Expelled fans stage protest in Toronto

I know Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed created a lot of controversy when it opened in the United States two months ago, but most of that, as near as I can tell, consisted of blog posts and newspaper articles and atheist scientists showing up uninvited at an advance screening and a telephone press conference. I can’t recall reading any stories about fans of the movie actually staging protests against pro-evolutionary museum exhibits or anything like that. And yet that, apparently, is what happened in Toronto last Thursday, after “a multicoloured crowd of 50 prayerful protesters” attended a private advance screening of the film — which opens in Canada two weeks from now — and then headed over to the Royal Ontario Museum, which is hosting a six-month exhibition on Charles Darwin. Incidentally, the exhibition is sponsored by both the Humanist Association of Canada and the United Church Observer, while the protest was led by evangelical leader Charles McVety, who was recently in the news expressing his support for — and even taking credit for — the controversial proposed tax law Bill C-10, about which I plan to post an update in the near future. At any rate, with regard to the anti-Darwin protest, the National Post has the details.

Hulk — reboots, cross-overs, and geography.


Warning: There be spoilers here.

When it was announced last year that Marvel Studios was going to produce a new version of The Incredible Hulk, only a few years after Ang Lee’s film came out to mixed reviews and middling box-office in 2003, many people wondered why they would bother. But now that the film is out there, I think we can safely say that the answer boils down to two words: The Avengers.

For many years, the typical comic-book movie revolved around a single hero and the various sidekicks and villains that are typically associated with that hero — and the producers of those films typically created distinct worlds for their heroes that wouldn’t necessarily have meshed with any of the other heroes’ worlds. Just look at the original Superman (1978-1987) and Batman (1989-1997) franchises: one takes place in a Metropolis that is basically just a regular street-level depiction of New York City, the other takes place in a Gotham City that couldn’t look more fake, more stylized, more confined to a soundstage if it tried. A cross-over between these franchises was basically unthinkable. In what possible universe could these two cities, let alone the characters who inhabit them, have co-existed?

The cinematic segregation of superheroes was even more entrenched for the Marvel characters, because each of them was brought to the screen by a different studio. DC Comics is part of the Time Warner empire, so all of the Batman and Superman films have been produced by Warner Brothers — but until recently, Marvel had licensed its heroes to various different studios, so that Spider-Man (2002-2007) was produced by Sony, Hulk was produced by Universal, The Punisher (2004-2008; my review) was produced by Lions Gate, and so on. So sharp are the lines between these various franchises that, according to the MTV Movies Blog, the new Hulk could not even give a university the name that it has in the Spider-Man movies.

Things sort of changed with the X-Men (2000-2006) and Fantastic Four (2005-2007) movies, both of which revolved around teams of superheroes. But even then, while there was a variety of superheroes within each team, the teams themselves were pretty much hermetically sealed off from all the other Marvel franchises — and even, so far, from each other, even though both of them were produced by Fox.

But now Marvel is trying something new. Instead of merely letting other studios buy the film rights to their heroes, they are producing the films themselves — and this gives them the freedom to cross-pollinate their franchises even when they are distributed by different companies. Hence, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark can have a cameo in The Incredible Hulk, which is distributed by Universal, even though his own movie, Iron Man, is distributed by Paramount.

And instead of creating another “team” franchise like the X-Men or Fantastic Four movies, where all the characters exist only within those teams, Marvel now hopes to create a bunch of separate superhero franchises that can stand well enough on their own two feet, before bringing them together in one monstrous cross-over extravaganza, namely The Avengers — which they announced immediately after the smash success of Iron Man‘s opening weekend last month.

And since the Hulk is one of the original Avengers, the studio needed to re-do the Hulk in a way that would lend itself to this new concept.

Ang Lee’s film was a standalone feature like all the other superhero movies of the past few decades, but this new movie has been written with bigger things in mind. The opening credits include brief glimpses of documents that reference Stark Industries and Nick Fury. And in one scene, General Ross refers to a “super soldier” program that existed during World War II — almost certainly a reference to Captain America. And indeed, it seems that Captain America himself almost had a cameo in The Incredible Hulk, though it ended up on the cutting-room floor — or, more accurately, in the put-it-on-the-DVD file.

And then there is the Tony Stark cameo, which serves the same purpose here that Samuel L. Jackson’s cameo as Nick Fury served in Iron Man — to let the audience know that a much bigger movie is in the works.

So, why re-boot the Hulk franchise so soon? Because we stand on the brink of a major change in how comic-book movies are done. Five years ago, each superhero — or superhero team — stood alone. But now, each hero can have his own franchise and be part of an even larger team. (Though I should note that Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier recently told the MTV Movies Blog that he left the ending of his film ambiguous so that the Hulk could be either one of the heroes or the villain when The Avengers is made.)

It will be interesting to see if DC and Time Warner pick up on this. Their recent ill-fated attempt to make a Justice League movie suffered partly because there was some confusion over whether it would be connected to any existing or future standalone superhero movies. But if they left the current Batman and Superman storylines alone, it is not too hard to believe that they could do some interesting things with the Justice League’s other characters.

And now for something completely different: The Globe and Mail has a story on the fact that the film sees Bruce Banner hiding out in Bella Coola, British Columbia — and it notes that, if the residents of this town want to see the film in the theatre, they will have to drive six hours to Williams Lake. As it happens, my wife’s aunt owns some property in Nimpo Lake, which is between Bella Coola and Williams Lake, and we visited her there last year. The map below shows the route from Vancouver (A) to Williams Lake (B) to Nimpo Lake (C) to Bella Coola (D). Enjoy!

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Jesus anime producers look for feedback

The video below is pretty self-explanatory. The soundtrack is taken from Campus Crusade’s Jesus (1979), but the animatics are brand new.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5rDrcdz7yE]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

Matt Page has some good thoughts on this new project, and some good links as well. I agree with him that it might be just as well if the filmmakers started from scratch and re-recorded all the dialogue.

I also think that animated films, such as The Miracle Maker (2000), can be an especially interesting way to tell the story of Jesus, since they are capable of some of the same artistic abstractions that you see in traditional icons, which in some ways may be more preferable than the “realism” that people tend to expect from live-action films.

The makers of the original Campus Crusade film, in particular, prided themselves on getting ethnically accurate actors and on shooting the film on location and on making sure that they did not film certain plants that were introduced to Israel in recent years, etc., etc. An opening voice-over even calls the film a “documentary”. But after a while, the emphasis on those kinds of details can get a bit distracting — and do we really want to encourage viewers to expect that kind of accuracy?

Better to keep our focus on the essentials — to get bogged down in the truth, rather than the facts, as it were — and animation, like paintings and live theatre, can sometimes be a better way of doing that than cinematography.

I am aware, by the way, that the makers of The Miracle Maker did a fair bit of historical research themselves, to bring their props and things as close as possible to the way things were in first-century Judea. But the style of animation still encourages us to look for something other than documentary-like realism.

5 blogs that make my day and make me think

One of the fun things about having a blog like this is discovering some of the other blogs out there that link to the things you write — and one of my favorite discoveries has been Carmen Andres’s In the Open Space: God & Culture, a fun potpourri of spiritual ruminations, pop-culture analysis and, um, local weather reports. (Just kidding … sort of. I actually like the photos.)

Anyway, Carmen tagged this blog a short while ago as one of “5 blogs that make my day and make me think”, and ever since, I’ve been meaning to thank her for the nod and pass the meme along by listing five of my own favorite blogs. (Has it really been 12 days since she tagged me? Gadzooks, how time flies.) So, here goes:

Thank you, Carmen, for the nod.

And the five blogs that make my day and make me think — not counting Carmen’s, since I’ve already linked to it here — are:

  1. The Looking Closer Journal. I’ve known Jeffrey Overstreet for over ten years now, and it’s amazing to see how far he’s come, from posting his reviews online and trading e-mails on favorite singer-songwriters like Steve Taylor and Sam Phillips to writing an entire book on film appreciation and a couple of fantasy novels, besides. He’s also got a wonderfully catholic taste for the arts in all their myriad forms: highbrow, lowbrow, written, visual, musical, whatever, you name it, it’s there, etc.

  2. Hollywood Elsewhere. In some ways, especially politically, my sensibilities couldn’t be further from those of Jeffrey Wells — but he’s such an entertaining writer, so gifted at coming up with off-the-wall yet spot-on metaphors, and so candid with his opinions on things, that I feel obliged to open nearly every post of his when they show up in Google Reader. And there are a lot of posts. (His is one of those blogs that only puts the first couple of sentences in its RSS feed.)
  3. Spout Blog. There are lots of movie blogs out there, but something about this one feels just a little more off-beat than some. Let’s just say that sometimes they say things that I only think — or they give words to ideas that I had but didn’t know how to articulate. Case in point: When it was revealed that Bryce Dallas Howard is going to replace Charlotte Gainsbourg as John Connor’s wife in Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, Karina Longworth wrote: “Good thing the daughters of men who were famous in the 70s are interchangable!” Yes, exactly.
  4. Crunchy Con. Rod Dreher — a former film critic and, like me, a convert to Orthodoxy — mainly covers political and cultural issues here, but he touches on other issues too, and he strikes me as one of the less predictable, more independent thinkers out there.
  5. Rightwing Film Geek. Victor Morton’s film blog would probably rank even higher if he updated it more often, but I’ll take what I can get. There aren’t all that many people who share conservative political views and an interest in foreign and arthouse fare, and I appreciate Victor’s esoteric tastes, as well as his attention to detail in some of his reviews. My eyesight is still recovering from the blinding, epiphanous light that was his analysis of Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

There are lots more I could mention — and I really, really need to update the list of links to the side of my blog — but this should do for now.

Flashback: Sir Richard Attenborough, the Grey Owl interview


The Bedford Today, via FilmStew.com, reports that a couple of filmmakers have launched a website to raise money for Sir Richard Attenborough‘s dream project on American revolutionary Thomas Paine. A script for the film, titled These Are the Times, has already been written by Trevor Griffiths, and Neil Fox and Justin Doherty hope to raise £40 million, or about $78 million, to produce the film through their website A Gift for Dickie.

Reading this story brings back memories for me, because I interviewed Sir Richard nine years ago while he was promoting Grey Owl (1999), a biopic starring Pierce Brosnan as an Englishman who lived in Canada and pretended to be a Native American. Curiously, I did not remember anything that Sir Richard said about Grey Owl itself until I dug up my article on him, which originally ran in the Vancouver Courier and which I am reprinting below. But reading it now, I can suddenly remember his voice and how theatrical he became when he said things like, “He moves like a panther…”

What I have remembered all these years is what Sir Richard said about his dream of making a Thomas Paine film. Curiously, I see that I quoted almost none of that material in the story below. But two things stand out in my memory.

First, when he discussed how difficult it was to get a feature-film sized budget for the movie, I suggested that maybe he would have better luck producing it as a TV mini-series. Sir Richard looked at me, and said in a voice full of grace and humour and self-deprecation, “You’re very wise, but…” I believe his answer had something to do with his desire to give his film the sort of epic scale that only a widescreen movie can have. But what I remember is the way he said, “You’re very wise…”

Second, as he was describing Paine’s life story, he got particularly enthusiastic when he mentioned the “two fabulous affairs” that Paine had had. I kind of winced, kind of smiled when he said it, because one of my chief criticisms of Sir Richard’s films — as per my capsule review of Grey Owl, which is also reprinted below — is that he has an unfortunate tendency to reduce his biographical subjects to cheesy, soppy romances. And here he was, doing it again, placing the greatest possible emphasis on how “fabulous” Paine’s love life was.

I hope I still have the tape of that interview somewhere; I have moved several times in the past nine years and I now record my interviews digitally, so I haven’t really had a reason to dig the tapes out of whatever box they’re in. I’m sure this would be a fun one to listen to again; just now, another memory popped into my head, of Sir Richard explaining that, after a 14-year break from acting so that he could focus exclusively on directing, he agreed to step in front of a camera again, for Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993), because Spielberg has “the charm of the devil.” It would be fun to hear soundbites like that again, and to see how close they come to my memory of them.

Incidentally, not too long after I did the interview, I went with my parents to the Cinematheque to see a couple of old films produced by Noel Coward and directed by David Lean — and one of them, In Which We Serve (1942), features the future Sir Richard in a tiny, uncredited part as a sailor who deserts his post. It was so strange, to think that I had met this actor recently, and here he was, as a much, much younger man on the big screen in a movie that was made before either of my parents had even been born.

Anyway, until and unless I find that interview tape, the articles I wrote will have to suffice. And here they are:

– – –

By Peter T. Chattaway

Lord Richard Attenborough got his start as an actor, appearing in films such as The Great Escape and Doctor Dolittle, but over the past couple of decades he has achieved his greatest fame as an Oscar-winning director. Most of his films — including Gandhi, Chaplin, Cry Freedom (about anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko), Shadowlands (about C.S. Lewis), and In Love and War (about Ernest Hemingway) — are biographical in nature, and his latest film, Grey Owl, is no exception.

Grey Owl stars Pierce Brosnan as Archie Belaney, an Englishman who grew up with romantic notions of becoming a Native American and, after he moved to Canada, began to go by the name “Grey Owl” and convinced people that he had been born in Mexico to an Apache mother and a Scottish father. Belaney could have lived the rest of his life in obscurity, but he enjoyed writing about the outdoors, and in the 1930s, he became one of the first internationally famous conservationists.

Attenborough remembers standing in a line for five hours with his brother David, now a famous naturalist in his own right, to hear Grey Owl speak during his tour of England in 1936. But it wasn’t until Attenborough’s partner, Diana Hawkins, came across a magazine article on Grey Owl eight years ago that he thought about turning the man’s mysterious story into a feature film.

“It was irresistible,” says Attenborough, who spent the past few weeks criss-crossing Canada to promote the film. “I mean, the story had everything. It’s an adventure, it’s a love story, it’s in Canada — a country that hasn’t been cinematically overworked, as it were — it’s exciting, it’s touching, it’s moving, and it has something to say about the planet. But above all, it’s the story of a guy who wasn’t the guy he said he was. And so it became a wonderful shape and dramatic line for a story, with so many elements going at the same time.”

Like a number of Attenborough’s more recent films, Grey Owl spends much of its time on a love story, in this case between Belaney and Gertrude “Pony” Bernard (Annie Gallipeau), a Native woman who wants to get back to her roots. In real life, there were numerous difficulties in their relationship, and she did not learn her husband’s true identity until the rest of the world learned it after his death in 1938, but in the film, Belaney comes clean and all is forgiven.

“That’s the cheat in the movie,” Attenborough admits. “In the movie, you needed the climax, you couldn’t tell the love story with a deception in it, then have him die and then slot a little bit at the end where she discovers the truth. We were very much persuaded by the writer, Bill Nicholson, that this was essential, and I think he was right. So we’ve contained his confession within this story. And that’s basically the only cheat that we’ve made.

“I mean, we have been and will be accused of romanticizing it. I don’t know whether we’ve romanticized it or not. I suppose we have, to the extent that we have excluded things which didn’t fall within the two-and-a-half year period of this story, because we had decided we would tell the love story. His real bash on the booze was after she’d gone, and in the last 18 months to two years of his life, part of which was in England, when he really got sloshed.”

Attenborough wanted Pierce Brosnan for the role from the start, but investors didn’t consider the Irish actor bankable until after Tomorrow Never Dies, the second James Bond, came out. Ironically, the British superspy that most people now associate with Brosnan is a paragon of the sort of wasteful consumption that Grey Owl detested — things are always blowing up in James Bond movies, and the marketing around those films is replete with product placements.

But Attenborough says he wasn’t bothered by all that baggage, and he’s convinced Brosnan was able to shed himself of that other persona. He also says Brosnan, apart from being very charismatic, was key to the film’s success because he’s unusually physical for an actor from that side of the Atlantic.

“Our star actors are not physical actors. Olivier was, but Richardson, Redgrave, Guinness, they’re not physical actors. None of them could have played this part. This man is a wonderful, physical actor. He moves like a panther, he runs marvelously, and he deals with whatever physical things have to be dealt with, with enormous conviction.

“We shipped a canoe out to L.A., and we found a guy who knew absolutely how Grey Owl paddled this particular canoe in period terms and so on, and Pierce rehearsed and learnt how to do it. He learnt how to do the snowshoes, which is a considerable skill. He’s marvelous with a rifle; you just absolutely believe that it’s part of his daily routine. And he works at it.”

In addition to being a knight and, as of 1994, a member of the House of Lords, Attenborough is keeping busy with several other film projects that are in development at the moment, including an NBC mini-series on the Old Testament and biopics on Jean-Paul Sartre and Thomas Paine, the latter of which he calls “the picture that I want to do above all others.”

So far, no one has asked him to reprise his role as John Hammond in the third Jurassic Park movie, but he says he’d be willing to do it. “It’s rather amazing, actually, that at the age of 76, A: I’ve got the strength and B: people think I’ve got the strength to go on working,” he says with a hearty chuckle. One day they may have to make a movie about him.

– – –

Grey Owl — 2.5 stars out of 5

by Peter T. Chattaway

Richard Attenborough is best known as the director of Gandhi and Cry Freedom, two consciousness-raising films about social injustice that came out in the 1980s. The films he has produced since then, however — including biopics on Charlie Chaplin (Chaplin), C.S. Lewis (Shadowlands) and Ernest Hemingway (In Love and War) — have followed a disappointing pattern. All of these flicks have tended to downplay the very things that made their protagonists most interesting, and have focused instead on their somewhat more banal love lives.

Grey Owl, with its pro-environment save-the-beavers message, is obviously meant to be a return of sorts to the politically conscious films of yore. But, like Attenborough’s more recent efforts, it tells us precious little about its ostensible subject and spends too much time on a poorly-written romance between Grey Owl (Pierce Brosnan), the Englishman who lived in Canada and posed as a Native American during the 1930s, and his common-law wife Pony (Annie Gallipeau), who gets to say things like, “Do I have to do it all? All the loving, and all the leaving?”

Some scenes do work very well, though. The forests, lakes and mountains of the north look magnificent, of course, and an interesting cauldron of conflicting emotions stirs just under the surface as Grey Owl, visiting England to promote his book, drops in on his two aunts, who haven’t heard from him in years. Complimenting him on his work while maintaining the utmost propriety, one aunt can only bring herself to say, “Some very nice turns of phrase, we thought.” If only one could muster up that much enthusiasm for this film’s script.

Sex, geeks, consumerism, and morality.


No, I still have not seen Sex and the City — though I might, some day. There is only one other film that made over $100 million domestically within the past decade that I have not yet seen, namely The Pacifier (2005), and I do try to stay on top of stuff like this. But in the meantime, the urban mating film is provoking a few discussions that I think are worth noting.

First, a number of people have asked whether the clothes- obsessed, dialogue-quoting fans of this TV-series-turned-movie can be compared to Star Trek and Star Wars fans — though no one seems to have put this question to Sex and the City co-star Kim Cattrall, who once played a Vulcan Starfleet officer in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991; my comments).

In a story headlined “Female Trekkies” — as if plenty of Star Trek fans were not female to begin with — Mark Medley reports:

Filmmaker Roger Nygard knows a thing or two about nerds. He directed 1997’s Trekkies and its 2004 sequel, documentaries about Star Trek fan culture. He sees many similarities between the two groups.

“Having studied Star Trek fans first-hand,” he says, “I could say that I have seen the same fervor, the same symptoms if you will, in the [Sex and the City] fans. My girlfriend bases her daily wardrobe on ‘What would Carrie wear?’ “

But not all chronicles of geek culture are convinced these über-fans fit the mould.

“Women who follow Sex and the City are not geeks,” says Annalee Newitz, editor of science fiction blog io9 and co-editor of the book She’s Such A Geek. “They are doing what soap opera fans have always done: obsessively reading about their stories, and buying related consumer items. Are women who read Vogue geeks? Are women who know every detail about Sephora cosmetics geeks? No. You can’t expand the term ‘geek’ to mean anyone who is interested in something without draining the term of all meaning.” . . .

Jason Tocci runs the blog Geek Studies and is a doctoral student at Penn, where he is writing his dissertation on geek culture. He says it’s not surprising that a discussion of what-is-and-what-is-not-geek-inspires-such-debate.

“It’s still a highly contested concept,” says Tocci over the phone from Philadelphia. While he says SATC fans may playfully call themselves geeks in the sense that they love the show, Tocci doesn’t think they see themselves in the same constellation as Star Trek fans, Linux users, or readers of Spider-Man comics.

“Being identified as a geek, or identifying oneself as a geek, kind of signals an understanding that you are or you know that you should be feeling embarrassed about what it is that you’re interested in,” he explains. “And I doubt that…Sex and the City fans are really particularly embarrassed about their great interest in the show.”

Then there is Kyle Smith, who says Sex and the City fans are “worse” than Star Wars fans because “at least ‘Star Wars’ geeks have some perspective”:

Unlike the “Star Wars” nerds, who are under no illusions that they will ever actually take the Millennium Falcon out for a chance to complete the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, the “Sex and the City” fangirls think that they can live the life they see on TV. . . .

Even 33-year-old women are not living in reality in this town. The multiplexes and networks and bookstores can barely accommodate all the movies and TV series and books (almost all written by men; one, I recall vaguely, written by me) about comical manboys coming to terms with the need to grow up. There is no equivalent message getting through to women. For them, it’s all “27 Dresses” and “Made of Honor” and novels from “Pride and Prejudice” on that sling the same fantasy: There are two handsome, successful men chasing me. Whichever one will I choose? Then they walk into the bar at Pastis and discover: 150 single women, 50 gay men, 50 straight married men and 25 single straight men, but it’s so loud that it’s impossible to talk to anyone anyway.

And finally, for a female perspective, there is Karina Longworth, who seems to agree with Smith’s basic point:

In any case, the pubic hair jokes in the trailer get the biggest laughs, and this gets me thinking about the split between what we might as well call Sex and the City fangirls, and the kind of person we usually refer to as a fanboy. I imagine a 22 year-old boy who’s really into comic books, who, as I was sitting next to the pink martini ladies, was maybe lining up to see Iron Man, maybe for the second time. When I think of that boy, I imagine that he understands that a billionaire industrialist is not really going to build his own indestructible suit and rescue the innocent people of Afghanistan.

But Sex and the City exists on just as deep of a fantasy plane as any comic book world, and when I think of a Sex and the City fan, I imagine a 22 year-old girl who really believes that she’ll someday be rescued by a billionaire (industrialist or no). Am I just being unfair? I don’t know. I do know that during the brief Q & A session, the majority of questions asked by members of the audience had to do with the overlap between the real-life Sarah Jessica and the character of Carrie Bradshaw, with whom the actress has become synonymous, as if there’s something crucial about sorting out where fantasy ends and reality begins. It played as a managing of expectations and aspirations, as if each woman was really asking, “Best case scenario––how much of this fantasy is attainable?”

So, okay, point made: Sex and the City is a fantasy and its fans need some perspective, and they could maybe even take tips from Trekkies and the like on how to do so. But I am particularly intrigued by the way Catholic blogger Barb Nicolosi approaches this issue in her basically positive write-up on the film:

Everybody is talking about rampant materialism in SATC as manifested by Carrie’s and her friends’ 800 or so costume changes (yes, I’m exaggerating, but it really seems like there are that many fashion moments in the movie). Really, this didn’t bother me, and in fact, this was one of the “cinema of attractions” elements that I really enjoyed in the film. The clothes in Sex and the City are like the CGI special effects of a planet getting nuked in a male-oriented action flick. I mean really, why are shots of a super dress with great accessories more ominously bad for the culture than a bunch of dudes whooping it up at a visually clever rendering of an 18 wheeler bursting into flames?

This is an interesting comment, I think, because often, when I am watching an action film, I find myself thinking about the fact that these films are “spectacles of consumption”. They exist partly to say, “Hey, look! We were able to buy all this stuff — all these cars, all these sets, all these props — for the express purpose of destroying it!” And sometimes, in the case of James Bond films especially, the items that are destroyed for our entertainment even come with brand names. Expensive brand names.

(Say what you will about Star Trek and Star Wars, but they at least take place in worlds where modern corporations don’t seem to exist any more. True, real-life corporations do make lots of money off of the movie-related merchandise — and everyone from George Lucas to Gene Roddenberry has been accused of putting things in their movies and TV shows simply for their merchandising potential — but at least there is no place to put a brand name or corporate logo on the screen in those films and TV shows.)

So, okay, the “materialism” in Sex and the City might not be all that different, after all, from the “materialism” of a supposedly male-oriented action flick. Point taken.

Finally, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle over the review of Sex and the City that was posted by one of my colleagues at CT Movies.

Camerin Courtney gave the film three stars for “speak[ing] to the complexities of relationships in a postmodern age”, among other things — and her basically positive appraisal earned howls of outrage from various CT Movies readers and from Ted Slater, editor of Focus on the Family’s Boundless magazine, who called on CT’s editors to “repent” of their “God-dishonoring promotion of this vile movie.”

Along the way, Slater makes a couple of statements that I cannot help but reply to — and I am speaking simply for myself here, and not on behalf of CT, which is simply one of several outlets for which I write on a freelance basis.

First, he accuses those who watch the film of “ogling at” the nudity in the film. And no doubt some viewers do do that.

But is it really fair to imply that every viewer is doing that? Such an accusation is far, far too reminiscent of that outrageous review of Monster’s Ball (2001) that appeared in “Dr.” Ted Baehr’s Movieguide several years ago; in that review, Baehr’s critic went so far as to accuse Roger Ebert of “ogling the naked breasts of Halle Berry”, even though Ebert had actually critiqued the film for dwelling too much on Berry’s nudity. Do we have any reason to believe that Slater’s use of the word “ogling” is any less presumptuous?

Second, both Slater and at least one of CT Movies’ readers make the point that CT Movies gave Sex and the City three stars while giving The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian only two-and-a-half stars.

But these reviews were written by two different people — Camerin wrote one review, and I wrote the other — and presumably these reviews reflect two different perspectives. At any rate, I myself have not even seen Sex and the City yet, so I couldn’t compare the two movies even if I wanted to; and I have no idea whether Camerin has seen Prince Caspian, so I have no idea whether she would be able to compare them either.

What I do know is that the film version of Prince Caspian loses a lot of what made C.S. Lewis’s original book so spiritually and mythically interesting in the first place, so I think it’s ridiculous for any Christian pundit to assume that that film must be worthier of a good review than any other given film. There are a number of reasons Prince Caspian got the rating that I gave it, but I would think that anyone who had actually read my review, instead of merely glancing at the number of stars I gave it, would at least be open to the possibility that the low rating reflects the film’s relative spiritual tone-deafness.

To really understand a review, you have to go deeper than the star rating; you might even have to read the review. And to really understand a film, you have to go a little deeper there, too; you might even have to see the film.

And if you haven’t seen the film, then you certainly aren’t in a position to go around demanding that other people “repent” for having their own opinions of it.


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