Monday, March 31, 2003


It's Major League Baseball's (and, oh, the National League too...) Opening Day. Major League News leads with the story:

A reason for optimism in Boston: Red Sox have what it takes to challenge Yankees

With the exception of the view from those Green Monster-top seats -- Dramamine and soft drinks served at your bar stool -- things are looking up in Boston. As far as we know, Babe Ruth's piano still resides at the bottom of that lake. But everything else possible has been done to lift that curse that has kept the Red Sox without a World Series title since 1918....Bring on the Yankees. It has always been about that, of course, even before reconfigured divisions left the two teams as the most obvious competitors for the AL East title, and long before a winter's rancor turned the rivalry even more personal.

Of course, I read all this with the same old ridiculous joy and hope. If you have the disease too, click here.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops at all -
(Emily Dickinson, #63...who would've been a Sox fan by region,
and by her empathic attraction to the absurd)

Friday, March 28, 2003


I saw the new Disney film Holes last night. The film is directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) and written by Louis Sachar based on his book. I'm kind of out of the loop of kids literature these days, but I understand from the production notes, that Holes was a huge hit in book form. Clearly the pre-teens with whom the studio packed the press screening, were very excited. Every time a new character was introduced, they got all excited the way people do whenever the movies flesh out a beloved literary character.

Set in a desert reform school for boys, the story is actually pretty fun and sweet. I think its appeal to kids can be understood as an attraction for the vision of community -- even if imperfect -- that the film follows in the group of boys in Tent D. Belonging to a loving or at least stable community is the most compelling fantasy for young people today, and is the real draw behind the spate of supernatural projects that kids have been flocking to in the last few years. (I wrote about this in relation to Harry Potter here.) From a literary standpoint, the story works because of the endless, absurd loose ends, which the author succeeds in bringing all together as lynchpins to the final resolution of the story. It is clever, and original in many respects.

The film falls short in its screenplay. The writer here is a novelist who doesn't get yet how to fill out characters in a visual way on the screen. There really isn't much for Sigourney Weaver, playing the evil warden, to do. Tim Blake Nelson does as good a job as he can with a character who morphs from friendliness into badness without any real reason. Jon Voight is strange and wonderful as the head honcho of the warden, but his arc is pretty flat, as is that of all the adult characters. The point of the film is the adventure of the main character, young Stanley Yelnats, who in choosing friendship and finally self-sacrifice for his friend, ends up atoning for an age old failure that has cursed his family line for generations. It's a nice message, and is delivered without foul language, nudity, sexual innuendo or violence.

This will be a fun film for kids from about 8 to 13. Parents who accompany their kids to the theater will not die, and may actually have a moderately good time.

Thursday, March 27, 2003


An actor friend of mine just completed a small role on an upcoming episode of ER. He plays a priest (he thinks he was supposed to be Catholic but then the script and crew kept referring to him as a minister, but then they dressed him in a collar and it's probably that the people producing the show have no idea of the diference between a priest and a minister) presiding at the funeral of Dr. John Carter's grandmother. On the script that he had received for the audition, the writers had lifted a funeral prayer right out of a Catholic rites book. The prayer ended with the standard ending: "We make this prayer through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever."

When my friend arrived on set, they handed him a new script with the words "and reigns" missing. My friend, who is a devout Christian figured the words had just been accidentally left out, because the prayer "doesn't flow right, and just sounds kind of weird" without the words "and reigns." So, when it came time for the prayer in the scene, he added the words back in, thinking it was just an oversight.

The director stopped the scene, my friend was called over and shown a copy of the script in which the words "and reigns" were circled in red and crossed out. My friend was told, "We cut those two words out. You won't be saying them."

So, now, the scene has a Christian priest ending his prayer over a grave with the words, "...Who lives with You and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen."

It's such an odd little change. But hugely revelatory of the mindset here in the entertainment industry. Christ doesn't get to reign here. Even if the show is set in Chicago, in a family in which He probably does reign, it doesn't matter.

Chances are, if ER was burying a Muslim or a Buddhist, they would not have messed with the standard denominational ritual. They would do the research and then recreate the moment accurately. But Christians get no such courtesy. The people at ER can't even pretend to be us with authenticity. There is just so much animosity towards Christianity, that they would rather look like bad researchers, than to allow Christ to reign for two seconds in primetime.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003


TV Executive Producer, novelist and new Catholic, Barbara Hall (Judging Amy, I'll Fly Away), has a CBS/Sony Pictures TV pilot going ahead. The Hollywood Reporter describes the show's premise as "centering on a contemporary Joan of Arc who has God appear to her in a different form every week." Cast in the pilot, so far, are Mary Steenburgen (Oscar winner for Melvin and Howard) and Joe Mantegna, who will play Joan's parents. Amber Tamblyn (The Ring) will star as Joan.

Please keep the development of this show in your prayers. It could be great.

Variety reports this week that Fox has ordered a pilot for a new digitally animated series called The Afterlife. Produced by Larry Kasanoff (Mortal Kombat), the show's premise has to do with a family that accidentally dies and then ends up in purgatory, "which looks a lot like suburban Los Angeles."

This feels like an absurd premise on a lovely Southern California day like today. Now, maybe if it was set on the 405 freeway at 5:30pm....

I'm back. I've gone through my annual post-Academy Award funk, in which I am so embarrassed and disgusted by my industry after the Awards, that I seriously fantasize about pursuing career options like selling shoes, or running a bed and breakfast in Fiji, or being a forest ranger somewhere without television sets...and, well, animals.

All in all, however, the evening was less absurd than it usually is, thanks to the war in Iraq. (Reason to consider bombing vicious tyrants somewhere every third week of March? I think maybe...). We were also saved much of the celebrity "preening and posturing" (Thanks, KH!) by Steve Martin's brilliant assault on the whole entertainment world. Wow! He skewered 'em all, revealing their shallowness ("In Hollywood, you can be tall, short, thin...or skinny."), their profound bias ("In Hollywood, there are Democrats, and......"), their moral profligacy (Insert; picture of haggard Nick Nolte after his drug bust), their hypocrisy ("The proceeds from tonight's event will go to several giant corpoations."), their elitism("Phew! I thought I saw a non-celebrity over there!"), and their disconnect to the rest of the world ("No red carpet this year. THAT'LL send 'em a message!!!")

After his opening monologue, there wasn't a lot left of the moral authority soapbox from which the assembled celebs could admonish the rest of us. The only celebs who went on to opine anyway, were those who aren't bright enough to have followed the monologue: That Mexican actor whose handsomeness has convinced him that he is special, and Streisand, who is just not that bright. I can't decide if Michael Moore is rendered obtuse by his blinding ideology or by grey matter deficiency. I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Anyway, I have a feeling Steve won't get this gig again. But I hope I'm wrong! Steve, wherever you are, you are my new official hero!

A note about what we are all calling, "The Academy's New LOW".....

I thought I'd rather see anyone win Best Director except Martin Scorsese, for his epic bloodbath Gangs of New York. But that was only because I didn't think, in any possible scenario, the creatives in this town would seriously consider giving an Oscar to a fugitive pedophile. But we all forgot one thing: Never underestimate the clout of a holocaust movie in Hollywood. Even a storyless, unoriginal, meandering and endless one. The fact is, if The Pianist was set during the Gulag, it probably wouldn't have even gotten distribution.

Saturday, March 22, 2003


If Best Picture means the film that has the "most bests," then Chicago wins. It certainly wins all the post-production awards - for editing and sound editing. The screenplay is the most clever, combining songs and images in a way that didn't make us wince and in fact never dragged (except arguably during Bill Reilly's song Mr. Celophane.) Renee Zellweger does a fabulous job, as does Catherine Zeta-Jones as supporting actress (although if Nicole wins for The Hours, I could live with it. Nicole is really the Best Actress out there right now. She can do anything.) Richard Gere was so good that the audience in the theater I was in actually applauded his little tap dance scene. Cinematography is great here - very difficult lighting and blocking to deal with all throughout. Staging and costumes were great. All of it was brought together, kept moving and entertaining by Rob Marshall.

Chicago gets the distinction of being the only film nominated this year that didn't bore me or insult me at some point.

Films that absolutely bored me in endless hours of self-indulgent directing or sheer skillless meandering included:
-LOTR: The Two Towers ("Good grief! Not another twenty minutes of talking trees..."),
-The Pianist ("Adrien, time to emote!...Okay, now, emote!..Adrien? ADRIEN!!!"),
-Gangs of New York ("Yawning through the nausea."),
-The Hours ("NO! I don't care what you say. I am not killing myself or becoming a lesbian. So lay off already!.")

Films that particularly insulted me included:
-The Road to Perdition for Hypocritical Catholics,(Which is, You Know, Probably All of Them) Who Have Rosaries in One Pocket and Handguns in the Other,
-Far from a Well Thought Out Story But Enough For a Propagandist Heaven
-Bowling for the NRA Makes Any Distortion of the Truth Permissable
-Punch Drunk Audience Trying to Figure Out What Emily Watson Was Smoking When She Accepted This Role
-About Enough of Kathy Bates

Overlooked in the awards:
- Jude Law was fabulously creepy in the otherwise unfortunate Road to Perdition. He totally out-acted Forest Gump. You know, the guy who always plays the Tom Hanks character?
- The animators in LOTR: Towers deserve something for making us fall in love with Gollum despite his slimey-ness.
- Franka Potente, that cool chick in The Bourne Identity. She shouldn't beat out Zeta-Jones for Supporting Actress, but she should have gotten a nod, at least. If only her character at hinted at lesbian tendencies she might have had a chance.
- Minority Report for screenplay...or director? Am I the only one who liked this film?

But, it's no use. Scorsese will get Director. The Hours will get screenplay. Bowling Over Columbine will win the Doc. Daniel Day Lewis will get actor (and then will gut the statue on national television...)'s all so tiresome.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003


Act One: Writing for Hollywood presents

Writing a Great Movie: Story, Theme, Values

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
3900 Harewood Road, NE
Washington, DC 20017

Conference and Lunch - $85.00
Register online at:

Story is one of the most vital components of a screenplay. Without a good one, even fantastic characters have no world in which to exist. While many people can cite a list of favorite movies, very few people can identify the qualities that make those movies "work." Too many writers start beating out pages before they’ve answered fundamental questions:

What makes a good story?
What does Hollywood look for in a story pitch?
What is the relationship between story and theme?
What makes a story commercial?
Are you the one to tell your story?
Is there such a thing as an immoral story?

Geared to writers, filmmakers, and culture watchers, this one-day event will be an intense, practical and inspirational multi-media workshop for those interested in creating new and effective stories to engage the modern world.

8:45 am.…........Registration/ Continental Breakfast

9:30 am………..Opening Prayer and Greeting - Jack Gilbert

9:45 am………..“Hollywood and Story, Pt. I” - Lee and Janet Batchler

12:00 pm……….Lunch Break

1:00 pm………..“Hollywood and Story, Pt. II” - Lee and Janet Batchler

3:00 pm………..Coffee Break

3:15 pm………..“Hollywood and Story, Pt. III” - Lee and Janet Batchler

4:15……...........Question and Answer Open Forum

5:00…………….Closing - Jack Gilbert

WRITING A GREAT STORY Conference Faculty

- Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler are the writers of SMOKE AND MIRRORS, BATMAN FOREVER, and SHORES OF TRIPOLI. They made their mark with SMOKE AND MIRRORS, originally the biggest spec script sale of 1993. The big-budget adventure epic is based on the true-life exploits of famed magician Robert-Houdin in North Africa. The film is currently owned by Initial Entertainment Group, with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones attached.

The Batchlers wrote BATMAN FOREVER for Warner Brothers, the third installment in the hit series about the Dark Knight of Gotham City. BATMAN FOREVER opened June 16, 1995 with a world record opening weekend gross of $52.8 million. Directed by Joel Schumacher, BATMAN FOREVER stars Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones and Nicole Kidman. The film became the number one box office feature for 1995, with a domestic gross of $184 million and a worldwide gross of over $700 million.

Currently, Lee and Janet are adapting and updating MODESTY BLAISE for Miramax. Often thought of as a "female James Bond," MODESTY BLAISE has a 40 year history as a comic strip (still a hit internationally), and as a series of books, both by Peter O'Donnell. Although more well-known in Europe and Asia than in the U.S., MODESTY BLAISE is a cult favorite here as well (take a look at the book John Travolta is reading when he gets blown away in PULP FICTION). MODESTY BLAISE is intended to be the first of an action franchise for Miramax.

Lee and Janet are in high demand as guest speakers and teachers. They have taught seminars on writing and the industry for USC Film School, Act One, UC San Diego, Women in Film, the Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, Biola University, Premise, the Scriptwriters Network, the Writers Connection, and others. Lee and Janet live in Pacific Palisades with their son Corin and their daughter Sabrina.

- Jack Gilbert is the Coordinator of the TV Track Studies for the Act One: Writing for Hollywood program. Jack was formerly the Director of the prestigious Warner Bros. Writers Workshop. He has served as a script and story consultant on innumerable feature and television projects.

Now in its fourth year, Act One: Writing for Hollywood is a month long comprehensive training program for scriptwriters from the Christian community. The goal of the program is to foster and instill in entertainment writers, artistry, professionalism and concern for moral content. Act One also offers a Script Critique Service.

(Somebody emailed me this. I think it is from Catholic News Service.)

WASHINGTON-The Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) is inviting movie fans to cast their own vote for the 2002 Movie of the Year from a list of the ten best films chosen by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Office for Film and Broadcasting.

The CCC is the sponsor of 1-800-311-4CCC, a toll-free telephone number that provides viewers with weekly movie reviews and classifications from the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting. The movie review line received more than 58,000 calls in 2002.

The USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting's ten best, which are the options voters can choose from, are listed below in alphabetical order.

About Schmidt
Antwone Fisher
The Emperor's Club
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Nicholas Nickleby
Road to Perdition
The Rookie
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron

Movie fans can cast their votes on the USCCB Web site .

The USCCB Web site also provides reviews of most major releases and an archive of past reviews that can be
searched alphabetically. The USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting reviews and classifies films according to artistic merit and moral suitability.

The chance to vote continues through March 23, the date of the annual presentation of the Oscars, selected by the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The results of the Communications Committee survey will be posted on the USCCB web site on March 25.

"The USCCB reviews offer moral and ethical guidance for moviegoers," says Gerri Paré, Director of the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting. "Hollywood hype can be misleading and the USCCB Web site and movie line can help people choose films that are in line with their values. The 2002 Movie of the Year survey is a good opportunity for us to get feedback from those who use our reviews."

The movie review service is supported by the Catholic Communication Campaign, the U.S. bishops' media program funded by an annual collection from Catholic parishes.

Actors Co-op is one of the most award-winning small theater companies in Southern California. It is composed of committed Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox actors who meet weekly for prayer and professional development. It is truly a godsend to young actors starting out in L.A. who have the opportunity in the company to gain credits and experience without being violated by the talent meat-market that is L.A.

The Co-op only holds auditions once a year for new members. Info about auditioning is below. Please pass it on to any actors you know who are looking to find a supportive, faithfilled creative community in Los Angeles.

Actors Co-op Auditions

If you or a friend of yours are interested in being considered for the upcoming auditions for Actors Co-op, please send in your headshot and resume no later than noon, Friday, April 11th.

After the pictures are received they be evaluated by the company's Audition committee. Several candidates will be selected from the pool of applicants for auditions to be held on Saturday, April 12th.

We are only able to accept a handful of new members every year,so if you are not contacted please just try again next year. Thanks so much. We hope to see you at the auditions.

Questions? Contact:
Gary Lee Reed
Artistic Director, Actors Co-op

Tuesday, March 18, 2003


One of my most esteemed screenwriter friends sent me the following email on Chicago. (Please feel to identify yourself in the comments if you so wish, O esteemed one.)

Why do we all love the movie so much, even though there's no redemption, there's no one to root for 'cause they're all moral reprobates, there's not one good character?

I think it's because the movie exposes the notion of "celebrity" as a false god. There are movies that worship the concept of "celebrity," of course, and on its surface, Chicago may seem to do so. But really, even while it's trading on our attraction to "celebrity," it takes us inside the notion, shows us how hollow and ephemeral "celebrity" is -- thus exposing our own false idol, as we have been sucked in to the celebrity status of the movie. (And it does it with songs and dancing!)

It makes me think a little about the stage version of The Producers -- we are howling with laughter at the notion of the fictional idiot audience in the play who are willing to deem "Springtime for Hitler" a smash hit without realizing how offensive it is -- yet at the same time, here we are in the real audience, howling with laughter at the exact same thing. Are we better than the people inside the play because we supposedly recognize the irony involved? Or not?

I think the same two levels are going on in Chicago, and that's why it's so much more than a fluffy 42nd Street kind of musical. And why we love it even though, on the surface, there doesn't seem to be much to love.


A lot of my friends are troubled by the movie Chicago. It's a hard film to recommend or dismiss for Christians. I think this is one of those films that good and thoughtful people can very well have differing opinions on (as opposed to movies like The Hours, Far From Heaven and American Beauty, about whose insidiousness I am intractably correct).

Here is a message from one of my friends and former students raising legitimate questions about Chicago. It gets to my concern about the ethics of filmmaking method, as opposed to just the story in a movie. So, I thought to print it here, and my response.

I saw Chicago this weekend -- I agree, it's a great film. Director Rob Marshall has done something that could only be done on film. It's beautiful artistry and some of the scenes were just brilliant (loved the press on strings bit).

BUT...well, actually, maybe I should say BUTT...because that's what I saw of the women in the film! I have been thinking about this, trying to justify it in my mind, but it comes back to the same question we discussed at Act One about a kind of "ethics of the human body" in film. The spectacle at the beginning is beautifully choreographed and the music is fantastic...but the choreography and camera shots were designed to emphasize women's body parts being shaken, thrust and bounced (this is true throughout the film).

One justification I tried was, "Well, that's what the burlesque was probably like." But, then, I thought, "Most of the people in a film audience wouldn't go to see a burlesque."

So, I tried another excuse..."It's part of the message of the film that women are used sex objects in show business, and men are all about talent
(the Gere "strip tease" was very funny)." But that was countered in my mind with, "For many, if not most people, the film will have nothing to do with a deep message about the horrors of objectification. These images will be indelibly etched in their minds as something they enjoyed seeing. Is that really a good thing?"

And lastly I tried, "Maybe, I'm just a prude." That didn't work either -- my comeback was that this is precisely what a lot of entertainment has been in our culture: the human body in sexually provocative dances, poses, situations. And should we be trying to do better than that?

I won't be recommending this film to friends because I know how uncomfortable, and even scandalized they would be. And these aren't particularly sheltered or overly sensitive people, just plain folks who are trying to live virtuous lives.

What would have been lost in Chicago if the women had more clothing? Nothing really. I'm not talking about putting everybody in sweats
-- but there are many, many, many degrees of modesty that could be achieved between what these women wore and, say, underwear. The black dress that Roxy wears for the fantasy of her last solo number looked like it had been designed by her worst enemy. It didn't even have a neckline...just a waist.

Honestly, do you think I am being extreme about this? Or would it make a good "case study" for a discussion of ethics of the human body in film?

And then, my response...admittedly incomplete.

I share all of your concerns about the objectification of women in the film. And yet, I think that objectification of women was one of the main themes of the film, wasn't it? From Roxie's murder of the man who was exploiting her for sex, to all the women's stories in the prison (ie. "He had it comin'") a major theme of the film is the evil of using women as things. By having the women dance the way they do, it makes the point that woman herself is complicit in some of this. That is, woman has figured out that if she cooperates in being exploited, she can find a certain degree of power. So, it isn't just men who are the villains in the film. Which makes the film humane, in a certain sense.

What I think is interesting about the film is that the dancing of the women didn't strike me as being erotic, or titillating. (And I checked with a couple of my male friends on this, just to be sure!) The women aren't really objectified in the film BECAUSE we hear their stories, so they are always subjects to us. We feel sorry for them, but the film wasn't "sexy" the way, say, Top Gun was sexy. Or Out of Sight.

It is not a movie that I could have made, because of my scruples. But I can't imagine that world having been represented much differently and still made its point.

Sunday, March 16, 2003


Last week, I made a list of some values that one would expect to find in entertainment stories created by a follower of Jesus. My next project will be to discuss further elements that might come through a specifically Catholic worldview, as opposed to a merely Christian worldview. Finally, I want to consider the ethics of filmmaking method for believers. That is, are there ways to tell a good story, which might in themselves vitiate the goodness of that story?

First, however, I want to answer some emails generated by my earlier post about "Mere Christian Entertainment."

One reader took issue with my assigning the sacramental vision to "mere" Christianity, arguing that it would more properly belong in a Catholic worldview. My use of the sacramental sense does not refer to the rituals established by Christ to obtain sanctifying grace. It refers to the conviction that the universe has both spiritual and material aspects, and that the material very often points to and reveals the spiritual. This sense belongs to all Christians.

Another person suggested that writers who seek to imbue their work with Christian values will ultimately be creating just another kind of propaganda. I could not disagree more. This thinking is the residue of a dreadful error of the 20th Century that has caused most of the problems we see on the screen.

Propaganda is the effort to manipulate people by playing on their base instincts. It works on them the way animals could be driven - by fears, instincts for survival, dominance, etc. Propaganda subverts human freedom.

Writing stories from a Christian worldview - we'll call it parable-making - is the effort to throw a line to people who are drowning. With a parable, we call into play what is most human - the ability to make distinctions and to arrange them in a hierarchy. People remain free to cleave to what is laid out before them.

For most of the 20th Century, artists abandoned the prophetic aspect to art. Artists were taught to perceive their work as essentially self-expression rather than as the service of communication. The impulse to make art is fundamentally a desire to connect, but this has been perverted in the last several generations. Artists have been told that art is completely personal. The only ethics have to do with whether they are honest about putting out there whatever is inside of them. The fact that some of what is inside of them is disedifying, and should STAY INSIDE OF THEM has not been explored as an ethical problem.

So, we've seen a lot of self-indulgent projects that were all about artists pointing to themselves instead of pointing to the world, and specifically the world beyond the senses. As the creative community wandered further and further from God - their life source - their art got deader and deader. At its worst, much of 20th century art and literature was more explorations of all that was left to artists without God: isloation, fear, depression, depravity, meaninglessness.

Another emailer suggested that there is no need for Christian writers to try and imbue their work with the values I listed. The idea seems to be that a writer who is a beliver will sit down, write a story, and bang, in the end will find a brilliant parable that reflects saving truth. From the Scriptures, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks," and, "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit."

The problem is, Christ also said, "No one is good but God alone." (And Italians. I'm sure he said, "And Italians" there. Someone, look it up...)

The fact is, a good tree can produce very bad art. Evidence the four drafts of this post that I have already gone through (although the first two were lost thanks to blogger's being possessed periodically by demons...). There will be some good things that show up by accident in a writer's work, but the "priesthood of the artist" (to borrow from JPII's Letter to Artists) comes down to the willingness of the artist to labor and die a bit to render his or her work a means of grace.

Flannery O'Connor, unquestionably a genius, would spend time every evening poring over the Summa Theologica. Then, the following mornings, she would work at bringing her theology into play in her stories. She wrote once that she would spend weeks and weeks to find a way to make a story "work" not just dramatically, but in term of its presentation of the theological truths she was working to convey. The primary theological obsession in her work was, as she noted, to convince people of the reality of grace.

No, there will be no compelling and clever parables of the Kingdom without hard work from Christian writers.

Next, I'll talk about what a "Catholic" cinema might look like, and whether I think the efforts to constitute a Catholic cinema would be blessed by God. (Did I just tip my hand?)

Academy Award Nominee Adrien Brody (The Pianist) is featured in the premiere issue of the new magazine V Life from the people who give us Variety. In the article, Brodie waxes profound at one point, noting that he is very choosy about the kind of roles he accepts.

"I've been offered roles in big movies, and I've been offered a lot of money, which I haven't taken - not yet anyway...I've been fortunate to stick to what is important to me. I like projects that have a certain degree of social relevance..."

Two paragraphs later in the article, Brodie is speaking about his next film, The Singing Detective, starring Robert Downey, Jr. "I basically sing and dance and beat the sh*t out of Robert over the course of the film."

One man's "social relevance" is another man's Three Stooges marathon.

Friday, March 14, 2003


If there are only two of us in the critics' community who dare to label Gangs of New York as 2003's Emporer's New Movie, I am glad the other one is the great Eric Metaxas. Check out his column over at Christianity Today.

I particularly second this:

...Scorsese was powerfully conflicted in making this film, torn between making a mainstream historical Hollywood epic that could be big box-office and making another "personal artistic statement," one that could further bolster his reputation as a nobody-owns-me capo di tutti capos auteur - and even better, one that could garrote history to definitively glorify his beloved violence and gangsterism. Guess which side won? Bada-bing!

I should have known where it was all going when I saw a tv commercial for the film that said America "was born in the streets." I had a disturbing image of that bald-pated upstart Ben Franklin strutting about Independence Hall to the tune of Street Fighting Man.

In the past critics often attributed the bloodletting of Scorsese's films to some religiously-themed impulse - it was all about catharsis and cleansing somehow. They would invariably cite the crucifixes scattered throughout his films and rehearse the weary factoid that Scorsese had once "wanted to become a priest." The slim truth of this has diminished with each film, until now it's 99 44/100ths % hogwash. We are left with
multitudinous seas incarnadine, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Any doubts that Scorsese has forsaken seriously exploring religious themes can be iced by watching three painfully glib scenes in this movie: one where Vallon - apropos of nothing -- tosses a bible into the East River (Scorsese does a close-up of the gurgling book in case we missed the profound gesture); another where he tells a well-meaning minister to "go to hell"; and another where Scorsese first shows Vallon asking God for victory in killing Cutty, then shows Cutty asking God for victory in killing Vallon, and then shows a wealthy upperclass family asking God's blessing on their groaningly laden dinnertable. It's paint-by-numbers pointmaking: See! God is a fake, part of the corrupt establishment that tries to tell the criminal class that it's better than them, which it's not.

Thursday, March 13, 2003


I really wish this article wasn't so true, because the tone feels so inflammatory. But I have experienced the same kind of insane fire-breathing hatred of conservatives, and particularly George Bush that Jan describes in this article for The Front Page.

Particularly this section rang true:

Hollywood is a society of liberal bigots. 'Stupid' is their N-word, like 'coon' or 'jungle bunny.'... Conservatives are people of a lesser mind who don't count--flag-wavers, heartlanders, patriots, rednecks--stupid people who are too stupid to understand moral relativity, too stupid to understand that Bush is too stupid to be president.

Driven mad by hatred, they’ve adopted the rhetoric of the lunatic left. Bush is Hitler. The real enemy. It might be forgiveable for 22-year-old graduates of the Berkeley Gulag, but these are middle-aged lefties who should know better. Many witnessed how anti-American demonstrations and rhetoric (kill the pigs!) sabotaged the 1972 Democrats (49 to 1). But they hate Bush so much they don’t care.

Hollywood lefties are like drug addicts. They know they have a problem but they can’t stop themselves. Their hate is too strong. Talk radio is having a grand time with their half-witted remarks, gleefully reporting every time another celebrity pours gasoline on himself and sets it afire. Their self-destructive lunacy is indeed funny. But it also has a dark side.

I was at a meeting a couple weeks ago to plan an upcoming event for media professionals. At one point, one woman mentioned for no particular reason, "Well, we will probably be in that idiot's one man war in a few weeks anyway."

"That idiot", of course, referred to the President.

Pretty much all the assembled screenwriters and producer types chimed in their agreement. I got my courage up and said, "That's not fair." Everybody fell silent. I might as well have announced that I was rotten with leprosy.

Then, there was the time I was at a film festival screening last October. It was the movie Raisin in the Sun, starring Sidney Poitier. There is a horrifically racist stupid white man in the movie whose function in the film is to stomp all over the rights and self-esteem of the black family whom the film is profiling. There I was, packed into a screening room with two hundred other people, mostly industry professionals. When the stupid racist white guy made his exit on screen, a man behind me said quite loudly, "Just like George Bush."

Again, summoning my courage I said, "That's not fair." Everyone looked at me with horror. The guy who had made the original comment was so incensed, he got up from his seat and left the theater.

Then, there was the time I was at a rehearsal for a play I was producing, and the Director noted that George Bush and his oil buddies were secretly behind California's power shortage crisis. There I was again, brilliant rhetoric ready, and proclaimed, (say it with me), "That's not fair."

The reason I respond with that line, is that I have found it generally ends the conversation. It usually sends people into shocked silence and they conclude that I am...

a)... too dumb to argue with, or
b)...not as well read or informed as they are, and so...(go back to reason a.), or,
c)... a fascist bazooka-wielding maniac...who is also, btw - (go back to reason a.).

Okay, I admit it. I am too dumb to understand why one group of people would so vehemently embrace a losing strategy of defining down and then dismissing their opponents. I'm just too dumb to see the subtle wisdom in underestimating my opponents. I'm just too dumb.

Thank God.


I got this message from my friend Mike Wallacavage at the International Institute for Culture. I can't go, [grumble, grumble] but hopefully some of you can.

Study Faith and Culture in Europe!

“Communitas: The Restoration of Christian Community in an Age of Alienation”

Summer Seminar held June 14-July 5, 2003 in Bavaria!

Immerse yourself in the rich intellectual and cultural tradition of Catholicism with this three week seminar on faith and culture in Eichstätt, Germany. Seminar includes a three day excursion to the spired city of Prague.

Join approximately 45 participants from around the world to investigate the vital nature and history of community in the Catholic tradition. Lectures from a distinguished international faculty (offered in English) will span the theology of community, its historical reality, ideologies which have undermined it, and the role of Catholic social thought in the prospects of its renewal.

Speakers include Father Francis Canavan, S.J., Dr. Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, Dr. John M. Haas, Dr. Nikolaus Lobkowicz, Joseph Pearce, Dr. Josef Seifert, Dr. Evelyn Birge Vitz, Dr. Michael Waldstein, and Dr. Hans Bernhard Wuermeling.

Experience Catholic community amid the gothic and baroque splendors of Bavaria’s legendary landscape. Awake to a town lost in time, dominated by Churches, Monasteries, Castles, Cafes, and Town Squares with the chimes of bell towers lingering on quiet summer evenings.

Go here for more information and online application to the program.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003


The Hollywood Reporter reports today that John Travolta is in negotiations to play Jimmy Stewart's character in the update of the 1950 classic, Harvey.

The story revolves around an otherwise normal man who claims to have befriended a six-foot tall, white rabbit. His friends and family put him in a mental hospital. I don't know...Will audiences buy a man being locked up, just for seeing invisible rabbits?

Hey! How about a movie in which an otherwise normal looking Hollywood star leaves the faith of his ancestors and becomes a vigorous apologist for a corrupt corporation (call it "Big Religion"?), that teaches that there are four fundamental principles called "is-ness, as-iness, alter-isness and not-isness"? Not weird enough for you?! Just wait...

And see, the star actually believes - this will blow audiences' minds - that "Creation is accomplished by the postulation of an as-isness."

Whaddya think? Weird enough? No wait! I didn't get to tell you the part in which the star gets to alter his not-isness by proclaiming to the world that "Life is a game wherein theta as the static solves the problems of theta as a MEST."

No, you're right. Who would ever buy that as a movie premise?

For the week of March 11, 2003, U.S. made movies....

...held six of the top seven spots at the box-office in France.

...held all top ten spots in Germany.

...held nine of the top ten spots in Italy.

...held eight of the top ten spots in Sweden.

...held all of the top ten spots in South Africa.

...held seven of the top ten spots in Brazil.

What is there to say in this tense moment, except, well, "Nah-nah nah-nah-nah"?

Monday, March 10, 2003


I promised to discuss elements predicable of a Catholic cinema. Before we do that, we need to set out themes that would distinguish a Christian cinema. I am indebted for some of what follows to a book called After Image, by Fr. Richard Blake, SJ.

Clearly, we are looking at just the narrative level of cinema. The next critique we will have to do will be to isolate cinematic methods that would be compatible with a Catholic "theology of the body" and, further, JPII's ethics of personalism.

This list is not exhaustive. I welcome additions. It is also in no particular order.

A. Sacramentality
Created with a Christian sensibility, a movie will be haunted by the invisible world. For the believer, everything that we see is a sign of a reality that we cannot see. Paraphrasing St. Paul, all of creation points to the Presence and Nature of the Creator, so should it be with a truly catholic film. As Jesuit writer William Lynch has noted, “Faith is the ability of the finite to lead somewhere.” Movies should give the viewers the sense that beyond all the choas and craziness in the world, there is a Loving Mind that comprehends it all, and is over it all.

B. Connectedness
A film made by Christians should be imbued with the certainty that we are not alone. It should leave viewers with the conviction that each human being was conceived of, worked out, prepared for and assigned a place in the plan. We are connected to one another and to the One who yearns for us as the apple of His eye. Men are meant to be merciful to one another. Talents are given us to speed us all corporately on our way home to God. We should treat human beings the way we would treat any unique and precious treasure that belongs to someone else.

C. The Ironic Juxtaposition of Hope and Suffering
The weirdest thing about Christians, is the way we can hold both terrible suffering and joy in our hands at the same time without any sense of contradiction. Good Friday is at once the worst thing that ever happened, and the best thing that ever happened. A Christian dramatist needs to portray sin with the same intensity as does a purely secular dramatist because, as the great Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor noted, “Redemption is meaningless unless there is a cause for it in the actual life we live.” But a Christian movie would ultimately lead viewers away from cynicism and toward hope. As Auschwitz survivor Corrie Ten Boom expressed it, “We know that there is no pit so deep, that God’s love isn’t deeper still.”

D. Grace Must Be Offered
I got this phrase from a Flannery O'Connor essay in the book Mystery and Manners (must reading, BTW, for any writer who is a Christian). The idea is that no person is forced to commit an evil act. No matter how strongis the assault of "principalities and powers," the "world, the flesh and the devil" on human hearts, God is present too, making His own appeal. Any film that makes it look like a person has no choice but to do a wrong in a given situation, would be incompatible with the Gospel.

E. Good and Evil are Not Equal
Many projects from good people fall into Manicheanism in their representation of good and evil. To be Christian, a film should leave the viewer with the certainty that evil exists only as the absence of good. Good is real. Evil is a void. If evil triumphs over good, it needs to be clear that it need not have been that way, because the power of love, truth, beauty and goodness surpasses anything evil has in its arsenal. The victory of good needs to be as convincing as the horror of evil was frightening and impressive.

F. Human Dignity
(This is actually implicit in what has come before, but, in deference to the obtuseness with which our species routinely dehumanizes groups of persons, I want to state a few clear principles just for the record.) Created with a Christian vision, a movie would present human characters as having an innate dignity related to the fact that they are unique, able to reason, and possessed of free will. Man is a union of matter and spirit. The film would connote that it is never morally permissable to use a human being in a utilitarian way, and hence that the only appropriate response to a human person is love. Because man is free, he is responsible. His unique dignity in the material universe is to praise. The farther he gets from the Creator, the more he dies.

Anybody have any more?

Next, I'll talk about specifically Catholic elements in cinema.


"The word family has taken on a wonderful and extended meaning...and can include people like coworkers or roommates."
Angela Shapiro, president of the ABC Family Cable network, explaining the channel's racier fare.

Saturday, March 08, 2003


Tim Drake has posted an extensive critique over on CatholicPundit called "The 'Catholic' Imagination of M. Night Shyamalan." There is lots of info about the director's personal history and filmography. It's interesting and well-written, although I don't agree with the central thesis of the piece, namely:

"Although a Hindu, Shyamalan’s artistic imagination is decidedly Catholic."

Exactly what are the elements of a Catholic Imagination as discerned in Shyamalan's work? Is it the part about ghosts wandering among us, giving us colds while trying to work out their issues? Or the notion that aliens exist and are essentially retarded? Seriously. It reduces the Catholic dispensation (nevermind the merely Christian one) to credit this director with having one just becuase he makes films that grant a spiritual dimension to man. This is a universal in pretty much every religion. So, he uses a lot of Catholic iconography. Every director does, because our stuff is cinematic and carries with it some gravitas which is always good, minimally, to add controversy.

What would be the elements of a distinctly Catholic cinematic imagination?

Brood over that. I'll tell you the answer tomorrow.

Friday, March 07, 2003


My friend, Raymond Arroyo, is fresh back from a visit to the set of The Passion in Italy. Has there ever been a film that has ever generated so much buzz in Christian circles? I wonder if Mel minds that the buzz isn't in Aramaic and Latin...

Ray has written a piece about the set of The Passion for The Wall Street Journal. I'll put some excerpts here...just in case you miss the piece in some of the eleventy billion Christian web sites and email lists that are circulating it even now.

Mr. Gibson's current project was conceived during a reappraisal of his life 13 years ago. "I read the New and Old Testaments and tried to just focus on that to maintain myself," he says. Reflecting on Catholic theological works and the sacrifice of Christ, he found various images surfacing. "I began to imagine what that must have been like," Mr. Gibson says. "I mean really like. No mere man could have survived this torture."

Based on the Gospel accounts, the dramatic visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (a 17th-century stigmatic) and The Mystical City of God by Venerable Mary of Agreda (a 17th-century nun), The Passion focuses almost exclusively on the sacrifice of Christ. "We are talking about the single event that influenced civilization as we know it: the law, the arts, our knowledge of good and evil," Mr. Gibson says. "It has touched every possible aspect of everyone's life whether they realize it or not."

To underscore Christ's physical sacrifice, Mr. Gibson and special-effects artists have created some of the most graphic scenes ever committed to celluloid. To become the brutalized Jesus, actor Jim Caviezel (The Count of Monte Cristo) often spent up to eight hours a day in the makeup truck. Buried under a wig and prosthesis, he may be the most Semitic-looking Jesus ever on screen. He endured 15 days on a cross in freezing weather, a separated shoulder, the flu and literal scourging for the role. "One day they missed the board on my back and hit me full on. It hurt so badly I couldn't find my voice to scream," Mr. Caviezel says. "I see people pulling Jesus off the cross these days. They just don't want to see how he suffered, but this is what happened."

Dissatisfied with "cheesy" portrayals that miss the political situation and "prettify" the torture and death of Christ, Mr. Gibson is struggling to recapture the historical reality, right down to the clothing and eating customs of the Jews under the old law -- to "make it truly about a man born to the House of David."

At moments Mr. Caviezel looks like a bloodied skeleton. Wearied and stumbling, with one eye swollen shut, he keeps a knowing dignity and strength. The violence, though intense, is never gratuitous, at least in the rough cut I saw. It rescues Christ from myth and grounds him in a reality that makes his actions more heroic.

Mercifully, Mr. Gibson has chosen to interrupt the brutality with artistic breathers: flashbacks to the Last Supper and to Christ's early life. At one point we see Christ fall under the weight of the cross through the eyes of his mother. For a moment we flash back to the child Jesus falling near his home as a concerned Mary rushes to console him. Now, on the harsh streets of Jerusalem, she can do nothing but watch her boy suffer.

"There have been a lot of obstacles thrown in the way of this picture; it's full of discomfort," Mr. Gibson confides. "And I understand it's the other realm warring. So I have taken steps to put on armor." A priest says Mass on the set each day. I also notice that Mr. Gibson wears a crucifix and brown scapular around his neck; Mr. Caviezel carries relics of the saints in his costume during shooting. "And I try to stay squeaky clean," Mr. Gibson adds.

"For Mel and Jim, their belief is their whole lives, and they are committed to telling this story," Steve McEveety, Mr. Gibson's producer and partner, observes.

Back in Studio 5, Mr. Gibson is like a giddy child. The actors have finally gotten the arrest scene right. "It's happening, it's happening. Ha. This is so cool," he sputters. Then: "OK. Take your places, one more time."

Mr. Arroyo is news director of EWTN, the world's largest religious TV network.

“Christian communicators need a formation which enables them to work effectively in the media environment. Such a formation will have to be comprehensive: training in skills; training in ethics and morality, with particular attention to values and norms relevant to their professional work; training in human culture, in philosophy, and aestetics. Before all else, it will have to be a formation of the interior life, the life of the spirit.” (John Paul II, Message for World Communications Day, 1998)

Act One: Writing for Hollywood is now accepting applications for its annual summer training program. The Deadline to apply is April 1, 2003. If you know of a talented writer, with their spiritual act together, please ask them to consider applying.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003


Okay, what is going on? While watching Law and Order tonight, the character of the new D.A., played by former Sen. Fred Thompson notes that he opposes Roe v. Wade because it is "bad law." He goes on to note that there is no "Right to Privacy" in the Constitution, and therefore Roe Vs. Wade was based on a legal fiction. All of this was said without Thompson wearing a T-shirt with a murdered fetus while waving around a bazooka. Somebody pinch me.

Of course, in the next scene, Sam Waterston's character makes it clear that the D.A. is absurdly wrong, but still, for a few seconds, a primetime TV show actually articulated a strong anti-Roe argument.

I'm starting to feel irrelevant here in Hollywood...

“In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore, translate into meaningful terms that which in itself is ineffable.”
(JPII Letter to Artists, Section 12)

We need to hear this right now in the Church. “Artist” has perhaps never had a lower connotation among the people of God than it does now. The Gospel speaks of the pariahs of its day for religious people, as “prostitutes and tax collectors.” Now, we could say, “painters and actors.”

“Now, a woman came in who had performed in many off Broadway shows. And they thought, if this man were holy he would know what kind of woman this is who touches Him.”

Or again,

“Master, we caught this man in the act of producing a television show. Rad Trad magazine says such men should be stoned. What do you say?”

There are two ways that most of the People of God regard art these days: as ugly/offensive, or as extra/optional. Many regard “great art” as a thing of the past. Anything that is a part of popular culture is ipso facto evil. Part of this is motivated by elitist snobbery. Like, if anything is really great, then the masses should not be able to appreciate it. The truth is, some things are popular because they are great, like soap or the wheel.

For many in the Church, art is most often something at which to grimace, avoid and contend. It is something to be wary of, and something from which we shelter our children. We've been so disgusted by some of the excesses of modern art, that we are losing the habit of art in general.

I recently gave a talk to a conservative Catholic audience, and when I asked them, "Would you hesitate before letting your child gaze upon the David? Or the rape of the damned on the walls of the Cathedral of Orvieto? Or the nudity of the Sistine Chapel?” I was horrified when the people in the audience weren't too sure.

This isn’t the mind of the Church.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003


A friend asked me the other day what I thought of Gangs of New York. "I reviewed it on my blog," said I. To which my friend replied, "Too many words. Just tell me whether I should see it or not." So, in an effort to reach and edify this visually oriented culture where it is, here are my reviews of the films of 2002.

Chicago - "A Razzle dazzle."
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - "Needs shampoo."
Unfaithful - "Tramp."
Gangs of New York - "Gutsy."
Minority Report - "Overlooked."
Bowling for Columbine - "Somebody, lock and lode."
Road to Perdition - "The Flawed Anti-Hero"
Ice Age - "Hello, Casting?"
Signs - "I see self-indulgent directors."
Y Tu Mama Tambien - "Que?"
My Big Fat Greek Wedding - "Almost"
Catch Me if You Can - "But, why?"
The Hours - "Suicide is not always painless."
8 Mile - "Would be better without the rap."
The Pianist - "And?"
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - "GONG!"
Far From Heaven - "People just watch it for the pictures."
Spider Man - "Cool and celibate."
Treasure Planet - "One more flying wooden pirateships in space movie."
We Were Soldiers - "Oh........."
Frida - "Artists."
Adaptation - "Nobody cares."
About Schmidt - "Oh, grow up."

AOL ran a poll last week that asked the question: Do celebrity activists affect your political opinions? 472,469 people voted in the poll, with 93% registering a "No" vote. Personally, celebrity activists do sway me. They make me want to be on the opposite side.

Saturday, March 01, 2003


I'm going to spend lots of time in this blog, plumbing the depths of the 1999 Letter to Artists written by John Paul II. Here is a paragraph that regularly sends me spinning off into creative pondering.

"The art which Christianity encountered in its early days was the ripe fruit of the classical world, articulating its aesthetic canons and embodying its values. Not only in their way of living and thinking, but also in the field of art, faith obliged Christians to a discernment which did not allow an uncritical acceptance of this heritage. Art of Christian inspiration began therefore in a minor key, strictly tied to the need for believers to contrive Scripture-based signs to express both the mysteries of faith and a “symbolic code” by which they could distinguish and identify themselves, especially in the difficult times of persecution. Who does not recall the symbols which marked the first appearance of an art both pictorial and plastic? The fish, the loaves, the shepherd: in evoking the mystery, they became almost imperceptibly the first traces of a new art." (Section 7, Letter of His Holiness John Paul II to Artists, 1999)

I think we are in very similar times. Like the early Christian artists, we artists today operate in a climate that is very often hostile and uncomprehending of what we believe. We need to assume an attitude of serious discernment towards the "fruits" and methods being used by our fellow non-Christian artists. We can't be so susceptible as to jump on an all embracing band-wagon because something is well-crafted, like The Hours or American Beauty.

More exciting however, is the idea that we should consider crafting a new "symbolic code" by which we can "distinguish and identify" ourselves in the midst of the creative community. Hmmmmmmm....

We need to come up with some new images for what things mean TO US. Images of what Christian sexuality MEANS, moving way beyond the discussion of how/whether we can show what sex looks like. Not what it looks like. What it means.


....of what a human person is. What an individual human life means. How inconceivable is the loss of just one person's world of potential.

....of the gift of freedom. What it means. Where we got it. Why we got it. How it enters into everything.

...of the value of suffering. What it can be. How it is a gift. How there is no nobility without it.

...of realtionships. Why we are drawn to them. How they are invitations to growth. What we find in them.


This just in: The Popular Culture is Not Going Away.

If we, the People of God, are going to see any improvement in entertainment, we first have to know what actually is the goal in entertainment productions. What is the role of entertainment in human life, and what would healthy entertainment look like? We need to avoid pat answers to this question. Some of the pat answers I have heard from Christians in the last few months about entertainment include:

"Healthy entertainment is.....

....anything I can watch with my four year old. If it isn't appropriate for my four year old, then it isn't good for me."

(To be consistent, this credo must also be applied to alcoholic beverages, the operation of vehicles and the discussion of current polarization inthe Church.)

....something like The Sound of Music. "
(Whereby, the absence of yodeling and liederhosen in a movie is to be considered a dangerous cinematic sin of omission.)

....something in which there is no gratutitous sex, language or violence."
(Yesssssssssss...and when you say "gratuitous", you mean...?)

...I don't have to be subjected to a message when I sit down to watch a movie."
(Ah. So, meaninglessness is the goal? Why not just go to bed?)

We can do much better than this, as far as giving creative direction to the next generation of Christian artists. We absolutely must do better than this. Once we figure out what we want/need in entertainment, then we can teach our kids, and then we can get "on message" to the people in entertainment who are not in our house. Because our first mandate from Jesus is NOT to make movies, but to teach and minister.

I was approached recently, to help a Christian University craft "A Creative Guideline Covenant", assent to which, would then become part of the admission ritual for new students who will be applying to the film department. This is an innovation that is being bandied about in Christian - mainly Evangelical - film studies and communication departments all over the country.

I am a bit leery of this, especially when I hear some of my friends enthusiastically embracing the notion of bringing back the Motion Picture Production Code. That is not a good idea. In terms of story, we do not want to give artists a list of subjects they must not address. Much better to provide a list of values that they should be concerned to affirm in the stories they tell. In terms of story-telling method, not a list of words they can't say or body parts they can't show, but rather some fundamental theological and philosophical truths that would guide the way they go about telling their stories.

I am going to explore what some of these might be in this blog. I invite comments and emails to assist in bringing this Aestethic together. On October 23, Act One will sponsor a conference in Hollywood for Deans, Provosts and Professors of Communications, called "Mere Entertainment: Theory and Practice". We will present them what we've put together for their suggestions and hopefully, adoption.

The brilliant and, oh, so culturally astute, Terry Mattingly, has just done a story on Act One. Terry writes for the Scripps-Howard News Service, so this story could be in as many as 600 papers. So far, I found it in the Anchorage Daily News and the Sacramento Bee. I think it is one of the best pieces we've ever had done on the program. Thanks so much, Terry! "Praise from Caesar is praise, indeed."

P.S. If anyone finds it in other papers, please feel free to let us know in the comments. Thanks!

P.P.S. Just to be clear, I don't think I am "an army of one." Not in any sense. Act One is a fundamentally collaborative effort. But except for that...

P.P.P.S Update on other papers... People have let me know that the story has appeared in the following places:
The News Observer, Raleigh, NC
The Knoxville News
The Herald, South Carolina
The Bakersfield Californian
The Fresno Bee
The Columbia Herald
The Modesto Bee
The News Tribune, Tacoma, WA
The Tri-City Herald
The Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Treasure Coast-Palm Beach Network
The Daily Camera, Boulder, Co
The Nando Times (I guess that's on the Planet Zeldron...)