A Catholic Colbert report

For Catholics raised during the head-spinning days after Vatican II, few things inspire flashbacks to the era of flowers and folk Masses quicker than the bouncy hymn "The King of Glory." But what was a goofy nerd doing on Comedy Central, belting out this folk song while doing a bizarre blend of Broadway shtick and liturgical dance? "The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices! Open the gates before him, lift up your voices," sang Stephen Colbert a decade ago, in a video that is now a YouTube … [Read more...]

McChurch history 101

In the beginning, revival preachers used their dynamic voices and dramatic sermons -- framed with entertaining gospel music -- to attract large crowds and to pull sinners into the Kingdom of God. This formula worked in weeklong revivals and, when tried, it started working in regular Sunday services. Big preachers drew big crowds and created bigger and bigger churches. Then along came the big media, which helped create a youth culture that exploded out of the 1950s and into the cultural … [Read more...]

Finding God on the jagged edge

Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas knows all about strange plot twists and he is convinced that God often sends big messages in the final acts of people's lives. Once a scandalous Hollywood insider, the author of twisted thrillers such as "Basic Instinct" and "Jagged Edge" can quote chapter and verse about life and death in Tinseltown. Consider the ruthless movie mogul who died during a beach vacation when a metal bar fell from a construction crane and pieced his heart. Or how about the Casanova actor … [Read more...]

Define “spiritual.” Pick three films

The hero is stranded on a dying planet, lonely and yearning for companionship. Then a miracle occurs and his female counterpart -- her name is EVE -- arrives seeking a sprout of new life that says it's time to heal this world condemned by the sins of previous generations. Her mission is to take this green sign of hope back to the giant vessel that has sheltered humanity during this ecological storm. Recognize any names, symbols and themes from an old book? This is the story at the heart of … [Read more...]

Pullman vs. the Magisterium

Those values viewers in the heartland are at it again, clicking "forward" on yet another wave of hot emails about sin, evil, magic and Hollywood.Here's the news, as harvested on the Internet by experts at Snopes.com, a giant website dedicated to researching urban legends."Hi! I just wanted to inform you what I just learned about a movie that is coming out December 7, during the Christmas season, which is entitled 'The Golden Compass.' ... What is disturbing to me is that this movie is based on … [Read more...]

The ultimate movie stigma

As a rule, movie producers do not enjoy seeing America's most influential newspaper crucify their films."Reeking of self-righteousness and moral reprimand," spat Jeanette Catsoulis of the New York Times, a movie entitled "The Ultimate Gift" could be considered "a hairball of good-for-you filmmaking coughed up by 20th Century Fox's new faith-based label, Fox Faith."Wait, there's more, because this "cinematic sermon" makes sure that its "messages -- pro-poverty, anti-abortion -- are methodically … [Read more...]

Graphic novels, big questions

Doug TenNapel isn't your ordinary guy who doodles on a church bulletin when the sermon gets boring.Instead, the Eisner Award-winning cartoonist scribbles in his daily calendar -- creating a bridge from the pew to his studio. The result is a pocket universe of character sketches, strange movie ideas and graphic "plot wheels" in which he works out the twists and turns in his stories.These days, swarms of Kid Elves on flying logs bump into sketches of Bigfoot, next to rough ideas for a violent, at … [Read more...]

Blonde, female, Christian, late-night comedian

It's no surprise that Victoria Jackson watches "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," the latest slice-of-elite-life offering from Aaron "West Wing" Sorkin.After all, one of the main characters in this drama set inside a late-night sketch comedy show -- a fictional West Coast version of "Saturday Night Live" -- is Harriet Hayes, a blonde, female, singing comedian who is a born-again Christian.This got Jackson's attention real quick."I'm the only blonde, female, singing, born-again Christian comedian … [Read more...]

Facing some giant lessons

Like millions of other American kids, Alex Kendrick couldn't believe his eyes the first time he saw "Star Wars.""I remember sitting in that theater, looking up at that big screen and thinking, 'I want to do that. I have to do that. If it's the last thing I ever do, I'm going to make movies,' " said Kendrick, the writer, director and actor whose low-budget "Facing the Giants" football flick has made headlines.The evangelistic indie movie cost $100,000 to make and, showing on 418 screens in … [Read more...]

Slicing the Veggies

If you were a television executive, which program do you think would offend the most viewers across America?The first is a children's show featuring digital vegetables that sing and dance and tell silly parables. Each episode ends with a Bible verse and a witty tomato's reminder that "God made you special and he loves you very much!"The second is a prime-time special in which Madonna sings her enigmatic ballad "Live to Tell" while hanging on a disco-mirror crucifix and wearing a crown of … [Read more...]