Friday, October 31, 2003


This has nothing to do with Hollywood, but everything to do with the collapse of the sense of reverence and beauty in the Church.

I have been going through a dark, uncharacteristic anti-clerical phase for the last couple of years, largely because the recent scandals and consequent ecclesial rationalizations used up all of the respectful resignation with which I have been enduring terrible homilies, sloppy liturgies and pastoral sloth for the last quarter of a century. (And, I guess, anger makes me speak in run-on sentences?) I particularly don't have a lot of grace for baby-boomer priests who are still clinging to the license and liberalism that has gotten us mired in all these messes since Vatican II.

So, then, a lot of rancor was stirred up in my otherwise happy consciousness last week when I met a non-clericals wearing Jesuit at a meeting. I saw the SJ on his name-tag so I said, "Hello, Father," to which he replied (in a tone which said, "I'm a grown-up and you're not"), "Everybody calls me Joe."

Here's what I wanted to say.

No. I will not call you "Joe." You are a priest, and that dignity supercedes your Joe-ness. It has very little to do with you. You were called by God, formed by the Jesuits, paid for by the People of God, and now your life is for us. You cannot put your priesthood on and off like a coat. At least, let us call you Father Joe.

This is not my problem, it is yours. You will probably need help to get over the weird “anti-authority” thing that keynotes you baby-boomer priests and religious. You all seem to think that a patronizing gesture is your part in assaulting the mountain of hierarchy that you resent particularly because gen-xers like me DON't resent it. It's Psych 101 that by diminishing your office in the vineyard you seek to magnify yourself as an individual. In fact, diminishing your role in the community of believers is much more arrogant than accepting humbly that “what I have been set aside to be and do is now of greater note than who I was born.”

Jesus Himself preferred some formality from his friends, saying, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is fitting because that is what I am.” When Mary Magdalen recognized him Easter morning and called him “Rabboni!” he didn’t say, “Hey Mary, chill. Everybody calls me Jesus.”

You have lost something of value here. Your spiritual father, St. Ignatius had a reverence for the priesthood that is missing in you. Even after his ordination, for which he had spent six years preparing, he could not bring himself to say his first Mass for an additional full year so as to ready himself spiritually for the gravity of it. There have been “multi martyri” among the Jesuits whose sole crime was their identity as priests.

I don’t want to call you “Joe.” I’m not your friend, your family member or one of your brother Jesuits. You, as "just Joe," are basically irrelevant to me, and in fact, kind of creepy, because I'm a single woman not looking to initiate casual friendships with incognito celibates.

But what I actually said was, "Hi. You can call me Miss Nicolosi."

Thursday, October 30, 2003


Sorry about the sporadic blogging. Blame it on the pneumonia. Or else blame it on the wildfires which just make the pneumonia that much more blameworthy. Or else blame it on the recent proliferation of conferences and trips. Just don't blame it on the insidious computer game Pharaoh - because I'm not ready to give that up yet.

Anyway, here are more bits and pieces of news...

...I saw the upcoming release Resistance last week. The unfortunate piece was written and directed by New Sensation on the Block, Todd Komarnicki, who is pretty public about his Christianity. Resistance suffers from many flaws in its script. Set amidst the terrors of Nazi-occupied Belgium, the film looks lovely but falls flat early on and then just meanders around for another 90 minutes. It has a less than daring message which I would summarize as "Nazis are bad" and a quixotic message about adultery that left me dazed and confused because I know the director can't be advocating adultery, but it sure looked good here... I have been getting a lot of criticism lately for criticizing projects that my brothers and sisters in Christ have been putting out there. So, I'm going to be brief and suggest that the best thing for us all to do about Resistance is pray that Komarnicki figures out what went wrong here and gets another chance to do better next time.

...Steve McEveety, producer of The Passion of Christ, was a featured speaker at the Act One/Reel Spirituality Mere Entertainment Conference last week. Steve noted that the film has been a life-changing spiritual journey for all of the principles engaged in its production. Regarding the distribution, he said that Icon had shown the film as a courtesy to FOX (they have a firstlook deal), but that they had not seriously pursued any other major studios. He said that in light of the firestorm surrounding the project, "it didn't seem fair to ask a major studio to have to take on all that."

...The Discovery Channel aired an interesting, and very respectful, documentary about exorcism tonight. Granted, it's part of their desire to air something creepy for Halloween, but still, the piece presented the priest-exorcist as being successful with demoniacs, where psychology failed. At one point, one of the priests attributes much of the depression and exigencies of life as being the Devil's handiwork. He notes, "There are two spiritual worlds - God and His angels, or the Devil and his legions. We're are all operating in either one world or another all the time." The tenor of the show was that the Devil is a hateful Person. I think it is interesting that an age that more and more seems to want to strip God of His Personhood, has no trouble investing evil with it.

...Judging Amy had an eminently fair treatment of "the scandal" last week. A priest is confronted in Amy's court by a boy who had been abused. The episode at first seemed like it was going to be same old weirdly gleeful pile-on against the Church for the scandal, but then, it became obvious that theboy was mistaken about this particular priest being his abuser. The priest was compassionate, even after having gone through the trauma of being falsely accused. The residue of the episode was that there are good priests out there too.

...My friend and frequent collaborator, screenwriter, Craig Detweiler has just published a book. Craig gave us a taste of Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Popular Cultureat Mere Entertainment last week - and it was GREAT. Just a heads up for any of you smart people who are wondering what God has been up to lately. Craig knows.

...Somebody asked me today, "In honor of Halloween, what is the scariest movie you've ever seen?" Well, I guess that would have to be The Hours.

...I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Jim Caviezel (The Passion of Christ) and his wife Carrie last week. Jim is an incredibly intense person. One gets the feeling that Jesus is never more than one sentence away from his consciousness.

...The new show, Joan of Arcadia -- from my former RCIA student Barbara Hall - oh, did I let that slip? -- has been picked up by CBS for a full 22 episodes. Joan has won its timeslot every week since its debut. I lurk on a yahoo group of mostly 12-20 year old girls who love the show, and I am very encouraged by the discussion the show incites in their largely uincatechized little souls. The show is particularly good for such as these.

...I'll be in Washington, DC from Nov. 12-16 giving speeches here and there. I'll post particulars as soon as I can find all the info. I'm also going to be in DC scouting the location for our May 2004 Act One program. Yes, we'll be bringing our amazing faculty and program to the nation's capital next year. Applications open in December. Pass the word to any nascent screenwriters you know.

Monday, October 27, 2003


"HBO has signed comedian Doug Williams to a development deal for a darkly comic series about a relationship rocked by domestic violence."


The Sunday Los Angeles Times had a very nice article about our Act Two program for advanced alumni. The link is here, but you may have to subscribe to access it. (Hate that...)

Here's an excerpt:

Sitting before an audience of 16 students in the Act Two program for Christian screenwriters, Dean Batali (writer/co-executive producer, "That '70s Show"), Lee Batchler (co-writer, "Batman Forever"), Jack Gilbert (former workshop director of the Warner Bros. Writers Workshop), Ron Austin (writer, "Matlock") and Act Two executive director Barbara Nicolosi are debating the meaning and merits of spiritually charged yet provocative movies like "Magnolia." Although it has a lot of profanity, themes of sexual abuse, family dysfunction and misogyny, the instructors believe the film offers amazing lessons — that it is an example of a film with flawed characters who seek and find redemption and forgiveness.

For an hour, questions and answers fly as the panel discusses such issues as when and how moral ambiguity can be helpful or go too far, and whether spreading a Christian message is better served by writing explicitly Christian characters or by conveying moral values through secular characters. While these debates have raged for years in church circles, Act Two and its parent program, Act One: Writing for Hollywood, have generated a great deal of interest in the past five years thanks to the caliber of faculty members and such bold credos as "it's better to tell an R-rated truth than a G-rated lie."

Despite the sometimes impassioned differences among faculty and students, one thing is clear: A new and savvier generation of Christians is hitting Hollywood, one that's come a long way from making apocalyptic thrillers and "altar call" films that ministries such as Billy Graham's sometimes used to convince people to accept Christ into their hearts.

"We all seek to incorporate the Christian worldview into movies and television, but we discuss how to naturally get our point of view in our work," said Batali afterward. "We don't want our art to be agenda-driven, but we do have a valid worldview that should be part of the cultural conversation."

Act One's voice in that conversation has become louder since the program's inception in January 1999 by members of the Christian entertainment fellowship organization Inter-Mission, which, along with the unrelated Actors Co-op theater group, is housed at First Presbyterian. From the start, the goal has been to offer a monthlong, daily series of interactive lectures on screenwriting by working industry professionals rather than a dry academic approach, to show students that thriving careers are possible for churchgoers worried about anti-religious discrimination in Hollywood.

Nearly five years later, the program has taught 210 students at classes in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Along the way, a course track focusing on TV writing careers, a screenplay critique service, writers' groups and a thriving online information community also have been established. Applicants for admission to Act One submit a variety of writing samples for consideration, while Act Two participants are selected from writers of completed scripts from the "best of the best" Act One graduates.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


The word is that The Passion of Christ (note name change due to the fact that Miramax has another film previously registered as The Passion) will be distributed by Newmarket Films. This seems to me an odd choice -- but I know nothing about it. Newmarket is a small distributor. Their biggest films of the last couple years have been Whale Rider and Memento. The Passion of Christ will do for Newmarket what Blair Witch did for Artisan and Harry Potter did for Scholastic Books.

But it's a puzzlement why the studios would pass...

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Okay, so everybody was telling me I needed to take a vacation. So I invited my sister Alison and my nephew John Thomas to come out from CT and do fun Southern California things with me. They got here last Tuesday... And then Alison started coughing. We did Disneyland and the La Brea Tar Pits, all the while with Alison coughing. By Friday morning, I had a sore throat and Alison was wheezing and dragging. But we still went to Sea World, and then left early because, well, John Thomas wanted to hang around the hotel pool instead of watching dolphins jump. (Don't get that.) On Sunday, Alison was clearly feverish, and I was feeling bad too, so we finally broke through our family suspicion of the medical profession and went to the Emergency Room back in L.A.

So, then the doctor takes one quick look at Alison's chest x-ray and admits her to the hospital. She had a 102 fever and advanced pneumonia. She seems to have three different strains of bacteria in her system - each of which requires a different specialist.

I have a severe viral infection, so they put me on penicillin and sent me home to entertain my four year old nephew, who is, oh so, NOT low maintenance. But, thank God, he hasn't come down with the viral demons.

Today is Tuesday, and we get the word from the doctors that Alison needs to stay in the hospital until at least Friday. I called American Airlines, and of course, they will not let us change the ticket because we got a cheap non-refundable fare, but they assure me that for a mere $2048 they will be happy to book new flights for my sister and my nephew sometime next week.

Meanwhile, I'm still sick and I have to teach a college course on Thursday, with a four year old in tow, and my sister lonely and bored in the hospital.

Feel free to send some prayer our way... And, can I please go back to work now?

Sunday, October 05, 2003


Sorry this is late for most of you. Tis is mainly for those I have been meeting all weekend here in MI who might want to come to my speech today at the University of MI.

I am speaking at the campus chapel at 3pm. Directions are:

The Campus Chapel is located on the eastern edge of the central campus. The Chapel's easily-recognizable building is just south of the Central Campus recreation building, and adjacent to the Forest street parking lot (which is free and open on Sundays.) From Domino's Farms, follow Washtenaw into Ann Arbor,and the Chapel is visible on the left just before the UM hospital becomes visible on the right.

Address: 1236 Washtenaw Ct., Ann Arbor Michigan 48104

Talk will be on Hollywood and God and Christians and culture... The usual shtick.


Wednesday, October 01, 2003


Here's an interesting article comparing the use of the human body in Chicago to that in The Passion. The fact that the author uses a citation from this blog has nothing to do with the fact that I am linking to it.