4:40 PM | |
It's a risky business Jonathan is in. I'm on the record as supporting Jonathan, as opposed to supporting the movie. ["Split hairs much, Barb?"] I couldn't find the piece on-line, but here's the piece of it with my quote in it, courtesy of a friend who sent it to me with the exclamatory question, "Are you smoking crack?! Have you lost your mind?!" Or something like that.
When Grace Hill markets a film, one of its first tactics is to contact heavyweight Christian pop culture blogs like Hollywoodjesus.com and Holycoast.com, providing free screenings for mentions in the blog, and--like Universal did with its recent 'In Good Company'--a direct link to the film's trailer. All of which is important because the Internet has created a tight-knit religious community, more organized and more in touch than ever before.
By hiring Grace Hill to work a film like the 'Code,' Columbia's not only trying to arrange proactive damage control but also to positively motivate this demographic.
"And Grace Hill seems to believe there are possible positive benefits that 'Da Vinci Code' could bring. Barbara Nicolosi, exec director of Act One... has talked with exec director Bock about why he accepted 'Da Vinci Code' as a project. 'Jonathan believes the Church has nothing to fear from discussion,' she says. 'He feels that people talking about who Jesus was and why he is still important 2,000 years later is worth something, even if the thing that's spurring the discussion is a project like 'Da Vinci,' which says Jesus isn't divine and that the Church is basically evil. I think the book is particularly repulsive, but I agree I would rather have people talking about Jesus than ignoring him.'
"Not everyone is of the same mind. Fr. Frank Desiderio, president of Paulist Productions, who consulted on the History Channel's 'Beyond the Da Vinci
Code,' says, 'It's just going to be tough to turn this into a positive for the
Catholic Church. The best thing that can be done is for the Church to say 'Ouch,' then back away. Otherwise you're going to have what happened with the Jewish Defense League and 'The Passion of the Christ'--when their protest turned into one of the greatest free marketing campaigns in film history.'
Actually, what I said was something more to the effect of, "For the last forty years, Jesus has been ignored in the mainstream culture. And from where I'm sitting, it was a really bad idea. So, now, we have the opportunity to have Jesus be at the center of cultural discussion. Even if it starts with a posture of irreverence, like in the Da Vinci Code, I'm going to say we try it. At least, we'll be talking about Jesus."
I have a friend who is always insisting, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." I agree.
P.S. (added Wednesday, June 1)
I am dismayed by how quick some of you have jumped to the conclusion that Jonathan Bock and Grace Hill Media are completely mercenary in their motives concerning Da Vinci Code. I don't suppose it would help if said, "Just trust me, Jonathan is a good man, and this is about more than money." It is much more about bringing the People of God and the Hollywood power-brokers into dialogue. ([drily] ref. JPII, Letter to Artists)
I haven't seen the script yet, so I can't say whether I will be able to recommend the movie. There are a few changes that could be made in the story that would make the project acceptable to me as a believer...or at least merely risible, but not protestable.
I do know that the studio involved is seriously concerned about offending the Christian audience. They have committed to spending a lot of money for public dialogues about the historical issues in the film. My sense is, the filmmakers are hoping to have the movie be anti-establishment Church, but not anti-individual Christian. Of course, we have seen that attempt before, and we know that, like Jesus, we all associate ourselves with any attack on any part of the Church.
4:38 PM | |
As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea --
And that -- a further -- and the Three
But a presumption be --
Of Periods of Seas --
Unvisited of Shores --
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be --
Eternity -- is Those --
4:29 PM | |
UPC Presents FilmFest 2005:
June 16, 17 & 18 in Larson Hall at UPC
Join us for all or part of this three-day event focusing on the themes of justice and reconciliation. FilmFest includes four films: "12 Angry Men," "Hotel Rwanda," "The Green Mile," and "After the Truth." Following each film there will be an interactive panel discussion featuring experts and filmmakers.
FilmFest is a partnership event with First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue and other local area churches to raise money for International Justice Mission and their efforts to open an office in Rwanda.
For questions or additional info please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206/524-7301, ext. 330.
Tickets are $10/film or $30 for all four films and will be available at UPC on Sundays, May 29, June 5 and June 12. Additional dates & locations to purchase tickets will be posted as soon as they are available. Seating is limited.
(Parents are encouraged to use their discretion with children ages 17 and under. Ratings are listed along with the movies below.)
Thursday, June 16, 7 p.m.
FilmFest presents "12 Angry Men," rated PG
This Oscar award winning film starring Henry Fonda and Jack Klugman is heralded as one of the all-time great theatrical releases. "12 Angry Men" focuses on a jury's deliberations in a capital murder case. What begins as an open-and-shut murder case soon becomes a mini-drama of each juror's prejudices and preconceptions about the trial, the accused and each other.
Friday, June 17, 7 p.m.
FilmFest presents "Hotel Rwanda," rated PG
(due to violence, disturbing images and brief strong language)
Don Cheadle stars in the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsis refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees by granting them shelter in the hotel he manages.
Saturday, June 18, 1:30 p.m.
Filmfest presents "The Green Mile," rated R
(due to violence, language and some sex-related material)
Starring Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb, a slightly cynical veteran prison guard on Death Row in the 1930s. His faith and sanity deteriorated by watching men live and die. Edgecomb is about to have a complete turnaround in attitude when they discover one of their prisoners, a convicted murderer, has a special gift.
Saturday, June 18, 7 p.m.
Filmfest presents "After the Truth," unrated
(contains references to violence and sex; subtitled)
Written by Christopher and Kathy Riley, this international award-winning German film is about the famous Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele - the "death angel of Auschwitz" who comes back from his hideout in Argentina to Germany as an 87-year-old man. He must stand up in front of a court for his crimes. The young solicitor, Peter Rohm, has to defend him but Rohm - himself an expert on Mengele and his crimes - feels unable to do this. When he decides to take on the case he endangers not only his relationship with his wife but also their lives.
9:02 AM | |
...everyone should stop bugging CBS and start writing to Sony, who is shopping the show to other networks. Also wouldn't be a bad idea to write to other networks to encourage them to buy the show. Try NBC, ABC and Fox. UPN is owned by CBS, and the actors probably wouldn't be interested there anyway, or anywhere else that doesn't really have an audience.
There is a very real deadline of June 15th, when the actors' contracts are up. It's pretty much dead after that. So if you really want to keep the show around, you'd better start bugging your friends and relatives to write to Sony NOW. They can use the volume of letters when they are trying to sell the show.
Address: Sony Pictures Television, 10202 W. Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232
Yesterday, was the Feast of St. Joan of Arc btw...
9:53 PM | |
I admit, I hadn't heard this new definition of personhood. And apparently neither had Stephanopoulos, as he blurted out the question, "But in its nature, what is the fundamental difference between an embryo un-implanted, and one that IS implanted?" Spectre sputtered and snorted and said something insulting about religious fanatics, but he never got around to answering George's question. And George, realizing that he accidentally asked the key damning question, didn't press for an answer.
Poor Brownback didn't have much to say. How do you enter into an argument like this?! As soon as you start arguing "when" it is okay to experiment on human embryos, you've already launched yourself far off the slippery slope and into a double backwards aerial helicopter flip.
At one point, Spectre held up an hourglass near his head as a sign that his time as a Parkinson's patient was slipping away. (If only...) He was almost raving with rage. And I found it unbelievablely disgusting. This old, dissipiated, power-mad politico basically just wants to keep his sad life going as long as possible -- no matter how many thousands of little lives it takes. You have to wonder if he would eat his own children if he was told by a doctor somewhere that it would add a few minutes to his lifetime. (BTW, thanks, Rick!)
Honestly folks, this stuff is way, way, way scary and depraved. Here's the principle: We only get to experiment on people with their permission. Until we can get one of those human embryos to make an "X" on a waiver slip, we don't get to make them act as substitutes for lab rats. Somebody say it: The only reason embryonic stem cells hold promise for medical research is because they are HUMAN embryos!
Do we have no collective memory? When Spectre justified the embryo experiments because, "They are just going to be thrown away anyway," all I could think about was Mengele sticking needles in the eyes of Jewish twins a few short decades ago. HE said the same thing! "They are going to die anyway. Might as well get scientific data for the rest of us."
I'm so sick of this crap. Somebody pinch me when the culture of death is over....If there's anybody left to pinch me.
10:06 AM | |
It's the difference between a painter using all the colors in the spectrum, or just using five or six. And then, also choosing the kind of brush strokes to convey meaning. Van Gogh needed to plop big slashes of paint - a pintbrush wouldn't have accomplished what he needed to communicate. And then, the artists needs to decide what kind of surface on which to paint - plaster or canvas or pottery or wood, or wtaver. And also using only as much canvas or plaster or wood as necessary - so that there isn't one inch of the painting that could be altered without altering the effect of the whole piece.
It's a musician taking advantage of harmony and rhythm and silence and all the octaves on the piano, as opposed to just one or two. It's a bad fit to compose a piece for the piano that could be delivered with the same impact on a triangle. Some things were written for the horn. They are a different thing - probably a lesser thing - if translated to the guitar.
So, one of the signs that an artist has mastered their artform is that a project can not be translated to any other medium. It was conceived for this particular art form, and in so far as it drew on all of the potentials of that medium, it makes itself a bad candidate to be experienced in another art form.
This is why Flannery O'Connor and Dostoevsky make bad movies. This is why people are always saying that they loved the book better than the movie. What they are really saying is that they loved the cumulative effect of the literary medium, and that they did not find a repeat of that experience in the cinematic medium. We tend to like screen adaptations, because we have fallen in love with the literary characters, and we fill in the spaces of the movie from what we have experienced in the book. (This is probably why I hated Jackson's LOTR trilogy. I never read the books, and so all I had to go on was a lot of episodic scenes with under-developed characters fighting for goals that were not real clear to me. In other words, the LOTR movies do not stand alone.)
In the same way, I heard a fan of Jane Campion's film The Piano lampoon the novelized version that was made after the film, for being 'insulting and easy.' The movie is much better at being a movie than the book was.
I've been having this problem for two years or so, as I have been trying to adapt a screenplay I wrote into a play. It's a good screenplay. And, by that I mean that I wrote the story to be told through cinema. It has close-ups and visual images, and imagery juxtapositions, and voice-overs, and ambient and off-screen sound cues, and super-impositions, and match cuts....and, none of these are ancillary to the narrative. They are all motivated. I wrote a story that could only be told on the screen. So, now, in trying to "dump" the contents of the story into a play, I am finding that I really have to write another project. Even more than just a difference in technique, the story I was telling in the screenplay - thematically about the universal human striving for immortality - "matches" cinema better than theater. Because, whoever ends up on the screen attains a kind of eternal life. (ie. Charlie Chaplain will always be 36 years old in The Gold Rush.)
On the other hand, I have found that bad books, can make very good movies. The Wizard of Oz is probably the prime case in point. Edna Ferber's Giant, for another example, has all the literary punch of a Harlequin romance, but it became the story fodder for one of the greatest movies ever made. (I'd go ahead and say the greatest, because I love it so much, but, I don't want to distract those of you who think Revenge of the Sith was a good movie off the main point here.) Whereas the movie deals with the power of love to save us - albeit over decades of commitment and compromise, the book is basically about a high strung woman flirting with a cowboy. Where the movie carries a side-long critique of societal racism, the book is easy and non-controversial.
Another case in point is Dr. Zhivago. I am in a Dr. Zhivago obsessive phase these days and have been spending way too much time doing things like watching the movie four times to hear what Omar and Rod Stieger had to say about it scene by scene. In terms of cinematography and art direction, the movie is one of the most lovely to look at in cinema history. The director, David Lean, also knew how to work with actors, which, combined with the hauntingest of scores, makes the film very emotionally affecting. But more importantly, the film is about something thematically. A few things actually. One big theme treats the perversion of good things by evil. The A-story is the perversion of Lara by Komarovsky. It is set up against the perversion of the pure intent of the Russian Revolution by the Bolsheviks. A secondary theme, is the way that art allows human beings to weather everything - both joy and tragedy.
Loving all this, I decided to rush out and plunge myself into the book so as to get even more insight into these two wonderful themes.
But alas, the novel by Boris Pasternak is barely about anything. Walking through Beverly Hills yesterday with Flannery O'Connor's god-child Benedict Fitzgerald, (oh, did I let that slip?), we decided that the bok is flawed because Pasternak was basically a poet and not a novelist. Consequently, he is much more interested in the phrases he conjures up paragraph by labored paragraph, than by the intricacies of weaving a theme into a narrative. He has terribly tortorous metaphors all throughout, like, the following...
"In the hot stillness, the heavy eared wheat stood straight. Neat sheaves rose aboe the stubble inthe distance; if you stared at them long enough tehy seemed to move, walking along the horizon like land surveyors taking notes."
Huhhhhh? Holy pretentious prose, Batman!
"There the lilies stems were shorter and more tangled; the white flowers with their glowing flowers looked like blood-specked egg yolks, sank and emerged dripping with water."
Blood speckled egg yolks?! The virtue of a metaphor is to be clearer than the reality you are trying to describe. In this case, I would just say there were some water liles on the pond.
The book is constantly running embarrassed from the most active/exciting narrative beats, preferring to languish in over-wrought scenic descriptions.
Now,, because Pasternak is a Russian, he can't help saying amazing things every now and then like this:
"Lara was not religiou. She did notbelieve in ritual. But sometimes, to be able to bear life, she needed the accompaniment of an inner music. She could not always compose this music for herself. That music was God's word of life, and it was to weep over it that she went to church."
The book is worth reading for the gems like that, that one feels Pasternak kind of just blurted out here and there. But none of these gems are developed sufficiently to say they are the theme of the book.
So, in terms of its emotional power, and subsequently its power to haunt me so that I am growing, the movie is much stronger than the book. The book, being a bad book, gave the filmmakers license to create a new thematic unity from the scattered elements of plot and character and story.
Anybody else think of a bad book that made a brilliant movie?
And now, somebody ask, "But what about brilliant books that have been made into brilliant movies?" I think they are very few. There are some good books that have made brilliant movies - like GWTW or To Kill a Mockingbird. And you'd have to say, that they succeeded as films in so far as they destroyed/perverted the most brilliant elements of the novels as storytelling forms. Where the novels take their time, the movies rush. Where the novels make their impact with number of characters, the film chooses one fourth as many. A film adaptation is a generalization by its nature. This is the opposite of the kind of knowledge conveyed in a novel about particular characters. But, overall, the most brilliant novels fail on the screen.
8:29 PM | |
There's a nice interview up here with Barbara Hall. (You have to click on the link on the upper-righthand side, where they spell our name wrong.) This is my favorite part...
FAITH: Tell us about your conversion to Catholicism.
BH: I was born and raised Methodist. I went through the RCIA process – I was taught by an ex-nun. She was much like the ex-nun who appears on Joan of Arcadia, but wasn’t into surfing and smoking like that character is.
It makes me want to run out and buy a pack of Marlboros.
[Did I spell that right?]
6:33 AM | |
Joel Stein has an intriguing piece in the L.A. Times this week about his day at the Los Angeles video game convention held here recently. He basically hated it because the totality of the violence plus the objectification of women was too much for him. (ref., well, me: on the adherents of the Sexual Revolution finding their way around to exhaustion with its consequences...)
The article comes around to a Christian video game maker, Mr. Pardew, who has fled the secular side of the industry, and who is now making state of the art "Bible games." Stein plays the games, and while he finds the games technically good, he finds the idea of the games absurd. Here's a snip...
Even if I didn't love his game, I admired Pardew's decision to put his
morality above commerce and try to creatively marry his professional
passion with his personal one. But making a Christian video game is like
trying to teach monogamy through porn. The medium is designed for the
thrill of quick, random violence.
I am interested in this question because we have been getting pressure at Act One to train writers for the game industry. The question is, can it be done with excellence? If the highest level of art in a video game is in its perfection of the quick attack and high stakes (ie. die if you don't kill) competition, then, if we are going to get into it, would we have to be okay with creating a more mediocre product? We can't be "the best" in video game making, because "the best" is innately evil?
P.S. I confess to being someone who every few months or so goes through the ritual of deleting and discarding the video game that I have put on my computer. I always get to a point playing them of being filled with self-loathing because there is no good thing that comes to me or the world for the time I put into them. Unless somebody can convince me that knowing how to design and govern an ancient Egyptian Nile plain is a pastoral skill, I will stay in my current remission from it all, by God's grace...
9:49 PM | |
I'm not someone who gets excited very often...but this is cool.
Here's a link to our new Act One book Behind the Screen. Published by Baker Books, you can place a pre-order for it NOW (Hurry! Rush! Quick!) and help us get our Amazon ranking up. Right now, we are hovering around 498,247 most popular book on the planet.
If we get enough pre-orders, the publishers will do a bigger initial press run.
The book is a collection of essays from eighteen of our faculty. The idea behind the book is to be a bridge between Christians working in Hollywood, and Christians out there on the other side of the screen. Each essay, hopefully carries with it a different way of thinking about culture, movies, television, and how the Church should relate to the same.
We have essays from faculty members like Ralph Winter (X-Men, X2, Fantastic 4), Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emilie Rose), Ron Austin (Fr. Dowling Mysteries, Mission Impossible), Barbara Hall (Joan of Arcadia), Linda Seger (Making a Good Writer Great), Dean Batali (That 70's Show), Janet Scott Batchler (Batman Forever)....and others...and I'm in there too.
Please do your part to spur the new renaissance in the Church and in Hollywood - buy our book!
5:00 PM | |
[Note from Barb: Marianne is a good friend of mine and a brilliant actress and acting teacher. If you know any aspiring actors, this will be a day well spent.]
Actors Co-op - a professional theater company composed of Christian actors in Hollywood presents a day-long workshop for actors. Topics to be covered include:
- What’s the most important thing an actor does?
- What give a scene life?
- Playing an objective or an action.
Discover the key to dynamic acting. Learn how to determine the action from the text. Practice making specific choices as to how to play the action you’ve chosen. Playing objectives or actions will invigorate you as an actor. Being specific and flexible in playing your actions will win you roles.
Date: Saturday, June 25, 2005
10:00am – 4:30pm (1/2 hour lunch break)
Cost: $80 (payable by Visa, MasterCard, Check or Cash)
Class size is limited
Teacher bio: Marianne Savell is the Producing Director of Actors Co-op. She received her MFA in Acting at the Professional Actor Training Program at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and also studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. As a member of Actors Co-op Marianne directed ANGEL STREET, TRANSLATIONS, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN and GOD & SHAKESPEARE and performed in THE SEAGULL (LA Weekly Award for Best Featured Actress), THE HASTY HEART, AS YOU LIKE IT, ALL MY SONS, UNCLE VANYA, TWELFTH NIGHT and HENRY V. She directed THE LION IN WINTER and THREE SISTERS at Vanguard University, and MOLLY SWEENEY at the Eclectic Theatre Company. Recently, Marianne directed the critically acclaimed SOMEONE WHO’LL WATCH OVER ME at Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago. Marianne works with Vanguard University as an adjunct professor in the theatre department as is alumni and participant of Directors Lab West and an associate artist with Taproot Theatre Company in Seattle, WA.
Please call Marianne Savell @ Actors Co-op
323-462-8460 ext. 103, or email email@example.com
9:04 PM | |
I'm here in Orlando to give a speech to the Catholic Press Association and the Catholic Academy of Media Professionals. Here, for posterities' sake, are the notes (in someplaces outline) for my talk.
I. Greetings from the Church in Hollywood! I am very honored to be addressing you. And intimidated. The topic I was assigned seems so much better suited to a theologian or philosopher or historian. I am a screenwriter. And the Executive Director of a small non-profit in Hollywood that mentors writers and business people for Hollywood careers. But it seems to me that the Catholic Press Association knows that, and still asked me here. So, I will do my best to share some of what we have worked out at Act One, as we brood over our young artists. Always, always, we are asking ourselves, "What is the place of Christianity in mainstream culture?" So, forgive me if I am too pragmatic - but I am a practicioner and a teacher of practicioners - and, as artists, we only have a small appetite for philosophy and theology.
a) I want to start by saying a bit about bringing a Catholic lens to bear on the times. Jesus said once in frustration to his followers, “Can You Not Read the SIGNS OF THE TIMES?!” This current moment in post-Passion, pre-Narnia Hollywood, is a distinct one in history. I want to lay out how different in terms of some things that are going on, how we got here in the culture, and where we are headed.
b) I will speak a little about the New Evangelization, and what that means to those of us in media. I want to talk about why the Church has a stake in being a “Patron of the Arts” and why we need beauty in our spiritual lives.
c) I want to finish with scattered musings about some things we can say to the secular media industry, that no one else is saying: about the role of entertainment in human life; about the role of artists in the human family, about truth, about power and responsibility, about beauty;
II. The Cultural “Signs of the Times”
a) I will resist interpreting these for you. Just go down a list…
1. Columbine and Hollywood – Was this our fault? – 2 issues of the WGA magazine dedicated to the debate.
2. 9/11 – One year later issue – from WGA Pres: “This was PARTLY our fault. What have we been putting out there?”
3. “Exhausted with unbelief…” Gen X and Y coming of Age – rejecting the Sexual Revolution (Eternal Sunshine, Lost in Translation, Garden State, Hitch)
4. Music video – 7 of 10 hottest directors from music video – Daily Variety noted that they stand out for their ability to convey meaning through images – not what things look like, but what they mean.
5. LOTR – 1 billion – despite all the producers efforts, the movie was powered by its Christian constituency
6. The Passion of the Christ – biggest indie ever. Biggest 3rd world movie ever. For ten years we Christians in Hollywood have been trying to subtlely put Christian worldview in movies. Then, TPOTC hits and now we are hearing from the industry, "the audience wants overt religion, guys!" We have been very assiduously traiing our students NOT to write that kind of thing. Good grief.
7. 14 pilots this season supernatural elements. 6 Good Samaritan reality shows. Joan of Arcadia was huge – until it moved away from pushing the supernatural edge.
8. The People of God pouring into Hollywood and the Arts. Terrible anger about all the ugliness in the Church arts in the last few decades. Ardent desire to have a new renaissance.
9. Me, interviewed by Inside Edition, “Christian is the new gay.”
Now, you can say to me, but what about the OTHER signs of the times – 1 in 11 men are addicted to porn; The L Word, Real Sex, Queer Eye, Desperate Housewives; Sin City and Kinsey, and Vera Drake and Kingdom of Heaven and Million Dollar Baby and The six primetime shows advocating stem cell and euthanasia since Christmas;
And these are all there. The dividing line between the life with God, and the life without Him will be more and more clear in culture. It's kind of a relief.
III. The New Evangelization
a) Not new in terms of it’s content – still the kerygma.
b) Not new in terms of its end – still that “they become us.”
c) New in terms of its arena, its method, and its means.
1. Arena – has to be considered as the culture. Anything we do on the one-to-one evangelization level will be undermined by the culture unless we make it serve the Gospel. The only way to ensure and solidify individual conversions, is to bring God into every human system. Is it just some kind of cute saying to “renew all things in Christ”? What does it literally mean? We need to speak the Truth to scientists. We need to speak the truth to artists. We need to speak the truth to celebrities and those with the spotlights and microphones. We need to speak the Truth to politicians and pundits. We need to speak the Truth to educators and thinkers. Humanity is innately religious. If we do not make room for the good God, mankind will make himself a bad one. It isn’t a matter of being disrespectful about others beliefs. It is a matter of sharing the Truth that we have as an act of charity to poor lost humanity that is flailing around drowning and desperate.
“Don’t be afraid to throw open the windows to Christ!” JPII
2. Method – New Evangelization will focus on ways of reaching all these groups en masse. Television. Cinema. The Arts, especially music. The Internet. Through celebrity. Through soundbites.
“Ride the horse in the direction in which its going.” Linda Obst
(I know, btw, this goes against your grain. We have been focused on the one-to-one in evangelization for so long, that this sounds like heresy. But that is why it is a NEW Evangelization. And it isn’t to say that we eliminate the need for one-to-one interaction in handing on the Gospel. We’ll have time to fill in the sound-bites later. Right now, the culture is like a mighty river sweeping by us – mankind by the millions crying out in the unnecessary anguish wrought by sin. There are 400,000 frozen embryos in this country. And soon, we will have 700,000 elderly grandparents getting euthanized. The cloning people are standing just there - right outside the door. The time is short and desperate.
3. Means (symbols) – In his Letter to Artists, JPII called for “a new iconography” for the arts. He said we need new images that are revelatory of the Gospel for the people of today. I don’t know what this means. Because the images we have come from the Scriptures for the most part, we are never going to do away with them. Jesus called Himself, sheepgate and vine and shepherd and king – and it seems that the Scriptures will be the first place people encounter those realities. But we can move beyond them to an iconography of the modern Christian life. (ie. Ancient Christian burial site – wrestler oil streaks…) What are visual metaphors that we can derive from modern life for the Christian life?
I have no idea. I'm just asking...
IV. Why Patron of the Arts?
The sad thing is, if you walked on the street and took a spot survey, asking people to name the Patron of the Arts, no one would say, the Catholic Church. People would probably say Ted Turner or Hollywood. And they would be right in that latter. Hollywood does MUCH more to keep alive the arts than does the Church.
How far we have come! But even though most Sunday liturgies are exercises in sensory torture, we have to keep alive in us the fact that despite the ugliness and mediocrity with which we have terribly obscured her, the Church remains as Cardinal Newman wrote,
“…the poet of her children, full of music to soothe the sad and control the wayward; wonderful in story, rich in symbol and imagery. So that gentle and delicate feelings, which will not bear words, may in silence intimate their presence. The liturgy’s very being is poetry; every psalm, every petition, every prayer; the cross, the mitre, the incensor; each a fulfillment of some dream of childhood, or aspiration of youth.”
We can spend a lot of time trying to figure out why we have lost our appreciation for the arts in the Church, or we can try and reclaim the reasons why the historical Church has always had a stake in the arts. Let’s do the latter…
1. Patron of the Arts because our theology is fundamentally analogical. This is what sets us apart from the Islamic imagination, for example. Theology can never precisely define God. But the Christian imagination says, “God is like a mountain.” Islamic imagination says, “God is NOT the mountain.”
A work of art expresses a truth that can not be said in a sentence. It expresses a Truth through the journey of the work of art itself. As Flannery O’Connor says, “If I could say it in a sentence, I wouldn’t have needed the story.”
And we have to insist that the truths that the arts convey are just as important as those that come through on the pages of a catechism. Chesterton again, in Everlasting Man:
“Imaginative does not mean imaginary. Every true artist does feel that he is touching transcendant truths; that his images are shadows of things seen through the veil. The natural mystic knows that there is something there behind the clouds and trees; and he believes that beauty is the way to find it; that the imagination is a sort of incantation that can call it up.”
2. Patron of the Arts because – quoting Cardinal Ratzinger, “there is no surer proof that our faith is true than the works of beauty we make, starting in the lives of the saints.” And in so far as we put the lives of the saints in beautiful art we accomplish a double proof that our faith is true.
3. Patron of the Arts because beauty conveys two different kinds of knowledge:
a) We move from delight to joy to wonder to humility. We become aware of our smallness. It makes us sad, and yet joyful. It teaches with certainty that heaven exists.
“The only way to enjoy even just a weed, is to feel yourself completely unworthy of the weed.” (Everlasting Man, Chesterton)
“At the back of our brains, there is a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life is to dig for this submerged sense of wonder.” (Autobiography, Chesterton)
b) Beauty gives us firsthand experience of spiritual realities. This is contrasted with book learning. (Ratzinger says that the knowledge that beauty conveys is to be preferred to that of booklearning which is essentially second-hand information.)
“The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand.” (Orthodoxy, Chesterton)
4. Patron of the Arts because there is nothing that creates community more quickly and more powerfully than sharing something beautiful. It is a sign that something is beautiful that people are moved to share it.
V. Things the Church Can Say to the Secular Media That No One Else Will Say
1. There is a beauty that is good for us, and there is a kind of beauty that is bad for us.
a) Spiritual Beauty – reveals that man has a spirit; leads to transcendant; leads to wonder; begs to be shared
b) Sensual Beauty – revels in man’s physical nature; “Eve saw that the apple was attractive to the eye and GOOD FOR FOOD.” Sensual beauty stimulates the desire to eat; to possess; to consume; to dominate; to collect; to have sex with; it is the opposite of sharing.
2. To restore the Artist to His Essential Place in Human Society
The story of the 20th Century has been the story of the artist in proud isolation. He was told that in order to preserve his voice, he needed to stay on the fringes of the community. Too many other people would pollute his distinct message. This is all wrong. The artist gets his message from association with human society. Without society, the only thing an artist can talk about is the contents of his own navel. We have been looking at artistic guts for too long in the last half a century.
a) The artist is prophet – to reveal the mind of God; to reveal the groanings of the Spirit; to shake us up by reminding us who we are and who God is. The point of the liturgy - which is the primary work of art of the People of God - is always to achieve this two-fold end: to make real the Awesome God, and to make real the desperate need of humanity;
The nature of the revelation proper to art is not confusion. Confusion paralyzes. Art should lead to compunction. (David to Nathan, “I have sinned…”)
This is the primary reason non-representational modern art is not appropriate in churches, btw. It is inscrutable and confusing even when it is excellent, except to those who have studied it. Sacred art needs a mass accessibility.
b) The artist as priest – dedication to his vocation to beauty is the ongoing sacrifice offered by the artist. It disfigures him. But it makes him a worthy vessel of grace.
c) The artist as representative of the Creator – he is the arbiter of beauty; he tells us what is good and what is ugly; we listen to him. Especially we clerics who have no artistic training and who only know what we like, but not what we are talking about when it comes to art.
3. Catholic understanding of media will always be governed by our love of the Truth, and our conviction that human beings need the Truth.
a) It is not the handing on of Truth that is saving, but the knowing of Truth; Knowing here in the Biblical sense in which Adam "knew" Eve. We enter into relationship with Truth. Embrace it. Give ourselves to it without reserve. We cleave to it. It becomes fecund in us. So, our media will be an effort to entice people to set out on this journey of relationship with the truth. A journey that begins in questions, shadows, intimations, reverence.
b) Truth has authority. If we are ignored in the mainstream, it is because we quibble. We dance around. We refuse to commit. We qualify. We say things like, “In my opinion” and “it may be” and “some might conclude” and “perhaps it may seem”. These words are the death of authority. The people of today are starved for a voice of authority.
A good soundbite is one which has substance and style. From a Catholic standpoint, a soundbite is true (if it is authoritative) and beautiful (if it is memorable).
This is a 24 hour sound-bite culture. We have to take the microphone that is offered to us and do the best we can with it.
“About ssm: Kids need a mommy and a daddy.”
“About abortion: I don’t think violence solves anything.”
“About euthanasia: Suffering is not the worst thing that can happen to you.”
“The way you lose your humanity is by denying someone else theirs.”
For God’s sake, if you cannot say something you knowand are willing to put out there with authority, AT LEAST be busy about handing on the literal words of Christ! Don’t dare diminish His power by trying to water Him down to be more palatable. That is our sin in Catholic media.
4. Catholic understanding of media will include the conviction that, “There are some things which should not even be mentioned among you.”
a) Catholic understanding of media will say, “We don’t show THAT because it is dehumanizing to people.” “We don’t look at THAT because it objectifies us.” “We don’t talk about THAT because it popularizes vulgarity which is a precursor to barbarism.”
b) We say with clarity and convition: “Porn is not adult entertainment. It is anti-adult. It is not the stuff of maturity but the stuff of adolescence. Porn is dangerously addictive. It isn’t harmless. It devastates families. It physiologically destroys the brain. It destroys the possibility of intimacy." One therapist I met in NY told me, “95% of my practice can be attributed to porn. For men, it is how to cure them of their addiction. They can not have normal sexual relationships. They can not be turned on by normal women. For women, they either develop body issues (food disorders) to try and fit the porn model, or else they move into a place of hating men for trying to make them fit into that impossible model.”
5. Catholic understanding of media will proclaim that entertainment time is essential time for human development.
a) Most people in the entertainment world see their work as churning out sausage. Especially in television. One tv writer told me once, “In 12 years of comedy writing, it never occurred to me to do anything except keep the viewer from turning the channel.”
“Leisure is the basis of culture.” Pieper
b) We need to watch Frodo lose his hand, so we don’t have to. We need entertainment to stretch us into the heroes that mundane life may never ask of us. Entertainment time is the opportunity for us to experience the fullness of our own nature – to laugh deeply, to be moved to tears with sympathy, to feel outrage at injustice; to yearn to give oneself completely – to die for someone. All of these need to be the stuff of our entertainment. There is no time to waste.
6. Catholic understanding of media will include a commitment to use the power it offers justly.
a) Hollywood will not take responsibility for its power. It wants it both ways: to advertisers “We can make you rich by making people want your product.” To the rest of us, ‘Movies and television don’t change human behavior.”
b) We need to be saying over and over and over about the media, “With great power comes great responsibility.” You have tremendous power as storytellers. You can heal and inspire. You can make people want to be heroes. You can make them want to be better friends, better moms and dads, better citizens, better humans; you can also lead people to be more paranoid, more isolated , more suspicious of their neighbors, more jealous and materialistic; you can make them want to dominate or to serve. Which is it going to be, every damn day on primetime? Which is it going to be?”
8:14 PM | |
I’m doing research for a spec script about the 17 Carmelite martyrs of Compeign. The story is that these women – ages 27 – 78 – offered themselves as a holocaust to stop the Great Terror. This is the same story that was novelized by George Bernanos, and made famous in the opera Dialogues of the Carmelites.
(And I know some of you are out there thinking that this kind of project is just more unhealthy fodder for my macabre obsession to be the first one to authoritatively predict the next wave of Church persecution. Yeah, well, I’ll be the one smugly laughing when we’re all getting lined up and blind-folded. That’s right…)
Well, the story goes that as the first, and youngest, Carmelite ascended the scaffold, she intoned the Te Deum, and all the other nuns quickly joined in the chant.
O GOD, we praise Thee: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord. Everlasting Father, all the earth doth worship Thee.
To Thee all the Angels, the Heavens and all the Powers,
all the Cherubim and Seraphim, unceasingly proclaim:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
the wonderful company of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
The nuns sang it in Latin, of course. And all the rabble standing around for the barbarous entertainment, halted in their jeering, and fell silent. They all knew the Te Deum, and that the nuns were singing a song of glory and triumph.
And so, I got thinking… What will be our song at the scaffold?
Yet another reason to be sullen and irritated at the iconoclasm of the post-Conciliar weirdness is that we won’t even have a nice hymn to die together by.
Can’t you see the last ever liturgy committee meeting unfolding as we’re all lined up and bound? Somebody will shout to the rest of us, “Hey does everybody know Gather Us In?
Like the good-natured suffering sheep we are, we’ll probably all shrug, “Might as well give it a try.”
So, the martyrdom procession’s music minister will start singing,
Here in this place, of something and something,
Now is the darkness gathered away.
Here in this space our fear and our dreaming,
Something and something the light of this day.
(She’ll pathetically try and raise her hand up so we can all join in)
”Gather us in, the lost and the somethings.
Gather us in the blind and the lame.
Call to us now and something will something,
Ta-ta-ta-tum in the something ta – ay.”
“Hey! That sounds stupid,” complains one martyr to be. Like the weeds that never die, the music minister still has a few minutes left to be patronizing, “God judges the heart, not the voice.”
Meanwhile, the lambs getting readied for the slaughter are getting scared. Somebody tries again, “How about Be Not Afraid? We all know that don’t we?”
A bald-headed guy at the end of the line shakes his head. “We used the Gather hymnal at our Church.” The lady next to him nods, “We just added those. Now, we have the old Glory and Praises stacked in the pews because they both don’t fit in the hymnal racks.” The lady from the Diocese of Arlington sniffs, "We use the red Ritual hymnals."
The thirty-something lady closest to the scaffold looks back at her fellow oblates with pleading, “Can’t we sing something, PLEASE?”
So, then, a voice somewhere in the middle of the crowd starts a high-pitched wail,
"And I will RAY-HAY zhim up…."
And the others join in, screeching and straining,
"And I will RAY-HAY zhim up…."
An overweight, gray-haired lady in sensible shoes, and soon to be a martyr, makes a face, “I’m not going to die singing sexist language!”
And the other, weary martyrs nod, and then, continue with submission,
”And I will RAY-HAYZ YOU uh-up on the lah-hast day.”
And then, as we start to sing the refrain again, the persecutors will shoot us all down on the spot for our horrible music. And this will wreak havoc with our beatification processes, because it won’t be clear if we died for Jesus, or to spare our persecutors having to listen to our dreadful music.
4:24 PM | |
"As for your art interests, sounds to me like your thinking is just
fine." (comment from Barb: "Now, I can die.")
"When it comes to modern art, the problem is not only representational but pedagogical. A lot of modern art and music requires some previous formation in the viewer/listener. (I love Picasso now that I've studied him a bit. His story is one of the most exciting in art history.)
The thing with art in churches is that it has to have a direct appeal and a clear meaning since it's intended for an audience of all sorts, educated and not-so-educated.
I remember something Mozart said about a piece he was working on. Something to the effect that there was something in it for the expert, but it would delight everyone. That must be the summit. Or if you think of a Shakespearean play, there's lots of special effects stuff for the masses, but the plays can fire up a seminar group for weeks with their profundity. Not many artists are working at the level of either Mozart or Shakespeare...
Like most answers to difficult questions, it's six of this and a half dozen of that."
11:24 AM | |
I'm in a hotel business center in Orlando. Even though they are charging me .69 a minute, I am making the financial sacrifice to let all of you know that Revenge of the Sith is abominably, laughably, inexcusably bad. If you haven't gone yet, please do not pour your money into the Lucasfilm dark side.
It's a terrible movie.
More later. (I'm not THAT generous.)
8:49 PM | |
I'm off to San Antonio, Washington and Orlando. I'm not sure how much blogging I'll get to...Unless, of course, I run into another convention of nuns. Then, you KNOW you'll be hearing from me!
Keep the faith!
9:19 AM | |
(attributed to Pope Innocent III)
Holy Spirit! Lord of light!
From Thy clear celestial height,
Thy pure, beaming radiance give:
Come, O Father of the poor!
Come, with treasures which endure!
Come, O light of all that live!
Thou, of all consolers best,
Visiting the troubled breast,
Doth refreshing peace bestow:
Thou in toil, are comfort sweet;
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
Light immortal! Light divine!
Visit now these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill.
If Thou take Thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.
Heal our wounds -- our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend stubborn heart and will;
Melt frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
Thou on those who evermore
Thee confess and you adore,
In Thy sevenfold gifts descend.
Give them comfort when they die;
Give them life with Thee on high;
Give them joys which never end. Amen.
12:16 PM | |
I'm in that hellish, scary place of preparing a couple of new talks. This means I'm doing lots of book reading, surfing the Internet, earnest discussing with blinking-eyed friends, and brooding, brooding, brooding (although in my happy Sicilian way...thank God I didn't take after our French dark side!) At the end of it, I'll have a new schtick to add to my repertoire - exactly like my opera singing sister, Val, adding a new aria to hers.
Part of my process is invariably trying to engage my older sister, Cynthia, in doing the hard thinking for me. She's over in Ireland somewhere. I thought you might enjoy our email correspondence about this Catholic beauty thing. If you comment something really profound, I will certainly rip you off in my speeches, unless you put your name.
Here's my first sally to Cynthia. I'll post her response next.
I am stuck on the idea that there is a necessary connection between representational art and beauty. I'm hearing a lot of Baby Boomers chastise younger devout Catholics for wanting to bring back old stuff, in terms of art. I think there certainly is an attraction to be connected to the old stuff in the way that it connects them to their family heritage in the Church, but I think there is more too. Old stuff is representational. That is, things look like things we see. Modern art has been largely non-representational. Modern religious art finds a launching point in trying to look "real", but then delights in subverting the "real" in favor of making statements.
A case in point is the crucifix in the sanctuary of the new Los Angeles cathedral. It is some kind of metal. I seem to recall it being reddish - or having red streaks on it. It is basically pock-marked and ruggedish - with the torso of Jesus being this long skinny pockmarked thing. The representational here is in the fact that there is a recognizable cross, and a figure that indicates a human body -- even in its distortion, it isn't a cow or a bumble-bee.
The question is - why the pock-marked spattered mess? It doesn't affect you emotionally. It affects you intellectually. I never ask "Why?" when I walk into St. Peter's and look at the Pieta. It makes me want to pray.
The moderns seem to be trying to say things to the brain all the time, in their medium and method. I don't see the great art of the past being so preocupied with this. The statements being made may or may not be true, but the work of their hands is invariably not "harmonious" in terms of the universe. Which means it is generally not harmonious in itself.
It can't be that my notion of the harmonious is subjective based on my living in this world, surrounded by the stuff here, right? I judge things to be harmonious because they are balanced and beyond...it's math, not perpective.
I think we instinctively relate representational art to beauty, because in representational art we are staying close to the designs that God resorted to. And God only makes things that are perfectly ordered - harmonious. So, the closer my portrait of someone looks like a person, the more beautiful it is.
So then, what do we do with Flannery's assertion that art finds its power in a certain amount of distortion?
Anything you want to add here? Just jump in anywhere.
Secondly, JPII wrote that what the Church needs in art today is a new iconography. He said, the symbols of the past - wheat, rainbows, peacocks, shepherd - all belonged to another time and no longer have significance for people. I like the idea, but, I can't really imagine its application. Does this mean we need images of electronics - or smog filled skies - or test tubes? Have the agrarian images really lost their power? It's true, I don't have half the understanding of what the life of a shepherd entails, but there is something messy and absurd as trying to sell images of "Jesus: The Good Information Technology Guy. He never loses memory. He never crashes. He always saves."
I am seriously considering dissing all non-representational modern art as far as the Church is concerned. You have a few days to try and stop me...
8:13 PM | |
Artists for a Renewed Society and Act One present,
ARE YOU MISSING THE REVOLUTION?
HOLLYWOOD ONE YEAR AFTER THE PASSION
a discussion with Barbara R. Nicolosi,
screenwriter and Executive Director, Act One, Inc.
Topics to be covered:
- The new openness in the entertainment industry to spiritual themes. What will it look like on the screen, and will it last?
- Some cool projects in the works...
- Talking to the MSM about God-stuff. What we're doing right. What we're doing wrong.
- What Hollywood needs today from the People of God.
Saturday, May 21, 10:00am – 11:30am
St. John Parish Hall
6422 Linway Terrace
McLean, VA 22101
Ms. Nicolosi is a screenwriter and the Executive Director of Act One, Inc., a training and mentoring program for Christian writers and executives in Hollywood. She has an M.A. in Television and Film from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, and has been a script consultant on numerous film, television and video productions. She wrote The Work, a screenplay on the Spanish Civil War, for IMMI pictures of Beverly Hills. She is on the board of Catholics in Media Associates and on the Executive Committee for the City of the Angels Film Festival. She has been a judge for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Humanitas Prize, the Angelus Student Film Awards, and the Gabriel Awards. The author of a monthly column on media in the National Catholic Register, Ms. Nicolosi has appeared on CNN, CBS, PAX, EWTN,CBN, and in the New York Times, Daily Variety, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune.
A free-will offering to support the work of Act One will be taken up after the presentation. For more information, call 323-464-0815, or email Elizabeth@actoneprogram.com.
Act One, Inc., 2690 Beachwood Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90068 www.actoneprogram.com
ARS, 6203 Queens Chapel Road, Hyattsville, MD 20782 http://www.catholicartists.org/
10:53 AM | |
I'll be doing a lunch-time talk in San Antonio on May 18th. The Macro goal is to keep building a groundswell cultural strategy in the Church. The micro strategy is to help pay for my hotel and airfare bill for the rest of the trip. (rats...) It's basically Bring Your Own Food. More info to follow, but here's the gist. Interested people will have to email an RSVP and we'll send you the room where it will be happening at the hotel. (Please forward it on to anyone you think might be interested. Thanks -)
WHAT I'M SEEING AT THE REVOLUTION: ONE YEAR AFTER THE PASSION IN HOLLYWOOD
A Lunch-hour Discussion with Barbara R. Nicolosi,
(Screenwriter and Executive Director of Act One, Inc.)
May 18, 12:30pm - 2pm
Hilton Palacio del Rio
200 South Alamo Street, San Antonio, Texas, United States 78205
Topics to be covered:
- The new openness in the entertainment industry to spiritual themes. What will it look like on the screen, and will it last?
- Some cool projects in the works...
- Talking to the MSM about God-stuff. What we're doing right. What we're doing wrong.
- What Hollywood needs today from the People of God.
RSVP required. (We won't do it if we don't get at least ten people.) RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Suggested donation - $10
9:11 AM | |
In my new screenplay, I have a scene in which an elderly dying man, stubbornly resists his stated attraction to be reconciled to God. After a wracking bout of bloody coughs, he rasps to the young priest hero of the piece, "I told myself my whole life, that I wouldn't turn to God in the end because I was afraid."
I got this line straight from real life. Suffering from Parkinsons, an agnostic aunt of mine said this to me one night a few years back, after a few glasses of wine. I remember being bowled over by the pathetic absurdness of it all, saying, "And? How is that working out for you?"
I have thought of this line many times in the last few weeks as the Church has gone through the process of electing the 265th successor to St. Peter. Suddenly, all the grey-haired dissenting Catholic pundits were back in their beloved limelight, stubbornly defending their disastrous tenure as the arbiters of American Church life. Watching them, I thought of my aunt. "Eventually," I thought, "one of them is going to break down and say, "Hell, we really screwed up, didn't we?"
How about Richard McBrien saying, "That freakin' Catholic philosophical tradition may have been oppressive and patriarchal, but damn if it didn't produce students who were more rigorous in their thought."
Or how about Andrew Greeley looking up from his latest soft-porn manuscript to shrug, "Humanae Vitae was right. Sex outside of total commitment objectifies women and de-civilizes men."
But the ones I'm really waiting for are the Joan Chittisters, osb, and the legions of other women who, in one lifetime, devastated the power and tradition of religious communities in the U.S. Certainly, some one of these unhappy women is eventually going to exhale, "Well, that was a mistake."
Because of my personal history, I find religious women to be the most egregious offenders in the "stubborn refusal to have a keen sense of the obvious" contest.
THE PLANET. THE PEOPLE. THE PREACHING.
Two weeks ago, I spent two days of meetings in a Chicago airport hotel. Waiting at the curb at O'Hare for the Wyndham shuttle, I found myself suddenly surrounded by a flock of overweight, grey-haired women in Walmart clothes and sensible shoes. "Nuns" I knew with certainty.
(It's so ironic that most American nuns went secular so as to get away from any kind of indication that religious life was anything special. The whole point was to blend in. But is there anything as conspicuous as a nun in lay person's clothing? Beyond not having the resources to dress well, they are not the kind of folks for whom accessorizing is a main preoccupation anyway. If it were, they wouldn't have been attracted to religious life in the first place. Sheesh...!)
As we boarded the shuttle, I said to one of the fourteen nuns, "What Congregation are you with, Sister?" The woman was annoyed at me for asking for some reason. I have experienced this cagey coldness before from the secular religious who, I guess, are too busy campaigning for social justice to be nice to strangers on an airport shuttle. The nun murmured back, "Sinsinawa" and then leaned into a conversation with the sister beside her.
"Sinsinawa," I thought. "Ah, Dominicans." (I love that I know stuff like that.)
Walking in to the Wyndham lobby, we were all greeted by a large sign which read, "Dominican Sisters Assembly: The Planet. The People. The Preaching." The sign - I found it on line here - was decorated with, a graphic of planet earth, I think with flowers on one side of it. It was clearly some kind of planet, anyway.
Taking it in, my head bent spontaneously to the side in perplexion. "The Planet? The People? I can give you 'the preaching' as that is, after all, a Dominican thing. But what about 'The devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist? The rosary? The enlightened intellect? Or, blow your mind, 'St. Dominic'?"
YOU KNOW YOU ARE TOO BUSY WHEN...
Still, I am someone who likes being around nuns. So, I was actually kind of enjoying the joke that I was going to spend the next two days surrounded by them. And, then, I thought to myself, "Hey, I'll be able to catch Mass here with them tomorrrow morning, instead of trying to convince myself to trudge the two miles to the nearest church. Cool."
So, I turned to the friendliest looking sister near me (I know it is my personal pathology, but secular nuns always look kind of scary to me), and I asked her, "Sister, what time are you all having Mass tomorrow? Would it be possible for me to crash?" I thought that given secular laissez-faireness, letting a lay woman crash the assembly's Mass would be an acceptable kind of rebellion.
But the sister looked back at me in confusion, "Mass?" she said. "And why would we be having any kind of Eucharistic liturgy on Friday?"
"Oh crap." I thought. "I just outed myself all over the floor here, didn't I?" Aloud I said, "Oh, sorry... I thought...well, because you're all sisters...but of course, why would you...I mean..." [retreat into stupid nervous laughing sounds]
The sister turned away from me like last week's blue-light special. A few seconds later she turned around again, holding a brochure out for my inspection. "We have a VERY packed schedule."
I decided to go get a beer and check in later. As I walked away, the sister called out to me, "We do have a meditation room. You would probably be welcomed to use that."
"Oh, hey, cool. Thanks."
My dark side took over. I couldn't resist. Soon, I was slinking down the hall, past the table displays about political protesting, following the signs for "Prayer Circle Space." I slipped inside, even now, looking around to see if Jesus Host was there somewhere, waiting to be asked for help in salvaging the Dominican communities in the United States. But no.
They had a circle of chairs around some kind of a mounted paper mache planet thing. I guess it was supposed to match the planet image that I had seen on the sign in the lobby.
There was no Jesus. No Mary. No Dominic. No Thomas or Albert. No rosary. No cross. No anything to establish this group as Domincans, nevermind Christians, nevermind Catholics.
But none of the sisters seems to mind. They were everywhere in groups of three and four, laughing and hugging, and just fine with the fact that everything they have as a community will end with them. There were no younger members.
Later on, I asked one of the nuns, also having a beer in the bar, why the community was meeting at an urban hotel. "Don't you have any retreat centers with some nature around? It seems like with your theme of "The Planet" you might pick a place that has some trees..." The sister gulped her beer and shrugged. "We need to get away from all the places we work. In a hotel, we don't have to worry about doing the dishes and making beds. We have a lot of work to do."
Talk about your understatement of the half-century.
The problem is, they won't get to the real work they have to do. They are going to die clinging with gritted teeth to their errors. They are going to see the property and the institutions sold off. So many wonderful places that were acquired through generations of sacrifice by the people of God and the members of their own communities. And they are going to watch it all with unflinching commitment to the revolution. They are so like the nostalgic Marxists who taught me in grad school. Even six years after the wall had smashed down, they just wouldn't give over that Communism was a failure.
Being stiff-necked isn't a virtue. It's just very sad. Somebody needs to tell the secular nuns that. Not me, of course.... (shiver)
8:28 AM | |
Meeting by Accident,
We hovered by design --
As often as a Century
An error so divine
Is ratified by Destiny,
But Destiny is old
And economical of Bliss
As Midas is of Gold --
3:55 PM | |
So, I get an email today, from somebody who read something I wrote somewhere. In the course of the message, the emailer congratulates me on my casino winnings.
Now, I WAS in Vegas last week, and I DID have my usual break even luck at the slot machines, but it was hardly the stuff of kudos. And how would somebody know to even mention it? I wanted to know.
So, the emailer sends me back this link to some mid-western casino bingo page. And there, in the fifth row second face in, I'm not. But somebody else named Barbara Nicolosi is.
I've never actually seen another person with my name before, although I've heard that there is Barbara Nicolosi realtor woman who sells houses to the stars in Bel Air. Technically, as I am younger than both these ladies, it's more that I have their name, than that they appropriated mine.
I feel bad for both of the other Barbara Nicolosis because I have completely branded our eternal Internet identity as "that ex-nun happy Catholic chick who works in Hollywood."
I feel bad for me, because I can't see any way of making a claim against the $720 that my namessake took home from the Ft. Whatever-It-Is Casino.
9:39 AM | |
I have a week or so of travels coming up. Because it worked so well on that last trip, I am again looking to set up meetings and conferences with other groups while I'm wandering through your neighborhood. Here is my schedule...
San Antonio - May 17-18
Washington, DC - May 19 - 22
Orlando, FL - May 23 - 26
If you have an idea for a me centered event (....rats...), please email my consigliere, Elizabeth at email@example.com
8:47 AM | |
So, you think you know what kids are thinking? As someone who works with and teaches teens and twenty-somethings, I have learned that Internet technology has given them a whole alternate media that herds them - by happy consent of the herded - with lock-step success. This alternate media includes web-sites like aintitcoolnews.com, and a whole cultural chat-room universe to which people over thirty are not invited. I experienced this again this weekend.
When I walked into the theater to see Kingdom of Heaven Friday - the movie Hollywood and the MSM have been telling kids they want to see - the theater was less than half-full. The film itself never achieved half the emotion from the audience as did the previewed trailers for Batman Begins, The Return of the Sith and Fantastic Four. I knew right away that it would be counter-productive to make too big an issue of Kingdom because the audience was going to ignore it anyway. The audience at Kingdom skewed older - people in their forties, with a handful of teenage fans of Orlando Bloom.
Then, last night, I walked into a theater to see a screening of an underfunded indie picture called Crash,
that several of my students had told me was a "must see." The theater was packed -- even that front part in which viewers sit ten feet from the 25 foot screen. And I was one of the few people in the room over 35.
I was marveling about the alternate media network that had packed that theater. There has been very little advertising for the film. Sandy Bullock and Brendan Fraser have small parts in it, but they aren't doing any real press, and they certainly wouldn't draw the kind of multi-racial, under twenty throng that was filling the rows for this particular R-rated indie.
I liked Crash. I was pleasantly surprised by the game it plays on the audience with its skillful use of structure and characters. With the notable exception of its easy over-use of the F-word in dialogue, not much else about Crash is easy from a technical screenwriting standpoint. It is a smart movie....But I'm not sure what the net effect of it is on me as a person. But I'm okay with that this morning, because I have the haunting sense that the movie knows exactly what it's doing, and it will be up to me to puzzle over it and its message...we call it healing rumination at Act One.
So, Crash at first seems to be a straight scape-goating film in which everybody in Los Angeles is basically a racist. Fully the first half of the movie moves the audience from shock to sadness to horror as we watch different characters act on their varying degrees of prejudice. But, then, the movie starts to mess with the audience's expectations. Suddenly, the characters we thought were bad guys, start to show qualities like mercy, compassion and even heroism. And then, the ones we thought were good guys, reveal themselves as frightened and even bumblingly murderous.
And there is a wonderful element of providence in the film - call it grace - which corresponds with the acts of goodness in the film to basically keep the forces of hatred in check at the end. It even does something miraculous...in a funny kind of way in which grace can make good even out of our neutral ignorance and haste.
Crash is a good, thoughtful consideration of a complex social issue. The film transcends easy political distinctions in favor of a "human family" perspective. The language in the film is foul, and there is one non-erotic but still too explicit sex scene, but these artistic choices do not ultimately subvert the larger project of the film, which is good. This film is Pulp Fiction without the cynicism and violating violence. It is Traffic with gentle humor.
I'm giving Crash the coveted COTM thumbs-up.
10:53 AM | |
So, I get a call from one of our faculty who was a successful TV show-runner and now studio movie producer. A friend of his was just hired by Disney to rustle up some celebrities to talk about C.S. Lewis and Narnia for a documentary the studio is doing to accompany the film's Fall release.
The friend hird by Disney, called my producer friend for the favor of getting someone who would know some folks in town who might know who C.S. Lewis was, and that Narnia ISN'T a hot new club just south of Sunset in West Hollywood.
I, of course, take the call from producer friend, as a favor, and put a call in to the guy who called him. After several rounds of phone tag, we finally connect, and I feed my friend's friend several names of celebrities with whom I have had remotely intelligent conversations about God-stuff, who might be good for the project.
The guy goes back to his boss on the project, and starts spewing out all the names I fed him. And his boss says, "Cool, who is the source of all these?" And the guy says, "Barbara Nicolosi." To which his boss says, "That would be my roommate."!!!
Turns out, my roommate who has been working for Disney on the project, told them she needed someone to help line up interviews. So, they called around and got this guy who is known as a real aggressive interviewer getter. So he gets me.
I said to my roommate this morning, "Laura, if you wanted to ask me for a favor, you just had to, you know, knock."
10:12 PM | |
The good news is, the Kingdom of God has nothing to fear from Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. Probing new depths in tedium, Kingdom is an over-produced piece of pretentious politically-correct pablum.
Honestly, the first time I looked at my watch, it was only about fifteen minutes into the movie. "Allah forbid," I groaned, as a character we had just met a couple minutes before and didn't care about, got an arrow shot through his forehead.
About ten minutes later, as the main character was being insulted for no discernible reason by an obnoxious French guy named Guy, I looked at my watch for the second time and, then, a minatar went off in my brain, "Why not depart this Kingdom and set out on a crusade throughout the other theaters seeking out some good filmmaking?"
Ah! Infidel Scott! How dare you expect to create sympathy for your main character by having him murder a priest, even a bad one? And the stupid speech-making! I remembered, as the leper king with the tin transvestite mask was making a long boring speech to Orlando I'm So Bloomin' Earnest, that Ridley Scott always puts long boring speeches in his films because he is a baaaaaaaaaaad director who can't achieve real emotion no matter how much budget he has to spend. Even in his best film, Blade Runner the sociopathic android pauses in his dying to devolve into a ten-minute seminar on personhood and property law.
You know it's a bad movie, when you see saracens praying on their prayer rugs, and you start wishing you had one to sprawl out on somewhere on the theater floor...I ended up on a pilgrimage to parking garage Mecca at about the one hour point. After the first 20 minutes, I was only hanging around so that I could proclaim to the far winds with authority, "Behold, my brethren! The Kingdom doth sucketh with inglorious awfulness!" Then, I decided, wasting another 125 minutes of my life in this cause would be inflicting fatwa on myself. So, I commited the mother of all theater exits.
But, let's cutteth to the quicketh... The underlying theme of Kingdom of Heaven is that religions are fine - as long as they are personal coping devices that do not invade the parameters of the polis. The bad guys in the film are religious "fanatics". The problem is that fanaticism is defined as being anyone who thinks that God is engaged in what men do together as a society. Against the rallying cry of the Crusaders "God Wills It!" (and, I suppose, the un-voiced rallying cry of the people of the religion of peace: "To the Airplanes!") ridley Scott et al, respond with their own manic shout, "Religion is a Private Matter!"
There was so much wrong with this movie, it won't take any kind of outraged crusade by the People of God to have it purged. This film will fall under its own self-righteous, badly written weight.
Pass. The God of good cinema wills it.
2:24 PM | |
I can't remember if I blogged about this already...but I was interviewed a few weeks back for a story by Mark Pinsky (Orlando Sentinel) about whether the Narnia projects would signal and end to the Christian boycott of Disney. I think I said, "There's a boycott?"
Anyway, here's a link to Mark's article as it appeared in The Washington Post.
One of my two snips...
Any efforts to deemphasize the religious aspects of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" film are bound to backfire with Christians, according to Act One's, Nicolosi.
"Disney and [co-producer] Walden Media are aware that there's a proprietary sense about 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' " she said. "C.S. Lewis is our guy. They better not take that away from us."
7:00 PM | |
Good friend and fellow writer, Charlie Carner, copied me on a letter he sent to the Hollywood Reporter in response to their rave review of the new Crusades retelling by Sir Ridley "Not Exactly the Lionhearted" Scott. I plan on seeing the film tomorrow night after at least two stiff drinks, so look for a review this weekend.
But here's Charlie's defense of the faith.
5055 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Re: “Kingdom of Heaven”
Dear Mr. Honeycutt:
From your “Kingdom of Heaven” review, published in the Hollywood Reporter Monday, May 2, 2005:
“‘Kingdom’ fulfills the requirements of grand-scale moviemaking while serving as a timely reminder that in the conflict between Christianity and Islam it was the Christians who picked the first fight.”
I beg to differ.
The First Crusade was launched by Pope Urban II in 1095.
For nearly 450 years prior to that, Muslim conquerors killed tens of thousands of Christians, made slaves and eunuchs of Christians for the pleasure of the caliphs, burned down or sacked the holiest churches in Christendom, robbed and killed thousands of Christians on holy pilgrimage, brutally sacked Jerusalem, and pillaged the countryside of Israel, North Africa and Western Europe. Beginning with Mohammed himself around 630, and continuing with Abu Bakr and the caliphs who followed, Muslim armies conquered and subjugated others through armed invasion and bloody war.
Because it was the closest geographically, Palestine was the first Western non-Arab area invaded in the Muslim imperialist expansion. At the time, Palestine was under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire, ruled from Constantinople by Greek-speaking people, and was Eastern Orthodox Catholic. The Eastern Orthodox rule was despotic and the Eastern Roman Empire was in serious decline. The Muslim conquest of Palestine began in 636 with the battle of Yarmk. Muslim armies laid siege to Jerusalem in July 637. After five brutal months, the city fell in February 638. The conquered Christian and Jewish people were made to pay a tribute to the Muslim victors, who thereafter bled the city to supply Baghdad with a steady stream of plundered wealth and slaves, many of whom were made eunuchs.
The Muslim conquest of (Christian) North Africa went relatively easily until the Berbers put up stiff resistance – for more than twenty years – before the Muslims broke through in a series of bloody battles followed by massacres of their largely Christian opponents. The Muslim conquest continued through North Africa and through what is now Spain, Portugal, and southern France – until they were stopped by Charles Martel at the Battle of Poiters in 732.
After Jerusalem fell in 638, Muslims ruled the city in a largely peaceful manner (chiefly under the Umayyads) for about a hundred years. Then, under the Abbasids, the Muslim rulers began an aggressive program of forcible conversion to Islam among the majority Christians and Jews. Thereafter, Jerusalem and its Christian and Jewish majority suffered greatly during alternating periods of peace and war. Among the oppressive measures were repeated Muslim destruction of the countryside of Israel (970-983, and 1024-1077); the wholesale destruction by the Muslims of Christian churches – sometimes at the direct order of the Caliph, as in 1003, and sometimes by Muslim mobs; the total destruction of Jerusalem by the Caliph of Cairo in the early 1020s; building mosques on the top of Christian churches; enforcing the Muslim laws limiting the height of Christian churches; attacking and robbing Christian pilgrims from Europe; attacking Christian processions in the streets of Jerusalem; and on and on.
This was the condition in the Holy Land when Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade. The Christians did not “pick the first fight.” They responded to centuries of armed aggression, conquest and subjugation by Muslims.
Charles Robert Carner
sources: The Columbia History of the World, edited by John A. Garraty and Peter Gay; Arab Ethnic Cleansing Imperialism and Colonialism, by Richard C. Csaplar, Jr, Regent University Board of Trustees; The First Crusade, by Thomas Asbridge
10:36 AM | |
You are Lady Marchmain. You make some people
uncomfortable, but you do your best to help
people in unfortunate circumstances, personal
What Brideshead Revisited character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
No. No. No. Now, I'm going to be depressed for a week. I've always been afraid of being Lady Marchmain. But I suppose she is better than Bridey. Only slightly though.
I really want to be Cordelia. Doesn't everyone?
On the other hand...even though the book sets up Lady Marchmain in an unfavorable light - it is from Charles' unconverted perspective. And then, by the end of the novel, everybody in the family really has come around to Lady Marchmain's worldview...right?
8:02 AM | |
Apparently, there was a storyline on House last night about parental notification on abortion. I didn't see it, but Anne and Emily over at After Abortion have the details.
I haven't seen House yet, but some of my Christian friends are very enthusiastic about it. Looks like they did a fair job with this issue anyway.
7:39 AM | |
It's happened twice in the last five days. I was interviewed by journalists for Daily Variety on Friday, and The New York Times yesterday. The interviews were basically same-old same old stuff about Christians in Hollywood, and specifically the change in the market since The Passion of the Christ.
But in both interviews a funny thing happened. About half way through lots of half-hearted questions about why Christians won't like Revelations and whether Christians will take a contract out on Tom Hanks for starring in The Da Vinci Code, both journalists slipped in the query, "So, who did you vote for in the last election? You're a Bush voter, aren't you?"
I said to the Daily Variety guy, "You aren't trying to narrowly define me so you can dismiss me, are you?" When it happened yesterday with the Times I got a little more annoyed. "Did you ask the Hollywood pagans you are interviewing for this story that question?" Both journalists demurred in extravagant terms. They were just "collecting context" for their pieces. But then, the Times guy came back insistently, "Would you characterize yourself as right or left of center?"
I liked both the journalists, and they liked me. The Variety guy asked me if he and I could have coffee someday soon, just to talk about a whole lot of things. The Times guy said, "This has been a fun interview. You're not a regular Christian, are you?" I said to him, "Why, because you like me, and that doesn't fit with your prejudice about my people?" He said to me, "You don't sound like some other Christians I have interviewed." I couldn't resist coming back with, "That's because we are a diverse people, not chained by politically correct dogma."
I know I am slow on the uptake here, but I can't stop marveling about the pervasive anti-Christian bigotry that continues to mess with the MSM's attempts to cover the whole red-state, Passion-watching, Terri Schiavo crusading, spiritual revival moment that is arm wrestling the culture of death in the marketplace of ideas. These reporters NEED for us Christians to be the people they need us to be: basically sub-human intolerant simpletons who can be dismissed, and part of that is that we are knee-jerk GOP voters.
I told the Variety guy off-the-record, "I voted against John Kerry in the last election because he is a champion of the culture of death. But, believe me, if the GOP ever dropped it's stated preference for the sanctity of human life, me and my friends at church would drop the Republicans so fast their heads wouldn't stop spinning for a decade." To the Times writer I said, "Here's my principle: we don't get to kill people, and we can't change human nature with laws. Does that make me right or left?"
Anyway, after two hours of interviewing, I'll probably have one-eighth of a sentence in one or both publications sometime this week. If somebody sees something, let me know so I can link.
12:32 PM | |
Heard in my car just now, from the local NPR affiliate...
"Life is important. Drive carefully."
Life is "IMPORTANT"??? No, idiots! Life is sacred. Comfortable shoes are important. Getting your oil changed every 3,000 miles is important. Having a spam blocker is important.
Life is first. Sacred. Irreplaceable. Most precious. Beyond value or definition.
I am insecure sharing the planet with people who think my life or their own is just "important." A little fanaticism is in order here...
7:35 AM | |
TIE the strings to my life, my Lord,
Then I am ready to go!
Just a look at the horses—
Rapid! That will do!
Put me in on the firmest side,
So I shall never fall;
For we must ride to the Judgment,
And it ’s partly down hill.
But never I mind the bridges,
And never I mind the sea;
Held fast in everlasting race
By my own choice and thee.
Good-by to the life I used to live,
And the world I used to know;
And kiss the hills for me, just once;
Now I am ready to go!
1:27 PM | |
Back in L.A., I'm taking what must be just a short break from my work on the rewrite of the Spanish Civil War movie.
After spending the last five hours working as hard on this project as I ever have on anything in my life, I have to take a moment for a little recuperative self-pity. Wow. Being a writer is very, very hard. Being a screenwriter is agononizingly hard. This would be the wrong day for some brother or sister in Christ to say something to me about how the movies are so stupid that anyone could write better ones. If someone says that to me today, I am sure some kind of violent lunging will ensue.
I am particularly grateful today, that my father taught me to play chess when I was six. Because screenwriting is actually a lot like chess. It's fundamentally keeping eight things present in your head at every moment. And getting a few words down on paper is a constant matter of negotiating between all of the projects goals.
If I go for this witty piece of dialogue, am I messing with the character's arc?
If I let him have an early moment of heroism, do I lose the suspense of the piece?
If I throw in a moment of developement for one of the supporting players in this scene, do I dilute the tension in the overall scene for the main character?
Does this wonderful scene I just wrote have anything to do with what this movie is about? Is there any way I can keep it (The answer is almost always, "No.")
In giving this moment for theme, did I just blow my structure?
If I make the story points really clear, am I lying about the ambiguity of a real journey of faith?
I'm tired right now. And that's the other thing with writing for a living. You can't really stop when you're tired. When you really don't have anything left to say. When, by all rights and justice, you should stop, because the urgency of the truth is done with you for today....you have to keep writing.
Isn't there a wet dog somewhere I can go lick? (Private joke to those who have ears to hear.)
I am - overall - pleased with this screenplay. It was a very hard assignment because it's basically a saint's story - and those are almost unintelligible from a merely human, exterior visual sense. More on that in the coming months. I have learned a huge truth about writing God stuff in mainstream entertainment. And that truth is, "If you don't push the religion, you end up telling a lie." There is no way to soft-pedal religious faith as motivation for character choices.
The hardest thing about this project is coming up with the lyrical imagery that will give the audience a sense of the underlying truths of this essentially spiritual story, without insulting their intelligence. Can I just second JPII's call for "a new iconography" of religious art, that takes us beyond candles and rainbows and doves and wheat sheafs into a deeper level of meaning for people today?
Just now, I really, really wish I had gone with the adolescent impulse to be a forest ranger..... Which will last until the next line or two on the page that brings together my whole past, my memory, education and studies, and goes beyond what I sat down with to fuse with the Truth out there somewhere.
Then, writing is very cool.
8:26 AM | |
[I got an email asking me to help get the word out about this event. I don't know any of the folks connected with it, but better to be obliging.]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Christ the King Catholic Church is proud to present the first AZ
Catholic Film Festival May 20th – 21st, 2005. The church is located at
1551 E Dana Ave in Mesa.
Organized by Fr. Chris Carpenter, Pastor of Christ the King and film
critic for “The Catholic Sun,” the festival will feature films made by
Catholic filmmakers and/or featuring Catholic subjects.
On Friday, May 20th, the festival will kick-off with a 6:30 PM opening
night reception, followed at 7:30 by the premiere of Tony, Tony Stick
Around, a heart-warming family drama by Scottsdale writer-director
Joanne Caroselli. A discussion with Ms. Caroselli and cast members will
follow the screening.
Saturday, May 21st, at 10:00 AM, the festival continues with a double
feature of pro-life documentary shorts: The Witness, by New York-based
filmmakers Jenny Stein and James LaVeck, and Hope Floats, by local
filmmaker Derek Natzke. Discussion with the filmmakers and others will
follow the screenings.
Lunch will be available for purchase from 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM
Saturday, May 21st, at 1:00 PM, the festival will feature the Arizona
premiere of the Oscar-nominated documentary Twist of Faith, detailing
one man’s recovery from sexual abuse by a priest. Discussion will
follow the screening.
*Parents, please be advised that The Witness and Twist of Faith are
not suitable for pre-teens due to some disturbing images and/or subject
Festival participants are invited to celebrate 4:00 PM Mass at Christ
Saturday, May 21st, at 6:00 PM, the festival closes with three new,
30-minute films featuring contemporary stories of young adults based on
Jesus’ teachings or the Mysteries of the Rosary. They are produced by
Family Theater Productions, a Catholic media outlet founded in 1947 in
Hollywood by Servant of God Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC, a Catholic media
pioneer and now sainthood candidate.
Tickets for the Friday evening reception and screening only can be
purchased for $5. Festival Passes for the opening night reception and
all screenings can be purchased for $10. Seating is limited, so please
pre-order tickets and passes by calling (480) 964-1719.
Fr. Carpenter indicated he has been thinking of starting a Catholic
Film Festival for a couple of years since Catholics are numerous in
Arizona. We hope to provide enough variety to appeal to all audiences
for entertainment, as well as some spiritual thought and positive
messages. Our goal is to continue and grow the festival in future years
to bring Catholic entertainment in the Phoenix area and throughout
Arizona to a new level.
For further information, please call Fr. Chris Carpenter at (480)
964-1719 or Joanne Caroselli at (480) 941-4045