Friday, April 25, 2008

AFI Movie Meme

It's the end of the day and I have no more energy to continue working on the 987th rewrite of Select Society, my Emily Dickinson screenplay. It being a work in progress has become the one constant in my life along with Jesus since 1995. Lately, I am working at it with a new vigor so that we can send it to Katee Sackhoff to play Emily Dickinson's best friend, Susan. Katee said she wants to do something that requires a corset, so, hey, say no more.

Anyway, so in the spirit of full-bore unapologetic writer's procrastination, here's a fun meme for movie people that I found out there on Lapped Catholic and which I am meming myself with.

The meme requires going to the AFI list of 100 greatest movies which is here, and then answering the following questions.

1) Your favorite 5 movies that are on the list:

- Giant
- Rear Window
- Casablanca
- Star Wars
- Gone With the Wind

2) 5 Movies on the list that you didn't like at all:

- Dr. Strangelove
- African Queen
- The Jazz Singer
- Apocalypse Now
- Pulp Fiction

3) 5 Movies on the List You haven't seen but want to:

- Street Car named Desire
- Treasure of the Sierra Madre
(That's it. I've pretty much seen most of the list that I'd want to.)

4) 5 Movies on the List that you haven't seen and have no interest in seeing:

- Easy Rider
- Goodfellas
- The Deer Hunter
- A Clockwork Orange
- Raging Bull

5) Your Favorite 5 Movies That Aren't On the List:

- The Great Race
- The Great Escape
- The Sting
- When Harry Met Sally
- Badlands

I hereby meme any writer who is needing something else to do while procrastinating.

Act One Writing Weekend in Illinois

Screenwriting Weekend ~ September 19 & 20, 2008
Sponsored by Heritage Church & Pepperdine University

Act One, Inc. presents Act One Seminars - intensive, practical workshops for
aspiring and professional writers who are serious about their Christian faith
and who dream of creating culture that respects and enriches a global audience.
These two-day seminars offer a fun, fast-paced overview of our renowned Writing
Program, taught by Hollywood professionals.

Conference Details

September 19 ~ 1:00-10:00 pm
September 20 ~ 10:00 am-6:00 pm

Location: Heritage Church ~ 4801 44th St., Rock Island, IL 61201

Cost: $175 Early Bird Discount (ends August 1), $195 after August 1
Includes two days of instruction with Hollywood professionals, study materials,
Saturday lunch, and admission to the Hollywood Insider Event.

Speakers: Dr. Thom Parham (JAG, Touched By An Angel)
Additional speakers to be confirmed

Registration open: NOW!


Conference Content

Our conferences were launched in response to requests from churches and
individuals that we bring the content of our summer program to people who could
not travel to Hollywood. Consequently, they are designed to provide an overview
of our summer writing curriculum. You can visit our website for a more detailed
account of course content; however, the basic conference schedule is as follows:

Weekend Workshop

*Finding Your Story - Choosing the right stories, understanding genre, the
difference between a story and a character or premise, and what makes your story
stand out from the others.

*The Big Structure Lecture - An overview of basic 3-act structure, illustrated
through a breakdown of an epic motion picture.

*Formatting: The Basics - Industry standard script formatting, a discussion
about scriptwriting software, submission do's and don’ts.

*Before Fade In: Loglines, Treatments, Beat Sheets, Outlines - An insider's
look at the development process, and tips and tools for refining basic story
ideas BEFORE starting to write.

*Pitching Workshop - Students learn pitching tips, work in small groups to
complete a development assignment, and then participate in a pitching session
with evaluation from Hollywood pros.

*Character and Dialogue - Instruction and inspiration for creating unforgettable
characters and putting realistic, engaging words in their mouths.

*Haunting Moments: Truth In Film - The Act One hallmark! An intense look at
storytelling from a biblical perspective, the parable approach, wrestling with
good and evil on the page, the writer's responsibility to the audience, and
time-tested principles for using the power of film to communicate "capital-T"
Truth to the audience. Students learn by example from thought-provoking film
clips, and the works of great Christian artists including Madeleine L'Engle, CS
Lewis, Flannery O'Connor, JRR Tolkien - and history's greatest Storyteller,
Jesus Christ. This is the cornerstone of our program.

*Breaking Into The Business - A frank dialogue between workshop participants and
our faculty and staff members about the business of show business, what it takes
to make it as a professional and as a Christian in Hollywood, and next steps for
those who believe God is calling them to an entertainment industry career -
plus, opportunities in other regions and markets, indie production, and media

Insider Event - Friday, September 19, 7:00-10:00 pm (Open to the public)

The Insider Event varies slightly in content based on current industry trends
and the selection of our keynote speaker. However, audiences can anticipate the
following -

*Greetings from the Church In Hollywood - A multi-media presentation about the
Hollywood mission field, an introduction to various Hollywood ministries, and
the surprising ways Christians can team with them to make a difference in their
families, their communities, and the culture at large.

*A keynote address from a high profile Hollywood professional about the Truth in
entertainment, redemptive storytelling, and the call to all Christians to
positively influence popular culture.

*The Hollywood Insider Panel - a provocative, no-holds-barred, unrehearsed, "ask
us anything, and we mean ANYTHING" Q&A panel about life and work on the world's
most influential mission field featuring the Act One faculty and staff.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Visitor: A Very Welcome Guest

I loved this movie. And, really, how often do I say that? It's the whole package - powerful story, wonderful characters, important theme, great performances, artful direction....and a couple of really lovely haunting moments.

I was excited to see the film as soon as I heard that it was coming from Tom McCarthy, the actor turned writer/director who gave us the happy surprise of The Station Agent a few years back. This new film gives the director a somewhat bigger budget, and a much higher stakes story (U.S. immigration policy post 9/11), and McCarthy is absolutely up to the task.

Character actor Richard Jenkins certainly helps out in skillfully fleshing out the tentative journey of main character, Walter from deadened and isolated by grief to engagement with some people in need, and then to love and full-awakening as a human being. The other three main performances in the film are deliberately understated, but very solid.

The basic story is that Walter is a widowed college professor, who has lost all meaning with the death of his wife. Fate brings him to NYC where he makes a musical connection with a young Syrian man and the man's Senegalese wife. The couple's messed up paperwork eventually puts them at the mercy of the U.S. government's post 9/11 uncompromising immigration bureaucracy. As Walter is drawn more and more to help the young couple, he is surprised by love and then a renewed sense of purpose. It's a great movie.

Very similar to Juno, The Visitor tackles a hot-button political issue in a non-political way. The movie is very wistful about the way the tragedy of 9/11 necessarily destroyed America as an open society. It doesn't condemn or even mention the Bush Administration or the Patriot Act. The movie isn't about that and acknowledges the terrribly complexity of trying to avoid another 9/11. The Towers are in the back of the movie's mind all the way through. The Visitor is just one story of the ironic human reverberations of the tragedy which meant to take down the U.S. government, but in this case, takes down an innocent Syrian man, his mother and his wife.

Lots of beautiful images and frames in the film. My favorites were the night sky over Manhattan with the missing Twin Towers ghosting over the scene, and then at the end, the blurred shot of the American flag as though seen through tears.

Anybody who has endured the demeaning horrors of being frisked and barked at by a loutish TSA agent at an airport (Where do they get these people? Maybe from the lists of those who failed the exam to work at the post office?) will resonate with the depiction of soulless government bureaucracy that orchestrates the central tragedy in this piece. I felt my heart-rate furiously rise with Walter when he finally is leveled by his impotence to move the monolith of U.S. government policy as articulated flatly by a dull-eyed immigration goon through a glass window. Eeeeew. The memory of the scene still makes me shiver.

But in the end, this film is not a tragedy, but a triumph of grace. It's hard won grace, in that a man's reason to live is purchased at a very high cost. The movie's wonderful closing scene could convince the most brittle, world-weary cynic, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." It's a very humane film that will touch your heart and make you think. It won't make you mad but more compassionate.

Do spend some time with the The Visitor. You'll be better for it.

Biola Media Conference: Hollywood and the New Media Age


Register NOW at the discounted price of $125 that includes conference, networking, lunch, and inspired direction for your career in the industry. Register Online Now!

CBS Studio Center,
Studio City, CA
8:00AM - 6:00PM


Phil Vischer, VeggieTales creator and founder of Big Idea Productions, will receive the Robert Briner Impact Award @ the Biola Media Conference!


Todd Komarnicki.......Producer of Elf and the upcoming FOX release, Meet Dave
David Kinnaman .......President and Strategic Leader of The Barna Group
Arthur Anderson.......Producer/Director, Mission Impossible 3, Face Off, Paycheck
Billy Pittard.........Emmy winning Brand Strategist and Pres. of Pittard Inc.
Chuck Bowman..........Veteran TV Producer for CBS/NBC/ABC
Terry Botwick.........Producer/Director, Pres. of Vanguard Film & Animation
Steve Tompkins........TV Writer/Producer, Bernie Mac, Simpsons
Kay Sumner............RealityTV Producer, Dog Whisperer
Anita Renfroe.........Comedian, featured on ABCs Good Morning America
Chuck Slocum..........Assistant Executive Director Writers Guild of America
Will Bigham...........Writer/ Producer /Director, Winner of FOXs On the Lot
Fr. Frank Desiderio...President of Paulist Productions and webisode producer
Scott Dunlop..........Reality TV Producer, Real Housewives
Mat Broome............Creative Director, COO
Scott A. Shuford......CEO of FrontGate Media, Partner of White Barn Group
Phil Cooke............Writer/Prod./Dir., CEO of Cooke Pictures and TWC Films
Craig Detweiler.......Writer/Screenwriter, Fuller Theological Seminary
Deanna Gravillis......Co-Founder/ CEO Gravillis Inc.
Jordan Hudgens........Founder, CEO of vidShadow Network
Mark Joseph...........Writer/ Producer, CEO of MJM Entertainment Group
Dan Rupple............Writer/Producer, CEO of Seriously Funny Entertainment
Rex Olson.............V.P. of Content Development for NewTek Inc.
Daniel Temple.........Co-Owner of Sermonspice Inc.
Lisa Swain............Filmmaker/Chair, Cinema and Media Arts, Biola University

Panel Workshops on

CONTENT: Creative Development for the Digital Age

PRODUCTION: Producing Your Vision for the Digital Age

PLATFORMS: Distribution Platforms for the Digital Age

PRESENTATION: Branded Entertainment for the Digital Age

Your Biola Media Conference Checklist

___ Saved $$ by registering before April 20 Early Registration Deadline (Register Online Now)

___ Booked my $250 Half Page Session Guide ad (See Packages)

___ Told 3 Industry Friends about the Conference (Email Now)

We look forward to seeing you at the largest gathering for Christians in the Entertainment Industry the Biola Media Conference!

At Your Service,

Kathleen Cooke & Peggy Rupple
Biola Media Conference

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Straight A's for Expelled

[Bleary-eyed, icky feeling greetings from the Charlotte airport, where I have a two hour lay-over on my way to Cleveland after the red-eye from LAX. I fly back to Los Angeles tomorrow early and then to Vegas for a conference Friday. When I get back to L.A. on Sunday morning, it will be the end of my nearly solid month of traveling. I'm behind in every category in which a human being can be behind, so to those of you waiting for me to give notes on a script, or get back to pin down a future speech, or solidify a lunch or just respond to friendly greetings, I'm sorry for being so unresponsive. The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that my poor little tiBook died on day three of my trip back on March 26, and until I bought a new one in Orlando last weekend, I've been unable to do more than log in now and then in a hotel lobby.

Anyway, one of those things I promised to do for some friends was give a "Thunbs Up!" to the new doc Expelled which I saw last month thanks to the machinations of friends Paul and TJ who are working on the promotion for the film. I think it opens this week, so I will hopefully get this enthusiastic heads up in just under the wire.]

This well-crafted and thought-provoking documentary is not at all what I expected it to be. I should have trusted Ben Stein, as every word he ever says in the public square tends to strike me as thoughtful and balanced. Expelled is all of that as it examines the eye-ball rolling dogmatic materialism that so stiflingly defines the U.S educational establishment. I remember encountering some of this when I was in a Catholic high school, and having witnessed the entrenched Marxism (ie. social Darwinism) jerking everybody around at Northwestern University where I went to grad school, I found Expelled painfully true, and actually understated.

Don't stay away thinking that this project is about a bunch of angry Christians trying to get the Bible creation story taught in high school science classes. The debate over the merits or lack thereof of Darwin's theory is really just the broad canvas for the movie's more basic contention that a society in which open thought is suppressed will devolve into injustice and even brutality.

One of the most resonant aspects of the project for me was watching how little interest the defenders of Darwin against all comers have in being consistent. They oppose one ideological dogma with something that comes down to just another one.

One thing missing from the project was the view from physics. The doc centers mainly on the biological sciences and the evidence there for the presence of an intervening Mind that has particular ways of operating - what my sister used to call "the patterns in nature." My sense is that there is much more evidence in physics for the presence of Mind, but this is outside the scope of Expelled.

The film doesn't deserve the attacks it is getting and deserves to be sen widely and brooded over. It is anything but a right-wing, Christian hit piece, and from a craft standpoint, it is entertaining, funny and very respectful of the audience.

I give it the full, coveted COTM blessing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Zeroing in on Minute 13?

Somebody just pointed out to me that in the last few hours, my blog counter passed three quarters of a million visitors! How cool is that?

Thanks to all of you who have stopped by and continue to check in, even as I am a very irregular blogger. Special quarter of a million thanks to Josh Goforth who designed the lovely and haunting template for this space. And thanks to all the fellow bloggers out there whose links have made us what we are today.

I thought in honor of the occasion to permanently add a couple promotional blurbs to the sidelines over there ---------------------->. If you would like the shot at COTM style fame and glory, please do feel free to pander extravagantly clever and pithy words of congratulations or awe about this blog in the comments.

Go out and celebrate! Go eat 750,000 jelly beans or something. (I don't like jelly beans, so I have a vested interest in seeing less of them on the planet...)

Did I Say That?

While ego-surfing my name on Google Blog Search, I found notes that someone took at a recent talk I gave in Austin, Texas. They are here. I don't know who took and posted these notes, but they are pretty accurate as to what I said. Here's a snip:

Why do movies matter? They matter as:

1. Stories
2. Entertainment
3. Art

Stories - movies have become the preferred medium for the masses for story. Stories matter. Make a list of stories/characters that have made a difference in your life. Battlestar Galactica - one of the best current shows. Brilliant writing. It makes you have to engage social issues that are relevant to us today. It makes us look at these things from different perspectives and challenges our presuppositions. Stories give us heroes - they take us out of the mundane. We are built for story.

Crime and Punishment or Harry Potter? We should be reading stories with heroes of complexity. As the primary storytelling medium of our time, the fact that so many movies don’t matter should matter. Many people have rejected stories and have turned to sports and “reality” television. The problem is that these don’t contain story and therefore cannot change a life.

Entertainment - comes from the French word “for the work between the work.” In your leisure time, you should stretch the parts of your human nature do not get stretched during the work-a-day world. We need empathy, compassion and to be touched by human suffering… we need our entertainment choice to do that for us. Movies are the preferred entertainment choice of the modern culture. Entertainment reminds us that we’re human (at least it should).

Two words thrown about in the industry: product and sausage. Whatever people will purchase or consume. It’s hard to make good stuff and when we make good stuff, you don’t watch it. Many people do not believe their job is a vocation. This is why we need Christians in Hollywood because we would ask the right questions.

Art - art is the every generationals response to the cosmos. Cinema is the art-form of our time. It’s a combination of the four classical art forms:

1. Painting
2. Theater
3. Literary
4. Music

We as believers are not really part of our generation’s response to the cosmos through the arts. Why? We should and must be.

I am grateful that the note-taker here did such a good job of taking notes. I say this because somewhere else on line someone posted notes from another talk I gave that makes me sound at best, kind of trite, and, at worst, kind of wrong. It's unsettling what the Internet can do. You can be "out there" and "pseudo out there" for all eternity. And what if somebody takes up the badly taken notes and then attributes to me some notion that I never meant or even really said?

It feels weird to sincerely wish to be hated for the right reasons, you know?

Where's the ambrosia when you need it?

It always amazes me how actors can sometimes miss the real depth and meaning of the shows they are in, and even the very characters they play. The thing to remember is that for most actors, acting isn't about understanding human life, it is about imitating what human life looks like. Sometimes I forget this. Like for example, just when I had concluded that actress Katee Sackhoff - Starbuck on BSG was pretty intelligent and reflective (for, well, an actor...yes, I know that is a biggotted thing to say...) here she is waxing really weird (and gut-kicking the lion's share of BSG fans which she doesn't usually do because she seems to me basically well-bred) in a recent interview:

Is the relationship between Starbuck and Apollo something that could ever work out or are they in a bad cycle of repeating mistakes?

I don't think that Lee and Kara will ever be happy together. I don’t think that they’re meant to be together. I think that they’re meant to be best friends, they’re meant to push each other, they’re meant to have those arguments that drive you. That’s the purpose that I feel that they serve in each other's lives.
I don’t think that they were ever meant to love each other. I don’t think they’ll ever end up together; I never did really.
If there’s anyone that she would actually allow herself to be happy with and be with, it’d probably be Leoben Conoy [a Cylon].

Um, yeah. Because nothing cements a happy forever like starting out with torture and graduating onto kidnapping, psychological and emotional abuse, deception and murder.

The gut kick isn't that Katee doesn't see Kara and Lee as meant to be together, (even though it seems abundantly clear that the writers have been constantly indicating that they are in love). I think the case could be made that neither of those two are meant to find normal happiness because, like King David in the Bible, they can't build the Temple because they have too much blood on their hands. But after we watched Kara drive knives into Leoben several times, drown him in a bucket and toss him into deep space, and have him nearly make her lose her mind in his perverse pseudo-marriage trap, it would be all manner of twisted to suggest that they could find love together. After surviving a childhood of abuse, what kind of anti-arc would it be for Starbuck to end up in domestic bliss with the guy whose whole relationship to her has been abusive?

It seems to me a stunningly unkeen sense of the obvious to miss that. But maybe it is something a lot simpler, and despite their screen chemistry, Katee and Jamie Bamber just don't click in real life as well as do Katee and the Leoben guy, and that is bleeding out here. I have had the sense in many interviews that Sackhoff has a lot more moral sense than does Kara Thrace, and so has run out of patience with the character's flailing around. It's kind of a funny dichotomy that appears in actors every so often, in which they begin to resent the dramatic personas which are their bread and butter.

Re: the cross tattoo.... Katee has said she is a Christian. Keep her in your prayers as it seems more and more she is being marketed as little more than a sex-object. I would hate to see her get shoved along in this trajectory. She really has talent and doesn't need to prostitute herself. But certainly, the pressure on her to compromise herself will be quite strong. Don't do, it, Katee! Don't do anything that makes you gulp.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nim Pickins

With lamentable consistency, Walden Media has managed to turn out a steady stream of movies that look good but fall flat on the script stage. I hope somebody over there will learn how to give notes on a script before they go through the entire canon of beloved children's books making unmemorable movies, or run out of money, or just get tired of the whole idea of having a Christian owned production entity. It might even be notable as some kind of anti-art form to have managed to render fabulous source material like Charlotte's Web, Around the World in 80 Dys and the ife of William Wilberforce mostly sterile and unengaging (and in the case of the Jule Verne project, downright embarrassing.) Somewhat of an exception, of course, was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but clearly it was the Disney people who intervened in what could have been another script disaster in that case. In making it a successful Disney movie, however, the writing was still unsatisfying for those of us looking for more of Lewis' theological depth.

Anyway, the latest Walden project to fail to hit the mark is Nim's Island. It really has a lovely story at it's core, but somehow, this production managed to unravel the A-story by the midpoint, making it lose all sense, and resorting to slap-stick schtick to hobble the piece towards the finish line. Oh well.

The best thing in the movie, and it did make me laugh a few times, was Jodie Foster going for it as an agoraphobic writer who has to travel half way around the world to save the little girl played ably by Abigail Breslin. Foster, it seems, has hit that stage of life in which she wants to make some movies for her adopted children, so she gives it her all to be goofy and the butt of a lot of the movie's humor. She doesn't quite bring it off - Emma Thompson would have done better - but Jodie gets kudos for stepping so far out of what we have seen from her before.

I think that Nim's Island might work with little girls right around Breslin's age. But I wouldn't want to place bets on any other demographic succumbing to its sparse charms. I'll recommend it for little girls who aren't too discriminating and the parents who chauffeur them. But everybody else should pass.

BSG 4.02 Much Better. Much, Much.

[Uh, SPOILER ALERT. Stop now if you don't want to know what happens in BSG Episode "Six of One..." You can also forego this post if you think I have completely lost my mind about this show, and aren't watching it. It will make no sense to those languishing in double ignorance of the greatness of BSG]]

Well, boys and girls, we're back in business. The second episode of the season was just wonderful. Super writing. Stellar performances. Several surprises. Including some shocking cylonicide!

The main kudos on the acting side have to go to Katee Sackhoff, who held nothing back in convincingly taking our beloved Starbuck deep into the borderline psychotic end zone, but wondrously never let the character become unsympathetic. That is a trick. Sackhoff not only held her own in her scenes with veterans Eddie Olmos and Mary McDonald, she frakking rendered them invisible. I had the feeling they were just as awed by what she was doing and were thrown a bit off kilter. Sackhoff's range was impressive. Writhing in agony on the floor in one scene and then achingly understated in what is definitely the best Lee and Kara scene we're seen in the series thus far. (The scene was so amazingly written, making subtle references to many of the most angst-ridden Apollo-Starbuck moments in the past three seasons. But it had a great sense of resolution. Like these two folks accidentally have become grown ups, so that even if the show ends up breaking our hearts by keeping them apart at the end, it will be okay. I felt like Lee and Kara had kind of made it as people after that scene. ) If there was any justice with the television overlords, Katee would get an Emmy for her work in this episode.

From a story standpoint, I am taking the official position that Kara died and then was resurrected by God to save the human race. The old Christ-figure in the female body trick.

The whole Cylon Civil War was a blast and finally, shockingly uncivil. I loved what the show is saying here in that the Cylons have now appropriated all the foibles and evils of the human race that they had set out to extinguish. I think it is getting clearer all the time that the skin-jobs are actually human clones. But, you know, with the talent for reincarnation.

My only quibble with the season so far - you know, the first two episodes, is that we haven't gotten to any of the sociological double entendre which defines BSG and makes it so smart and cool. There isn't anything yet that would situate the show in it's uncomfortable comfort zone of dabbling metaphorically on post 9/11 America. But I'll forgive them because they are doing such great things with the characters.

For example, I loved, loved, loved that the atheist Admiral is being drawn out of love to embrace the idea of the miraculous, while President Roslin, the mystic, has become the pragmatic doubter of the same. Flip, flip!

After two episodes, my vote for the last of the Final Five is a sixty-forty tie between Baltar and Lee. I lean a bit more toward Baltar, because Cylonness would be the only satisfying explanation for his, um, inner life. The info that his inner 6 chick has fed him has gone way beyond the ramblings of a vivid imagination. And besides, we see Baltar get killed every week in the opening credits. The reason I am keeping Lee in mind too is that I think it would be the last huge hurdle for Kara to get over if the love of her life turned out to be frakking toaster. And also because Leoben predicted that "Adama is a cylon." And also because I'm still holding out that Lee is going to take a deeper turn on the dark side now that he is going to become the terrorist Zarek's apprentice.

But I will countenance other theories...

Yeah, I know...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Best line of the week....

"Remorse is so not what it is cracked up to be."

(Said by Karen Hall to me during a discussion of whether St. Mary Magdalen has it over St. John the Beloved in terms of apostolic efficacy because of her shadowy past vs. his innocence.)

The Thrill of New Friends

So, the worst thing about my life is how often I find myself slithering out of mostly greasy, cramped window seats on airplanes. If Emerson thought that 19th Century horse-drawn traveling was a fool's paradise, imagine what he would make of the congested horror and security indignities of LAX's Terminal 4 at 5:30am. I am so over the trips thing, but I figure until I master the perfectly kind and charitable thing, giving speeches is a fitting kind of atonement.

But, I digress...

The nearly best thing about my life is the cool people I get to meet when I am traveling. (I say "nearly" because I have a lot of wonderfully cool friends in L.A. and I only have to travel to Pasadena, Los Feliz or North Hollywood to click my inner ruby slippers and know that there is no place like the shadow of the Hollywood sign for me.) This recent trip has meant intros to a whole new crop of really cool people. IN Austin, I got to spend quality time with the wonders of Jeremy Begbe and Eugene Peterson. (Hopefully, more about them soon.) But first in Notre Dame, I got to hang out with Dawn The Dawn Patrol Eden. Dawn was a rock journalist turned Evangelical and then Catholic who has lately become a compelling apostle for the Theology of the Body. I first started reading her blog when she was just taking on the barbaric hypocrisy of Planned Parenthood. I became a real fan when I read her book.

And I knew we were going to be friends. Dawn is just what 21st Century post-Christian society teetering on the brink of insanity ordered - smart, articulate and with the steel glint of conviction that comes from having grown up in the shadows of the Sexual Revolution and found it full of lies and dead men's bones. Go check out Dawn's blog, and order her book.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

BSG Season 4 Premiere - Too much, Too Fast

I'm opening a thread here for anybody who wants to talk about Battlestar Galactica's first episode of Season 4. Spoilers follow, so don't read if you are someone who is prone to post in the comments that I shouldn't be posting spoilers.

I thought the episode was just okay, which seemed to me inexcusable in that they kept us waiting a year for it. (And for me it has really only been four months as I just found this show at Christmas, but you know what I mean.) The first ten minutes were good, even very good - couldn't believe they would just kill off like 3000 of our dwindling human race like swatting a fly.

But it felt like they were just trying to do way too much too fast. Kara's resurrection/restoration needed to be played much more in terms of its effects on the people who love her - Lee, Helo, Adama, Sam. This was a major moment for the series, and it felt like they just sped through it. I wanted to see our amazing actors play the moment, but it sped by like we had something else more important to do. You know, than welcome back our beloved main character from the dead.(???!!!!???)

I thought the Baltar stuff was okay, although I really don't think they have done enough set-up to make the development of a Baltar cult believable. But I liked that Baltar, in all his selfish sensualism could still have a moment of grace and then do a miracle. (Even if the miracle was broadcast from 100 miles away and took the form of healing a cute sick child. Which is generally the definition of sentimental cliche in writing.)

The scenes seemed to me to be mostly too short. Like the writers were madly driving towards some big plot points and forgetting that the real joy of the show is all the stuff along the way. There was actually very little for the actors to do in this episode. Everybody was just running through scenes. In a show that usually gives us a great line in every scene, there was only really one great line in this episode - namely when Kara says to Sam, "You're a better man than I am. If I thought you were a Cylon, I'd put a bullet right between your eyes." The episode should have been called, "Wow, so this is all really dramatic!" Just so we all got it.

I also found several of the character choices to be kind of common for television, and hence not up to BSG standards. Kara beating up the guards and pulling a gun on Roslin was dumb. Or at least felt over the top because we just weren't spending enough time with Kara to see her growing more desperate. A few grabs of her head at the jumps was just not enough. Seems like they needed a scene in which she really tries to plead with Laura before going all psychotic on her.

And excuse me, but no real Lee and Kara scene? Bad call. It's one thing to frustrate the audience in a good way. It's a whole other thing to disappoint the audience. What was the point of having him meet her in the vipers if there wasn't going to be any real reunion?

The thing with Anders having red-eye was cool.

So, I guess Kara is some kind of clone of the original? They maybe grew her from the parts they took out on Caprica? The hybrid in Razor said Kara would lead humanity to the apocalypse, so if Kara is a cylon plant then, you know.... I don't see how she can be the real thing. Although I wish the writers can once again be smarter the me and give us a way. It would be weird forever to look back on the show and know that Kara really stopped in Season 3 and Season 4 was actually somebody else dressed up like her.

I'm thinking the Cylon skin-jobs are actually human. Like there is enough organic material there that they are a kind of person. Which makes them like every other persecuted minority group that humanity has ever called names and thought of as sub-human. I could live with that much easier than the suggestion that the humans are actually pure-material.

Okay. Jump in anybody.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Christians and Media: A Prayer for Forgiveness

[Hi from Austin, TX, where I am attending the "Transforming Culture Symposium". At one of the workshops, somebody asked for a copy of something I had written a few years ago following my attendance at the Encounter with Media Professionals in the Vatican during the Jubilee Year. I found it on-line and told them I would post it here.]

Christians and Media: A Prayer for Forgiveness
By Barbara R. Nicolosi

Setting the tone for the Jubilee Year, Pope John Paul II issued a historic declaration asking forgiveness for the sins committed by Christians down through the ages. It falls to each of us to follow the Pope’s example, by applying the spirit of repentance to our own individual worlds of activity. I work in the entertainment industry. So here goes…

Let us ask for forgiveness as a Church, for our absence in the mainstream culture. Our failure to have a significant presence in the arts and in the world of entertainment has sorely impacted the people of our time, and for this we are profoundly sorry.

Let us repent of the sloth and fear,
the dearth of professionalism and depth,
the inability to work together in trust and justice,
and the lack of pastoral concern,
which has kept us as a body on the sidelines in the marketplace of ideas. We have most often taken the easy road of complaining and criticizing the media instead of setting a positive example, and so we offer this prayer of repentance.

We ask forgiveness from every soul in torment and loneliness,
who has lived and died without the hope that we could have shared with them had we been better apostles of the media.

We take responsibility for the darkness of error that we have allowed to flourish by our silence in mainstream culture.

For failing to stir the collective heart of humanity towards that which is good by beautiful movies, inspiring television, and haunting melodies, we are sorry.

We ask forgiveness from all those whom we might have led to their knees, or sustained on their spiritual journeys, or inspired to a life of heroism and greatness.

Let us ask forgiveness of those whose lives have been scarred by our failure to find a compelling forum for the Church in the arts and media.

For keeping the Gospel of Life to ourselves in a culture of death,
we are ashamed and sorry.

For ignoring the Church’s mandate to use the wonderful gifts of God in the areas of social communications to unite the human family in the cause of truth and social justice,
we are sorry.

We repent of the lack of creativity and passion that has marked our messages, our parables and our witness to those outside the Church.

We renounce the laziness and apathy with which we have applied Christian principles to the real problems of our day.

Too often, the world has rejected our art as being banal,
and our writing as being nothing but platitudes,
and too often,
the world has been right.

Let us ask forgiveness from those in the Mystical Body of Christ who have been crushed under negative media attacks that have gone unanswered by us.

We are sorry for allowing the entire Christian community to be defined in the popular culture from the outside,
by those who do not understand us, or who disdain the Gospel message.

From those who might be Christians now, had we presented ourselves and what we believe in a powerful way,
we ask forgiveness.

For the whining, defensiveness and anger with which we have most often answered attacks in the media against our faith,
and for being victims instead of martyrs,
we are deeply sorry.

Let us ask forgiveness from those persons whom we have allowed to be objectified for our viewing pleasure. Media that diminishes the dignity of any person, with or without their consent, diminishes us all, and so we regret the voyeuristic spirit with which we have approached media sexuality and violence.

Let us repent if we have used or excused pornography in any form.

For our failure to get up and walk out of movies that are occasions of sin,
we are sorry.

Let us repent of our habits of racy novels, and Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, and grocery store tabloids, and WWF, and polarizing talk radio, and voyeuristic reality television shows, and mindless talk radio.

For the bad example we have given others by wallowing in mediocrity and that which is unworthy,
we are sorry.

Let us ask forgiveness from our children for our failure to prepare them to live in a media age.

For not giving young people the tools and training to be intelligent and moderate
users of the modern media,
we are sorry.

We repudiate the fear and laziness and ignorance that has kept us from sharing with our children the beautiful movies and music that could have deepened them and connected them to others.

We are ahsamed of having made our children television and video game addicts,
by our lazy use of these means as babysitters.

We bitterly regret acquiescing to the loss of innocence in young people,
by not providing them guidance as to their choices of television and music and movies.

We ask forgiveness from those in our circle of friends and family whom we have neglected because of our irresponsible use of media. We regret the loss of every wonderful memory we might have made with them had we not wasted our hours in senseless video games and Internet chat rooms and vacuous TV shows.

We have fled into media noise so often when we might have grown in some times of silence. So to those who have needed the fruit of that silence
– the insight and counsel which we didn’t have to give –
we are sorry.

Finally, we ask forgiveness from those committed Christians in the entertainment industry who have gone unsupported by our prayers and actions.

We repent of our failure to implore God to send talented artists and writers and actors and directors into places of influence in the world of arts and entertainment.

We take responsibility for our Church's tragic backward step in changing from being the Patron of the Arts into being the prey of the arts,
and we commit ourselves to support those believers who would overflow with gifts of beauty and faith in the world.

[P.S. From Barb: If you feel bad now, make yourself feel better by giving a donation here:]