9:00 PM | |
| You scored as Roman Catholic. You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.|
What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
7:29 PM | |
You have to register on the site, but I'm, you know, worth it.
Here's a snip I liked...
Q. Why do you do what you do?
Um, because I'm good at it. (Laughs.) I think that's the only answer that makes any sense, frankly. And I wish I could claim that I made that up, but I can't. Flannery O'Connor was asked once, "Why does one become a writer?" And she said, "There's only one reason: because you're good at it." It's amazing how many people aren't good at it who come to Hollywood! (Laughs.) And in Hollywood, you can't just be good at it, you have to be one of the top people.
So I think that's basically why I do it: it's what I was made to do. I'm a writer. And as far as teaching writers at Act One, well, because somebody has to. I long for the day when the next person will come along and take the program to the next level. But right now, it's the thing that I've been asked to do and, you know... I can't get out. (Laughs.)
I'm very leary of ministries that become a person. And everyone's like, "Oh, that's her thing." Well, no. Act One is not "my thing." It's God's thing. I'm just here for now.
Q. I get that. I want to be a professional novelist, and some of those doors are finally starting to open, but it feels like I keep getting sucked back into the journalism thing. I guess it's where God needs us to be right now.
Right. Sometimes it is. It's a funny-looking cross, but there it is. My cross just happens to be shaped like the Hollywood sign. (Laughs.) And the funny thing is, I know a lot of other people would die for that cross. But everybody wants it until you get it, and then it's like, "Eeew, this is not fun." Hollywood is just a town, but it's a weird town. And I love it, because it's where I'm supposed to be. But I have to say... sometimes Connecticut looks real good.
9:43 AM | |
Keynote speaker, Frank Pierson (Cool Hand Luke, Dog Day Afternoon) said some nice things about being a writer, and then launched into a sniping, self-righteous rant against the stupid people who are ruining America by trying to censor Hollywood and artists. These are the same stupid (did I mention religious?...Pierson did) people who completely over-reacted to poor Janet Jackson's bared-breast at the Superbowl. These same stupid people, are now on a dangerous crusade to purge all art and entertainment from any hint of human darkness or struggle. The stupid people, according to Pierson, who have completely politicized all of art and cultural life want all art to be depictions of goodness and light, and ("damn them!") they will put all of us in Hollywood in torture camps if we don't do their bidding! Or maybe even take away our BMW's!!!) To the barricades to make the planet safe for the Spice Channel and Hustler magazine!
Then, there was an acceptance letter from John Wells, who finally won a Humanitas Prize for an ER episode, after seven nominations. Wells' letter was another wild-worded warning about the (RELIGIOUS) forces of evil that have destroyed America's reputation in the modern world. Apparently, the whole frickin planet LOVED America as late as 1999, but the (damn! and stupid!)Christian Right has ruined everything by bombing everybody instead of letting a coalition of Hollywood writers and producers schmooze the angry terrorists. Again, Wells' tone was that the people who oppose his values, are stupid, evil, menacing, and, love this one, well-financed.
This is a kind of insanity. The suggestion that the Christian Right "politicized" art and culture has no connection with reality. Christians, as a rule, don't make art and culture. We have no power. But, it is a strange industry pathology for folks in this business to see themselves always as oppressed. They can't stop being the 1960's flower children, raging against the establishment. They haven't seemed to notice that they ARE the establishment now! Secondly, I rarely if ever hear Christians say they want entertainment to just be happiness and light. We are the ones who made The Passion of the Christ - slightly dark there - the box-office monster of 2004 after all. Everywhere I go, Christians are concerned to make movies that show the darkness AND the light in juxtaposition. Pierson and the elite legions at Humanitas were ranting against a foe of their imagination's own making. The people they hate don't exist...or if they do, they certainly aren't any one being listened to and followed.
My friend, sitting next to me, was working on her TV show outline during the speeches. She is smarter than me - who had nothing to do but listen to the raving. In response to my head-shaking wonder by the Hollywooders against the Christian Right of the Sith, she said, "Anybody who doesn't agree with their free-speech doesn't get any."
So, that was unpleasant.
I was glad Hotel Rwanda won for best screenplay. For the first time ever, Humanitas didn't give a 30-minute comedy Humanitas Prize. The Committee noted that comedies have been getting worse and worse and that they just didn't feel there was anything worth awarding $25,000 to. And I have to say, it didn't seem like a lot of the Gen X, up and coming, power brokers' audience was as enthusiastic about the anti-Red State raving as were the veteran Hollywood baby-boomers.
So, that was encouraging.
After the awards, I rendezvoused for a few moments with the iconic Hall sisters, and also to claim my free 30 lb. flower arrangement. (Humanitas always gives the table centerpieces away to whomever wants to lug them home.) I hadn't actually seen Barbara since last November at the CIMA Awards, so, I was excited to give her a hug and tell her, in person, that God has better things in store for her since Joan's demise. So, then, Barbara Hall said, "I have no way to get home." Karen had to get back to E-Ring so I chimed in, "I'll take you anywhere, Barb." It was settled then.
So, that was unexpected and nice.
There I was, full of happiness, getting to spend some actual face time with Barb, and also lugging my thirty pounds of flower arrangement toward the parking garage.
I knew we were in trouble when I didn't recognize the elevator to the garage. "Hmmmm," I said, my spider sense tingling, "I don't think I came up this elevator." Barb and Karen were engaged in a classic high-speed Hall exchange about Scientology and two baby tigers. Karen paused just a second to shrug, "There are a few different elevators." They went on while I could suddenly taste the banquet's chicken and poppyseed salad dressing rising in my throat. Karen waved good-bye and headed for another floor.
Barb and I got off and started walking. Barb was talking about surfing and spirituality, I think. I would have heard much more if I wasn't so sure I had never been on this floor of the parking garage in this present or any past lives. We walked along, the great showrunner and brilliant television writer, Barbara Hall, in her flip-flops and me, in semi-high heels and lugging the flowers. After a long walk, Barb said, "Where's your car anyway?" I gulped. "I don't remember."
So, that was frightening.
So stupid. Losing a car in a parking garage in L.A. is as bad as being late because of "traffic." It's something tourists do. It's completely uncool. It's much, much uncooler, when it is actually not cool, but hot and sticky in a fume filled parking garage and you are coercing a celebrity in flip-flops, to tromp around with you. It's particularly galling for me, who, if it wasn't for Jesus, would have started a religion to the Deity, "In Control."
Because it is Barb and me, our conversation moved from the way Satan influences human decision-making, to the potential for spiritual growth in Award banquets, to, you know, whether anyone has ever actually had a nervous breakdown in a Los Angeles parking garage.
So, that was cool and fun.
But our pilgrimage went on and on. Up and down aisles. Up and down elevators. Back and forth along the rows.
I can safely say part of me died somewhere on the oil spattered ground by a pretentious Ford that for one second I imagined was my Grand-Am. Kind of like the way wanderers in the desert see water.
We finally ended up accosting a couple of bow-tied clad valet guys. Barb, a much longer L.A. veteran than I shared her wisdom, "Be careful of men in white coats and bow-ties." I promised one of them, I'd always, always, always use valet parking in the future if they could help me find my car. So, eventually we got on one of the golfcarts. Barb sitting on the back with the flower arrangement, and me up front with the obliging but slightly sneering bow-tie wearer. Barb said cheerfully, "This reminds me of riding around the set on a golfcart." As Emily Dickinson wrote, "I envy the dead today..."
We found the car finally. Waiting right where I had said a hundred times it should be. We must have walked past it three times. It was more than odd. And then, we got on our way and spent another hour talking about God, life and Hollywood, while moving at the breathless clip of 15 miles per hour on the packed freeways.
I had too much fun, really, in a perverse and mortifying kind of way. Don't anyone EVER try to tell me the Divine doesn't have a sense of humor.
So, that was L.A. today.
9:05 AM | |
8:14 AM | |
Of the miracles, the treasures that you bring!"
Sr. Joyce Amaral, 1954-1978
10:24 PM | |
10:02 PM | |
All the rest of you who are wondering how to facilitate the secret scary doings of the Church in Hollywood, please click above and order our book. It will help Act One tremendously, AND it will mean you get some very interesting food for cultural thought sometime in November. Come on! Be the first on your block of pews to know what the Church can do to fix the culture fast.
Go on, click.
5:18 PM | |
Anyway, here's a funny exchange we had in the course of today's conversation...call it Round 3.
James: I hope you'll be okay with this. In my article, I referred to you as "a Catholic activist."
Barb: Forgive me, but what the heck is a Catholic activist?
James: (laughing nervously) Well, you know, somebody who is really into organizing Catholic things.
Barb: But, I don't organize Catholic things. I am the executive director of an interdenominational non-profit --
James: Yeah. Yeah...I know...but I had to call you something.
Barb: You could have called me the executive director of an interdenominational non-profit organization.
James: Yeah. Well.....[cough]
I dunno...I think calling me an "activist" makes me sound much more nasty and unbending and menacing, don't you? I think it makes me sound like someone with whom "mainstream Americans" would probably not want to play foosball or something. But, I do think it might be a nice monniker to use on Jesus some day at the gates of heaven:
Me (to Jesus standing at the Gates of Heaven): I think you have to let me in.
(Jesus raises the Divine-resurrected body eyebrow)
Me: I'm one of your activists. The NY Times said so.
Jesus: Cool. Wanna play foosball?
9:00 AM | |
Sashay over to your nearest art house theater and let the new feature documentaryMad Hot Ballroom seep into your soul. Hearkening back to the fabulous and heartwarming National Spelling Bee 2003 doc Spellbound, MHB records the people engaged in starting a ballroom dancing program in NYC grammar schools. The film is funny, poignant, charming and engaging. Spellbound was a slightly better film because of its structure and more intent focus on particular chilren in the competition, but MHB is still a beautifully executed project.
The movie revolves around ten year olds in NYC, and the professional dancers who, for the last few years, have been teaching them ballroom dancing. I love, love, love the emphasis in the movie on artistry and beauty. It is wonderful to watch the children move from awkwardness toward each other, to acceptance, and then trust and then friendship. There is a beautiful theme in the film about the differences between men and women - which is articulated both by the ten year olds, and then, by their teachers.
As with Spellbound, this film had those of us in the audience crying, laughing and cheering, and then sitting in the dark, watching all the credits go by, to acknowledge the gift that the film brought to all of us through the kindness of filmmaking strangers. Undeniably, "reality cinema" has much to offer us.
Go see this movie. I give it two high kicks, a swirl and a bow.
5:23 PM | |
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
I wanted to let you know about an all-day film class I'm teaching this summer called No Budget Film School.
I've taken everything I've learned from my years in the trenches of no-budget, independent filmmaking and put it into this class--the time spent at Roger Corman's studio; the years in production ADing $30,000 16mm features; the numerous film festivals I've attended, the hundreds of filmmakers I've talked to and the literally 1000's of micro-budget features I've screened from my days at Next Wave Films; the work with no-budget auteurs like Christopher Nolan and Joe Carnahan; and the recent features I've produced. Joining me is a team of low-budget professionals who will provide hands-on expertise in the areas of production, post-production, marketing, and distribution.
My goal is to create an extremely practical class. Filmmakers who are ready to finance their own features should be able to walk away from the class with 10 or more powerful ideas that they can use immediately, saving them time and money, and perhaps preventing them from making fatal mistakes that could doom otherwise worthy projects.
If you know anyone in the Los Angeles area who might be interested in my No Budget Film School, please pass this information along. The class will be held on Saturday, July 9, 2005 at Raleigh Studios. Details are below and on my website:
Thank you for helping me get the word out.
NO BUDGET FILM SCHOOL
The Principles and Secrets of Micro-Budget Filmmaking Revealed
Discover how filmmakers like Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins), Joe Carnahan (Narc), Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem For A Dream), Marc Forster (Monsters Ball, Finding Neverland), and Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four) launched their careers with no-budget films.
Micro-budget (under $250,000) filmmaking is unique. The rules of production and post are radically different from those of studio or even "low" budget $1 million films.
Producer Mark Stolaroff (former principal of Next Wave Films) and guest experts teach the specific methods, models and priorities of micro-budget filmmaking in this in-depth, one-of-a-kind class.
* LEARN cutting edge techniques and how to choose the latest digital cameras and software
* HEAR no-budget professionals offer first-hand knowledge of production, post production, marketing, and distribution
* EXAMINE a budget line-by-line and discover where and how to spend money (and, more importantly, not spend money)--whether your budget is $200,000 or $2,000
* SEE clips from micro-budget films illustrating the tricks-of-the-trade used by resourceful filmmakers
If you're through talking about being a filmmaker and ready to become one, this will be the most practical filmmaking class you will ever take.
Confirmed Guest Speakers Include:
Henry Barrial (Director, Some Body, 2001 Sundance Dramatic Competition)
Peter Broderick (President, Paradigm Consulting; former President, Next Wave Films)
Joe Carnahan (Director, Narc, Blood Guts Bullets & Octane)
Matthew Greenfield (Producer, Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl; Assoc. Dir., Sundance Institute)
Ron Judkins (Director, The Hi-Line; two-time Academy Award winner for Sound)
Jacob Rosenberg (On-Line Editor, Dust To Glory)
Saturday, July 9, 2005
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Raleigh Studios - Chaplin Theater
5300 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038
$175 (at the door, if seats available)
$125 (members of qualifying film organizations)
$100 (student discount w/valid ID)
For more information and to register, visit:
5:18 PM | |
St. Monica Church in Santa Monica is sponsoring a summer Improv
Workshop, to be taught by Douglas Leal. Come rediscover how much
fun it is to play! Improvisation is great fun and a valuable skill,
not only for performers, but for writers, directors, artists-—anyone
looking to hone their creativity or improve their presentation
skills, or anyone looking just to have a great time! No prior
experience is required.
The workshop will meet for eight weeks on Tuesdays from 7:30 to
10:00 pm, beginning June 28 and ending August 16. Cost is $95 for
the entire eight week session and part of the proceeds go to St.
Monica. (Comparable workshops around town cost between $250 and
$300, so this is a real bargain.)
Douglas studied and performed improvisation with ComedySportz
Chicago and currently serves as the artistic director of the Ad Hoc
Players, a Christian improvisational comedy troupe. He has been
teaching acting and improv to all ages for over 15 years.
To register or for more information, contact Douglas at
email@example.com or at 310/828-5599. Enrollment is limited so
8:35 AM | |
Going down the list, I kept shrugging, as, by the end, I have only ever heard four of the songs. It occurred to me that this might have a lot to do with why I've always been basically happy.
My parents were very strict about music with us when we were growing up. We weren't alowed to listen to anything my parents thought would disorder our souls... which I guess meant, anything that would add more troubles to our day then the day itself had decreed sufficient. I missed a lot of cool stuf. So, for example, I didn't "discover" Fleetwood Mac until 1996. I still haven't discovered Springsteen. (Going to stop being my friend now, 117?) But, I also remember being flummoxed repeatedly by my high school friends increasingly darker attitudes and perspectives. The music was always with them - on the bus, at their parties, on their alarms, in all their free-time, and they kept getting more glassy-eyed and rebellious as they got more and more into Pink Floyd, Metallica, Black Sabbath, etc. - all of whom were just names to me.
We had lots of music in the house, but it was happy music. Real geeky stuff, I suppose - big bands and night clubby singers like Nat King Cole and Sinatra, Broadway and movie musicals, Herb Albert, classical and religious music, and certainly happy sounding pop music. I couldn't identify a signle song from any metal or, later, punk band, but I could distinguish a Gershwin song from a Cole Porter...and which Gershwin too. Yes, the Nicolosi's were definitely weird in this respect. But the happy music we had in our lives warded off any resentment we might have otherwise nurtured.
Music is very important. The songs in your heart can give you either inner hope and joy, or inner meaninglessness and cynicism. I always marvel how parents can just shrug off what their kids are listening to.
2:17 PM | |
HUMANITAS MASTER WRITERS WORKSHOPS present,
"Film and Social Responsibility"
MONDAY JUNE 27, 7:30 p.m.
Celebrating 2005 HUMANITAS Feature Film and Sundance Finalists.
Moderator: John Horn, L.A. Times
Featuring: David Magee (FINDING NEVERLAND), Keir Pearson & Terry George (HOTEL RWANDA), Frank Cottrell Boyce (MILLIONS), David L. Paterson (LOVE, LUDLOW),Michael Kang (THE MOTEL), Doug Sadler (SWIMMERS)
Linwood Dunn Theater
The Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study
1313 N. Vine Street
FREE but SEATING IS LIMITED and you must RSVP to HumanitasRSVP@aol.com or to 310.454.8769. Click here for the Humanitas Prize web site.
7:43 AM | |
Pat had read it in a few hours...which of course had me doubting whether she really wanted to read it, and whether she was finding it boring and pretentious. (I think "being found pretentious" is the scariest, most-vulnerable making part of being a writer.)
So, then, Pat shows up in my office yesterday morning bearing the script and saying, "I NEED THE LAST FIVE PAGES!" Turns out, in my separation anxieties over giving her the script, I had left the ending off her copy. I was encouraged by her eagerness to read the end - Lord knows, I don't feel that kind of anticipation over one in fifty scripts - but still I was ready for the worst.
Barb: So, what did you think?
Pat: I really like it.
Barb: But you didn't love it?
Barb: Because that's okay, because it's still a work in progress and I think the third act loses the main character's arc anyway. I mean, the external drama completely overwhelms the main character's inner story--
Pat: No! I think it's great!
Barb: (rolling eyeballs) Yeah...that's okay.
Pat: What!? I LIKE IT! A LOT!
Barb: It's the inciting incident, isn't it? You thought it was stupid to put the inciting incident as an opening flashback?!! It was. I should probably lose it. No one's going to get it...
Pat: No, I liked that. I loved the montages. Some of them are brilliant.
Barb: (sucking every micronucleus of oxygen out of the room) Did you REALLLLLLLLLY think so? Which one did you like best?
Pat: Oh, the one where he tells the Archbish--
Barb: And how about the asylum scene? Did you like that?
Pat: (trying to recall) Yeahhhhh...
Barb: You hated it. You thought it was over-written, didn't you? I know, I know. Over-written, pretentious crap.
Pat: No, I was just trying to remember. Overall, I think it's great--
Barb: "Trying to remember" - it bored you. It's boring. I knew it. Rats.
Pat: Have you lost your mind?! I read it really fast because I got caught up in the story. I've got to read it again so I can give you some notes.
Barb: (trying to sound disinterested) Well, if you want.
Then, last night, I saw her in the parking lot, and before I knew it heard myself...
Barb: You hated my screenplay.
Pat: I DID NOT HATE YOUR SCREENPLAY! But I kind of like seeing you like this.
Another one un-fooled. Rats.
P.S. Got a call from the production company which hired me to write The Work. Seems they got the financing in place this week, so the project seems like it will end up in front of cameras sometime early next year. Kinda cool.
6:48 AM | |
Batman Begins amounts to a demythologizing of the Batman character. Exept for having a lot of money, Bruce Wayne is presented as no different from you or me. He was emotionally crippled at a young age by personal tragedy, and, decides to find meaning in making himself an alter-ego who can strike terror in the evil-hearted. Oneof themessages of the movie, consequently, is, "You too can be a superhero." (And I know this is supoosed to be closer to the Dark Knight comic books, but still...)
I find this interesting because it represents a departure from the superhero/comicbook genre. We like our superheros being folks who are a little like us, but also very, very different from us. We like them touched by strange powers, which we like served up with a great deal of absurd implausibility. I found Batman Begins to be oddly plausible, and only absurd in the performance of Katie Holmes, who never went for a screen moment which might have messed up her hair and make-up. (I mention this because Holmes is generally better than this. But this is her first major studio project. Unfortunately, because of her failure to put out, it could be her last. Of course, she was completely miscast in the part. There isn't anything about the waifish, halting Holmes to suggest a hard-bitten, Gotham prosecutor....maybe after she gets a little more clear.) I never thought I could be Batman when I was a kid growing up, anymore than I thought I could be The Thing or Wonder Woman, not that there's anything right with that...
Going back to my earlier objection to Cinderella Man, Batman Begins is also a movie without a lot of mystery. There isn't anything about the caped crusader that isn't explained in terms of psychological, emotional, scientific or technological cause and effect. Generally, this refusal to leave any work for the viewer leads the viewer to shrug at the end of a picture, not ever having to go back to the movie again. It makes a movie a one-time experience - once you've seen it, you've done it.
What mystery there is in Batman Begins has to do with the power in living with and embracing the fears that have come to us through our personal tragedy. The idea is not that you get past your fears - they will always be with us - but that you can shake off their control, and actually find in them a power that you can put to work for you. I think this is an interesting theme....but maybe that's just because I was, you know, kicked out of the convent. The theme is not plumbed in deep and surprising ways in the film, but I do think there is some fodder here for parents and children to talk over, and for pastors to work in to sermons. At least those who live with or minister to young people on this planet.
Batman Begins is a very solid movie. It is well-produced, structured for suspense, and incorporates a number of satisfying - if not hugely compelling - characters. It just isn't what you expect it to be as a comic book movie...which might be the kiss of death with the comic book genre fans who want some mystery under their capes. We'll see.
I'm giving two bats ears up.
6:29 AM | |
St. Joseph Radio presents,
"WHY 'PATRON OF THE ARTS?'"
a presentation and discussion led by
Barbara R. Nicolosi
screenwriter and Executive Director, Act One, Inc.
Topics to be covered include: Is beauty really 'in the eye of the beholder', or, in the ears of the music minister? What are the spiritual goods of the encounter with beauty? Why has the Church historically invested in the creation of art? How are we doing with beauty in the post-Conciliar Church?
Friday, June 17, 8pm
1215 East Chapman Avenue, Suite 3
Orange, CA, 92859
(There will be the praying of the rosary before the talk around 7pm or 7:30pm)
5:44 PM | |
Seriously, the program could not be going any better. We have a wonderful group of students, a fabulous faculty, a smart and comprehensive curriculum, and, thanks to the De Vos Foundation, the money to get us through the year. (A matching grant we are still trying to finish matching, btw....never too tired to beg.)
I am very tired, however, and we just started. Too tired to blog. Too tired to go and see Batman Begins so I can talk about it on the radio Friday. Certainly too tired to be talking to CBS Evening News (yesterday morning), and Newsweek (yesterday afternoon).
Do send prayers for our students and faculty...and tired staff.
9:49 AM | |
9:03 PM | |
After 7 years of plugging away, Fr. Daniel Mode had gotten together a team of producers and a writer, to bring the Fr. Vincent story to the screen. And then, by weird coincidence, Fr. Mode himself was called up by the Marines to serve in Afghanistan.
Fr. Mode is a good and faithful priest, and now, he is also a good and faithful Marine, serving our men and women in uniform who are in harm's way. He is recording his experiences in Afghanistan here. Please do check out his site and send him greetings. And keep him in your prayers.
3:31 PM | |
"Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal."
Leo Tolstoy (1828 - 1910)
7:28 AM | |
Barb: Well, that was absolutely ridiculous.
Sean: But, that's okay sometimes, isn't it? I had fun.
Barb: Yeah, me too. It is the kind of thing Hollywood does really well, that makes European film afficionados act snotty to me when I go over there for talks. It's a worthless piece.....what kind of food would you say that movie was like?
Sean: It was a chocolate truffle.
Barb: I think of truffle as being something a bit more luxuriant and beautiful in itself.
Sean: It was a truffle.
Barb: I think it is more of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.
Sean: And it's not like there is anything wrong with that kind of movie?
Barb: Well, not for pagans to make....For Christians, I think it would be pretty inexcusable.
Barb: Because, there are movies that we alone can make. So, we can't waste our time making junk food that anybody can make.
Sean: I think we could have made this film, but, scene by scene, it would show a difference. So, we would hold on the baby moment.
(For those who didn't make up the $51 million audience this weekend, there was the beginning of a touching scene in which the woman of the estranged lead couple, Angelina Jolie, is awkwardly holding a friend's infant. Her husband, Brad Pitt, spots her, and they have a two second moment of, "Should this be us?" But, then, the movie backs out quickly, almost embarrassed that it accidentally almost became about something there for a second.)
Barb: Exactly. If we made that movie, we would be more interested in the marriage issues than the shoot-em-up sequences. We would be more interested in showing how real love makes being an assassin by profession impossible. Then, I think it would be okay for us to do.
I have this discussion annually with every new class of Act One students. There are always those who develop a mounting visceral hostility to the program's insistence, that they should be committed to producing work that will be, in some way, good for the audience. There are always a few students who resent that idea, as though it was some burden they shouldn't have to assume.
"I don't want to make movies for other people. I want to make them for myself" they tell me. Or, "Who says Christians can make stupid comedies, or theme park ride kind of movies as long as they don't hurt people?"
I always tell them, "As soon as we have the cultural momentum back, then, we can aford to frit away our filmmaking efforts in mindless, valueless, idiotic self-indulgence. But, right now, there are enough people aspiring to produce that latter, but very few people aspiring to create work that will heal and help. I don't see us having the luxury of wasting our projects right now. Ask me again in a decade or so.
Anyway, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is vacuous and silly, but fun to watch mainly for the gadgetry, and the undeniable chemistry between the two leads. They are beuatiful talented actors - especially Jolie, who can communicate volumes in one raised eyebrow. It's very violent, but not in a gory way. I can't give it thumbs-up, but I won't pan it either. If you want a couple laughs and two hours of stylish escapism, catch Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
7:26 AM | |
Given in Marriage unto Thee
Oh thou Celestial Host --
Bride of the Father and the Son
Bride of the Holy Ghost.
Other Betrothal shall dissolve --
Wedlock of Will, decay --
Only the Keeper of this Ring
Conquer Mortality --
10:05 AM | |
Here are my responses:
1. Total number of books I own: How could anyone ever answer this question? I have four large bookshelves and two half size ones in my apartment. I have five boxes of unpacked books in my closet. At work, I have two more bookshelves of books...and I have put the overflow of books about art and movies on Act One's bookshelves.
2. The last book I bought: Walden I was just watching a Sunday morning movie today starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, called All That Heaven Allows. At one point, Wyman's character reads a pasage from Walden aloud, and it was lovely. And it occurred to me that I should read it, in anticipation of my coming life as a forest ranger....which has always been my real haunting destiny. So, I got right on Amazon, and ordered a copy.
3. The last book I read: Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak. It's really a pretty terrible book. Amazing how great the movie is considering the source material. David Lean was really a genius.
4. Five books that mean a lot to me:
* Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh - as much as any book ever, this book convicts me that 'I am not alone'. I go back to Julia's speech about living in sin over and over. It is one of the great speeches about the reality of man as a spiritual being. I so want to be Cordelia, but I fear I will grow up to be her mother.
* 2nd Corinthians, by the Apostle to the Gentiles - I can almost never hear or read a chapter of this book of the Bible without feeling something stir in my soul. I always thought if I was a Bishop, I'd have as my motto, 2 Cor 12: "My grace is enough for you."
* Howard's End, by E.M. Forster - This book and it's theme 'Only Connect' became a kind of manifesto for my life. For the way it reconciles the findamentally opposed worldviews of materialism and spirit, I really think it is one of the most important books of the 20th Century. There are so many wonderful lines, but the one I always recall is something to the effect of, "The only gift of a greater intellect, is in its ability to lead others into the truth." Why can't more of us grow up wanting to be Margaret Schlegel?
* Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky - I've been obsessed with this book since I was about 15. I've read it probably six times, and I even talked my way into a graduate seminar on it at Harvard...even though I wasn't a graduate student at the time. I'm two parts Alyosha,one and a half parts Ivan and a half part Dimitri...or else I'm just Kolya absolutely, completely and stunningly so. This book strikes me like walking into St. Peter's or listening to Mozart: There must be a God.
* Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis - What the hell does this book mean, and why does it make me crazy?! I've read it over and over. I love to read it, even though it shames me in every read because I just can't articulate exactly what the main point of it is. It's artfully done. Probably impossible to do in any other art form. It is one of the books in which the main character's pain and motivations absolutely speak to me. I've never really been a big C.S. Lewis fan, but for this masterpiece...
*The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson - I'm sorry, but I just couldn't limit myself to five. I don't read poetry. I only read Emily. Since I was about 8. I have a copy of an article my father made for me about Emily possibly suffering from Lupus, that is dated to put me at ten years old, and already caring about such things. I don't love Emily because I understand her. I only understand certain lines of some poems. But when I do read a line of hers and it suddenly makes sense to me, I feel like I have just won a lottery.
5. Tag five people:
Karen Hall(so she can stop harrassing me about it...but really because she will write funny and clever things). Mark Shea. (Yes, a shameless attempt to coax him from his hiatus.) Jan Batchler (because as the maven, Jan knows the best books past, present and future). Sr. Lorraine (Because anyone who has a "Thomas (Aquinas) Tuesday" deserves a hearing!)
10:52 PM | |
|Your IQ Is 120|
Your Logical Intelligence is Above Average
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius
Your General Knowledge is Above Average
8:27 AM | |
For any interested, if you're not doing anything Thursday, June 16th, I
will be playing with artist Morgan Grace (Kate Bush meets Tori Amos
meets electronica/Nine Inch Nails meets Celtic) and we'd love to have
you! Please note Morgan is NOT a Christian artist. We will be filming
that concert. It will be a half hour set.
When: Thursday, June 16th Concert time is 10 p.m. We will be filming.
Cost: Cover is $7-$10
6010 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90035
(on the south side of Pico Blvd. Midway between La Cienega Blvd. and
Fairfax Ave. - Supper Club Doors open 7:30 pm. Dinner)
8:13 AM | |
Oxbridge is a consortium held annually at Oxford for Christian thinkers, writers and artists. All of the presentations are "in the spirit of C.S. Lewis" if not directly about Lewis or his works.
This year's event [sigh] is on beauty and truth in culture. My friend and mentor Frederica Matthews-Greene is speaking, as is another acquaintance, Nigel Goodwin, and a slew of other smart people from all over everywhere. Here's more info from their web-site:
Making All Things New: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the 21st Century
C.S. Lewis Summer Institute, July 24 – August 6, 2005
In the spirit of Lewis, Oxbridge 2005 will explore the possibilities of “making all things new” by examining both the meaning and contemporary relevance of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful across the wide spectrum of human experience. Complementing the insights offered by gifted speakers from the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences, this most significant theme will be further engaged through enriching encounters with music, dance, theatre, and worship.
In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis warned that our culture was in imminent danger of abandoning the essential foundation of its core values, without which it could not long endure. The social and intellectual trends that followed his prophetic warning offer ample cause for the deepest foreboding. And yet Lewis was far from a pessimist with regards to the future.
Stan MattsonCome join us for a truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience! You’ll enjoy stimulating lectures, challenging workshops, meaningful worship services and a rich variety of cultural programs, all in the good company of friends and colleagues – old and new.
See you in England!
I can't go, but some of you definitely should. (I just got an email from the organizers saying that they have grant money for scholarships. Don't think. Check it out.)
2:31 PM | |
I've had a chance to preview the first two episodes of Steven Spielberg's INTO THE WEST that premieres on TNT this Friday, June 10. (It runs every Friday until July 22, with repeats on Saturdays and Sundays.)
Excellent production values, great writing, compelling story--AND a strong Christian witness in the character of Jedediah Smith. In short: I was very impressed and recommend everyone check it out.
7:00 AM | |
James: So, in the last six months, there have been 37 pairings in the Times of the word "Christian" with words like "scary", "frightening", "theocratic" and "intimidating". My question is, what is it about Christians that makes you so scary?
Barb: (loud, snorting and sneering laughter) Are you kidding me?
Barb: I finally get interviewed by the New York Times, and you ask me a question like that?! (more snorting and laughing)
James: (sniffs) Are you laughing because you think it's funny that people find Christians frightening?
Barb: No. I'm laughing because you want me to tell you why you and your friends are scared of Christians -- and I think you should ask your therapist!
Anyway, the interview went on from there. Basically, James was working on a story about how the same conservative Christian think-tanks that were behind the ascendancy of the Religious Right are now trying to take over Hollywood.
Barb: Are they?
James: Aren't they?
Barb: My experience is that the Christian initiatives in Hollywood are all organic - arising out of the industry itself.
James: Yeah, but where is the funding coming from?
Barb: They are all shoe-string underfundeds! Act One's funding comes from all over. Little drops of water from many sources --
James: Are you a Bush voter?
In the end, I gave him some soundbites about post-Passion Hollywood, but it was clear that James had pretty much decided what he was going to write about (ie. Vast Rightwing Political Conspiracy spreading into Hollywood), and was searching for proof.
So, during this follow-up interview, Sunday, we had the following exchange.
James: I'm having a hell of a time chasing down the money connections between the DC conservative think-tanks and Hollywood Christians.
Barb: That's because they don't exist.
James: ("I'm no fool" snort) Yeah. How about you tell me 'off the record'?
Barb: Off the record, on the record, we don't get any money from rightwing covert opps!
James: Would you take money from them if they offered?
Barb: From whom?...Heck, I'd take money from Hugh Hefner! I'm just trying to meet payroll for the summer.
James: You're funny.
Barb: And poor....but with a few exceptions, Evangelical Christians outside of Hollywood don't financially support Hollywood Christians. They don't trust us.
James: Yeah, yeah...(trying another tack) So, is it your sense that some Evangelical Republicans from DC are trying to build a network in Hollywood?
Barb: I think that is accurate.
James: (Gotcha! exclamation) And why is that?!
Barb: Because being generally derided and despised by cultural leaders is a concern to them? You should ask them...
James: I'm trying, but everyone is being very paranoid in talking to me.
Barb: Does that surprise you?
James: Why is that, anyway?
Barb: You mean, besides the fact that the NY Times hates Christians?!
More laughter from James.
Barb: Honestly, the other reason you aren't getting the scoop is people don't have anything to say about this. There is no funneling of money from political Evangelicals to cultural ones. Is it being cagey and paranoid to not having anything to say about a plot that doesn't exist?
James makes an exasperated laughing sound.
A bit later, James asked me about a meeting that Act One co-sponsored last December between our writers and some Christians from DC.
James: Isn't it true that, as a result of the meeting, a feature film project was financed with money coming from DC?
Barb: Are you smoking crack?! No! There was no money! We bought a couple dozen sandwiches -- and lost money on that, as a matter of fact!
James: So, what was the purpose of the meeting?
Barb: The folks from Washington wanted to start a dialogue on some policy issues in the hopes that they could assist folks on this side of the country with government studies about some issues of joint concern.
James: (Ha!) What issue?
Barb: Well, we talked about global AIDS. Such a terrible plague. Hollywood doesn't talk about it enough.
James: Yeah, yeah. What else?
Barb: Oh yeah. There was information about the persecution of Christiansin the Sudan. There's another one you never see on primetime.
James: (depressed sigh) Anything else?
Barb: Yes. Sex.
James: Yeah! Tell me!
Barb: We talked about the problem of pornography and STD's. All about the societal wages of the Sexual Revolution.
It will be very interesting to see what the article ends up looking like. I actually liked James and I found myself sympathizing with his plight. He has such a great idea for a story! Too bad there's no there there. He should become a screenwriter...
6:47 PM | |
God gave a Loaf to every Bird --
But just a Crumb -- to Me --
I dare not eat it -- tho' I starve --
My poignant luxury --
To own it -- touch it --
Prove the feat -- that made the Pellet mine --
Too happy -- for my Sparrow's chance --
For Ampler Coveting --
It might be Famine -- all around --
I could not miss an Ear --
Such Plenty smiles upon my Board --
My Garner shows so fair --
I wonder how the Rich -- may feel --
An Indiaman -- An Earl --
I deem that I -- with but a Crumb --
Am Sovereign of them all --
6:00 PM | |
I asked Josh to send me something to put here to give him some credit for his work...
My name is Josh Goforth and I live in San Antonio, TX. I do have a business -- Goforth Graphics, Inc. -- I do graphic design work, and web work as well. All of my business is generated word-of-mouth, and (this is pathetic) I don't have a website. I had one, but hated it so much, I killed it, and I've been too busy to put anything else together. Soo....
If you like you can mention my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I do like. Everyone, please give Josh Goforth work.
Thanks so much, Josh! God bless -
8:12 AM | |
In fact, the networks ordered up 14 pilots for this fall season that have a supernatural theme.
Nicolosi says what is good about this, is that it shows Hollywood is accepting that there is a spiritual dimension to life.
"This represents a tremendous step forward from …ya know, 130 years of Darwinism,” declared Nicolosi, “which is, 'there is only matter, and man is only matter, and he's being driven by material appetites, and that's all there is.'"
10:03 AM | |
The main performances are stellar - especially from Paul Giamatti, as the main character's manager. Wow. Somebody wrote somewhere that Giamatti perfectly channels a 1930's man, and I was intrigued by that description of a performance. But it's really true and defines his performance here; you just have to experience it. If Giamatti doesn't get an Oscar nod, I give up.
And, of course, there is Russell Crowe, who some how manages to change his whole way of carrying himself with each new part. Honestly, it looked to me like he changed the shape of his head for this part -- even though I know that isn't possible. He is truly the most talented actor of this generation.
Zellweger doesn't have too much to do, but she does it well, as always.
My main problem with Cinderella Man is that it's about boxing. Hence, the heroism of the main character revolves around his success in beating other men's faces to a bloody pulp. As a secondary high-stakes goal, he also sets new standards in hitting hard to the body and breaking ribs. The movie tries to set his heroism up as a man conquering fear...but yeah, he still triumphs by nearly killing other guys. I loved so much of this movie, but I hate, hate, hate watching long sequences in which two men hit each other harder and harder in close-up. I hate watching men spit bloody water into pans. I hate watching other men sop off caked blood from the gladiators' faces. It's exciting to watch in a perverse way. And I hate that.
So, my problem is less with the film here, and more with the sport it showcases. I can't see how boxing is something Christians can defend. Self-defense is morally legitimate, but, as Giamatti's character notes in one scene, "We both know what we are talking about here, and it ain't pugilism."
If you can stand the boxing stuff, this is a good movie which is overall inspirational as far as the human spirit and love of family stuff goes. It is a much better Depression-era piece than was Seabiscuit, basically, because this movie tells the story of the Depression through one family's plight. Seabiscuit did it through those awful, intrusive newsreel intercuts.
But, the best thing I have to say about Cinderella Man is a thought process that was sparked by the movie.
Leaving the theater, I gave the movie a thumbs-up, but I couldn't help feeling something was missing in the piece. I feel this way about most of Ron Howard's movies. ANd that is, there was nothing left for me to do after the movie was over. There was nothing left to puzzle over with friends. The most my friends and I could do was re-experience moments of the film. But there was no thematic stuff for us to argue.
This "total resolution filmmaking" is a particular problem of Howard's, in which he basically doesn't trust his audience is going to get stuff. So, he lays everything all out moment by moment using flashback connections and dialogue. He gets out of scenes just when they start to get ambiguous and sticky. Something is always missing in his movies that keeps you from throwing your hands up in the air and saying, "Hurrah for Karamazov!" And I think I figured out what it is. And this has HUGE ramifications for Act One, if I have any say in it.
What's missing in Cinderella Man, that keeps it from brilliance, is mystery.
Mystery. Something beyond mere material or emotional or psychological cause and effect. Human beings are a kind of creature that seeks to know. And yet, we do not have the ability to fit everything in our heads. So, we are drawn to the One who has all the answers. "We are restless, until we rest in Thee." In other words, we are drawn to mystery because our nature seeks to resolve it.
Hence, there is nothing as unsatisfying for us as a story that leads to the finite. A good story is one that leads to the edges of the infinite. It leads us into the depths and scariness and power of a question, not an answer.
The key to a good story is the way it incorporates mystery.
This is wonderful to me, because it makes mystery "a thing" or at least "an element". The secular mind sees mystery as a vacuum or void.
I can't say more about this right now because it is hitting me like such an incredible epiphany. And I feel reverence about it. Which leads to falling silent. Before a mystery.
P.S. (Added Monday, June 6) More on mystery...
Human beings need stories not to provide answers, but to make us comfortable with our lot in life as limited creatures.
It all goes back to Genesis. The ultimate temptation for every person is the rejection of our dependent creaturehood: "You shall be like gods!" God is the only One for Whom there are no mysteries. For us, on the otherhand, life is a matter of bowing gracefully before the melodies that are too delicate for our hearing, and before immense things that we can only see from one side, and before spiritual realities that our bodies distract us from perceiving, and before very old legacies that are new to us, and before minute complexities that we are too far-sighted to see.
Stories are supposed to acclimate us to the omnipresence of mystery as our lot in life. They are supposed to lead us to the peace that most things are too big for us, and that that is okay. As my friend Karen Hall says, "I may not know the answer, but Somebody does." As C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we aren't alone." And this is what we get from stories too. That somebody else has encountered a particular mystery. We are all in this together. So, you don't have to jump off a roof.
As writers, we don't share THE answers, because we will never fully sound any reality. We share "what we know to be true" always aware that our experience and information is the tip of the ice berg. We share something true about living with the mystery. The mystery remains.
4:30 PM | |
Anyway, I have never actually seen The 700 Club, but one of my Evangelical friends told me last night, "It's big." Which would be nice if it inspires obscenely large numbers of enthusiastic viewers to click on over to Act One's site so as to make donations. Or else to click on over to our new book page on Amazon to lift our sales number out of five figure ignominy.
BTW, to what does the 700 in The 700 Club refer? (I'm going to be real embarrassed if it's some Scriptural reference that I don't know because, as a Catholic, I don't know the Bible....especially because, as an ex-nun, liberally educated Catholic, I feel quite safe in being somewhat smug about my Bible chops.... I'm hoping the 700 refers to something like the exact number of sentences in Calvin's greatest work. Or else, the number of hymns Martin Luther wrote...(Evil Barb thinks, "Or the average number of Protestant sects annually since the Reformation." "Heh, heh...." Away with you, Evil wicked Barb!!) or something like that that won't make me feel too stupid to have been featured on The 700 Club.
9:05 AM | |
Thanks to all of you for stopping by so regularly, and for making this blog a fun and dynamic stop-over in cyberspace.
I keep thinking I will need to go on a blogging hiatus soon. There are books and screenplays and newspaper columns to write.... But not today!