Catholic Bishops rescind “Golden Compass” review

Posted on December 11, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Thanks to Eric Bateman for this update:
The Catholic News Service reports that the Conference of Catholic Bishops has withdrawn its review of “The Golden Compass.”
There are news reports that the US Bishops have been asked to fire the critic who wrote the positive review.
Beliefnet’s “Idol Chatter” blog has a thoughtful comment by Ellen Leventry:

It’s unfortunate that the bishops’ conference dropped the review, giving in to political pressure and further characterizing the Catholic Church as a place where different opinions are not valued or welcomed. And the Catholic League is playing right into Pullman’s denunciation of organized religious groups, acting like the villainous, dogmatic “Magisterium” in its desire to quash the film.

Comments on the review of “The Golden Compass” or its withdrawal by the USCCB can be sent to CommDept@usccb.org.
For the record, here is the full text of the original review:

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Washington Area Film Critics pick Coen Brothers movie

Posted on December 9, 2007 at 9:02 pm

The Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) today announced its selection of the gritty thriller No Country for Old Men as Best Film of 2007. In total, the Miramax/Paramount Vantage film won four awards including Best Director for Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Best Acting Ensemble and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem.
Earning his first accolade from WAFCA, George Clooney was named Best Actor for his intense portrayal of an ethically challenged lawyer in Warner Brothers’ Michael Clayton, while Julie Christie was awarded Best Actress for her heartbreaking turn as an Alzheimer’s patient in Lionsgate’s Away From Her.
“In the year of the big-budget sequel, The Coen Brothers, Clooney and Christie proved a well-written, expertly directed and amazingly acted movie is just as important to filmgoers as special effects and loud explosions,” said Tim Gordon, president of WAFCA.
In other categories, Disney/Pixar’s uproarious and inspiring Ratatouille was named Best Animated Feature, and Paramount’s macabre tale of vengeance, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, was honored for Best Art Direction.
Amy Ryan walked away with Best Supporting Actress kudos for her show-stopping performance in Gone Baby Gone. Meanwhile, Juno’s Ellen Page was awarded Best Breakthrough Performance for her acerbic portrayal of a pregnant teen in Juno.
The Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association is comprised of thirty-nine DC-based film critics from television, radio, print and the internet. Voting was conducted from December 8 – 9, 2007.
Best Film: No Country for Old Men/Miramax & Paramount Vantage
Best Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)
Best Actor: George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
Best Actress: Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Best Ensemble: No Country for Old Men/Miramax & Paramount Vantage
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Best Breakthrough Performance: Ellen Page (Juno)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (Charlie Wilson’s War)
Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody (Juno)
Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille/Disney & Pixar
Best Foreign Language Film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly/Miramax
Best Documentary: SiCKO/The Weinstein Company
Best Art Direction: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street/Paramount

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More thoughts on “The Golden Compass”

Posted on December 9, 2007 at 8:24 pm

goldencompasslyra.jpg
Very worthwhile readings on “The Golden Compass” and the controversy:
In the LA Times, Laura Miller talks about the emailed claims that author Philip Pullman is anti-relgion.

Snopes lists this particular rumor as “true,” presumably because the e-mails use a few genuine, if cherry-picked, quotations from Pullman’s writings and press interviews. But that doesn’t keep the whole thing from being fundamentally ridiculous.
Most preposterous, of course, is the idea that anyone would make a $180-million movie with the purpose of tricking children into reading a seditious book. What self-respecting kid ever needed that much encouragement to ferret out whatever the adults are trying to hide?
Also — whoops! — no one’s been hiding “His Dark Materials.” To date, 15 million copies of Pullman’s books have been sold worldwide. “The Golden Compass” won not only the 1995 Carnegie Medal, a prize awarded by British children’s librarians, but also the “Carnegie of Carnegies,” as the public’s favorite book in the prize’s 70-year history. The final novel in the trilogy, “The Amber Spyglass,” won the Whitbread Book of the Year award in 2001, the first children’s book ever to do so. It’s safe to say that copies of the trilogy reside in every decent children’s library in the nation. If there is indeed a “deceitful stealth campaign” afoot to lure children to Pullman’s books — as William Donohue, spokesman for the Catholic League, insists — it’s remarkably short on stealth….I first met Pullman in England, at an annual lecture sponsored by a trust dedicated to the furthering of religious education. I buttonholed Simon Pettitt, an Anglican priest and the trust’s chairman, to marvel at this; his counterparts in the United States, I said, would never have invited a figure like Pullman to speak at a flagship public event. And yet, Pettitt is no renegade. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, has enthused about “His Dark Materials” and participated in an onstage discussion with Pullman when a stage version of “His Dark Materials” was produced by the National Theatre in London.
“In America,” I told Pettitt, “religious groups gain political advantage and rally their followers by presenting themselves as embattled. Actually listening to the other side is tantamount to admitting you’re not really being persecuted.” With a look of mild pity, he replied, “In order to come to views, you don’t just listen to people you agree with. Education is a good thing, and, therefore, so is openness to different views.”
Although Pullman has some vehement detractors among Britain’s Christians, the liberal clergy there have more often valued his books for tackling the great questions of existence: life, death, morality and humanity’s role in the universe. They regard his fiction as a springboard for discussion, the kind of discussion that does sometimes lead people to embrace God. They recognize him not as an enemy but as an ally in a society increasingly colonized by the vapid preoccupations of consumer culture.

And the Economist’s UK magazine More Intelligent Life has an interview with Pullman. He talks about his experiences as a teacher of middle-school-age children and how that helped him develop the character of 12-year-old Lyra. And he talks about his reaction to the fundamentalists who call him anti-religious:

Pullman says that people who are tempted to take offence should first see the film or read the books. “They’ll find a story that attacks such things as cruelty, oppression, intolerance, unkindness, narrow-mindedness, and celebrates love, kindness, open-mindedness, tolerance, curiosity, human intelligence. It’s very hard to disagree with those. But people will.”
How will he respond to those attacks? “A soft answer turneth away wrath, as it says in my favourite book.” (Proverbs 15:1.) So he won’t argue back? “It’s a foolish thing for the teller of a story to answer critics. If you’re putting forward an argument, you can argue back and demonstrate why your argument is better than theirs. But if someone doesn’t like a story you’ve written, what are you going to say? ‘Well, you should’?”

And here Jeffrey Overstreet, who reviews movies for Christianity Today Movies, gives his view:

He’s not really undermining Christian belief as he thinks he is; he is undermining the abuse of authority, something altogether contrary to the gospel.
No, don’t be afraid. The gospel will survive the publishing phenomenon of Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, without so much as a scratch. It’s not worth getting all worked up about it.
If Pullman’s work shakes up people’s faith, then their faith was poorly developed to begin with.

Overstreet also refers readers to two other reviews from Christian critics, Steven D. Greydanus and Peter T. Chattaway.

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Welcome from The Movie Mom

Posted on December 7, 2007 at 11:00 am

Thanks so much for visiting my blog! I hope you will check in often and I would be very happy to hear your comments, questions, and suggestions — even your corrections. I’ll be reviewing movies and DVDs every week and I’ll also be blogging nearly every day about media, values, family and community, posting interviews with writers, actors, directors, animators, and others, creating best/worst lists of all kinds, and responding to questions from “what’s a good movie for a 8-year-old’s slumber party?” to “why does my preschooler want to watch the same movie every single day?”, to the ever-popular “I only remember one thing about a movie I saw many years ago — do you know the title?” (Sometimes I do!)
My radio listeners are already familiar with the rarely-invoked “Gothika” rule — if a movie has a truly idiotic ending, I will give it away. Watch this space for the latest on my “Gothika” list.
And watch this space too — that’s my new Beliefnet Community group. Please join me there for a conversation about media, culture, and values. Let me know which movies and television shows you and your family love — and which ones you don’t.
More about my plans, my goals, and my point of view:

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When Movies Collide

Posted on November 30, 2007 at 11:10 am

It often happens that movies seem to overlap or collide with each other. All of a sudden, there are two or three movies at the same time about earthquakes, or farm foreclosures, or asteroids hitting the earth, or CGI films about insects. “Antz” came out just before “A Bug’s Life.” It could be copycats. Or it could be just a reflection of some societal zeitgeist. Maybe both.

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