Chris Hicks: '17 Miracles' ranks near top of Mormon cinema

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  • Deserthiker SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Sept. 11, 2011 10:02 p.m.

    I loved this movie. I have ancestors who traveled in the Martin company and have done a moderate amount of reading and research into the experiences of the handcart pioneers in general and the Martin/Willie companies in particular. I found the movie engaging, emotionally compelling and moving, and very historically accurate (accepting the timeline blending for sake of continuity and storyline). The production values were among the best I've seen in "LDS Cinema." I have seldom, if ever, been as emotionally moved by a film. I found myself not wanting to leave at the end, valuing the beautiful music played during the credits just to process all I'd just seen and felt. I saw the movie a half dozen times in various theaters. After most of those screenings, the audience sat quietly (almost reverently) throughout the end credits and music, Im guessing feeling much as I did. I felt the Spirit watching a film in a commercial theater-something that has almost never happened before. This film ranks right at the top for me! My sincere thanks to the film production staff and cast. Here's to hoping for more like this one in the future.

  • Rikitikitavi Cardston, Alberta
    Sept. 10, 2011 8:44 a.m.

    My favorite by far is "Forever Strong" but some may not consider this one an "LDS film. Ryan Little is an LDS filmmaker and this was absolutely marvelous.

  • Vanka Provo, UT
    Sept. 9, 2011 8:15 p.m.

    Enjoying Mormon cinema is akin to voting for Romney... simply because he is LDS. Call it a "tribal bias" if you will.

    The biggest problem with Mormon cinema is the painfully obvious, chronic need to moralize. The movies are created in order to "proclaim the message" and it deprives the movies of their richness, subtlety, and power.

    If people want to pay good money to be preached to, they just get baptized, pay tithing, and attend 3 hours of meetings each week.

  • speed66 Heber City, UT
    Sept. 9, 2011 4:52 p.m.

    Wow...the top of Mormon Cinema..that's like winning best of the worst.

    @Andermart - I'm not sure what you mean by "real members of the LDS church". I think both productions were excellent depictions of the characters they selected.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Sept. 9, 2011 12:09 p.m.

    To Idaho Coug: Lets look at the scriptures and you will find many miracles performed by Christ. One imparticular pertains to the 10 blind men that were healed. All but one turned and thanked the Lord. The others just left.

    Also, Amanda Barnes Smith prayed to our Heavenly Father and was informed to put peet moss on her wounded sons hip to heal him. She did and he was to walk across the plains into Salt Lake years later. These are all miracles but many forget that they are at the will of the Father.

    Still a woman giving birth to a child to many is nothing today but yet in many countries it is still a miracle the child survives.

    We have to understand that the will of the Lord is paramount in all of this. Look at the Sister Missionary recently killed in an accident in New York. Her companion survives the accident though she is killed. Some would say it was a miracle the one survived while others just look at it and say well the impact killed the one sister because it was on her side. That is the only reason the other survived.

  • sue1951 MAY, TX
    Sept. 9, 2011 10:00 a.m.

    You guys are so blessed. we never get to see any of those movie? I think the only one I heard of was in Dallas, about 4 hours from where I live. No bookstores around us. we have to do everything by ordering. and taking a chance. I buy family movies for my grandchildren

  • Ventor West Valley City, Utah
    Sept. 9, 2011 9:21 a.m.

    To Cats
    I stand corrected. The Director, the writers, and one of the producers are LDS. but the Movie was Distributed by Disney, and should have been mentioned as a prominent LDS film in this article.

  • David G Woolley Bountiful, UT
    Sept. 9, 2011 8:56 a.m.

    I never go to the same movie twice. At least I don't remember spending real money to see the same movie in theatres. We've been to 17 Miracles four time. And we're thinking about going one more time at the dollar theatres. We've already ordered the DVD in advance of its release. And we've convinced out-of-state family to order it too. I'd have to say its near the top. (PS: you didn't mention two of my favorites: Errand of Angels and One Good Man!)

  • Virginia Hurley CAYCE, SC
    Sept. 9, 2011 8:55 a.m.

    I didn't realize that there that many mormon movies!!!! Where can I order them?
    I would rather watch those any day than the stuff that is on tv. I do like the GMC channel, there is no foul language and it is usually family oriented movies
    that are great!! I still go to the byu channel for discussions, and music:) (AND SOOOO MUCH MORE:) )

  • Dode Smithfield, UT
    Sept. 9, 2011 8:48 a.m.

    I loved the show and saw it twice. We all have something to learn from it, as there were many examples of life in the various vinettes. I am very appreciative to have such movies to go to, simply because there's not much out there these days that I would spend any money on.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    Sept. 9, 2011 8:47 a.m.

    Sorry to be a downer but 17 Miracles highlighted the struggle I have with the concept of miracles in general. One scene the movie depicted an incredible miracle that saved or prolonged someone's life. And the next scene depicted a dozen people being burried in a shallow grave. It is similar to a family who professes a miracle that their missing child was found when the hundreds of other families who only find a body if their lucky wonder where their miracle was. It can be discouraging to recognize how random and inconsistent miracles really are.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Sept. 9, 2011 8:19 a.m.

    I appreciated the fact that the marketing for 17 Miracles included limited release outside of Happy Valley, and that they got the word out. I would like to see this approach by others making Mormon films. It would not surprise me if the showing in Plano, TX (held over for an extra week) was one of the more profitable outside of Utah.

    Only problem was, with many Cinemark theaters to choose from, they chose to show the film in one of the most expensive venues in the area. I think this probably hurt ticket sales. ($8.50 for a matinee, $12 for an evening show)

    Of course, if their goal was to maximize revenue, instead of maximize exposure, I imagine they succeeded.

  • Andermart Pullman, WA
    Sept. 9, 2011 8:00 a.m.

    @ bgl

    Nice tongue-in-cheek try there bgl. Fortunately, neither "Banner of Heaven" nor "The Book of Mormon" Musical sheds much light about real members of the LDS Church, but they do bring publicity to the Church that we certainly play off of.

    I have been largely disapointed with LDS Cinema, but I have enjoyed occasional film. "Best Two Years" and "Other Side of Heaven" did a respectable job. With "17 Miracles", TC took an oft told event and made it very interesting. Just wait till you see his next one.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    Sept. 9, 2011 7:57 a.m.

    I really enjoyed the movie. It ranks up there at the top of the Mormon movies. Saints and Soldiers is my favorite.

  • Neuron Northern, FL
    Sept. 9, 2011 7:48 a.m.

    Re: SCCougar - Amazon, Netflix, DeseretBook (online), etc. There are many options to purchase (and some to rent) the films.

  • thunderbolt Dutch John, UT
    Sept. 9, 2011 7:26 a.m.

    I liked the movie, but am prejudiced because I was an "extra" in it. My qualification to be an extra is my ability to grow a great beard and look like a bum. I found it interesting & astonishing how a coherent movie can be made from a bunch of unrelated, short, staged scenes lasting ~30 seconds. Christensen had trouble finding good, deep snow; the weather was not cooperative. Nevertheless, the movie brought tears to my eyes. The musical score was stunning. The considerable creativity of all involved was aptly demonstrated.

  • bgl Santa Monica, CA
    Sept. 9, 2011 6:49 a.m.

    I like the ones made about Mormons better than the ones made by Mormons. The new, Ron Howard directed "Under the Banner of Heaven" looks awesome and will help the rest of the country learn about the great state of Utah in some of our darker times. Also, the Book of Mormon musical, has been such a blockbuster and has helped people learn so much about the church, that I'm certain that wonderful actors and directors will be vying to take part in what is sure to be an Academy Award nominated film, when it comes out in the next couple of years. That's one great thing about film, there are films for everybody. Films that entertain and enlighten Mormons and films that shed a little light on Mormons.

    Sept. 9, 2011 5:44 a.m.

    Where can someone outside of Utah get a hold of these movies?

  • Utah Girl Vernal, UT
    Sept. 9, 2011 12:08 a.m.

    We went to see 17 Miracles a week ago when it finally came to our local theater. I loved it. I really enjoy most of the "Mormon" movies, with the exception of Home Teachers, and Church Ball (or whatever it was called), both really goofy, IMHO. While Brigham City is a little dark, I really like it. Richard Dutcher has made some good movies. I also like Chris Heimerdinger's movie, Passage to Zarahemla. Some of it was a little silly, but I liked it anyway. There are so many, like Mountain of the Lord, The Testaments, and so on, that are good quality, well made films. And I thought the Work and the Glory series was good. Hard to fit everything into 3 movies, but I like them anyway. Keep up the good work. Oh yeah, The Other Side of Heaven was very well made. I read the book, too, which had a different title...can't think of it. The movie was quite true to the book.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Sept. 8, 2011 11:28 p.m.

    Some broach Mormonism subtly ("Saints and Soldiers"), some are heavy-handed ("Day of Defense") and some are just embarrassing ("The Home Teachers").


    and others are just to stupid to mention ("Passage to Zarahelma").

  • Florwood American Fork, UT
    Sept. 8, 2011 10:53 p.m.

    Chris, how about giving us your top ten (which should include Other Side of Heaven). It would be interesting to know the top ten by revenue too....

    Here are my top ten, the top five would shift around some depending on the day.

    God's Army
    The Best Two Years
    Other Side of Heaven
    Saints and Soldiers
    Errand of Angels
    God's Army II
    Singles Ward
    17 Miracles
    Brigham City
    Work and the Glory I

    Sept. 8, 2011 10:22 p.m.

    I had a ancestor's story in this film. She was the sister of my Great-Great-Great Grandpa Samuel Lane Crook, and her stories were the ones where, she was running away from her abusive husband and he went after her, but when he saw her on the train, he could not recognize her, and then the one, where she recieved dried meat to share with the company from a man, but when she returned to thank him there was no one to be found. I had heard these stories when I was younger, but to see them in the movie gave me goose bumps.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Sept. 8, 2011 9:15 p.m.

    Brigham City was the best Mormon film made and by a long shot.

  • Mudd Lehi, UT
    Sept. 8, 2011 9:14 p.m.

    Loved it. It drew me in immediately and I forgot most were amateur actors. Critics said it was hard to follow. Not at all. I was engaged in the movie from beginning to end and I am not easy to please when it comes to the Mormon genre. I knew a lot of the stories also and it did not make me any less interested. The only criticism I had was the snow wasn't deep enough. History told that there was much more than the movie showed. But a very good movie nonetheless and well worth seeing.

  • KJB1 Eugene, OR
    Sept. 8, 2011 8:24 p.m.

    The genre has been pretty uneven, from pretty good (Saints And Soldiers, any of Richard Dutcher's work) to just horrible (just about everything from Halestorm.) The problem is that too many filmmakers want to make MORMON movies instead of Mormon MOVIES. To quote Roger Ebert, some people are so concerned that a movie doesn't have anything bad that they don't care if it has anything good.

    Don't worry about showing off your standards to the world. If you tell the story well enough, that'll take care of itself.

    Sept. 8, 2011 7:37 p.m.

    I forgot to add that my ancestors were in the Martin Company....and it still didn't draw me in.

  • jbbevan Heber City, UT
    Sept. 8, 2011 7:08 p.m.

    I agree with Chris, also -- whether he has a tiny vested interest or not. I went in feeling that we had already heard too much about "tens" and not enough about the "thousands". What I mean is that the experience of the Willie and Martin companies was not the experience of many other companies. BUT the statistics at the end of the film indicated that the mortality rate in those cases was actually typical of the entire trek -- "which thing I had never supposed." I've never learned that much from the credits before :) I also agree with Chris that the other "great" film was God's Army. I miss Richard Dutcher. I did find it curious that Chris did not mention "The Other Side of Heaven." These three, to me, have the most substance of all LDS oriented cinema.

    Sept. 8, 2011 6:42 p.m.

    I have to disagree with your opinion on this. While I was familiar with most of the pioneer stories in this film, I found the film quite boring. I would rank my top lds films in this order:
    1. The Best Two Years
    2. The Other Side of Heaven
    3. Singles Ward
    4. God's Army
    5. Charlie...because of the emotion it stirs
    6. All the rest are a tie

    My problem with 17 Miracles was that it never drew me in. I wanted to "love" it...but was disappointed.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    Sept. 8, 2011 6:01 p.m.

    Dear Ventor: "The Other Side of Heaven" WAS made by Mormons. The producer and director are both LDS. The Producer is an Oscar winner for Schindler's List. He played the first mission president in the film. The director is a BYU film school graduate. Most of the actors were not LDS. But, the film is LDS produced and directed. Just thought I'd set the record straight.

  • Ventor West Valley City, Utah
    Sept. 8, 2011 5:50 p.m.

    Excellent article. I was a bit surprised that 'The other side of Heaven' was not mentioned in this. This was an excellent Mormon Flick done by Non-Mormons (Holly wood did this one.) In fact, I would say it is the best Mormon film done by npn-Mormons.

  • rogerdpack2 Orem, UT
    Sept. 8, 2011 5:40 p.m.

    how's the new Joseph Smith movie?

  • sammyg Springville, UT
    Sept. 8, 2011 5:08 p.m.

    I can't wait to get my DVD next week. It was a great movie, one that I will enjoy again and again.

    I hope Mr. Christensen continues to create great works like this in the future.