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Happy #RexManningDay, Empire Records Shoppers

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

For those of you unfortunate enough to not have grown up Gen-X, today is #RexManningDay, the day in the fictional world of the film Empire Records during which pretty boy “pop star Rex Manning was scheduled to do a CD signing at Empire Records, one of the last vestiges of what has come to be known as “independent rock”.

Released in 1995, Empire Records celebrates the small independent music store, planting the seed for what would eventually become Record Store Day. A Breakfast Club-esque group of staffers celebrates alt rock and all things un-pop while ex-Hippie store manager Joe Reaves (Anthony LaPaglia) struggles to keep his uptight yuppie brother from selling out to a chain music store. All sorts of drama ensues as Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger fight over guys, Robin Tunney dabbles with suicide, and Ethan Embry gets accidentally high to Gwar. A lot of great music is played, culminating in a rooftop concert that raises enough funds to keep the store open, proving there is a good side to community organizing after all.

Of course, there’s an official website for Rex Manning Day, but if you’d like to travel even further down memory lane, check out 13 Favorite Empire Records Memories, get 9 Fashion Lessons from the movie,  or read 5 Fun Facts about the film. Better yet, head on over to your local record store and celebrate the things that make America great: small business, independent music, and a healthy dose of snark.

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Mozilla CEO Resignation: Why Campaign Finance Should Be Anonymous

Friday, April 4th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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By now, you may have read that a technology company head has been forced to resign on account of his support of traditional marriage. Yahoo News reports:

Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich has stepped down, the company said on Thursday, after an online dating service urged a boycott of the company’s web browser because of a donation Eich made to opponents of gay marriage.

The software company came under fire for appointing Eich as CEO last month. In 2008, he gave money to oppose the legalization of gay marriage in California, a hot-button issue especially at a company that boasts about its policy of inclusiveness and diversity.

The boycott and subsequent response from Mozilla stand as examples of free association. Private entities have the right to condemn and disassociate from expression they find offensive. However, the story behind the story is how mandatory disclosure of campaign contributions like that made by Eich violates his rights, and those of countless others.

Consider why we have secret ballots. Why have labor unions and their surrogates fought so hard for card check? Knowing how someone votes enables opponents to retaliate. As Eich’s situation demonstrates, so too do the mandatory reporting requirements of campaign finance law.

This week, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that there should be no limits upon “how much money people can donate in total in one election season.” The Court properly recognized campaign contributions as expressions of free speech and exercises of free association. That recognition suggests that any limitation upon campaign finance violates individual rights.

The income tax has fostered a culture which regards how much someone makes, and how they spend it, as public business. Morally, such matters should remain private. Campaign finance law banning anonymous contributions chills speech in the same way public ballots would. When compelled to disclose campaign contributions, people cannot act freely upon their conscience. Donors must consider possible retaliation from parties who would not otherwise be privy to their beliefs or associations. Privacy emerges as a derivative of property and free association. Mandatory disclosure violates both, and thus violates privacy.

But campaign contributions affect public policy, you say. So how can they be private?

Voting affects public policy too. So when are we getting rid of secret ballots?

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Noah: A Good Jewish Boy’s Cinematic Drash

Monday, March 31st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Darren Aronofsky’s take on the classic tale of Noah is the Jewish guy’s Bible movie. The narrative, which does remain true to the textual account of Genesis, is crafted in the style akin to a scholarly drash. In another lifetime you might imagine this story to have been generated by a minyan of Talmud scholars poring over the story in their classes. Perhaps that is why the Christian audience has reacted so poorly to the film; it is not, in the words of Walter Hudson, told “from a Christian theological standpoint.” The audience is treated to a wrestling, not recounting, of the text for two very good reasons: A four-chapter story would make for a very short film and Aronofsky, for however religious he may or may not be at the moment, is most definitely 100% a Jew.

Aronofsky’s Noah remains, first and foremost, a story of redemption as it was interpreted thousands of years ago when paired with Haftarah portions in Isaiah (42-43 and 54-55) for the weekly Torah reading. Like the patriarch Jacob, Noah wrestles with God: the battle is a question of original sin and free will. Redemption, Aronofsky illustrates, is a choice entered into by covenant with God. It is not simply a no-strings-attached gift granted to perfectly bad people by a perfectly good looking guy who tests well with focus groups.

Contrary to most Bible epics, a faceless, voiceless God communicates His redemptive plan to Noah through the Biblically prophetic device of a metaphoric dream. “You must trust that He speaks to you in a way you understand,” Noah’s grandfather Methuselah advises. Reminiscent of the Tanakh prophecy “your old men will see visions, your young men will dream dreams,” Aronofsky engages Noah with his aged, wise grandfather, who advises him of Enoch’s prophecy that God would, one day, annihilate the world by fire.

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A Jew’s Take on Jesus Movies

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

BiblememeAcculturated‘s R.J. Moeller has penned an excellent commentary on faith-based films in light of the Christian controversy surrounding Noah:

…no one who doesn’t already believe in God will go see Son of God. And many who do believe in God and who do go see it are, like me, plopping down $14 or $15 purely from a sense of solidarity with the well-intentioned creators of such projects. There are other, better “Jesus movies.” A dramatic reading of some of the more risqué and exciting parts of the Bible by the likes of Morgan Freeman would interest me more than sitting through Son of God again.

And while neither option likely interests your secular, non-religious co-worker, neighbor, or relative, all of them will go see something like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. This is why I, as a Christian, am infinitely more excited about Noah than any other “faith-based” film in a long time – regardless of the theology or worldview found in it. I can actually talk to my non-Christian friends about it because they will actually pay U.S. currency (or BitCoin) to go see it.

…what I am suggesting is that while we work to inspire and equip new generations of artists who share our values to boldly venture into the pop-culture fray, we must not miss opportunities to introduce our worldview into the cultural conversation. … Art has the power to transcend and speak to the soul. But it must be able to meet people on their level before pointing them upward.

Upon first read I knew Moeller went out on a limb with his commentary, precisely because what he says is the truth. And truth doesn’t always gel with religious dogma; I’m a Jew, I should know. One advantage I do have over my Christian brothers when it comes to faith is that my Jewish culture encourages — and is built on — wrestling with God’s word. These matches stray far from the polite scenarios common to gentile Christian faith. However, they have resulted in a similarity between us, in that they have developed and sustained a religious culture that reveres commentary as much as the actual Word of God.

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You Can’t Wish Away the Fertility Gap

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Jill Knapp begs us to “Please Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Have Children.”

Being that I am still a newly-wed and have just moved to a new city, I am in no rush to have a kid. This is an unacceptable answer to a lot of people. The constant reminders that your clock is ticking and that you don’t want to be confused for your child’s grandparents when they grow up are not making us move any faster. Having children is a big responsibility.

What Jill doesn’t understand is that her fertility is not subject to whim or wishful thinking. Her chances of getting pregnant decline rapidly after 30. By age 40, less than 5 out of every 100 women will be successful at conception. When the Jills of this world decide they want children at 36 or 38 or 42, they enter a long, often fruitless quest for safe pregnancy and childbirth.

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Men achieve fertility at 12 years old and can father children all the way to 96. Women have a narrow fertility window of around 16 to 40. That’s a fertility gap of up to fifty years!

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The Latest Outbreak of Golden Calf Syndrome

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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There’s this great story in the Torah that goes a little something like this. The leaders of Israel went up on a mountain for a private conference with God, per His request. With the bosses away, the Israelites decided to throw a party. Grateful to their God for freeing them from slavery, they shaped a golden calf to symbolize Him, worshipped the calf as God, and partied on. When the leaders came back down from the mountain, they were less than pleased. Tablets were smashed, God rained justice, there were a lot of irreversible layoffs. The common understanding of the tale says that God destroyed the Israelites because they worshipped the calf as a god. In reality, their sin was creating an image of God that suited their own liking, then worshipping Him as they wished.

Hollywood, and American culture in general, suffers from Golden Calf Syndrome. Whether you blame it on the instant gratification of social media or simple human impatience, God doesn’t communicate every 5 seconds in 140 characters or less. That’s not enough for us as a culture, so we’ve made a nasty habit out of satiating our need for the Almighty by forcing Him into a box of our own liking. Habit has become trend to the point that we don’t even realize when we’re trying to force God into our mold.

Take, for instance, the conservative Christian idol-worship of Matthew McConaughey for “daring” to use the name “God” in a sentence at the Oscars. Upon remarking on the huge stretch of the imagination performed by Christians (and some Jews, I’m sure) in thinking that McConaughey’s use of the G-word somehow referenced the God of scripture, the common, rather lackluster response I received was best phrased as, “Take it where you can get it.”

One comment, however, caught my eye.

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Interview: L.A. Street Artist Behind the Ted Cruz Bad Boy Posters Speaks Out

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Last weekend mysterious posters of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) appeared in various locations around Beverly Hills. The posters featured an image of Cruz’s head — complete with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth — photoshopped onto a heavily inked torso. The headline on the posters read, “Beverly Hilton: Ted Cruz’s So-Cal ‘Blacklisted and Loving It’ Tour.” Cruz was in California last weekend to speak at the Claremont Institute’s Churchill dinner.

The story went viral, appearing in media outlets as diverse as Drudge, Breitbart, Time, and Huffington Post. Most of them applauded Cruz’s sense of humor when he tweeted: “Saw this, but noticed an error. So I wanted to make one thing clear: I don’t smoke cigarettes.” Cruz later signed a poster that turned up in his dressing room before the Churchill dinner with “The fight for liberty never ends.”

By Saturday morning the Twitterverse was demanding to know who was behind the posters — where could people buy them and would there be t-shirts?

We now have answers to these questions and in an exclusive interview with PJ Media, Sabo, the artist who created the Ted Cruz bad boy posters, tells the story behind them and talks about using street art as a way to take political messages to those who won’t traditionally listen to the Right.

Sabo, an articulate and in-your-face 46-year-old street artist, former Marine, and self-professed Hollywood Republican, grew up in Texas and Louisiana. His Twitter profile says, “I am not a Left-Wing-Zombie-Artist. I am on the edge, the only true rebel artist in LA.” According to his website, UNSAVORYAGENTS (where he’s currently selling Cruz posters), Sabo believes the Right has a great message, but he is frustrated that the Republicans refuse to counter attacks from the Left. He thinks those on the Right are not very well-educated or equipped in fighting back. “A lot of times we simply can’t because they own so many platforms. I find that frustrating,” said Sabo.

He is aiming to change that, one poster at a time.

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The Sunrise Illuminates The Path By the Beach In Cambria, California

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Sunshine
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Submitted by SukieTawdry

Since December of 2013 PJ Lifestyle has been collecting sunrise and sunset photos from contributors, readers, and Instagram. Now we’re going to begin an effort to organize the ongoing collection. New goals:

1. Collect a sunrise from every state in the union.

2. Collect a sunset from as many countries around the world as possible.

3. After getting all 50 states’ sunrises then switch to collecting their sunsets and begin the global sunrises collection.

States that we still need to get: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wasghington, West Virginia, Wyoming

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

The Last Socal Sunrise of 2013

3 California Sunrises – San Diego – Santa Cruz – San Francisco

These 3 Photos Fail to Do Justice For This Morning’s Southern California Sunrise

Beverly Hills: A California Sunrise in Memory of Shirley Temple

A Subtle Sunrise From The San Fernando Valley This Morning

A Colorful Sunrise From the San Fernando Valley

A Golden Sunrise From the San Fernando Valley

Today’s San Fernando Valley Sunrise

3 Shots of the San Fernando Valley Sunrise This Morning

The Sun Rises Over San Diego’s Working Waterfront

Colorado

Stunning Shots of Sunlight Escape the Clouds In Roxborough Park

A Purple, Pink, and Gold Colorado Sunrise

Which of These 3 Colorado Sunrises Is the Best?

Garden of the Gods at Dawn

Colorado Sunrise Vodkapundit Style

An Orange Sunrise from Boulder, CO

Connecticut

Sunrise Over the Snow in New England

A Connecticut Church’s Stained Glass Sunrise

Delaware
Florida

The Sun Rises Over the Sea In Florida

A Heavenly Sunset in Cedar Key, Florida

Sunrise at a Damaged Honeymoon Cottage in Cedar Key, Florida

3 Florida Beach Sunrises

Florida Sunset With 3 Dogs (All Sunsets Are Better With Dogs)

Georgia

How the Sun Starts the Day in Covington, GA

Another Beautiful North Georgia Sunrise

Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois

Chicago: 7 Sunrises to Start Your Sunday

Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine

2 New England Sunsets

Maryland
Massachusetts

A Powerful Pink Sunrise From Framingham, MA

Michigan

Detroit Ice Fishing Sunrise

An Ice Fishing Sunrise From North of Detroit to Start Your Weekend

Sunrise on Lake St. Clair, Just Outside Detroit

Minnesota
Mississippi

An Overwhelming Sunrise on the Mississippi River

Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire

A New Hampshire Sunrise Shot Through The ‘Glass Wall’

New Jersey
New Mexico

Which State Has the Superior Sunrises? 2 From New Mexico Vs 2 From Colorado

New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio

It’s 3 Below In Newark, Ohio And The Sun Shoots Up Like a Shining Column of Light

‘Flying at 6500′ Msl Over Zanesville, OH in My Cessna 182 Heading South’

What a 17 Degree Ohio Sunset Looks Like

Oklahoma

A Wonderful Blue & Orange Sunrise Creeps Over the Oklahoma Grasses

Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island

A Colorful Rhode Island Sunrise

South Carolina

5 Instagram Sunrises From Around the World

South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas

Sunrise From Galveston Island, Texas

Utah
Vermont
Virginia

Sunrise Over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia

Charlottesville, VA: When the Morning Sun Gets Under the Clouds and Lights Them Up

Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin

3 Artsy Sunrise Photos From Milwaukee

Wyoming

Mars (which we might as well go ahead and start counting as an American state now)

What Does a Sunrise Look Like on Mars?

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Fear and Loathing in White Guy-ville

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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City folk have always looked on their country neighbors with superstition. According to John Podhoretz at the Weekly Standard, this suspicion has carried a clearly political bent since the days of W. His evidence: Scary white dudes, like Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Bill Henrickson (Big Love) from middle America invading your TVs.

“In Difficult Men, Brett Martin’s book about the remarkable writer-producers who brought television to new cultural heights, Martin notes that there was something explicitly political at work in the early days of what he calls television’s “Third Golden Age.” Americans “on the losing side” of the 2000 election, Martin writes, “were left groping to come to terms with the Beast lurking in their own body politic.” As it happened, “that side happened to track very closely with the viewerships of networks like AMC, FX, and HBO: coastal, liberal, educated, ‘blue state.’ And what the Third Golden Age brought them was a humanized red state. .  .  . This was the ascendant Right being presented to the disempowered Left—as if to reassure it that those in charge were still recognizably human.”

…It’s the depiction of the worlds in which they live that is so striking, even more so in the series that have come along since the body politic’s shift to the left, beginning in 2006. The canvas on which these characters are brought to three-dimensional life isn’t a “humanized red state” at all, but rather the red state of liberal horror fantasy.”

Podhoretz concludes: “Still, rich Hollywood folk making mincemeat out of poor rural folk is another element of the ongoing American culture war that should not go unremarked.”

Fair enough, although any critical studies grad could tell you that whitey from the sticks, especially them man-folks, have been derided for a long time among the educated liberal elites who fill television’s coveted writers’ rooms. Educated liberal elites, mind you, who are primarily white dudes.

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Awesome! Jackson Pollock’s Mural Now On Display at the Getty

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

April and I are definitely going to go and see this exhibit soon. We need to go to the Getty more often.

The painting’s creation was dramatized in the 2000 biopic Pollock, directed and starring Ed Harris:

Alas, real life is less exciting than fiction, as the LA Times reports, many layers of the painting would have made a single night’s creative burst impossible:

Doubts that Pollock painted the 20-foot canvas in one sustained burst of all-night creative fervor, which was central to the artist’s myth promoted by his widow, painter Lee Krasner, had been growing for some time — most cogently in the work of Pollock scholar Francis V. O’Connor. As I wrote on Monday, Getty conservators have now laid that myth to rest, showing through careful scientific and other analysis how it was virtually impossible.

I can’t wait to see it for real.

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Noah Set to Flip the Biblical Script

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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As a Christian and a fan of Hollywood’s past biblical epics, I got excited upon viewing the first trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. The story of Noah and his ark has resonated through every culture of man, yet has never been the subject of a major Hollywood motion picture.

Alongside my enthusiasm, skepticism lurked. Modern Hollywood producing a biblical epic adhering to the written narrative and theological themes seemed unlikely given a culture increasingly opposed to the source material. That doubt grew with last month’s report that a disclaimer would be attached to the film’s marketing explaining that “artistic license has been taken.”

Any adaptation requires artistic license. Certainly, narratives were added to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments which fleshed out the characters and layered the world in which Moses lived. Adding Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri to spice things up between Moses and Rameses is one thing. But you don’t add or subtract commandments from the ten. In the case of Noah, the disclaimer added by Paramount addressed criticism from Christian groups who claim that the film deviates substantively from the biblical narrative.

A clue to Aronofsky’s approach emerged alongside reports that actress Emma Watson had become sick during production after the director banned bottled water from their location. Watson told Wonderland magazine that the ban comported with the “pro-environmental message” of the film. The Telegraph recalled that Aronofsky called Noah “the first environmentalist” in a 2011 interview.

Now we have begun to see clips from the film. The one above revealed Aronofsky’s revised reason for Noah to build an ark. “Our family has been chosen for a great task, to save the innocent… the animals,” Noah tells his family.

When one of his sons asks what makes the animals innocent, Noah’s daughter beats him to the punch: “Because they still live as they did in the Garden [of Eden].”

From this we may infer that God regards animals as morally superior to human beings. In the clip, Noah adds, “I guess we get to start over too,” as if the involvement of his family were an afterthought secondary to God’s purpose.

The Bible tells a different story. All creation shares the curse of sin, including animals. The flood surged as judgment against that sin, and Noah’s family was preserved in fulfillment of God’s covenant to provide salvation for mankind.

By turning the story of Noah into an environmental tale, Aronofsky has missed the point. Beyond artistic license, he seems to have defiled the story’s essence. Imagine a film about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which portrayed the hijackers as Hindu, and you understand the difference between artistic license and fraud. If Aronofsky’s Noah ends up as divergent as the above clip, it will trivialize something sacred, the treasured relationship between God and mankind.

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Oscar’s Unsung Heroes

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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On March 2, we witnessed the spectacle and excitement of the Academy Awards. Hollywood honored its brightest and best in just about every single category. However, the Academy has ignored one crucial part of the industry – stunt performers and coordinators.

In the 86 years of the Academy Awards, only one stunt actor has received an honor. The late former stuntman Hal Needham, writer-director of such films as Smokey & The Bandit, received an honorary Oscar in 2013, but apart from Needham, the Oscars have been silent when it comes to the stunt community, despite its importance to the film industry at large. One stunt performer is working to remedy the omission.

Jack Gill, who has stunt doubled for [Jason] Statham in Death Race as well as the late Paul Walker in the Fast and Furious films, has led the charge for stunt coordinators to receive Oscar recognition for the past 23 years. He has generated support from such leading filmmakers as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron and, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) President Ken Howard and former SAG President Melissa Gilbert (who wrote letters to AMPAS on the stunt actors’ behalf but were ignored.) Gill even filed a petition with signatures from award winning actors, directors and producers who believed in the cause.

It “fell on deaf ears. The (previous AMPAS regime) said these signatures were probably agreed to as a courtesy and not really heartfelt,” Gill recalls. “The entire industry is behind us but the Academy is looking to omit categories, not add. There are stunt coordinators who are Academy members and we currently have 27 members who have been helping me to establish a category for stunt coordinators.  We do not have a ‘branch.’ Establishing that branch and award category is the sticking point.”

[...]

When asked if AMPAS would consider a change of heart, a spokesperson said: “Stunt coordinators play an important role in many movie productions and the Academy currently honors those at the very top of their craft by inviting them to become Academy members.”

The day after that statement was made, AMPAS’ President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson, COO Ric Robertson and Director of Membership Kimberly Roush met privately with Gill. He called the new regime “enlightening.”

Under the new Academy administration, stunt performers can add up to 13 new members a year. Once sixty stunt performers become Academy members, they can petition AMPAS for a stunt branch, which will put the stunt community one step closer to establishing the award they so deserve.

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Walt Disney’s First Silly Symphony: ‘The Skeleton Dance’

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon

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Why the Non-Stop Punchline Shouldn’t Come as a Surprise

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Mega spoiler alert regarding the new Liam Neeson flick Non-Stop via Breitbart. Stop reading now if you’d like to be surprised when you go to the theater to see Lady Mary on the big screen.

The hero of the movie about a plane being hijacked is an observant Muslim.

Wait, it gets better.

The terrorist is a 9/11 family member. Yes, you read that right; the terrorist is a 9/11 family-member who lost a loved-one in the World Trade Center on that terrible September morning.

It gets worse…

After 9/11,  this 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist then joined the military but found himself disillusioned by the pointless wars.

And now…

The 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist is upset because America hasn’t done enough to ensure there will never be another 9/11. And so he figures that if he can get an air marshal blamed for a terrorist attack, America will wake up and anally probe us before we’re allowed on a plane, or something.

It gets worse…

The villain’s sidekick is a member of the American military willing to murder 150 innocent people for a payday.

It gets worse…

The one passenger on the plane who is forever helpful, kind, reasonable, noble, and never under suspicion is a Muslim doctor dressed in traditional Muslim garb including a full beard.

Screw you, Hollywood.

Wikipedia’s summary of the film had a kinder, gentler, more bureaucratic approach to the biased plotline:

…as soldiers who were appalled by the lack of security at U.S. airports before 9/11, they hoped that framing [Neeson] as a terrorist will lead to drastically increased security.

Great. A propaganda film that uses the American military to advocate for the increased empowerment of the TSA. What next? A film featuring American soldiers deployed on the edge of the communist world spending their precious time dressing up in drag, defending  gay rights on base? (Cue musical number Springtime for Obama.)

As bizarre as it may seem, the plotline of Non Stop shouldn’t come as a surprise. Liam Neeson, the film’s star, has been contemplating converting to Islam since filming Taken 2 in Istanbul in 2012:

Movie star Liam Neeson has admitted he’s afraid to convert to Islam because of how locals in his home town would take it.

The Northern Irish actor thinks Islam “is the answer” after experiencing the Muslim call to prayer while filming Taken 2 in Istanbul.

But the 61-year-old doesn’t want to go all the way because people in Ballymena, Co Antrim, may be annoyed with his decision.

…“It wouldn’t go down very well in Ballymena.

“They would say to me, ‘You’re a Muslim? Are you a Catholic Muslim or a Protestant Muslim?’ ”

Perhaps he’ll be able to answer that question in Non Stop 2. Having edged out Son of God for top rating at the box office this weekend, it doesn’t look like the blatantly anti-American tone will disappear anytime soon, despite the lackluster ratings. Casting suggestion for the sequel: Katy Perry as the flight attendant demonstrating an appropriate use of a Muslim pendant as a non-blasphemous work-wardrobe accessory. It’d be nice to see her cover up for a change.

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4 Surprises from the Academy Awards

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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As long as I can remember, I’ve been a sucker for the big awards shows: the Oscars, the Grammys, and the Emmys. Even when I haven’t seen the movies or shows or listened to the albums and songs receiving awards, I still find myself fascinated by the peculiar celebratory atmosphere of awards night. While I’ve lamented in the past that the awards shows – particularly the Grammys – lack the dignity they once possessed, I can usually count on the Oscars to capture the glamor of old Hollywood. I have to admit: I don’t care about what people are wearing or about who wins — I just enjoy the competition and the tradition that has carried on for 86 years.

Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony was no exception. The film industry turned out in all its finery to honor the best of 2013. The show provided moments both wacky and touching, and the telecast included plenty of high and low points. From host Ellen DeGeneres’ celebrity pizza order (complete with $1,000 tip), to John Travolta’s mangling of Idina Menzel’s name, to Pink’s powerful rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the Oscars didn’t disappoint (unless you’re a fan of Saving Mr. Banks, in which case the nominations disappointed). I walked away from the 86th annual Academy Awards with a few surprising observations. Allow me to share them with you.

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Thank God! Who Is He, Again?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Matthew McConaughey thanked God for his Oscar win last night and the conservative crowd went wild.

McConaughey’s speech sparked a feeding frenzy for conservatives to outdo each other when it came to applauding him, while simultaneously taking shots at liberals. Rick Perry tweeted Monday morning, saying, “Texas boy counting his blessing.” His tweet linked to a Breitbart piece titled “Matthew McConaughey Praises God in Acceptance Speech, Hollywood Crowd Grows Quiet.” On Twitchy, Michelle Malkin’s site, the speech ran as “Matthew McConaughey rattles Oscar crowd, wins hearts by thanking God.” Fox News got in the game with the headline, “Matthew McConaughey one of few to thank God in Oscar acceptance speech.” And so on.

As the Daily Beast points out, McConaughey’s God-nod was most likely reassuring to a Christian population that’s been ostracized more than not:

In recent decades, religious figures are often found more often in niche movies, wrote Cieply, or if they are in major pictures, they “are often hypocrites and villains, driving plot lines that make, at best, a token bow toward the virtues of a faith-based life.”

One need look no further than a recent episode of the hit Scandal, in which the evangelical female vice president who murdered her gay husband claims she is not culpable because the devil made her do it.

Fair enough. I’m sure the Son of God giddiness also contributed to the Tweetfest, despite the fact that McConaughey never did specifically go beyond the name “God,” let alone drop “Jesus” during the speech. He did, however, express conviction that Miller Lite is served in heaven, which I’m sure won over the Duck Dynasty crowd.

What most conservative Oscar watchers failed to lavish with praise wasn’t the mere thanking of God, but the praising of Him by singer Darlene Love. The career backup singer celebrated 20 Feet From Stardom’s Best Documentary win by singing the refrain from the hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow:

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

The refreshingly simple, faith-laced, joyful lyrics made up the majority of her acceptance “speech” and were received with a full-house standing ovation led by an incredibly enthusiastic, non-religious Bill Murray. Where’s the barrage of Tweets about that?

McConaughey returned to his pot-smoking, bongo-banging self by the end of his speech, concluding with:

…whatever we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to and whoever it is we’re chasing — to that I say, alright, alright, alright. And then I say, just keep livin’.

It’s a generic statement that illustrates God is “whatever” and “whoever” and, therefore, “alright, alright, alright.” I have yet to read a conservative commentary that points out the many ways this level of ambiguity has eroded our nation’s ability to put faith in the God of our ancestors, let alone have faith in ourselves, both as a free nation and as individuals with free will. But hey, that’s cool; an actor said the G-word on stage and it got captured by social media, which makes it count.

Alright, alright, alright.

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Bring Back the Intermission

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Movies are getting longer and longer, especially in two categories: epic sci-fi/fantasy, and Big Serious Films. At the very least, audiences can start to feel like they’re getting their $18′s worth, at least in volume, if not always quality, of material.

This isn’t the first wave of super-long movies, though. The epics of the ’50s and ’60s could put our super-long movies to shame. But there’s a big difference between Avatar and Ben Hur: the latter had an intermission.

I was watching Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) this weekend, and as usual, TCM charmingly played the intermission and entr’acte music with the original title screens, demonstrating their commitment to showing films as close to whole as possible. As I used the intermission for the same purpose that decades of theater goers before me have — to make a quick pit stop — I realized that the intermission wasn’t such a silly anachronism after all. In fact, it was a sign of respect.

People just aren’t comfortable sitting for three or more hours straight (at least, I hope not). We need to get up, stretch our legs, hit the restroom, get another glass of water. Movie intermissions are a win-win: audiences get to take a quick break without missing anything, and theater-owners have an extra opportunity to push more popcorn and soda on them.

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Noah Flooded with Potential for Interfaith Battle

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

All week I’ve been seeing anti-Noah posts popping up on Facebook from Christian friends who are convinced that the not-yet-released Darren Aronofsky epic must be a liberal, secularist perversion of the biblical story, morphing Noah into a drunk and spouting an anti-human, pro-environmentalist message. Where’d the controversy come from? According to Jordan Hoffman at the Times of Israel, entertainment trade mag Variety needed to drum up readership on a slow news day:

A strange agenda group for “faith driven consumers” sent out a push-poll asking if people who hadn’t yet seen the film if they were “satisfied with a biblically themed film… which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”

In other words, a bunch of opt-in Christians were asked if they were ready to see what some scarf-wearing artiste from Jew York City had cooked up with his liberal and probably homosexual friends when, you know, they weren’t drinking blood and hoarding gold. Some 98% of respondents said that, no, they were not satisfied.

It would have been a nothing story had the press release not been picked up by Variety (one of the main entertainment trade publications) on a particularly slow news day. The Internet ran with headlines that basically read “98% of Christian audiences are enraged by ‘Noah!’” forcing Paramount, which has already had plenty of tsuris with this film, to issue an explanatory press release of their own.

The stereotypes Hoffman plays with in his commentary entertainingly highlight the unspoken rift between Jews and Christians when it comes to biblical epics. We, for the most part, stand back while Christians re-interpret our history, our people, our nation, and our sacred text in light of their own slightly Aryan (why are ancient Israelis consistently blue-eyed Brits?) Sunday School memories. This time, however, a Jewish writer/director has paired with a Jewish writer to bring a Torah story to the silver screen. That interpretation has caused Christian uproar, something the filmmakers prepared for when they sought out production partner Rob Moore, who is both a vice chair at Paramount and a devout Christian who supports the film.

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A California Sunrise in Memory of Shirley Temple

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Sunshine

From the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, via Instagram this morning:

Peek-a-boo downtown #LA #Sunrise #Fog

The New York Times: Shirley Temple Black, Screen Darling, Dies at 85

Shirley Temple Black, who as a dimpled, precocious and determined little girl in the 1930s sang and tap-danced her way to a height of Hollywood stardom and worldwide fame that no other child has reached, died on Monday night at her home in Woodside, Calif. She was 85.

Her publicist, Cheryl Kagan, confirmed her death.

Mrs. Black returned to the spotlight in the 1960s in the surprising new role of diplomat, but in the popular imagination she would always be America’s darling of the Depression years, when in 23 motion pictures her sparkling personality and sunny optimism lifted spirits and made her famous. From 1935 to 1939 she was the most popular movie star in America, with Clark Gable a distant second. She received more mail than Greta Garbo and was photographed more often than President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

At the GuardianShirley Temple Black obituary

After bringing up her three children, she returned to the public eye in politics as Shirley Temple Black. A close friend of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan (with whom she co-starred in That Hagen Girl, 1947), she became active in the Republican party in California, where, in 1967, she ran unsuccessfully for the US House of Representatives, voicing her support for the Vietnam war. She became US ambassador to Ghana (1974-76) and White House chief of protocol (1976-77), during Gerald Ford‘s presidency; foreign affairs officer with the state department under Reagan; and ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1989-92) under George HW Bush.

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Designing A Monorail And Kidnapping A Vice President

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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The monorail systems at both American Disney theme parks serve as testimony to Walt Disney’s exciting futuristic vision. Monorails played a central role in the urban utopia of Walt’s Florida Project (and later on at Walt Disney World, of course), but many guests may not know that Disneyland has had its own monorail system since 1959.

Walt had wanted a monorail for the opening day of Disneyland, but his team had a difficult time finding a feasible plan for one. It took a trip to Germany for inspiration to strike.

During a visit to Europe in the Summer of 1957, Disney’s engineering group examined the experimental monorail developed by the Alweg Corporation, near Cologne, Germany. After further investigation, the group reported to Disney that this design appeared to offer the best prospects for economy, stability, and all-around practicality…

Walt asked Alweg to build a monorail for Disneyland, and he tapped Bob Gurr, an Imagineer who had worked on nearly all the other vehicles at the park, to work with the German company. Walt was pleased with the result and greenlit the Disneyland Alweg Monorail System, which opened June 14, 1959.

 This “Highway in Sky” featured two trains, each with 3 cabins and the now-iconic bubble top in front. Walt Disney’s hope was not only to provide a scenic journey above Disneyland, but to create a solution for mass transportation needs all around the world.

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Pop Culture’s Sexy Double Standard: It’s Elementary

Saturday, February 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The BBC/PBS Masterpiece series Sherlock wraps up its third season this Sunday, much to the chagrin of a fan base that has come to embrace the belief, as “The Woman” Irene Adler explained in season 2, that “brainy is the new sexy.” The self-proclaimed sociopath Sherlock Holmes is a character that has turned the otherwise average looking actor Benedict Cumberbatch into an international sex symbol; even religious readers of Christianity Today dig Sherlock’s sex appeal:

The show highlights a male hero who breaks our hypermasculine stereotypes while demonstrating qualities we also find in a mature Christian life: Sensitivity to those around us, friendships that support growth, investment into community, and a discerning focus on truth. No wonder he gets our attention.

The “spiritual is sexy” conclusion isn’t lost on the show’s creator/writer, either:

“The most attractive person in the room is not always the best-looking; it’s the most interesting.” …The showrunner emphasizes that his Holmes isn’t a Vulcan with no emotions – he’s simply decided that things like sex and jokes would interfere with his deduction. “It’s the decision of a monk, not an affliction,” Moffat says. “It’s an achievable superpower.”

In fact, Sherlock’s female-skewed fan base flies in the face of pop culture’s obsession with the Greek-god-like male form:

“It wasn’t like, in all fairness, anyone was salivating over Benedict before he was Sherlock Holmes,” he told the University Observer when asked about the newfound popularity of the show among women. “It’s a meeting of part and actor I think that makes geeky sexy.”

The show’s writer went on to admit that this is probably the first time the Sherlock Holmes audience has been “female skewed” despite the fact that more traditionally attractive actors have taken on the role in the past.

Pop culture goes on to obsess over all things geeky, praising Big Bang Theory and Comic-Con to the skies, while establishing a new double standard when it comes to the intersection of gender and sex appeal. Sure, geeky guys can be cute, but it isn’t as if Amy Farrah Fowler look-alikes are trolling geekfests to be drooled over. Sherlock may be breaking new ground when it comes to depicting the sex appeal of an intelligent man, but women are still expected to house their brain in their booty.

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Boycott, Divestment & ScarJo: Pop Culture Questions #BDS

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has been the stuff of universities, investment groups and the American Jewish community until now. Thanks to the stardom of Scarlett Johansson the BDS battle has made its way into the mainstream. While pop culture addicts more attuned to the size of Kim Kardashian’s rear end will pass by the politically fueled story, chances are that the more intelligent among us, including ScarJo’s Avengers following, may take a second look at the morality behind the latest #BDSFail.

The players in this story have drawn a more definitive line in the sand than Walter Sobchak, with left-wing Jewish American sources like the Forward throwing early punches at Johansson’s presumed first move into the political realm:

…Johansson would do well to realize that “normalizing” the Israeli occupation is a bad use of her celebrity.

Justifying the sucker punch with statistics from the openly biased “Whoprofits.org” (“a project that researches and exposes ‘the commercial involvement of Israeli and international companies’ in the occupation”), the Forward got its own slap down from the Israeli leftist paper Ha’aretz, which lives too close to the facts to avoid them completely:

It is true that SodaStream employs hundreds of Palestinians under terms they probably wouldn’t get at a similar Palestinian firm and Birnbaum, to his credit, was willing even to embarrass the Israeli president in defence of his Palestinian workers.

ScarJo’s decision to leave OxFam was the star’s reaction to BDS movement leaders who demanded the international non-profit organization cut ties with the SodaStream spokeswoman who defended the Israeli company, saying:

SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.

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3 California Sunrises – San Diego – Santa Cruz – San Francisco

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Sunshine

San Diego

The sky has been so beautiful lately.

Santa Cruz

First time in a long time I've seen the sunrise. Going to shoot day two of the #blackwidowqueen. </p>
<h1>San Francisco</h1>
<p><a href=San Francisco winter morning

images via instagram

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Has Fox’s Gotham Already Jumped the Shark?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Like perpetually conflicted district attorney Harvey Dent, I find myself of two minds regarding the new Fox television show Gotham based in the years before Bruce Wayne donned the cape and cowl. Early indications proved more inspiring than recent news. Entertainment Weekly reports:

…The network’s licensing deal with Warner Bros. includes the rights to ALL the classic Batman characters — The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin and Batman himself. They will all be young versions of the characters and the show will tell how each became the psychologically damaged character we love today.

“This is all of the classic Batman characters,” [Fox chairman Kevin] Reilly said during the panel. “It follows the arc of how they all became what they were. I’ve read the script its really good. It’s going to be this operatic soap that has a slightly larger-than-life quality.”

Batman will be followed from the time he’s a child to “the final episode of the series when he puts on the cape.”

That formula should sound familiar to viewers of Smallville, the ten season exploration of Clark Kent’s journey from high school junior to Man of Steel. Around the time of Smallville’s debut, a young Bruce Wayne show was considered by Warner Brothers. It was reportedly scuttled by Christopher Nolan, who did not want to shift focus from The Dark Knight film franchise.

Nolan’s objection may factor into why we currently have Arrow, a series on the CW network following lesser known billionaire vigilante Oliver Queen as he battles many of the same villains who make up Batman’s rogues gallery – Deadshot, Ra’s al Ghul, and Deathstroke among them. In many ways, Arrow seems to beat around the Batman bush.

The announcement of Fox’s Gotham, timed as it was around the reveal of director Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel in which Batman will headline, seemed likely to steer clear of Bruce Wayne and focus on police lieutenant and future commissioner James Gordon. That led many to believe that Gotham might be a police procedural set in a comic book world, much as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a secret agent thriller set in a comic book world. These new revelations from Fox head Reilly indicate that Nolan’s lockout has been lifted, and the adventures of young Bruce Wayne are upon us.

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