Monday, April 25, 2005


I am in New Orleans the next two days. Then, Baton Rouge. Then, back to L.A. Friday. I can't see blogging much.

Which is too bad because I am thinking a lot of very cool and profound thoughts.

Oh well.

Please do pray for all the wonderful people who are being so kind to me on my travels.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


(Trying not to be smug that, in some sense, I got my Pope Joseph...)

I am loving the whole Benedict thing! So many reasons why this was a perfect name in this moment of ecclesial history! Most of all, I love the idea that we are re-connecting to the Church of history, that the 20th Century ("a pile of corpses" JPII) was just one more century in the Church's story.

Another name thing that stands out in my mind is that the last Benedict, the XVth, followed a Pope who was a saint - Pius X. Pius was greatly beloved of the people, and was acclaimed as a saint by the crowds at his death. Benedict VXI is certainly signalling that he too is following a saint, greatly beloved and acclaimed by the vox populi at his death.

But, as the media is noting, not everybody is happy....

I called four parishes in L.A. this afternoon trying to find a celebratory Mass in the archdiocese. At the gay parish in West Hollywood, the secretary sniffed and was almost shocked at the inquiry, "Oh no," she said. "We don't have anything planned." At the North Hollywood parish which has the newly installed homo-erotic Jesus staue in the sanctuary, the secretary defined desultory. "No. Father has no plans to do anything yet. Check back in a few days." The Jesuit parish phone answerer just said, "NO."

So, I'll be going to Christ the King tonight with the Italian from Italy pastor who hasn't got the memo yet that there is no joy in LA-ville tonight.

Is anybody else having fun yet? Rock on, Your Holiness!

Your Linguistic Profile:

45% Yankee

40% General American English

10% Dixie

5% Upper Midwestern

0% Midwestern

Monday, April 18, 2005


My sister Val is singing the title role in the opera La Cenerentola (Cinderella) in Keene, NH April 30 & May 1. Sung in Italian with English subtitles at the Raylynmoor Opera, the production will have full orchestra, sets and costumes.

Valerie assures me that this is a delightful opera. (I saw it with her in Providence, and, I have to admit, that even I opera-intolerant that I am, enjoyed it. I have copied the press release at the end here with the information on how to reserve tickets. Also here is some info:

April 30 at 8 and May 1 at 2
At the Colonial Theatre

Val notes: "The theater is adorable and wonderful to sing in, and the town of Keene is really delightful too. The producer of the opera hinted to me that the best sets are in the balcony or on the orchestra level row "J" and higher (So J-Z)."


Cinderella, A Different Way To Catch Her Man

Toss out the glass shoes, the real Cinderella finds her true love by using a pair of matching gold bracelets. On April 30 at 8 PM and May 1 at 2 PM, The Raylynmor Opera will present Gioacchino Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Colonial Theater in Keene NH as part of its ninth season of live opera performances in the Monadnock region. Rossini’s comic opera is full of bright and lively music that will set hearts singing.

The two daughters of down-at-the-heels Don Magnifico plot to capture Prince Ramiro in marriage while Magnifico’s stepdaughter, called Cenerentola because she is made to tend the fire, must stay home. The Prince trades places with his valet in order to gain an unbiased opinion of the women, causing the sisters to look down on him as a mere servant. Cinderella, in disguise, appears at the Prince’s dinner party and, presenting him with a gold bracelet, tells him he will find his true love when he finds its mate. Later, the Prince’s carriage is upset and he finds refuge in Don Magnifico’s mansion where he recognizes Cenerentola and the bracelet. All ends well of course as the Prince and Cenerentola marry and the wicked stepsisters are forgiven.

This production of Cenerentola will be filled with premiers. In her premier performance with Raylynmor, Valerie Nicolosi will create the role of Cenerentola, which she previously performed with Opera Providence. Also premiering is Lawrence Jones who will perform the role of Ramiro. This will also be Raylynmor’s first opera sung in its original language and the premier of supertitles, which will provide translations of the Italian.

Cast in the role of Don Magnifico is Tom Weber, Alidoro the Prince's tutor is Tom O'Toole, Dandini, the valet will be played by John Salvi and the sisters Clorinda and Tisbe are to be sung by Jodi Frisbie and Pamela Stevens.

Tickets are available at the Colonial Theater, 95 Main St., Keene NH 03431, (603) 352-2033 or at Tickets can also be obtained at the Toadstool Bookstores at the Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene, Lorden Plaza in Milford and in Peterborough.


Franklin Sibley, President
Raylynmor Opera

Sending this out to all the Cardinal-electors who will be violating the secrecy of the conclave to keep up with what's going on here at COTM...

Here's one last word of lobbying for the name "Joseph." I think it's so weird that there hasn't been a Pope Joseph. St. Joseph is the Patron of the Universal Church, to whom God entrusted the care of His two omst beloveds. It would be fitting in this hour to turn to the Just, Wise, Pure care of Joseph, again. Also, it would be a lovely counter-point to the marian devotion of JPII.

Of course, if they elect Ratzinger, it will be Pope "Joseph", anyway...


Opinion is a flitting thing,
But Truth, outlasts the Sun --
If then we cannot own them both --
Possess the oldest one --

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Weeks too late, I finally got myself into a theater to see Millions yesterday. This is the British family film that has gotten a lot of positive reviews from secular and Christian critics alike. I can see why, and yet, I'm not sure I would ever sit through it again -- and that is always my main criteria for giving a movie a "thumbs-up."

Maybe it helps to say that I would definitely see parts of Millions again. Namely, the first Act and a bit of Act Two.

Written by Frank Cotrell Boyce (Hillary and Jackie, which, along with Amadeus is my favorite movie about the suffering of artists), and directed by Danny Boyle (28 Days Later), the tag-line of the movie is , "Can anybody really be good?" And here-in lies the problem of the film from a critical perspective.

"Can anybody really be good?" is a great question for a movie. But it isn't the subject of the first 40 minutes of Millions. The movie morphs into that subject in the second half of the film, but, doesn't stay on topic in terms of getting to an answer. The film seems to posit the answer, in a quick ending scene, that people who are good are miracles...or one in a million.

The movie tells the story of a pure-hearted little boy, Damien, who finds millions of pounds, and thinks that it is a gift from God. He wants to give the money to the poor, in imitation of his idols, the saints. During the film, many of his favorite saints appear to him, talking about his life and theirs. It sounds hokey, but the movie pulls it off in a delightful way, with humor and quirky reverence.

As the movie brings in more characters, we discover that everyone around Damien is, in different degrees, greedy, selfish, hypocritical and unbelieving. Damien keeps telling anyone who will listen for a few moments, that he wants to be good, "because God wants it." The story unravels through the second half, but I could forgive it slightly as a stylistic attempt to realize the recollections of a six year old.

I'm not sure if kids would get Millions because the British accents are very thick. But there is a lot to like in this project, and I'm very glad someone wrote it, bought it and got it made. There's hope.

Friday, April 15, 2005


...Then, come be a part of the 11th annual NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR HOLLYWOOD. Hosted by the Hollywood Prayer Network, Hollywood Connect and Inter-Mission.

WHEN: Thursday, May 5th
WHERE: CBS Studios in Studio City, Sound Stage 2
4024 Radford Ave.
TIME: 7:30pm to 10pm.

Here we will worship the Lord, pray for industry believers as well as the lost, and ask our Heavenly Father to do the miraculous by bringing revival to this town of ours, which is His desire! There will also be a time of personal prayer for all who want it at the end of the evening, as well as some snacks and drinks. We will also provide you with easy-to-follow prayer and fasting guide so you can continue changing Hollywood and the world long after the event. Remember, history belongs to the intercessor. Yes, you can have an impact!

Park in the garage and follow the signs to the sound stage. If you have questions, please contact Dave Jones at

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I have a slew of trips coming up in the next six weeks, mostly for speaking engagements. In an effort to do battle with the isolation and wasted time that always bedevils these trips, I want to add some informal meeting times, over dinner, lunch or just coffee with small groups in the places I am going. We can talk about whatever - and know that all the best stuff I have to say about what's going on in Hollywood I can never write on this blog!

I will also happily give speeches to whomever, if anyone wants to gather two or three or, you know, a hundred, people to listen. We can talk Church and culture. Hollywood and God. Movies and religion. Art and holiness. Artists and spirituality. Or, the really big important defining crucial topic everyone is most excited to hear about - the time I met Mel Gibson....

Anyway, here is my upcoming calendar and times I would like to have these meetings. If you would like to get in on one (and even organize it on your end!), please email my assistant, at, so she can start to get the things organized.

Chicago, Thursday, April 21, in the evening;

Las Vegas, Saturday or Sunday, April 23-24;

New Orleans, Tuesday, April 26 in the morning, or Wednesday, APril 27, in the morning;

San Antonio, Wednesday, May 18, anytime;

Washington, DC, Thursday, May 19 in the evening, or Saturday and Sunday the 21-22;

Orlando, FL, Thursday, May 26, anytime;

...And yes, I am tired already just writing that list..."for everywhere I go I take myself with me."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.

You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Sorry, couldn't resist that.

Here's a link to an article that was in the Washington Post recently about whether the fact that Disney is now peddling the Narnia film would mean an end to the Christian/Baptist boycott of Disney. When journalist, Mark Pinsky (one of the best religion journalists in the country, btw), called and asked me that question, I think I answered with a glib, "There's a boycott?"

Here's a snip from the piece with me in it... (Am I Act One's Nicolosi? I guess that's better than Nicolosi's Act One, which would be, you know, a lie....but I suddenly feel like I should have our logo stamped on my forehead.)

In 2001, HarperCollins, the U.S. publishers of the "Narnia" books, issued an internal memo -- revealed by the New York Times -- in which executives urged colleagues to downplay the books' religious dimensions in order to market them to a mainstream audience.

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."

...but what USA Today wanted to hear about was Revelations, the new show airing on NBC tomorrow night about the end times. The article is on-line here.

It's always so interesting seeing what comes from being interviewed. The journalist on the piece emailed me a list of questions which I answered thusly...

"The problem with Revelations, and almost all of Hollywood's attempts to engage religion, is that they lack reverence. Some things are sacred because they were before us, and they will be here after us. (As a Gen-Xer I have to expand...Amazingly, there are thoughts that came before the baby-boomers, and there will be life and thought after the last one of them has finally given us the planet back!) These TV shows that try to mix it up with God, most often end up making God in Hollywood's image - a cool dude with attitude who hates the Christian Right and cares about humanity in a vague sense, but doesn't really care what individual people do.

From a Christian perspective, putting words in God's mouth, beyond the words He dictated Himself in the Bible, is always going to be problematic. Frankly, as good as the writers are in this town, nobody is THAT good.

Revelations also falls into the problem of mixing real stuff with sci-fi stuff. Again, a lack of reverence. Because things that are true should be accorded an attention and a consideration (ie. reverence) that we do not owe to things that are fantastic speculation. It is very insulting to people of faith, to see our Scriptures and doctrines mixed-up with weird occultic imagery and scenarios, as though they were on the same level. For this reason, I think that the red-state, religious, Passion of the Christ loving, audience whom NBC is trying to attract with this kind of programming, will actually be repelled. Oh well.

From a writing standpoint, I find the show well-crafted. Certainly the production values and acting will be of high-caliber. But, in the end, you can't sell a lie. And mixing the Bible with sci-fi is selling a lie.

Brooding over the end times makes Catholics wince. That kind of useless speculation is one of the ways Catholics have always been distinguished from Evangelical Protestants. I was raised thinking the 19th century "rapture" notions were weird. As Jesus said, "You don't know the day or the hour," so we are supposed to live uprightly at all times, just in case.

However, the times do feel ominous, especially here in America. We have had our illusion of security smashed, and our fears at so many threats are sending us looking for signs that there is a Loving Mind somewhere that is in control.

Most of the "End Times" frenzy these days can be attributed to the narcissistic baby-boomers who as they age into irrelevance, can't believe that the world could possibly go on without them. I wish it really were a search for God, but I think it is a frantic clinging to their vision of themselves."

Here's what ended up in the article:

Barbara Nicolosi, who heads Act One, a non-profit group that trains religious writers and executives for careers in Hollywood, says the pilot script appears "well-crafted," but "it's very insulting to people of faith to see our scriptures and doctrines mixed up with weird, occultic imagery and scenarios. I think that the red-state, religious, Passion of the Christ-loving audience whom NBC is trying to attract with this kind of programming will actually be repelled."

Anyway, Inside Edition is coming over this afternoon to get some more from me. It will probably be on tomorrow night.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Variety reports that Walden Media has brought in DGA President Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough) to direct the long-in-development film Amazing Grace, based on the life of British anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was an 18th Century member of Parliament who is attributed with ending slavery and the slave trade in the British empire.

Variety also notes that the film is being styled as a "political thriler." Can I just say "Oh, good grief"? The story is as much political thriller as is the story of the American abolition movement. That is, IT ISN'T! It's a drama with spiritual overtones. And it's too bad that dramas are the least commercial genres these days. But well.... Besides feeling icky, it probably won't work to tell the story what it should be instead of letting the story be what it is. It would be kind of like...

Starving Max - Baz Luhrman's lush musical farce about the last days in Auswitcz of Maximilian Kolbe; or else,

Immaculate? - A pulsing, mind-bending tribute to film-noir, set amidst the seemy mystery of the conception of Christ; or, how about,

The Council Gang - A rip-snorting irreverent buddy comedy about two unlikely cardinals charged with writing the document on liturgy at Vatican II;

[pause for rolling of eyeballs]

Variety also notes that the Wilberforce movie will be written by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things). This is even more interesting, because the first script for this movie was written by Colin Welland, who also wrote Chariots of Fire. Hmmmm.... I don't know much about Steven Knight, but Chariots is one of the key films in what could be considered the Christian cinematic canon. And Chariots seems like it would be much closer in tone to the Wilberforce story.

Maybe Welland's draft had problems, I haven't seen it...but, here's the thing. The audience for whom Wilberforce is a hero are Christians. They are the people who like Chariots of Fire, and who would have to be dragged into any theater to see a movie called Dirty Pretty Things (Which I haven't seen, but I heard was weird and clever and edgy).

I root for Walden, as the "Christian" studio. But I am scratching my head. This seems worthy of the secular studios.


He strained my faith --
Did he find it supple?
Shook my strong trust --
Did it then -- yield?

Hurled my belief --
But -- did he shatter -- it?
Racked -- with suspense --
Not a nerve failed!

Wrung me -- with Anguish --
But I never doubted him --
'Tho' for what wrong
He did never say --

Stabbed -- while I sued
His sweet forgiveness --
Jesus -- it's your little "John"!
Don't you know -- me?

Sunday, April 10, 2005


A lapsed-Catholic friend of mine (a writer who sees himself as kind of a broadcast standards guy for St. Blogs), commented to me the other day that he thought John Paul II missed an opportunity "to drag the Catholic Church into the 21st Century."

Barb: [repressing a groan and thinking, "We already have the Catholic Church married to the current age. It's called mainline Protestantism," but saying] "The 21st is just one more century. The Church doesn't get dragged anywhere. She's the polestar."

I cite this here because I have little doubt that the MSM coverage of the Papal Enclave is going to shift out of respect and into this mode very soon. There will be many teachable moments to explain to people the teachings that are rooted in the nature of things, and so cannot change (birth-control), and those that are rooted in discipline/administration and may change (the process of canonization).

A good line I read recently from some theologian whose name I forget (someone let me know if you know who said it, and also to correct my paraphrasing): "If the Church weds herself to the currents of any age, she will become a widow in the future."

P.S. And in the name of full-disclosure, I have always had trouble with placing the ordination of women in the category of "things proceeding from nature." It seems to me that the case repeatedly cited against women priests is one that comes from convention/tradition not from theology/philosophy. (Once I heard a story from a theologian who had just come from a theologian's breakfast with the Holy Father. This would have been back in the mid '90's. And the Pope said to the theologians, "Get me a theological argument against women's ordination."....Just so.) The argument gets heat from what seems to be prudential concerns. (That is, a lot of us in the Church have a dark vision of a pregnant priest at the elevation, and it feels frighteningly icky.)

Now, granted, as the Sacred Tradition people, I am aware that some things don't need a theological reason to be unchangeable - like, for example, that we use bread and wine for Communion. But the question remains, did Jesus die for us as a male (vir), or as a man(homo)?....

In the end, I'm a good daughter of the Church, and I am not, in any sense, part of a movement for women's ordination. (But I know that saying that will not stop some of you from gnashing heresy charges at me. Or trying to convince me by stating over-simplified arguments. I have pursued this with some rigor. It isn't an easy comment-box answer...) What needs to happen is a definition of "maleness" as part of the matter of the sacrament of ordination. And this is a huge problem because it is un-sanctifying grace-ish to be gender exclusive.

So the point in this moment is, it isn't clear that ordination exclusively for men does proceed from the nature of things, but we've been told over and over that it does. And we can try and tell the secular world over and over and they are goiong to keep hearing us as not being honest, because there is a difference in this issue. (ie. There is nothing about maleness that is connected theologically to the ability to offer sacrifice. The priest stands in persona Christi in Christ's humanity. Otherwise, women need another mediator who would be fully man and fully woman?) This is hard ground to hold in the modern age, but it seems to me we have to stop pretending like there is some gnostic complex theological case against women's ordination, and just shrug, and say it's like using bread for Communion. Something we just do, that in fact defines us, without really having a reason.

Okay. Hit me....

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Well, I think I showed remarkable restraint. With a new feature film opening this weekend about a love story set in Red Sox Nation, I waited until well into the second night to see it.

You might think I'd be embarassed to admit how much fun I had watching Fever Pitch, but that tells me more about you than me. It tells me you also don't know who No. 8 is, or why the real Wailing Wall is actually a Monstrous Green, or who The Spaceman was. It just makes me sad for you.

I really enjoyed Fever Pitch, but I kept getting distracted by a couple thoughts though the whole movie:

1) Would anybody who isn't a Bosox fan find this film half as exhilerating as I do? (The L.A. audience was laughing hard and a lot...but I suspect the theater held, like me, a lot of ex-pat Red Sox fans. People were just too gleeful when Derek Jeeter struck out...)

2) Wow, if the Sox hadn't won the World Series last year, this movie would really kind of suck, like so many Red Sox seasons.

I think it's intriguing - and probably too revealing - that the premarital sex in the film didn't bother me because I was having so much fun watching all the Red Sox stuff. I remember once someone asked me if I could choose between a Papal audience and Red Sox World Series tickets which I would choose. The answer was a confused, "There will always be Popes..." Among my nephew, John Thomas' first complete sentences when he was three was the trith, "The Yankees are arrogant." Once when I was dating a non-Catholic, it became very clear to me that my RI-based family would be much more open to me marrying a Presbyterian than a Yankee fan. (Are you having fun yet? I am!)

Beyond having a lot of heart, this film is fun and occasionally very funny. I think Drew Barrymore's comic sensibility just keeps getting better, and I love how she isn't afraid to put herself completely out there, looking goofy for a laugh. There is that familiar "ambivalence about what we are supposed to want here" in the third act that I have come to expect in every Gen X romantic comedy, but it doesn't last too long, and the fun starts up again through the end. Parents should be warned that there is a premarital sex as way of life problem in the storyline, but the film has several very positive portrayals of happy marriage as well.

This is a must see for citizens of Red Sox Nation. Other kinds of humans (could it really be a fully human life?!) who enjoy romantic comedies will have fun too.

It was a hit for me...not a home run, but a solid triple.

Friday, April 08, 2005

[Please feel free to cut and paste this to your friends in the New Orleans area. Thanks for helping us get the word out.]

Pauline Book & Media Center, presents

“How to Watch a Movie: What You Are Missing on the Screen"

a presentation by Barbara R. Nicolosi
(Executive Director, Act One, Inc.)

- The 7 Levels of Meaning in Cinema
- What Do We Mean When We Say Cinema is "a Visual Medium"?
- Good News from Hollywood for People of Faith

Monday, April 25th
7:00 pm- 8:00 pm

Pauline Books and Media
4403 Veterans Blvd.
Metairie, LA 70006

Originally from Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Barbara R. Nicolosi has an M.A. in Television and Film from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, and a B.A. from the Great Books Program at Magdalen College in Warner, NH.

Ms. Nicolosi is the founding Director of Act One, Inc, a non-profit training and formation program for Hollywood writers and executives. Now in its fifth year, Act One keynotes artistry, professionalism, ethics and Christian spirituality. A screenwriter herself, Ms. Nicolosi has consulted on numerous film, television and video productions. She has written The Work for IMMI Pictures, of Beverly Hills, and Select Society, on the life of the poet Emily Dickinson currently in development with Reel Life Women Productions, Bel Air, CA.

A media columnist for the National Catholic Register, Ms. Nicolosi was the recipient of Catholic Press Awards in 2000 and 2002. Her articles have appeared in many periodicals including Liguorian, Catholic Parent, Religion Teachers Journal, Leaves, Christianity and the Arts, Crisis, Catholic Answers and Canticle. Miss Nicolosi has also been featured as a guest or commentator on CNN, CBS, NPR, EWTN, CBN, and in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune.

For any questions regarding this event, please call 323-462-1348 or email

[NOTE FROM BARB: Here are parts of the transcript of a show that was on CNN two weeks ago. I'm quoted in it, as are several of my friends. I'm editing it, so you should go to CNN's transcript archive for the whole thing if you are interested.]

Religion in Entertainment

Aired March 26, 2005 - 17:00 ET

ANNOUCNER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, Hollywood and religion. First, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" stirred controversy and made millions at the box office. But after its success, is Hollywood born again?... A look at the often conflicting worlds of Hollywood and religion, now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

ZAHN: Hi. Welcome to this special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. If there's a gospel rule in Hollywood, it is success begets sequels, knockoffs and re releases. So, just in time for the Easter holiday comes Mel Gibson's newly recut version of "The Passion of the Christ."

But in the years since Gibson's controversial movie first debutted, has
Hollywood really found religion? Over the next hour, a look at faith and entertainment, past, present, and future.

MARK PINSKY, RELIGION WRITER, ORLAND SENTINEL: Mel Gibson is not the Messiah but he did make huge changes, I think in the attitudes of Hollywood toward religious films.

ZAHN: A personal expression of fate, which turned Hollywood on its head.

GIBSON: That's what making art is about. It's about sort of throwing it all out there. I think -- and if the fur is not flying, you ain't doing nothing.

ZAHN: Gibson's quest to make the Passion was rooted in his own religious convictions. As a young man he considered joing the priesthood and was raised as a conservative Catholic out of the main stream.

GIBSON: I probably sound like some egotist, you know, saying the Roman Church is wrong, but I believe it is at the moment, since Vatican II.

JESS CAGLE, SENIOR EDITOR PEOPLE MAGAZINE: Mel in his life has been heavily influenced by his father. His father was very unhappy with what he considered the modernization of the Catholic Church in the 1960s. So Mel has now, after a few wild years, embraced the same kind of very, very conservative Catholicism that his father believed in.

ZAHN: In fact, Gibson has even build his own church in California where Mass is performed in traditional Latin as it was before Vatican II.

LARRY KING, HOST: You don't like the new church? The mass in English?


KING: Why not?

GIBSON: It's missing some stuff.

KING: Like?

GIBSON: It's missing some very important things. I don't believe transubstantiation occurs anymore. I mean if there's not rules, if there's not an absolute, then it's not worth much.

ZAHN: Gibson has said he went through a spiritual crisis of his own about 14 years ago. In an interview with the Roman Catholic Network, Eternal Word Television, he described how he turned to the story of Christ's crucifixion for help.

GIBSON: Like most of us, I mean you get to a point in your life where you're pretty wounded by everything that goes on around you, by your own transgressions, by other people's -- you know, I mean just life as a -- it's kind of a scarring thing. So, I used "The Passion" as a meditation of healing myself.

ZAHN: But Gibson's decision to make a film of the passion received the cold shoulder from Hollywood. Even with his Oscar- winning resume, and box office clout and nearly $1 billion, studios were skeptical of a film about Jesus that Gibson wanted to make in Latin and Aramaeic. Gibson decided to finance the $30 million film himself.

TIM LAHAYE, CO-AUTHOR: He said then that he knew that he could lose $35 million of production costs of that movie, but he said, and with passion, he put his fist on the table, he said, I don't care if I lose every cent.This is something I have to do.

BARBARA NICOLOSI, FILM AND TELEVISION CONSULTANT: He's making something that profoundly reflected his own deepest beliefs. He was making a movie, I think, as an act of repentance, the sign of his own repentance to God. That's one of the things that give the passion its power, is that he actually believes this stuff.

ZAHN: But Gibson's beliefs would come under attack. Charges of
anti-semitism were leveled against the film, which Gibson strongly denied.

PAUL LAUER, MOTIVE MARKETING: There was like this outbreak of fire, this incredible energy, and controversy, and the smoke went up and everybody wanted to know what was going on.

ZAHN: The result? A film which has grossed more than $600 million worldwide, and left Gibson thankful to his public.

GIBSON: Because I circumvented the system in a sense, their participation and their support was extremely necessary. I'm very aware of that. Millions of people got behind it and made it what it was.


CRAIG DETWEILER, BIOLA UNIVERSITY: Bottom line is, whatever is the newest hit, they will tend to duplicate. Hollywood will always follow success with a chance to try to duplicate that success. That's just good business.

ZAHN: As for Gibson's next movie choice, he's being tight- lipped.

GIBSON: I'm going to direct something else. I wrote it, yes.

ZAHN: It's rumored to be another religious-based film. But for now, Gibson's next passion remains a secret.

There are a number of upcoming films with spiritual overtones, including the "Chronicles of Narnia." Author C.S. Lewis's much beloved fantasy series is steeped in religion, with its hero a symbol of Jesus Christ.

Religion isn't only going mainstream on the big screen, it's also become more prevalent on the small screen as well. Fueled by the success of shows like "Joan of Arcadia." Joan Gerardi is the typical TV teenager. She lives with her parents and two brothers. She goes to high school. But that teenage boy she's talking with is God.

AMBER TAMBLYN, ACTRESS (show clip): Are you been snip snippy with me? God is snippy.

TAMBLYN: Joan sort of treats God like her friend. Sometimes she hates him. She makes fun of him. Actually makes fun of God a lot. It's a love/hate relationship but it's cool.

ZAHN: Joan is the creation of Barbara Hall, a veteran TV writer and producer, with "Moonlighting," "Northern Exposure" and "Judging Amy" on her resume. Her inspiration for the show came from a long time interest in Joan of Arc and her own preteen daughter.

BARBARA HALL, TV WRITER: Just sort of looking at her and wondering what it would look like if she had, you know, had a calling like that. If any teenager would be able to answer a calling like that.

And then it led into imagining what that would look like if God tried to talk to a teenager today, which I think would have to be more profound than voices, because you know, I always say that first my daughter would have to take her iPod off to be able to hear anything.

ZAHN: Hall was raised a strict Methodist, but studied other faiths before converting to Catholicism. Her show gives her the opportunity to raise plenty of questions she has about God.

HALL: God is a subject that almost no one is indifferent to. Everyone has an opinion on it. Everybody wants to be in the discussion. The original plan for coming up with Joan of Arcadia" was to engage people in the discussion.

MARY STEENBURGEN, ACTRESS: The show doesn't try to preach to anyone. It doesn't try to pretend to have really any of the answers, not just all the answers, but even any of the answers, but it is a show that's not afraid to ask people to ask questions.

ZAHN: While Joan sees and hears God talking with her, so does the audience.
Hall made the potentially controversial decision to make God a character on
the program.

TAMBLYN: I can't hear you.

GOD: But you can see me.

TAMBLYN: I'm ignoring you.

GOD: I'm used to that.

PINSKY: I think that was part of the initial appeal. It was so shocking in its conception that people said, whoa! What is this, exactly? Is this sacreligious maybe? But it becomes very clear as you watch the show, that it's not sacreligious. That it's really reverent in a way. The presentation is irreverrent, but the content is very reverent.

ZAHN: When creating the show, Hall established a list of rules of what her God can and can't do. She calls them her ten commandments.

HALL: Like the very first rule is God can't interfere with free will. He can't directly intervene. And you know, everyone's allows to say no to god, including Joan. And God can never identify as one religion as being right on my show.

PINSKY: You don't hear the name Jesus or Christ, for example. It's kind of generic religion with a low threshold of acceptance.

ZAHN: Hall's God also doesn't fix things. Joan's brother is in a wheelchair, and he's not getting out.

HALL: That's everyone's biggest question about God. You know, if he designed the universe and has control of it, why doesn't he take care of some things that need taken care of? And that is a very deep theological question. And it can't be answered in a television show. And it can't be answered in a book. And it's just an ongoing question that we have to grapple with.

ZAHN: With 60 million copies sold, a devoted fan base and a biblically-based storyline which features plenty of action and adventure Left Behind would seem to have the potential to follow in the steps of The Passion of the Christ and become a box office hit.

LAHAYE: Right from the beginning I saw movie. Somehow there has to be a movie. Because to me, movies are the most powerful vehicle to the human mind ever invented.

ZAHN: In fact, there have already been two Left Behind movies, released before The Passion.

PETER LALONDE, PRODUCER, "LEFT BEHIND": The Left Behind film franchise has been enormously successful and part of the whole boom of Christian filmmaking we see taking place thousand.

ZAHN: Made outside of Hollywood by Christian filmmakers the cast head lined by Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains fame. With budgets that pale in comparison to the special effects specaculars Hollywood turns out, the films took in $4 million to theaters and were essentially direct to video productions.

PINSKY: I think with the Left Behind Series, they basically dropped the ball. They tried to make the movie on the cheap. And the movie was not of the same quality as a movie, as the novels were as books.

NICOLOSI: Yeah, if you put Left Behind up in front of the industry and say this is a Christian movie, this is embarrassingly bad, schlock on every level.

ZAHN: The authors who sold the film rights to their books before their series became a smash hit have also been disappointed.

JENKINS: We sort of wish we could get the rights back and do it ourselves again. We wanted a big budget Hollywood theatrical release and we felt like we sort of got a church video.

ZAHN: In fact, co-author LaHaye filed a suit against the filmmakers alleging they had promised to make a blockbuster film and failed to deliver.

LAHAYE: Our intent was to get into the theater and expose our message to thousands of people that never go to church or don't understand Bible prophecy.

ZAHN: LaHaye lost. The suit was dismissed in favor of the filmmakers.

LALONDE: They sort of say you're a real film company when you get involved in your first lawsuit. That means you've made it somewhere.

ZAHN: The Left Behind producer also defends the quality of his movies, noting they received excellent reviews from the Christian community.

LALONDE: I think, for Christian films, I think they were a great step in the right direction. Could they have better and had bigger budgets? I think so. Had the market demonstrated that the marketplace could bear a bigger budget movie at that point in time? No. We had not had the Passion at that point in time. So, they were sort of boxed in to what they were.

ZAHN: Lalonde hopes his latest film Left Behind: "World War III" will be more like a home run. Currently in production, he says it has a bigger budget than the previous two films and comes with higher expectations.

LALONDE: I think this movie is going to knock the socks off both of them. We have upped everything to such a level. I think that absolutely each one of the films in the Left Behind Series, and we intend to make several more, will reach a wider and wider audience as we move along.

ZAHN: While it's unclear if that audience will materialize, the authors of the Left Behind Series continue to have a hit on their hands. Their latest novel debutted at No. 2 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


[I've gotten several requests in the last few days to write something about the Pope . I'm hoping to get something done, but, until I do, here's speech notes for a talk I gave about a year ago on his 1999 Letter to Artists. I really like this talk, but like most of my presentations, it was too dense and the audience was practically comatose by the end. So, to spare you all the same fate, I'm going to print it here at COTM in three different installments. Also, because it was my outline, it's s little spotty in some places. Sorry, best I can do right now.]

John Paul II: Renewing a Dialogue with Artists

By Barbara R. Nicolosi

I am not a scholar. I am not a theologian. I am not particularly well read in the Pope’s writings. There are many other wonderful supporting references about art and beauty that I am sure are out there in the Fathers and philosophers of the Church that I will not be citing here, principally because I am ignorant of them.

However, it seems to me that my very lack of erudition may be an advantage to our purposes today. The Pope notes that his purpose in writing his 1999 Letter to Artists is to “follow the path of the fruitful dialogue between the Church and artists…which, still at the threshold of the Third Millenium, offers rich promise for the future.”

I am an artist, a writer, and a happy, grateful and committed daughter of the Church. Hence, I am a member of the community with whom the Pope wishes to renew a dialogue for the good of the Church and the world. My hope is to share with you what I, as an artist, hear in the Pope’s invitation to dialogue. What’s in it for us artists? What’s in it for the Church? What’s in it for the rest of the world?

So, this will be much less of a intellectual exercise, and much more of a reflection and spiritual exercise.

I will cover the following points:
- Some Comments About the Letter to Artists and a bit of history of Statements from the Official Church to the Arts
- The Church Needs the Arts; There is no Holiness without the Arts
- The Special Vocation of the Artist
- What the Artist Needs From the Church

I. I want to open with the dedication that JPII uses in his Letter:

"To all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new
Epiphanies of beauty, so that through their creative
Work as artists, they may offer these as gifts to the world."

This is essentially an outline of a profound theology of the role of artists in the Church. The letter is essentially a concise explication of this dedication. There are many themes here each of which need to be the subject of a dissertation. “Beauty be not caused, it is.” (Emily Dickinson) There is only one Beauty, and the artist’s task is to tap into that Beauty and reveal it facet by facet for the human family… creative ‘work’ – this is a task of nature, skill, education…offer as gifts – something to delight; something to enrich; something to ease a burden;

There are riches like this to be found throughout the Letter to Artists, but still, when I and a few of my artist friends read it, we found it disappointingly incomplete.

(And frankly, even though it strains really hard to be simple, it is still far beyond the ability of ninety-nine percent of the artists I know to interpret. It isn’t that people in Hollywood are stupid. They aren’t. The industry boasts probably the most clever collection of human beings en masse on the planet. The money and power there have created a very competitive climate in which "dull tools" would not survive. The problem is one of language. The Pope’s characteristic way of circling his topic, via Scriptural and philosophical nuances is just not going to be effective with the pragmatic people I know…)

This was not a fault in the Letter as much as a over-reaching in our expectations. As a committed Christian in the arts arena, it is very clear to me that the Church needs a top down rethinking of the role of the arts in Christian life. We in the Church have far to go in our thinking and in our rhetoric before we will ever become once again the Patron of the Arts. I wanted the Letter to Artists to be a much more exhaustive treatment that would be a reference point, an apologia and a guide for those inside and out of the arts.

The Letter isn’t that. It seems to me the Church isn’t ready for that, and the Pope is aware of it. He notes in his Letter that in the modern era, the arts have become subject to a kind of humanism that is “marked by the absence of God and often by opposition to God” leading to a “separation of the world of art and the world of faith.” He sees his letter as an invitation to reopen communication.

“…the Church is especially concerned for the dialogue with art and is keen that in our own time, there be a new alliance with artists…

Overall, for the last half a century, the tone of the Church’s Messages about the Arts, Entertainment and Media industries have a distinctly “Us and Them” feel to them. They are written generally, “To You Artists” as opposed to “To Our Artists”. They tend to be wary, and carry warnings – most intent on shielding the People of God from possible harm, instead of encouraging the People of God to seek out the wonderful goods to be found in the arts. The antagonism has to go. The fear and suspicion have to cease. There is nothing pastoral about it. “Even the pagans do as much.”

Near the conclusion to his message to artists,the Pope issues the following plea to artists:

“With this Letter, I turn to you, the artists of the world, to assure you of my esteem and to help consolidate a more constructive partnership between art and the Church. Mine is an invitation to rediscover the depth of the spiritual and religious dimension which has been predicable of art in every age. It is with this in mind that I appeal to you artists of the written and spoken word, of the theatre and music, of the plastic arts and the most recent technologies in communication…”

So, this recent Letter is much more pastoral than academic. It is the first sally from the Church’s side that is meant to begin a healing process between artists and the Church. This is why the Letter is addressed to artists as opposed to being about the nature of art addressed to the rest of us. It is an admission that the renewal of culture will happen much quicker if we can win back the artistic community, while we also prepare and breed up a new generation of Christian artists.

There are principles in the Letter to Artists that should serve as the starting point for many dialogues that need to happen – not only in public forums, but in the work of theologians, in the preaching of the Church’s pastors, and especially in the hearts and minds of the People of God, and especially artists.

We will look at some of these principles…

II. Everyone is called to be an artist.

Every human person is called to make a work of art of their own life. St. Paul’s “new man” can be understood as the work of art that we undertake in collaboration with Christ.

“All men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own lives; in a certain sense they are to make of their life, a work of art, a masterpiece.” (Letter to Artists, 2)

If you had to describe your life up till now, would it be a masterpiece? Would it be a reproduction or an original? Would it be inspiring or depressing? Would it be the kind of thing you would feel safe to expose children to? Is it mostly tragedy or comedy? Is it an ascent (a story of growth?) or a descent (a story of squandering?) or is it without any climax at all?

- "Art is how we will preserve our own lives." (Joseph Pieper, Only the Lover Sings)

- Man was made with the unique ability to praise and decorate.

The idea that “In the Beginning, God created…” teaches us that there was a moment in which He was done creating. The Pope makes the point in His letter, that the process of creation wasn’t so much accomplished as passed on. When God created men, he made them the summit of creation because they had the ability to continue the process of creation. By creating men, God preserved the act of creation as an ongoing force in the universe.

“Finally, He created the human being: the noblest fruit of His design, to whom he subjected the visible world as a vast field in which human inventiveness might assert itself.” (Letter to Artists, 1)

It has been said, that in all of creation, there is only one creature that is extra. That is, the whole world would continue just fine, none of the food chains would be interrupted, the whole balance of the universe would continue, if men were completely lifted out. But we know that God is incapable of waste. So then, it behooves us to look closer, and figure out what is man’s special purpose in creation. Man’s purpose is to be present in creation as God was in the beginning: To create/decorate, and then to sit back and say, “It is good.”/praise.

No matter how advanced your dog is, he will never have the impulse to lay out his crunchy Alpo chunks in quaint patterns around his bowl. The smartest dolphin will never pause at a sunset and feel a longing to pray....or even to be a better dolphin.

But aside from the general call of every man to be as artist, there are also some among men who have been divinely touched with gifts of creativity, whose vocation is particularly to find “new epiphanies of beauty.”

III. The Artist has a special vocation in the Church

The Pope is very clear on this point in his Letter. Just as the human “village” needs preasts, and teachers, and workers, and politicians, so, too artists have an irreplaceable role in human society. It is a prophetic role.

We need to hear this right now in the Church. “Artist” has perhaps never had a lower connotation among the People of God than it does now. The Gospel speaks of the pariahs of its day for religious people, as “prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners.” Now we could say, “painters and actors and sinners.” We could almost paraphrase the Gospel: “Now, a woman came in who had performed in many off Broadway shows. And the religious leaders thought to themselves, ‘Surely, if this man were holy, he would know what kind of woman it is that touches him.’ Or again, “Master, we caught this man in the act of producing a television show. Latin Mass magazine says such men should be stoned. What do you say?”

There are two ways that most of the People of God regard art these days: as ugly/offensive, or as extra/optional. Many Christians regard “great art” as a thing of the past.

It seems to me that for many godly people, anything that is a part of popular culture is ipso facto evil. Like, if it was so great, then the masses should not be able to appreciate it. But some things are popular because they are great, like soap or the wheel.

Nowadays for godly people, art is most often something to be grimaced at, avoided and contended with. It is something to be wary of, and something from which we shelter our children. (“Would you allow your little child to gaze upon the David? Or the walls of the Cathedral of Orvieto? Or the nudity of the Sistine Chapel?”) It is certainly secondary to the studies of the catechism for children. Not even secondary. It is not generally included in our training of young people at all.

This isn’t the mind of the Church. Art isn’t something that you study after you have studied other things. Art is a means to study all those other things.

Artists perform a kind of priesthood, creating sacraments. Sacraments are visible signs that point to other hidden realities. Art is like that.

[The Pope quotes from the theologian Fr. Dominique Chenu] “…the work of the historian of theology would be incomplete if he failed to give due attention to works of art both literary and figurative, which are in their own way not only aesthetic representations (that is decorations of our lives), but genuine sources of theology.” (Letter to Artists, 11)

So artists are a kind of theologian.

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

“The Church has always appealed to their [artists] creative powers in interpreting the Gospel message and discerning its precise application in the life of the Christian community.” (Letter to Artists, 13)

[ be continued...]

[BARB Notes - A friend of mine happens to be in Rome in these days. She is sending us some lovely reports of the action on the ground. Here's one of her messages...]

Hello from Rome, in this, indeed, historical moment!

Yesterday was a 12 hour wait in a line winding down the Via della Consolazione, across the Tevere, down Via Vittorio Emmanuale, and on and on....all was calm, with a spirit of reciprocal concern and solidarity.

A small gesture, but significant - a teen's brand new parka lost and carefully tied to an umbrella held high in the hopes that the young owner could find it again; and as the early morning hours drew near, a "race" in who could be first to offer a square of ground space to the older pilgrims and to the very young - small "acts of love" along the way, that describe the climate here. Often without words to communicate (one is surrounded by the lively chatter of 100's of languages), gestures make all the difference: they are ones of kindness, of people striving, in many cases, to be the first to love. We feel, in a certain sense, "at home", "with family" - a beautiful family, where differences of country, race, religion, age or culture only accennuate the beauty of its universality. The fatigued endured of 12 - 15 hours standing, dissipates....

Then, the entrance into St Peter's Square: illuminated as the "Eternal Day" unfolding in the midst of a very dark night. It's spectacular and only the constant flow of people surrounding you, gives you courage to move on. At once we are all together, rooted firmly in present, with an unexpressable desire not to be moved, spiritually, from this immersion into a world of light.

And then we entered through that ancient door - everything was suddenly calm and silent. We continued our walk forward, conscious of the sacredness of the moment. We passed close to JPII and, suddenly, it was harder than ever not to imagine him lifting his arm to us, with that smile, that twinkle in eyes, encompassing us in one final blessing. However it seemed to us to be his silence, after leaving us an enormous volume of words and images, that cried out hope in the unity of the human family!

His immobility in death speaks more strongly than ever to his openness to suffering and to the pain of others. Reflecting on this,I am reminded of his words following the attempt on his life and after repeated surgeries. He entitled his letter "Salvifici doloris" (1984) - (my own rough translation)

"How can we speak of a suffering that saves us? Is not suffering an obstacle to happiness and a motive for abbandoning God? Without a doubt there exists tribulations, from a human point of view, that seem to be deprived of any meaning. In reality, if Jesus, the Word incarnate, proclamed: "Blessed are the afflicted", it is because there exists a higher point of view, that of God, who calls everyone to life and, although through suffering and death, to His Kingdom of love and peace. Happy is the person who can shine forth the light of God while immersed in the poverty of a life that has suffered and has been diminished!"...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005



04/04/05 - Hollywood, CA: ACT ONE INC., a nonprofit organization founded to train people of faith for careers in mainstream film and television, announced today that it has hired screenwriter and author Chris Riley as the new Director of its prestigious screenwriting program.

An Act One faculty member since the program’s inception, Riley has spent over 20 years in the movie industry as a screenwriter and formatting guru. "Chris has been at the center of the best programs Act One has created," said Act One Executive Director, Barbara Nicolosi. "He embodies everything we want our students to be as professionals in Hollywood."

With an all-volunteer faculty that includes David McFadzean (Home Improvement, What Women Want), John Tinker (St. Elsewhere, The Practice), Nancy Miller (CSI: Miami), and Dean Batali (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, That 70s Show), Act One's screenwriting program emphasizes the writer’s responsibility to the audience and the need for projects that will improve our lives and our culture.

"Teaching for Act One has been a highlight of my career," said Riley."I'm thrilled for the opportunity to provide leadership for a program that is making such a meaningful contribution to Hollywood and Hollywood's vast audience." Among Riley's first tasks will be organizing the upcoming Act One: Writing for Hollywood summer program, which is accepting applications through April 8, and the Act One Screenwriting Weekends, a series of workshops that will tour the country later this year.

Before coming to Act One, Riley ran Warner Bros.’ acclaimed script processing department and acted as the studio’s script formatting expert, applying industry standard formatting rules to thousands of film and television scripts from every studio in Hollywood, from Murphy Brown and ER to Batman, Unforgiven and As Good As It Gets. Riley is author of the new book The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style from Michael Wiese Productions.

With his wife and screenwriting partner Kathy, Chris wrote 25 to Life, a dramatic thriller for Touchstone Pictures, The Other White House, a political thriller for Sean Connery's Fountainbridge Films, and an adaptation of the book Actual Innocence for Mandalay Television Pictures. Most recently, they completed the action-romance Aces for producer Robert Cort and Paramount Pictures, and the thriller Crawlspace for indie director Helmut Schleppi. Their first film, After the Truth, a multiple-award-winning German-language courtroom thriller, sparked international controversy in 1999 when it was released in Germany. The film earned its star Goetz George a Best Actor nomination for the prestigious European Film Award for his portrayal of Josef Mengele.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Feels really weird tonight. A little scary - which doesn't make sense to me, because I wasn't one of those who thought John Paul II was "The Great." I thought he was very, very loving and holy, and very devoted to Jesus and Mary, but it's hard to imagine the Church being in a worse state than it is in these days. The pundits are calling him "the People's Pope." I think he was clearly a better Pope for/of the world's people than he was of the Catholic Church's people.

More about that in a couple weeks or so. Right now, it is appropriate to thank God for his example of faith. He certainly had a large and pastoral heart, and I feel a weird combination of loss and also certainty that there must be eternity because of souls like him. He doesn't feel "ended but changed."

I met him when he was in the States once. It was in Miami. I was a novice, then, and they had a lottery for seats in a special meeting he was going to hold with religious of the U.S. I, who managed to get through 11 years of Catholic school without once winning anything in a school fundraiser, managed to get what passed for a winning Papal meeting ticket. I got a seat on the right side of the central aisle.

The Pope came up our side and shook the hands of the mostly aging religious women lined up there. When he got to me, he paused a second longer. I must have made a different picture, being 23 and in a white veil. And then there was the fact that I was crying. He put his hands on my head, and looking right into my eyes, he said a word of blessing.

It was one of those moments.