While visiting this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I was able to spend some time with the great Michael Medved, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, bestselling author, and film critic. Michael’s daily three hour show reaches 200 stations across the country and an audience of 4.7 million placing him, for nine years in a row, on the Talkers Magazine list of the top ten political talks shows in the United States. In Part 2 of our interview, Michael shares some thoughts on filmmaking as an art and medium, a few favorite movies, and his radio show.
Kevin Williams: Are there different standards of quality and talent for filmmakers on the Left versus filmmakers on the Right, as far as what is considered “good” art or “good” filmmaking?
Michael Medved: I think we may err, and I would include myself in this as I say “we,” in being a little bit too eager to promote some of those rare projects on the Right. It was very hard for me because I love “Atlas Shrugged” the book. “Atlas Shrugged,” the movie… I couldn’t believe that so many on our team contrived to like it. Because it was not a successful film, it wasn’t good. So I think to that extent, partially, the Right-wing stuff is very often very ad hoc and it’s a one-off. Which is why it’s so remarkable when something comes outside… way outside the system of extraordinary high craft-quality, let alone artistic quality. Like “The Passion of the Christ” or even “Fireproof.” “Fireproof” was not a masterpiece, it’s not an Oscar-worthy film. But it was emotionally, I think, an interesting film and sound and reasonably well-crafted.
Williams: Especially for the budget level they were operating at for that film.
Medved: Right. [For example] I got a call the other day from someone who was offended because I had given “Courageous” two and a half stars. [They said], “That was the best film and it had a wonderful message!” Yeah it did, but that’s different from being a wonderful film.
Williams: Now that film is moving into its second century as a medium, where do you see film as a medium 10 years down the road?
Medved: I think we’re going to see, I mean, one of things that I think is very surprising is I never would have thought this 3D thing would ever work. But, now they’re going to develop all kinds of different [things] and it’s going to be interactive. The next thing, I would guess, is going to be to figure out a way that people in the movie theater can interact with some kind of big 3D screen. Maybe even choosing a storyline by their voting. Interactivity, I think, is the way it’s going to go.
Williams: Even on the Independent film side, they’re talking about Transmedia…
Medved: There will still be a place for normal, old narrative pictures and, as “The Artist” shows, maybe even silent pictures. I love “The Artist.” I saw it three times and I just love the film. It is very special because you just feel great when you come out of the film.
Williams: Is there one film from throughout the films you’ve seen in your lifetime that you’d like people to see that maybe they haven’t seen in the past?
Medved: I’d say two films. They are very patriotic films, but in different ways. One of them is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” A lot of people know about it, but they haven’t seen it. It’s a film about how politics can be honorable and how the complaints about corruption in Washington are not new. They didn’t start with the Obama Administration or even the Bush Administration. They were there in 1939 when that film was made. The other film I would mention in that same regard is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” which is the first major film by Elia Kazan. An absolutely wonderful film about fathers and daughters, the immigrant experience and American assimilation. It gets me every time, partially because I have two daughters. The film is about a singing waiter who is struggling to make it. He is an Irish immigrant who is married to a Scandinavian immigrant and their little girl dreams of someday being a writer. She focuses on the tree out their window that her Dad, who is kind of a doomed alcoholic, teaches her to appreciate… It’s just a lovely, lovely film.
One of the things that Kazan did in that film and there’s really only a few films in history that have done it… is the film is very beautifully scored, but all the music is ambient music. In other words, you are hearing a hurdy gurdy on the street corner. You’re hearing a band in the background. You’re hearing the voices of people singing or playing piano. But, there’s no “background” music.
Williams: So there’s a practical reason for it being in the scene.
Williams: What were the ages that you showed it to your daughters for the first time?
Medved: Maybe eleven or twelve. It’s sad at points so you have to be careful.
Photo courtesy MichaelMedved.com
Williams: My final question… what do you like most about having a daily radio show?
Medved: The feeling that your opinions count. Everyone’s opinions do count … there’s a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, the father, not the son — not the Supreme Court Justice, the poet… who said, “As life is action and passion, a man who does not participate in the action and passion of his time runs the risk of being judged not to have lived.” Most people have limited opportunity to participate in the action and passion of your time. I get that chance every day. You know, if something happened that was interesting I can at least comment on it, if not be part of it. That’s a wonderful feeling and it’s a great blessing, and I feel very fortunate to enjoy that blessing.
Read part one of this interview here.