Mad Mel and the Talmud

Police-beat reporters -- even in Hollywood -- rarely get to quote the Babylonian Talmud.However, there is a passage in this Jewish text that is relevant right now. The crucial Hebrew words are in tractate Eruvin, page 65b, and they are "be'kiso, be'koso, u've'kaso." This rabbinical text says a person's true essence is found in "his cup," "his pocket" and "his anger."Witness the rich and powerful Mel Gibson and his roadside rant about the "blanking" Jews who are "responsible for all the wars in … [Read more...]

Passionate news in 2004

For headline writers, 2004 was the year of "values voters," stormy acts of God in Florida, gay marriage rites and countless clashes between "believers" and "infidels" in Iraq, Russia, Spain and other locations around the world.This may sound like the annual list of the top 10 news events released by the Religion Newswriters Association. But no, these events dominated the 2004 Associated Press survey of the top stories in the world -- period.In a typical year, at least half of the world's top … [Read more...]

Hollywood after the Passion, Pt. II

The Rev. Mac Brunson recently took his kids out and, while the movie was forgettable, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas was hooked by one of the coming attractions.It was a trailer for the comedy "Raising Helen," in which Kate Hudson plays a hot New York City fashion star whose life changes when she has to raise her sister's three children. Five-hankie chick flicks require hunky love interests and, lo and behold, this time the blonde falls for a handsome, charming pastor."I … [Read more...]

Movies after the Passion, Part I

When it comes to judging Hollywood, critics in pulpits and pews have been chanting the same mantra for decades.All together now: There's too much sex and there's too much violence. Amen.Then a strange thing happened. An evangelical named Randall Wallace wrote "Braveheart," which a Catholic named Mel Gibson turned into an Oscar-magnet about freedom, faith, sacrifice and truth. It was bloody violent and its wedding was followed by a nude wedding night. Many conservative believers cheered and began … [Read more...]

The Passion according to Judas

It's hard to watch Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" without concluding that the suicidal Judas Iscariot was chased by demons into the pit of hell.On the other hand, it's hard to watch the ABC television movie "Judas" without concluding that somehow, before he hanged himself, his sense of remorse put him back on the road to redemption.These movies offer radically different takes on the Passion and events that led to it. While Gibson has been attacked for his stark, traditional … [Read more...]

Conservative thumbs down for ‘Passion’

Classics scholar John Granger will not be joining the throngs of other Christian conservatives as they pack theaters to witness "The Passion of the Christ."Why not? Granger answers with four words: "Gone With the Wind."Think about it, he said. Long ago, this best seller was devoured by legions of devoted readers. Then it was made into a Hollywood blockbuster, with Rhett Butler played by the charismatic Clark Gable. The film ruled."Ask yourself, after reading this 900-page novel, what your mental … [Read more...]

The passion of old words and symbols

Jesuits rarely receive frantic calls from Hollywood megastars rushing to finish movies that are causing media firestorms.But Father William Fulco is getting used to it, as Mel Gibson completes his cathartic epic "The Passion of the Christ."While mixing dialogue the other day, Gibson hit a scene in which a man standing at a door lacked something to say. The director needed a line -- right now. Fulco's first question was unique to this project: Was this character supposed to speak Latin or … [Read more...]