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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Richard Dutcher leaves the Mormon faith? Not really sure but a beautiful farewell. (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Richard Dutcher leaves the Mormon faith? Not really sure but a beautiful farewell.
lem
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As some of you may know, certainly Latter Day Saints, Richard Dutcher has been by far the best (if not only) good Mormon filmmaker. I take that back, my favorite Mormon movie was Saints and Soldiers. Very good movie.

As a Mormon, I loved God's Army. Well, I liked it very much. It surprised me because most Mormon movies are...trite. God's Army was different. Brigham City was fantastic. I would still recommend that movie for anyone.

It seems Dutcher is saying goodbye to Mormon filmmaking and possibly Mormonism. But I must say he is doing it with class, humility, support for the community, and a possibility for return.

Richard Dutcher: 'Parting words' on Mormon movies.

quote:
As you know, it's a lot harder now than it was in 2002 to book a Mormon film into a movie theater or to get the DVD on the shelf at the local media store. Have there been too many movies in the marketplace? Of course not. Is the market glutted? Far from it. There have been too many badly-made films in the marketplace, too few good ones.

A sharp increase in quality will bring an increase in box office. Increased box office will breathe new life into Mormon cinema. It's that simple.

quote:
The church would never allow shoddy, inexperienced architects and builders to create one of its temples. In its sacred commitment to excellence, the church searches for and employs those with the necessary talents, non-Mormons and Mormons alike...
quote:
Look at the movies that play on the screen of the theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. These films are the introduction of Mormonism to hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe. Shouldn't these be the most powerful films on the face of the earth? For whatever reason -- nepotism, ignorance ... who knows? -- this opportunity is squandered. Why not share with visitors the beauty and power of Mormonism, rather than treating them to polite, remedial and not-so-factual recitations of Mormon History and scripture? Viewers should leave those films weak in the knees, their minds reeling, their spirits soaring. Film has the power to do that.
quote:
A few parting words: I urge you to put the moronic comedies behind you. If you're going to make comedies, at least make them funny. Perhaps you should leave the mockery of Mormons to the anti-Mormons. They've had a lot more experience and, frankly, they do a better job.

Reach higher. Don't just "make a movie." Make the movie.

quote:
As many of you know, I am no longer a practicing member of the church. The private answers to the questions I have asked in my prayers, and in my films, have led me on an unexpected journey, a spiritual path which may ultimately prove incompatible with Mormon orthodoxy. This understanding has brought me some of the most profound surprises and also the deepest sadness of my life. It is very hard for me to say goodbye to something that I love.

Who knows? Maybe, like Oliver Cowdery (to whom I've always felt an uncommon kinship), my travels will someday lead back to Mormonism and to this effort. Such an end would be beautiful and, in a strange way, an answer to my prayers. But I don't know.

quote:
I know that some of you will not understand my decisions. Please know that I will always be not only a great friend to the Mormon community, but also one of its strongest defenders.
I must say, his writing insights and topic reminds me of OSC in a strange way--apart from no longer practicing.
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BlackBlade
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The man has alot of talent, I loved Saints and Soldiers, and much of what he says rings true.

I am sad to see him go, I hope he returns someday.

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Puffy Treat
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I wish him well in his future projects.

Obviously, I disagree with him on leaving the Church, but I'm not him, he's not me...and we all have to use our agency as we think best.

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porcelain girl
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I can respect anyone's choice of faith or changing of faith that they feel deeply about, but I personally found his farewell letter to be arrogant, and megalomanic.

The fact that he MADE a farewell letter at all shows quite a bit of self importance.

Then again I've never really been down with the notion of "mormon cinema" to begin with.

Whatevs, yo.

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Puffy Treat
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I will say he certainly seemed to not even allow the vaguest possibility that maybe his later films didn't draw an audience because of flaws in the movies themselves.

A truly thoughtful artist allows that some projects don't connect because they aren't very good...even if they are personal favorites. [Smile]

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Papa Moose
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Never saw any of his movies, but the novelization of God's Army was excellent. [/honest plug]

Saw the letter last week(end?), and my reactions were similar to porce's, including the "Whatevs, yo," though when I say it it's more like "Wev."

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lem
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quote:
The man has alot of talent, I loved Saints and Soldiers, and much of what he says rings true.
Actually Saints and Soldiers was Ryan Little; that is why I put that as the exception to Richard Dutcher's movies being the best Mormon Movies.

I am surprised by the megalomaniac accusations and dismissive "whatever" (my unpolished word) that is placed at him.

The article reads like it is intended for a specific audience. If it truly is an opinion piece only, then it seems a little over the top.

However he seems sincere. He seems like he wants Mormon cinema to succeed. He did not proselytize against the church. I think he has earned some respect for parting words. Comparing his movies to "The Home Teachers," "Day of Defence," "The RM," "The Singles Ward," and other God awful Mormon movies should give his opinion some weight and his perspective insightful.

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Puppy
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Hahaha, thanks for the plug, Papa [Smile]

I don't actually know Richard that well, even having adapted one of his movies. However, I do believe that he's sincere, and that he was one of the best filmmaking talents the Church has ever produced. He's not the only good one (with Ryan Lyttle, Jared Hess, Peter Johnson, and a few others standing out as his equals or betters), but he is really good, and deserves the acclaim he's received.

He does strike me as an honest seeker of truth who, while he disagrees with me on some things for the moment, may yet find what he's looking for. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I know everything, and it could well be that he's entering a phase of his life that God intends him to pass through. (In other words, though I'm a serious, believing Mormon, I also think he's sincere, and thinking that doesn't threaten my own beliefs [Smile] )

Anyway, I'm sorry to see him go, but I'm glad to see he's not going too far, and I wish him luck.

In the meantime, though he did kick off modern Mormon cinema with God's Army, I think that the sort of movie that resonates with him (explorations of evil, and the grey lines people waver across) was never going to be successful, long term, with Mormons as his primary audience. I think he'll do better with a broader group of viewers, and may end up making a more powerful mark as a moralist among edgy independent filmmakers, rather than as the edgy guy freaking out conservative Mormons [Smile]

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lem
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quote:
I think he'll do better with a broader group of viewers, and may end up making a more powerful mark as a moralist among edgy independent filmmakers, rather than as the edgy guy freaking out conservative Mormons [Smile]
Well said. I may have to check out that novelization I keep hearing about.
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Puppy
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It's not that good [Smile]
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porcelain girl
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quote:
Comparing his movies to "The Home Teachers," "Day of Defence," "The RM," "The Singles Ward," and other God awful Mormon movies should give his opinion some weight and his perspective insightful.
Recognizing that Seven Samurai is better than, say, John Tucker Must Die, does not a genius make.

I do not say that with the intention of smearing Dutcher, just to merely point out that the existence of really bad movies, genre or otherwise, does not inflate the value of other individual films. Unless of course you have been banished for the rest of your life to a cineplex that shows five lame movies and only one semi-decent one.

My opinion on his letter stands, regardless of his artistic merit (independently or relatively).

[ April 20, 2007, 01:45 AM: Message edited by: porcelain girl ]

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lem
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quote:
Recognizing that Seven Samurai is better than, say, John Tucker Must Die, does not a genius make.
No, but if Akira Kurosawa commented on the likes of Betty Thomas, I would listen with a little more interest then if I heard Kurt Hale's opinion.

But to each their own. I certainly respect where you are coming from.

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TL
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Is Richard Dutcher the Kurosawa in that analogy?
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lem
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I did not mean to imply he is a Kurosawa, only that he is qualified in my opinion to give constructive criticism for other LDS filmmakers.
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ketchupqueen
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You know, just because a lot of movies suck (movies in general, comedies, sci-fi movies, every kind of movies) does not mean that they should stop being made; on the contrary, I think they have to be made in order for people to be able to recognize the really great ones. And I personally enjoy a mindless two hour comedy now and again, Mormon or otherwise. It doesn't have to be great, just entertaining enough to distract me for a few hours. It may not be something I watch over and over, it may not be a GREAT film, but that doesn't mean it was a waste and should never have been made.
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katharina
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1. I think a lot of his comments about Mormon movies were terribly grandstanding. I understand that he believes it and I think moviemaking is so hard and such a labor of love that the fact that he is keeping at it practically requires that he believes that he is the shining beacon of taste and talent and the model of how all Mormon filmmakers should be, so I don't blame him for the self-aggrandizing, but I don't think he's completely right.

2. There is no evidence that he has left the church. He's in conflict and he's not presently a practicing Mormon, but he hasn't repudiated doctrines and he hasn't taken his names off the rolls and he hasn't renounced his beliefs. He's not presently practicing. By the time they are 66, the strong majority of practicing Mormons will have had at least one period of not attending church that lasted at least 12 months.

He's definitely going through something and I won't pretend that he's sitting at home with a tie on waiting for his home teachers to pick him up, but he hasn't left the church.

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katharina
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3. God's Army: States of Grace was fantastic. It was gorgeous and painful and lovely. I don't know if I can watch it again because people make choices that are going to crash down on them later and that's hard to watch, but it really is a very good movie. Matt adores it. It is also not a fun, entertaining movie - it's like watching...oh, I don't know - In America or ... Children of Men. I'm not surprised it wasn't terribly popular.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Unless of course you have been banished for the rest of your life to a cineplex that shows five lame movies and only one semi-decent one.
For many Mormons, this is roughly the case, even if it's self-banishment.
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Occasional
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When Dutcher became bigger than his movies, I lost complete interest in any future films he would make. The "God's Army" was good for what it was at the time. Looking back, I now see my enjoyment was that there were Mormons on the screen that were real and living.

When "Brigham City" came out I started noticing the flaws that had caused "God's Army" to not reach its full potential. Dutcher writes just like any other Hollywood by the books movie that you can guess what is going to happen. When he started to act as if he was (even listing some of them in his goodbye letter) one of the greatest modern directors, I really didn't want to pay for his overblown ego. Personally, I think he turned more Mormons off to watching his films then his movies did on their own. No matter how good "States of Grace" might be, I refuse to watch it because I don't like him (not because he left the church, but because his self-important attitude makes me angry).

The more I think of it though, it doesn't matter if there are such things as Mormon movies. I mean, how many Catholic, Muslim, or Jewish movie movements are there? In the end, it has to do with money and audience. There isn't enough of both to sustain a limited genre.

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lem
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quote:
No matter how good "States of Grace" might be, I refuse to watch it because I don't like him (not because he left the church, but because his self-important attitude makes me angry).
I feel the same way about Jared Hess.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Puppy:
It's not that good [Smile]

Geoff, you're not supposed to discourage the customers.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Unless of course you have been banished for the rest of your life to a cineplex that shows five lame movies and only one semi-decent one.
For many Mormons, this is roughly the case, even if it's self-banishment.
Well, that wasn't called for. [Frown]
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Occasional
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mph - as much as how I don't like the way he said it, I have to admit it is true. The only thing I disagree with is self-banishment as I think there are too many other factors (that I mentioned above as money and audience) keeping Mormon cinema almost non-existant.
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solo
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States of Grace really was a fantastic film. I enjoyed God's Army but Brigham City and States of Grace were both big improvements.

I think that his letter had a lot of arrogance in it and I wish that he didn't feel the need to define his success as an artist by how many LDS people appreciate his kind of movie. His movies are challenging and they confront real issues in an honest way. He doesn't have all of his Mormon characters act perfect because it wouldn't be an honest representation. It reminds me of how OSC depicts the Mormons in Lost Boys.

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Pat
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Unless of course you have been banished for the rest of your life to a cineplex that shows five lame movies and only one semi-decent one.
For many Mormons, this is roughly the case, even if it's self-banishment.
Well, that wasn't called for. [Frown]
Agreed.
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Scott R
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I'd actually like some explanation of Tom's comment.

'Cause I thought he was being funny.

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Pat
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I couldn't tell, but I'd appreciate some explanation too.
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Scott R
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Pat, you suck.
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Annie
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I certainly think it's true. (Tom's comment.)

I happen to be a Mormon who works very hard to find good movies that I enjoy that aren't compromising to my standards. Most of my peers simply take the selection at the local Blockbuster and cancel out all the R-rated ones. Most of what they watch IS drivel.

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Pat
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Hey Buddy, how ya been?
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MattB
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quote:
The more I think of it though, it doesn't matter if there are such things as Mormon movies. I mean, how many Catholic, Muslim, or Jewish movie movements are there?
You'd be surprised. I can give you titles if you'd like.

Anyway, I believe even the leaders of the Church disagree with your first statement. Look up what Orson Whitney and Spencer Kimball had to say about the need for good Mormon art - and, in Kimball's case, particularly Mormon film. Why do you think the Church keeps pouring money into making movies like Legacy and the Testaments if Mormon art isn't important?

Here's the thing - I think Dutcher is dead on. He hoped and prayed and worked to make movies that said serious things about Mormon life; that depicted the visceral beauty he saw in Mormon doctrine.

He's earned the right to blast "trite" Mormon movies, I think, because much of what he says is objectively true - the movies he dismisses are poorly made. They're poorly written, poorly acted, poorly directed. They're either the Mormon equivalent of Rob Schneider movies or use cliche and sappy music to go for cheap artificial sentiment. Dutcher, on the other hand, worked to master the language of film, and believes that Mormon films should be of the highest quality, should explore and fully use the art of movies to show beauty and to edify. And, well, according both to our host and to Mormon scripture, really accomplishing that means that sometimes your movie has to be rated PG13.

quote:
Personally, I think he turned more Mormons off to watching his films then his movies did on their own.
Actually, I'd be willing to wager that the majority of Mormons who own a copy of God's Army couldn't name the director. Anyhow, I think he's right to a point - the market is limited and was saturated. That being said, the solution, I think, is not to stop making Mormon movies, but to make non-exclusive Mormon movies; movies that explore Mormon ideas the way Flannery O'Connor explored Catholic ideas.
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Occasional
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Obviously, MattB, I disagree with both you and Dutcher. There has not even been enough of a Mormom movement to evaluate. His movies, although portraying Mormons better than the cliche's of others, were not visceral as much as Hollywood in Mormon garb. Not bad, but not worthy of his God-like status he seems to exhibit.

I am not saying he is wrong completely, but he could have said it with more tact, patience, and Christian sympathy. And, above all, with far more humility without a maryters complex.

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Pat
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Mormon cinema, in my opinion, will truly come of age when filmmakers figure out that it's ok to make a film that doesn't have the blaring disclaimer somewhere in the movie that says "Hey, this film is exactly in tune with everything the brethren say, and should not in any way harm the status of my church membership in any way."

It was refreshing to me to see Jon Heder in Blades of Glory, a guy who has maintained his integrity as a Mormon actor, flip someone off in a movie, use a little bit of profanity and be seen in a movie that is a little off the beaten path from standard, mormon cinema.

Because guess what -- good,practicing Mormon's swear, fart, and have problems and issues that can be included into a great movie. I'm glad that Jon Heder and his buddy Jared Hess have figured this out. Mormons are human.

I found that when I lived in Utah people went to these 'faithful' Mormon movies because they felt as though they had the blessings of General Authorities to do so, without really thinking outside of the box. In fact, I was shopping at a Seagull Book and Tape down here in Mesa Arizona and the store manager discouraged me from purchasing 'States of Grace,' citing the fact that it's a movie that good mormons don't see because it had murder, prostitution and other things that aren't in sync with Mormon teachings. Sadly, this is the attitude of the majority of the Mormon movie attenders.

Just like I'd rather read a book by Orson Scott Card that talked about the Mormon Pioneer Trek than Gerald Lund's Work and the Glory series, I'd like to see movies that point out the warts, pimples and weaknesses of characters regardless of if they are a worthy member of the church or not.

Wow. I wrote a rant. Hope it makes sense.

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Occasional
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"Actually, I'd be willing to wager that the majority of Mormons who own a copy of God's Army couldn't name the director."

And I would wager they know darn well who directed it, and the others, because Dutcher made sure they did. That includes his name as writer, director, and lead actor.

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Occasional
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"Because guess what -- good,practicing Mormon's swear, fart, and have problems and issues that can be included into a great movie"

I think this is horrible to include such trivial filth as part of "improved" movies. You don't correct something by going in the direct opposite of its badness. What we need is profoundity and not sordity (don't know if they are real words). And profoundity can include "General Authority" approved movies. Otherwise we are talking about style and not substance.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
And I would wager they know darn well who directed it
I'd take that bet, Occ.
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Pat
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quote:
Originally posted by Occasional:
"Because guess what -- good,practicing Mormon's swear, fart, and have problems and issues that can be included into a great movie"

I think this is horrible to include such trivial filth as part of "improved" movies. You don't correct something by going in the direct opposite of its badness. What we need is profoundity and not sordity (don't know if they are real words). And profoundity can include "General Authority" approved movies. Otherwise we are talking about style and not substance.

Then you'll continue to get movies like 'Church Ball', 'The R.M.' 'Home Teachers' and 'Mormons and the Mafia' instead of great LDS-themed movies like God's Army, Napoleon Dynamite and Saints and Soldiers. Don't get me wrong, both have their place, but in order for Independent Mormon Cinema to expand, grow and find a place alongside Hollywood-produced movies, they're going to have to make Mormonism a part of the story, not the entire story.

LDS artists who have transcended Utah-based audiences have figured this out while staying true to their beliefs. OSC is a prime example of this.

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Pat
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As for Dutcher, I think he's a great filmmaker, but could use a healthy dose of humility.... in my own humble opinion.

It's sad for me whenever anyone questions their faith, I hope he gets the answers he's looking for.

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Occasional
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I don't believe that OSC has done any of those things you say. Start at " . . . have problems and issues that can be included into a great movie," and I will agree. However, for me the " . . . good,practicing Mormon's swear, fart . . . " are what I think of when listing 'Church Ball', 'The R.M.' 'Home Teachers.'

Now, I thought 'RM' wasn't too bad as a comedy and 'Mormons and Mafia' was even better (not calling them artistic by any stretch). What I would like to see is more serious movies, although I don't thing RATINGS determine that. Movies can be just as good with a G or PG rating if they are written well. There is no reason for Mormons to not stick to those ratings and be good. If that is not the case then I say good riddens to the idea of Mormon cinema.

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King of Men
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Good fir him. I hope he doesn't just change superstitions, although that's the sense I get from the letter.
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MattB
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quote:
I think this is horrible to include such trivial filth as part of "improved" movies. You don't correct something by going in the direct opposite of its badness.
Aha. I think this may be the root of it. I don't believe the purpose of art is to 'correct' people. I believe the purpose of art is to explore and ponder people; and to thus come to a deeper understanding of what goood and evil are.

Edit: By the way, on OSC and evil, read "The Problem of Evil in Fiction."

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MattB
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It's also useful to note that the Provo Daily Herald asked Dutcher to write this piece; Kieth Merrill (who wrote this unfortunate piece in response) was already lined up to produce a response. The idea was a point-counterpoint on the current state of Mormon movies. So it's not as though Dutcher barged into everybody's living rooms to preach at them.
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MattB, I think we agree more than disagree. My problem is that I don't think Dutcher's way is the answer. Oh how I wish OSC was more of the pattern for Mormon artists.

That he was asked doesn't excuse the way he behaved or has behaved in the past. Still think he is a jerk. As far as I am concerned the response he got was justified.

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katharina
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I like that Keith apologized the next day.

This is definitely one thread that I wish OSC would post in. I would LOVE to hear what he thinks.

*hopes/yearns* Anyone want to whisper that to him?

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lem
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quote:
As far as I am concerned the response he got was justified.
The response was childish, mean spirited, arrogant, and pitiful. It is this type of Mormon sentiment I can see that may push him out of the fringe in Mormonism to actually permanently leaving it.

At least Keith Merrill will have an already established excuse for Richard's apostasy to deflect any real input.

quote:
He sounds as though he honestly believes that anybody gives a rip that he's "leaving Mormon cinema" and will no longer "have the honor to make these movies." Give me a break! The guy's lost it! Apparently, unchecked arrogance is even better than Red Bull to synthesize feelings of worth and self-assurance.
Oh the irony. Pathetic. Compare that to:

quote:
I know that some of you will not understand my decisions. Please know that I will always be not only a great friend to the Mormon community, but also one of its strongest defenders.

My brothers and sisters, I respectfully leave Mormon cinema in your capable -- and now seasoned -- hands. I hope that someday I will hear a few of your names mentioned in the company of the handful of filmmakers who have dared to explore human spirituality in film: Bergman, Bresson, Tarkovsky, Dreyer, Ozu, etc. One of my greatest hopes, of course (in true competitive spirit), is that one day my name will be at the very top of that list.

Knowing that Richards was requested to write that only makes Merril seem more small.

EDIT

quote:
I like that Keith apologized the next day.
I didn't see the apology until you wrote that. It was classy. Sorry I got so worked up.
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katharina
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lem, I agree with you abot Merril's response, and I think Merril agrees with you as well. He apologized the next day.
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Zalmoxis
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Kieth Merrill sent in an apology to the Herald:

http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/218124/1/

And Richard Dutcher posted more about his decision at the Mormon blog By Common Consent:

http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/04/richard-dutcher-vehicle-of-gods-grace/#comment-129821

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lem
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quote:
lem, I agree with you abot Merril's response, and I think Merril agrees with you as well. He apologized the next day.
I think we posted at the same time. I have an edit in that post. It really was a good apology that does the LDS faith and the power of General Conference proud.
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katharina
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I agree. [Smile]
quote:
My outrageous and over-reactive response to Richard's editorial in the Daily Herald was inappropriate and wrong. I was wrong in doing it. I was mostly wrong in what I said. There were reasons, of course, but none of them qualify as an acceptable excuse for my bad behavior. I regret my actions and my words. I apologize for my sarcasm, criticism and condemnations. I am sorry. I have asked Richard and Gwen to forgive me.
Aw, that's a good apology.
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Amanecer
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quote:
There is no evidence that he has left the church. He's in conflict and he's not presently a practicing Mormon, but he hasn't repudiated doctrines and he hasn't taken his names off the rolls and he hasn't renounced his beliefs.
After reading the second letter, this does not sound correct. Out of respect, he does not want to list his reasons publicly, but he considers himself to have left the church. He also clarifies that it wasn't any of the commonly presumed cultural issues that might lead somebody to leave. This sounds to me like he has doctrinal disagreements.
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