The Tillman Story

Just saw The Tillman Story; the theater was almost sold out. Heartbreaking and though there was a mockery of a congressional investigation, you should hear those generals and Rumsfeld play semantics – for the record. Our country is brought low this day because of the coverup of the reason for Tillman’s death. When lies are needed to protect a war, we need to ask what is being done in our names.

Here is a longer review just posted on NCR: The Tillman Story

The Tillman Story Official Trailer

Amish Grace DVD release September 14

The  deeply felt television film, starring Kimberly Williams, will be released on DVD September 14, 2010. It is based on true events about how  the Amish community dealt with the tragedy of the Amish school shootings on October 2, 2006.

Here is a link to my reviews as well as others for this highest rated ever Lifetime movie: Amish Grace

The film is an exercise in forgiveness and reconciliation but is never preachy. Deeply moving but never sentimental.

My only regret is that it was not nominated for an Emmy because it certainly is deserving.

Here are some excerpts from the press release:

“We will not allow hatred into our hearts… it not only goes against God’s will,
it becomes a corrosive force that further compounds the original anguish.” – Amish Elder



The Poignant Film Arrives On DVD September 14th
From Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

LOS ANGELES, CA. (August 25, 2010) – The highest rated movie ever to premiere on Lifetime,
Amish Grace arrives on DVD September 14 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Based on a true story and the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher, Amish Grace chronicles the community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, forever changed when a gunman senselessly takes the lives of five girls in a schoolhouse shooting before taking his own life in October of 2006. What transpires takes the town by storm, as the media descend on the city and criticize its Amish leaders for their notion of unconditional forgiveness and their outreach of support to the gunman’s widow. Through the eyes of a grieving mother, Ida Graber (Kimberly Williams-Paisley; Father of the Bride films, “According to Jim”), and other devastated families, the film explores the Amish community’s astonishing reaction of compassion to the horrific events that shook their town and tested their faith.

Directed by Gregg Champion (“The Magnificent Seven”), Amish Grace premiered on Lifetime to over four million viewers and also stars Matt Letscher (“Brothers & Sisters”). $26.98

Can’t Smile Without You

This YouTube video can tell us so much: innocence, talent, how smart kids really are, how to silence women who are only trying to verbalize their views, body language, and so forth. I just love this…

Emmy Awards Sunday, August 29, 2010: Sr. Rose votes!

As with most award programs, the Emmy Awards were established in 1949 by the Academy for Television Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles  as part of a public relations program.  The Emmy statue is a winged woman to represent art holding an atom that refers to science.

The 62nd Prime Time Emmy Awards will be held on Sunday, August 29, hosted by NBC’s Late Night comedian Jimmy Fallon from the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles. For the first time, the awards will be broadcast simultaneously across time zones so there will be no lag to correct and language or wardrobe gaffs.

I watch a fair amount of television as a reviewer and I genuinely like television, though not all programming rises to the top of my must see list.

Here are my choices for 2010 Emmys in major categories and why:

Comedy Series:  this is easy for me: Glee. I am a complete Gleek. Catholics In Media gave the show its television prize this year  for its  heart, humanity, and humor. The show is populated by characters from the Gospels, therefore, all of us quirky people can find someone, or some theme with which to identify.

Outstanding Drama: My favorite new show from this season remains The Good Wife. The writers have created a role for Juliana Margulies profound talents  as the wife of a jailed politician and mother of two young teens. But what is a good wife? Subtle and rewarding drama; this good wife is a woman we would be proud to know.

Outstanding Made for Television Movie:  It is between Georgia O’Keefe, the artist, and Temple Grandin, the autistic  savant , scientist, author and professor, that created humane and healthy ways to process livestock into the food supply.  Claire Danes was exceptional as Dr. Grandin.

Outstanding Miniseries:  The Pacific will probably win, but my vote is for Return to Cranford. The Pacific was about war, and told the story well enough, but  endless battle scenes over several weeks do not a great miniseries make.  Costume dramas by the British and PBS are consistently good.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:  A very crowded field. Jim Parsons in The Big Bang theory is one of the most genuinely funny people to come along in ages; the show itself is laugh-out-loud funny. After all, nerds are people, too.  But I also like Matthew Morrison for his role as the glee club teacher in the campy Glee, so Morrison it is.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Hands down (or off), Michael C. Hall for Dexter.  It’s creepy, violent, dark, deep where morality is the key character. I do not understand the attraction to the formulaic sports family drama Friday Night Lights, which I consider to be rather  unimaginative.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:  Because I am a devoted Gleek, I vote for Lea Michele in Glee.  But Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie is excellent. Very dark humor, but deeply human in a way that touches the spiritual. Edie Falco can play a vulnerable and flawed human train wreck in ways that demand hope that people can change.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: this is really tough and I would be happy if any of these women would win, with the exception of  Connie Britton. She’s a fine actress, it’s just that Friday Night Lights is a poor vehicle for her talents. If I were a  voting member of the Academy, I’d give it to Juliana Margulies in The Good Wife.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Crowded field, tough call. For reasons noted above, Claire Danes  as Temple Grandin.  Phenomenal interpretation of a  gifted woman who surprised everyone.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Gleeks rule: Chris Colfer as Kurt in Glee. He is the young man who must tell his father what he already knows,  that he is gay.  The episode where they reconcile and embrace one another for who they are is one of the most moving of the season.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Terry O’Quinn in Lost. His intelligent and nuanced character carried the series demonstrating that supporting actors are as necessary as the headliners. It takes a village, though here it lost one – or did it?

Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Movie:  Michael Gambon as the father in yet another rendition of Jane Austin’s Emma.  Great ensemble cast.

Outstanding Supporting actress in a Comedy Series:  Modern Family has a lot of nominations, but as a card-carrying Gleek, I vote for Jane Lynch as the outrageous  and devious Sue Sylvester in Glee.  She plays the villain, but even villains have hearts.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:  How to choose? This is a category filled with terrific actresses who gave consistently good performances. Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife. Truly, any of these ladies deserve the honor.  Rose Byrne as Ellen in Damages would be my next preference. The moral vicissitudes of Damages are more complex than The Good Wife, and Rose is at the center in Damages. But I like The Good Wife; the characters in Damages, not so much. Though they are eminently watchable.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: I really did not like HBO’s you Don’t Know Jack about Jack Kevorkian, though culturally I suppose one could make a case for it as being important as a way to try and grasp Dr. Death and his influence on our culture, so sorry Susan.  I am going to hope (and guess) that either Catherine O’Hara or  Julia Ormond take home an Emmy for their roles in Temple Grandin.

Outstanding Music, Variety or Comedy Series:  My sympathy vote goes to Conan O’Brien because of the way he was treated when NBC pushed him out of the Tonight Show slot to bring back Jay Leno.  But I am going to go with  The Colbert Report because Stephen Colbert is incisive, smart, and funny in ways that highlight truth. Sure, the same could be said of Jon Stewart, but I really like The Colbert Report.

Outstanding Reality Competition Show: The sisters in my community put me on to Project Runway, my younger sister made me watch Top Chef when I was visiting, I cannot stand The Amazing Race because I lived in New York for too long,  American Idol is getting boring (and I have really supported this show!), so this leaves me with Dancing with the Stars, which I really like.  In terms of art and creativity, however, I am going to vote for Project Runway (and hope that next year someone will nominate So You Think You Can Dance.)

Islamic cultural center at WTC site? I offer this response: “Do you see me? Do I see you?”

Blessed James Alberione: Apostle of the Media

This brief trailer is an introduction to the life of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. If you would like to contribute to a one hour documentary about his life, please visit Pauline Books & Media

100 Inspiring Ways to Use Social Media in Classroom

100 Inspiring Ways to Use Social Media in Classroom

Cannot recall if I posted this before, so just in case!

Eat Pray Love … Alas

Let’s face it. There are some books that should never be made into movies.

Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth “Liz” Gilbert, my favorite book of 2008, is one of these.

I wanted to like the film, but got an inkling it might not live up to my expectations when I saw Julia Roberts, who plays Liz in the film,  ride a bicycle along a tropical byway with what looks like a pasted-on smile. It didn’t ring true and in my heart of hearts, knew that the film might look good, but would miss the depth of Liz’s one –year search for meaning.  I usually love it when I am right (I cheer after every Jeopardy answer I get right, much to the dismay of my community). Alas, I am just disappointed at being right about this movie. The film is okay, but never was able to convey the experience of grace that the book did so well.

The main reason for this is because of the writing. The veteran and proven writers (Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt; Murphy also directs) did a good job of assembling the events of the film which is technically proficient, but perfunctory with lovely cinematography. They did not get to the level of feeling or emotional angst, or create the spiritual desert of the book – and cinema is an emotional medium.  They dragged out the events that led up to Liz’s decision to take a year to eat, pray, and love as a way to search for meaning and wholeness, but they never let us feel it.  Even with the handsome Billy Crudup as Liz’s husband and James Franco as David, with whom she had another relationship that was destined to fail, the script lacks soul. This is a huge failing. The producers should have hired writers who had lived through the experience of their interior world falling apart, as Liz’s did.  Empathy goes far in cinema.

The writers left out two key aspects of the book that might have made up for the emotional deficiencies of the first act: the fact that Liz claimed to know every gelato place in Rome and her sister’s visit while there.

In the book Liz compares her sister Catherine’s world view with her own developing spiritual perspective: “A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both a young mother and her three-year old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, ‘Dear God, that family needs grace.’ She replied firmly, ‘That family needs casseroles,’ and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister realizes that this is grace.”

Some have criticized Liz’s character in the film for going along with the arranged marriage of one of the women she meets in the ashram in India. Critics think “Liz” should have helped the girl resist but didn’t. I don’t recall this episode from the book, and actually found this side-story distracting. Besides, do critics think Liz was on a crusade during this year? She barely had her own life together let alone the ability to take on centuries of tradition.

The one stellar performance in the film is by Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), who plays Richard the Texan and befriends Liz by telling her the truth about forgiveness.  Jenkins didn’t just go through the motions for this film; his character was authentic and credible. Actually, the Indian portion of the film was the high point for me – not because of meditation and Hindu ritual, but because we could feel Richard’s anguish and his truth.

Since we are on the topic of Hindusim, let me address Julia Robert’s “conversion” to this eastern religion and the Catholic reaction to it.

I didn’t know Julia Roberts was a baptized Catholic. I asked a friend today, who is an active Catholic in the industry, if she was aware of this. She said she had heard something here and there about Julia and her brother Eric being Catholic, but had never seen it confirmed. Now it seems Julia’s father was Protestant and her mother a Catholic and Julia now says she is a practicing Hindu.

Here’s the deal. Instead of castigating Julia Roberts for becoming a Hindu, or maybe judging author Liz Gilbert for not turning to her early Protestant roots, however thin, why don’t we ask: why did Christianity not respond to their search for meaning when they needed it?  Where was the Christian community in Gilbert’s time of need? How did we fail as Christians and Church to speak to their existential questions? Why blame Julia? Alas.

Then, wasn’t it Flannery O’Connor who once wrote that many people come to the Church by means the Church does not approve? I think of Venerable Francis Libermann (1804-1852) founder of the Spiritans (Congregation of the Holy Ghost). In the midst of great spiritual distress and distance from his orthodox Jewish father, he read Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile (1762), a book that offended both Catholics and Protestants because it denies original sin (and other things though it does not seem to have made it to the Index of Forbidden Books.) But it became the spark of grace that led to his conversion from Judaism to Catholicism. See Adrian Van Kaam’s 1984 book Light to the Gentiles, arguably one of the best biographies ever written in my humble opinion

Elizabeth Gilbert could have borrowed for her book the title Adventures in Grace from Raissa Maritain’s now out of print memoir about converting to Catholicism in early 20th century Paris.  Gilbert’s adventures (and Julia’s) have not led them to the fullness of the Christian faith – yet.  Romans 5:20 comes to mind.

Why do we want authors and movie stars to do our work for us? Why can we not make Eat Pray Love the subject of evangelization and catechesis as the USCCB’s 2005 document The National Directory for Catechesis suggests? (See Chapter Ten). Millions will see the film in theaters and on DVD and then television or via the Internet.  Do church officials think that by denigrating the actor and the film they will contribute to the new evangelization? How does that work, exactly?

Watching Eat Pray Love was like watching television lite. It could have been so much more.  I think a television mini-series might have been the better medium. But never mind. It’s too late now. The book touched my soul; the movie my wallet. Alas.

(This trailer is on the internet; I tried to find the short TV version with the pasted-on smile, but couldn’t locate it online.)

Transformers 3 filming in Chicago

For several days now our Sr Helena has been posting on Facebook (Sr Anne, too) about Transformers being filmed in our back alley and in Chicago… Here is Sr Helena’s short video of the “disaster” in our alley behind 172 N Michigan Ave a couple of days ago…. All media are constructed realities…. Oh, and Sr Helena met Shia Lebeuouf, too!

Hollywood rips off Shakespeare: Henry V & Independence Day

Today a friend posted Kenneth Branagh’s St Crispan’s Day Speech from Henry V  on Facebook and I was reminded of one of Hollywood’s great rip offs of Shakespeare. Listen, compare it with Bill Pullman’s Independence Day speech from the film … enjoy! True, it’s old news, but a good example of extreme intertextuality!



President’s Speech Independence Day