Tuesday, November 28, 2006

God Likes This Movie

To give you some background on my sense of this, I should note that growing up our Pentecostal ministers would discourage us from seeing any Hollywood films, even the G-rated ones, because the studios would take the money we paid to see those films and make some R-rated flick with it, and well, that was bad.

It seems beyond silly now, but having been indoctrinated as I was, it was the first thought that occurred to me when I read about the
Vatican hosting the world premiere of the new film "The Nativity Story":

They will almost certainly remain strange bedfellows, Hollywood and the Holy See, but the two had a rare encounter on Sunday when the Vatican was the host of the world premiere of the New Line Cinema film "The Nativity Story," giving an unprecedented stamp of approval to an American studio production. And though Pope Benedict XVI was conspicuously absent from the event, a clutch of high-ranking cardinals joined the more than 7,000 people who attended.
Yes, the Pope's trying to soothe relations with Europe's Muslims by visiting Turkey at the moment, so he couldn't give the film's producers their ultimate endorsement, well, not in a photo op anyway, but it's crystal clear that the tangential consequences of seeing this film is not something the flock has to worry its collective head over. High-ranking cardinals wouldn't steer you wrong.

Now perhaps I protest too much. Since the Counter Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church has very actively paid attention to art and art makers, offering its thumbs up or thumbs down on the works being produced, often commissioning the best artists of each generation to deliver the Good Word in the most politically expedient fashion. And to be fair, I haven't seen this film...it might be brilliant. But there does seem something incongruous about a socially conservative organization cozying up to the godless likes of Hollywood.

Moreover, there's something very unsavory about the opportunistic choices by the studios, looking to cash in on the exceptions the faithful are willing to make in their morally motivated boycotts of Tinsel Town's usual output.

Personally, I don't think God objects to R rated movies, so long as they're honest and well made. It's not like He/She can't see something more immoral than appears on any given screen just by turning elsewhere and looking at real life, often within Churches themselves.

But ultimately, regardless of medium, we are talking here about controlling the message, and so as long as the new wave of religious stories coming out walk the line, I'm sure we'll see more such endorsements, even knowing that they risking aiding the studios with their plans to use their profits to make the sequel to "The Last Temptation of Christ."


Anonymous Chris Rywalt said...

It couldn't happen to a better studio, either. At least if you endorse Mel Gibson, you're just endorsing the guy who made Braveheart and played the Road Warrior (setting aside for the moment his more recent outburst). But when you endorse New Line, man, you're cuddling up with some fun movies, like Tenacious D (which was fun but oh so crude) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (which is sacreligious to both Christians and horror movie geeks). To say nothing of Vera Drake, the film about an abortionist.

I've seen the trailer for The Nativity Story a few times now and it looks well-made. But I always find myself asking about these movies why everyone speaks in an accent. Presumably the characters don't have accents in their native languages. So, because we "translated" them into English, they have accents?

And why do so many ancient Romans have British accents?

11/28/2006 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous dan said...

I dunno--in some sense, you could say, then, never buy a book, because although it might be a good book it will fund a publisher who might publish "smut". Never buy a nice painting of Jesus cos the artist might go on to paint Jesus with dung he used your money to buy. Never do anything cos you can't control where the money goes... so, I don't think it's so sinister of the Church, to approve this movie--if they think it's a well made movie that gets the message out, why not? After all, an amoral studio (business has no moral consideration, most of the time, so, amoral) may be involved and may profit from it, but the people actually writing/directing, and probably producing--they simply have to have more than money on their minds. You don't put in all that effort just for cash--there are easier ways, I think. And, to boot, if the movie makes money, the Vatican must know, more like it will be made.

Anyway, I was kind of looking forward to this movie, only because I'm not Christian, and I figured it would be an easy and possibly even entertaining way to learn a story that's known to/loved by a few billion people but that I know almost nothing about.

11/28/2006 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger ondine-nyc said...

The Opus Dei infested upper ranks of the Catholic church (and of our present government and judiciary) are just as susceptible to using cinema as propaganda for their pet causes as anyone, not that they'd admit to that (or anything else for that matter).

This film is DOA from all reports so far despite a director who did a wonderful film (Thirteen) before. The buzz from those who have seen it say it is stilted and lifeless, its earnestness makes it one-note.

As for the Deity (if it exists) having any opinion on film I would doubt that, it's interested in living things, not the mirrors of them.

11/28/2006 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Brenda said...

Mel Gibson's Last Temptation of Christ certainly didn't do him any favors within the Jewish community nor did his recent unfortunate comments. I noticed yesterday that he did a television commercial for Apocalypto, perhaps because his comments are having an adverse effect on his life. I don't think I've ever seen a director do a pre-release commercial for his new movie that wasn't on the set of a talk show. Maybe the pope ought to try doing a television commercial. If it works for Mel, maybe the pope should follow suit. Just a thought.

11/28/2006 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

As for the Deity (if it exists) having any opinion on film I would doubt that, it's interested in living things, not the mirrors of them.

Oh, I disagree. If God didn't like movies then why did he (she, or it)create movie studios, actors and theaters? Why did he create popcorn? And Netflix?

What I want to know is whether Jesus drinks Coke or Pepsi. Does he have an iPod? Product placement in those Bible movies is a challenge, but I'm sure it's being done. Thou shalt drive a Hummer!

11/28/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Jesus wants you to buy art at my gallery in Pittsburgh, not far from eastern Ohio. Please pass the word to your folks that Jesus wants you to buy art in my gallery.You don't want to find out on judgment day that you made the wrong move.

I just finished a nice history book called- " The Bad Popes".

11/28/2006 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Jesus wants you to buy art in my gallery.

LOL...But the Holy Spirit insists you buy from Ed's gallery as well...in fact, I believe 10% of your total income should be set aside specifically for contemporary art, if I'm remembering my Sunday School teacher correctly. (I might be confused here though)

"The Bad Popes" . . . there were a few.

11/28/2006 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Ed- I ain't part of the hot art market. This is my only shot at selling art here. Next year I will try to be in Miami in some kind of VW Bus.

11/28/2006 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger kelli said...

John you can have my marketing idea. "Art Girls gone Wild, Scope Miami". It could work but the VW bus is not a bad idea. Maybe do both together?

11/28/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Did anyone here that story about the Girls Gone Wild bus breaking down in an Amish town in PA? The lord has a sense of humor.

I have a question. The catholic church pushes the idea that the pope is gods spokesman on earth. Given, the number of "bad popes", isn't it possible that they were gods true spokesman and the "good ones" were off base.

As far as modeling our lives. I think the lord wants us to be just like Barry and James.

11/28/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Jesus wants you to buy art in my gallery....
LOL...But the Holy Spirit insists you buy from Ed's gallery as well

Man, you guys need some serious coaching. You've gotta say "Thou Shalt...". If you don't say "Thou Shalt..." nobody's gonna listen to you.

11/28/2006 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger marseye said...

I think it was said once," be in this world, not of this world........" so it might be more likely, similar to what ed said,constantly change........
Jesus might not pick coke or pepsi,if thirsty take whats offered,might not need any label, what ever is beautifull apreciate. Need not what ever is popular at the time,but beleave what you feel and express is most valuable, forever.And when looking in on culture and creation.........Just leave a big donation. That way the most responsible, can be in a position to share with all those who care, for free, for a time, cos thats all we get, folks.

11/28/2006 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

But Marseye, if someone offered Jesus a choice between Coke and Pepsi, which would he pick?

11/28/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

The very interesting thing about this topic is, wrether God exists or not, how we are able (or not) to conceive of what would be an ultimate "godly" move (ultimately moral).

One interesting course I had in the past was the on the subject of theology and cinema. The premiss was that any film could be interpreted under the theological aspect of your choice (what is the moral of this film? How does it hold compared with this religion?.. etc..). The other point that we reviewed where indeed the actual ethics behind artmaking. Remember Plato condemning arts. Was that a godly message?

I wouldn't think it absolutely incongruous with God to question the ethics behind the craft of a product. If I imagine a God, and I get to see a movie with very poor walking into Egypt that cost over 40 millions when they probably many people starving in Egypt today, I might as well have a laugh, don't you think?

When you are dealing with a moral proposal I think the danger is that you are always force to face your own ethics, before your average blogger puts them into your face.

By the way one the most ultimately "godly" film I ever saw was Teorema by Pasolini, because I really perceive God as someone who would be able to not only love, but desire (have a big hard on) for everyone, whatever their gender, ethnic origin, aesthetics, ages, sizes etc... I actually cried at the beauty of this idea.

What's your ultimate "godly" film???


Cedric Caspesyan

(Ps, and true enough, if we were all desired and loved equally in this world we would have much less frustrations and problems occuring from them)

11/28/2006 06:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

poor PEOPLE...when they ARE.....and other typos excused.

By the way my course was sort of taking Bazin's notion of the God Eye in cinema quite literally. What does the "god's eye" is showing you and what does it mean in spiritual and-or values?

I'm sure Bazin rolled in its tumb, but he's also been outdated by contemporary film studies, unless I'm mistaken.

Cedric Caspesyan

11/28/2006 06:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

and or moral values, duh

(now i think it's my keyboard has a problem)

11/28/2006 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I think the bible says Jesus was into wine. The chances are, he would wonder what you did to his water.

11/28/2006 07:15:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

If God likes a movie, does it get a "G" rating?

11/29/2006 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Hollywood "opportunistic"? The folks who provide us with slasher films and remakes of The Poseidon Adventure and Dukes of Hazzard? How can you suggest they'd let a quick buck stain their artistic purity?

11/29/2006 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger marseye said...

Jesus would probobly have to ask,
what other sweet bubbly drinks might their be? And after testing as many as you would provide, need time to consider where, and on what occasion each and all would do best. Ultamatly,
not in a name but, an amount of satisfaction in the multiplication of time and taste.

11/29/2006 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger marseye said...

P.S. I think you might forget the name too David, if you spend yours wisely.

11/29/2006 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger Freudian Slip said...

I am glad that more recent films have had a bit more "class' to them. I just hope this director doesn't have a hidden hatred for the Jews, lol.

11/30/2006 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I guess deep catholics (aka Mel?) secretly or not-so-secretly hate jews (actually, judaists) for having rejected Jesus and jews (more precisely, judaists) hate muslims for having proclaimed a non-jew the last godly authority. And muslims hate both jews (we do mean judaists) and catholics for not having directed yet a good film about Mohammed.

Oh whatever, silly world.

If Jesus had to taste every bubbly
drinks he would say give back to their CEOs what belong to their CEOs, than follow me.

He was a true escapist, that Jesus, I like that.

Cedric Caspesyan

11/30/2006 01:21:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

He was a true escapist, that Jesus, I like that

Like Houdini.

11/30/2006 11:55:00 AM  

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