heartland

by Eric Melin on April 9, 2009

in Blogs

I got this email the other day from a publicist regarding the impending release of the new Joe Wright (“Atonement,” Pride & Prejudice”) movie “The Soloist,” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. At first I thought the film had won some film festival or something, but after a little looking around, I realized that the Truly Moving Picture award was something bestowed by a charity group (with an .org URL) that calls itself Heartland Truly Moving Pictures. Their goal, as quoted on their website, is to “influence the making of more films with positive messages.” Read this insidious crap below:

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Everything about this offends me. What we really need as a society is for a group of people to mount their moral high horse and start telling the rest of us what is “truly moving.” What’s really sad is that Hollywood pictures covet this designation because it helps sell tickets to their movies. You get the approval and recognition of the nonprofit organization Heartland Truly Moving Pictures, and you’re instantly guaranteed some kind of ticket sales.

truly violent pictureDo you remember when Mel Gibson’s grisly and violent (and R-rated!) “The Passion of the Christ” came out and religious groups bussed in huge amounts of people to see the film? I saw the movie on opening weekend and there were little children in the theater screaming in the aisles because their parents refused to let them leave the theater. Apparently the incredibly graphic torture scenes (you mean the entire film?) were “required viewing” in the eyes of their parents. That was more disturbing than anything I saw onscreen that night.

Well, TrulyMoving Pictures.org has a list of Truly Moving Pictures and guess what’s on it? Big surprise: “The Passion of the Christ”! I wonder what this group would think if they knew that their “truly moving film” was in part responsible for a huge surge in anti-Semitic crimes?

So who decides what films are “truly moving”? If you register on the website, you can become a member and “vote in polls.” I don’t think those polls determine officially recognized films, though, because “The Soloist” isn’t even out yet and its already a certified winner. The site says the list is “constantly growing,” though, so who’s voting?

don't violate the circle of trustYou can be a part of this group for the low, low price of $35. (As long as you’re a student, senior, or educator. For everybody else, a donation of anywhere from $50 – $9,999 is needed to join the group’s Circle of Friends, which makes it way easier than getting into Robert De Niro’s scary Circle of Trust.) But does that guarantee you a vote?

The “About Us” page has a little more information: “By bestowing a watermark to honored films, the award allows studios and distributors to inform potential audiences of a film’s uplifting message and appeal. Submissions are received directly from studios and producers for consideration. The award is given prior to the film’s release with the goal of encouraging moviegoers to support the film, especially on opening weekend.”

Wow.

martianchild.jpgWell, it still doesn’t say who or how many people are voting, but their endgame is right there, plainly stated. They want to influence box office receipts on opening weekend so that everyone else will see how successful a “truly moving picture” is and go out and see it for themselves. How’d that work for ya, “Martian Child”?

My biggest problem here is that this group, which sponsors the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis every year, is purporting to have the “be all/end all” list of inspiring movies. Every page on their website has a link to “The List.” What’s the difference between this list and the AFI Top 100, you may ask? Or my own personal Top 10 of the year?

Well, first off, I don’t have a strictly defined moral agenda and neither does the AFI. Every single one of the films on my 2008 list moved, challenged, or inspired me, and I guarantee you that the AFI list does the same thing for its wide variety of polled individuals. The people who read the AFI list are looking for movies with any kind of cultural significance rather than some simplified, cliched moral highmindedness.

“Slumdog Millionaire” somehow didn’t make the Heartland list, yet millions of people worldwide watched this little movie come out of nowhere and delight and inspire them all the way to a Best Picture win and over $311 in global box office. How is that movie not “inspiring” enough? Why is it not on the “approved” list? i am sam poster

Did Fox Searchlight overlook this potential audience and forget to submit it? Did it lose out on moral endorsement from Truly Moving Pictures because it was screened too early, before anybody ever thought it was going to make so much as a dent? Was it because its warts-and-all portrayal of a pumped-up Dubai culture was too morally complicated for the group to digest? Or was it something as simple and “offensive” as the main character falling into a giant pit of human excrement?

Whatever the reason, the Truly Moving Picture list seems to celebrate movies that subscribe to their particular worldview. I think “Dr. Strangelove” is a truly moving film. I need to be able to laugh at the power of the military-industrial complex. That’s how I deal with my growing, nagging fear of it. Stanley Kubrick parodied this problem back in 1964 and its still relevant today. Just because it doesn’t give me warm fuzzies at the end like Truly Moving Picture “I Am Sam” doesn’t make it less moving, only less manipulative.

pay it forward dvd coverI can’t imagine what a limiting world the members of this organization live in. Should the moral intentions of a film be singled out over its artistry or lack thereof? Are “moving” films not allowed the moral ambiguity that makes our world such a fascinating place to live in? I’m sure Mimi Leder wanted to make a film that inspired people to do good deeds when she directed the alarming Truly Moving Picture “Pay it Forward,” but shouldn’t she also be taken to task for insulting every member of the audience with the movie’s cheap tactics, arrogance, and triteness?

How insane is this? This group is a nonprofit, collecting money from donors so they can tell more people to go see movies they like! Sounds fun.

I hereby announce the formation of my own group of moral movie crusaders. We are here to save the world from overwrought, condescending, self-righteous claptrap and will support the films that we like by talking about them incessantly on the Internet and going to see them if we get around to it. If not, we’ll rent them on DVD or download them if that comes first. We are a complicated and diverse people and we like our movies to reflect that. In fact, we can’t agree on anything. We are also way less motivated and couldn’t muster up a busload of movie watchers if our life depended on it.

We are the tax-deductible nonprofit group known as the Scene-Stealers, and we are now taking donations. Put your money where your morality is. Email your intended amount of donation to eric@scene-stealers.com today and we can make our own “inspring” movie posters that feature characters gazing upward with blissful, saintly looks on their faces.

Eric

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hai April 9, 2009 at 12:34 am

“The Truly Moving Picture list seems to celebrate movies that subscribe to their particular worldview.” Star Wars is on the list. So their “particular worldview” includes The Force. Which is fine by me.

However, TMP went full retard with I Am Sam, never go full retard.

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2 Hai April 9, 2009 at 12:34 am

“The Truly Moving Picture list seems to celebrate movies that subscribe to their particular worldview.” Star Wars is on the list. So their “particular worldview” includes The Force. Which is fine by me.

However, TMP went full retard with I Am Sam, never go full retard.

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3 Clark April 9, 2009 at 5:36 am

I wondered what that was… The Happy Feet and Wall-E DVDs come with this logo: “Truly Moving Picture”. And they are! But I never knew what it meant.

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4 Clark April 9, 2009 at 5:36 am

I wondered what that was… The Happy Feet and Wall-E DVDs come with this logo: “Truly Moving Picture”. And they are! But I never knew what it meant.

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5 Danica April 9, 2009 at 8:08 am

Working through your anger while reading was really inspiring, but the Blingee photo at the end, well sir, that really takes the cake!

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6 Danica April 9, 2009 at 8:08 am

Working through your anger while reading was really inspiring, but the Blingee photo at the end, well sir, that really takes the cake!

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7 becky April 9, 2009 at 9:34 am

I’m sorry. How can movies like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or the recent Tinkerbell animated film make their list, while Milk did not?

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8 becky April 9, 2009 at 9:34 am

I’m sorry. How can movies like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or the recent Tinkerbell animated film make their list, while Milk did not?

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9 Eric Melin April 9, 2009 at 9:40 am

Since they have not listed their criteria for what makes the list, I think there are other forces at work here. Maybe political…who knows? But “Milk” was extremely inspiring in my opinion. Apparently not “truly” inspiring. Even the choice of words makes me sick. “Truly” is such a pious word, as if these films were handed down from on high.

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10 Eric Melin April 9, 2009 at 9:40 am

Since they have not listed their criteria for what makes the list, I think there are other forces at work here. Maybe political…who knows? But “Milk” was extremely inspiring in my opinion. Apparently not “truly” inspiring. Even the choice of words makes me sick. “Truly” is such a pious word, as if these films were handed down from on high.

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11 Alan Rapp April 9, 2009 at 10:44 am

I think I need to vomit.

Nice job man. I couldn’t agree more about Pay It Forward which made me feel dirty afterward, not inspired (and certainly not truly inspired).

From perusing their list I see some good films, but it seems to me you could easily re-title the list “Truly Safe Moving Pictures Without a Hint of Moral Ambiguity.”

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12 Alan Rapp April 9, 2009 at 10:44 am

I think I need to vomit.

Nice job man. I couldn’t agree more about Pay It Forward which made me feel dirty afterward, not inspired (and certainly not truly inspired).

From perusing their list I see some good films, but it seems to me you could easily re-title the list “Truly Safe Moving Pictures Without a Hint of Moral Ambiguity.”

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13 Aaron April 9, 2009 at 11:43 am

EXCELLENT! Well said, my friend.

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14 Aaron April 9, 2009 at 11:43 am

EXCELLENT! Well said, my friend.

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15 Jon Sholly April 9, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Drat! I was hoping for a visit from Mr Melin this year!

Yes, I live in the city where this hellish parade of do-gooders convene every year. I seem to remember Michael Medved being the keynote speaker one year so that’ll give you an idea of what kind of people are behind this moral crusader nightmare. The only good news is that someone has come up with the B-Movie Celebration film festival south of Indianapolis which has prominently featured “Golden Turkey” “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” Sadly, this Heartland Film Fest gets exponentially bigger every year. It really, really sucks.

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16 Jon Sholly April 9, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Drat! I was hoping for a visit from Mr Melin this year!

Yes, I live in the city where this hellish parade of do-gooders convene every year. I seem to remember Michael Medved being the keynote speaker one year so that’ll give you an idea of what kind of people are behind this moral crusader nightmare. The only good news is that someone has come up with the B-Movie Celebration film festival south of Indianapolis which has prominently featured “Golden Turkey” “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” Sadly, this Heartland Film Fest gets exponentially bigger every year. It really, really sucks.

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17 Rachelle April 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I wonder if Magnolia would have made the list if it had rained kittens instead of frogs. . .

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18 Rachelle April 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I wonder if Magnolia would have made the list if it had rained kittens instead of frogs. . .

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19 Eric Melin April 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm

maybe they didn’t get the fact Exodus 8:1-15 mentions this plague of frogs!

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20 Eric Melin April 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm

maybe they didn’t get the fact Exodus 8:1-15 mentions this plague of frogs!

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21 RCM April 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Just about the best thing I’ve read on this site so far!

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22 RCM April 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Just about the best thing I’ve read on this site so far!

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23 nina April 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

oooooh, lookie! all those shiny shiny rainbows……oddly disturbing, eric. but gotta love it all the same. as for your tirade- completely justified.

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24 nina April 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

oooooh, lookie! all those shiny shiny rainbows……oddly disturbing, eric. but gotta love it all the same. as for your tirade- completely justified.

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25 Reed April 10, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Excellent, incisive attack, Eric. So next Tuesday…. Top Ten Truly Moving Pictures?
“The 10 movies on the TMP list that made me most need to make a movement. In the bathroom.”

Just make sure you put the words “Truly Moving Pictures” all over it so when people google the phrase, SS is the second site listed!

PS – you already beat me to it, but anyone throwing out the word “truly” when talking about their personal opinion regarding any art form and not doing it ironically deserves a nice big punch in the face.

Note – there are a lot of really good and important movies on their list. There’s just a lot of crap, too. Drumline?!?!? I would have no problem with any of this if it weren’t for their supercilious approach.

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26 Reed April 10, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Excellent, incisive attack, Eric. So next Tuesday…. Top Ten Truly Moving Pictures?
“The 10 movies on the TMP list that made me most need to make a movement. In the bathroom.”

Just make sure you put the words “Truly Moving Pictures” all over it so when people google the phrase, SS is the second site listed!

PS – you already beat me to it, but anyone throwing out the word “truly” when talking about their personal opinion regarding any art form and not doing it ironically deserves a nice big punch in the face.

Note – there are a lot of really good and important movies on their list. There’s just a lot of crap, too. Drumline?!?!? I would have no problem with any of this if it weren’t for their supercilious approach.

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27 Paul Almit April 10, 2009 at 8:29 pm

A very interesting disusion here, having not gone to the site yet (I shall commenting here) i cant yet confirm my assumtions but from what i read from what has been writen (remember this is based solely on what you have written) it seems that there is some sort of religious undertone at play here where

who is to say what they believe as “POSITIVE VALUES OF LIFE” and “Hope” That they refer to in there mission statement. The terminology of hope personally suggests to me that of a religious hope, maybe im going into it to much but the thaught of morals and hope and Positive values of life seem to be based on a somewhat religious background. Be carefull my friends not to blindly follow what is being told and question everything…….now to lose credability…….TIIIIIIIIIIIIIITS

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28 Paul Almit April 10, 2009 at 8:29 pm

A very interesting disusion here, having not gone to the site yet (I shall commenting here) i cant yet confirm my assumtions but from what i read from what has been writen (remember this is based solely on what you have written) it seems that there is some sort of religious undertone at play here where

who is to say what they believe as “POSITIVE VALUES OF LIFE” and “Hope” That they refer to in there mission statement. The terminology of hope personally suggests to me that of a religious hope, maybe im going into it to much but the thaught of morals and hope and Positive values of life seem to be based on a somewhat religious background. Be carefull my friends not to blindly follow what is being told and question everything…….now to lose credability…….TIIIIIIIIIIIIIITS

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29 katy April 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

please let’s not judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its advocates – as you say, these award givers haven’t seen ‘the soloist’ yet, but from the sound of it neither have you. from what i’ve read in reviews from people who’ve actually watched the film it’s as far from a saccharine, hollywood schmaltzfest as you could imagine. Yes, the organisation & award are a little suspect, but let’s not smear a potentially decent film with opinions based on rumour and prejudice.

i for one will be watching this film and making my own opinion. i have faith that anything robert downey jr and joe wright are involved in is worth checking out.

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30 katy April 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

please let’s not judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its advocates – as you say, these award givers haven’t seen ‘the soloist’ yet, but from the sound of it neither have you. from what i’ve read in reviews from people who’ve actually watched the film it’s as far from a saccharine, hollywood schmaltzfest as you could imagine. Yes, the organisation & award are a little suspect, but let’s not smear a potentially decent film with opinions based on rumour and prejudice.

i for one will be watching this film and making my own opinion. i have faith that anything robert downey jr and joe wright are involved in is worth checking out.

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31 Eric Melin April 12, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Katy- Actually, the Heartland organization has seen it. Enough of them have, at least, to give it the Truly Moving Pictures award. They get to see films before they are released so they can mount campaigns to get people to go see them.I’ll be watching it to and am looking forward to it based on the talent. This article is not a smear on that movie whatsoever, but getting that email about it was the impetus for me writing it.

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32 Eric Melin April 12, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Katy- Actually, the Heartland organization has seen it. Enough of them have, at least, to give it the Truly Moving Pictures award. They get to see films before they are released so they can mount campaigns to get people to go see them.I’ll be watching it to and am looking forward to it based on the talent. This article is not a smear on that movie whatsoever, but getting that email about it was the impetus for me writing it.

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33 Terra April 13, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Wellll…all I can say (and this is pretty narrow of me, but it’s my current yardstick and probably will be for some time) is that any site that purports wisdom and didn’t give Slumdog a notice blew it for me right there. I am not a gushy film person, but Slumdog was probably the most bloody inspiring film of the last ten years. Not just for its content, but because of the story of the film itself. “nough said.

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34 Terra April 13, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Wellll…all I can say (and this is pretty narrow of me, but it’s my current yardstick and probably will be for some time) is that any site that purports wisdom and didn’t give Slumdog a notice blew it for me right there. I am not a gushy film person, but Slumdog was probably the most bloody inspiring film of the last ten years. Not just for its content, but because of the story of the film itself. “nough said.

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35 Matt Brown April 13, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for doing this story, Eric. Now I have a list of films I can go ahead and remove from my Netflix queue.
Everything about this group and their list is suspect. This is obviously a Christian group if they found Chronicles of Narnia to be anything short of a tepid puddle of excrement. Who are the people that honestly check with something like this before going to see a film? We should probably sick the Scene-Stealers army on them in a campaign of ‘Shutup Flanders’ emails. Just a thought.

Honestly, even Movie Mom has more balls than this weak crap…ugh, people are infuriating…

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36 Matt Brown April 13, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Thanks for doing this story, Eric. Now I have a list of films I can go ahead and remove from my Netflix queue.
Everything about this group and their list is suspect. This is obviously a Christian group if they found Chronicles of Narnia to be anything short of a tepid puddle of excrement. Who are the people that honestly check with something like this before going to see a film? We should probably sick the Scene-Stealers army on them in a campaign of ‘Shutup Flanders’ emails. Just a thought.

Honestly, even Movie Mom has more balls than this weak crap…ugh, people are infuriating…

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37 Rafferty April 15, 2009 at 1:08 pm

I wouldn’t necessarily delete movies off of my queue just because they’re on this list–I mean, “Jeremiah Johnson” is pretty great no matter what.

I think the argument behind all this is an argument about the purpose of art overall: do you want it to reaffirm what you already believe, or do you want it to make you question what you believe, with the possibility that you might change what you believe?

A lot of the movies on here seem to fall into that first category, and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that (the Sistine Chapel does essentially the same thing–”look how great what you already believe is!”). But it’s not what I want art to do. “Shoah” is probably the most “truly moving picture” I’ve ever seen, but there’s no way it’s making this list because it forced me to call into question a lot of what I believed, and not everything made it through that process unscathed.

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38 Rafferty April 15, 2009 at 1:08 pm

I wouldn’t necessarily delete movies off of my queue just because they’re on this list–I mean, “Jeremiah Johnson” is pretty great no matter what.

I think the argument behind all this is an argument about the purpose of art overall: do you want it to reaffirm what you already believe, or do you want it to make you question what you believe, with the possibility that you might change what you believe?

A lot of the movies on here seem to fall into that first category, and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that (the Sistine Chapel does essentially the same thing–”look how great what you already believe is!”). But it’s not what I want art to do. “Shoah” is probably the most “truly moving picture” I’ve ever seen, but there’s no way it’s making this list because it forced me to call into question a lot of what I believed, and not everything made it through that process unscathed.

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39 Eric Melin April 15, 2009 at 4:10 pm

No I wouldn’t delete them either. You are 100% right about the limited scope of what qualifies for TMP’s approved list here. The movies they’ve chosen are “moving” in the way that a sneaker is a shoe. It’s one kind of shoe, and it may be more comfortable than other shoes, but you can’t wear sneakers all the time.

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40 Eric Melin April 15, 2009 at 4:10 pm

No I wouldn’t delete them either. You are 100% right about the limited scope of what qualifies for TMP’s approved list here. The movies they’ve chosen are “moving” in the way that a sneaker is a shoe. It’s one kind of shoe, and it may be more comfortable than other shoes, but you can’t wear sneakers all the time.

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