Movies

Luther

Cast
Martin Luther: Joseph Fiennes
Johann von Staupitz Bruno Ganz
Johann Tetzel: Alfred Molina
Cirolamo Aleandro: Jonathan Firth
Katharina von Bora: Claire Cox
Friedrich: Peter Ustinov
Professor Andreas Carlstadt Jochen Horst
Grete Doris Prusova
Pope Leo X Uwe Ochsenknecht
Cardinal Cajetan Mathieu CarriĬre

Clark/RS Entertainment presents a film directed by Eric Till. Written by Bart Gavigan and Camille Thomasson. Based on the play by John Osborne. Running time: 112 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for disturbing images of violence).

Central Theme
God has revealed the truth in Scripture and it is the only rule of faith and practice. Luther could not accept any authority that contradicted his conscience as tested by the revealed word of God.

Story
Armed with little more than his beliefs and quick wit, Martin Luther, a young 16th century monk driven by outrage, confronts the Medieval Church. While he is not always cognizant of the far-reaching repercussions of his actions, he ultimately helps usher in the Reformation, fostering a new era of personal and religious freedoms.

While a young law student, Luther abruptly changes course and joins the Augustinian order of monks when he believes his life is spared during a violent lightning storm. His ambitious father is infuriated, and thus Luther turns to a spiritual mentor, Father Johann von Staupitz (BRUNO GANZ). Luther proves an eager, apt disciple and Staupitz selects Luther to join the monastery’s contingent of monks leaving for Rome on church business. He enters the city with the wide-eyed ideals of a young man–only to have them shattered. Depravity is everywhere.

Here, Luther learns about “indulgences.” With these Vatican sponsored certificates, people may buy salvation for a fee and free themselves or deceased relatives from eternal damnation. The young friar brands this the highest form of cynicism and profiteering and asks, “Is not salvation accessible to all?”

Luther is sent to study at the new university in Wittenberg and later becomes a professor of theology. Among his staunch supporters is Prince Frederick the Wise (PETER USTINOV), who admires Luther’s courage of conviction–even though the monk’s vociferous opinions are beginning to cause ripples.

In Rome, the new pope, Leo X, has mandated that funds be raised to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica. The huge financial undertaking is to be financed by the sales of indulgences. The premiere “marketer” of indulgences, Brother John Tetzel (ALFRED MOLINA), preaches to a large German crowd about the hell fire awaiting their wretched souls should they forego this new “special indulgence.”

Luther is incensed at such naked manipulation, inspiring him to write his 95 Theses, an essay he nails to the local church’s door. His writing is reproduced via the new Guttenberg printing press and, within weeks, his criticism of the Church is being read throughout Europe.

The Pope reacts angrily. Luther is to recant his heretical writings or face excommunication, trial by Inquisition and, likely, death. As David before Goliath, he refuses to recant. While his works are inciting popular support among the masses, the Church moves to silence him, permanently. He takes refuge with Prince Frederick, and thus becomes an outlaw for the remainder of his life.

The stage is set for an unprecedented confrontation as Luther is increasingly seen as a popular icon. A schism rips at the heart of the Church as the new “Protestant” movement surges among the populace. Soon, hundreds of thousands pay the price of their rebellion with their lives. Ultimately, Luther’s followers break with Rome, and its hold over the social, political and religious lives of all Europe is vulnerable for the first time in its history.

From this point, Western Civilization develops new attitudes about religion and social order that eventually change the world forever. ‚© RS Entertainment

As I left the theater one of the employees asked a friend what she had just seen. She said, “Luther.” He asked, “what was it about?”. She replied, “Martin Luther.” He asked, “who is Martin Luther.” Therein lies the problem to which this movie is a partial solution. Luther will help people better understand the context in a corrupt Catholicism that gave birth to the Protestant Reformation and will learn some about Luther who reluctantly became the leader of the rebel movement. Unfortunately, Fiennes generally interprets Luther as petulant, sullen and joyless and so some commonly understood aspects of Luther’s complex personality go unexpressed. Nevertheless, this film clearly portrays the gospel, the authority of Scripture, grace and the seeds of the theology of a priesthood of believers I suspect it will be painful for devout Catholics to watch. This would be a great primer for High School and college kids who need to understand the battle that was fought for the scripture that gathers dust on their shelves.

Beliefs num
–Satan exists and seeks to do us harm.
–Our power and salvation come from Jesus Christ alone.
–Salvation is God’s free gift.
–We may interpret the Bible, but we are not above it, nor is the Pope.
–People need the word in their own language.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–How has the Reformation affected your life?
–Waht do you loiok to as the ultimate source of truth?

Provocative Quotes byline
–He’s had 5000 years of practice. He knows all the weak spots.
==von Staupitz consoling Luther doing battle with the devil.
–Say to Him, I am yours. Save. Me.
==von Staupitz prayer for Luther to repeat.
–Have you ever read the NT Martin? Not many have, but you will in Wittenberg.
== von Staupitz assigning Luther to the Seminary.
–Outside the Holy Romans Church there is no salvation.
==Cyprian quoted when Luther asks about ¢â‚¬ËœGreek’ Christians.
–Lay a stone for St. Peter and you lay a foundation for your own salvation and happiness in heaven¢â‚¬¦when a coin the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.
==Tetzel manipulating people to pay for the new St. Peters being built in Rome.
–This drunk German monk is intoxicated with himself. Sober him.
==Pope.
–He may interpret it, but he is not above it.
==Luther regarding the Pope and the Bible.
–I hoped you would reform the church not destroy it.
==von Staupitz.
–Let my errors be proven by scripture.
==Luther to court.
–It is not the word that is important. But what it says about God.
==Luther as he translates the NT into German.
–People try to make me a fixed star, but I am not. I am a wandering planet.
==Luther.
–I don’t know that much about Luther, but this movie makes me want to know more. I only wish it could have been longer and gone into even more detail. It was professionally produced (good editing, good acting, good filming, etc.). It is great to see a movie for adults without profanity or the usual gratuitous sexual situations.
==imdb reviewer.
–That’s the peculiar thing about Fiennes’ performance: He never gives us the sense of a Martin Luther filled with zeal and conviction. Luther seems weak, neurotic, filled with self-doubt, unwilling to embrace the implications of his protest. I don’t know what kind of movie I was expecting “Luther” to be, or what I wanted from it, but I suppose I anticipated that Luther himself would be an inspiring figure, filled with the power of his convictions. What we get is an apologetic outsider with low self-esteem, who reasons himself into a role he has little taste for.
==Ebert Review.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in September 29, 2003 by | No Comments »

Posted in Movies, Staublog in September 2, 2003 by | No Comments »

Lost In Translation

Cast
Bob Harris: Bill Murray
Charlotte: Scarlett Johansson
John: Giovanni Ribisi
Kelly: Anna Faris
Commercial director: Yutaka Tadokoro

Focus Features presents a film written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Running time: 105 minutes. Rated R (some sexual content).

Central Theme
Most of us wander through life as if traveling in a foreign land. We feel no one understands or cares. Those closest to us, while initially offering the promise of deep companionship sometimes become distant. We long for simple breakthroughs with another person, which when experienced are refreshing like rain on parched earth.

Story
Bob Harris (Murray) and Charlotte (Johansson) are two Americans in Tokyo. Bob is a movie star in town to shoot a whiskey commercial, while Charlotte is a young woman tagging along with her workaholic photographer husband (Ribisi). Unable to sleep, Bob and Charlotte cross paths one night in the luxury hotel bar. This chance meeting soon becomes a surprising friendship. Charlotte and Bob venture through Tokyo, having often hilarious encounters with its citizens, and ultimately discover a new belief in life’s possibilities.

Shot entirely on location in Japan, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is a valentine to the nature of close friendships and to the city of Tokyo. Ms. Coppola’s film, from her original screenplay, contemplates the unexpected connections we make that might not last – yet stay with us forever.

Ms. Coppola studied Fine Art at California Institute of the Arts. She then wrote and directed the short film Lick the Star (which world-premiered at the Venice International Film Festival), followed by the feature The Virgin Suicides (which she adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, and which world-premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival). ‚© Focus Features.

This film is a visual and verbal exploration of the agonizing disconnect and isolation that characterizes human experience. From the language barriers posed by an American in Tokyo, to the “ships passing in the night” of a wife using long distance time to select carpet samples instead of relating to her husband, to the dissonance of Tokyo’s cacophonous, jangled sounds contrasted with a peaceful, still garden in Kyoto, everything in this move underscores the pain of human isolation from self, others and place. It is a brilliant expose and exploration of the human dilemma with sweet relief offered by the ¢â‚¬Ëœmisery loves company” serendipitous friendship forged by Bob And Charlotte. Against the backdrop of foreign language, Japan’s alien culture and their marital malaise theirs is the sweet friendship without pretext or subtitles and with minimal subtext.

Beliefs num
–Most of us feel lonely, disoriented and disenfranchised.
–Most communication is so bad we might as well be speaking a different language.
–We are building a society that tries to deaden that pain through noise, bright lights, fast-paced games.
–Natural beauty and ancient traditions still offer something real.
–As our life experiences differ from the ones we love. Our lives drift apart.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–How does the gospel respond to the issue of isolation and loneliness?
–Is there a soul mate out there?
–Can someone who was once like a soul mate become distant through the passing of time and changes in circumstances?

Provocative Quotes byline
–I don’t know who I married.
==Charlotte to monks.
–Lip my stockings please.
==Masseuse wanting Bob to Rip here stockings
–I gotta get out of here as soon as I can.
==Bob to manager who wants him to stay another two days.
–She’s nice. Not everyone went to Yale.
==Charlotte’s husband when she doesn’t connect to young actress.
–There’s hope in resurrection¢â‚¬¦we both live in LA, we both like Mexican food, we have so much in common.
==Ditsy actress in press conference about her movie and co-star.
–Taking a break from my wife, missing my son’s birthday, getting paid $2 million to shoot a commercial when I could be doing a play somewhere.
==Bob at bar to Charlotte on why he is in Japan.
–You sleep eight years of your life. That knocks off eight years right there.
==Bob on how his marriage has lasted 24 years.
–What is this? A Soul’s Search. Finding Your True Calling?
==Bob sees what Charlotte is reading then confesses he has it to.
–Its not fun. Its just very, very different.
==Bob to wife on phone.
–The tightness has disappeared and been replaced by unbelievable pain.
==Bob after massage.
–I’m stuck. Does it get easier?
==Charlotte asks Bob.
–No., Yes it gets easier. The more you know who you are and what you want, the less things upset you.
==Bob.
–I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.
==Charlotte.
–That’s hard. We used to have a lot of fun. She would come with me when I made movies¢â‚¬¦Now she doesn’t want to leave the kids¢â‚¬¦She doesn’t need me…It gets a whole lot more complicated when the kids are born¢â‚¬¦ The day your first child is born your life as you know it is gone, never to return¢â‚¬¦ Then they turn out to be the most delightful people you’ll ever meet in your life.
==Bob on marriage.
–You’re not hopeless.
==Bob to Charlotte as they fall asleep.
–Whatever you think¢â‚¬¦I am lost. I want to get healthy. I don’t want to eat pasta. I want to eat Japanese food.
==Bob to wife on phone.
–Do I need to worry about you Bob? I’ve got things to do; I’ve got to go.
==Wife to Bob on phone after he says he is lost.
–When are you leaving? I’ll miss you.
==Charlotte.
–I don’t want to leave.
==Bob.
–So don’t. Stay here with me. We’ll start a jazz band.
==Charlotte
–I miss you. See you tonight.
==Fax from Charlotte.
–Hey you.
==Bob to Charlotte on the street as he is leaving.
–The Japanese phrase mono no aware, is a bittersweet reference to the transience of life. It came to mind as I was watching “Lost in Translation,” which is sweet and sad at the same time it is sardonic and funny.
==Roger Ebert.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in September 1, 2003 by | No Comments »

American Splendor

Cast
Harvey Pekar: Paul Giamatti
Real Harvey: Harvey Pekar
Joyce Brabner: Hope Davis
Real Joyce: Joyce Brabner
Mr. Boats: Earl Billings
Robert Crumb: James Urbaniak
Toby Radloff: Judah Friedlander

Fine Line Features presents a film written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Based on the American Splendor comic book series by Harvey Pekar and Our Cancer Year by Joyce Brabner. Running time: 101 minutes. Rated R (for language).

Central Theme
Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff, and little things and unknown people matter.

Story
American Splendor immerses you in the life and worldview of Harvey Pekar, working-class Everyman, first-class curmudgeon, and unlikely family man. It’s a pretty ordinary life: a dead-end job as a file clerk at a local V.A. hospital; an apartment in the same Rust Belt city, Cleveland, where he was born and raised; two busted marriages; and various hobbies and interests that help pass the time. But Harvey’s take on that life, and how he deals with it, is anything but average. Innately pessimistic and hilariously expressive, Harvey opines, complains, confronts, and on those occasions when he sees or experiences something fine, appreciates. His humanity and curiosity are as intrinsic to his personality as his acerbic humor.

First published in 1976, Harvey Pekar’s “American Splendor” originated the autobiographical comic genre. A comic book about nothing more, and nothing less, than the everyday moments that comprise one man’s life, “American Splendor” is one of the most acclaimed comic books ever. It has influenced many leading contemporary comic book artists, including Gilbert Hernandez ( “Love & Rockets”) and Joe Sacco ( “Palestine”), who freely acknowledge their debt to Pekar’s naturalistic model. The series has also been recognized in general literary circles, and in 1987 “American Splendor” earned Pekar an American Book Award. In addition to his comic books, Pekar has written extensively about music and literature, frequently championing forgotten or overlooked artists. Meanwhile, he worked full-time at the Cleveland V.A. Hospital from 1966 until his retirement in 2001.

An issue of “American Splendor” will typically contain scenes from Pekar’s life: a search for a lost set of keys, say, or a conversation with his wife Joyce about his substandard dishwashing skills. And there’s more. There are vignettes about people Pekar has known in his life; street scenes he happened to witness; monologues about social, political and philosophical issues. Because he is not a cartoonist, Pekar has sought collaborators to illustrate his stories. Over the years, these illustrators have included such prominent artists as R. Crumb, Drew Friedman and Jim Woodring.

Pekar’s fans may not be legion, but they are passionate. One of them is producer Ted Hope, whose credits include such groundbreaking independent films as Happiness, The Brothers McMullen, The Wedding Banquet, The Ice Storm and In the Bedroom, along with recent films Lovely & Amazing and The Laramie Project.

Hope discovered Pekar’s work as a teenager, when he frequented the underground section of comic book stores. One day he picked up an issue of “American Splendor” that featured illustrations by the great R. Crumb and found a comic that was altogether different from any other he’d ever read. Recalls Hope, “It was immediately unique because it was an autobiography. And it was about the most mundane elements of life, and trying to find beauty and transcendence in the everyday.” Hope joined the loyal readership that devoured each new issue of “American Splendor” as it appeared on an approximately annual basis.

As far back as 1980, various attempts had been made to bring “American Splendor” to the screen. Hope had been approached about some of these projects, but never felt they captured the spirit of Pekar’s work. In 1998, the rights to “American Splendor” became available once again. Thanks to cartoonist/animator Dean Haspiel, who had worked with both Pekar and Hope, the necessary connection was forged. A deal soon followed.

But the right screenplay proved elusive. Hope found that the lifelike randomness that made “American Splendor” so special also made it a problematic prospect for adaptation. “There’s no real dramatic arc; it’s essentially small moments. What works as a six-panel, one or two-page comic in two dimensions, can’t sustain a whole movie.” A solution of sorts presented itself when Hope went to Cleveland to visit Pekar, his wife and collaborator Joyce Brabner, and their foster daughter Danielle. “It became clear that you couldn’t make a movie about Harvey without him being in it he is such a dynamic personality and so unique an individual, that he had to be part of it. The other thing that became clear was that it wasn’t just Harvey’s story; it was the story of him, Joyce and Danielle.”

Hope approached the filmmaking team of Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini, known for their offbeat, perceptive documentaries Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen’s and The Young and the Dead. Berman & Pulcini had also written two much-admired screenplays about unusual real-life individuals, the Mexican composer and bandleader Esquivel and flamboyant Hollywood restaurateur Prince Michael Romanoff. And, like Pekar and Brabner, they were husband-and-wife collaborators. To Hope, the filmmakers seemed a perfect fit for a film about the life and work of Harvey Pekar, comic book realist. He sent them some issues of “American Splendor.”

As documentarians, Berman and Pulcini were impressed by the comic’s realistic representation of a working class life, an area they’d explored in their films. Moreover, those stories were filtered through Pekar’s acute, hilarious, and relentlessly candid sensibility. Comments Robert Pulcini, “There aren’t many great examples of an intensely real interior voice, where somebody’s documenting their life honestly. Harvey definitely does that. It’s so warts-and-all, and he’s so eager to express all of the negative aspects of his personality. He wears all his emotions on his sleeve; sometimes he’s horrible and sometimes he’s sentimental. I just loved that aspect of his character.”

Then there was the irresistible pull of Pekar himself unpolished, unpretentious, and defiantly unscripted as captured in a videotape of his appearances on David Letterman’s NBC television program. “That really cinched the deal for us,” Shari Berman reports of the Letterman footage. “We actually got to see Harvey Pekar, not just read about him in the comic book. We realized that he was an incredibly compelling individual, and we got hooked.”

Berman & Pulcini thoroughly familiarized themselves with Pekar and his work before starting the screenplay. They read and re-read 25 years of Pekar’s work and, after establishing a fluent phone relationship, the filmmakers spent a weekend with Pekar and Brabner in Cleveland. For their parts, Pekar and Brabner felt the filmmakers brought a specific and important understanding of the material. Comments Brabner, “We felt that we’d do really well with a husband-and-wife team, because this isn’t really just a story about this lone guy. It is a story about marriage and becoming a family.”

Returning to New York, Berman & Pulcini got to work on the screenplay. As they assembled their favorite vignettes from the comics, they began to hone in on a narrative framework. Explains Berman, “The thing we found as our guiding principle was the love story between a man and his art form, which was, in Harveys case, comic books. It’s about a man who found a life through comic books. He found a creative voice; he found some kind of fame; he found a purpose and a legacy, which was very important to him; he found a wife; he ended up finding a daughter and making a family; and he wound up beating a disease all through comic books.”

At the same time, Pekar and his comic books gave people something real and resonant, not to mention funny and entertaining. Pekar’s stories dealt with the simple things that cause most of us vexation, consternation or pleasure. His perspective spoke to anyone who ever felt like an outsider, or just plain stuck, says Pulcini. “To me, Harvey is kind of the patron saint of every creative person who’s been trapped in a dead-end job, but still finds a way to express themselves.”

American Splendor, the film, is as inventive and unbound as its subject. A formal hybrid, it combines adaptation, biopic, animation, and documentary elements. In integrating documentary footage and interviews, the film not only gives a glimpse of the real Harvey Pekar, it invokes the interest in typical day-to-day stuff that is so much a part of his work. ‚© New Line.

In a day of packaged artists and hi-tech special effects, there is something cathartic and refreshing about encountering a real human engaged in the stuff of real life. Authentic, eccentric characters are fading from the scene in today’s imitative, popular culture. Harvey Pekar is the real thing. Spending a couple of hours with him and his story is like spending time with my wife’s late step-father, Bob Kelley, a crusty but sweet LIFE magazine photographer with hundreds of stories to tell and time to tell them. Studs Terkel has spent a lifetime chronicling everyday people and being one himself. Amereican Splendor is like spedning a few hours with Studs at his house, surrounded by CD’s and books and half-read magazines, listening to non-stop colorful tales. This is the real deal.

HP’s worldview is cynical and outlook bleak, but he looks out for the less fortunate and is kind to the disenfranchised at the VA hospital where he worked. His selflessness is maddeningly mixed with a tunnel-visioned selfishness. A subtle pre-occupation with death and what happens when we die weaves itself through the storyline. In theological terms, being “saved” is less about being nice than being real and I couldn’t help but wondering why I meet so few “real” people among those who call themselves ‘saved.’ I like hanging with people like HP and I think Jesus would too.

Beliefs num
–Ordinary life is complicated.
–Being true to yourself and honest are the central virtues.
–Happiness is elusive and illusory.
–Each person has worth.
–Quirky, eccentrics are compelling and worth getting to know.
–Popular culture is a superficial, mond-numbing joke.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–Would you rather conform or be yourself?
–Are you able to be true and honest in presenting yourself to other people or do you modify to fit in?
–Does knowing God and Jesus make ytou more real and authentic or more conformed?

Provocative Quotes byline
–ATTENTION: WE make every effort to assure the accuracy of provocative quotes. If you find an inaccurate quote please send corrections to culturewatch@dickstaub.com.
==CW EDITORS.
–That doesn’t sound like a super-hero to me.
==Lady at the door when HP trick-or-treats as himself.
–Why does everybody have to be so stupid?
==HP’s response to the lady.
–I’m not doin as good as you might think. My second wife divorced me, I work a dead-end job as a file clerk.
==HP.
–Don’t think I believe in any of this growth crap.
==HP’s resistance to being changed.
–Right now I’d be glad to change some growth for some happiness.
==HP on growing though hard times.
–I don’t have it any worse than a lot of people, but I pity myself more.
==HP.
–This could be more of an art form.
==HP sees potential of comics.
–Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.
==HP.
–This is really good. I dig it. This is great stuff¢â‚¬¦can I illustrate them?
==Crumb about HP’s stuff.
–Why does everything in my life have to be such a complicated disaster?
==Joyce when last copy of American Splendor sells out.
–Look. You might as well know right off the bat. I had a vasectomy.
==HP to Joyce at first meeting.
–I think we should just skip the whole courtship thing and just get married.
==Joyce to HP.
–I never felt more like a sell out hack in my life.
==HP before fateful Letterman meltdown.
–You should try believing in something bigger than yourself. It might cheer you up.
==Toby.
–Harvey’s also somebody who represents a real level of integrity. He never wanted to truly participate in mainstream culture; either by choice or force of personality, he often did not do that which might have helped him. He portrayed himself – and everyone in his life – with tremendous humanity and honesty. There’s no attempt to cover anything up, and no shame in saying who you are. I think that’s very inspiring.
==Ted Hope.
–Movies like this seem to come out of nowhere, like freestanding miracles. But “American Splendor” does have a source, and its source is Harvey Pekar himself–his life, and what he has made of it. The guy is the real thing. He found Joyce, who is also the real thing, and Danielle found them, and as I talked with her I could see she was the real thing, too.
==Roger Ebert.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in August 25, 2003 by | No Comments »

Passionada

Cast
Charlie Beck Jason Isaacs
Celia Amonte Sofia Milos
Vicky Amonte Emmy Rossum
Lois Vargas Theresa Russell
Angelica Amonte Lupe Ontiveros
Daniel Vargas Seymour Cassal

Fireworks (A Can West Company) and Samuel Goldwyn present a film Directed by Dan Ireland, Produced by David Bakalar and written by Jim and Stephen Jermanok. Rating: PG-13 (for adult situations, language, some sensuality and a conversation about drugs). Running time: 108 minutes.

Central Theme
Some people deserve a second chance, other people don’t, but sooner or later everyone NEEDS one; be careful in choosing to whom you give one.

Story
PASSIONADA is a charming, funny and surprising love story set in the Portuguese-American community of New Bedford, Mass. Three generations of women are torn between their instincts and their old world traditions.

Celia Amonte (Sofia Milos) is a beautiful and charismatic woman in her mid-thirties who lost her beloved husband at sea. Despite the urging of her daughter Vicky (Emmy Rossum) and mother-in-law (Lupe Ontiveros), she continues to mourn his loss, which is the tradition in the Portuguese community. But when she sings her native fado music at a local restaurant, she feels the passion she keeps buried inside.

Celia feels that love and romance have died with the death of her husband. As a single parent she spends much of her energy trying to control her teenage daughter, who, secretly tries to fix up her mother on an Internet dating service and goes off on mysterious late night excursions to the local gambling casino. There she meets Charlie Beck (Jason Isaacs), a charming Englishman and professional gambler.

When Charlie and his friends (Teresa Russell and Seymour Cassel) show up at the restaurant where Celia is performing, he is thunderstruck by Celia’s beauty and the sensuality of the music. As Charlie pursues Celia, Vicky pursues Beck. Finally he agrees to teach her how to play black jack and count cards if she’ll help him with the courtship of her mother.

Initially Celia wants no part of Charlie, but through persistence he gradually wins her over. He makes her laugh and re-awakens her passion for life and love. But in order to get close to her he has lied about who he is and what he does. Eventually he must tell her the truth.

What a woman who is “comfortable around fish” and the traditional life of her Portuguese community and a near-do-well gambler have in common is the secret at the heart of PASSIONADA. They are both trapped in the past looking for a second chance, except they don’t know it. Once Celia accepts what she’s been missing, she can open her heart and get on with the rest of her life. PASSIONADA is one of those rare movies where a happy ending is earned, and life truly feels like something worth celebrating. ‚© Samuel Goldwyn Films.

I attended this movie hoping it would be another “Greek Wedding” sleeper and a change of pace from the super-charged, special effects stuff we’ve been bombarded with this summer. The movie is an example of a good concept and flawed execution. I learned that after mixed feedback from pre-screenings, the ending was re-shot. I like the idea of a romantic-comedy-drama but the film is uneven and needs more than a new ending.

The characters were inadequately developed, so Celia’s motivation for accepting the deceiving Charlie wasn’t strong or compelling enough. Her resistance to suitors and devotion to church shifted awkwardly to a woman who goes to bed with her suitor after one date and a dinner. The role of casino and gambling is a dicey one in America, but the conclusion implies that singing there was a step up for Celia. Did her concern about Vicky’s attraction to gambling just evaporate? This is a movie I wanted to like, but found aesthetically (visual and story-line) spotty.

The theme of second chances is an important one, but we need more substantial wrestling with how and to whom we should grant such a chance.

Beliefs num
–Life is a gamble.
–You have to take a risk on people, and that too is a gamble.
–Life and relationships are not safe.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–How do you decide who you will take a chance on?

Provocative Quotes byline
–I know a little about a lot of things.
==Charlie.
–There’s not going to be fish in my future.
==Vicky rejecting the ¢â‚¬Ëœmarry a nice Portuguese fisherman’ path.
–What are you, my girlfriend? I’m your mom, you’re my daughter. Is that clear?
==Celia with Vicky.
–Only take a chance, if there’s any chance to win.
==Charlie.
–Fish. We come from generations of fish people. She’s comfortable with fish.
==Vicky about her mom to Charlie.
–You can’t predict what I’ll say, but you can predict I’ll say it.
==Vicky.
–There’s not such a thing as a safe boat.
==Celia.
–Look at me. I’m broke. DO you think I’m goiung to do that to you?
==Charlie to Vicky.
–More than anything it was the idea of people who were stuck in life, those who are left numb after a devastation happens in a relationship. The idea that love will happen again in their lives — and the opportunity for second chances seems so remote if not impossible. Here was a woman who was in the prime of her life and yet she was stuck in her memories. I related to it on a personal level because my father had left my mother when I was very young. After a few years my brother and I started plotting to get her to go out on a date. But she was so shattered by being abandoned and left with four children to bring up that she never got over it. So, this story really struck a chord for me.
==Dan Ireland on what attracted him to the story.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in August 21, 2003 by | No Comments »

Frederica Mathewes-Green

Well, good afternoon everybody. Our next guest has regaled us with tales of her early feminism, she’s told us about her conversion to Jesus, her journey into Orthodoxy, and a whole lot more along the way. In her newest book she invites us to tour an Orthodox church and view the icons which, for many Evangelicals are something of a stumbling block, sometimes even an offense. And as always, there’s more to the story than most of us know. And she’s more than willing to tell us the rest of the story.

Q. We welcome Frederica Mathewes-Green. Her newest book is The Open Door, published by Paraclete Press. And Frederica, as always, it’s great to have you back with us.
A. Hi Dick, it’s always good to be with you.

Q. Really quickly, for people that haven’t heard your story, many of our listeners have but not all, your conversion into the faith, as I recall, happened in Dublin, Ireland, after a kind of a journey through agnosticism, Eastern religion, and feminism.
A. Yeah, that’s right. I always say if, you know, you had a suitcase and my soul was a suitcase, it would have all those travel stickers all over it showing all the places I’d been. Yeah. Just briefly, I was raised in a nominal Roman Catholic home, not any really strong faith there. And as a teenager and a college student/high school student, I totally cast away the Christian faith, just believed it was stupid and only stupid people could believe it. And actually became an anti-Christian, you know, more than just ¢€œ

Q. Really. So you were antagonistic.
A. Right. Right, right. Very antagonistic, not just neutral on the topic. And then, so I was traveling around after I graduated from college, traveling around Europe, hitchhiking, doing the tourist thing. And I went into a church in Dublin ¢€œ at that point I was calling myself a Hindu, but even if you’re a Hindu, you’ve got to look into churches when you’re in Europe ¢€œ and I was looking at a statue of Jesus. And I-I can’t explain it. I just was looking at the statue and the next minute I knew I was kneeling down ¢€œ

Q. Wow.
A. ¢€œ and I could hear an interior voice, not with my ears, but I could like hear a voice inside speaking to me and saying, I am your life.

Q. Wow.
A. I am the foundation of everything in your life. And it was a big surprise, Dick.

Q. Oh, man.
A. I would say that was really, you know, knocked my block off because I thought I had the whole world figured out.

Q. Yeah.
A. I thought all religions were equal, and it’s just this delightful garden of spiritual flowers you just stroll through.

Q. Yeah.
A. And probably Jesus was just this mythological figure people made up.

Q. Yeah.
A. But it was like a brick to the head. It was the most bracingly real experience I’ve ever had. In comparison, the rest of life seems like a dream. It was-it was a very¢â‚¬¦ Oh, unsettling would be an understatement. And it took me about a week ¢€œ I was on my honeymoon ¢€œ I couldn’t even talk about it to my husband for a week.

Q. Now, was your-was your¢â‚¬¦ Where was your husband theologically?
A. He had¢â‚¬¦ He was on his own journey. When I met him he was an atheist, which was fine with me. He wasn’t a spiritual seeker like I was.

Q. Yeah.
A. I was exploring, he was just¢â‚¬¦ There isn’t any God, I don’t care, you know, let’s go see a movie. He just wasn’t interested. But he was taking classes from his favorite professor, a philosophy professor. And the very last class he had to take from this guy was philosophy of religion.

Q. Yeah.
A. And the first day of class the guy said, We are going to deal with original documents, so next week come in and be prepared to discuss a gospel. Read any gospel, it doesn’t matter which one.

Q. Wow.
A. So he found a Bible somewhere and he flipped through. He found out there were four gospels and quickly, you know, looked at the page numbers and figured out that Mark was the shortest. So he started reading Mark. And I still remember how distressing it was to me because, as he read it, he began to change.

Q. Wow.
A. And he started saying, There’s something about this guy Jesus. There’s something about him.

Q. Hm.
A. He has authority, he speaks with authority. And he said, If-if Jesus says that there’s a God, I know there has to be one.

Q. Really.
A. Yeah. So he was-he was not ready to become a Christian at that point but, you know, the fish hook was in and ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and like with me after this experience in the church ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ the hook was in, but we both were like mentally still really liberal.

Q. Yeah.
A. And it took us awhile to come all the way around.

Q. Wow. So-so your experience was kind of preceded by his kind of intellectual ascent to the fact that there was a God and that Jesus, there is something about this Jesus. So when you had your Dublin experience it wasn’t like totally a foreign concept to him, but you were both kind of now, kind of scared, that the-the-the comfort zones are being shattered.
A. Yeah, yeah. It was-it was such¢â‚¬¦ It was a different kind of experience for us. That is, it was quite intellectual for my husband. It was that love of truth.

Q. Yeah.
A. It was like he heard the ring of truth ¢€œ

Q. Wow.
A. ¢€œ and he just wanted to draw near it. And for me it was more ontological in a sense. It was like I realized something about existence ¢€œ

Q. Yes.
A. ¢€œ my own existence. And a person. Well, I guess both of us encountered a person, just him through the pages of the scripture, and me in this more immediate, you know, baseball-to-the-head kind of experience. And we just, you know, kept creeping along side by side, one’s ahead, the other’s ahead.

Q. Yeah.
A. It was about six months later that a friend of ours ¢€œ and we had both started seminary at that point, really as seekers, not as believers ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ about six months later a friend of ours said, Now, had you ever, though, given your life to the Lord? Had you ever taken Jesus as your Lord? And we said, Huh?

Q. Yeah. What’s that mean?
A. You know, nobody talks that way to, you know, liberal educated people. And he said, Well, you know, actually you can do this. And we all knelt down and he helped, you know, lead us through the prayer where we really committed ourselves.

Q. Yeah. Now, how long was it from that time to your journey into Orthodoxy?
A. Oh, let’s see. That was 1974 and we became Orthodox in 1993.

Q. Okay. So¢â‚¬¦
A. About 20 years.

Q. ¢â‚¬¦a lot happened between 1974 and 1993 and, as I recall, it was your husband that really moved towards Orthodoxy first.
A. Uh-huh.

Q. What was it that was compelling about Orthodoxy that-that led him first and then you to move in that direction? And for people that don’t know what we’re talking about when we talk about Orthodoxy, what exactly did you enter?
A. Sure. I guess I should define that term first. We’re talking about the Eastern Orthodox Church which, you know, in your neighborhood might be Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Romanian, Albanian, Serbian. It¢â‚¬¦ There’s just all different kinds. About a dozen different kinds of Orthodox in America.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. Now, that’s really a historical anomaly. We should have one church, we should have an American Orthodox Church because we’re Americans now, but it’s just a historical process of getting all those little divisions taken down and having everything in English, and making it one church, just a matter of time. So we’re working on that process. So this Eastern Orthodox Church is the church that we entered in January, ’93. It’s our tenth anniversary.

Q. Wow.
A. And I guess kind of like a rocketship. You have the thing that boosts you out and then you have the next force that pulls you in. And-and the out stage was the painful stage because my husband, during that period, had been an Episcopal priest.

Q. Okay.
A. And we began very happy, really very content in the renewal wing of the Episcopal church. But a little bit more than ten years ago ¢€œ kind of history repeats itself ¢€œ there was a general convention, a national convention of the Episcopal Church, and at that time already there were some warning signs. There were bishops who were denying the resurrection, denying the Creed, and there was a particular resolution at this convention ten years ago. The resolution was clergy should abstain from sex outside of marriage.

Q. Yeah.
A. You wouldn’t think this would come up for a vote, but it did. And the resolution was defeated.

Q. I’ll tell you what. We’ll pick up there when we come back.

Frederica Mathewes-Green is our guest. She has written so many wonderful, engaging books. The most recent is no exception. It’s titled The Open Door, published by Paraclete Press, Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Frederica Mathewes-Green. She is an author. Many of you have read her stuff. She’s a commentator for National Public Radio, a columnist for Beliefnet, author of Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey into the Mystery of Orthodoxy, which is a nice prelude to the book we’re discussing now. Also The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation. Her most recent is The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer.

Q. We’re talking about that-that moment almost ten years ago, just over ten years ago, when her husband and Frederica were faced with some awareness that-that the tradition in which they were currently worshiping and in which he was a priest was, in fact, moving away from-from an Orthodox Biblical position on-on certain issues, and that was kind of an expulsion out of the Episcopalian church. But then how did you-how did you move towards Eastern Orthodoxy?
A. Yeah, yeah, that’s true. And just right before the break I was saying the-the resolution was clergy should abstain from sex outside of marriage. Well, when they voted against that resolution, we knew that something was wrong and began to look around to see where else could we go. So there was the expulsion stage. And my husband visited an orthodox church and was immediately very drawn to it.

Q. Really. Now, had you had any exposure to Orthodoxy prior to that?
A. Not at all. And I went with him to this church and I didn’t like it at all.

Q. No. You had to stand up, as I recall. Your feet hurt.
A. That’s right. Yeah, my feet hurt. Why are we standing up all the time?

Q. Yeah.
A. Orthodox stand up for worship most of the time because it’s honoring the King, and you don’t sit down in the presence of a king. And for-for him the ancient quality of the worship, the fact that this was a church that had never changed on any of its standards, it still was just like the first or second century in terms of what the liturgy is like, the moral stands, the theological stands, the fact that it hadn’t changed. It was that same appeal of truth he felt like he could rely on it.

Q. Yeah.
A. But for me I didn’t feel a corresponding attraction to the-the beauty of it. It looked a little forbidding to me.

Q. Yeah. And which is why I think you’re a good guide on the subject of icons because you kind of had the reaction to icons that a lot of our listeners have, some for theological reasons ¢€œ and in a moment we’ll get to the issue of veneration ¢€œ some kind of for aesthetic reasons, as you talk about in this book. Icons actually can seem uninviting. So-so your husband’s moving towards it, you’re still kind of a little skeptical.
A. Yeah. Yeah, it took me a while to warm up. And I finally reached the point where I just had to trust that he knew what he was doing.

Q. Yeah.
A. I think one of the best principles that served us in good stead in our marriage is the person who feels the most strongly about it gets to win.

Q. Yeah.
A. And that solved a lot of problems. And most of the time that’s me. But in this case he felt so positively that we were meant to become Orthodox. I just felt kind of, Why? I don’t get it. But I went along because my feelings weren’t as strong. I wasn’t adamant against it.

Q. Yeah.
A. Once I got into it, I loved it. I just totally fell¢â‚¬¦ I got it.

Q. Now, how would you describe your early reaction to icons? When you first walked into an orthodox church ¢€œ
A. Uh-huh.

Q. ¢€œ what was your reaction?
A. Right. Or you know, anywhere I’d see an icon in a magazine or a book or an art museum, I thought how unfriendly they look. How forbidding. Now, I guess listeners, probably most of them, do have a picture of what I’m talking about when I say an icon. But I mean an ancient, an old-fashioned looking Byzantine painting of Christ or the saints. And if you picture it, like usually the background is gold, it’s sort of stylized. They’re not smiling. They look very severe, very serious.

Q. Yeah.
A. And in some ways it doesn’t look realistic.

Q. Yeah.
A. It has a stylized, other-worldly quality to it. Well, there’s a lot to not like. If you’re sort of raised in a Disneyland culture where you think everything is going to be friendly and user-friendly ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and smiling and amiable, there’s a seriousness about these images that I found very off-putting. And in fact, it didn’t feel like the kind of faith that I knew. I had been in sort of renewal movements, playing the guitar and singing the choruses for so long, and that was quite a different world from the austerity of-of orthodox worship and iconography. That was the first thing I had to overcome.

Q. Now, when you¢â‚¬¦ This book opens with the wonderful sentence, “Come in, I want you to see these icons.” And I was mentioning to you off the air having-having been in Orthodox churches, I remember my first time and second time and then subsequent times entering an Orthodox church. And I’m realizing a lot of people listening may not have actually even been in a service. And in a minute we’re going to talk about the kind of architecture and what you see when you get in there and then why the icons are there. But at the macro level, why do you want us to enter the sanctuary of icons and prayer? Why do you want those who are not Orthodox to come in and see this?
A. Oh, I guess for several reasons. One, is that I think there is an immersion experience in-in Orthodox worship and in the aesthetics of-of the Orthodox liturgical setting that can hardly be described. Once you’re there and you feel it surrounding you, especially in the course of worship as you hear the hymns that are chanted to the ancient melodies ¢€œ and these are very ancient hymns, some going back to the first and the second century ¢€œ with the flickering candlelight, of course, as they used in the early centuries of the church. Incense, as they used all through the Old Testament and the New. There’s always incense in use whenever there is formal prayer going on. And all of these things, there’s such a sense of humility and gratitude and joy in the Lord, and also solemnity.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. And I think maybe that’s the thing we Western Christians miss the most. We’ve done so much to make God just a buddy that he doesn’t seem all-powerful anymore.

Q. Yeah.
A. He just seems like a pal. And if you come into Orthodoxy, I think that was the strangest and most off-putting thing to me. I was used to worship really that centered around me and my emotions.

Q. Yeah.
A. And it was all about God kind of pampering me and taking care of me, reassuring me.

Q. Yeah.
A. And it’s embracingly, may I say, a masculine approach to focus on God and on his majesty and his power and his might.

Q. Yeah.
A. And to approach that with dignity.

Q. Yeah. Well, there’s nobody with hand-held mikes and, you know, kind of singing the pop tunes with Jesus-as-my-buddy kind of thing.
A. Yeah.

Q. So-so now, for a person who hasn’t been in an Orthodox church, we walk in and-and there’s a diagram in the book, folks, and I’m just going to¢â‚¬¦ It’s a nice little volume with some really wonderful color plates and then other drawings, as well, of the icons, but there’s also a little diagram at the front of the book that kind of gives you the sense of what you’re going to see. But because people can’t look at that right now, just in general when I walk in, what are some of the things I’m going to see inside the-the Orthodox church?
A. Uh-huh.

Q. It starts with an icon stand.
A. Sure, yes. As I describe it and if you can picture this, just imagine a cube, imagine that the church building, instead of Gothic, you know, so it’s pointy and it goes way up high, instead of that it’s just a square, it’s a cube. Now, the Orthodox church in your neighborhood ¢€œ maybe they bought it from a Methodist church or a Catholic church and it won’t be this shape ¢€œ but if you build an Orthodox church from scratch, this is the style usually. It’s square. You walk in and there will be a dome overhead. And in the dome there will be a painting, an icon of Christ. And he will be what’s called Pantocrater, that is, the judge, the Ruler of All. So it’s not a scene from his earthly life, but it is-it is the face, the head of Christ. He’s holding a book, and he’s holding up his hand in blessing. And that’s up in the dome.

Q. That’s in the dome itself.
A. Uh-huh. Up overhead.

Okay. And I’ll tell you what. We’re going to continue our tour, folks, when we come back, so please stay with us. This is fascinating stuff. And then we’re going to learn about these icons themselves, what they are, what they represent. And I know some of you have real serious questions about this. We’ll try to ask some of those questions and let Frederica Mathewes-Green respond as she does in her book, The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer, published by Paraclete. We’ll be right back. Don’t go away.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. You also won’t hear a blaring saxophone and a brass section when you enter the Orthodox church. It’s not going to happen. So¢â‚¬¦ But that’s the music that we use in this feature of the show every night anyway, so I figured I’d go ahead and still use it.

Q. We’ve been looking up at the dome and there is an image of Christ in the dome, kind of looking down and-and actually kind of hovering over the-the-the altar that’s in that apse. Is that correct?
A. Well actually, this would be in the center where the person is standing.

Q. Okay. So it’s actually before you get to the holy doors then.
A. That’s right.

Q. Okay.
A. That’s right.

Q. Okay. So I look up and that’s what I see.
A. That’s right as you’re walking in.

Q. Yeah.
A. And as you look ahead of you, towards where the altar is, there is an apse in the back wall of the church.

Q. Yeah.
A. What’s an apse? It’s like a little niche like you’d put a statue in, if you can imagine that.

Q. Yeah.
A. It’s like a dugout half-circle space in the floor, and a curve, half-dome in the back wall. It’s larger, a little bit larger than that. It goes all the way up to the ceiling. That’s the apse. And in the apse there will be a painting of the Virgin Mary. And she’s holding her hands up in prayer. The orans position, like charismatic worshipers hold their hands up. It’s really very ancient. And you’ll see in the catacombs images of Christians praying with their hands up like that. On her torso there’s a circle and the infant Christ is there in that circle. And it’s meant to be her womb. So we’re looking at the pregnant Mary and seeing the infant Christ inside her womb there.

Q. Hm.
A. Now, as we look toward that we’d be looking over the altar, so the altar will be between us and that back wall there with the apse.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. In front of the altar there’s a wooden ¢€œ you can’t really call it a wall, it’s not a complete wall ¢€œ but it’s an icon stand. It’s like a framework designed to hold icons upright.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. Almost life-size icons. So as you look toward the altar, it would be in the middle. And then there’s a big icon on the right and on the left of the altar. On the right is Christ, on the left is the Virgin Mary.

Q. Yeah.
A. And then going out one more step, further to the right of Christ, would be John the Baptist. And further to the left of Mary would be an icon depicting whatever the church’s name is. If it is the Church of the Annunciation, it would be a picture of the Angel Gabriel announcing the conception of Jesus to the Virgin Mary.

Q. Okay.
A. If it was St. Peter, it would be an icon of St. Peter.

Q. Okay. And-and how does a church decide, or how is a church named after a particular character?
A. Yes. When a church is forming, a new congregation is forming, they often will pray about if they feel particularly drawn to the prayer protection of any saint or to the symbolism of any particular festival.

Q. Yeah.
A. And of course we believe that these people aren’t dead, they’re still members of our churches, we just don’t see them. They are joining us in worship all the time. They’re part of the on-going heavenly community. And it’s as if, when we’re in worship, it’s like our little church, like a spaceship, goes out into the heavens and we join them for a while. So you can feel the presence of particular saints sort of influencing you.

Q. Okay.
A. Their names keep popping up. And so they’ll pray about that and then make a request to the bishop usually saying, you know, we’d like to have this name.

Q. Okay.
A. But if there’s too many of that kind already we’ll take the next name.

Q. Now, a couple of other things just to-just to clarify. There’s also behind those four icons and to the left and the right you have this thing marked “Angel Doors.”
A. Uh-huh.

Q. What are Angel Doors?
A. Yes. Those are¢â‚¬¦ There’s, in the center, between the Christ and the Virgin Mary, there’s a door that leads to the altar.

Q. Yeah.
A. And on the far sides there are more doors that lead back to the altar. And on those doors there are images of angels.

Q. Okay.
A. St. Michael on the left and St. Gabriel on the far right.

Q. Yeah. And so there’s, as you point out in this book, there’s angels everywhere.
A. There’s angels everywhere. They’re in the icons, they’re by themselves, their own icons, they’re on either side of icon stances.

Q. Okay. Now, when I walk in the church doors you’ve described what I’m going to see up above me and away towards the apse with the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ in the womb, and these four larger icons that we’ll discuss more in just a minute here. But there’s a little box here called “The Icon Stand” right as I enter the church doors.
A. Yes.

Q. What’s that?
A. Yes. As soon as you come in the church doors, there will be a smaller stand, just big enough to hold a single icon. Maybe like an 11 by 14 size, or even smaller.

Q. Yes.
A. And as you come in, that is where worshipers will first greet the icon.

Q. Yeah.
A. You bow to the ground, cross yourself, and usually kiss the icon as just a sort of a way of saying hello.

Q. Yeah.
A. These are cultures where there’s just a lot more kissing going on.

Q. Yeah.
A. People kiss each other and they kiss the Bible, and they just kiss stuff to show a way of honoring. So if people come into the church the first thing they’ll do is to greet this icon by kissing it.

Q. Okay.
A. On that icon will be the closest feast in the church year. For example, tonight I’ve got a church service tonight and it will be an icon of John the Baptist because tomorrow is his feast day.

Q. Yeah. And in this book you go through the festal icons and kind of the feasts and the calendar year. And one of the things that I’ve always appreciated about my Orthodox listeners is that they’re constantly reminding me what-what feast we’re coming up to, and why that’s important to know and understand, and why-why feasting and celebrating, and fasting, are part of the rhythm of Christ’s life, and how they believed that the orthodox feast and even the icons that are representational of those calendar year events are such an important part of, whether you’re young or old, of inviting you into the experience of that-that aspect of Christ’s life.
A. It’s a wonderful sense of community to know that all over the world Christians are observing the same observance today, that we’re all thinking about St. John the Baptist, we’re all thinking about his example of courage when faced with immorality ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and speaking out boldly. And it unites us. So when we feast and when we fast together, there’s that paradox of timelessness and yet being caught in time.

Q. Now, in a minute we’ll talk a little bit more because there’s wonderful chapters on each of these icons. And-and I’m going to invite you to buy the book and-and read about them. But let’s¢â‚¬¦ Because you weave into the chapter on the Virgin of Vladimir. The history of there has been a battle in the church over the appropriateness of icons.
A. Uh-huh.

Q. And there was kind of in the ancient years and then Zwingli kind of reintroduced the issue. What’s the basic controversy? And-and how have you resolved it in your own mind and heart?
A. Right. And I think the basic controversy is something probably occurring to many of our listeners right now, which is this sounds like idolatry. Especially when I say¢â‚¬¦

Q. You’re kissing and bowing.
A. What? You know, you’re bowing?

Q. Yeah.
A. How can you do this? And I guess the, well, the controversy of course was are these being treated as objects of superstition?

Q. Yeah.
A. Are these idols? And the reason that it came up very pointedly about the seventh and eighth century, of course, was the rise of Islam.

Q. Yeah.
A. Up until that point, as I said, their images in the catacombs from the earliest Christians times, we do have images of the saints, we have Jesus depicted as the Good Shepherd, it was just natural to make pictures. But as time went by and we saw Christians, saw Islam begin to rise and to make so many military victories ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and to enslave and to conquer Christian cities, the Emporor and Constantinople thought, maybe we’re doing the wrong thing. And there was an icon of Christ in the city gate and he took it down. And this caused a big uproar because, of course, the believers in the church felt that we should stand up for our beliefs no matter what.

Q. Yeah.
A. But the government felt, strategically it was time to get rid of all those icons.

Q. Yeah.
A. Called the iconoclast.

Q. Yes.
A. Meaning smashing of icons, controversy. Over the course of about 125 years a great many Christians died trying to defend the icons.

Q. I’ll tell you what. We’ll pick up right there.

Folks, we’re¢â‚¬¦ There’s so much to understand and that’s why the book is there. We’ll scratch the surface a bit more and then turn you over to the book itself where you can encounter more of Frederica Mathewes-Green in the book The Open Door. We’ll be right back.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. My friend, Frederica Mathewes-Green, is with us. She has written another wonderful book, The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer.

Q. We’re talking about the controversy over icons, in the historical sense, with the rise of Islam, the idea of graven images. And images became a controversial one. They were removed and people lost their lives over the right of Christians to practice as they had the use of icons. What happened then?
A. Yes. So after a great deal of trouble and strife and persecution, there was a church council called in which it was decided that there were to be guidelines in how icons were used.

Q. Yeah.
A. We should not treat them as objects of magic or superstition, but that they could be seen¢â‚¬¦ Finally, the best analogy they came up with was it should be seen as a physical Bible is seen.

Q. Okay.
A. That is, what’s shown in an icon, usually it’s like a picture Bible.

Q. Yes.
A. You’re not supposed to make anything up, you just depict things that we know happened in the Bible.

Q. Yup.
A. You can show the angel announcing to the Virgin Mary the virgin birth. You don’t use your imagination or embellish it ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ you just try to stick with what scripture says. And for a mostly illiterate people they were substitutes for the Bible.

Q. Absolutely.
A. People didn’t have Bibles they could take home.

Q. Yeah.
A. And mostly they couldn’t read anyway. But you could go in the church and look at the pictures and-and learn the stories, memorize them in your heart through these pictures. So that the way a Bible would be treated is the way an icon would be treated. Now, you can ask the most Bible-loving person you know, is the Bible an idol? And they’d say, No, you know.

Q. Yeah.
A. It’s just paper and ink. But it would break their heart if you tore up their Bible or spit on it.

Q. Well, and as you point out, even the picture of the Pope when O’Connor ripped it on Saturday Night Live ¢€œ I think it was Saturday Night Live ¢€œ
A. That’s right.

Q. ¢€œ it caused a huge stir among even non-Catholics. It just¢â‚¬¦ Visual images do represent something. Now, you also give what I thought was a very useful analogy of someone going to a cemetery and what that kind of, how that relates to what you think is happening with an icon.
A. Yeah. As I was writing this book that came to me. And I was trying to think how to make this not scary, that people treat icons with respect and to show what kind of respect. I was visiting some old family cemeteries and I noticed ¢€œ it was Christmastime ¢€œ some graves have wreaths and decorations and some don’t. And I thought, if you brought anthropologists from Mars and they looked at this they would say, Hm, humans think that dead people can smell flowers, you know. And another would say, No, no. They’re trying to placate the dead so they won’t come back and haunt them.

Q. Yeah.
A. And they’d have all these theories about what it meant that you leave flowers on graves.

Q. Yeah.
A. And we would say, You’re making it too literal. It doesn’t mean all of that, it’s just respect. It’s just love.

Q. Yeah.
A. It’s just honoring. And that’s the way that Orthodox treat icons. It’s like that. It’s like you would love your old, worn-out Bible. You might even kiss it if nobody was looking, you know?

Q. Now, because of time we’re not going to be able to get into the rich history of the-the four icons that you describe initially in the book, the Christ of Sinai with St. Catherine Monastery, which is just an incredible story in the way you talk about kind of the two-fold impact of that image, the Virgin of Vladimir, another history there, the resurrection, St. John the Baptist, rainbow-colored rings. There’s just wonderful story and imagery. For instance, of the resurrection about our imprisonment as related to Adam. And themes that are very deep and thoughtful, as you say. And then you get into all the festal icons and again, following the church calendar. In the back of your book you have a place where you can order icons. And I mentioned to you when I moved from Chicago my friend, Mitch Bright, who I refer to as Orthodox Mitch, got me an icon of Elijah, which is in the living room of our home. And he did so to remind me that God would provide for me.
A. Oh.

Q. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful way to be¢â‚¬¦ You talk about them as companions in prayer.
A. Oh, yes.

Q. And I almost always think of that icon when I think of God’s provision of my daily bread. But now, my question is, when I went to the website to-to look at the kinds of icons that are available for mere mortals to purchase, in one of the websites there was a complete alphabetic listing. And when I went to it, it had list after list of saints. And some people say, Okay, I can understand the festal icons because they represent the annunciation, the nativity, the transfiguration, the crucifixion. I can understand Christ and the Virgin and-and John the Baptist, but when I get to church saints through the ages, and I think about, you know, kissing that or bowing down to that, that feels different to me. How is it different and not different?
A. Yes, I know what you mean. I was in a Protestant church just a couple of weeks ago for a funeral, and I noticed in the big stained glass window behind the altar, you know, at the back of the church, there was images of Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Q. Yeah, in the stained glass windows you have it often.
A. That’s right. They’re heroes of the faith. And it’s the same thing with saints of any age or any nation ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ not just theologians, but people like Mother Teresa, or people who’ve been just courageous for the faith in other ways.

Q. But somebody’s asking, Yeah, but in addition to that, do you actually pray to these saints? Are people praying to-to the saint? Because the idea of Jesus as the one mediator between God and man enters their minds.
A. Yes. Yes, that’s a great question. We-we do ask the saints to pray for us. We don’t ask the saints to do miracles for us. They don’t have magic powers. But they are the same as any other Christian. And because we believe they’re not dead, we believe that we can ask them to pray for us.

Q. So it would be like me saying, Frederica, off the air, this is something going on in my personal life. Would you please pray for me?
A. Uh-huh, that’s exactly it.

Q. And you’re saying there’s a host of saints, as Hebrews describes, this great cloud of witnesses ¢€œ
A. Right.

Q. ¢€œ that are still alive and able to pray with us.
A. That’s exactly it. And that was one of the wonderful joys of becoming Orthodox, was suddenly I got this family.

Q. Yeah.
A Suddenly I had this huge family in heaven and on earth and stretching throughout all time. People that, you know, they don’t talk back to me.

Q. Yeah.
A. I don’t have conversations, but I know they’re out there. I feel that unseen presence and I can always say, you know, St. Nina, please pray for me about this.

Q. Now, somebody might be saying, Okay, it is true that there was a time before the printing press and before literacy where-where icons were representational of the stories which were a wonderful teaching aid, but now we have the Bible. And some people say, Do icons in some sense within Orthodoxy replace the role of the Bible, which has become so central in the Protestant Reformation?
A. You know, I guess that’s one of the things that our post-modern Evangelical friends would be saying to us, is we need to recapture the idea of story and image ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and not be solely restricted to word. You never lose it anyway. If you-if you, as a Christian, believe you’re only going to get your religion through words, through printed words, nevertheless the world is evangelizing you in images constantly.

Q. Right.
A. We should have our images, as well, because we form them in our minds nonetheless.

Q. One of the things that I picked up ¢€œ and I apologize for rushing, I wish we had more time ¢€œ is the balance of celebration and solemnity that is represented by the icons and even the icons themselves. I mean, the Christ of Sinai. You talk about that. It has this wonderful kind of contemplative calming aspect to it, but it also has this stern aspect to it.
A. Yeah.

Q. That is the nature of Christ, isn’t it?
A. It is. And it’s our limitations that it’s so hard for us to see both at one time. But this Christ of Sinai icon, that’s like Mt. Sinai ¢€œ and listeners can go see it on the website is called skete.com, kind of like skate, but with an “e,” skete.com ¢€œ Christ of Sinai, you’ll see that one side of the face is very stern, like he’s looking through you and he knows exactly how sinful you are probably better than you know.

Q. Yeah.
A. And the other side is so tranquil ¢€œ

Q. And warm and embracing.
A. ¢€œ and poignant and loving and listening.

Well folks, we have run out of time. But the good news is you can spend more time with Frederica Mathewes-Green. And I really recommend that you do because I think this is an enriching experience to learn about traditions of our faith. And I do think Orthodoxy is bringing something to us that we desperately need. The book is titled The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer, published by Paraclete. We’ll be back with more of the Dick Staub show right after this.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in August 1, 2003 by | No Comments »

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Cast
Lara Croft: Angelina Jolie
Terry Sheridan: Gerard Butler
Hillary: Chris Barrie
Dr. Jonathan Reiss: Ciaran Hinds
Bryce: Noah Taylor
Kosa: Djimon Hounsou
Sean: Til Schweiger

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Jan de Bont. Written by Dean Georgaris. Running time: 116 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for action violence and some sensuality).

Central Theme
Each of us has choices to make, and following your values, no matter how difficult, is the key to making wise decisions.

Story
Academy Award winner Angelie Jolie reprises her role as Lara Croft, one the world’s most celebrated action heroines ever to hit the big screen. Facing her greatest challenges yet, the intrepid tomb raider travels the world on spectacular adventures that take her to such exotic places as Hong Kong, Kenya, Tanzania, Greece and the Great Wall of China. Demonstrating her physical prowess and revealing her courage as never before, Lara proves that she will stop at nothing when it means she could save the world from the most unspeakable evil ever known. ‚© Paramount.

This film weaves together a loose confederation of mythologies including Pandora’s box (Greek about a box that was not to be opened), the Moon goddess’ Luna Temple (again from the polytheistic Greeks), Alexander’s lost city, Chinese terracotta warriors and an African Massai legend of the Mountain of God. This time, Lara must match wits with Chen Lo, the head of a Chinese crime syndicate, as they both search for a hidden underwater treasure — the mythical Pandora’s Box.

Lo is to deliver Pandora’s box, which contains a great plague for which there is no antidote, to Dr. Reiss, who plans to use the plague to secure immense wealth through selling the antidote. He also intends to release the plague to eradicate the scum of the planet (as defined by him).

Again we are led to believe that ancient civilizations possessed advanced technologies and immensely important secrets to unlocking the meaning of the universe. The role of the archaeologist becomes contemporary as seeker of the lost keys.

Beliefs num
–Important mysteries lurk at the cradle of life.
–Ancient civilizations possess secrets and technology that unlock the keys to the meaning of life.
–The right decisions are based on our beliefs and values, even when they are contrary to our desires.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–Do ancient mythologies hold clues for life today?
–Are biblical stories different from other mythologies? How?

Provocative Quotes byline
–That’s the Sunday school version.
==Lara about traditional Pandora’s box myths.
–It’s unlike Lara to take a partner.
==Chinese woman.
–The only way to get into their palace is as prisoners.
==Terry.
–I don’t think we are alike, but I do think we are a pair.
==Terry.
–Don’t tell me you’ve never looked around the world and said, wouldn’t the world be better off without some of these people.
==Dr. Reiss.
–I’m not leaving because I couldn’t kill you; I’m leaving because I could.
==Lara.
–The locals call it the mountain of God.
==African.
–Ancient legends tell of a place called the Cradle of Life. It is the source of all life and also of death. There lies a power that no man should ever hold.
==African Bushman
–I’m sorry if I have to disturb your God’s top keep this from happening.
==Lara to African guardians of Mountain.
–Are you truly prepared top learn what you are about to learn” Some secrets are best kept secret.
==African guardian.
–Perfect isn’t it? All that power in such a banal box.
==Terry.
–All your beliefs and all your ideals. They’re not real. I am and you love me¢â‚¬¦.you are not going to choose them over me.
==Terry to Lara.
–Some things are not meant to be found.
==Lara.
–I know what you’re looking for and I feel I can make it last forever.
==Korn soundtrack lyrics.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in July 25, 2003 by | No Comments »

Spy Kids 3D: Game Over

Cast
Juni Cortez: Daryl Sabara
Carmen Cortez: Alexa Vega
The Toymaker: Sylvester Stallone
Gregorio Cortez: Antonio Banderas
Ingrid Cortez: Carla Gugino
Grandfather: Ricardo Montalban
Dora: Salma Hayek
Romero: Steve Buscemi
Devlin: George Clooney
Fegan Floop: Alan Cumming

Dimension Films presents a film written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. Running time: 85 minutes. Rated PG (for action sequences and peril).

Central Theme
Forgiveness is more powerful than revenge; life is not just a game and games are not real life.

Story
On their most mind-blowing mission yet, the Spy Kids are about to enter an entirely new dimension: the third dimension. In “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over”, state-of-the-art digital 3D technology puts something special into special effects action for the whole family. On their latest assignment, under-age Juni and Carmen Cortez (Sabara and Vega) journey inside the virtual reality world of a cool but crazy video game, where anything is possible, including the impossible. Action film veteran Sylvester Stallone joins the cast as the power-hungry villain the ‘Toymaker’, who wants to take over the youth of the world, and Juni and Carmen must battle their way through tougher and tougher levels of a three-dimensional game ingeniously designed to outwit and defeat them. Using their usual humor, gadgetry, bravery and family bonds, the Spy Kids must win every high-flying, puzzle-solving challenge, from racing road warriors to surfing on boiling lava. Meanwhile, high-definition digital 3-D sequences and special viewing glasses give the audience a chance to interact with the larger-than-life excitement on screen. Adding to the visual fun, “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over” also features all-new inventions from the mind of writer/director Robert Rodriguez, who lets his imagination loose in a blazingly colorful, futuristic game world come to life. In this latest chapter of the Spy Kids trilogy, Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino reprise their roles as suave spy-parents Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez and Ricardo Montalban makes a comeback as the Spy Kids’ grandfather, who plays a pivotal role in their mission. Also returning are Steve Buscemi as the mad scientist Romero; Alan Cumming as Floop; Bill Paxton as Dinky Winks; Cheech Marin as Uncle Felix; and Danny Trejo as Uncle Machete. ‚© Dimension Films.

Another in a series that is fun, yet raises serious issues. Kid’s fascination with the game world is put in perspective through constant reminders that the game isn’t real, the on-line persona doesn’t match the real player, and in real life there is no reset button. Grandpa warns Juni not to fall in love with the game, and Juni is warned that the real intent of the “game” is to control kid’s minds. Family is again celebrated, as is the importance of the older generation and disabled. The overriding theme of forgiveness over revenge is underscored by the inclusion of pervious villains as “family” members in ¢â‚¬Ëœfreeing’ the Toymaker from his guilt and lost ways.

Beliefs num
–Family is essential.
–Games are not real life.
–It is not winning or losing that matters, but how you play the game.
–Forgiveness is better than revenge.
–Kids are more important than your work.
–Grandparents are important.
–Everybody needs a second chance.
–Real people are more important than games.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–Describe a situation where you chose forgiveness over revenge.
–Have you faced a time where you were a forgiven, but had a hard time forgiving yourself?
–How can you play games without allowing them to control you?
–How do you relate to the older generation? To Grandpa and Grandma?
–Would your dad immediately drop an important project if you called? Would you? (Even you are playing your favorite computer game?)

Provocative Quotes byline
–The only tribe worth belonging to is the one you’re born into. Your family.
==Juni
–I choose grandpa.
==Juni when he can seek anyone’s help.
–It’s not about doing the right thing; it is about doing the SMART thing.
==Toymaker alter ego.
–The childish game will soon be over and then the real game will begin.
==Toymaker.
–There are no rules in this race, except win at any cost.
==Toymaker.
–If we all work together, we all win.
==Juni to other gameplayers.
–I’ve seen the real guy and you’re not him.
==Dmitra (ironic since we learn she is digital and not real at all!)
–This is not a game, it is LIFE!
==Toymaker about his real intent.
–I want you to take it. I don’t want anything to happen to you.
==Juni sacrificially gives life-pack to Dmitra.
–Sorry Juni, I have my own family to think about.
==Arnold and Juni both fighting for family.
–Don’t fall in love with the game Juni.
==Grandpa.
–We have to convince grandpa that revenge is not the way to solve this problem.
==Juni worried that Grandpa will seek revenge against the Toymaker.
–That’s not true, There’s no lava in HALO.
==one of gameplayers.
–Juni. She’s not real, She’s the deceiver.
==Ingrid.
–In the real world I’m not smart¢â‚¬¦strong¢â‚¬¦cool.
==Three gameplayers appear and confess in real life.
–All I wanted to do was to start a new world¢â‚¬¦where you could get a second chance.
==Toymaker.
–The game has entered the real world.
==Dad.
–There’s only one way to solve the situation¢â‚¬¦call in the family.
==Juni.
–Mr. Cortez, your child called.
==Dad leaves workbench immediately, though he had just said, ¢â‚¬Ëœnothing can disturb me now.’
–I’ve only been seeking you so I can tell you I forgive you. Now the question is, can you forgive yourself?
==Grandpa to Toymaker.
–It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game¢â‚¬¦To FAMILY!.
==All at end of movie.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in July 25, 2003 by | No Comments »

Bad Boys II

Posted in Movies, Staublog in July 18, 2003 by | No Comments »

Johnny English

Cast
Johnny English: Rowan Atkinson
Pascal Sauvage: John Malkovich
Lorna Campbell: Natalie Imbruglia
Bough: Ben Miller
Carlos Vendetta: Douglas McFerran
Pegasus: Tim Pigott-Smith
Prime Minister: Kevin McNally

Universal Pictures and StudioCanal present a film directed by Peter Howitt. Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and William Davies. Running time: 87 minutes. Rated PG (for comic nudity, some crude humor and language).

Central Theme
A complete goofball can prevail through sincerity, determination and a lot of luck!

Story
Rowan Atkinson, the brilliant physical comedian whose outrageous pratfalls and subversively innocent humor have made him a star in hilarious classics ranging from the cult U.K. series Black Adder to the worldwide hit Bean, is back on the big screen in the family comedy Johnny English.

When her majesty’s crown jewels are stolen by a conniving Frenchman (John Malkovich), who also plans to steal the queen’s throne, Johnny English (Atkinson), a bit unseasoned but intensely enthusiastic, is thrown onto the case. Fast cars, high tech gadgets, top secret info – Johnny can hardly believe it. He may be in over his head, but his courage and dedication are unmatched – especially after he meets double agent Lorna Campbell (Natalie Imbruglia) and discovers that falling in love makes saving the nation even more exciting.‚© Universal Pictures.

A totally predictable farce, that works comedically because of Atkinson’s comic timing and presence. There is no serious point being made in this film, but there is a subtle attack on institutions. Government incompetence is underscored and the church’s marginalization is firmly established at both a funeral, and a coronation complete with the baring of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s bottom! This is British humor in all it’s self-effacing glory and many American’s will not “get it” As Atkinson himself said recently, “A lot of American comedy involves being or appearing cool. We’re quite happy to have our sophisticated, subtle jokes, then we don’t mind making complete fools of ourselves. We’re quite happy to look daft.”

Beliefs num
–Good prevails over evil, even when justice depends on a loveable but incompetent hero.
–The Brits are good the French are evil!
–Institutions and bureaucracies are a joke.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–Does the mocking of governmental and religious institutions and personalities (ie. Archbishop’s bare bottom) have an affect on the moviegoers personal views on these subjects?

Provocative Quotes byline
–I’m going to sit in the flat.
==Johnny when asked by Lorna, “What are you going to do, Johnny? Sit in this grotty flat feeling sorry for yourself, or are you going to get out there and save your country?”
–Ok, so I was wrong about the Archbishop’s bottom!
==Having bared the Archbishop’s bottom the tattoo is not there!
–I think you will find everything is more than in order, Sir. You are now entering the most secure place in the whole of England.
==Just before the explosion that kills all of Britain’s top agents.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in July 18, 2003 by | No Comments »