Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Writers Do Instead of Writing

I am back in L.A. supposed to be working on writing projects today. Which is, of course, why I am taking Internet quizzes. This one was fun and pretty true. I was born in NJ and learned to talk there. Moved to RI when I was five, too late to acquire the Go-ad in heaven, wicket biz-ah way of talkin' that my de-ah sistahs have.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The South
The West
The Inland North
The Northeast
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Act One in the News

Here's a nice piece about Act One that just ran in the Houston Chronicle this past weekend. I had a speech at St. Thomas University there, and the university kindly set up this interview. Here's my favorite snip...

"The goal of Christians in the arts is not to make stuff that is only for Christians," Nicolosi said. "The role of Christians in a secular world like Hollywood is to say there is beauty, and people long for it. There is truth. There is goodness."

She's is critical of films like this summer's church-produced Facing the Giants that extol acceptance of Christ as the solution to life's problems.

[NOTE FROM BARB: Something must have gotten lost here in my rambling in the interview. Just to be clear, Jesus IS the answer to life's problems. And this answer is not that we have no problems, but that loving Him means suffering without despair in a way that is saving for the world...I'd so much rather people get furious with me for what I did mean that for what I didn't.]

She wants writers to produce scripts like A Man for All Seasons, Ghandi, Chariots of Fire or Schindler's List. "Those kinds of films will be part of the dialogue for the ... human family, about things that are lasting, about human meaning," she said.

After the blockbuster success of The Passion of the Christ, Act One began receiving calls from studios looking for writers and executives, Nicolosi said. But she warns that Hollywood still does not understand the religious market or respect traditional morality or ethics.

"Let's face it, no one is writing a To Kill a Mockingbird anymore. That would require a letting go of the cynicism that has Hollywood in its grip. For Hollywood, there can be no heroes." But Nicolosi is also critical of the Christian community for supporting poorly made films simply because they are "Christian."

The religious community should accept that great dramas often involve evil and violence, she said. "We have to be able to talk about sin, and Christians should be comfortable with that," she said. "We have to have sin in our drama, but it doesn't have to be an occasion of sin for our audience."

The Passion of the Christ did more than change Hollywood's support for faith-themed projects; it also showed Christians the power of films "to be the means of doing good in the world," she said.

"The church set the standards for beautiful art, for music, for architecture back in the Middle Ages," Nicolosi said. "The church has to wake up and get back to excellence. I think it will happen."

Thanks to the journalist, Richard Vara, for being so gracious and fair. Special thanks to the heroic Bill Cork of the Archdiocese of Houston for driving me around all that day, and for sitting through the long interview (and the tortuous photo session... Yes, that photo was the result of about forty minutes of painstaking effort by the Chronicle's staff photographer. Rats.).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Please beam me up, Jesus.

This just in courtesy of The Seattle Times:

The Sundance Film Festival announced Wednesday that Seattle filmmaker Robinson Devor's documentary "Zoo" has been accepted into the 2007 festival's documentary competition. The film examines the widely reported case of an Enumclaw man who died in 2005 after having sex with a horse.

I don't suppose anybody has any idea about the appropriate vehicle to protest this? Is there a way someone can say to the overlords at Sundance that bestiality is not pushing the envelope of artistic expression, but is just pushing human society into the crude, coarse hell of anti-civilization?

You feel that hard, pit in your stomach? That's your better instincts telling you that in a couple years, bestiality will be old hat on the screen.

"And the days will come when people will say to the mountains, 'Cover us!'"


I went to see Casino Royale last night. Profoundly disturbing film. Much of the movie is really the stuff of a top action film. But I think it may have singled-handedly ruined one of my favorite screen characters for me. Rah.

The people who are saying that the film is the best Bond movie ever are mistaken. It isn't really a Bond film, is it? The whole tone of the movie is different. Whereas the Bond films are famously tongue in cheek, this film has absolutely no sense of irony or absurdity. Where Bond films are generally thrilling with the creativity of the gadgets in action, this film is tense with the principle gadget being the brutalized body of the main character himself. Where you usually walk out of a Bond film feeling a rush, this film left me very disturbed...in a violated kind of "I never wanted to see stuff like that kind of way."

Just so we know what we are talking about, I am referring to the fact that I never wanted to see my beloved Bond, James Bond, stripped naked and bound in a cane chair to then have his scrotum viciously beat on while he screams in agony. Nope, never wanted to see that.

(Yeah, maybe that counts as giving away a spoiler. But I'm feeling really mad that somebody took my Bond away this morning. But really, I look at it as more of a warning to those who don't like to get violated than giving away a plot point. I felt completely disgusted that none of the Christian critics had cued me in that a truly perverted, vile scene was coming. What the hell is wrong with us in the Church these day?! We've gotten so avant garde that we are afraid to send out a loud, resounding "BLECK!" when we get slimed by the culture? And watching that scene was getting slimed, my friends. The fact that you didn't register it as such just means your innocence has been lost.)

Now, it may be that the whole problem was with the idea of the James Bond franchise in the first place. Here is a character that is the embodiment of the Sexual Revolution. eh? He's free (no troubling conscience), he's fabulous (terribly clever, cool cars, limitless money, exotic places, never gets caught by a stray bullet) and he's getting tons of sex with only gorgeous women (no AIDS, vd or pregnancy in this universe). And that's all a lie, isn't it?

So, by this reasoning, Casino Royale is one more deconstruction of the web of boomer lies....? Maybe. The film feels much more cynical than enlightening. It seems to me to be one more shredding of a beloved hero, for no good reason except to take something people love and spit in their eye.

See, the thing is, the James Bond franchise was formerly fun because the films were always winking at the lies of the popular culture, and the Sexual Revolution in particular. We all knew that his life was the stuff of fantasy. We weren't looking for realism in Bond andy more than we were in Superman (before we saw his 2006 reincarnation stuck in an adolescent cruch that had him knock up chick and then become a deadbeat dad). Did anybody really need Casino Royale to shatter their faith in Octopussy cliques and albino assassins?

Stay tuned, next week we are going to see a film in which we learn that not only didn't the prince marry Cinderella, but rather, the corporate climate of corruption which is the DARK REALITY beneath the trappings of monarchy, refused the poor little fool health insurance to treat the ACTUALLY REAL TB that she got while ingesting fumes from trying to make herself slippers out of broken shards of her REAL filthy basement HUD-assisted low income housing, because the REAL shoes that she should have gotten from a VERIFIABLE government contractor were IN FACT made of cheap materials in a third world sweat shop and fell apart. All that stuff about a fairy god-mother and glorious pumpkin carriage were the result of crystal meth haze which her step-mother got her addicted to so she could profit off the kid as a sex-slave.

Aren't you glad you know the whole story now? Buck up you idealistic fools! Movies are hard, then you die.

Oh yes, another disturbing note... When I was in film school, my radical feminist lesbian professors were quite adament that we all leave Northwestern with a keen sense of what they called "the male gaze" in cinema. The "Male Gaze" is a fundamentally skewed-with-patriarchy way of seeing the world and especially women that, my professors contended, was predicable of pretty much all of classic Hollywood cinema. They used to endlessly dissect camera angles and lighting in shots to reveal cues of the male desire to dominate and dehumanize women. A lot of times I thought my professors were nuts and paranoid. But every now and then they had a point.

Well, I gotta say, there is something icky in Casino Royale that feels very much like what we could call "the homosexual gaze." The women in the film, first of all, spend much of the film very ioconically made up - shall we say, like Liza Minelli or a Marilyn impersonator? Then, the women all end up as victims of sick and/or violent acts. All three are tortured or threatened with torture. Can we say the disdain of women is part of the homosexual "culture," even unofficially? (Cause I have seen it first hand, and I'm not in a mood to deny my own experience today.) Anyway, I don't recall women being tortured as part of the traditional Bond canon.

Then, there are the many loving and languid shots of the - admittedly picturesque - torso of the star, Mr. Craig. A more notable one of these was Bond coming out of the water - and the camera almost cuts off his head to focus on the middle of his body. I don't remember the same kinds of voyeuristic shots holding on the mid-section of Sean Connery.

Finally, there is the afore-mentioned, extended, gratuitous, sado-masochistic torture scene in which a naked and slimey Bond, James Bond, is first complimented on his fine body by the lascivious male villain, and then, well, whipped on his privates. In between screaming in pain, Bond cries out for more evidencing a sick enjoyment of the sexual torture. It is a kind of moment that deserves to be dissected by film scholars for evidence of the "gay gaze." (Oh yeah, and as I learned in film school, it deosn't matter if the filmmakers are gay here. This stuff is systemic.)

But maybe all that feminist film theory stuff in film school just has me seeing goblins everywhere!

If you like your action tense, brutal and perverse, go see Casino Royale. I certainly wouldn't let my kids go.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

You Can Quote Me

John Paul II on The Passion of the Christ: "It is as it was."

Barb N. on The Nativity: "It is what it is."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Strangely More Inept Than Fiction

My sisters and I ran out to see the latest movie with Emma Thompson in it, Stranger Than Fiction, because we have been huges fans of hers since Dead Again.

Well, the picture fails terribly in many areas - casting, direction, production design, and, of course, writing, and so it would be lamentably forgettable, except for one thing. The film repeats over and over a shocking technical blunder that we just don't get to see in Hollywood films these days. Long after we stopped trying to follow the film's mess of a story, my sister and I were waiting expectantly for the sound boom to peek-a-boo into every scene.

I've scanned both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and nobody seems to be commenting on what is to me an astounding technical gaff...pun intended. I can't figure out how this could have happened in modern technically obsessed Hollywood. And then, I can't figure out why the critics are covering for this kind of inexcusable screw-up.

It starts early in the film and goes all the way to the end. My sister noticed it before me,

"Hey, what's that black thing bouncing on the ceiling."

"Humph. It's the boom."

"The what?"

"The boom...Maybe it's going to be a plot point. You know, maybe the whole story of his life is actually being made into a fiction movie."

A scene or so later, there it was again. A dark fuzzy ellipse bouncing down between the two actors.

"There it is again."

"Yeah. What a mess. Is it possible that nobody was watching dailies of this project?"

"No. No. It HAS to be on purpose."

"Yah think? Why not? This film is so beyond credibility that the idea that the whole thing might be a film in a film is intriguing."

A few scenes later it was back. Bobbing in and out. And then again a scene later."

"I know what it is. Will Farrell is really tall. Maybe the boom operator is having a hard time adjusting to the fact that he is towering over Dustin Hoffman."

"No, no, no. I'm telling you it is on purpose. They couldn't have that many screw ups in the film."

But then, there was the boom again, hovering over a scene with just Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. I think the boom must have intruded into the screen about fifty times during the film. How weird is that? Does this mean that the director was not looking into the camera enough? Or that the cinematographer was asleep? Or that the producers didn't have time for the dailies? (Help me out here, Jan.) Whatever it is, Stranger Than Fiction ends up being truly much stranger than any other movie I have seen for a while. The one thing Hollywood can usually boast about is technical craft.

Putting a good spin on it, watching for the boom to peek into the scene was really the only suspense in this terrible film. Pass. A big booming one.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Prayer of Gratitude for Delle Chatman

My beloved friend, writing mentor and Act One faculty member Delle Chatman died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. She fought recurrent ovarian cancer
for just over four years, and each year she rebounded and spent precious
time teaching at the opening retreats of our Writing Program. She
joined us as recently as this July to teach at the 2006 Summer Writing
Program retreat in Malibu.

I first met Delle at Northwestern University where she headed up the screenwriting department. I remember thinking on the first day of class with her, "This lady has got to be a Christian." She stood out from the bitter, intolerant nostalgic Marxists on the film department faculty there because of her grace and passion for beauty, and her genuine respect for each student.

Delle was an amazing person and absolutely defied any easy categorization. She was always kind and full of hope and optimism. I loved her and it makes me sad to think that I will have to wait who knows how long to see her again. Please say a prayer for Delle today, and her daughter and friends and family.

Below are excerpts from a recent email she wrote.


The time has come for me to begin my journey to God through the sacred
corridor of hospice.

The cancer has gotten so far ahead of us that the side effects from the
drugs we're using to overtake it have themselves become debilitating.
Rather than allow further treatment to beat me down, I want to invest my
remaining strength and time in Ramona, God, friends, and getting my
house in order so that my loved ones are not left with a monumental
mound of Delle-dom through which they must sort and sift. To complicate
matters more, because Medicaid has paid for two years of my medical
treatment, if things are left just so, they will come back after my
death and take much of what I hope to leave to the Remarkable Ramona.
This isn't news to any of you who have laid a loved one to rest. One of
my mantras is, "I will not leave a mess!" ...

So many have prayed for so long that I would be delivered from this
horrific disease. Thank you. Thank you for every last prayer and
please do not feel that those prayers have been in vain. I certainly do
not. November 5 is my ***fourth*** "cancer-versary" and for a gal with
Stage IV Ovarian, this has been an extraordinarily long haul. Not only
that. These have been wondrous years for me and Ramona and for me and
the Lord. He's still working with me, even now.

My other mantra is "I'm Yours, Lord. All yours!"

I catch glimpses of Him from time to time, eyes full of compassion and
mercy. He is beautiful to behold.

Pray that my faith holds, that my family's faith holds . . . and that as
the dust settles all will be well. ...

It has been a privilege to share this journey with each of you.



P.S. Remember, brothers and sisters, either we believe in eternal life
or we don't.

Flags of the Angst Ridden, Ridiculous (Will They Ever Go Away?) Baby-Boomer's Fathers

Gonna take a two second time out from Jane Austen and Santa Barbara polo writing to deride and dismiss Clint Eastwood's latest directoral over-hyped disappointment, Flags of Our Fathers.

A friend of mine had warned me aout the movie in advance by saying, "I wanted to walk out at least twice it made me so angry." Myself, I didn't get as angry, because I have taken to watching the relentless and pathetic ravings of grayhaired baby-boomers with kind of a sick fascination these last few years. I sit there watching them with a cruel grin, the way one watches lobsters hissing while they go headfirst into a pot of boiling water. "You're going down, boys and girls. Your power is gone. And you are the only ones who don't know it. Pass the melted butter."

Anyway, much more egregiously than in Saving Private Ryan, Flags of our Fathers seems to be trying to make the case that nobody who fights in a war is a hero. They just end up there on battlefields and then their bodies get chopped up by the whims of meglomanical politicians and generals. And they die confused and angry and wondering what the hell we are all here for anyway?

This kind of tedious angst absolutely fits from a generation that decided to rebel against everything in their youth, and now have nothing in which to believe. But the thing that makes it my business, is that it absolutely undercuts any fun I might have at the movies, watching a story where the filmmaker has no coherent point of view!

Movies are supposed to be better than the real. That is, they are supposed to offer some kind of coherent, intelligible meaning. The audience is watching to try to put together and then either assent to or reject whatever the filmmaker is communicating. If the filmmaker is basically communicating, "Heros? Whatever. What does anything matter anyway?" then the viewing experience will be alternately disquieting and then confusing and finally irritating to the audience.

So, nobody in the theater clapped at the end of Flags of Our Fathers ...unless you count the nods we got to my sister's exhalation, "Thank God that's over" as being a kind of accolade.

Maybe I should get more specific here....

The movie makes the classic story mistake of making much ado about nothing and missing something much bigger in the process.

So, the basic storyline is, "Nevermind those 5,000 guys who died fighting the Japanese on Iwo Jima. The BIG story is how there were two photographs taken of these guys raising the flag!!!! God, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?! They had TWO flag-raisings on Iwo Jima!!!!! IT'S STUNNINGLY MIND-BLOWING!!!!!! TWO FLAG PICTURES!!! QUICK! SOMEBODY CALL CLINT EASTWOOD!!!!!"

I remember once a student of mine coming to me with a pitch for a movie. The idea was basically flawed in the same way as Flags of our Fathers. The pitch was all about the story of the first "First Man" of the United States. That is, the first guy married to the first female president. So, the movie story kept talking about the woes of the first first man trying to pick out china and then decorating the White House and trying to get the kids off to school all while the first lady president is dealing with avoiding WWIII.

See the problem? The big story is THE FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT! The first, "First man" is the stuff of a comic sub-plot on the side.

This was the problem with the original West Wing concept, btw. In exactly one week, Sorkin and company figured out that the West Wing was only interesting because of its proximity to the Oval Office, and that the Presidency needed to be what the show was really about.

Okay, so, the first flaw of Flags is, as my sister said to me halfway through the movie and then many times thereafter throughout, and in the car going home, "I really didn't care about the drunk Indian guy. I wanted to be back on that beach with the Marines." Yup.

I can only surmise that the reason the movie, and the book on which it is based, spend so much time on non-essentials in this story, is because they think that politicians conniving to raise money for war bonds is innately more compelling than watching 5,000 Marines die.

For the Watergate generation, however, unmasking dirty politicians is always what it is about. "See, if we can unmask corruption in the establishment, maybe nobody will see the rot and inconsistency and meaninglessness of our own disastrous sexual revolution racked lives. If we can say that "The Greatest Generation" wasn't really that great, maybe we can drown out the voices of our kids who hate us for our selfishness? If we can say that there are no heros, even on a place like Iwo Jima, then maybe we can rid ourselves of the uneasiness we feel for our own pampered narcissitic lives?"

The look of Flags is great. There are some beautiful tableaus of the starkness and horror of war. Some of the bloody effects were badly executed and border on slasher-cheesy, but the main look of the battle scenes was quite effective. We just get far too little of it.

I went to the movie expecting to see fleshed out some of the myriad heroic stories of which I have read so much in my weird obsession with battlefield heroics. There were none of the Iwo Jima stories here. Just an obsession with a minor factoid that should have been a two minute scene at best in the larger story.

As with every Eastwood film, the directing of the actors here is horrific. The characters are all made to be one dimensional stereotypes - remember the "bad bully guys" in the gym and the redneck Christian trailer dwellers in Million Dollar Baby? Well, here we have "crooked corporate lobbyist guy", "arrogant clueless senator guy", "angry brutish general guys" and lots of "clueless farmboy soldier guys." And many more. They could make a dictionary of stereotypical characters from Clint's filmography. Really, really a bad actor's director.

Flags should be buried with a jubilant jazz-styled riff of TAPS. Don't hit this beach. Pass, Marines.

Jan's New Potter Book!

Friend, colleague and fellow blogger Jan "The Maven" Batchler has just got a book out in time for the Christmas season. It is the ultimate rush gift for anybody who loves Harry Potter. Jan has predicted with astute precision where J.K. Rowling should and even must go in the last book of the series to tie up all the loose ends and threads of her earlier work.

I am not really one of the race of Potter (although I like the movies), but even I have been fascinated to read Jan's recollections, deductions and insights. It's a fun read. Check it out!


Dear friends--


This is a great read for any Harry Potter fans -- and a great gift! It will soon be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com -- but you can get it at a substantial discount NOW, by clicking "What Will Harry Do? The Unofficial Guide to Payoffs and Possibilities in Book 7 by Janet Scott Batchler" (or paste this URL into your browser: http://www.lulu.com/content/318567).

Here's a brief description, and some of the advance praise for the book:

WHAT WILL HARRY DO? ..... Will Harry return to Hogwarts? Is Draco a werewolf? What did happen at Godric's Hollow? What is the sixth Horcrux? Is Snape truly evil? Truly good? Or just out for himself? Who will live?... Who will die? You may think you have to wait for HP Book 7 to answer these questions. But the clues... the set-ups for them have already been cleverly established in Books 1 through 6, and are just waiting for you to put the pieces together. WHAT WILL HARRY DO? is the unofficial guide that will help you unlock the puzzles of the all-encompassing question: What Happens Next?


"Not only is WHAT WILL HARRY DO? must reading as far as Book 7 speculation goes, it's a long-lasting representation of the best in Harry Potter thinking..." - Travis Prinzi, SwordOfGryffindor.com

"...I was hooked. Janet's book will definitely tide us over until the publication of Book 7." - LaShawn Barber, FantasyFictionforChristians.com

"...Her command of canon is magisterial and her 'set-up and payoff' approach to speculation is novel and engaging... You will be challenged to reconsider what you thought you knew for sure." - John Granger, author of "Looking for God in Harry Potter" and "Unlocking Harry Potter"

Don't forget to buy your copy today!!! And SPREAD THE WORD -- feel free to forward this e-mail to any interested party or website you like! Thanks!

It's The Most Wonderful Concerts of the Year

Here follows info about the annual Christmas concerts performed by the Daughters of St. Paul choir. Lovely music - perfect pitch, perfect timing, perfect harmony - the nuns do it right. It's worth a trip to the tri-state area just to hear them.





Thursday, November 30, 6pm
Benefit Concert/Dinner for the Daughters of St. Paul, Hilton Garden Inn
1110 South Ave @ Lois Lane
Call for ticket reservations: 718-477-2100 ex 244

Saturday, December 2, 1pm
St. Malachy's Church (The Actor's Chapel)
239 W 49th St. @ Broadway
free will offering, call for info: 212-754-1110

Sunday, December 3, 3pm
St. Paul's Church, 214 Nassau St.
free will offering, call for info: 732-572-1200

Wednesday, December 6, 7pm
Bala Golf Club, 2200 Belmont Ave.
Call for ticket reservations: 215-676-9494

Saturday, December 9, 7pm
Sunday, December 10, 3pm
Daughters of St. Paul Convent
50 St. Paul's Ave., Jamaica Plain
free will offering, call for info: 617-522-8911

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

See Barb in Houston, #2

I will be giving another talk open to the public in Houston, next Thursday night, the 16th Thursday at 7:30pm at University of St. Thomas, Cullen Hall, sponsored by UST Campus Ministry Office and Department of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

(Contact at UST is Sr. Maura Behrenfeld, FSE, Director of Campus Ministry, 713-525-3589 for more information.)

Special thanks to Bill Cork for making all this "See Barb in Houston" stuff happen!

See Barb in Houston, #1

I will be giving a talk in Houston Thursday, November 16th
at noon at Texas A&M University, Galveston, sponsored by Catholic Student Organization.

We're not sure yet of the exact location. I will post it as soon as I know.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Facing Facing the Giants

Brace yourselves. I am long overdue for a rant...

I am just about on my way out of town for a few months to sequester myself with nothing but polo and Jane Austen. This script is due in February and is the primary reason why I have not been blogging lately. How can I authoritatively whine to my producer that I can't get the script done, if he can just log on and see me procrastinating for free on this blog? It's a dilemma.

One of the things I look forward to escaping for a few months is the debate that has been simmering among Hollywood Christians because of the whole "FOX FAITH to Greenlight 12 Cheapie Christian Movies in 2007!" headlines, married to the controversy surrounding the weird little film made by a Church in Georgia, Facing the Giants.

A while back when I screened the film, I wrote a brief post that it should never have gotten a PG rating, and also that clearly, the folks who made the film, had every right to make it. I assumed the project was so bad as entertainment that it would just kind of disappear, and there was no reason to get involved smearing something that bad. It would be like jeering at a junior high talent show. What's the point?

That was before the FOX Faith announcement and the small success of Facing the Giants at the box office, which has all of us Able Christians (as in Cain and Able) in Hollywood scared to death that Facing the Giants will be the prototype of the movies that all the new divisions geared to "creating product for Christians" will be seeking out and producing.

I have taken to calling "Able Christians", those who are committed to giving God beautiful, first fruits kind of work. We talk about excellence alot and "the demands of beauty*"(JPII, Letter to Artists) and professionalism and the rigors of the craft. We talk about being missionaries to Planet Hollywood, and how God is much more interested in the people making movies than in the movies being made. We are always wrestling with making projects true AND commercial, beautiful and mainstream. Not because we want the money of studio success, but because we believe that the Gospel needs to be preached to those who haven't heard it, to those who might never wander into a church.

In contrast to this movement of Christian artists, are the ones who are yearning to replicate the Christian Contemporary Music model in Hollywood with a Christian Contemporary Cinema. The goal of these folks seems to be to create fantasy movies for Christians, made by Christians, and paid for by Christians.

Facing the Giants from any serious perspective is a fantasy film. Its message is very dangerous for Christians, and scandalous for pagans. Adult Evangelical Christians watching Facing the Giants is like sex addicts watching the Spice Channel. (Nope. Not going to take it back.)

We are going to leave alone the fact that the film is badly acted, terribly written, completely lacking in imagery, and directed and shot without any style or evident skill. Let's skip all that and just talkabout the content problem.

The film tells the story of a poverty-stricken, generally disdained, losing football coach who drives a broken down truck and goes home at night to a devastatedly infertile wife. Incited by no particular plot point, the coach reads the Bible one day and then kneels down in a field (Why the hell is it always a field? Is that like in Zecharaiah somewhere?) and gives his life to Jesus. In short order after he utters the Evangelical commitment formula aloud, he wins back the esteem of his fellow townspeople, he turns around his terrible team so that they win the championship, somebody gives him a brand new shiny red truck, AND his infertile wife becomes pregnant!

WOW! Give me some of THAT Jesus-stuff!

Absolute fantasy stuff. The kind of thing that makes Christians puff out their chests proud to be on the winning team! This film fumbles deep, deep in the prosperity Gospel end zone. It is icky to tell people that they should be Christian because of the career and health benefits. We have the problem on the team of that embarrassingly unsuccessful crucified coach of ours.

Anyway, everybody who has been laboring as a believer in Hollywood is talking about this film, because it is clearly what Hollywood thinks "the Audience of the Passion" wants.

At a dinner the other night, one of my fellow Able Christians looked at me sadly and said, "Is there a way we all can write a better Facing the Giants for the industry?" He was sad because he knows the answer. NO! We can't write a better version of Facing the Giants because that movie was designed to be easy. It was designed to not challenge the audience, but rather make the audience (of Evangelical Christians) feel good about being on the winning team. We can't make a better version of this film because easy is a lie. Human society is tinkering on the precipice of disaster today. "Easy" isn't going to be the fix.

Another friend told me a couple days ago that he knows the fellows who made the film, and that their philosophy (apologies to philosophers everywhere...) of filmmaking is that entertainment should be idealistic and not mirror the world as it is, but as it should be.



Entertainment should not be real. To be healing it needs to be better than real. But it needs to be AT LEAST as good as the real. The "better than realness" that makes entertainment healing is in its beauty - its, wholeness, harmony and radiance - elements which are not found stumbling along in the real world of property taxes and upset stomachs and mold on the ceiling.

The problem with too much contemporary cinema is that it seeks to imitate the real in a way that doesn't require or deliver and insight.

The problem with Facing the Giants is that is seems to ignore the real and deliver a lie. It is not idealistic but silly.

Strong words. Probably some of the bravest I have ever written. (Don't believe me? Just keep checking the comments boxes.) Yes, but I feel on firm ground here. As Flannery O'Connor said, "Sentimentality for Christians is INEXCUSABLE." And Facing the Giants is pure, easy, emotional sentimentality.

So, am I saying that the FOX Faith thing will be bad for the whole God in Hollywood thing? I don't know yet. I do know that greenlighting 12 movies for what one regular studio picture usually costs says that FOX believes that believers can be had on the cheap. And they are probably right. Pathetic and sad.

Making a movie that is beautiful is damn hard. Damn hard. Expecting to be able to produce a film with no experience or training is arrogant and as absurd as someone thinking they could just build a building with no traiing or experience in architecture.

Facing the Giants won't save anyone. It needs to be saved itself. Let's pray that it doesn't become the template.

Heads Up for Midnight Clear

Here is a preview of a film by one of our bright young talented directors in Hollywood who happens to be Christian. Dallas Jenkins is a thoughtful committed Christianand director who is one of the guys I am expecting to lay down the foundation of the renaissance in cinema made from a Christian world-view.

There are a lot of Christians out here who have elected to disengage from the problem of being intentional as a Christian making films. Exhausted or intellectually and academically ill-equipped to figure out a philosophical underpinning for their work, we hear Hollywood Christians living the unexamined life in Hollywood say things like, "Hey, I am a Christian. Anything I make will refelct that."

No. Way too easy. A renaissance in Christian filmmaking is not going to happen by accident. It's too hard. It certainly isn't going to spring from the creative loins of believing filmmakers who routinely subvert their intended good messages by co-opting cinematic and storytelling conventions that are problematic or even perverse.

Anyway, Dallas isn't living the unexamined life here. He is an artist and a believer who works with pagans and believers with that missionary mindset that we Act Oners are always harping on. No Christian ghetto-dweller here.

My sense is that Dallas' films won't be the stuff that will be intelligible or desirable to FOX Faith and Sony Inspirational and Lionsgate "Whatever they are calling their holy stuff division" and Newline "Whatever they are calling their holy stuff division". At least not this week. I think Dallas' style of films is more what the future for Christians in Hollywood will look like. More difficult. More ambiguous. More stylistic. Definitely less Pollyanna and more Flannery O'Connor.

So, check out the preview to his current project "Midnight Clear" and be hipper than all your Christian cinema geek friends!

Click here

Monday, October 23, 2006

Prestige Doesn't Pay Off

I think The Prestige was a disappointment. I'm qualifying myself here on the off-chance that the film might actually be brilliant, and I just missed it. But I don't think so.

I think it ended up wanting to be much more clever than it really was.

Which is unfortunate, because it had a very nice message about not letting revenge and obsession become, well, vengeful obsessions.

But they had set up so long the idea of "THE PRESTIGE!" that they kind of had to have a big whammy of a finish. But I don't think they really did. Or, at least, I sat there in the last shot not sure of what just happened, and frustrated by Michael Caine's strong Cockney accent that garbled the last word of the film which might have been key.

But, I guess I'll never know.

The film's other main twist - I mean the one that comes before the last frame twist that might not really be a twist not sure I'll ever know - is really kind of pathetic as it is broadcast all throughout the film.

And were they asking us to believe that science can really do what they seem to say it can in the film? I didn't get that either.

The film has a couple of vioolent moments. It's really not scary. Teenagers can see it without harm. As long as they don't become overly frustrated by movies that are too clever by half.

Sometimes too clever is really just that. Not much fun.

If anybody can explain the ending to me here, I would be obliged.

See Barb in Houston?

I have to be in Houston for a non-public speech on November 15th, but I was hoping I could set up another speech or informal thing at which I could sell books while I am in the area, probably on the 16th.

Anybody want to help? Or anybody just want to meet and have lunch?

Email to BRNicolosi@aol.com.

Monday, October 16, 2006

News From Barb

Okay, here is a letter that I have been sending around lately. If I have time later today, I will write a bit more about the reasons behind this decision (no scandal, really!) and what I will be doing now that I am unemployed.


Dear Friends -

After nearly eight years at the helm of Act One, I decided this summer that it was time for me to move on from my all-consuming responsibilities as the Executive Director. So, I am pleased and excited to advise you that as of October 6th, I am no longer be on staff at Act One. The Board of Directors has hired the charming and talented Thomas Deason (former executive of Alaska Airlines, Act One Executive Program '05) to be the interim Executive Director while they conduct a search for the next permanent head.

I will mostly be writing for the next few months although I will certainly be doing some speaking engagements as well. I won't have an assistant anymore, so the best way to reach me will undoubtedly be email. (Does anybody like listening to twenty-seven phone messages?)

My new contact email will be BRNicolosi@aol.com. For appointments for writing or speaking, check out my website at www.barbaranicolosi.com or else you can reach my manager Matt Malek at Origin Entertainment at (310)319-1349.

Chances are, I will be out of the Los Angeles area for much of the last quarter of this year. I am hoping to go back East and get some writing done in a nice little cottage near the beach. We'll see how that works out.

I am very excited to see what this next season in my life will bring. Of course, I will stay intimately involved with Act One as a Board and faculty member and I look forward to being able to enjoy a little more solitude, a lot more time for friends and family, and many fewer airports! - as my twilight years continue to unfold.

God bless -


Monday, October 09, 2006

Mirren Saves The Queen

I really enjoyed this film. What could be better than two hours of one of those great Brit actresses walking through palaces and Scottish highlands all while acting emtionally understated and discomfitted? Very fascinating to watch.

Unfortunately, the script wasn't what it should have been. It felt unbalanced to me. The opening few minutes were terribly written, and then suddenly there were a few scenes which were well-written. Made me think that there must have been two or more writers operating. At least one of whom was pedestrian.

The movie tried to be about how the Queen was a woman of another time - a time when personal restraint and private dignity and quiet courage were virtues. Mirren's great QE2 doesn't fit in the brave new world of her people with its tabloids and its voyeurism and its need to be coddled and patronized. Thematically, the movie loses its way, but basically, this contrast makes for the central problem of the film - and it is a worthy reflection.

Another issue in the film is why the world fell apart when Diana died. The film doesn't know. The Queen doesn't know.

I know.

The crowds went crazy when Diana died because of guilt.

We all know that Diana was not good enough to have merited the outpouring of love that accompanied her death. You know, the death that came when she was speeding away with her latest playboy lover instead of being with her adolescent sons back home? Not to step all over my point, but, come on. The crowds weren't crying because of the terrible loss that Diana would be to the sorry world. They were crying to absolve themselves of complicity in her death.

Everybody intuits that the paparazzi were acting on the celebrity-obsessed mob's behalf. They weren't taking pictures for the dwellers on the planet Zondor, now, were they? Pictures of Diana commanded millions BECAUSE the mobs plunked down billions to stare at them.

Bringing flowers to Diana's grave, weeping and hurling abuse at "the media" and "the royals" were all defense mechanisms on our global part to evade our own self-critique. Try and drown out with "Candle in the Wind" the inner voice that calls you to compunction, "Diana died because you couldn't stop staring."

Let the one who never gaped at a photo of the Princess, who never watched the interview, who never read an article about her latest love, cast the first stone.

Anyway, The Queen is a pretty good film. More fascinating than I expected for its look at the inner life of royal people. Also cool for its ultimately sympathetic portrayal of QE2 as a noble relic.

We decree the film good and we bestow our grateful thanks to the filmmakers of the realm.

Little Children - Incredible, Thoughtful and Obscene

"What do I say here?" - That was me talking to friend Sean, after we staggered out of the new film from Todd Field (In the Bedroom).

The guy is brilliant. Along with Terence Malick, arguably the most metaphorically astute and Flannery O'Connoresque filmmaker working today. He gets that sin is the fundamental sickness in society, and that holiness is just going from moment to moment with the grace that is out there. In the Bedroom was a profound film about how the failure to forgive leads to insanity. I have been eagerly awaiting his next project. Was In the Bedroom a fluke?

No. It wasn't.

Little Children goes way beyond In the Bedroom in looking at sin as the native human disease that afflicts us all in varying degrees. In the film, sin manifests itself as immaturity and all the action in the film proceeds out of the mainly adult characters acting like, well, little children, who play with their seven deadly toys, like toddlers with a set of colorful plastic keys. Some of the adult children in the movie play with more harmful, scandalous toys than others, but the basic point of view here is the omniscient which watches all of the silliness with the same compassion.

Get it?: "Let the little children come to Me..."

There is some amazing stuff. I could teach a course on it. Like the whole thread of how we tend to want to "fix" sinners fast - just castrating sexual predators like snapping our fingers (all imagery from the film) - but that won't work the film shows us at the end. Quick fixes to tragedy become themselves bigger tragedies still.

It's an amazing, thoughtful film that in so many ways reflects a profound Christian worldview.

But then, it's just a bit obscene, you know.


Right there smack in the middle of all the wonder of it, this film has two or three fully nude absolutely graphic sex scenes. There are also several references to perverted sexual practices and sickening moments centering around male masturbation. The scenes aren't erotic, and, in fact, the "worst" (from a moral standpoint) scene subverts itself midway, demonstrating that the adulterous sex we are watching is just one more way that the main characters are fleeing adulthood, acting out as adolecents.

But the scenes are obscene in a way that wrecks the film by making part of it a thing of ugliness. Because obscenity is ugly. In itself. Regardless of the creative intention for using it.

I have a lot to say on obscenity - the whole "anonymous eyes" problem, but let me just say here that a Catholic understanding of art includes the notion that you need matter + form to be a means of saving grave (sacrament). The matter/content of a movie can absolutely be subverted by its form/method.

In metaphorical terms, it means that if you drag people through a sewer to bring them to some aspirin they will probably not thank you. Even if they have a bad headache, because chances are you will have infected them with other diseases as bad or worse than the one you were seeking to remedy.

Now, the profound truth in Little Children is definitely worth more to our society today than an aspirin...but being exposed to the obscenity in the film is also very bad. As filmmakers it is inexcusable to ever put actors in the position that Mr. Fields required of his actors. Even actors have privacy as human beings. He degraded them to make his point. And we don't get to do that no matter how cool our message is. It can't be delivered by objectifying human beings.

And let's not even start on the potential harmful effects on the audience.

It's ironic that the film pillories Internet sexual voyeurism - and then creates several moments that for some people would be just as potentially dangerous.

Little Children is not a graceless universe. Neither was In the Bedroom and that was why I think both films deserve a lot of respect. They aren't cynical films because they show grace being offered.

But I can't recommend the film indiscriminately because it contains obscenity. Which makes me very sad today. Still, if you are a serious student of film as an artform, go and prepare to duck in parts, because this is an amazing film.

Press Release from Maximus Entertainment

Hello Barbara,

I wanted to let you know about a great, interactive website that was recently launched, www.thereasonforourhope.org. This site is managed by The Reason for Our Hope Foundation which was founded by a dynamic priest, Fr. Larry Richards, from the diocese of Erie, PA.

Fr. Larry’s goal is to change the world by reaching 15 million people with the ultimate Reason for our Hope, Jesus Christ. This site is really awesome! I haven’t seen anything like it in Catholic ministry. From the site visitors can send e-cards to family and friends, receive free MP3 downloads and screensavers, and a lot more, all containing the message of hope. The only thing visitors need to do is register.

Your help in spreading the word about www.thereasonforourhope.com on your blog would dramatically increase the number of people we can reach with this positive message of hope! This talk is also available on the site for download.

Peace and God Bless,

Brian Walsh
Production Assistant

Haven't Seen It - Just Passing the Word

Subject: Christmas at Maxwell's - PRESS RELEASE - Immediate Release.

Date: 10-09-06

Christmas at Maxwell's (www.christmasatmaxwells.com), a PG-rated Award winning holiday film which enlightens family audiences with messages about faith, hope, and miracles of love is coming to movie theatres November 10, 2006. The movie starts Andrew May, Jack Hourigan and Helen Welch. Bill Lewis and Aloha Releasing are handling releasing. The movie utilizes Hi-Definition technology.

Christmas At Maxwell's was written, produced and directed by father-daughter team Bill and Tiffany Laufer whose goal is to offer entertainment centered on redeeming values. The movie story line centers around a fortysomething husband struggling to find answers surrounding his wife's illness and was inspired by a true story about human struggle, forgiveness, and the power of love. Filmed in Cleveland, Ohio, the movie has been awarded the Dove Seal of Approval which has recently published a companion interview on their website (www.dove.org). Christmas at Maxwell's has earned rave critical and audience acceptance including an acolade from Bishop A. Edward Pevec, Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, who calls it "a marvelous film!". Various organizations have teamed up with the movie and upcoming articles include a featurette in The Costco Connection. Cancer organizations have embraced the movie for its spirit of HOPE.

Press Release GOAL: It is our interest that you cover this story in your various publications and that you communicate this press release to the people who are responsible for "upcoming events for the Christmas season." yearly calendars, film, radio, and TV projects, Christmas projects etc.

Other Quotes:

"Very heartwarming and full of hope." Dennis Sadowski, Editor of Catholic Universe Bulletin

"A heartfelt film with admirable messages about God's forgiveness, the strength of family and being a good samaritan" - Harry Forbes - USCCB

"Extremely well done, a powerful story of a family's love" - David Kullberg - Christian Happenings

"Brings a message of life and hope." - Julie Washington, Cleveland PD

"This story about a miracle during the holiday makes it a season special" - Donna Rolfe - The Dove Foundation

"A beautiful new holiday film" - Stephen Simon - Spiritual Cinema Circle

Additional information on Christmas at Maxwell's is available at: http://www.christmasatmaxwells.com/ & http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0420550/combined <>

Thank you! Publicity contact: Bill Laufer - 216-229-4444 / laufer@lauferfilm.com

Laufer Film (www.lauferfilm.com) , Christmas at Maxwell's www.christmasatmaxwells.com/.

From Feminists for Life


Feminists for Life is launching a new online initiative—a series of weekly emails from Pres. Serrin Foster that gives pro-woman answers to pro-choice questions in a short format. I pasted in the press release below. This link goes to the press release:


It would be wonderful if you would blog this. We are starting a website ad campaign on the project today with the first weekly email going out Thursday.

Valerie Schmalz
National Program Manager

Feminists for Life of America

Monday, September 18, 2006

Studio Stick It To 'Em

Note to Sorkin: We know what you are doing. You think if you create a Christian character, and make her cute and smart, that you are then covered to say every nasty rotten, bigotted thing you want about Christians.

It doesn't. You can't.

For the record, we know what you're doing. It's called...

..to?ken?ism? /?to?k??n?z?m/ Pronunciation[toh-kuh-niz-uhm] –noun
1. the practice or policy of making no more than a token effort or gesture, as in offering opportunities to minorities equal to those of the majority.
2. any legislation, admissions policy, hiring practice, etc., that demonstrates only minimal compliance with rules, laws, or public pressure: Admitting one woman to the men's club was merely tokenism.

Bigotted people do tokenism to cover their asses from charges of being bigotted. Just to say.

And I'd get really mad about it, except that I think the audience is going to reject Studio 60 as just more really lame exercise in Hollywood narcissim.

So, getting mad about the intolerance of "crazy Christians" would be swinging at a pitch in the dirt.

So, we'll just pray for you instead. On some level, it's fascinating how much we Christians are getting to you.

P.S. Some folks are claiming thatthe writing in Studio 60 was remarkably stellarly fantastic the amazing like of which we have never seen before. Yawn. So not true. And here's why.

Bad writing is a writer telling the audience how to feel. In last night's episode, we were supposed to believe that an episode of a SNL clone show that pilloried Christians was somehow brave and daring. See, that's where the writing tripped up. We were being told that savaging Christians for laughs was a rare act of courage, spitting in the eye of the cowering network establishment that dwells in mind-numbing terror of the awesomely powerful group which will foreverafter be known as CHR_STIANS(!) for fear of saying the complete name and bringing down their all-consuming wrath.

In fact, savaging Chr_stians on everything from SNL to Law and Order to the Brooklyn Museum of Art has become commonplace and . So, the show was telling us that a character was being brave, when in fact, he was being trite. This is the definition of bad writing.

If Sorkin et al. really wanted to brave it would have been easily achieved. Have the controversial skit be called, "Crazy Violent Religion of Peace!" or "Melancholic Rich Secular Jews!" or "Nutty Inconsistent Liberals". See, that would have been brave. And shocking.

The joke is, pillorying Chr_stians in this particular moment of history is as close to ostrich head in the sand syndrome as could be imagined. Yeah, let's all rip the Chr_stians for imagined attacks on free speech while the Mulims are coming at us hurling amonium nitrate and literally taking away your right to life. The Chr_stians you hate will certainly be the ones dying to save you.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Last Chance for Screenwriting Weekend in Nashville!

The Act One Screenwriting Weekend in Nashville is just days away – but it’s not too late to register. If you can’t commit to the entire weekend, be sure to join us for the Friday evening screening and panel discussion – and bring a friend!

The workshop, slated for September 15-16, 2006 at The People’s Church in Franklin, is an intense, practical overview of screenwriting basics, the current film market, and the Christian’s responsibility to positively impact popular culture. Participants will study the craft of screenwriting – from story development and structure to character, dialogue and screenplay format – with two accomplished Hollywood professionals.

Instructor Christopher Riley is an award-winning screenwriter (After The Truth, 25 to Life, Actual Innocence), author (The Hollywood Standard), a ten year veteran of the Warner Bros. script department, and the Director of the Act One: Writing For Hollywood program.

Instructor Dr. Thom Parham is a professor of film at Azusa Pacific University, a producer, and a screenwriter and script consultant whose credits include JAG, Touched By An Angel, Big Brother Jake, and the feature film Jaded.

The seminar begins with a 7 p.m. Friday evening screening and panel discussion with the faculty, open to anyone interested in film and its impact on popular culture. The conference continues Saturday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with the intensive screenwriting workshop.

The registration fee (which includes study materials and breakfast and lunch on Saturday) is $175. For more information, or to register, visit the Act One website at www.actoneprogram.com, or call 323-464-0815.

Tickets for the Friday evening session only are $10 and are available at the door.

Monday, September 11, 2006

See Barb in San Antonio


Organized by
The Pilgrim Center of Hope
A Catholic Evangelization Center for the Archdiocese of San Antonio

The Conference will focus on the Search for Truth of God's plan in the life of ordinary women: a plan that calls on women to reach their full potential according to God's design, a life of happiness and wholeness that can only be discovered in Christ Jesus.

Come and pray and deepened in your faith! The Lord says… "Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will refresh you…."
Come to this Catholic Women's Conference!
There will be nationally known speakers, the Rosary, the Mass, Eucharistic Healing Service, , inspirational music variety of vendors, resources & more!

WHEN? September 22, 2006, Friday - September 23, 2006, Saturday

WHERE? Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center Ballroom & Gallery
San Antonio, Texas

- Father John Jesus Maloney, FJ - “Mary, Mother of Mercy”

- Dr. Martha Garza, OB/GYN - “A Professional Woman on the Forgiveness and Mercy of God”

- Mary Jane Fox - “Encountering the Risen Lord, our Healer”

- Gloria Zapiain - “Between the Rock of Peter and a Hard Place - Living the Life of Faith in the New Millennium"

- Barbara Nicolosi - “Signs of Hope from Hollywood” & “What is Beauty? Women- Nurturers of Art”

- Suzanne Baars - “I Will Give Them a New Heart”: Discovering the Divine Plan For Our Emotions”

- Sarah Hart - to lead us in inspirational song, praise and worship.

COST? $45.00 per person includes a Conference Packet and a box lunch on Saturday

Reservations: THE PILGRIM CENTER OF HOPE. 7680 Joe Newton *
San Antonio, TX 78251 (210) 521-3377 * trust@catholic.org

Saturday, September 09, 2006

For 9-11

Obviously, I haven't had any time for blogging lately. Thanks to all the kind folks who housed and fed and chauffeured me around on my latest round of trips. Next trip will be to San Antonio at the end of September. Then, I'll be hunkering down to write a screenplay and hopefully get that book done.

Meanwhile, here is something I wrote for the one year anniversary of September 11th.

Thanks to the media, we will spend the next week or so subsumed in images of the horror of that day. It is macabre that Al Quaeda released some media too: a tape of their sick heros in the months before the attack, practicing slitting the throats of unarmed civilians on airplanes. This was their finest hour. There are Islamic people out there who watch this terror practice tape with a sigh of proud nostalgia. "Wow! That was the day!"

Dear God, America, never forget.


Of Horror, Heroes and Saints — Reliving 9-11

I am awakened in the early morning hours by the discordant trill of my cheap bedside phone. By the time I raise the receiver to my ear, I have raced through several emotions.

Fear: “Who would be calling so early? Has something happened to someone in my family?”;

Annoyance: “This better not be a wrong number.”;

Negotiation: “Better a wrong number than bad news.”

And finally amazement: That so many thoughts can crowd the human mind so fast. Then, all of these get jumbled around in suspended animation until the voice on the other end settles things.

“Sorry to wake you. Turn on your TV. There has been a terrible accident in New York.” Susannah, a friend from the office was doing her part to rouse the West Coast. Hanging up, I flip on the television.

If only I could have back a few more of those minutes before horror invaded and changed everything.

It is still early into the horror of 9-11, but I am already afraid of forgetting. The certainty that time deadens every sensation seems itself to be one more blow to add to the terrorist sucker-punch. Then, I am afraid of never forgetting. The thought that civilization could be forever altered by hate is a devastating concession to the negative. Civilizations should be substantially altered by the good – by the inventiveness of the human mind, or by a growth in understanding.

"No One Here Is Working Today."

One of the towers of the World Trade Center billows smoke. Katie and Matt try to make sense of it for me. I’m not sure it’s worth waking up my roommate over. Someone’s stupidity and a lot of people end up dying.

The 1993 WTC bombing flashes through my mind. “What is it with those buildings?” Mental note: Never accept a job in a landmark.

Another plane trolls into the back of the other Tower. I see it before Matt. Because he doesn’t comment, I start to wonder if it really happened. Maybe it is a helicopter circling around. But then Matt starts to stammer. It has happened again. This is no accident.

9-11 has been called this generation’s Pearl Harbor. This comparison has to do with the shock that invaded American society, and then became a battle cry to marshall a nation. The resemblance stops there. How I envy the Greatest Generation their Pearl Harbor. The enemy was known. The task was clear. The end was in sight even by sunset on that first terrible day. America knew victory would be costly, but victory itself was never in doubt.

Still in our pajamas an hour later, my roommate and I watch quietly as both towers tumble down in quick jerks and starts. They look like dominoes. A lesson from childhood invades. As long as they are lined up, every domino will fall down. And the towers do. The perfect symmetry of the astonishing WTC renders its complete collapse a certainty.

I have an appointment this morning to edit together a video of ‘haunting moment’ film clips. I know with certainty that the Towers collapsing will haunt me till the end of my life. Calling to cancel the session, I find strange comfort in the dull grief of the receptionist who takes my message. “No, no one here is working today.” Could anything be so irrelevant as Hollywood? Will I ever again find a movie haunting?

No Lessons Here

My friend Sylvia is a reporter and a friend of NYC’s Chief of Police. He told her months later that they knew by noon of the attack day that there would be no survivors to find in the rubble of the World Trade Center. The post-collapse rescue efforts - collecting blood, gathering EMT's, setting up survivor stations - were a ruse instigated by Mayor Giulani to give the city time to get counselors in place and to let families adjust to the certain loss. I remember that Sylvia, who had lost a network news job in an Insider-like scenario, was as grateful as I for the lie.

I seems to me that 9-11 is better compared to Bull Run, or Gettysburg or any of the bloody battles of the Civil War. The enduring source of dull pain comes from the certainty that the enemy is not fighting for territory, but for ideology. It must have felt very futile to many Americans to fight over an idea like personhood. You can’t change a person’s mind by winning a battle. As long as one person is unconvinced, the evil lurks and has power. The Civil War did not resolve the issue of racism as the evils of Reconstruction and segregation proved. Legally, it took over a hundred years to realize the victory of Appomattox. How long both black and white America will suffer the long-term effects of slavery is anyone’s guess.

“The Pentagon? What is that about?” For the hundredth time this morning I am confused. “Alright, I’ve had enough. What the hell is going on?” I look at my roommate for answers but she has none. Neither does CNN, FOX, MSNBC or any of the networks. Waves of anger shake off the grip of shock. “Who did this? Why don’t they take credit for it?” We keep making trips to the refrigerator like movie fans at an all day horror marathon. Food is comforting.

Theoretically, an ideology could be stamped out by literally wiping out all of its adherents. Hence, the carpet bombing of Afghan mountains. But who are we kidding? Who are the adherents of this kind of hatred against sky-scrapers and airline passengers? My sense is that they are many. I’ve been educated through the years by periodic news footage of Islamic boys dancing and chanting with rage at strange effigies and burning American flags. The impotence of their demonstrations has often struck me as obscene. Naked rage like any human nakedness should not be exposed in the marketplace.

Ideology can only be overcome by conversion. Conversion takes a long time and patience. You only bother to convert someone who is worth it to you. It is so much easier just to kill them. If only we could kill them all. But I am horrified by the thought even as it flashes across my mind. We wouldn’t kill them all even if we could. We are not them.

A reporter interviews a priest in front of the rubble. The priest’s black garb is strangely gray with the pulverized dust of the Towers. There are particles of thousands of people in that dust. After a few preliminary questions, the reporter forgets his training and his humanity spills out at the foot of the rubble mountain. “How could God let this happen, Father?” The priest is moved by the man’s grief and touches his arm. Just then, God interjects. Four firemen carry a wounded man on a stretcher in the background. The priest points at the pile of rubble, “This isn’t God.” He points at the rescuers and their burden, “That is.” The reporter weeps in a strange kind of relief, “Yes. You’re right. Thank you, Father.” I weep too. What has happened here?

I resent every effort to glean lessons from 9-11. We don’t sit at the mouth of hell for instruction. The only lesson is to convict us that there is a mouth of hell and that were it not for the presence of a greater good, we would all be swallowed by the darkness.

What is a hymnal?

Prayer everywhere. Prayer on Capitol Hill. In a display that was unthinkable just a week ago, now Daschel, Kennedy, Lott and Armey linked arm-in-arm sing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps. The President calls for national prayer services. Thousands of neophyte believers stream into the Church where I work for a time of prayer at noon on the 14th. The minister directs them to sing a song in one of the hymnals. In front of me, a row of leather clad professionals from the studio down the hill look at each other in confusion. “What is a hymnal?” I am weeping again.

Has God abandoned us? The bizarre spectacle of our public officials suddenly leading us all in prayer reveals the truth. We are not used to prayer in public. We have abandoned God. Will He return to us now? Are prayers issued in fear and terror heard? Will God be fooled? Ah, but He knows we are sheep. The Shepherd does not sneer at the sheep who bleat in fear during a storm.

It is finally night and the cameras in NYC relent in their ceaseless combing of Ground Zero. I need to distract myself until morning when we can count on more televised pictures to fill the hours. Walking outside, the loveliness of the warm L.A. evening strikes me as unfair and inappropriate. Just then a police helicopter surges overhead sweeping the street with a bright light. For the next several weeks, the helicopters are constantly overhead. Everyone who works in Hollywood is absolutely sure the industry is on a terrorist hit list somewhere. Lots of people in entertainment are weathering intense survivor guilt. “It’s our fault they hate us.”

The Hour of Heroes and Saints

Our street borders on the usually bustling region of the city known as the Hollywood hamlet. Tonight, there is an eerie stillness. Several pedestrians pass me on the sidewalk. Each time we avert our eyes from each other. We have all been surprised by grief and it is embarrassing to have been caught unawares. We were all buying and selling and going about our business, and meanwhile groups of people have been hating us and in their simmering anger have been plotting our deaths.

I have heard people say that 9-11 shattered our sense of security. Rather, 9-11 shattered our illusion of security. There can be no security in a world in which there is sin.

I reach the corner impressed by the deathly quiet. I turn and face the row of restaurants expecting to see them all empty. But no, the street cafes all overflow with people. Solemn people. Grieving people. Frightened lonely people. Some few speak in hushed voices. As I pass along the sidewalk, hundreds follow me with their eyes. They too are out desperately seeking distraction.

Just up ahead, a young woman appears on the corner holding a lit candle. Must be an actress. Too thin. Too blond. A passing car lays on its horn in a sign of support. Before long, hundreds more stragglers join her vigil. They sing “God Bless America” crying and staring into the passing traffic. More and more cars add their horns to the strange cacophony. Once again I weep. But I am glad too. I suddenly feel close to these strangers.

My whole life I have never been able to bear "God Bless America" without tears. I have always thought it a curious quirk because I am not sentimental. Now, every hymn about God or country brings with it the sensation of holding back waves of emotion. It is so pathetic. “He had compassion on the crowd for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” I am so tired of weeping.

For the fourth time in two days, an Evangelical Protestant friend calls me with a variation on a single question. “What are we to do? What does the Catholic Church say?” I put my own confusion on auto-pilot. Somebody needs what was invested in me years ago. I draw on my Great Books education, once again grateful for my long-suffering professor’s insistence that thirteenth century philosophical principles are eternally relevant. I lay out for them the standards that the Church labels “Double Effect.” They are comforted.

Even in the horrible darkness inflicted by a brutal sucker-punch, Americans are still concerned to do what is right. Very striking in the aftermath is the universal desire of our people to respond with justice to injustice. There are few if any voices of revenge, and these are silenced immediately by the grief that has given to all of us a new gravity. This is not the time for reprisals.

For all her failures, the Church is still regarded as a voice of moral authority. Especially by those outside of her embrace. My non-Catholic friends call me because, as one put it, “I know the Catholic Church must have some teaching for times like this.” And he was right. We are allowed a proportional response. We are allowed to remove instruments of evil from children who would harm others through them, even if some die while we remove those instruments. We are not allowed vindictiveness. We are not allowed hate.

God only permitted this because in the span of eternity, He could handle it. He can weave out of it more good than evil in the long run.

I have had a treasured bookmark since I was in the fourth grade. Mrs. Pierce, my religion teacher gave it to me and I have managed to hang onto it throughout the years. “The hour of crisis is also the hour of heroes and saints.” There were only a handful of evildoers. There are so many hundreds of heroes.

God Bless America

Snapshots I don't want to forget... I want to forget... I am afraid of forgetting...

- The President walks out alone to the mound at Yankee Stadium. Before the eyes of the world, he stands vulnerable. Takes his time, and sights the catcher and pitches a perfect strike to open the World Series…

- The firemen and policemen stay in Tower One even after Tower Two collapsed. They continue to race upward. The gravelly last words of one such hero pours out of a brother’s walkie-talkie, “There are still people up there. We can’t leave them.”

- The passengers on Flight 93 become aware that they are being used as human missiles. They take a vote. To the last Americans. De Toqueville had written two hundred years ago about this strange propensity of Americans, “They think that any problem can be solved if only they get together and take a vote.” They decide to die so that other Americans will be spared.

Freedom makes heroism possible. The essence of heroism is in exercising a choice. The hero’s choice is to prefer another’s life to his own. Aristotle wrote that because the state exists to allow men to become virtuous, freedom with all of its pitfalls must be preferred, because there is no virtue without choice. We had become cynical about our countrymen, but the events of 9-11 have surprised us all. We are still more than decadent. Our instincts are still to save life, to give to those in need, to draw together in times of tragedy, to do the right thing even when those who oppose us operate under no such limits.

One last recollection I know I will never forget.

It is late in September 2001. Fairfax Boulevard is typically frenzied with traffic and pedestrians. Approaching a crowded cross street, I see a plastic car flag flapping through the air, landing in the middle of the intersection. And then a miracle happens. The car ahead of me stops in front of the green light. Hazard lights flash and then a middle-aged woman emerges grim and resolute. She makes her way toward the flag, walking in the center of the intersection. All the cars slide to a stop. Windows are rolled down and a gathering applause fills the air. The woman picks up the flag and pivoting around to all of us, she waves it high in the air. Car horns add quick pulses to the applause as she walks back to her car. As traffic starts up, I am weeping again.

Flags are our new vigil lights. Every flag that waves is suddenly a prayer that America will recall the blessings of God. Freedom, not license. Community not diversity. Prosperity to make virtue possible. Speech to utter the truth. Opportunity to advance human potential and achievement. God bless America. God bless America.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The More Things Change...

Preparing for my talk tonight on Friendship and Creativity. I'm going to use Charles' journey as an artist from Brideshead Revisited to set up some ideas. So, I have been pouring through a volume of the leters of Evelyn Waugh for more insight. I came across the following passage in a letter he wrote in December 1944. It stuck me funny because I have had this same experience many times in these last ten years, and I realized that I have made the mistake of being sillily nostalgic about a time before my own. I thought people were smarter before and that somehow the Sexual Revolution deadened our brains. After all, they had better education back then. And the Church and family were in better shape.

Anyway, here is Waugh on the experience of getting wedged between the artistic sensibilities (which means actually their politics) of pious people. (I also thought it was interesting that the event he describes was going on during WWII. Funny how life goes on regardless.) It's all wrong to think of art this way - as something diverting in a completely manageable way. Again, I don't see "balance" as a holy virtue. It is something that professional religious people encourage to keep the soup kitchens and Mass schedules aright. Has nothing to do with holiness.

"I conducted a meeting for the Catholic Guild of Arts and Crafts where I won their confidence by abuse of Picasso, and then lost it with abuse of Catholic Arts and Crafts...

Then I had an excruciating week-end in a convent in Surrey conducting a "Catholic Booklovers Week-End." The nuns were very attentive with little packets of chocolate and glasses of milk covered with muslin veils and weighted with beads do you know what I mean....The sort of questions are, of course, 'Why does Mr. Greene have such a nasty mind?' and 'Is it not the duty of the artist to consider the average reader?' "
(from Letters of Evelyn Waugh, Letter to Nancy Mitford, Dec. 5, 1955)

P.S. here's a spicy bit about Brideshead from a letter of January 7, 1945:
"Lady Marchmain, no, I am not on her side; but God is, who suffers fools gladly and the book is about God. Does that answer it?"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Oh yeah, I had an epiphany...

...the other day. About Gen X and the Millenials. I was up late watching a documentary on MSNBC about homeless teens in Portland, and I was marveling at their lack of interest in anything that might be a normal human life.

And then it popped into my head: they know it's all over and they are waiting for the call to battle. They are just killing time waiting for something to die for.

It's not that they don't understand modern society. It's that they do.

Pinky Surgery II

I have to have another operation on my pinky tomorrow. Sheesh. I feel silly even saying that. Some people have real stuff. I, have a pinky that has a problematic cyst that a second surgeon will try to fix tomorrow.

It's nothing compared to what other folks have. Although, I remember a nun saying once to me, "It's never the mountain that wears you down, but the pebble in your shoe."

Won't be blogging probably for a few days.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hear Barb Say Something Different

Tonight, I will be giving a talk to the prayer group Holy Wood of the Cross called "Friendship and Spirituality". This is part one of two talks on friendship, the second part being next Tuesday night and will be on "Friendship and Creativity."

Those who know me well know that friendship is not a new topic for me. I did my undergraduate thesis on the topic, contrasting and comparing Cicero's De Amicitia with Aelred of Rievaulx's Spiritual Friendship. For people serious about their spiritual growth, that latter work is a must read.

We are going to talk tonight about what friendship adds to the spiritual life. And why the kind of friendship that Aristotle and Cicero and Augustine, Aelred and Aquinas wrote about is an almost lost art in the Church.

Next week, we'll talk about how holy friendships help create great art.

The talks will be at 7pm at Family Theater Productions on Sunset Blvd, just west of La Brea. Call Paula for more info: 323-464-0815.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Monster House Great Story

I don't have time to do a full review here as we are in the last weekend of the Writing Program. However, I do want to give a thumbs up to Columbia Pictures' Monster House. It's a very clever story. Really clever.

(I offer it as a beginner's textbook to those who thought that Lady in the Water was a good story. More on this later...)

My only question watching it was whether it is too creepy for the kids for whom animated films about Halloween should be the main audience. I think it would be fine for ten year olds and up. I would be wary of littler kids going - NOTE TO AL: I think it would be too much for Little John.

But it is a good piece of work. Again, a good story. Nothing extra. Great execution.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Little Miss Crass and Vulgar

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century. I don't tend to think that things that lots of other people today laugh at are funny.

A case in point is the indie movie now in theatrical release called
Little Miss Sunshine. I just listened to fuzzy Gene Shalit give it a rave on Today as being an inspiring, delightful family romp (or words to that effect). This film was all the rage at Sundance this year. I didn't see it there because word was it had gotten picked up for distribution, and so I knew I could catch it later in theaters. But it was the same at Sundance. Folks there kept saying it was a charming, quirky, inspiring comedy.


Films like Little Miss Sunshine are inspiring in the way that Roseanne Barr once said her TV show Roseanne was fascinating for people: "Our family is so bad, that it makes people feel better about the hell holes that their families are."

Let's see. Inspiring moments from Little Miss Sunshine...

- the film spends a lot of time setting up the father of the family, played well by Greg Kinnear, as a total assh*le. He spends the whole film talking about the difference between winners and losers, and seems oblivious that he himself is a loser. This fact is obvious to his teenage son who describes living in the house as hell, and has dropped out from any interaction with the hypocritical jerk parents who feed and clothe him.

I don't find ridicule inspiring. I don't find it really humorous. I think it subverts what comedy should be. Comedy should make us feel humble. Ridicule leaves the audience feeling superior.

I don't think post-modernism is an excuse to break the Fourth Commandment. But, I know, lighten up, right?

- This same shaggy-haired teenage son wears a T-shirt that proclaims "Jesus Was Wrong", and makes the film's most profound philosophical speech declaring, "Going to college? F*ck that. Getting a job? F*ck that. Making a living? F*ck that. F*ck it all. F*ck everything."

Somewhere out there, I suppose Nietsche was very inspired. The audience I was with roared in approval. I didn't think it was funny. The moment was played as a profound epiphany. But it isn't really profound, is it? Don't tell the audience. They were ready to elect the character to Congress for speaking the truth. What truth is that?

I find this to be predicable of GenX and the Millenials: They say things alternately banal and profound, but they don't know the difference.

- a grandfather (played by the talented Alan Arkin, who must be really, really desperate for work) who is a cocaine addict and a sex addict. He buys porn and makes the film's most vulgar speech to his grandson, chastising the fifteen year old for not getting lots of sex, and then exhorting him to "have sex with lots of women. Lots of them. Not just one. Gets lots of sex."

Again, the audience was in stitches. Especially when the grandfather noted that in the rest home he used to live in, he got "third degree burns on my Johnson" from all the sex. The more the old man spoke filth, the funnier it got for the audience. But, I didn't think it was funny. I thought it was gross and shameful.

- a seven year old who does a protracted burlesque dance as sexualized as possible. Now, I get that the scene was meant to be satiric commentary on the whole little girl beauty pageant world. I get that. I just hated watching a seven year old do a strip tease. Or, using the film school jargon for which I paid thirty grand, I found the method of filmic satire, more problematic than the social ill it was critiquing.

Again, however, the audience was falling off its seat laughing at this scene. How funny for them to get to watch a seven year old actress mimic an exotic dancer? I didn't think it was funny. I thought it was perverse. I don't care what the filmmaker was trying to do. He doesn't get to use a seven year old to make his frickin' statement!

I would say those three moments are the vulgar lowlights of the film. The rest of it involves a family in which the father is an ambitious jerk. The mother is an impotent whiner. And, OF COURSE, the only really compassionate, intelligent and caring member of the family is the gay uncle Frank, who is recovering from having slit his wrists. (And he is the sane one.)

I found during the movie that the audience was laughing at moments in which the family's shame was particularly exposed. The humor was to point at the people in the family and sneer, "What an assh*le!" or "What a hypocrite!"

I feel absolutely sure that a legion of critics - and certainly Christians! - will passionately defend this film. They will relish its "fresh satiric critique " of post-modernity. They will say things about how wonderful it was for the family to end the film accepting each other in a stirring moment of loyalty and love. They will say that this movie is clearly just not my kind of taste, and that engaging culture means that we shouldn't get stuck on little things like vulgarity, profanity, crassness and the exaltation of meaninglessness.

They will be absurd. Swallowing camels of human degradation and straining out gnats of "niceness".

Pass on Little Miss Sunshine. It won't make you a better person. It won't make you love your neighbors more. It will fill your spirit with cynicism and sneering. Pass. Pass. Pass.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hear Barb on Lino

Sometime early in the summer, I was interviewed for Lino at large, a radio show for Catholic Gen Xers. Spencer Lewerenz, the co-editor with me of Behind the Screen was also interviewed. Click here to hear the pieces.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Movies About Art?

This fall, I will be teaching a course called Theology for Hollywood at both the Los Angeles Film Study Center, and at Azusa Pacific University. If I think about it, I will post the syllabus as I think it is quite novel and maybe somebody else out there would like to spread the faith.

One of the elements of the course is to have the students watch a movie every week about art, beauty and artists. I need a few more suggestions of movies that would actually have something to say something profound about artists as opposed to saying things that are just raunchy - which most of the movies about artists tend to do.

Here are the ones I am thinking of using. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions. (Again, I need movies that have something to contribute to the discussion of the artist as prophet, or about the suffering of the artist, or about the power and nature of beauty.)

Babette's Feast

8 1/2

Andrei Rublev


Barton Fink


Finding Neverland

8 Mile


Yellow Submarine

Sunset Boulevard

Living in Oblivion

Lost in La Mancha


Buena Vista Social Club

Strictly Ballroom

Mad Hot Ballroom

Billy Elliot

Vincent and Theo


Monday, July 31, 2006

To KH - So, I'm an SJ. What Are You?

Your Personality Is

Guardian (SJ)

You are sensible, down to earth, and goal oriented.
Bottom line, you are good at playing by the rules.

You tend to be dominant - and you are a natural leader.
You are interested in rules and order. Morals are important to you.

A hard worker, you give your all at whatever you do.
You're very serious, and people often tell you to lighten up.

In love, you tend to take things carefully and slowly.

At work, you are suited to almost any career - but you excel in leadership positions.

With others, you tend to be polite and formal.

As far as looks go, you are traditionally attractive. You take good care of yourself.

On weekends, you tend to like to do organized activities. In fact, you often organize them!

Nashville Screenwriting Seminar

--------------- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ---------------


Each year, hundreds of aspiring screenwriters flock to Hollywood with scripts in their hands and stars in their eyes. This year, Hollywood is coming to them. Next stop? Nashville, Tennessee.

Act One, Inc., a Los Angeles-based training program for writers and other film industry professionals, presents the Act One Screenwriting Weekend, a conference for professional and aspiring screenwriters. The workshop, slated for September 15-16, 2006 at The People’s Church in Franklin, is an intense, practical overview of screenwriting basics, the current film market, and the Christian’s responsibility to positively impact popular culture.

Participants will study the craft of screenwriting – from story development and structure to character, dialogue and screenplay format – with two accomplished Hollywood professionals.

Christopher Riley is an award-winning screenwriter (After The Truth, 25 to Life, Actual Innocence), author (The Hollywood Standard), a ten year veteran of the Warner Bros. script department, and the Director of the Act One: Writing For Hollywood program. He’ll be joined by Azusa Pacific University professor Dr. Thom Parham, a screenwriter and script consultant whose credits include JAG, Touched By An Angel, Big Brother Jake, and Jaded, the first film release from his fledgling production company, Dos Negros Entertainment.

“Nashville’s vibrant community of artists and entertainers makes it the perfect city for our seminar,” says Conference Coordinator Lauri Evans Deason. “And we’re excited to provide new inspiration and community for local writers who share our common goals of excellence, artistry, professionalism, and spirituality.”

The seminar begins with a 7 p.m. Friday evening screening and panel discussion with the faculty, open to anyone interested in film and its impact on popular culture. The conference continues Saturday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with the intensive screenwriting workshop. The registration fee (which includes study materials and breakfast and lunch on Saturday) is $175. Further information and online registration is available through the Act One website at www.actoneprogram.com. Space is limited, and early registration is encouraged.

Tickets for the Friday evening session only are $10 and are available at the door.

Lauri Evans Deason

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Back from retreat...

Just came back from three days of retreat at the Sacred Heart Retreat Center administered by the Carmelites of Alhambra. The retreat was Ignatian, conducted by a Jesuit.

It was very good. Although all weekend I kept thinking to myself: "Holiness is not in the distance from our sinful patterns, but rather in the proximity to Jesus." Phew. That felt good.

This is the last week of our summer writing program. We have two huge events this week - the alumni bbq Thursday and the Summer Gala Saturday. Peter Kreeft is the keynote speaker at the gala. If anybody out there wants to go, we have a handful of seats left. For info send a message to becca@actoneprogram.com.

Sunday, the Sixth will be really cool as my friend Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and his wife Celeste will be in town and will be featured in an event at Family Theater on Sunset in Hollywood. Jeff has a Masters in Theology from Steubenville, and is a first term Congressman from Nebraska. He has been particularly targeted by Emily's List as he is a deeply committed Christian. His opponent was a recipient of the Planned Parenthood Award... The event is at 2pm and is titled "A Committed Christian in Public Life." If you are in Southern Cal, do consider coming to Family Theater on Sunday afternoon to meet Jeff and Celeste and hear their story.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From the Mail Bag: "Better than Real"

Dear Barbara,

I have a question about a statement you made in your comments about Superman Returns. You said, "Maybe that is more like real life. Certainly it is. But stories are supposed to be better than real life." I had a discussion with someone about this who says that real life is the best thing there is, so a story should be like real life. I said that I thougth the point was that because our vision is marred by the fall, what we see is less than real life, so that if we are to see life as it really is (in a story), it will appear to us to be better than real life. Is that what you meant, or something different?


Dear R.G. -

We say that stories must be "better" than the real as a reaction against a lot of narrative efforts in the modern era, that have been so focussed on realism that they lost the ability to serve the audience in the unique way that stories (i.e. as art) are supposed to. The real is not entertaining to people. If it was, they would sit in their living rooms at night and stare at each other instead of turning on the television.

Stories are constructed and so offer a vision of artificial necessity to an audience that experiences real life as random. That is, the parts in a story are related to the whole in a relationship of necessity. Life isn't random, of course, but our perspective is limited so it often seems to us that there is no cause and effect in our lives. This particularly rankles in the moral area: Some people to bad things, but appear to suffer no ill effects. Or else, Innocent two year olds get terrible diseases. Stories offer a "kharma" that assures the audience that their gut sense that in the end good will triumph is correct.

Stories also offer a clear resolution to an audience in an intimation of an ultimate resolution to our own individual and collective stories. We yearn for resolution (because we were made to end our pilgrimage in God) and stories give us a momentary relief from our yearning in their resolution.

Stories - as with all good art -- also present an artificial harmony to a human society that is inharmonious. In a good story, all of the parts are sifted so that only those are used that will complement the other parts. In a good story there is nothing extra, gratuitous or-vice versa, missing or incomplete. Again, real life is like this, but because of our perspective, we can't see it.

Stories are not objectively "better" than the real. But they are better for the human viewer than the real because they offer God's perspective -- one that is complete, necessary and harmonious.

Hope this helps.

God bless - Barbara