UPDATE: I just realized my other article on the Kendrick brothers — and the church which produces their films — is up at Today’s Christian. This article has been in print for a few weeks, so it may have been up at the website for a while, now, too.
Religulous star Bill Maher likes to say that religion is nothing more than fairy tales for gullible grown-ups. But according to Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, the evidence suggests that, the more religious a person is, the less likely he or she is to be superstitious:
The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith — it’s what the empirical data tell us.
“What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians. . . .
The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.
Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama‘s former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin‘s former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead. . . .
On Oct. 3, Mr. Maher debuts “Religulous,” his documentary that attacks religious belief. He talks to Hasidic scholars, Jews for Jesus, Muslims, polygamists, Satanists, creationists, and even Rael — prophet of the Raelians — before telling viewers: “The plain fact is religion must die for man to live.”
But it turns out that the late-night comic is no icon of rationality himself. In fact, he is a fervent advocate of pseudoscience. The night before his performance on Conan O’Brien, Mr. Maher told David Letterman — a quintuple bypass survivor — to stop taking the pills that his doctor had prescribed for him. He proudly stated that he didn’t accept Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Mr. Maher said: “I don’t believe in vaccination. . . . Another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur [germ] theory.” He has told CNN’s Larry King that he won’t take aspirin because he believes it is lethal and that he doesn’t even believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio. . . .
There’s more at the link. Make of all that what you will.
Variety says a remake of the late Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) — set in modern America, rather than medieval Japan — is in the works, timed to coincide with what would have been Kurosawa’s 100th birthday in 2010. Such a film is, of course, unnecessary, but it is not without precedent. The film was previously remade — with Paul Newman, Laurence Harvey, Claire Bloom, Edward G. Robinson and William Shatner — as a Western called The Outrage (1964). Of course, some of Kurosawa’s other samurai flicks were also remade as Westerns around that time, with classic results; consider how The Seven Samurai (1954) became The Magnificent Seven (1960), while Yojimbo (1961) became A Fistful of Dollars (1964). So a new remake need not be a travesty. Variety notes that the forces behind this remake are also working on The Masque of the Black Death, an anime based on a Kurosawa script set in a plague-ridden version of early-20th-century Russia. It, too, is planned for a 2010 release.
Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.
Tropic Thunder — CDN $11,420,000 — N.AM $106,805,722 — 10.7%
The House Bunny — CDN $4,760,000 — N.AM $45,587,131 — 10.4%
Burn after Reading — CDN $3,750,000 — N.AM $36,135,221 — 10.4%
The Dark Knight — CDN $49,430,000 — N.AM $521,890,027 — 9.5%
Ghost Town — CDN $470,024 — N.AM $5,012,315 — 9.4%
My Best Friend’s Girl — CDN $765,626 — N.AM $8,265,357 — 9.3%
The Women — CDN $1,730,000 — N.AM $19,321,011 — 9.0%
Righteous Kill — CDN $2,490,000 — N.AM $28,534,233 — 8.7%
Igor — CDN $532,348 — N.AM $7,803,347 — 6.8%
Lakeview Terrace — CDN $951,672 — N.AM $15,004,672 — 6.3%
A couple of discrepancies: Tropic Thunder was #9 on the Canadian chart (it was #11 in North America as a whole), while Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys was #6 on the North American chart (it was nowhere in the Canadian Top 20).
It seems like a week can’t go by without a new Nicolas Cage movie, or an announcement regarding same. Today, Variety reports that Cage is reuniting with Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000) director Dominic Sena for Season of the Witch, a “supernatural thriller” that concerns “the journey of 14th century knights transporting a girl suspected of being the witch responsible for spreading the Black Plague.” The Hollywood Reporter adds the detail that these knights “bring the girl to an abbey of monks trained in exorcising demons.” Ordinarily, given the biases of modern filmmakers, I would expect the film to dwell on the ignorance and superstition of the knights and monks who think the plague is spread by spirits and not by, like, vermin and bacteria. But if this is truly a “supernatural thriller”, who knows? Maybe the film will try to have it both ways, by tying the plague to evil spirits but also revealing the witch to be a force for good who cures somebody, or something. Of course, if they really wanted this film to be a Gone in Sixty Seconds reunion, they’d hire Angelina Jolie to play the witch. And the fun thing about Jolie is that if they did hire her for that part, we’d still have no idea, short of them spelling it out for us, whether she was playing a good witch or a bad witch.
The news, it just keeps on coming.
1. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are scrambling to find a studio that will finance their adaptation of Tintin, now that Universal has balked at the budget and the huge chunk of the revenues that Spielberg and Jackson would claim. The filmmakers have reportedly spoken to Paramount and Walden Media about picking up the tab, and they hope to be able to start shooting next month. — Nikki Finke, Los Angeles Times
2. Jack White has posted ‘Another Way to Die’ — the Quantum of Solace theme song that he sings with Alicia Keys — at his record label’s website. To my ears, this is one of the less impressive James Bond themes ever, but who knows, future listens could change my mind. — Third Man Records
4. Eric David has written a handy article on the films of Robert Bresson, and along the way, he reveals that Bresson was attached, at one point, to direct The Bible: In the Beginning (1966), but he was replaced by John Huston after he told producer Dino de Laurentiis that “he planned to film it in Hebrew and Aramaic, and wouldn’t show any animals on Noah’s Ark, only their footprints in the sand . . . Bresson yearned to film Genesis the rest of his life, but it never came to pass.” — CT Movies
5. Oliver Stone says he originally wanted Christian Bale to play George W. Bush in his upcoming biopic W., and he spent “thousands and thousands of dollars” on make-up tests before Bale bowed out. The part is now being played by Josh Brolin, who is “more rural Americana,” says Stone. — New York Post
6. How have I never heard of this before? Yesterday, Fred Clark completed his five-year mission of going through Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ original Left Behind novel page-by-page and posting some excellent critiques of those pages at his Slacktivist blog every Friday. — Kenneth R. Morefield