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Monday, June 30, 2003
"Millions of books written on every
conceivable subject by all these
great minds, and, and in the end,
none of 'em knows anything more
about the big questions of life
than I do. ... Nietzsche with his, with
his Theory of Eternal Recurrence.
He said that the life we live,
we're gonna live over and over
again the exact same way for
eternity. Great. That means I,
uh, I'll have to sit through the
Ice Capades again. Tch. It's not
worth it.
from Hannah and Her Sisters
THE STUFF OF REAL CONTROVERSY?

Columbia Pictures has acquired The Da Vinci Code for a seven-figure sum. Describing writer Dan Brown as a "master Storyteller" Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman, John Calley notes that they "can't wait to bring this puzzle to the screen."

The real puzzle is how come a book that is known to be virulently anti-Catholic can be acquired without a peep of indignation from the people who have been overflowing with horror about how some supposed scenes in The Passion may possibly be contorted by some twisted wackos somewhere into a validation of anti-Semitism? There is nothing subtle about the bigotry in The Da Vinci Code. It's just badly researched, offensive hate-blather which uses Christians as its object.

I try very hard to get my fellow Christians to give Hollywood a break, but then, damnit, one of the studios goes off and does something indefensible like this.
Friday, June 27, 2003
PROTESTANTS LIKE IT TOO!

Focus on the Family leaders got a screening of The Passion. They sound enthusiastic. I was a little worried how they would react because the film is so very graphic in its depiction of the violence inflicted on Jesus. But, I'm glad to see they are letting a work of art be a work of art.

“It conveys, more accurately than any other film, who Jesus was,” Ted Haggard said based on clips he viewed at New Life. “You can’t help but be upset when you realize the gravity of what Jesus went through.”

“I was very impressed,” said Don Hodel, president of Focus on the Family. “It’s certainly the most powerful portrayal of the passion I’ve ever seen or heard about. The movie is historically and theologically accurate.”
Thursday, June 26, 2003
MORE PASSION

I said I would answer questions about my comments on the screening. I will not enter into the frenzied trap of trying to convince people that the Gospel is not anti-Semitic. Nor will I address the specific list of depictions that someone has decided would render the film anti-Semitic. It wouldn't prove anything.

The film is not anti-Semitic. It is beautiful. Think how insane it is to be condemning something without any experience of it. It is absurd and frivolous. No one will even remember this discussion once the film is released. And I only enter into conversations that have the possibility of being thoroughly memorable... But if some of you want to look really foolish, keep on keeping on with the sniping in the darkness.

From the Comments....

Did you discuss problems with getting a distribution company with them? Do you know the status?
No, we didn't discuss this. I don't know the status.

... you mentioned subtitles. Was he ever serious about not having them?
I don't know if Mel was ever serious about not having any sub-titles. If he was, he has moved beyond that now. The version I saw actually had too many sub-titles. We don't need distracting translations flashing on tthe screen when the Roman soldiers are saying obvious things like, "Hey, you, move!" Mel, noted that they were going to eliminate some of the sub-titles in future edits.

And, what was Jim Caviezel like as Jesus compared to, say, Robert Powell in Jesus of Nazareth (the standard for actors, I'd imagine)?
It's hard to answer this. This movie is completely other. I would say that Powell was great in Jesus of Nazareth, and Jim is great in The Passion. It's not really about performance. He embodies the role in a way that makes discussions of performance feel inappropriate.

does the film end with the Resurrection?
I'm going to say wait and see. It is really the only possible suspense left to the filmmaker isn't it? Because we all know what happens on Good Friday. I think it would be ungrateful of me to put this out there. Someone will probably leak it in the next nine months. It won't be me.

I SAW THE PASSION

So I was at a private screening at Icon Productions yesterday, and got to see a rough cut of The Passion. There were about twelve people in the room, including Mel Gibson, his producing partner Steve and four or five other Icon staffers. After the screening, we talked to Mel and friends for about an hour. (As cool as that was, the quality of the film was such that the celebrity stuff was completely gone from the moment. I can't explain it really, except that it would be like standing in the Sistine Chapel next to, well, someone like Mel Gibson. Great art is a great leveler....) The rough cut we saw obviously didn't have the final score or special effects, and there were many more sub-titles than they will have in the finished film.

So, here's my take...

The Passion is a stunning work of art. It is a devout, act of worship from Mel and his collaborators - in the way that Handel's Messiah and Notre Dame were artistic acts of worship in previous times.

Let's get the controversy out of the way right at the top. The film is faithful to the Gospel, particularly St. John. It is no more anti-Semitic than is the Gospel. There are at least two members of the Sanhedrin who come forward to protest on Jesus' behalf during the sham trial. The Romans are just as guilty of cruelty and hatred against Jesus in the film. And best of all is a final look right into the camera of Mary, holding her dead Son. She is looking at all of us with a kind of , "Look what you've done"/This is for you" expression. A cinematic Pieta worthy of Michelangelo.

Having seen the film now, I can only marvel that the attacks are pretty much demonic. Hopefully, the devil will end up spitefully biting his own tail on this one-- as he does in The Passion by inciting on the executioners of Christ, and thus being complicit in his own ultimate defeat. The Passion is high art. It is the greatest movie about Jesus ever made. In the discussion following the film, Mel and co. were asking us how mainstream theater audiences would react to the film. I told them, "Who cares? What you have here is so much more than just a product to sell. It will live forever, regardless of whether it is a commercial success for you or not."

For those of us who love Jesus, The Passion is devastating to watch. It is so good, I almost couldn't stand it. There is one moment on the way of the cross sequence, in which the whole tragedy unfolding devolves into a vicious riot of hatred between Romans and Jews with the Savior on the ground in the middle of it getting it from both sides. It was so frenzied and terrible, I wanted to run from the room. But then, the film again finds Mary, Jesus's Mother on the sidelines, and her presence gets us through it. Kind of like how Mary's presence helped Jesus get through it, it seemed to me.

The film is lovingly Marian. Mary is perfectly portrayed here. She is contrasted repeatedly with the really super creepy Satan character, who is also a woman (something for the feminist theologians here? heh heh...).

The film is strongly Eucharistic. There is a beautiful juxtaposition of images that cuts from the stripping on Calvary to the unwrapping of the bread to be used at the last Supper. Fabulous stuff.

Every Christian needs to see this film at least once. Just to remember, in our current comfort zones while evil is closing in, the price that was paid for us. On my way home from the screening, I found myself praying in the car, "Jesus, I'm so sorry, I forgot..." How many films have led you to compunction lately? The Passion is a miracle.

I'll take questions...
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
"You are so beautiful, are you sure you weren't
altered? This is not the face, the body, of
a Godchild. How could something so lovely
be a product of chance?"

from Gattaca
Monday, June 23, 2003
MOVIE REVIEW

So, yesterday our usual group of young L.A. Catholic Hollywood people met at our beloved St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood for the 10am Mass as usual. The choir was all geared up for Corpus Christi and sang a fabulous high Latin Mass and then Panis Angelicus and Ave Verum. Our choir director used to head up the L.A. Master Chorale, so we have like, the most incredible music on the planet every week. But then we had the sad news that the choir is taking the summer off, so no more fabulous music to make the lukewarm preaching bearable.

After Mass, we all went to breakfast as is our custom. We laughed and ate and argued about movies and television for a couple of hours. We hung around media center in Burbank for a few hours and then broke up. I came back home and read a few bad screenplays and then changed the sheets on my bed. My friend called in the late afternoon and we went for a walk. We had Pad Thai for dinner. It was a pretty good day.

Oh, and I saw The Hulk too.
BONNIE HUNT IS VERY COOL

Everybody should watch Life with Bonnie on Tuesday nights on ABC. Bonnie is super - very funny, smart and, oh yeah, Catholic. She made a great little film a couple of years ago called Return to Me. It's a wonderful romantic comedy with some deep themes of faith and family. Somebody just sent me the following quote from Bonnie about Return to Me. It's vintage Bonnie.

Forget the heart-transplant issue in the movie. There are a lot of women out there who are sexually inexperienced at that age, women who aren't necessarily having sex at 16 or 20. I feel they are under-represented in films, and I wish I could take out the heart-transplant part so I wouldn't have to justify her life.

Women feel they're either part of the group or not, and it's a really lonely thing when you're not, especially when you're a young girl going to see movies. I went through that. You think everyone else has these incredible romances when they're 15 years old and are in love. You think, 'What's wrong with me?' So it was nice to have a woman in her 20s who didn't know what the heck to do. (Film Vol 21 4/5/00)


Bonnie will be one of our guest speakers at Act One next month. Yes, the program is that cool...
Saturday, June 21, 2003
A MEDIA STRATEGY FOR FAMILIES

My latest on Catholic Exchange.
Friday, June 20, 2003
"Goodbye, Father. I'll speak for you. I speak for all mediocrities
in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint. On
their behalf I deny Him, your God of no mercy. Your God who
tortures men with longings they can never fulfill. He may forgive
me: I shall never forgive Him. Mediocrities everywhere, now
and to come: I absolve you all! I absolve you! Amen!"
from Amadeus


FOX NEWS ON ACT ONE

Here's a piece about Act One's recent trip to Washington. A snip...

Members of Act One, which includes theologians as well the writers and producers of shows and movies such as Mission Impossible, Batman Forever, The Family Man, A Different World and The Addams Family, were hosted on Capitol Hill recently by Sen. Rick Santorum (search), R-Pa., and Rep. Mike McIntyre (search), D-N.C.

"There's plenty of negativism already in the entertainment industry, unfortunately — profanity, sexual acts, violence," McIntyre said. "Whenever we can promote an opportunity to promote the positive view on issues, on family, on society, then I say more power to those that will promote the positive."

In an e-mail to Foxnews.com, Brownback said the entertainment industry has "fought hard" to discredit concerns about the effects media have on children, and he sounded a note of encouragement for the group's efforts.

"The work of Act One has the potential to change all of this ... for they are not only willing to listen to these concerns, but also to do something about them," said Brownback, who has held committee hearings on the effect of media on children. "Through their efforts, we may finally see some improvement in the products coming out of the entertainment field."


Overall, we're happy with it. Especailly the lovely and quotable blurb from Sen. Brownback.

Zena Dell Schroeder, our Associate Director is mortified that they have those pictures of her alongside the article...especially the one with her in the New Age looking shirt and the drugged out faraway look... Just for the record, though, we are NOT asking Congress for funding.
Thursday, June 19, 2003
"It's just something that happens.
It's like seeing a person you never saw
before -- you could be passing on the street --
you look at each other and for a few seconds,
there's a kind of recognition. Like
you both know something. But then the
next moment the person's gone, and
it's too late to do anything about it,
but you remember it because it was
right there and you let it go, and you
think, "What if I had stopped and said
something?" It might happen only a
few times in your life.

from Out of Sight
BE NOT AFRAID! PT. II - MISTAKES CHRISTIANS MAKE BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID OF HOLLYWOOD

a) Because we are afraid of Hollywood, we do not pay it any respect.

- "It’s easy to watch. Must be easy to make. Let’s send a message to Hollywood by showing them what we can do!”
When we do this, we send a message alright: That we are trapped in Plato’s double ignorance. We don’t know, and we don’t know that we don’t know.

- Because we feel a spiritual and moral superiority to the evil people in Hollywood, we refuse to admit that they might know more than we do about anything. Even their own business of making movies. It reminds me of the Pharisees dismissing the testimony of the man born blind: “Would you, who are a sinner, dare to teach us?”

- A Christian informed me recently that he and his friends had just decided to produce a series of videos to the tune of three million dollars. When I asked him what his credentials were to make videos he said, “Never wrote a script. Never held a camera. Never been in an editing room.” I looked at the first ten minutes of one of the videos and thought, “Never gonna sell it. Never gone get seen by more than a few hundred loyalists.”

b) Because we are afraid of Hollywood, we tend to produce media/entertainment as Outsiders.-

- Christians are famous in the business for not being able to trust anybody. They end up ruining the creative process by being overly-legalistic or suspicious or inapropriately demanding. We do this with best of intentions – wanting story purity. We are afraid that we are going to give Hollywood Cinderella, and it is going to come out a triple X Last Tango in Paris. If only you knew how rarely this really happens.

The industry tends to only mess with projects that don’t work. It’s only when your second act is boring and flat that some executive somewhere tries to fix it using one of the methods they always use: “Hey, maybe we could have a decapitation before the ten o’clock break! Maybe a naked woman gets decapitated!!”

- The problem with working outside the system is that, even if you do get a movie made, AND even if it miraculously comes out half way decent, you still won’t be able to get it into theaters, because the exhibitors(theater chains and television networks) are all dependent on the studio distributors for product. So a movie made outside the Hollywood system will most likely end up unseen by the masses.

- The main reason I am against the Christians keeping to themselves approach, is that it eliminates any potential for us to connect with creative people in the industry, in the hopes of winning them over to Jesus. God could have lovely family movies on the screen tomorrow if that was all He wanted. He wants us to reach out to the people in this industry. To love them into the Kingdom. We can’t do this from afar.

c) Because we are afraid, our approach to the culture tends to be reactionary, in spurts, with no strategy for the long-term.

We should focus on People not projects.

- I have seen scads of projects from good people come into the industry with one project. They struggle to get it made, and most of the time they fail. If they do suceed, it generally results in a pathetic production. If it is half way decent and manages to get on a few screens, the producers stand back and wait to watch the whole planet fall into awe and compunction. It doesn't happen.

It is a mistake to think that one movie or even a few movies are going to make that big a difference in the popular culture arena. It’s like the Church keeps trying to plant one lily in the middle of a huge garbage dump. Even if you get ten lilies to all be living at the same time, it’s still fundamentally a garbage dump. We need to remake the whole dump. We need to change the whole system of the business from the inside, by establishing hundreds of believers in places of influence.

d) Because we are afraid of the people in Hollywood, we failure to respect the real, but often subtle, temptations of the industry.

Committed Christians who come to Hollywood generally end up falling into one of three groups. They either leave just when they are starting to have power, basically because it occurs to them that no amount of money is worth all the exigencies of the business. Or else, they find a way to stay and adopt a missionary attitude to sustain them.

But many more Christians end up becoming the problem. They lose their spirit. My new students say to us all the time, “It isn’t about the money for me. I just want to do good.” Yeah, right! What are you, made of special dirt? Pretending that you will not be seduced by the extraordinary perks of money, influence, beauty, luxury and celebrity that come with a successful Hollywood career, is a recipe for destruction. Anyone who comes to this town and wants to hold on to their faith, must be fortified by a fervent prayer life and a vibrant connection to a faith community.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
"Ha ha, you fool!! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders.
The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia;
and only slightly less well known is this:
Never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line!"
from The Princess Bride


DECODING BIGOTRY

Here is Amy Welborn's review of the best-selling book The Da Vinci Code. Several people have written about how the book is very profound and provocative. Amy debunks that.

Here's a snippet...

Brown’s treatment of the Roman Catholic Church is unoriginal as well, as he uncritically repeats, among many other lies and distortions, the canard that the Church was responsible for killing five million accused witches during the medieval period.

And of course, there’s the whole, totally unfounded Divinity of Jesus Christ thing, which the experts in the Da Vinci Code coolly declare was invented by the Emperor Constantine as a way of shoring up his power:


Of course, the fact that both NPR and the New York Times raved about the book was a pretty big red-flag for me anyway.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
...He said I was "Modern Man," and
if they voted to convict me, well,
they'd be practically cinching the
noose around their own necks. He
told them to look not at the facts
but at the meaning of the facts, and
then he said the facts *had* no
meaning. It was a pretty good speech,
and even had me going..."
from The Man Who Wasn't There

SPELLBOUND: S - T - E - L - L - A - R

Spellbound, a feacher-length documentery was releesed in 2001 and nomminated for an Academy Award (Can't imagen why it didn't win!.. Sum pc matchinashuns probebly afoot....Ooooh, am I turning into a sinic?). The film has been makeing the rounds of varioss film festivals looking for disstribution for the last two years, and is finally in a limited theatrickle releese.

Go find it, whereever it is. It is a wonderful, humain, thoughtful, inspirrational and really fun film about America. Shot in 1999, it follows eight kids form ages 12-14 who are on their way to the Nashunal Spelling Bee competishon in Washington. Brown, black and white, the kids hale from unbelievably diverse backrounds. Some kids live in manshuns and have professionel spelling coaches, others live with single-moms in run down projecks. We meet the kids' proud, driven and often baffled familys, in sequenses that are as funny as anything Christopher Guest has ever done in Guffman or Best in Show. It's probebly bekuz normul people are so funny that Guest's stuff works, eh?

Blessedley unspoilt by PC levelling, the Spelling Bee is driven by one trueth: there is only one rite way to spell a word, and you either get it write and stay in the limelight, or you get it wrong, and you leave the stage. The awdience I screened it with was chearing and ringing its hands along with the torchured parents watching there kids struggle with words like "menhir" (men-heer: n. a tall upright stone set up in pre-historic times) and "eponymous" (eh-PON-ih-mus: adj. a person whose name is taken for a people, place or institution, etc. as in Duth navigator, A.J. Tasman, for Tasmania).

This film will work with kids from about six-grade on (or any kids who have been a party in any kind of competitive rituell),. Adults love it. Including guys. Two T - H - U - M - B - S up. Check it out. Bekuz, spelling is vary importunt.

Reviews are here, here, and here.

Saturday, June 14, 2003
"I guess I'd like to prove there's
something pure in me, you know?
They say the soul is part angel and
part monster. Sometimes I think
life is a chance to set the angel free."

from The Iron Giant
Friday, June 13, 2003
MORE PASSION

Disclaimer: There is a lot of scuttlebutt flying around about this movie. Here's some news someone (who is in a position to know) shared with me yesterday. It may not be true.

So, Icon Productions - the production company of note for The Passion - has had no luck in finding a studio to distribute the film. They have hired Paul Lauer, the former editor of You! magazine to distribute the film. Paul, who seems to be a nice guy, is actually not in the theatrical distribution business, but has been doing freelance PR for various projects around town.

I'm not sure I can express how very weird this is to those of us who work in the industry. It's truly bizarre.

The upside for Icon is that they will keep much more of the ticketsales and ancillary sales of the movie. Generally, the movie theater keeps 40% of ticket sales and then the remaining 60% goes two thirds to the distributor, and one third to the production company of note. Another plus of this plan is that Icon will not have to edit the project to suit a distributor's sensibilities.

The downside is that, very often, editing for a distributor helps a project. Directors are known for meglomaniacal vision (Exhibit A: Scorsese on Gangs of NY; Exhibit B: Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut; Exhibit C: Anything by Barbra Streisand) and very often the distributor is the only entity that can provide a veto to the insanity.

The principal downside is that setting up screens in theaters is a very complex task. I have personal experience here. A few years ago, I worked with Fr. Bud Kieser, and ended up with the unenviable task of trying to get his movie Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story into theaters. Just like The Passion, Fr. Kieser had been unable to secure studio distribution for the project. So, he basically got me a list of every movie theater in the US and Canada, and said, "Here. Book the film in theaters."

The problem is, except for the small art house and family owned local theaters, theater screens are owned and booked by a small group of people who represent the major chains. It's very much about deals with the studios and keeping relationships so that they can have future releases. So, we had many bookers say to us about Entertaining Angels, "We like your film, but we have to run Idiot Movie from Studio A because we want to be sure to get NEXT Blockbuster Comic Book Film later in the year." When you only have one movie, you have no clout with the exhibitors.

Secondly, chances are this will be a limited release because Icon has already put up $25,000,000 on the project and they won't want to spend too many more millions on the release. For example, it costs about $1500 to make a print of a feature to send to theaters. To really take advantage of a wide pr campaign, a movie needs a wide release these days of anywhere from 600 - 3000 prints. That means, to just make copies of the movie for a semi-wide release, Mel has to come up with $2,000,000 dollars.

Why do you need a wide release? Generally, because the national media won't touch reviewing a film that is not generally available to the viewing audience. This won't be a problem for The Passion, because this project is Mel, after all. But remember that EVERYTHING for Hollywood is built around the success of a film on opening weekend. If you don't have a wide release to match a wide pr campaign, then you can't hope to compete for top spots at the box-office opening weekend.

But there's more. A standard one-sheet campaign (that's the movie poster/essential image for the pr process) will start around $250,000. An epk (that's electronic press kit - standard element for all electronic media to promote the movie) will run another $250,000 to produce, duplicate and distribute. A quality trailer for theaters can cost anywhere from $100,000 upwards - sky's the limit. Then, you have to have a company who will be sending your trailers and one-sheets out to the movie theaters. Then, you need people to monitor that your trailers and posters are being utilized at the theater level. See, you only have one movie, and the theater is much more interested in keeping Warner Bros and Paramount happy than you, you little one-movie wonder.

Let's not even get into how much advertising for a feature film will cost. TV time and full-page ads are unbelievabley expensive and they don't just happen. You have to have a pr firm on board to buy and place the ads. Generally, in Hollywood, if a movie costs $25,000,000 to make, they will budget at least half that much to promote it. Often more.

So, let's hope this rumor is not true. Let's hope that Mel is still trying to find a studio to take on the project. Although, that looks more and more unlikely with every new accusation of lawsuits and latent anti-semitism...
Thursday, June 12, 2003
"A TRUE BRAINIAC'S FILM FEST!" (LA WEEKLY)

My favorite weekend of the year is always somewhere in late October or early November when my friends and I all get together to bring-off the amazing City of the Angels Film Festival. I am honored to be on the Executive Committee of this very cool event, which is a retrospective film festival that features fascinating forums and panels after every screening with filmmakers, theologians and academics. The festival looks at well-crafted films as works of theology, and engages them as signs of the times. The weekend is always like a graduate seminar in whatever is our theme - using movies as texts. What could be better?!

This year's festival will happen October 23 - October 27. Our theme is: Revolutions/Revelations: A Century of Cinema. We are looking at films that sparked a revolution in society and in cinema from throughout the 20th Century. The film festival is held at the pretigious and classy Directors Guild of America building on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.

The City of the Angels Film Festival (CAFF) is the smartest thing the Christian community does in Hollywood (Act One is a close second... kind of have to say that...good thing it's true...), and it is very appreciated by the broader community of artists, critics, and film fans.

We have just finished hammering out the line-up of films for this year's festival. And when I say hammering... It was a lively encounter indeed for our coalition of scholars, pastors, filmmakers - cinemaniacs all - to pick out the ten most revolutionary films of the century. This year's festival will also include a two day conference on Thursday and Friday called "MERE ENTERTAINMENT: TOWARDS A CHRISTIAN AESTHETIC OF CINEMA". More details on that soon... So, here's the schedule. (A couple of screenings are still tentative because of availability of print issues.)

THE 10th CITY OF THE ANGELS FILM FESTIVAL

THURSDAY, OCT 23
9:00am MERE ENTERTAINMENT CONFERENCE
Sponsored by Act One & Reel Spirituality

7:00pm INTOLERANCE (178 min)
at Mears Center, Hollywood Presbyterian Church

FRIDAY, OCT 24
9:00am MERE ENTERTAINMENT CONFERENCE
Sponsored by Reel Spirituality and Act One

5:00pm OPENING V.I.P RECEPTION
Sponsored by Fuller and Pepperdine

7:00pm at DGA Theater 2
METROPOLIS (120 min)

9:45pm at DGA Theater 2
DO THE RIGHT THING (120 min)


SATURDAY, OCT 25
11:00am at DGA Theater 2
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS

11:30am at DGA Atrium
CRITICAL ISSUES FORUM
Sponsored by Focolare

1:00pm at DGA Theater 2
THE BICYCLE THIEF (90 min)

3:00pm at DGA Theater 1
THE ANGELUS AWARDS finalists
Sponsored by Family Theater

3:10pm at DGA Theater 2
NANOOK OF THE NORTH (documentary, 65 min)

5:00pm at DGA Theater 2
DON’T LOOK BACK (documentary, 96 min)

5:00pm at DGA Atrium
THE ANGELUS AWARDS STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL Reception

6:00pm at DGA Theater 1
THE ANGELUS AWARDS
Sponsored by Family Theater

7:15pm at DGA Theater 2
THE GRADUATE (105 min)

9:30pm at DGA Theater 1
PULP FICTION (154 min)

9:45pm at DGA Theater 2
HEARTS AND MINDS (documentary,110 min)


SUNDAY, OCT 26
1:00pm at DGA Theater 2
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (111 min)
(or THE 400 BLOWS –99 min)

4:00pm at DGA Theater 2
STAR WARS (121 min)
(or ANNIE HALL—94 min)

7:00pm at DGA Theater 2
MOULIN ROUGE (128 min)

9:30pm CLOSING DESSERT RECEPTION

People for whom CAFF should be a MUST on the annual schedule:
- Those who think movies are all garbage. Quick! Before it's too late and you miss out on the art form of your time!
- People who work with young people in any kind of educational or formational capacity.
- People who love cinema but have't had the chance to study the artform.
- Theologians, pastors, culture watchers, writers.

More info about the Festival is here. There are plenty of good hotels right around Hollywood. Buy yourself an early Christmas present. Buy your air plane ticket now!
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
"Found a culture, have you, Rita?
Found a better song to sing, have you?
No--you have found a different song, that's all."

From Educating Rita, 1983

I love this film. It's all about sophos-moros, an affliction that has just about killed the Academy. Check it out.

Here is a thoughtful review to whet your cinematic appetite.

AND THE DEVIL SITS BACK AND LAUGHS...

Sigh.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
NBC'S COUPLING: PUSHING THE ENVELOPE, THE MAIL BOX, THE POST OFFICE....

So, NBC has a new show on the schedule in the Fall, Coupling, that is based on a British hit of the same name. In the words of the Hollywood Reporter, the show is libidinous enough "to make the Sex in the City girls blush." Peachy.

I know some of you are tempted to ask, "Why?" Just when it seemed like the industry was seriously starting to question itself and the impact it has on general societal health, why this kind of prime-time slime fest?

It has to do with that old disconnect between the creative people in this industry and the people, out there beyond the limits of L.A. county. As evidence, I cite words of Ben Silverman, the Executive Producer of Coupling, as quoted in Holywood Reporter (June 9, 2003):

"On other shows, people kiss and get married. On this show, our characters might have sex, but still just be friends. It's adults behaving in a way that my peer group operates."

See, he thinks most people are like him. That they have sex with no real affective connection, just like alley cats. It's a disconnect.
SO YOU THINK YOU OUGHT TO WORK IN HOLLYWOOD?
By Francine Russell, Barbara Nicolosi, and Zena Dell Schroeder

[NOTE FROM BARB - We at Act One wrote this to have something more pastoral to say than just, "Good luck" to the hunderds of inquirers who approach us every year for advice about working in the entertainment industry. Sharing it here for those of you who have yet to inquire...]

Ever since you were a little kid, you’ve dreamed of moving to Hollywood and being an actor/writer/director/fill-in-the-blank. You’ve dreamed of fame and fortune (we all have, it’s okay...). You’ve practiced your Oscar speech, and vowed to use your future wealth and influence to alleviate the plight of mankind.

Or, maybe not. Maybe you didn’t grow up dreaming of the bright lights at all. Maybe this is a very recent dream, one that’s taken you by surprise. Never in a million years did you think you’d be considering a career in show biz.

Either way, you’ve got the calling! Or, at least, you’re pretty sure you do. You have the desire, isn’t that enough?

God often plants a deep desire in our hearts for the very thing that He needs us to do. Missionaries and pastors offer a great example – most will tell you that they desperately desired their mission fields long before they had the opportunity to pursue them. They LOVE what they do!

However, desire alone is not a sufficient indication of a calling to the entertainment field. This is a missionfield/professional arena in which you also have to be naturally talented. It isn't fair, in that annoying economy of God which is always just but not always fair. You have to have been born with a creative gift to work as a screenwriter, actor, director, editor, producer.

Flannery O' Connor was once asked how someone should know if they are supposed to be a writer. She answered that the only reason to be a writer is "because you're good at it." To a large extent, Hollywood is like that.

So how do you know for sure? How can you determine if God has really “called” you to Hollywood?

Act One: Writing For Hollywood has developed a list of questions for you to brood over, to help you make a decision. Do yourself a favor: be honest. This is a tough business. It is not for everyone. And a good deal too many people come here with big dreams, only to find discouragement and bitterness. Our hope is to help you better determine if this “calling” is truly from God.


EIGHTEEN THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURSUING A CAREER IN HOLLYWOOD

1. MOTIVATIONS - Why do you really want to be in the entertainment industry? What will success look like for you?
The first reason to pursue a career in Hollywood as a writer is NOT
a) Because you think that film and television are huge potential media of truth; NOR
b) Because you are tired of the liberal/Democratic/secular/godless agenda that is the ideology of choice for many in the business; NOR
c) Because you love the feeling that you get when the lights go down in the theater and you think that making movies must feel as easy and fun as watching movies; AND CERTAINLY NOT
d) Because you want the money and power and fame that is associated with the industry.

The only reason that makes any sense to pursue a career in Hollywood ias an actor or writer or director or producer or whatever is because YOU ARE GOOD AT IT. It is what YOU were made to do.


2. TALENT What do you bring to the table (besides desire for success)?
Contrary to what productions like Jack Ass and Anna Nicole seem to indicate, real talent is appreciated and respected in Hollywood. It is the oil that keeps the cogs and wheels turning. Yes, there are those with seemingly negligible talent who have gone on to great success. But don’t be naive – they DO have talent, it just lies in areas that aren’t so readily apparent (i.e., manipulation, flattery, PR, sensationalism, and the use of other rather sketchy “gifts” that we’re not going to get into here . . .), or maybe they were just born into the industry.

You will need genuine talent to survive and thrive, as a professional. But even more, you will need it to thrive as a Christian, because, by definition, you answer to a Higher Authority and don’t have the option of “making it” by means of those other “gifts.”

Are you truly talented? Here are some questions we give to wannabee screenwriters to help them discern whether they should set their sights on a writing career. There are exceptions to every rule, and all of these may not fit some famous writer out there. But as we say at Act One, "Do not strive to be the exception to the rule when it comes to craft." So, then, how do you know if you might be called to be a professional writer?

a) You have always done it. You have always written long letters, successful skits. You've kept journals. You are the one everyone in the office asks to write memos, or brochures. You are the editor of the school yearbook, the church bulletin, the college newspaper. There isn’t a time in your life when you can’t remember writing.

b) People tell you they like what you do. This is really important. It isn't just about whether writing is therapy for you (private revelation...) but your writing has also consistently "worked" with other people. Do others affirm your talent? Do others like your writing? Do people say things to you ike, "You are so funny - you should write a TV show!" or "I love getting a letter from you." or "You should write a book." If others are not encouraging you in this area, or if they don’t even know you dabble in it, you are probably NOT called to Hollywood.

c) You are a word person. You play Scrabble and Boggle and do crossword puzzles. (Emily Dickinson used to read the dictionary like others do cheap paperbacks.) You have consistently scored well on verbal tests in school.

d) You are a reader. Even if you don’t want to be a writer, a person in pretty much any aspect of the entertainment industry will be always reading, besides going to movies and watching television. You need to be a reader – of the Great Books, of the best sellers, of the industry trades, of other people’s screenplays. You need to shape yourself into a thinker who comes up with clever twists and wonderful plot points. You have to be a historian. A psychologist. A theologian. A poet. A salesman. If you don’t like to read, guess what: You are NOT called to Hollywood.

e) You have something to say. That is, you have something developed to say. Not just opinions, but arguments. You are one of those people who hears something absurd on talk radio and then formulates a speech about why it is wrong. You come up with better allegories than the preacher who is trying to relate the Scriptures to the suffering congregation.

Professional screenwriters need stories to tell. Lots of stories to tell. If you have only one project, you will not have a career. You need to be constantly brooding on the parables of Jesus and transforming them, and everything else He said into new applications for today.


Okay, so once you decide that you do indeed have talent, you can at least CONSIDER a career in Hollywood. But Talent alone won’t cut it. You must also have:


3. R-E-S-P-E-C-TWhat are you dumb at?
Beginners in Hollywood need humility. You cannot learn unless you respect the teacher. And anybody taking up the craft of the very complex screen artform has much to learn. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in many Christians who come to the business because, as a Chruch, we have made an artform out of disdaining Hollywood.

Be in awe of the things that Hollywood takes for granted. About storytelling and suspense. About creating characters and making them talk. About crafting visual images. About collaborating in such a way that everybody’s best gifts serve the whole. These are lessons about storytelling that the industry mastered 80 years ago and which make our cinema the envy of the world.


4. PASSIONIs there anything else you could really do with your life?
You have to love the movie business. Really love it. If it is just the money or influence you love, you will end up poor, forgotten and embittered.

We need Christian filmmakers who love the art form so much that they go to everything that comes out - because they really love it. They watch movies as filmmakers, not as fans. They look at serious projects as benchmarks in the development of the artform. Fans tend to talk about celebrities. Filmmakers tend to talk about directors, or writers or a genius bit of editing, or a remarkable moment of performance.

Secondly, you have to be passionate about your own talent and career. You have to believe in yourself. Believe in your project.

Passion is essential so that you will have the energy to make the sacrifices that will have to be made if you are going to make a go of it in this very competitive and difficult arena. You need to be so in love with this business that you will continue to find a way to be part of it even if you NEVER make a dime from it, even if you spend your life in poverty and obscurity. The odds are very good that you WILL spend your life in poverty and obscurity, so you’d better love what you’re doing. If you don’t, then you risk a life of bitterness, anger and regret.


5. PATIENCEHow long will it take you to get discouraged?
Creatives in the entertainment industry must learn the art of what script doctor Linda Seger calls "hovering." Much patience is required to learn the craft. To do the reseach. To wait for the call back. To make the deals. To wait for the collaborators. To do the rewrites. To wait until the script is really ready. To wait. To wait. To wait. If you do not have the patience to develop your craft or to increase your skill, you are NOT called to this business. People who tell us that they are coming out to Hollywood to try it out for a couple of years should just stay home. You must have a profound longterm commitment.


6. OPPORTUNITYIs your life "empty" enough for an entertainment career?
Having a career will require a bit of a starvation period. There will be serveal years in which you will be making very little money while you work your way up. You have to be able to live cheaply and take low-paying entry-level jobs that won't have health insurance and spousal benefits.

You have to have a lot of time to "waste" on things that don't seem to have a specific pay-off in sight. You need to go to a lot of screenings and parties and film festivals and mixers and classes and conferences. It's a hard thing for people to do who are also trying to be the Caregiver/Provider of Note for a family of three or four or five.

One indicator of God’s will for your life is certainly in the opportunities that open for you without much effort on your part. This is NOT to say that you don’t work hard. You have to. It’s an absolute must if you want to succeed in this business. But there is such a thing as finding just enough favor or weird coincidences to keep you moving ahead. Many people who are pursuing a career in Hollywood find that they are banging on doors, but the doors just aren’t opening. If the doors aren’t opening, even in small little ways, it probably means God is not directing you – you are.


7. PERSONAL PRAYER LIFE – What is God telling you?
Put your career in God's hands minute by minute. Offer Him your life over and over and over...until you actually start to let go of it. Every artist has to get comfortable with solitude and isolation - it is an essential element to creativity.

Be prepared for a negative answer. In fact, expect a negative answer. Assume a negative answer. Then, if opportunities and circumstances and natural forces still seem to be shoving you towards the Hollywood Hills – well, okay, you’ve probably got a legitimate calling to the City of Angels.


8. CREATIVE DISCERNMENT Will baby steps be enough for you?
As a professional creative person, you will have to be involved in many projects that seem to have little or no redemptive value. A lot of the product the industry churns out is just sausage to meet the hungers of the global media machine. You have to be able to see God's hand working in many unlikely places. You have to be able to understand that a baby step is not a compromise. Sometimes, you will have to back away from something that is irreconcilable with your identity as a Christian.


9. NORMALCYCan you function in a secular environment?
Is your faith of a type which would makes it impossible for you to accept other people where they are? Are you "weird" in the sense that you can't speak without Christian-ese, or you can't get through ten minutes without making your faith an issue (kind of the way homosexuals often make their sexuality omnipresent...).

Christians coming into the industry at this particular moment need to understand that their first witness will be the excellence and beauty of the work they do, united to simple, virtuous lives of probity, rectitude, gentleness, self-donation, loyalty, and integrity.

Maybe you really like living in a Christian sub-culture surrounded by people who agree with you on the things that matter to you, and that is where you are supposed to thrive. That could be fine. Comfortable. But nobody who is that kind of comfortable is also going to change the world.


10. INDUSTRY ETIQUETTE Do you have any self-discipline?
This is just respect again. Why is it that People of Faith most often treat people with less professionalism than pagans do? We have heard stories of many artists who have been exploited time and again by people in the name of God, than in the name of Mammon.

Don’t whine. Don't rant. Don’t expect special treatment. Be on time. Do your homework. Earn your paycheck. Be able to deliver what you commit yourself to. Know that your personal beliefs and symbols do not belong in a professional context, any more than if they were Marxist symbols.


11. ARTISTRY What does mastery of the craft mean?
Believe that, as Dostoevsky said, “Man will be saved by beauty.” KNow what he was talking about. And then spend time figuring out where the potential for beauty exists in the art form you have chosen. "Good enough" is NEVER good enough.


12. FELLOWSHIP Where will you find authentic community?
If you do not find a cenacle, you will lose your soul – or at least your difference. The cenacle is not for living in, but rather a place to rest, to regather your sense of identity and vocation and message. This business has its own unique problems, and people outside the business rarely understand them (even pastors). It’s crucial that you have mature Christians to whom you can turn for advice and guidance. It’s even more crucial that you have friends who are wise in the Spirit to hold you accountable. If you isolate yourself from regular Christian fellowship, it will be the beginning of a very nasty downward spiral. Trust us.


13. TRUSTCan you ever "let go"?
We cannot make any impact on the industry from the outside. We need to worm our way into the business, to renew it from within. There has never been a reform in the Church that started in the laity. In the true spirit of ecumenism, “The goal is not that we all become one, but that they all become us.” Too many Christians are out there on their own setting up piddly little production companies and making three million dollar movies that will never get into theaters. They do this because they are afraid to lose control of their projects, and they are afraid to get sullied by collborating with non-believers.

You have to be able to step back from your proejct and let other people mess with it. You have to accept that no production will ever meet all your hopes for it. You have to put yourself and your project in the hands of people who may only have the project itself in common with you.


14. SPIRITUAL MATURITY - Do you have your spiritual act together?
Will you be able to avoid the pitfalls of hell hidden amidst the palm trees and swimming pools? Surviving in Hollywood is hard on everyone. And surviving as a happy Christian in Hollywood is even harder. God holds us to a standard that no one in this city understands or acknowledges. You will come to learn what being “in the world but not of the world” truly means. Understand that this is a business motivated by fear (of failure, of aging, of poverty, of being fat). Ironically, there is little fear of success, which is often the greatest corruptor of souls. And if you crave stability or security, then you are SO in the wrong place!

You will have to give an account for yourself in a way that will be intelligible for people who don't get you, and who may think Christianity is what is wrong with the world. You need to know your faith well enough to explain it. You need to know when you are standing safe among ravenous lions, and when it is time to get out because they are starting to chew on you.


16. PRIORITIES - What in your life would you most mourn if you lost it?
If you are going to be of any use to God in Hollywood, He must make certain you are ready for the challenge. This is a painful process. He may have to go to extreme lengths to ensure that your priorities are in order. And the best way to teach these lessons and have their roots sink deep is through failure and disappointment. God can’t trust you with success or power until He knows that you won’t let Him down.


17. BIG PICTURE THINKINGWhat else will you have in your life besides the business?
Get involved in something that has nothing to do with entertainment, and nothing to do with you or your career. Volunteer at your Church, a soup kitchen, help the homeless, work with the Special Olympics, give blood, rescue abandoned dogs and cats. It will help you keep things in perspective, so you don’t lose sight of the larger world. Another source of income will also give you a more stable sense of self (not to mention rent) while you are weathering the initial years of rejection. If you can’t see beyond lights, camera, action, it’s a pretty good bet you are not called to Hollywood – You’re obsessed with it. A healthy Christian is involved in ministering to others and has interests in line with Christ. If you don’t, you need to be before you come to Hollywood.


18. FAITHIs there anything the world can throw at you that would make you doubt God's love for you?
As a Christian artist you have to have the ability to see everything you do as part of God's plan for you. You can't look at your life in terms of wasted years, wasted classes, wasted relationships, wasted efforts, wasted dreams. In the end, we really do not know what role it is that we are accomplishing for the Kingdom. If Hollywood is where you are supposed to be, then come and be here. Throw your heart into it, set your face into the wind, and don't look back. Don’t be distracted by the success of others – never judge your own life by theirs. If God sends you to Hollywood, then He has a job for you to do, and it may not be the job you anticipated. Don’t argue.

Don't ever allow yourself to live the statement, "Okay, God, I can take it from here."


Okay, now we can say it. Good luck!
Monday, June 09, 2003
BE NOT AFRAID: PART I - WHY ARE CHRISTIANS SO AFRAID OF HOLLYWOOD?

Already, a few of you are scoffing. "We're not 'afraid' of Hollywood, we just disdain it." If you need to say that, fine. But how about if I asked you, "Are you afraid of Hollywood's influence on your children or grandchildren?" Okay, then.

Some anecdotes...

- I spoke at a NC Christian Writers Conference recenty and met with a man who has published many successful novels that have crossed over from the CBA into the ABA. When I suggested to him that he should consider adapting some of his work for the entertainment industry he was taken aback (and, I think, almost insulted). He assured me, "I've been a writer my whole life, and it never, in my wildest moments, occurred to me to try and write for movies or television." Humph. Why is that?

- At a Eucharistic COngress in DC a few years back, after I gave my usual spiel about supporting the godly artists among us, a woman approached me with the statement that, "Our daughter has always wanted to be an actress. But her father and I told her we would pay for her to go to college to study ANYTHING but acting."

This is actually a story I have heard dozens of times from the young Christian actors I work with in Hollywood, but in the hope of getting this particular woman to think things through, I pretended to be shocked and confused. "Why?"

"Well," she explained, "we don't want her to lose her soul."

Oh, good, now, she'll just lose her mind instead.

- (This next anecdote stands for about a dozen similar anecdotes that I have been a sorrowful player in the last seven years. So much money being wasted...)

A group of Christians recently asked me to screen a roughcut of a feature film that they had made without any input or assistance from Hollywood professionals. The project had cost about five million dollars. None of the people involved in the project had ever made a movie before. Now, they wanted me to give them notes as to how to "edit the movie into shape."

I told them that movies are like liver on your dinner plate. You can cut it up and move it around and eat it to a nice soundtrack, but in the end, it is still liver. You can't edit garbage into shape.

So, why are we so afraid? I'll put my understanding of the fear and then my response to it. Amy Welborn weighed in with a characteristically thoughtful answer. My own take on the matter is much less subtle. I'll put Amy's thought first.

Why Christians are Afraid of the Entertainment Industry

1. (from Amy Welborn) "Might one fear be the fear of success? A strange fear in an industry that apparently consumes its young (and
old) and is very difficult to succeed in, but still...it's also a very lucrative industry, and centered in a part of the world in which (or so I
understand) the "good life" is not exactly rooted in Gospel values. Are we (generically) afraid to succeed because we are afraid of being corrupted by success and the material fruit it brings?"


My only question here would be that there is success to be found in many other fields. By this reasoning, shouldn't we be afraid of succeeding at politics, or law, or business, or medicine? (Maybe we are...)

2. Because we have been so victimized by it.
We have been misconstrued and misrepresented. We have been set up as hypocrites and vilified for our teachings. Our faith has been blamed for many social ills, and we, its adherents have been labeled as being intolerant, ignorant and fearful. Our clergy have been represented as oppressive, fear-mongering meglomaniacs. Anything else?

My response: As an old Italian nun said to me once when I was complaining about something, “Eh. It still isn’t the agony in the garden.”

3. “It is nothing but a [insert your own anti-motivational adjective here - some typical ones: liberal, Democratic, pagan, secular, godless, Satanic] stronghold.”

My response: AND??????????? How very heroic of us. Remember when the Church used to send missionaries into the worst parts of the world? I can’t see the Jesuit martyrs of old, basing their apostolic initiatives on which tribe of savages was less inclined to eat them.

Even if Hollywood was as bad as all that, that should only be a greater incentive for us to roll up our sleeves, and, as Teresa of Avila said, "bring God where He is not." But really, this is a bad rap. Hollywood is no worse than Wall Street or Silicon Valley or Capital Hill or the Ivory Tower. Let's talk about the medical profession, for example. Maybe Hollywood is polluting the airwaves, but we aren't aborting 1.5 million babies a year now, are we? The truth is, every segment of society is sick. The media just gets in our face with it.

3. “Movies and television can’t be good if the masses like it.”
This fear pretends to be based in the Scripture that, "You are not of the world." It eschews anything popular with a kind of Christian gnosticism. The end result is in affirming our people in wiping their hands of the need to engage the culture.

My response: Some things are popular because they are great. Like soap or the wheel…. This is elitist doo-doo.

4. “I don’t believe in art by committee.”
This is a fear that seeks to disguise itself by diminishing the artform, rather like Aesop's fox diminished the grapes he couldn't reach. The insinuation is that the screen artform is somehow lowly because it very often is qualified by business concerns. The collaborative nature of cinema somehow prevents it from really being considered a work of art, because art is a God-to-artist, One-to-one act of inspiration and creation.

My response: You know nothing about the art of cinema. "Art" is anything made. It is anything in which there has been a selection of elements. Beautiful art is found in the harmonious selection of details. Cinema is composed of several different art forms. Literary, performance, composition, music, architecture, costuming, make-up, lighting, editing, etc, etc, etc... Each of these artfroms requires the isolation, reflection and creative act of the particular artist. Then, that artist harmonizes their product with the work of the others. So, cinema is a harmony of harmonies. It is essentially art by committee.

5. “It’s all garbage.”
This is a fear which finds its root in sloth.

My response: Ignorant. Lazy. Wrong. There is so much good work being done, that I have no patience with this at all. The problem perhaps is that there is so much media being produced, that it is more difficult to glean through it all to find the great work. But that just means it is harder to be alive today. It is a particular temptation today to try and simplify that which is by its nature complicated. These are trying times. Trying to pretend that they are not will only result in making messes.

6. “It is dangerously passive recreation.”

My response: Yeah, like reading is aerobic? I have no idea if watching movies is dangerous for human beings in the long-term anthropological sense. All I know is, it is here to stay, and the Magisterium has repeatedly called for us to be actively engaged in using it to spread the Gospel.


Stay tuned....
Sunday, June 08, 2003
NOT A JOB WELL DONE

I saw The Italian Job last night. The word in the pews is that actor Mark Wahlberg has become quite the serious Catholic, and I like to support our own. I also like a good heist movie. Oh well. The only good heist here is the one perpretrated on the audience. The film is refreshingly free of sex and crass language, and there are only a couple of moments of violence. I don't want to spend more time reviewing this movie than the filmmakers spent thinking through this story, (and I think I'm pushing up against that ceiling already...), so let me just say that The Italian Job wasn't as good a heist film as was Oceans 11. And Oceans 11wasn't that good a film.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
44 MINUTES ON FX

One of our Act One faculty members, author and screenwriter James Scott Bell, sent me the following heads-up about a docudrama that aired recently on the FX channel. They will certainly air it many more times so keep an eye out for it.

Don't know if anyone saw the FX movie last night, 44 Minutes. It was a docu-drama about that infamous shootout out here in a Los Angeles suburb, in 1997, when two guys in full body armor and with assault rifles tried to rob a Bank of America, and ended up shooting everything and everyone they could--and, miraculously, no one but the two of them ended up dead.

FX is an upstart, "cutting edge" network (shows like The Shield) that pushes the envelope on taste and language. Thus, this movie had four letter words and plenty of blood.

BUT...amazingly...

One of the lead characters was an African-American cop who is an up-front evangelical Christian. We see him at the beginning reading his Bible and praying that God will help him to do right. As I watched that I thought, "Uh-oh, here comes the fanatic, maybe he's one of the shooters."

BUT...amazingly...

We next see this cop arresting a 16 year old gangbanger wannabe, sitting him down in the squad car, and showing him pictures of slain gang leaders...trying to scare the kid straight. The kid has attitude. Nothing is going to work.

Then, the cop and his partner get the call about the bank robbery. They drive over. So, the cop decides to let the kid go, because this is more important. The cop then gives the kid a small, worn, hand sized Bible and says, "Read this."

The kid looks at him quizzically. "Huh? Read what?"

Cop: "Whatever applies to you."

He presses the Bible in the kid's hand and dashes off. The story progresses. The Christian cop is shown behaving bravely in battle, and then gets shot. He's almost going to die. But near the end of the movie he's rescued.

THEN...amazingly...

As he is being put into an ambulance, we see the kid. He has reappeared. He is looking at the cop with concern. The cop sees him. The kid nods at the cop and shows him he's still got the Bible.

My wife and I were stunned and pleased and, yes, amazed. Here, in the least likely of places (FX) was not just a respectful, but a downright favorable, portrait of a Christian man.

If you get the chance to see this movie, do so. It is well made and realistic (I remember watching the news coverage, with mouth agape, that this was happening a few miles away.) And it has a real Christian message in there. The cop, at the end, reminisces and says, "It was truly a miracle that no one else was killed."
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
"NUNC DIMITIS..."

His serene astuteness, Mark Shea, King of all Blogdom, has written a great article on blogging which you can copy to all your friends and family who still don't know what a blog is. I meet these people all the time and find myself looking at them in shocked consternation. "How can you not know what a blog is?"

Reminds me of something Emily Dickinson once said about the life of the mind. (Substituting "blogs" for Emily's "thoughts.")

"How do most people live without any blogs?
How do they have the strength to get out of bed in the morning?"

Mark's piece is rendered even more estimable by his reference in the piece to this lowly blog. Thanks, Mark!
BE NOT AFRAID!

The talk I gave in NYC is one that has been taking shape for several years. I got the idea for it from the following quote from Pope John Paul II, from his address for World Communications Day in 2001:

As much as the world of the media may at times seem at odds with the Christian message, it also offers unique opportunities for proclaiming the saving truth of Christ to the whole human family. What is therefore needed in our time is an active and imaginative engagement of the media by the Church. Catholics, do not be afraid to throw open the doors of social communications to Christ, so that his Good News may be heard from the housetops of the world!

The lack of impact by Christians in the popular culture and specifically Hollywood comes back to fear. We mask our fear with disdain or elitism or faux-prudence, but in the end, we are afraid and it renders us mediocre as artists and ineffective as communicators. I will flesh out some of the notes from my talk here over the next few days (or weeks or months...) using the this outline:

A) Why are we Christians afraid of Hollywood?
B) What mistakes do we godly people make in our cultural forays because we are afraid of Hollywood?
C) What could we learn from Hollywood if we could stop being afraid of it?
D) How could we serve Hollywood – what could we bring to it? – if we could stop being afraid of it?
E) Act One as a test case of effective engagement

Stay tuned...
DEBTS OF GRATITUDE

Thanks to everyone who made the Chicago and Washington events such a success these last two weeks. Special thanks to Chicago Alumn Maureen O'Grady for hosting our Windy City Reunion evening. During my adventures, I taped a show at Telecare, the TV station operated by the Archdiocese of Long Island. Thanks to Rose Ann Palmer and Fr. Tim Hartman for their hospitality. I'll try and let you all in the Tri-State area know when the show airs.

Thanks too to all the people who made the NYC event such a success. Jen Hall (you amaze me!) and the people at the Marketplace Ministries of Redeemer Presbyterian Church were wonderful. Jo and Chris Kladecek for dinner and unflagging affirmation and support. Special thanks to Jesus for torpedoing the Haven event that was supposed to happen that night, so that all the Haven people ended up coming to my talk. [Note from God: "Don't mess with Act One."] The talk was videotaped, and they tell me it will be put up on the web site of The Voice Behind.
Monday, June 02, 2003
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED REVISITED AND RECONSTITUTED

Rats. My all time favorite book is about to be desecrated. This from British entertainment columnist Melanie Reid. A snippet...

Oh dear. 'Tis true. We must all give a languid sigh, clutch our teddy bears closer to our hearts, and prepare to see fond memory debased. Poor old Brideshead Revisited is to be the next victim of Andrew Davies, the screenwriter currently charged with remixing classic works of literature for the Christina Aguilera generation. We cannot foretell what dire things await us, but few people will be taking bets against at least one explosive gay scene involving Aloysius the bear, Sebastian Flyte, and Charles Ryder.

Mr Davies is the man responsible for both Daniel Deronda and Doctor Zhivago, the two costume dramas presently vying for viewers on a Sunday night. We have barely recovered from his previous over-hyped offering, the dark Victorian-themed Tipping The Velvet, a bodice ripper with lesbian overtones.....

...Mr Davies is quoted as saying that he thinks the original ITV version "got the wrong emphasis". He went on: "I'm more interested in the religious side of the book, rather than the Oxford days . . . It essentially begs the question, 'Is God more important than love?' It's a Catholic novel."

He is, of course, correct. Sebastian Flyte's family are ancient aristocratic Roman Catholics, tortured and split and ultimately claimed by their faith. Waugh said his theme was "the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters". But if anyone thinks that this new version of Brideshead, circa 2003, could get financial backing and then hope to be a box office success by merely exploring the question, "Is God more important than love?", then their heads are buttoned up the back. No, Davies has been hired to inject some, lots of, sex into Brideshead, and we must, as I say, quail for the scenes which Aloysius the bear will witness. Perhaps there are enough of us who remember the 1981 series to club together to buy him a blindfold...