Monday, September 18, 2006

reel diversions / real despair

In case you're computer isn't on 24-7 like mine, here's some goodies you may have missed.

Cinemarati's Dan Meyer on The Last Kiss
Nick on the actressy ups and downs of The Hours.
NY Times' AO Scott on the always divisive DePalma.
TIFF passes out its awards. Peoples Choice went to Bella. The Peoples Choice has done wonders for other films but Bella doesn't have a release date.
Music is My Boyfriend on James Bond theme songs and Casino Royale
As Little As Possible on the ravishment of Birth
EW Popwatch on the Saw III poster. I agree.

Warning: Politics and Religion ahead...
I've been in a horrid mood these past few days. The current downward spiral of the world is a contributing factor. So I was reading about movies to distract myself and came across this old news regarding the film version of The Golden Compass. I'm not sure how it escaped my attention before. When I was reading the Phillip Pulman trilogy, His Dark Materials, I kept thinking to myself: How will they get away with this pro-humanity anti-religion message on film? I guess they're not trying to. Hearing that they're neutering it has me losing interest. If you take out the progressive worldview of His Dark Materials, you're left with cool magic bits, talking animals, and action setpieces: fairly normal elements of fantasy. But the story itself no longer has deeper meaning. It's disposable. We've already had a religious film fantasy (Narnia) so why can't we have a secular one, too?

Religion has been a major part of my entire life: embracing it, questioning it, moving away from it, searching for it, leaving it behind --lots of soul searching. I've run the whole gamut. I've read several blog entries lately about the pope's speech and Islamic fundamentalism and though I tried not to go here I feel like I need to get this off my chest.

It comes down to this: I really can't tell the difference from one religious radical to another. It's the same mindset. Since religion does not pretend rational critical thinking it's super dangerous as a worldview (unless you're an inherently peaceful person like, say, Jesus Christ and unlike, say, his followers) since you need critical thinking skills in the real world. So it's out of the frying pan into the fire if Americans continue to vote for candidates who want to abolish our separation of Church and State (i.e. Republicans). Maybe I'm wrong --god, I hope I'm wrong --but I assume the only thing that keeps radical Christians from devolving into the violent atrocities of radical Islam is that they mostly live in countries which are not officially controlled by their own religious views and in which, though it's not exactly encouraged, diversity of opinion and freedom to express the same, is very much allowed and par for the course. In modern countries the less rational impulses of religious types are kept in check by civilized secular laws. This way people can enjoy their religions and the non-religious or otherwise-religious can enjoy freedom from religious opression.

Maybe I shouldn't brain vomit like this but I figure the more non-fundamentalist voices we hear the better because it comes down to this: I've seen very little evidence that organized religion is healthy for mankind. Certainly spirituality can benefit people. But religion? I don't see the positive effects. It closes minds, even those of good people whose kindness you can see in their actions otherwise. I don't care if people are Jewish, Scientologists, Muslim, Christian, whatever. When it comes to the process of zeroing in on absolute stated beliefs and joining those beliefs with other people there are inherent traps: demonization of others (who think, live, or feel differently) and rigidity of thought (due to echo chamber socializing) being the two most noticeable. I fail to see how organized religion does anything but diminish our capacity for peace, love, and understanding. Ironic, isn't it?

This may read as enormously naive but the only religious concept needed for a good life is also a secular one: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That's a pretty easy law to remember, pretty adaptable to everyone's particulars, and pretty hard to misinterpret. Imagine if everyone just lived by that. Peace is what you'd get. Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Finally. But we'd have to leave religion behind to get there. Which sucks because nobody will. Which means we're all doomed.

(Told ya I was in a bad mood.)


Anonymous said...

Nicely written. I agree.

par3182 said...

amen, brother.

Anonymous said...

Nicole Kidman is in it :)

Anonymous said...

I agree, Can't wait to go and see Nic, this is sure to be her biggest movie for her, ever.

OhMyTrill said...

I agree. nuf said.

adam k. said...

Yeah, I agree, etc.

adam k. said...

and re: Nicole in Birth...

It just hit me how GREAT a year for Best Actress 2004 really was. So many brilliant performances in the mix that Nicole's efforts in Birth AND Dogville couldn't even win her a film bitch medal. The trinity of Annette, Imelda and Kate, plus Kidman in two of her greatest roles, particularly in Birth, where she was so brilliant. And also Delpy, Moreno, AND Uma in Kill Bill 2. And they wasted the oscar on Swank. GAaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!

Granted, I'd probably place Swank 9th behind those 8 performances, give or take Julia Roberts in Closer. But it was a distant 9th. Such a waste of an oscar.

adam k. said...

But seriously, can we just take another moment to appreciate those 8 performances that all lost out to Swank. Any of those 8 would've been worthy of the oscar. Swank was just... not.

Glenn Dunks said...

I basically agree with everything you wrote. Australia is slowly becoming this weird fundamentalist state and it's creeps me out.

And my top 10 for actresses in 2004 were
1. Nicole Kidman, Dogville
2. Nicole Kidman, Birth
3. Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine...
4. Julie Delpy, Before Sunrise
5. Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
5. Annette Bening, Being Julia
6. Uma Thurman, Kill Bill, Vol. 2
7. Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
8. Lindsay Lohan, Mean Girls
9. Gina Gershon, Prey for Rock & Roll
10. Esther Gorintin, Since Otar Left
(11. Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby)

Anonymous said...

"weird fundamentalist state"? I come from Australia. I don't think that's a fair statement. Or am I missing your sarcasm? How do you come to that conclusion?

Glenn Dunks said...

John Howard is extremely conservative and instead to moving our country forward in certain areas, he's pushing it back by bringing in new legislations and such.


yeah, movie lists:

my *revised* top 12 for 2004 were
1. Annette Bening, Being Julia
2. Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
3. Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine...
4. Nicole Kidman, Birth
5. Julie Delpy, Before Sunset
6. Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Volume 2.
7. Toni Collette, Japanese Story
8. Nicole Kidman, Dogville
9. Natalie Portman, Closer
10.Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
11. Lindsay Lohan, Mean Girls
12. Julia Roberts, Closer

Emma said...

My thought on The Golden Compass:

My review of Volver:

Jason Adams said...

It's "for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction" happening, even if the Xtian fundamentalists are too narrowminded to see that their "opposite" reaction is really the same goddamned reaction, just sans planes flying into buildings (yet). With the political maneuvering for power that is responsible for our current administration's constant focus on "terrorism" and "religious fundamentalism", it does nothing but breed extremism in the minds of those who feel that they're way is the "right way" and oh-so-lucky for us the people who think they know the "right way" are those who worship a god or a machine gun or some combonation thereof above, say, rationality or freedom.

I've pretty much stopped speaking to my father because the last time I was home we got into a screaming match where he was trying to justify our use of torture. That this is even an argument that is now being made in public forums without shame just shows how much we've degenerated morally. I mean, there is NO moral argument that can be made for what our fearless leader is arguing, yet he's got the balls to stand there in front of us and say it is necessary, and then, in whatever insane alternate universe we've wandered into, he doesn't get immediately impeached but half the country seems to be agreeing with him.

So of course they've taken the religious stuff out of HDM - those of us who aren't religious are allowed to be persecuted and jerked around by the fanatics on all sides, but once you say something anti-any-religion the world erupts. That's what freedom of speech has become.

And if ya can't tell, Nathaniel, I'm with you on the pessimisstic groove today. ;-)


yes, it's in times like these where you can feel free to quote Renee's famous Cold Mountain speech without shame

"...they make the weather and then they stand in the rain and say 'shit, it's raining!'"

or whatever. there be truth in them words even if there be overacting in the delivery.

violence begets violence begets violence and nobody can see how they're contributing to it.

Bush was the perfect president for Osama Bin Laden's desires. He played right into the terrorists desire for holy wars and chaos.

And it's the Dixie Chicks and not Toby Keith that get vilified?

this world is going to hell. And the only people enjoying it are the religious fundamentalists who are encouraging it to do so since they need their armageddon.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with everything you say about religion.
I have been having the same thoughts lately, and, have always felt ths way.
Religion has been responsible for so many wars, discontent, fear and distrust.
Have just finished watching "Kingdom of Heaven" and this again brought home to me the place of religion in world conflict.
You write so well Nathaniel and I often find myself agreeing with your reviews and your ideas.

Anonymous said...

An excellent post. I agree completely. It's hard to stay optimistic in the face of so much religious idiocy going on in the world; actions and reactions, violence and retaliation, all of it so utterly pointless.

I have to recommed "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris, which I read earlier this year. For the most part it's (excuse the pun) preaching to the converted, but at the same time, it's affirming to know that there still exists secular, humanist voices out there; people unwilling to give up on reason, and who recognise it (and not faith) as the true source of liberty, and what makes civilisation 'civil'.

You are not alone.

Anonymous said...

WORD. The only difference between religious fundamentalists are the ones that exist in their heads.
The really sad thing is all they had to do with HDM was make it clear that the Church was being run by the Puritans(or more accurately, the Calvinists, but it amounts to the same thing), because noone likes the Puritans anymore anyway. Even the Religious Right prefers not to mention them. They've got the worst reputation; they're the perfect scrapegot. But nooooooo.
And I'm getting kind of bored of seeing Paul Bettany play villians. If he doesn't watch it he'll never get to play anything else again.