Browser, 8/24: Ebert on China; Stillman Still Winning Fans; A True Champion; Faith-Bashing on the Big-Screen


Yes, there are criticisms to be made. China, like all nations, is far from perfect. Our Bill of Rights would create an upheaval in their society. There are all the stories about the “fakery” of the Olympics opening ceremony. True, but the ceremony was showbiz, which since time immemorial has shown us what cannot be. The amazing aspect is that so many aspects of the “fakery” were so quickly revealed, and no one lost his head because of treason. Even Zhang Yimou complained a little about some of the instructions he was given.

This is the bottom line: Olympics were a triumph for China. I’m not talking about gold medals, and I’m not talking about politics. I’m talking about appreciation for a glorious world event. About the deeper, richer, more complex vision we have of the nation. They did a hell of a job.



Nathaniel Peters celebrates one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies.

Can’t wait for the Criterion version! Apparently my DVD of this film has become quite valuable, as it’s been out of print for so long.



I’m sorry, but there’s one Olympic champion who impresses me in ways that Michael Phelps hasn’t and probably never will.



Peter T. Chattaway is scanning the early reviews of Bill Maehr’s faith-damning documentary Religulous.

One of the comments to Chattaway’s post includes this:

I doubt very much that Maher would make a straight-up documentary concerning religious belief itself. He would need to speak with some of religious thought’s leading minds, and I doubt he could hold his own long enough to hold anyone’s interest. I had more than a handful of seminary professors who would not only win any argument with him, they would argue his own position better than he could.

If Religulous does focus on religious extremists or the more out-there kind of faithful as the one review says, then it will wind likely wind up being a tale of sneer and mockery signifying not much.

If you want to critique, say, the history of Science Fiction, and choose to interview only a bunch of middle-aged Star Wars geeks who spend all their money on action figures, well… the problem should be fairly obvious. You’re not actually criticizing science fiction… you’re criticizing immaturity and arrested development.

If Maher really wanted to construct a sincere critique of religious belief, you’d think he would seek out the thoughts of serious theologians, devoted Christian missionaries, seminary students, pastors, or some of the Christian writers who inspire the respect of even those readers who don’t share their faith. If he wants to highlight his own insecurities, he’ll set himself up against straw men and idiots and people ill-equipped to talk about their faith. His assault on religion will be, in fact, an assault on typical failings in human nature, not an evisceration of faith itself. It sounds like this may be Maher’s tactic. If it isn’t, let me know.

Personally, I got sick of Maher’s sneering sanctimony years ago, and I’m certainly not going to give up ten of my dollars for the privilege of being ridiculed. Unless, of course, he’s taken a startling turn and become a humble, thoughtful host who treats his interviewees with respect and grace.



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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • gordonhackman

    “Personally, I got sick of Maher‚Äôs sneering sanctimony years ago, and I‚Äôm certainly not going to give up ten of my dollars for the privilege of being ridiculed.”

    Amen. This is always how Maher has come across to me.

  • flatlandsfriar

    I am still trying to figure out how one magazine writer’s opinion qualifies as a consensus.

  • truerthantruth

    I reviewed Yamagata’s debut for a magazine a few years ago and I was sorely underwhelmed. But I felt it had a lot of promise. Hopefully her second release keeps those strengths and erases some, if not all, of the poor marks.

  • Rich Clark

    Re: Maher’s Religulous. You’re absolutely right. Maher has convinced himself he’s sought out truth while in actuality he’s surrounded himself with sneering atheists and drooling evangelicals.

  • gaith

    I love your blog, Jeff, but your faith isn’t mine. And if the consensus is that the film is “thought-provoking and a bit disarming” (Variety), it sounds like a good time at the movies.