Nothing to say about the Oscars

Contrary to my usual custom, I really don’t have anything to say about the Academy Awards. I tried to watch some of the show, but I found it insufferable and had to turn away. Which raised another question in my mind: Is it really true lately that movies influence the culture? I think we are seeing the dysfunction evident in the rest of the arts, in which the “high culture” of the artsy elite has become culturally irrelevant, while the “pop culture” of the money-makers simply conforms to whatever trends are out there.

Bishops forbid actors to do sex scenes

Roman Catholic bishops in Italy are telling  actors they had better not do sex scenes.  They are catching flak for interfering in the artistic process, but I salute them.

Juno as cultural watershed?

According to movie critic John Podheretz, the academy-award nominee “Juno” is a profoundly culturally-conservative-in-the-best-sense movie, being against both abortion and, even more subversively to today’s pop culture, against the very concept of “cool.” Now I want to see it.

Oscar Nominations

The Academy Awards nominations have been released:

Performance by an actor in a leading role

George Clooney in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
(DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah” (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” (Focus Features)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild” (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Universal)
Julie Christie in “Away from Her” (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in “The Savages” (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in “Juno” (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There” (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster” (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement” (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

I’m embarrassed to say that, former movie critic though I am when I was Culture Editor for WORLD, I have seen NONE of these shows. Can anyone speak to them? Can anyone deduce any cultural significance from this list?

Roe v. Wade, 35 years later

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. We need a word for the commemoration of a bad event that we mark with the opposite of celebration: This is not a holiday, but an unholy day. Thousands will mourn the unholy day here in D. C. in frigid weather at the March for Life.

But perhaps we are seeing a little progress. A study of every abortion facility in the country has found that the number of abortions has declined sharply. From ABC News: Why Are Abortions Down in America?:

The study, conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, which researches issues related to reproductive health and sexuality, found that in 2005, the U.S. abortion rate fell to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44, the lowest level since 1974. The total number of abortions also declined, to a total of 1.2 million in 2005, well below the all-time high of 1.6 million abortions in 1990.

But the study raises a fascinating and tricky question: Why?

The researchers who conducted the study said they simply don’t know, but they do have two theories.

One reason could be that since people now have easier access to contraception — including emergency contraception like Plan B — there are fewer unwanted pregnancies.

Another reason could be that there are also fewer abortion clinics.

OR, maybe pro-lifers are winning the debate. It is absurd to take too much comfort when abortions are “only” numbering 1.2 million. Notice, though, how many recent movies are about “keeping” the baby, evidence perhaps of a cultural shift.

Today’s Washington Post is marking the anniversary with a celebratory article on the increasing use of RU-486, the abortion pill, which supposedly makes abortion easier.

“The impact and the promise is huge,” said Beth Jordan, medical director of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. “It’s going a long way towards normalizing abortion.”

But, from what I can tell from the article, abortions done by RU-486 are counted in the declining abortion statistics. So if abortion has become easier and more widely available, as the article claims, and yet are STILL going down, we may be making more progress in the battle for hearts and minds than we realize.

The Islamic Jesus movie

An Iranian filmmaker has made a movie depicting the life of Jesus according to Islam. The film, “Jesus, the Spirit of God” depicts Him as a prophet, not as the incarnate God, and it denies that He was actually crucified. According to the movie and to the Koran, God snatched Jesus up to Heaven at the last minute and put Judas on the cross instead. According to Islam, God did not die for sinners; sinners have to die for God.

Nevertheless, the filmmaker said that he made the movie to show how much Christians and Muslims have in common. Another similarity is that Shi’ite Muslims believe that when the 12th Mahdi returns to earth to set up his kingdom, Jesus will come with him.


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