Saturday, December 27, 2008

Quick Movie Reviews

Happy Christmas everybody! I got back from Portugal on the 21st, and since have been making merry, praying and watching lots of "For Your Consideration" screeners. I must admit, I like the free screener part of being in the WGA very much.

There isn't time to do decent reviews of all the movies I've seen, and frankly many of them aren't worth a serious consideration, and even more frankly, a lot of what I would want to say about most of the films can be summed up in some version of "Yuck" and "Eeeeeeeeew." I am going to jot down whatever pops into my head about the movies and then give it a pass or a plaudit.

Road to Hell

Directed by Sam Mendes, written by Justin Hayth, starring Leo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet


Storyline: Not much happens for two draggy hours while we get to watch two narcissists become miserable when their responsibilities as spouses and parents stop being fun. Then in a desperate need for a plot-point and some kind of ending, the woman acidentally kills herself while trying to abort her unborn child.

Theme: Children ruin everything.

Sub-theme: Don't let the (secretly miserable) traditional family people take away Roe vs. Wade or women will be puncturing their own uteruses left and right again.

Sub-text of the whole damn mess of a movie: Marriage and family life is one big sh*thole of a slow death..... And, actually, I suppose that pagan marriage is that. So, you know, maybe this is another one of those projects about which John Paul II noted, "Contemporary artists have become very good at showing us what human life without God looks like." But if I were Kate Winslet, I would be concerned about what my husband Sam Mendes is brooding over on his side of the bed at night.

Script: Flat. Not really one good dialogue line in the whole two hours. No imagery. No twists. No clever choices. Just a slow spiral to nowhere. What can you really say about a movie whose primary raison d'etre is to resentfully murmur that being a grown-up is hard and requires sacrifice? I kept wanting to say to the selfish characters on the screen, "Hell, have a beer. Have two."

Performances: Highly melodramatic. Leo winces painfully through two hours. Kate masters that undead look that rich, Hollywood types seem to think should be the appropriate demeanor for middle-class people who aren't famous.

Some lovely cinematography, but everything else about this film comes off as an arch and cynical parody of the 1950's. It's American Beauty without whatever fun was in that previous hate-filled rant against the quiet life in traditional American suburbia. Mendes has undeniable visual talent, but if he doesn't get some therapy or religion soon, it will all be squandered in a career full of sound and fury signifying nothing. (Been wanting to work THAT last into a sentence since about 2001...)

Revolutionary Road is anything but. As entertainment it's too talky and draggy with only one or two emotional beats. As a story, it has no lesson to communicate, no reward for traveling on its tedious journey. As a work of art it is uneven and its communication is cynicism and not insight.


Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is this year's Crash. Which means it has a good chance of winning the Academy Award. Especially if they put it up against the highly mediocre Milk - this year's Brokeback - in a rallying gesture of support to the poor suffering gay men who have been denied by religious people the chance they've all been deeply yearning for to enter into state-sanctioned life-long, monogamous, committed and stable relationships with one other person. We've all seen these guys clamoring for holy matrimony on the streets of West Hollywood on Halloween night.... But back to Slumdog...

Directed by Danny Boyle, written by Simon Beaufoy, starring a whole slew of fair to midlin Indian actors you haven't heard of

Storyline: Two brothers from a Mumbai slum survive terrible awful things. One of the brothers is demonic and the other one is angelic. In the end, the angelic one gets the girl, $10,000,000 rupees, and a job formerly held by a middle-class family man in Toledo harrassing by phone JC Penney customers who are past due on their credit card bill. (Okay, not that last part...but isn't that job the true stuff of the Indian dream these days?)

Several people whose opinions I respect really loved this movie. For me, Slumdog suffered from a story problem I internalized several years ago and have since thought of as "The Horse Whisperer Problem". That is, the opening moments of The Horse Whisperer were so dark and hard to watch - a horse and little girl rider getting hit by a truck and then lying on the side of the road with broken legs and gushing wounds - that the film could never overcome their emotional impact. Personally, no moment of ultimate triumph/survival in Slum Dog could overcome the traumatic nature of the film's early sequences, including...

- a man strung up, beaten, stripped and tortured by electric shocks.
- a little boy, trapped in an outhouse, gets out by jumping into the deep well of diarrhea and feces. He emerges covered in human excrement in an extended sequence that is played for humor in the movie, but which was horrifying and repulsive. It was gross and disgusting in a way that even I have rarely seen at the movies.
- starving children looking for food and sellables on a rat-infested mound of a putrid garbage dump

The film also includes child rape and prostitution, a mother being beaten in front of her children and then drowning in a dirty pool, a few brutal murders, and the perennially entertaining sequence of a little boy's eyes being put out with hot acid.

It was all too much for me to get past to enjoy the ultimate victory that the good brother acheives at the end of the movie. However, as I said, others liked it very much and didn't get as stuck as I did on all of the above.

People are calling the movie Dickensian, because it is a meandering tale of a poor, nice kid who gets jerked around by bad people and then makes good through a series of ridiculous and improbable twists of fate. What Slumdog was missing for me was the real staple of Dicken's success is that Dickens had profound characterizations. However, it definitely has some of the feel of an Oliver Twist in India.

I wondered afterwards if the fascination peope are having with this movie was mainly attributable to its arena. We haven't seen a lot of the Mumbai slums before. But as such, it isn't that insightful about people in a Mumbai slum. They are all caricatures in a way that would probably be critically slammed were the movie set in an American slum.

Screenplay: Should have been much better. There are no surprises. No imagery. In places, TERRIBLE, cringe-producing dialogue, and the ridiculous impossible beats that, I guess, are acceptable in a movie trying to be like a Dickens fable. I found the characters one-dimensional - either really good or really evil. And there were several repetitive scenes. But the script does achieve some poignancy in the almost hopeless pure love that perseveres.

Performances: Uneven. The main lead was solid. The guy who played his brother was embarrassing.

I felt like I was trapped in the third circle of 1970's hell.

It's a tough movie. You have to wade through a lot of human tragedy to get to the happy ending. I recommend it for people who have a high tolerance for human tragedy at the movies.


The Twilight of the Movie Vampire

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, written by Melissa Rosenberg, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison

What is it about vampires? Or rather, why are vampires in the post-sexual revolution era suddenly potentially sympathetic? Somebody please, it's a doctoral thesis waiting to happen. My sister dragged me to Twilight, and I was happy to go, if only to avoid the stack of very dark, oftne violating and depressing award screeners that I have been plowing through. I wanted to see something fun and light, if not beautiful, and Twilight was there.

Storyline: An attractive teenage girl from a broken family, moves from sunny Arizona to live with her father in the wet and cold hell of Washington state. She soon finds herself in the throes of irresistible passionate attraction with a handsome seventeen year old who turns out to be a vampire. They stare at each other for two hours in lots of tight close up shots. Their chests heave with lust and they stroke each other's arms. They don't have sex. The girl asks to be a vampire. The guys says no. It stops.

Theme: Baby-boomer parents are the source of all evil except for Washignton State weather and bad vampires.

Sub-theme: It is possible for teenagers to like each other and not have sex.

Performances: Better than I expected. The two leads are very attractive and the supporting players had some nice moments.

Production notes: Really cheesy special effects, which surprised me in this day and age. The director's vision was mostly annoying. The shots were two self-conscious in the first half of the movie. It reminded me of the first half of Into the Wild. Too many close ups is just annoying. Very low budget locations.

Script: As bad as the book in terms of dialogue. Nothing much happens in terms of character choices. I actually thought the movie was better than the book, most of which I read in twenty minutes standing in the aisle at Walmart. It's not Madam Bovary.

It's kind of Sex in the City for the younger female set, except without any sex. It's a millenial-female fantasy about falling in love with a man who is a grown-up, especially compelling to the younger set because most of the milennials have been raised by people who were not adults. The paradox of the piece is that the man that Bella feels safe with, just happens to be a, well, monster. If there is any danger here, it is in an over-emphasis on hormones and sexual attraction. The best advice to a teenager who is wanting to spend all their time in sexual fantasy is, "Don't dwell on it." Twilight says, "DWELL ON IT. Stare at it. Roll around in it and give yourself to it."

In its literal story beats it is harmless, though. Lord knows, they could be watching American Pie or Saw XVII. Can't recommend but I won't call for a pass either. It is better than Bella..... (heh heh)

Wrestling with the Unexamined Life

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Robert Siegel, starring Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei

After Wall-E and The Visitor, The Wrestler was actually the best film as art I have seen so far this year. Of course, it comes with some horrifying violence, and way more of Marissa Tomei than I ever wanted to see. That is, folks, full frontal nudity several times. She's one of those strippers writhing around poles that we are seeing so much in the movies these days. Along with vampires. (The whole world has lost its mind.)

An aged-out professional wrestler has a heart attack that sets him on an existential crisis to reconnect with his lesbian daughter, and to make a serious relationship with a stripper. In the end, he can't handle the mundane life outside the ring and dies for one last dive off the ring ropes to crush his opponent against the mat.

Theme: Being an object of public blood-lust takes its toll.

Performances: Excellent. Mickey Rourke really goes there and there isn't a false note here. His character is paradoxically amiable and dedicated, even though it is to a life of pretending to beat the crap out of other men. We like him and we are rooting for him to find love. If I wasn't so high on Richard Jenkins getting the Oscar for The Visitor, I'd be wearing a Mickey Rourke button.

Tomei is always great, which begs the question why she is taking roles like this which require her to prostitute herself. I was sad to see her sink to this level. Granted, the character of the wrestler would fit in a strip club, but they really didn't have to go there. She could just as well been a grocery store lady or a beautician. Evan Rachel Wood also does a solid job of fleshing out the millennial child who becomes an angry lesbian because her baby-boomer parents have let her down. (Dry voice:) Haven't seen that before....

Directoral Vision:
Excellent. Absolutely served the story and didn't distract. You don't think about the director in this one.

The film is hugely dependent on the arena for its entertainment value. I hadn't seen or thought of the world of professional wrestling before, so it was a guilt pleasure for me to have this access to it. It is seedy and ugly and depressing - reminded me of a rock music doc series I saw years ago called, "The Decline of Western Civilization".

The funny thing about the film is how tender it is in parts. Achieving poignancy in this arena is an achievement indeed.

I can't broadly recommend this film because it is a hard R full of nudity and lap dances and simulated brutality and foul language. But if you can stand a gritty portrayal of a man wrestling with the wages of sin which are leading to his death, then this is a worthy character study.


Coming soon: Quick reviews of Milk (got nausea?), Burn After Reading (Newsflash from the Coens: "We've been wrong. Crime actually does pay!"), and Guilt.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Several people have asked me how we handled the mystery of the Immaculate Conception in our screenplay "Mary, Mother of the Christ."   We elected with most of the theological mysteries in the movie to take on a more reverential posture of not looking straight on, but rather,  using imagery to hint at the "beyond mere words" realities of the moments.  This has a great tradition in sacred art, and I think, achieves much more for the project and for the viewer than if we tried to show everything literally.

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which has been made the patronal feast of the United States of America.  That feels particularly significant as our nation prepares to inaugurate the most anti-life President and Administration in American history.  We need to pray for the mercy of God, asking for the special intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus that Obama and his crowd will somehow be held back from all the evil they intend to do to children in the womb.   

But anyway, in honor of the Feast today (which for you Catholics IS a holy day of obligation...ahem....), here's the scene...



The sky gradually lightens and makes visible the Land of Galilee. There are rolling green hills verdant with olive and cypress trees, and flowering fruit orchards. Terraced tracts of grape vines and golden wheat are carved into the hills.

A SHEPHERD looks over his flock of goats and sheep.

CLOSE IN ON, Nazareth, a modest village nestled on a slope. Patches of white flowers dot the hills around the village.

MOVE IN ON a patch of flowers in a crevice behind a poor home. They are lilies, bright white with yellow pistils.

ECU A LILY, its white purity only interrupted by its vivid yellow pistil.

ECU ANOTHER LILY, white and yellow.


ECU A LILY unlike any of the others, is slightly apart from the rest, with an immaculate white pistil at its center.

Hold.  Then, a light breeze stirs it softly.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Entering into Advent. Maranatha!

I first saw the above image several years ago and I never forgot it. It is called Our Lady of Advent and pictures Mary with the Incarnate Word in her womb, preaching to us in the posture of master and teacher, and yet humble and fragile, as an unborn child.

I had it in mind when I wrote the advent scene in the movie Mary, Mother of the Christ which is currently in pre-production and slated to start principal photography in March.

I thought to share the scene with you as an Advent reflection. The idea of the scene is that all of humanity is waiting to be saved, and that the One who has the answers to every human grief and need is always right there hidden in plain sight, within the reach of our prayers.


(The scene takes place in the town square of Bethlehem. Mary takes Joseph's place in line to be registered for the census.)

Joseph takes the donkey and leaves Mary standing at the end of a long line of people.

SOME YOUNG MEN jostle into place and over-looking Mary, shove into her place in line.

An OLD WOMAN, horrified, grabs Mary’s arm to steady her.

OLD WOMAN: Barbarians!

Mary smiles at her, then, sees a SMALL BOY staring up at her.

LITTLE BOY: I’m hungry.

Mary nods. She finds a clump of grapes in her bag and gives it to him. He takes an eager, happy bite.


The LINE OF TRAVELERS weaves through the square, around the synagogue and along the side of the town walls.


1) Mary, heavy with child and weary, lays a hand on her swollen womb and closes her eyes in prayer.

2) A LARGE, WEALTHY MAN drums his fingers on his arm in impatience. Then, he pulls out a luscious dripping cake which he crams into his mouth. He licks the syrup off his lips. He is bored. Annoyed. Dead in his self-satisfaction.

3) The line of travelers stretches the length of the square.

4) Mary waits.

5) SEVERAL YOUNG MEN, throw dice to pass the time. One of them loses and shoves another in anger. He is insecure, threatened, frustrated.

6) A LITTLE GIRL, clings to her MOTHER’S cloak, but is jostled and frightened by the crowd. She cries.

7) Mary waits.

8) An OLD MAN, frail and neglected stares ahead bitterly.

9) A PROSTITUTE, is the only one not jostled by the crowd which avoids her as unclean. She stares ahead unseeing. Dissipated. Embittered. Longing.

10) Mary waits.


12) The pregnant Mary, holds her belly, praying and waiting.

Praying to Hold Back the Tide of the Obama Culture of Death

There is a rosary novena going on all over the world with the intention of enlightening and softening the darkened, hardened heart of Barack Obama to the cries of the defenseless unborn babies he is preparing to help slaughter.

The stakes here are very high as articulated profoundly by Robert George:

Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama’s America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law.

Go here as an act of repentance if you voted to empower Obama in his will to kill little humans. Here is one of the five intentions for the novena.

For President-elect Obama, and for all of the leaders of the United States of America, that they will be led personally to Jesus Christ and His truth, and that they will lead our country in a positive direction. Or in other words, as Archbishop Wuerl said, "That our nation's new leaders be guided in their decisions with wisdom and compassion and at the heart of all of their decisions may there be a deep respect for and commitment to the sanctity and dignity of all human life and support for the most vulnerable among us."

My personal extra intention for this is Senator Ted Kennedy. As he nears death, the voices of the demons he has given free reign in his life and soul must be gathered around him in furious legions. They are there to block out any hint of grace. But "there is no pit so deep that God's love isn't deeper still." (The Hiding Place) Join me in praying for a Damascus vision to smash through and lead him to a public repentance.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rachel Going Nowhere

Just so bad. Sooooooooo bad. I think the point here was for Anne Hathaway to prove she has "real" acting chops, by appearing in one of those quirkily brilliant little indie features. Oh well. This movie is not brilliant, and mistakes weirdness for quirkiness. And Hathaway really ends up just being wedged into a wincingly, embarrassing role that only shows she has very bad instincts in scripts. And somebody has to say it, with the year's most god-awful haircut.

I went to see this film because I'm a Debra Winger fan and I was excited to see her on the screen again. But no, what little of her there is in this dreadful piece, is hardly worth the torture of the rest of it.

Bad script. Bad story. Bad dialogue. Cheap production values. Weird and annoyingly romaticized Indian cultural objects, music and wedding rituals. And also weird Jamaican dancers in bikinis and neon colored feathers. Never wanted to see that interspersed with shots of a 12-Step Drug Addicts meeting. And all set in a totally post-Christian liberal fantasy word in which there are no mores and values, except probably for hating Republican people.

Just really bad. Save yourselves. Passssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Crikey, mate! What a total mess!

I remember when I was in Australia last year that somebody explained to me the local euphemism in which something very nice is called a "dinky di." Well, let's just say the new movie Australia by director Baz Luhrmann needs a whole new euphemism, maybe, "dinky doo-doo"?

It is a spectacular mess. That is, it is lots of spectacle but all strung together in a very messy way. so much of the movie comes across like a travelogue, only of the most ugly, unsightly parts of Australia. The exceptions of course are the two gorgeous leads, Nicole "Can Her Eyes Be Any Bluer" Kidman and Hugh "Any Excuse To Remove the Shirt is Fine" Jackman. They look lovely here. Too bad what they have to do is act ridiculous.

I felt very often in the 2 hour and 55 minute long project that I was watching a kind of cartoon. It was over-the-top, but we've come to expect that from Luhrmann, but generally it's okay because it is the service of a larger, universal theme. Here, the theme seems to be a weird politically correct apology for white Australians, and a highly romanticized depiction of all things aboriginal - except the aboriginal women, who were all horribly unattractive. Along with the over-the-topness, the period establishing shots of 1939 Darwin, Australia were badly executed paintings that looked like they had been bought in a hotel lobby art sale.

Australia is too cute. Too long. Too sentimental. Too episodic. Too melodramatic. The score too loud and swelling. The acting too theatrical. The script just too, well, um, shitty.

But no worries. If you haven't seen it, you have been warned. G'day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from...

...the Philadelphia airport. A day after. I'm on my way back to Los Angeles after a lovely visit home. Too bad New England is so cold. It would be such a lovely place if it wasn't basically uninhabitable 8 months a year.

I was brooding yesterday at Mass on how many Thanksgivings America will get to celebrate before the whole thing is ruled by the new Nazis of Tolerance an insensitive, oppressive celebration of patriarchial and religious colonialism. The day asks us to be thankful to Whom, after all? Some Deity, eh? Can't have that now, can we? But maybe in the future changed and hopeful world we will all go and work out on Thanksgiving instead of thanking God.

I'm also thinking we pro-lifers need to co-opt the monniker "abolitionists." I think that would be keenly galling to the Obama crowd as they shove eighty-seven different ways to kill baby, elderly and chronically ill humans down our throats. Maybe if Obama was all black instead of half-black, he would care more about civil rights? Just brooding here...

So, I'll be off to Fatima in Portugal on December 10th. Got to scope out the lay of the land for the movie I am working on now. Prayers for astounding insight and divine inspiration are so very needed.

The other movie, Mary, Mother of the Christ is going ahead in a very graced way. The financing seems to have come together in the last week. A director is attached and it's out to talent and a shooting date is on the calendar for March. Please do keep the progress of this project in your prayers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's Your Fault Christian Obama Voters....

It's all on you. And we're just getting started......

From Brietbart yesterday:

| 11/22/08 3:33 PM EST
Ellen Moran, executive director of EMILY’s List, was named White House communications director by President-elect Obama on Saturday.....

EMILY's List, one of the most important Democratic constituency groups, says it is "dedicated to building a progressive America by electing Democratic pro-choice women to office."

SIng it with me: "Kill the babies! Kill the babies!" HURRY! KILL THEM!

Tell me why you Like Obama....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Helping You Help Me

We have a major star who is interested in playing Herod the Great in the movie I co-wrote "Mary, Mother of the Christ. Said star has asked for a little beefing up of the role of Herod in the movie, and came up with the intriguing idea of having the terrible king show up at the scene of the slaughter of the innocents, and then make a speech to one of the dead babies.

Needless to say, it is rather where I am living these days and all I can do not to have Herod say, "Hell, I don't know if this was wrong. It's above my paygrade."

I spent most of the last two days working on the scene, and I think it is coming out okay. But I thought to toss it out to you loyal readers in case one of you has a cool idea about the scene pop into your head. What do you think? What did Herod think about the Slaughter of the Innocents? How would he talk about it? Would he be just dismissive like Obama about the unborn? Or something else?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BSG Freaking Out

Okay, back to what's REALLY important....

The IMDB page for the much anticipated last ten episodes of the great Battlestar Galactica (2003) (all bow) is listing a "freaking me out!" casting addition.

If you don't want a potentially mind-blowing spoiler of who just might be the Final Cylon, then, by all means, don't click here.

Now, I own that I had thought of this a while back, but dismissed it as being dumb from a story/character standpoint. And the words "dumb" and BSG don't often end up in the same sentence. (Unless that sentence is, "Why is the global audience so DUMB as to not be insanely obsessed with the wonder of BSG?!?")

My feeling is, making this character "the one" is way too cute. And also left-fieldish.

But it sure will make Kara's life (whatever that means since Season 3) much more complicated...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shaken Awake by The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I'm in the Phoenix airport and the Wi-Fi here is uneven (- which I find disconcertingly cheeky. Don't they know that Obama has been elected and has ushered in a new era of complete transformation of hope and change?!), but I wanted to send a heads-up for the haunting and eerily relevant movie now in theaters, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

The film is being distributed by Miramax and was co-produced by BBC Films. It is worthy of your time and I think should be a must see for teenagers and perhaps junior high students depending on their maturity.

I generally have a bias against Holocaust films. They have to work very hard to win my recommendation because so many of them seem to just rehash the same issues over and over again. I also tend to smart against the notion that the Nazis were the worst thing to happen in the 20th Century. It seems to me the crimes of the Gulag and Mao and Fidel and the other leftist dictators have been arguably worse. They certainly lasted longer. But anyway, be assured that you haven't seen THIS Holocaust movie before. While we have seen the German perspective, we haven't seen it from this angle.

Dramatically in "the eyes of a child" genre, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is all about the inevitable personal toll that an individual will have to pay for dabbling with evil. Set in a German family in WWII, it provides a fly on the wall look at a family just like yours - two cute kids who are the center of their parents' world, a mother who is proudly supportive of her husband who has just gotten a promotion, a little bit of tension with the mother-in-law who seems stuck in disapproval of the new ways, and a young husband and father who is just trying to earn a living in the new Germany. The thing is, he just happens to be an SS officer who has been promoted to be commandant of a death camp.

The eight year old son, Bruno, provides the point of view of the film, and he does the confusion and boredom with adult politics and inconsistency very well. The inconsistency here is in the parents who are raising their two children to be delightful, well-rounded good people....all the while trying to keep the uncomfortable truth of the death camp at bay.

The two highlights of the film are the haunting score by the uber-talented James Horner, and the key performance of the mother of the family, played by Vera Farmiga. Farmiga makes her character so wonderfully sympathetic to us and, then, slowly unravels before our eyes. This mother is not the stero-typical robotic and barbaric "Goebbel's Wife" we have seen time and time again in the Holocaust genre. This is a human being who finds herself being swept along in the weird and increasingly dark momentum of her people's history. She isn't sure how it happened. She never signed on for it all, but by the time she takes action to extract herself and her children, it may be too late.

I would love to see Farmiga get an Oscar nod for her work here. So far, her performance is the most notable, and compelling one I have seen this year, with the possible exception of Richard Jenkins' great job in The Visitor.

There is a little bit of controversy about this film. Critics seem to be annoyed that it derives its central tension from the threat to one little German boy, as opposed to the millions of Jews. This criticism seems to me to be idiotic. Every movie derives its power by foregrounding the problems of one or two little people. In this case, the point of the film is to point a finger of condemnation at the German grown-ups here, who thought they could "handle" the evil they were dabbling in. In the end, it becomes a snowball rolling down hill that has the same effect as in the life of the Pharoah Ramsees when he perpetrated evil on the Hebrew people. If you do evil, it will consume you...or at least your children.

The film is not at all graphic, but the end is very disturbing. The people sat in the theater silent during the credits. The ladies behind me were wiping away tears. But I think everybody needs to see it. ESPECIALLY this week when so many Christians have seen their way to compromising with the greatest social evil of our day - abortion. Our people voted to overlook a little thing like the slaughter of the unborn, because of other considerations like economic prosperity, climate change and the desire to have all the other nations in the world like us again. This kind of a choice gets a very dramatic and cautionary treatment in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

I walked out of the theater ashamed of my country, and for the first time in any Holocaust movie, seeing in the German people not a scapegoat of history, but people just like us Americans in 2008. Only we will get judged harsher then they will, eh? Because we had their mistakes to study. My thought as I drove away in my car was, "The only real lesson of history is that people never learn from it."

Strong recommendation for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Spirit of the Age

That's poet/musician Michael Card above. I have had one of his songs running through my head all week. It's the one from his meditation on the Incarnation album, "The Final Word." The song is about the slaughter of the innocents by Herod. It's very relevant this week. Go here to download the song. Here are a couple verses:

The Spirit of the Age

I thought that I heard crying,
coming through my door.
Was it Rachel weeping
for her sons who were no more?
Could it have been the babies
crying for themselves,
Never understanding why they died for someone else?

A voice was heard of weeping and of wailing,
History speaks of it on every page.
Of innocent and helpless little babies,
Offerings to the spirit of the age.

Now every age has heard it,
the voice that speaks from hell:
"Sacrifice your children and for you it will be well."
The subtle serpent's lying,
his dark and ruthless rage.
Behold it is revealed to be the spirit of the age!

A voice was heard of weeping and of wailing.
History speaks of it on every page.
Of innocent and helpless little babies.
Offerings to the spirit of the age.

Don't trust the spirit of the age....

There's more to it, but you get the point. Check it out.


And we're off. (From the Huffington Post today...)

"Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team."

How would Bugs Bunny sing it, "Kill the babies! Kill the babies!" Hurry!!!! Hurry!!! KILL THEM!!!!!

Hmmmmm..... Please one of you Christians for Obama, please help me out here with one of your swift and tortured rationalizations about how an Obama presidency won't mean more abortions. Because, two of Obama's three FIRST ACTIONS AS PRESIDENT seem to be all about killing the Jews. Oh no, excuse me, I meant oppressing the slaves. Oh! What is wrong with me today? I meant, of course, killing the little inconvenient humans in the womb.

It's stunningly terrifying how killing little people ISN'T above Obama's paygrade, heh? A wise man ("a philosopher king") would hesitate before taking any action that might end up in the death of other people.

Sleep well, guys.


But I want to say a word to my Catholic Obama-supporting readers. I have to ask the indulgence of my non-Catholic readers here while I take a rare moment to address my own who frolic on the Fullness of Truth side of the Tiber.

The question is, was it over-stepping of me to suggest that a Catholic voting for Obama was a sin? Okay, well, with St. Thomas, I will grant you that hopelessly stupid Catholics could possibly be exempted from the pain of sin here. Also, a case could be made that Catholics who are invincibly ignorant (that is really, really clueless through no choice of their own and completely unaware of the gifts available to them to inform their consciences through the compassionate light of the Holy Spirit as it speaks through the teaching authority of the Church) could also escape responsibility in this matter. So, if you, Catholic for Obama are either of these, hopelessly stupid or invincibly ignorant, you would possibly not be flirting with grievously sinful behavior by voting for Obama, and I would feel compelled to apologize to you for suggesting it. Of course, you would then probably also be too stupid or ignorant to understand my apology, but hey, that would be a matter, say, above my pay grade to correct.

But, if you are not hopelessly stupid, or invincibly ignorant, you are in spiritual trouble. Big trouble. Because you aren't like the Protestants in this matter. Through the choices of their ancestors centuries ago, the Protestants have grown up basically on their own in sorting through questions of faith and morals. They are over their heads in this because it isn't a fair fight between silly human brains up against "not flesh and blood, but principalities and powers." But when millions of them get stuff wrong, like whether it is okay to support a politician who wants to unjustly screw Native Americans out of their property, or who, like Obama, want scientists to suck the brain stems out of unborn humans, the Protestants will not be fully culpable for their errors in judgment.

But you, Ted Kennedy - Pelosi - John Kerry - Joe Biden, you are another matter.

In choosing to empower Obama with your vote, you have acted in flagrant, willful disobedience to the Magisterial voice of the Church, YOUR Church. The Holy Spirit set up that Magisterium for exactly such a time as this: a time when a handsome, hip, articulate and compelling leader comes forth who would confuse your screwed up little nature by the disconnect between his bearing and his message. You really want to vote for him because he moves your emotions. But the things he says makes your intellect disturbed. But then your commitment to WHO YOU ARE as a Catholic should step in and say, "I don't know what to do here. What does the Church say?" And the Church says, "When you vote to empower someone who advocates something that is objectively immoral, you share in the responsibility for what they will do with that power." And then you, acknowledging your puny, overwhelmedness against the conflict between your emotions and your reason, would submit yourself humbly in faith to the Holy Spirit as He speaks through the system He set up. And then you couldn't vote for the Planned Parenthood candidate.

In this case, Catholic-for-Obama, WHO YOU ARE as a Catholic took a back seat to WHAT YOU WANT as effectively your own deity/magisterium. We're right back in the Garden with this as the words of the snake echo down through the centuries, "But YOU shall be like God, deciding what is good and evil..." You are suddenly just like the Catholic who voted for Hitler because he made your heart beat with pride through his speeches, even though you felt a bit queasy about those harsh things he said about "the Jew." But you really, really wanted Hitler because he promised to fix Germany's economy and global standing. So you talked yourself into a posture that the Church should just stay out of things like the bedroom or the hospital or the, you know, racial ghetto they're building on the edge of town. REALLY! Have you never ever wondered how it happened that so many good Christians supported the Third Reich? THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENS!


So, the Protestants, who, flailing around helplessly on their own, talked their consciences into supporting Obama, will get into heaven before you. Their sin is foolishness and some level of willed ignorance. Yours, is disobedience and arrogance. A much more serious matter.

If you really couldn't see your way to supporting McCain as a perceived "lesser of two evils," than you should have voted for a third party candidate. Because, as St. Thomas says, if you act when your conscience is conflicted about whether a matter is sinful, than you are willing yourself to possibly commit a grave sin. And we don't get to do that. (Try now and dismiss everything I have said for "judging you." It is your privilege to dismiss me the way you have dismissed the Magisterium of the Church. But maybe, you would be dismissing a prophetic voice that has been sent to you. Yeah...... "See, they murder and stone the prophets.")

Friday, November 07, 2008

Being on the Wrong Side of History, II

"You see, those people in there,
they're not really people at all."

(from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas)

Not surprisingly, I have gotten many emails in reaction to my post about the election of the man I principally think of as Barack Obortion. I'm going to reprint a few of them here and then add some more kindling comments to the fire.

"The tide, the dismal tide..."

Barbara, Although we’ve never met, I just wanted to tell you how much your words mean to me. I live in Canada but we are directly affected in so many ways with what happens in the US. As the saying goes, when the US sneezes, we catch cold. I became a Catholic just a couple of years ago and for that I thank God. I would have never had the spiritual strength to even attempt to stand up against this unmitigated evil that could well be foisted on North America. It reminds me of the line from No Country for Old Men…”it’s the tide, the dismal tide.” I can’t believe the gullibility of people, especially those who call themselves Christian. It makes me want to weep and it makes me want to scream. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.



From Germany....

Dear Ms. Nicolosi,

Thank you for your bold statement! I am a German screenwriter and director, and your words cut into my heart, because I know what it means to live on soil that is still drenched with the blood of God's people. We Germans are the way we are. because of the things we try (hard) not to remember, and still, we cannot escape them. There is no innocence, no end to responsibility, no cover-up through the shifting sands of history. The holocaust is as alive in our hearts, minds or collective unconscious, as it is in the memories of its few survivors who are still around. There is only forgiveness, and no escape for those who do not seek it. I know that God's law tolerates no exception. I know that God accepts no argument, no pragmatism and no delay in the execution of His eternal will.

God will judge Mr. Obama, who said about his daughters "If they make a mistake, I don't want them to be punished with a baby". Punished with a baby. God won't look at Mr. Obama's democratic, charitable or merciful works and see in them a compensation, at least in those works which Mr. Obama does not do in God's name - God will judge Mr. Obama's heart, like everybody else's.

Proverbs 21:1 "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will."

But there is hope - God can still change Mr. Obama's soul, and we can do our part by prayer. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven... We can command the love of heaven to earth, and we should do so now. Prayer, repentance and submission under God's loving will had changed the hearts and ways of many of the kings of Israel, and why shouldn't it change a democratic leader of our day. God can do so, and He is eager to do so, and we can certainly play a role in it, now that the ballots are cast.

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

No matter what deception he used, regardless of the secular multi-media power behind him and the obscene amount of moneys spent - Obama was elected by a Christian virtue, that of hope. People put faith in him, and experience shows, that where there is faith, it can be put into other things, and persons, too. Let's pray that the American people will put their faith in God alone (again), and see that all other things (and people) are subordinate, and subject, to God's will. Jesus was an optimist from the beginning of time, and so am I. America is a wonderful nation, and still the most faithful nation of our time.

John 19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.

All the very best from Berlin,


From Obama's home town...

Thank you for writing this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am ashamed to admit I have been cowed by my friends who have accused me of being a one-issue voter (sigh, which I am, and always will be until abortion has ended). Shame on me for not yelling right back. This articles gives me my, um, ovaries back.

Tonight, after reading this, I went to my parish's prayer service for the election, then proceeded to another parish's adoration chapel to say the rosary.

Should BHO win, it will be a sad day for unborn children everywhere and women of color in developing nations, especially, who are going to get artificial birth control and abortion stuffed down their throats (thanks to BHO's cozy relationship with Planned Parenthood and people like George Soros). We could be in for a very bumpy ride.

God bless you for giving voice to what many, many, many men and women know in their hearts to be true.


Several folks also sent me an article by Fr. George Rutler about a book by Robert Hugh Benson called The Lord of the World. Written in the early part of the 20th Century, the book eerily seems to predict the whole weird cult of Barack that we have watched unfold in these last few months - a guy with nothing to recommend him except style comes forward and sends people into thrall. They faint in front of him and place on him all the kind of hope and adulation that is proper to God. It doesn't end well for the world.

We'll see.

The most interesting reactions to my post were the ones from people who were enraged about the picture of the little hum an slaughtered by abortion. People seemed more infuriated by the fact that I had posted the picture, than they were by the contents of the picture itself. Amazing, no?

What you had in that reaction was fury that I would distract them from their ravings about Obama's compassion, wisdom and how much he "gets it" about the poor, by an image of the barbarism that he actually stands for.

Please, please, do tell me about how humane Obama is. And how he won't torture people like the Bush Administration, and how he wants every child to have a great education. Please, do go on. Don't let the evidence of your senses sidetrack you from what you want to believe.

I wonder if the people who are enraged by these images get similarly furious when people post pictures of starving children in Africa, or of civilians killed in bombings in Iraq, or of the people being persecuted in Tibet or East Timor?

No, they don't hate those photos, do they? Because those are so safely far away. It's creepy to see the images of the aborted child who might have been your next door neighbor but for your vote for people who support abortion rights. Somehow, supporting those who support slavery, makes you complicit in slavery. It does. Yes, it does.

Yes, it DOES.

So, the pictures are really, really uncivil of me to post, aren't they? Don't want to have to think about those babies. Those tortured faces and massacred little bodies. Want to think about "hope" and "CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANGE!"

Good luck with that.

Monday, November 03, 2008

An Open Letter About Being A "One-Issue Voter"

I just sent this message off in an email to yet another of the annoying useful idiots who define themselves as Christians supporting Barack Obama and have felt the need to try and rally me to the cause of supporting the man.

In the name of missing a chance to take a stand on the slavery of our day.....


Dear _____________

I have received your heartfelt appeal for me to consider voting for Barack Obama. As a Christian, I find your message way beyond galling, and into the realm of the surreal.

I can not, under any circumstances, ever support a candidate who thinks it is okay for a baby human to be chemically poisoned in its mother womb.

That is, nothing could ever prevail upon me to vote for a man who vehemently argued it was not a moral problem to have a late term child, delivered intentionally in breach, so that it's head could be punctured with scissors and then have it's brain sucked out so that it's skull could be readily collapsed.

In other words, there is no possible scenario, under which I would vote for a man who shrugged that the separation of the humanity of unborn humans from their rights as persons was ABOVE HIS PAY GRADE!!!!! It is particularly mind-numbing that such a blithe dismissal comes from a man of color, whose own personhood was voided only a short hundred and fifty years ago by the same Supreme Court that has arbitrated this the greatest social evil of our lifetime.

It is proof of the complete triumph of the civil rights movement that the group that was once oppressed now gets to declare another group subhuman so as to nullify their civil rights.

But let's be clear for the record, shall we? Not once, in the history of the human race - NOT ONCE! - has a group of humans separated another group from their rights as persons, and been right. NOT ONCE! In fact, the people who voided other's personhood - the others being Jews, women, Native Americans, blacks - have all been judged by history as being among humanity's most vile and evil of groups. So why the hell do you think this time will be any different? It's the EVIL, stupid!

I guess it takes an intellectual of Obama's stature to render the above image obscure and subject to debate. Above your pay grade to say what that is, IS IT?! Above your pay grade??!!! A flipping five year old can tell you what that is, you gutless hypocrite. It's a little dead person.... Looking out for the little guy, huh, Obama? Gonna take care of the poor? It's not quite going to be UNIVERSAL health care is it, Senator?

Don't kid yourself. Abortion ain't just one more issue on the horizon anymore than slavery was in the 19th Century, or anti-Semitism in Germany in the 1930's. There were certainly other issues in 1858. There were economic problems and international disputes - but the truth is, today, we remember none of those other issues. Slavery was the DEFINING issue in the same way that abortion is today because the failure of a person to have a gut-wrenching horror over both slavery and abortion, reveals everything about the quality, insight and wisdom of that individual. Myself, I am not going to see my name on the rolls of history's dupes alongside the slavery question's Steven Douglas who found a political rationalization to support keeping black people as slaves. He was wrong then. You and your ridiculous Obama are wrong today.

So please, stop trying to convince me that your guy is great. He isn't! And don't you effing dare try and convince yourself that Jesus is somehow indifferent to your lukewarmness about abortion or that the war in Iraq somehow balances out the Democrat party's obsession with abortion rights. Don't you dare try and duck the ramifications of your vote in this matter. You must own the screams of the unborn echoing back to heaven in the way that the German people had to own the stench of the burning flesh of the death camps. Own it. Because you are a useful idiot for the demon of this age.

May God help us.

Barbara R. Nicolosi

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pithy Movie Ratings for Busy Culture Watchers

I have been seeing a few movies lately, but there really hasn't been anything that has really been worth taking a lot of time to review. Still, for those of you who want to know, here are quick "Barb giving the thumbs down" to some things that are in theaters right now...

Appaloosa Directed by Ed Harris and starring Jeremy Irons, Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Rene Zellwegger.

Strengths: Ed Harris in cowboy clothes riding horses and acting alpha-male-ish. Priceless.

Weaknesses: Everything else. This one of the recent sporadic revisits to the Western genre is what could correctly be called extraordinarily conventional. But that doesn't make it extraordinary.... There are good actor written and directed pieces like The Apostle and Sling Blade which allow talented actors to go somewhere in character dramas that studio executive driven tent poles aren't allowed to go any more. Then, there are bad actor pieces in which one feels like the actors are being self-indulgent and playing dress up, in which they demonstrate the bitter truth of what we shrug about in Hollywood with the words "He's after all, just an actor."

Appaloosa is that latter thing. Nothing really offensive. Just really nothing. And actually painfully embarrassing to watch Jeremy Irons flail around here in search of something to do.

{NOTE FROM BARB....HMMMMM....I need to practice my pithiness, I think. Let me try again....]

Nick and Norah's Infinite Play List directed by Peter Sollett and starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings

Strengths: Michael Cera. He's playing that guy from Juno again here, but he does it so well that we're not at the point of thinking that maybe that is the only thing he can do.

Weaknesses: Everything else. Kat Dennings has nowhere near the quirky compelling screen presence of Ellen Page in Juno to cast Cera's awkward nice guy into better relief. She doesn't seem much of an actress, and I'm wondering why with the 80 gazillion young ingenues out there she is getting parts.

What else?.... there is no story here. There are no beats, foreshadows, defining character arcs or turning points, visual images or intriguing notions. There is one really, really crass and disgusting device in which several characters unknowingly chew a piece of gum that has been in a vomit-filled Penn Station toilet. An image that has had revoltingly relentless staying power in my brain.

And for maliciously bestowing that on me when in return I had innocently given the filmmakers two hours of my time and fourteen dollars, I full-throatedly and vehemently PAN this piece of teen-pandering crap.

The Miracle at Santa Anna
, directed by Spike Lee

Strengths: It didn't result in any audience members committing ritualized homocides of white men.

Weaknesses: As a piece of cinema this is a complete mess. But worse, it is a reverse-racist, white American male visual lynching that sadly spews only one clear idea: Spike Lee has nothing to say but how much hate he has in his heart. I hope this has been somehow cathartic for him. For us not filled with hate people, it was boring and insulting. I kept sliding out of the story to think about Spike, "poor fellow."

The only miracle in this piece is that it got financed. It has already taken up two hours of my life. I refuse to concede even one more second to the negative that is this film.

Nearly Every Thought I've Ever had in My Head...

This past May, I had the honor of participating in a four day conference in Austin, TX that had the title Transforming Culture. It was organized by the awe-inspiring David Taylor and featured wonderful thinkers as keynote speakers like Jeremy Begbie, Eugene Peterson, and Andy Crouch...all of which had me singing the Sesame Street song when I saw my name on the program beside theirs, "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong..."


I was just ego-surfing this morning (because now that we are past the two job searches for Act One, the Gala, the Story Conference and the Mary: Mother of the Christ script, I have nothing to do!!!), and found that some amazingly zealous and purposeful soul has transcribed the main portion of my comments and posted it here.

Here's a snip:

I love artists. I love creative people. They make me crazy, but they are never boring. And I get bored very easily. I have the sense when I am with artists that I am with people who are living life to the fullest. Even in their despair, it's gritty and real and passionate.

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who are artists and people who are supposed to support them. So, figure out which you are and do it with vigor.

In a study I've done on artists geniuses, I've learned that when God sends a gift of genius He usually sends at least one person who gets that genius. It's like Theo with Van Gogh and Susan Gilbert with Emily Dickenson. You can see this over and over. Somebody was given this gift to save this artist for the rest of us. That might be you. I encourage you then to take that vocation seriously.

I think the subtext for this symposium has been that right now in the Church it’s real hip to support the arts. Everybody is pretty much on board with that. The problem is that we aren’t really sure, though, who is an artist in the sense of those we want to support for the general edification of the Body of Christ in the world.

There are some we want to support in that they are artists for their own catharsis. The art that they are doing is for them to be healed. In that sense we are all supposed to be artists. There's a book called Only the Lover Sings by a philosopher named Joseph Cipher.[NOTE FROM BARB: That's Josef Pieper.] The book makes the case that the modern world is so intrusive that we are losing the ability to see. There's so much coming at us that we're losing the ability to see the presence of God in the details. So we have to become artists because art makes us focus on the details. So whether that's gardening or cooking or whatever it is that we do, everyone has to bring forth beauty somehow. Everyone needs to exercise that creative facility to keep their life vibrant.

But tonight I'm talking about the other sense of artist. I'm talking about the person who's been called to be prophet and priest for the masses of us. Those who have been given powerful talent from God to edify the Church.

It seems to me that we need help to figure out who's who, because every pastor is now freaked out that anyone could come up to them and announce, I'm an Artist. Give me money. Fill in the blank -- money, time, microphone, whatever it is. How do we know how we're supposed to respond to that? Before doing that, though, I'm going to lay out a few ideas about the beautiful. This is the terrain of artists -- the beautiful. And one way to recognize them is that they dwell in this terrain.

There are a few teeny discrepancies in the text (the 20th Century philosopher is Josef Pieper not Cipher...) but overall, the talk is a good summary of the main conclusion s that my life as a Christian, an artist and a former of artists has given to me up to now. Many thanks to the good blogger at Living Palm.

(Note that the talks from the event are going to be published into a book, and I have already submitted my edited talk for inclusion in the text. I will let you all know when the book is out.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Story Conference Debrief

I'm really tired here and I can't take long as I am meeting dear friend and erstwhile Los Angeles expat Karen Hall for Mass and brunch. But what an amazing two days we just had!

It's hard not to think that we participated in something monumental in the Story Conference. Ten brains - all very sharp and passionate about the question. And everybody really showed up in the sense of being prepared, witty, entertaining, and deeply thoughtful.

Peter Kreeft told me at the end that in all the conferences he has ever attended, this one will be special and rank among the best, particularly because of the Socratic format we used. (Scott! I so wish you could've been there. You would have really loved it. Next time I pathetically whine and plead, you should relent!)

Anyway, we had so much fun because I have rarely been in dialogue with more witty, experienced and profound people. The brilliant thoughts and back and forth were thick and almost too many. I kept wanting to stop the days so that I could move into a corner and consider the ramifications of somebody's thought. But then we were off like a train again.

Now, we look forward to the book, podcasts and magazine articles. Dr. Pat Phalen will be transcribing and editing the event for publication. It will be a monumental task seeing we had about 14 hours of continuous discussion and presentations.

My thought is that anybody whose arena is storytelling will have to regard the book from this event as seminal. And then anybody else who is awake culturally will find it a must read. There is just nothing else like it out there, and if particularly Christians could brood over it, we could move so far past the "Fireproof vs. Sex in the City" facile dualism that we might be able to actually get somewhere as apostles in the culture.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Story Conference Prepping

I'm doing a lot of Flannery reading in preparation for our Story Conference next week. Some of the lines in Habit of Being are so good they make me want to call my older sister and just say them to her. It makes me happy to read her. I thought I'd share some of these lines as I find them.

(Flannery O'Connor, from a letter to Ben Griffith, 4 May, 1955)

"You will observe that I admire my own work as much if not more tan anybody else does. I have read "The Artifical Nigger" several times since it was printed, enjoying it each time as if I had nothing to do with it. I feel this is not quite delicate of me, but it may be balanced by the fact that I write a great deal that is not fit to read which I properly destroy."

"I am interested in making a good case for distortion, as I am coming to believe it is the only way to make people see."

"Thank Mr. S for liking my stories. I am always glad to know that I have a reader of quality because I have so many who aren't. I get some letters from people I might have created myself."


See Barb in the Bay Area

Barbara K. Marsh-Wetherell
Marsh-Wetherell Market Relations
+1 925 933-1907


You Need More Than Christian Values, You Also Need Talent

Danville, CA – (October 8, 2008) – Hollywood has been attacked as foregoing basic Christian and family values for sensationalism. While there are clearly examples of this occurring, the “big picture” is very different. The scripts that are accepted and the movies being made are, for the most part, not selected because they counter Christian and family values, they are selected because of the quality of the writing, the relevancy of the script and the emotional engagement of the storyline. The biggest obstacle to Christian values surfacing on the big screen is not an anti-Christian mindset, but rather a lack of talent. Act One, a non-profit program for grooming Christians to become film and TV executives, is taking this issue head-on.

Ms. Barbara Nicolosi, Founder and Executive Director of Act One, will be the featured speaker at the Tuesday, November 11, 2008 Catholics@Work breakfast forum at Crow Canyon Country Club, 711 Silver Lake Drive, Danville, CA 94526. Nicolosi will provide a view of what goes on in Hollywood and what Christians have to do to break into the industry. A full buffet breakfast is served starting at 7:00 am (Mass is offered at 6:30am at the same location.) Cost is $20 for members and $25 for non-members. To register visit

Now in its sixth year, Act One keynotes artistry, professionalism, ethics and Christian spirituality. A screenwriter herself, Nicolosi wrote The Work, for IMMI Pictures in Hollywood, and is co-writing Myriam with Benedict Fitzgerald (The Passion of the Christ) for a Beverly Hills production company.

Nicolosi is passionate about changing the nature of the content of the entertainment Hollywood produces, but she is not taking on the quixotic chore of changing the business model of Hollywood. Good talent will create good work and Hollywood will produce good work. “The goal should not be to make more Christian movies,” said Barbara Nicolosi. “The goal is to make movies people want to watch that happen to include Christian value themes.”

“Hollywood is a major force in shaping Pop Culture,” said Alison Yount, president of Catholics@Work. “Understanding how Christian values can have an impact on Pop Culture, working from within the industry as opposed to trying to apply force from the outside, will gives us a perspective on how we can alter our own thinking about how to get things done in our own work places.”

Nicolosi is a screenwriter and a member of the Writers Guild of America. She has recently co-written Mary, Mother of the Christ with Benedict Fitzgerald (The Passion of the Christ) which will be distributed by MGM. She has produced several plays with the critically acclaimed Actors Co-op Theater Company in Hollywood, including award-wining productions of Fools by Neil Simon, Shaw's The Devil's Disciple, and Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
A media columnist for the National Catholic Register, Nicolosi was the recipient of Catholic Press Awards in 2000 and 2002. She is the co-editor with Spencer Lewerenz of the 2005 Baker Books publication, Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film and Culture.

Catholics@Work is committed to fostering fellowship and connectivity among Catholics facing the realities of life in today’s workplace environment. The monthly breakfast gatherings are a unique opportunity for Catholics to:
• grow in their understanding of the Catholic faith,
• be encouraged to apply the principals of their faith in the everyday workplace,
• and, to network with other Catholic business professionals.

The breakfast series is held at Crow Canyon Country Club, Danville, California, on the second Tuesday of the month nine times per year (February-June, September-December). The event starts with a buffet breakfast followed by a speaker or panel discussion and runs from 7:00-8:30am. The event offers a great way to network with people who look for purpose and leadership in their lives. There is time prior to the beginning of each speaker’s presentation to interact with other attendees, to share faith, and business and personal information. Mass is offered at 6:30am for those who wish to attend before breakfast at the same location. Managed by Catholic business professionals, Catholics@Work breakfast events are open to all, regardless of faith or occupation, who want to explore the issues of actively living one’s beliefs in the workplace.

For more information visit or call +1 925-683-5263.

Catholics@Work is a trademark of Catholics@Work. All other brand and product names are registered trademarks, trademarks or servicemarks of their respective holders and are gratefully acknowledged. All specifications subject to change without notice.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Duchess Lacks Pedigree

It looks lovely.  So, lovely, you almost forgive the fact that this is a one note tragedy about a lovely, and intelligent young woman who is crushed under the injustice and occasional brutality of unbridled patriarchy.   

But the costumes are grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat!  And if it doesn't win best costume than whomever spent two years designing and sewing the hundreds of gorgeous dresses and hats on display here will probably jump off the top of the Paramount arches.

It wasn't a mess.  It just didn't go very many places.  It wasn't a story so much as like watching a long drawn out train wreck screeching along the track until you hit the climactic screaming marital rape scene that finally succeeds in breaking the heroine's will to virtue.

The movie seemed to me to be a thinly veiled look at the Princess Di story.  As such, it felt creepily voyeuristic to me.  Ralph Fiennes seemed to have spent hours mastering Prince Charles' strained awkwardness as he selfishly insists that he needs his mistress to live under the same roof as his wife and children.  You could hear Di's soft voice echoing off the theater walls:  "From the beginning there were three of us in this marriage."  There was another line in which a character proclaimed, "Everyone in the world loves the Duchess, except the Duke."

Keira Knightly does well as a manikin for the gorgeous costumes.  Not so well as an actor.  I was never sure what her character was really making of her predicament.  I wasn't sure if she was shrewd or clueless, heroically resolute or coweringly impotent.

In the end, I stood in the parking lot of the Director's Guild and asked my friend, "So, do we recommend this movie?"  She shrugged at me and said, "Well, I wouldn't sit through it again."  I had to agree.  So, it isn't a pass, but it isn't a recommend either.  It's just kind of there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

File Under: Only Fools Are Scandalized


Joe Eszterhas joins the Act One Storytelling Conference October 17 & 18!

Act One Presents:
"Storytelling for the 21st Century"
October 17 &18
9:30 am- 5:00 pm
Historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
Cost: $125 for both days

Come sit at the feet of some of the greatest thinkers and storytellers of our
time. Our panelists will present meaningful topics based on art, story, ethics,
and entertainment. A round table discussion by our panelists will further
explore the nature of story in today's age.

Confirmed Panelists include:

Dr. Peter Kreeft, renowned philosopher and author of over 50 titles, including
Socrates Meets Jesus
David Mc Fadezean, Executive Producer, Home Improvement, What Women Want
Barbara Nicolosi, Act One Founder, Screenwriter, VP Development, Origin
Armando Fumigalli, professor, Catholic University of Milan
Karen Hall, writer on several shows, inlcuding, M*A*S*H, Judging Amy, Hill
Street Blues, and Moonlighting
Dean Batali Executive Producer, That 70's Show, writer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Bobette Buster Creative Executive and International Story Consultant
Chris Riley, Screenwriter and Author, The Hollywood Standard
Bill Marsilii, Screenwriter, Deja Vu
Chuck Slocum, Assistant Executive Director, Writer's Guild of America
And…Joe Eszterhas, Journalist, Author, Screenwriter, Jagged Edge, Basic
Instinct, Showgirls

Due to the intimate nature of the venue, seating is limited, and we will be sold
out soon!

To register for the event or for more information, please
visit or

If you have questions about attending the event, contact

If you would like more information on being an event sponsor, contact <>

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Almost ready to come up for air...

I submitted probably my rewrite today. I think the thing is much stronger than it was two weeks ago. Hopefully, the producers will agree and I will have a break for a bit.

It was cool to see that the production company has entered a listing for the project here. I can't say a lot about the project yet. I can say it has some wonderfully profound theological moments that hearken back to The Passion of the Christ in style.

I have two or three other projects which could be listed up on IMDB, but for some reason the producers are cagey about doing that. Now, that I'm really up there, I've become obsessed with getting the others up. This is that Hollywood disease, I think. But, as we say in the biz, it is an honor just to have a listing.

We have our top candidate for the next CEO of Act One visiting us Thursday-Saturday, and as I will be shepherding hm around the most, I can't see getting back to regularly scheduled blogging before next week. Please keep this job search in your prayers.

I'm not even sure I remember HOW to blog. Hopefully, it's like riding a bike.

Honestly, ever since I discovered Facebook this past summer, I am spending a lot more time there than here. If you want a day by day, what's up with Barb N, accounting, get a Facebook account and message me to be my friend.

I'm loving my two days a week teaching at Pepperdine. The kids are really smart and we have great discussions. I am hearing from the students one by one how much they like the class. I am really liking teaching it and I will probably do it again next semester. The class is Intro to Cinema, and it is a new one for me to teach. I have to say, in all, you know, humility, the approach I am taking with the class is, well, devastatingly brilliant. You know, in all humility. But really, I think the students are actually changing in the whole way they look at movies, and by the end of the class, they will have a whole new set of objective standards by which to measure a movie. And I LOVE Pepperdine. It runs like a clock. And everyone has been so nice to me. Niceness to Barb hasn't eggzackly been the ubiquitous commodity this summer, so maybe that makes it even more, well, nice.

In heaven, I will teach this class to the critics who review movies for the Christian world... Although that might be purgatory for them. Ah, but a necessary purgation.

I am grateful and excited that current favorite actress Katee Sackhoff has signed on to play a lead in the new Dick Wolf pilot Lost and Found for NBC. I am mainly excited because it meant she pulled out of the four spots she was going to do on the highly perverted and disgusting Nip/Tuck. A whole bunch of us are praying for Katee who has said she is a Christian, and we have taken this as a sign of Divine Intervention. It doesn't look like the NBC pilot will be that big a stretch for Katee. As I read it she's going to be playing a bad-ass, LAPD detective who gets kicked downstairs to the cold case department for bucking the system. And her car is named Starbuck... But anyway, at least she won't be prostituting herself. She'll have a much better life and career avoiding the likes of Nip/Tuck. (Katee was replaced on the perverted gig by the rather famously trampish Rose McGowan. Resteth my caseth.)

I saw the new film from Steve McEveety/MPower American Carol and laughed quite hard at about four different moments. This is more than I have done at any movie since Enchanted. It isn't art, or great storytelling, but I had a good time. If you are a political conservative, parts of it are sheer catharthis. A liberal friend of mine was shocked and horrified by the film. Which might mean $100 million in red state cash funneling into Mpower soon.

Act One's 10th Anniversary Gala is October 11. We are honoring Chuck Slocum, and Alcon Entertainment. Contact if you want to come or send money. We have some COOL auction items which we will probably be sending out an advance bidding notice about. (I'm talking autographed posters from the cast of The Godfather awesome!)

The Storytelling for the 21st Century Conference is all set to go on October 17-18. Besides the great Peter Kreeft, we have European cinema luminary scholar Armando Fumagali, from the Catholic University of Milan. We have David McFadzean (creator of Home Improvement, producer What Women Want), Bobette Buster (world renowned script analyst, and founder of the Development Program at USC Film School), Chuck Slocum (#2 guy at the Writers Guild of America), Dean Batali (Writer/producer, Buffy, That 70's Show), Karen Hall (writer/producer The Brotherhood, Judging Amy), and several more. It's going to be the smartest two-day seminar on visual storytelling in the history of the world. No, I don't think I am exaggerating. If this kind of thing is your cup of tea, there are still observer seats available. Contact

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Where's Waldo?

Sorry I have been AWOL everyone. In about a six week period I went from being hapless and unemployed to having three jobs. I suddenly find myself trekking out to Malibu Tuesday and Friday mornings to teach Intro to Cinema at Pepperdine University. I have also been interim managing Act One and heading up the job searches for a couple of senior staff positions.

And then there is the little matter of the insanely rushed page one rewrite that I was hired to do on a very cool feature project that I will hopefully be able to talk about soon.

And then emotionally it has been exactly what Anne of Green Gables meant by the term "Jonah" summer. A few times I found myself considering having "Et tu Brute?" tatooed on my forehead. But there is tremendous consolation in my Mother's thesis that people are rarely malicious. They are just much more focused on themselves than anything else, and to forget that and take creepy, schizo acting out personally is really just breeding infectious crazy-making. Obnoxious comment I am tempted to write borrowing from Amadeus, "I absolve you mediocrities."

It all means I have been too tired or too grim to blog.

It's a shame because I have seen some movies like Henry Poole Was Here (mostly thumbs up for a sweet little movie that could have had a better script but is still appreciably better than the Facing the Giants style Christian schlock) and Mama Mia (total embarrassment as a story, but it was fun watching Meryl Streep do ABBA).

I also laughed a lot at the upcoming David Zucker satire American Carol. I found it ideologically cathartic.

I saw Wicked again, this time with my friend Laura from Washington. That's three times for me and I still enjoyed it thoroughly.

I have pictures and travel commentary to post from my family's vacation to the rip-snorting sexy hot spots of the Gettysburg and Antietem battlefields. (I apologize to all of you who have been holding your breath to see my inspired photos of the sunken lane at Antietem....)

I still have a polish due on another script. If I get that done this week, look for blogging got continue in earnest next week.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

On Art and Healing the World

[NB FROM BARB: A friend sent me this and asked me to post it. I don't personallyhave any experience with this group but it sounds great to me.]

Subject: Artists on Call: A Diaspora of Hope

Greetings. At the risk of clogging your email, I wanted to ask for your
help in reaching artists, educators, social workers and even medical
personnel with an exciting project that is developing at BuildaBridge.

I am writing you because of your support for BuildaBridge's mission of
bringing hope and healing to the most vulnerable of our world's children in
the tough places of the world--through the arts.

I am asking you to forward the attached flyer to artists, and others who
understand the power of arts for transformation.

Most of you know that BuildaBridge has worked in many parts of the world
since 1997. We have learned much over the years and provided excellent
opportunities for arts-integrated service. Last month we returned from
Guatemala working with 200 children in a slum of Guatemala
( Our Arts for Peace camp was
a continuation of our partnership in the country that began last
Thanksgiving. During this time we refined our arts camp for kids based on a
theme, with a very defined class structure and ritual focused on dealing
with trauma, peace-making, and hope. It was excellent.

Over the past months we have received requests for similar arts camps for
kids from different parts of the world. So we thought: What could happen if
there was a diaspora of artists from all over the world bringing artistic
hope and healing in the tough places of the world.

Artists on Call: A Diaspora of Hope is such a project. In November, this
fall, we plan to lead teams of artists to Guatemala, Haiti and Kenya,
engaging as many as 50 artists in teams to these countries. Each country
has its own unique challenges, each country has many children who suffer
from trauma, a lack of education and adequate health care, and a lack of

While we are beginning with a call to send 50 artists this Thanksgiving, our
ultimate goal is to register 1000 artists world-wide who would give at least
a week of their lives to bring hope and healing through artistic creativity.
We have an excellent start with 150 artists already registered and 30
artists who have inquired within the past several days for Diaspora 2008.

Thank you for sharing this with artists and educators, social workers,
creative arts therapists, and medical personnel who you may know who
understand the effectiveness of arts-based service.


Dr. J. Nathan Corbitt, President
205 West Tulpehocken Street
Philadelphia, PA 19144
610-656-3499 (cell)