You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Friday, July 28, 2006

What planet are...

'Let's get this out of the way right now: Much as we hate even to touch on this question, there are in fact people who have seen baby Suri. Among them: producers Frank Marshall and Kathy Kennedy (they're married; she produced War of the Worlds). They saw the baby in Telluride, Colo[rado], very recently and told friends that all seemed quite ordinary...'

- Kim Masters, "Suri Cruise Spotted in Telluride," Slate (20 July 2006)

Telluride? Are the Cruise-Holmes channelling EE "Doc" Smith now instead of L Ron Hubbard?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Issues with Authority (update)

UPDATE 4: Yes, Kidman it is. A blonde evil Coulter... hmmm...

Paul Bettany has been cast too. No, not as the boatman to the world of the dead, but as Asriel. What with that and playing "Silas", is Bettany hell-bent (no pun int'd) on burning all his bridges with the Catholic Church? Why? I mean, for Nicole Kidman, her reason's obvious: she's angry about the RCC refusing her a church wedding with Keith Urban. Yes, Nic, it's harsh, I know, but the RCC could hardly lecture Protestants (at least, in goood conscience and with a straight face) about how it's Rome alone who "still dares to condemn as sin the now commonplace practices of... divorce [and] remarriage..." if it simply handed out div-... err, annulments[*] like lollipops to the celebrities in its pews. Even though you were "only 23" when you married Mr Cruise, you knew full well he was a Scientologist. Deal with it.

[*] Apparently annulments (excepting, of course, the six that Henry VIII obtained) and divorces are completely different things, and only religious bigots with an agenda would confuse the two.

UPDATE 3: Probably just as well that the director of American Pie was pulled from the helm:

LYRA: Stop! Don't drink that wine!

LORD ASRIEL: Why? Because the Master of Jordan College slipped poison into it?

LYRA: No, because Cardinal-Inquisitor Stifflerius and his jackass-daemon Floridio pissed in the cup it while you were away barfing on Serafina Pekkala...

UPDATE 2: Abigail Nussbaum summarises His Dark Materials in a nu[ss]shell. (Link via the Andúril-Stone of Brisingamen).

UPDATE 1: Call it the Pullman Effect:

THE film version of The Da Vinci Code is attempting to reduce the offence that the best-selling book caused to Roman Catholics. Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film starring Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen, is reported to have been so concerned that it has consulted Catholic and other Christian specialists on how it might alter the plot of the novel to avoid offending the devout. Film officials have held talks with Catholic groups and other organisations despite Dan Brown, the author, insisting that “it’s only a novel and therefore a work of fiction”, the New York Times reported yesterday. [...]

-- Dalya Alberge, "Da Vinci plot may get new twist to placate Catholics", The Times (UK) (8 August 2005)

Methinks someone in Hollywood's been comparing the box-office figures for Saved! (now re-titled Temporarily In a State of Grace! to placate Catholic audiences) against those for The Passion of the Christ (now re-titled The Passion of Mary And Her Son Wossisname, Y'Know, That Bearded Guy What First Invented Chairs and Tables, And Then Got Flogged By An Orc, also to placate Catholic audiences).

Date: 1 July, 2001
From: Head, Projects Section
To: Second Vice-President, Financing Division
Re: Another Freakin' Gibson Revenge Fantasy? In Aramic and Latin? Fracturum Da Mihi!

The precedent doesn’t inspire confidence. One of the world’s top movie stars, for decades a heart-throb to women around the world, decides after years of hedonism and spiritual emptiness to embrace a controversial minority religion, one often regarded with suspicion by outsiders, even sometimes labeled a "cult" and banned by countries such as France and Germany. Eventually, his devotion to his faith leads him to invest his own money, reputation and career into producing a film that will dramatise and convey his theological beliefs for a mass-market Hollywood audience...

… And we all remember what a fine advertisement John Travolta’s Battlefield Earth was for Scientology , don’t we. But Mel Gibson’s Passio Christi was much more successful as an advertisement for Semi-Sedevacantist Traditionalist Catholicism.

* * *

First the original scriptwriter (Tom Stoppard) was sacked; now the director (Chris Weitz) is off the project too. You'd almost think that someone up there doesn't want Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy to make it to the big screen. Keep searching, Ph.P, and one day you will find the Chosen One Who Was Prophesied, and then you can really show the world how foolish all that messianic religious superstition is.

Monday, July 24, 2006


This is a day that will be long remembered. At last I have found out the true lyrics to the John Williams Star Wars theme music. No, not the execrable "Life Day" song that Princess Leia sang to the Wookiees of Kashyyyk in the 1978 Star Wars TV Holiday Special, but a considerably more oomph-y number sung by none other than Bill Murray, originally on Saturday Night Live. Here he reprises it for two US radio jocks, Lex and Terry. (Warning: this comes as a rather large MP3 audio file that you'll need to download.)

More Star Wars news: Lucasfilm has announced that Peter Mayhew will be starring as Chewbacca in Episode III. And a petition is doing the cyber-rounds seeking a sympathy cameo for "the Star Wars kid". This unfortunate Quebecois teenager made a video of himself swinging a broomstick around like a lightsabre - but only because he had to, like, y'know, film something for a class assignment, you understand. It wasn't like he, like, wanted to pass himself off as some kinda wannabe Jedi. Then some of his classmates copied the video and distributed it over the internet without his knowledge or consent, causing much embarrassment. Bastards. Now it's travelled around the cyber-galaxy almost as quickly as Cherie Blair singing "When I'm Sixty-Four", or the story of the even-more-unfortunate Claire Swire. One maestro set it to a dance track, with a techno-remixed version of the Williams score and samples such as Obi-Wan Kenobi intoning "You cannot escape your destiny". So now others have taken pity (Pity? It was pity that stayed his hand ! - wait, sorry, wrong Dark Lord) on this kid, who goes by the Tim-Zahn-ish name of Ghyslain, and sought to compensate him by getting Emperor George to grant him one of those ¾-of-a-microsecond-long roles (like Anthony Daniels' bare-face cameo as a space pilot in the Coruscant bar scene) that will never be noticed by anyone who doesn't have a DVD player, a visible bum-crack that starts immediately below the ponytail, and way too much spare time. Who says there's not Balance in the Force?


UPDATE 6: Ship of Fools has included a website on this topic in their "Fruitcake Zone". Ouch...

UPDATE 5: Yes, some may well say. But Andrew Rilstone - does not think so:

"In 1938 it was understandable that a pair of young Jewish artists might have wanted to imagine a champion. A Messiah, even. So there is no way that Superman can be Jesus. (His adversary is called Luthor, for goodness sake.)... Mario Puzo's script for the 1978 Superman movie had Marlon Brando drawing fairly explicit parallels between the origin of Superman and the birth of Jesus, even though it is blindingly obvious even in Puzo's own script that the real parallel is with Moses... Spider-Man, Frodo Baggins, Neo, Leo DiCaprio, Indiana Jones – Hollywood turns all its heroes into Christian symbols. (All except Aslan, obviously.)..."

UPDATE 4: Julia Baird agrees:

... Some say he is Jewish, as he was created by two Jewish cartoonists and could be viewed as part of the golem myth - the legend created to protect persecuted Jews in 16th-century Prague. In his early years, Superman often engaged in battles against the Nazis. His birth name was also Kal-El, which is similar to the Hebrew Kol-El, meaning voice of God. The scholarly consensus, though, seems to be that he must be Methodist, largely because Clark Kent was brought up in the American Midwest...

Superman is not the only superhero thought to be religious - Wonderwoman fancied ancient Egyptian religions, Batman is said to be a lapsed Anglican or Catholic (because of the crosses on his parents' tombstones), as is the Hulk. Rogue from the X-Men was raised as a Baptist, and Spider-Man prays to what is assumed to be a Protestant God...

- "A Sunday sermon from Superman", Sydney Morning Herald (22 June 2006)

IT'S KABBALAH-IN' TIME! [updated]... It's official: Ben Grimm, a.k.a "The Thing" in Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four, is Jewish. And devoutly so. Link via James Lileks, who comments: "Reed Richards? Episcopalian, I’d bet. Silver Surfer? Unitarian."

The religious affiliation of fictional super-characters is an intriguing topic. Some are, err, confessedly Catholic (X-Men's Nightcrawler, DareDevil's Matt Murdoch), while others are obviously Baptist or Methodist (Superman's Jonathan and Martha Kent, Spiderman's Aunt May). Other characters, though, are harder to call.

Some years ago, one of Superman's creators (either Jerry Siegel or Joe Schuster, I forget which) mentioned in an interview that they made Kryptonian society crypto [so to speak] Hebraic in many respects, much as Leonard Nimoy did for the Vulcans. For example, Kryptonian male names end in -El, while female names end in -a[h]. Not surprising, since JS and JS were Jewish themselves.

This may explain Jerry Seinfeld's Superman fanhood. Australian radio comedy duo Martin/ Molloy's take on this news: "Superman, Jewish? Must have had a really difficult time trying to circumcise him!" Presumably Kal-El's not Orthodox (his super-hair doesn't grow -- which is fortunate, since nothing on earth can cut it -- therefore no long curls at the temple; and his hat would blow off as he flies!). Any potential marriage between Superman and Lois Lane could well be contrary to the Orthodox Jewish (and Catholic) prohibitions, if one classifies their relationship as "sodomy/ bestiality" rather than "involuntary infertility".

OTOH, as has often been observed (eg, in apostate Anglican Bishop John Robinson's book Honest to God), Superman also has many parallels to Jesus Christ. (Guy with super-powers who looks like an ordinary human arrives on Earth... adopted by kindly couple... grows up, goes off into barren wilderness to communicate with his Father, then realises his mission... etc. RC readers might add, "Main bad guy is named Luth[e]r".) Alan MacDonald noted in his book Movies in Close-up that when Steven Spielberg (who was raised Jewish and has become more observant in recent years) was filming ET: The Extraterrestrial, someone pointed out to him the parallels between ET and Jesus. (Arrives on our world from the sky ... Heals people by touching them... Has glowing red heart... Dies but returns to life, then ascends... Protestant readers might add, "He and his friends persecuted and driven into hiding by bad guy who carries a set of keys".) Spielberg's response was "Look, I'm Jewish, I don't want to hear about this".

Deeply ironic: Two of American popular culture's most instantly recognisable figures, both close analogies of Jesus, both created by Jews.

UPDATE 1: And yes, I know Jesus and disciples were Jews too, of course. But I'm talking 2,000 years later, now that Christianity and Judaism have diverged into two very different religions, after centuries of (some) Christians calling Jews "deicides" and (some) Jews echoing Maimonides' sentiment: "Jesus of Nazareth, may his bones be ground into dust..." And while Christianity and Judaism share many points in common, those are not the points that either ET or Superman exhibit: descending from the sky, using super-human powers, etc, are specifically Christian rather than Jewish attributes of a Messiah.

UPDATE 2: My impeccable source informs me that ha-Thing is not in fact the first Jewish superhero, nor even the first for Marvel. Katherine "Kitty" Pryde, a.k.a Shadowcat/ Sprite of The Uncanny X-Men, was identified as Jewish years ago. (Don't ask me how: not being a Democrat Congressperson or a Guardian columnist, I don't possess finely-tuned Jewdar capable of detecting hidden Hebrews in unexpected places). Perhaps Kitty was ethnically Jewish but non-practising, whereas Ben Grimm is the first to actually practice the rituals of Judaism (eg, reciting the Shema) on Marvel's pages.

(And when The Thing takes on The Hulk, the resulting orange vs green blur is a metaphor for Nothern Ireland...)

UPDATE 3: It turns out there are plenty of other Jewish superheroes. Here (via The Volokh Conspiracy) is a long list.

In any case, from my (medium-level) reading I don't think many superheroes (as distinct from kindly adoptive parents who bake great Thanksgiving pies) are really religious in any meaningful sense. The Catholic ones I mentioned tend to be tormented by guilt -- as you would too, if you either looked like a devil or dressed like one -- and to spend a lot of time hanging around churches, but otherwise aren't distinctively Catholic. They don't, for example, ask themselves whether letting the bad guy fall to his death from a cliff edge, because he refuses the hero's helping hand, counts as "direct or indirect formal or material complicity with homicide" pursuant to the Doctrine of Double Effect. Nor, for that matter, can I picture, say, Peter Parker asking himself "WWJD?" before deciding whether to continue hot pursuit of Doc Ock, or pause to stop a granny being run over.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Take me out, into the black, black of Night

UPDATE: Slate partly recants its earlier hostility towards Captain Shyam.

Finally got around to watching M Night Shyamalan's The Village (2004) on DVD. The last DVDs I watched before that were (as my co-blogger may have mentioned) the Firefly TV series and Serenity movie, by Joss Whedon. I am struck by the similarities between the two...


1. Story created by a famous and much-criticised screen auteur who attended prep school on a different continent and who has sought, generally successfully, to revive the genres of the supernatural thriller and the superhero saga.

3. The populace are colonists who live in American Old-West-style farming villages, who are ruled by stern-faced "Elders", and who speak a strange patois of portentously ponderous 19th-century Americanese.

4. Their hard-scrabble farming communities are periodically attacked by mysterious, cannibalistic half-human raiders with hidden faces.

5. Origin of said raiders is a mystery and those in power know something about said origin that they ain't a-fixin' to reveal publicly.

6. One character, not "right in the head", suddenly stabs another with a knife.

7. Hero[es] forced to make risky but unavoidable journey from the fringes to civilisation to obtain modern medical assistance for dying friend.

8. Compare Joaquin "Lucius Hunt" Phoenix with Sean "Simon Tam" Maher:

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poor River's brother #1

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poor River's brother #2

9. And compare Christina "Bridget/ Saffron" Hendricks with Bryce Dallas "Ivy Walker" Howard (or should that be Bryce "Ivy Walker" Dallas Howard?).

Click image to expand.

Christina Hendricks

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[Ritchie Cunningham had a daughter? With whom? Turanga Leela?]

Both of whom also look way too much like Murdoch journalist Elisabeth Meryment (who interviewed me once, over a decade ago) for my liking:

Click image to expand.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oprah says she and friend are not gay

- but have some very idiosyncratic ideas about their psychological health, Seinfeld and Bill Gates...

AP - Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gayle King want to be clear - they
are not gay

In the August issue of O, the Oprah Magazine, the US talk-show host explains that some people misunderstand her close friendship with King.

"I understand why people think we're gay," she says.

"There isn't a definition in our culture for this kind of bond between women. So I get why people have to label it - how can you be this close without it being sexual?"

In a long article, Winfrey, 52, and King converse about their 30 years of friendship and "four-times-a-day phone calls."

The two friends say they would have no problem telling the public if
they were in a sexual relationship.

"The truth is, if we were gay, we would tell you, because
there's nothing wrong with being gay," says King.

Says Winfrey: "Something about this relationship feels otherworldly to me, like it was designed by
a power and a hand greater than my own.

"Whatever this friendship is, it's been a very fun ride."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Anagrams, pentagrams, whatever

UPDATE 2: Seeking further answers to this ancient mystery, I re-watched the 1976 original again on DVD. Purely for research, of course. It's not like I'm getting obsessive or anything. Two interesting pieces of trivia...

1. Bob Munger, a Hollywood producer credited as the film's "religious adviser", mentions in the DVD bonus material that he's a born-again Christian and he sold David Seltzer on the plot of The Omen as a way of getting the [W]ord out.

So maybe Omen does have more in common with Left Behind than I first thought; ie, Omen is to Left Behind as The Passion of the Christ is to The Jesus Video.

2. Originally the Thorns were called the "Thorpes", because Seltzer, an American, wanted to make the family a UK political dynasty and he said "There was this guy in the British Parliament at the time, named Jeremy Thorpe..." Indeed there was. He was also indirectly commemorated in "Dr Who", in one episode (screened while JT was leader of the UK Liberal Party) where someone refers to the UK Prime Minister as "Jeremy". Which makes two links between these two great British low-budget monster sagas.

Correction: Actually there are three links. Not counting "naff mid-Seventies tufts-over-the-ears hairstyles" and "waa-waa background music that's meant to be frightening".

UPDATE 1: O-o-o-ka-a-a-ay.... Sounds like The Omen might yet get pulled from cinemas, like other Liev Schreiber remakes:

"She talks about a prophecy," [defense attorney George] Parnham said. "These children of hers needed to die in order to be saved," he added, "because Andrea Yates was such a bad mother that she was causing these children to deteriorate and be doomed to the fires of eternal damnation". Parnham said that Yates believed she had the sign of the devil, 666, burned on her scalp, and she begged therapists to look at her head. What they found, Parnham said, was not the sign of the beast, but scabbing from where Yates had tried to pick away the numbers she thought were there...

-- Lisa Sweetingham, "Defense: Yates killed kids to save them", CourtTV (27 June 2006)

Just saw The Omen (2006 remake) at the cinema. A few random thoughts...

1. Cinema foyer still festooned with posters for The Da Vinci Code. If I were the Pope, I'd be tempted (NPI) to take Dan Brown to a private screening of O-06 and then at the end quiz him: "So! Now you do want us to send out secret order of Darth-Maul-style assassin monks around Europe, no?"

2. The Pope is played by an actor named Bohumil. Which has got to be one of the funniest movie-credits ironies since Richard Marx performed the main song for a film about deposed Romanov tsarina Anastasia (1997) -- or since Frida Kahlo, an unrepentant Marxist, was played by the world’s second-most-famous Hayek.

3. Given the film's plot, it's more than a little disturbing that star Liev Schreiber's name is an anagram of "SHEER EVIL CRIB". And that no one else on the planet seems to have spotted that before me.

4. Also that writer David M Seltzer's name is an anagram of "DMZ DEVIL STARE". And that no one else has realised this either.

5. But Julia Stiles' name only anagrams to SAT JUL LIES. Ummm... okay... maybe one could link that to "Tues 6 Jun 2006" at a stretch. A big stretch.

6. And "Damien Thorn" is only an anagram of "MADE IN NORTH". Although given how (according to the original Omen III: The Final [sic] Conflict [1981]) ThornCorp plots to take over the world by controlling its food production, maybe this is a, you know, North/ South First World/ Third World thing.

Okay... Enough with the anagrams, before I start plastering the walls and ceiling of my priest's hole with them. So dark the con of man...

7. In Omen I, Damien seems to know what he's doing. But in Omen II, he's [SPOILER ALERT] shocked -- shocked! -- when Neff tells him his true origin and destiny. Soloviev handled this side much better, a century ago.

8. Ironies... Mia Farrow did play the mother of Satan's child in Rosemary's Baby, but this time [SPOILER ALERT] there is no, uh, human mother.

9. Is this, like, international year of not using the most obvious Rolling Stones song for the movie theme? We at Father Mackenzie strongly endorse this, deeply opposed as we are to all cheap hijacking of Sixties/Seventies cultural icons.

10. David Seltzer was a lucky man in Hollywood. He was given that rarest of mercies, a second chance. An even better second chance than George Lucas had: Seltzer got to re-write and re-film his big mid-'70s 20th Century Fox hit on a fresh canvas, not merely tinker with CGI editing to insert images of dragon-like creatures and to clarify who fired the first gunshots. So what does Seltzer do with this chance? He still spells Damien's surname as THORN, with no E. Strewth, David, heaps of people spell it with an -E on the end. It's like "Clark/e". You can spell it either way. The problem is, if you spell it without an -E, the Antichrist's name "Damien Robert Thorn" is only 665, one short. (Hey, my names are also 665...). So Damien still misses the mark (so to speak), leaving Ronald Wilson Reagan as the leading contender.

11. Re Damien’s visit to the zoo. (1) Why is it that Talking Beasts in Narnia can’t recognise the Antichrist walking among them, but Dumb Beasts in England can? (2) Shouldn't Damien be off chatting with the Burmese (or Brazilian) python? (As well as thanking the huge, mysterious black dog for watching over him, and trying to hide his distinctive head scar under his thick hair?).

12. So are they now going to re-make Damien: Omen II and The Final Conflict as well? The final scene of O-06 [SPOILER ALERT] may have eliminated the need for the second movie in the trilogy. The problem is, The Final Conflict just wasn't credible. I can suspend disbelief enough to allow magic daggers and jackal surrogate mothers; but the idea that a man can get to the White House despite a long string of mysterious and unresolved deaths of those around him is too fantastic.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


UPDATE: Have you, like me, ever wondered what became of Vanilla Ice? Here's some clues...

* Appearing on some BritPop TV show ("Thooose jeans are pretty bahgggy... boot we all wont to knoo... whayre orr thoose parachoote trewsers?" "Ah burned em.")

* "In '94 I tried to kill myself by overdosing on heroin, cocaine, esctasy, and anything I could get my hands on. At one point, my friends were dumping buckets of cold water on me as I lay on my bathroom floor in convulsions. At that point I had over eighteen million dollars in the bank, and I still couldn't find happiness in being rich or famous..."

Serious s.....tuff, dude.

A million-dollar lawsuit against rapper Eminem was dismissed by a US judge who concluded her ruling with a rap verse. Sanitation engineer DeAngelo Bailey, who attended school with the star, alleged he was defamed as a bully in his song Brain Damage. In court, Judge Deborah Servitto rapped:

‘Mr Bailey complained his rep is trash, so he’s seeking compensation in the form of cash.

‘Bailey thinks he’s entitled to some monetary gain, because Eminem used his name in vain.

‘The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact, they’re an exaggeration of a childish act.

‘It is therefore this court’s ultimate position, that Eminem is entitled to summary disposition.’

While Mr Bailey is specifically named in the song, Eminem lawyer Peter Peacock told the court that previously he seemed to be ecstatic over his name being used in the CD and even told his friends about it. Judge Servitto, from Michigan, ruled the lyrics were covered by the ‘substantial truth doctrine’ or contained the distortion and hyperbole of satire. Both forms are protected by the US First Amendment.

- "Eminem ‘bully’ is rapped", This Is London (20 October 2003)

Next: Judge Leonie Brinkema tells Zacarias Moussaoui "Stop! collaborator, and listen ..."