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The Top 10 Gods of the Pop Culture Pantheon

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.

10. Harry Potter

When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),

Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.

Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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10 Ways ’90s Pop Culture Destroyed the American Male

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…

Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.

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10 Romantic Comedy Myths About Women

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

10. We’re so fiercely independent that the only thing we need to be happy… is a man.

Post-second wave feminist romantic comedies rely on the Sheryl Sandberg boilerplate: upper-middle class, successful career woman with an impossibly huge apartment in big city stuffed with everything she could ever want. (See: Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven.)  The genre gives the image one slight twist: our heroine is secretly one step away from cultivating her very own cat collection. (See: Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.) True to Hollywood fashion, who better than the big, strong male superhero to fly in to save the day?

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The 10 Most Underrated TV Comedies of All Time

Friday, June 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Sullivan and Son

This working class comedy executive-produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley is fraught with all the non-PC ethnic and sexual humor you’d hear in a working class, Irish-Korean, middle-American bar like the one in the show. Created by Korean American actor/comedian Steve Byrne and Cheers writer Rob Long, the TBS sitcom reminds you that some jokes are still OK to crack. The stellar cast features Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) and comic genius Brian Doyle-Murray, along with Christine Ebersole and Owen Benjamin, who portray the drop-dead hysterical mother-son dependent duo Carol and Owen Walsh. 

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The Top 10 Movies Every Young Man Should Watch Before Dating

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

There’s a lot to learn before a young man enters the world of dating.  Here are the top 10 movies that have lessons that will educate him, help him, and get him ready to navigate the difficult world of dating.  Let’s start with number 10:

10. Starship Troopers

What? Did you expect The Notebook?  This movie about an alien invasion and battles between humans and bugs is nominally based on Robert A. Heinlein’s classic of the same name.

Why it’s important: The main character, Johnny Rico, is oblivious to Dizzy Flores, his fellow high school student.  She has a huge crush on him and eventually lands him by the oldest play in the book: proximity.  She sticks with him.  She’s at his side in the mud and blood of battle and when it comes time for him to decide between her and the gorgeous Carmen, his original love interest is far away and way out of the picture.  This is a movie with many flaws, but the singleminded pursuit of Rico by Dizzy Flores is worth examination.  Plus, of course, the battle scenes are epic.

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The 10 Most Cringe-Worthy TV Flops

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

We’ve all heard of the horrors of Cop Rock and Manimal, but after receiving a reader tip on one of their worst TV shows of all time, I did some digging and uncovered these utterly classic samples of bad television that would make great material for Joel McHale or the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

10. Bucky and Pepito (1959)

Produced by Sam Singer, “The Ed Wood of Animation,” Bucky and Pepito was a typical story of an “ambitious” white cowboy and his “lazy” (literally, they sing about it in the theme song) Mexican buddy trolling the old west on a zero budget. According to Toonopedia, “Cartoon historian Harry McCracken once said the pair ‘set a standard for awfulness that no contemporary TV cartoon has managed to surpass. They were great at what they did, which was being bad.’” Thanks to Bucky and Pepito, cartoonists have debated creating a Sam Singer Award for truly bad animation.

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NBC Declares Jerusalem Television’s City of Gold

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
DIG

The show’s creator, Israeli-turned-Hollywood golden child, Gideon Raff.

The Jerusalem Post reports that NBC will begin shooting a new action-adventure series, Dig, in Jerusalem this week:

Israel’s capital city is slated to play a central role in storyline of the series that portrays FBI agents uncovering a conspiracy of the Old City while investigating the murder of an American archaeologist.

…”The filming of “Dig” will be a boon for the production industry in Jerusalem, drawing more of them to come film here, create new jobs and encourage investments in the city,” Bennett added.

NBC’s first large-scale production filmed in Jerusalem, will reportedly be broadcast in the United States at the end of 2014.

While American versions of Israeli shows (In Therapy and Homeland, another creation by Dig’s Gideon Raff, come to mind) have made their way to the small screen, this will be the first time an American television show is shot in Israel. According to the Wall Street Journal,  Dig was co-developed by Keshet Media Group, an Israeli media company, and is expected to make its premiere on the USA Network, with a possible second run on SyFy.

“When we combine Hollywood’s creative potential with Jerusalem’s historic backdrop, it will result in the ability to connect hundreds of millions of viewers around the world to this unique and beautiful city. There is an undeniable inspiration and creative energy in Jerusalem, which is why it has become a center for international film production,” said Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, in a statement.

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Jane the Virgin: The CW’s Take on ‘Immaculate’ Conception

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The CW is planning to add Jane the Virgin to its fall lineup. Based on a Venezuelan telenovela of the same name, Jane the Virgin is about an intentionally virginal girl who is “accidentally artificially inseminated” by her OB-GYN:

Jane stars Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown) as a hard-working, devout Latina who is kind of hoping her boyfriend proposes — though she’s a little worried he’ll get down on one knee so she’ll finally agree to do the deed. When a mix-up at the OB-GYN leads to that artificial insemination plot line, Jane must choose whether to keep the baby — and whether to let the handsome father into her life.

Aside from containing a number of Spanish stereotypes, including the paranoid grandmother putting the fear of God into her pre-teen daughter (“Once you lose your virginity, you can never go back!“) to a cast of overtly sexualized Latinas, the show appears to be a platform for some long overdue, serious conversation regarding abortion. However, the show sounds eerily like one of the most famously influential and revered plot lines in the West’s repertoire, leaving one to wonder how a primarily Protestant audience might handle a story that’s been a hit in a Catholic country.

When it comes to the primarily pathetic representation of Latinas on television (does Sofia Vergara have to do it all?) at least Jane the Virgin appears to lack the typical trashiness of Devious Maids.

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Do Celebrities Owe Their Fans Free Meet and Greets?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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If you love movies and everything about them, you owe it to yourself to follow AMC Movie Talk, a daily web show headlined by AMC Movie News editor John Campea and a rotating cadre of entertainment experts. As marketing moves go, you would be hard pressed to come up with a better way to develop brand loyalty for a theater chain than feeding fans a steady stream of incisive commentary about every movie news tidbit that comes across the wire.

More than that, what I really appreciate about AMC Movie Talk is the insight consistently offered into the business side of the industry. Campea and company are fans like you and me, and that comes across in how they regard the films they discuss. But they are also industry professionals, and therefore bring a perspective to the process that most people lack.

The above clip highlights one such moment. A viewer writes in to ask the AMC Movie Talk crew why celebrities charge fans for personal appearances, autographs, pictures, and the like. The emailer writes:

Most of them have millions of dollars already from their work. I don’t see why they charge their fans to meet them, because it seems like it’s done out of pure greed. [Punctuation added.]

The response from around the AMC table lands right on point. Campea cuts to the chase, noting that actors and other celebrities take time and attention away from other activities which they value in order to meet fans at public appearances. “Everybody who’s not a millionaire thinks that people who have money should do everything for free… But if we’re really rational about it, I don’t think that’s the case.”

Film director Jon Schnepp points out the folly of assuming that every celebrity must be a millionaire. Even considering the few that are, does their wealth grant fans some claim upon their time and attention?

Commentator Miri Jedeikin adds that these public appearances where celebrities interact with fans factor into their job. It’s an aspect of their profession for which they ought to be compensated, provided the demand exists to pay for their time. In fact, charging for meet and greets helps control the demand. “Imagine if it were free,” Jedeikin says. “The line would be five days long.”

It’s one of those interchanges which demonstrates that Hollywood proves far more conservative and rights-affirming in their daily practices than in the fashion of their expressed politics. The emailer’s angst at celebrities getting paid for meet and greets jives well with the rhetoric of the radical left who believe people with ability ought to work for free in the service of perceived need.

If you watch AMC Movie Talk long enough, you’ll encounter this kind of stealthy, countercultural conservatism on a regular basis. It may not be intended as such by Campea and company. But it proves immensely satisfying nonetheless.

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The #1 Reason We Watch Call the Midwife

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

This past Sunday, American audiences finally had their chance to wave goodbye to Nurse Jenny Lee, the lead character in the famed Masterpiece series Call the Midwife. However sad it may be, the departure of the show’s Hollywood-bound lead actress Jessica Raine was, ironically, in no way a traumatic one.

Most American shows die when their lead actor disappears. Dan Stevens’ untimely departure from Downton Abbey still enrages fans over a year later. Yet, while Nurse Jenny Lee will be a much missed character, fans are far from outraged at her departure. Perhaps this is because Call the Midwife was never just about Jennifer (Lee) Worth, but about the many lives she encountered and a profession that is finally being given the credit it so sorely deserves. But there is more to the massive success of what began as a 6-episode BBC show about nursing in mid-century London’s bombed-out East End than giving credit where credit is due.

In an era of roughshod marketing tactics and semiotic overload, Call the Midwife, with its pure, heartfelt approach to the vicissitudes of life, is therapeutic television. We are a desensitized audience: No one cries when a pregnant mother is stabbed to death on Game of Thrones. Yet, everyone, including the burly guys on set, shed a tear at every birth on Call the Midwife. We are treated to an East End rife with chamber pots, not sexy chamber maids, and yet audiences are drawn to the show in droves. We love the midwives, even when they are dressed in habits and wimples; they are the ideal face of medicine, mother, and God in an era when we’ve been taught to doubt all three. Like a nurse checking our pulse, Call the Midwife reminds us that we are human after all, and perhaps not as sick as we’ve been led to believe.

And yet, while TV execs struggle with sex and violence in the name of Tweet power, they remain blind to Call the Midwife’s axiom for success: There is powerful endurance in simple truth. Call the Midwife will survive without the character of Jenny Lee because the show has embraced Jennifer Worth’s own mystical sense of timelessness. It is the stuff that fueled her memoirs of both London’s East End and her time as a nurse caring for the dying. Brilliantly captured in the season finale, this sense of the eternal in both life and death is what makes Call the Midwife a healing balm of a show and transcendental television in its finest form. Forget bloody battles and wild, nameless sex. Call the Midwife empowers its audience with the strength to face, not escape, life’s pressures, and the faith to believe that while “weeping may happen for a night, joy breaks forth in the morning.”

Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.

Jennifer Worth

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The Ultimate TV Geek

Friday, May 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

CNN reports on Eretz Nehederet, Marcus’s first creation.

Omri Marcus is the #1 TV Geek you’ve never heard of. An Israeli journalist-turned-hit TV comedy writer, Marcus made it big thanks to his scientific understanding of comedy, a theory he delves into in a recent interview with Tablet magazine. The dialogue provides a fascinating look at Israeli television, an industry still cutting its teeth thanks to decades of gross nationalization. Until the introduction of foreign channels, the country lived off of one government-run station that began broadcasting in 1968. Color transmissions, a topic of great bureaucratic battles, didn’t begin until 1983. Hitting the industry on the cusp of change, Marcus, 34, helped launch the nation’s greatest comedy hit Eretz Nehederet (This Wonderful Country – think: SNL meets The Daily Show) from a hall closet next to a ladies’ bathroom. Now he’s sought out by TV execs around the globe.

Not ironically (he is a comedian, after all) Marcus made a funny observation about the one thing all TV writers’ rooms have in common:

“One of the best things about my work is that I’ve been to so many writer’s rooms all around the world and they’re basically the same anywhere,” Marcus said. “They are all dominated by a group of neurotic Jews. You know, my dream is to create the world’s largest Jewish writers’ room: German Jews and British Jews and American Jews and Israelis, all sitting together and writing jokes about how they’re not getting laid.”

So, do Jews run TV? Not quite:

“The fact that the world is this global village allows you to reduce the risks in making TV,” Marcus said. “You learn a lot from other countries, and we are all, after all, just storytellers. The stories we tell may differ in details, but they should all be appealing, with well-crafted characters, leaving viewers feeling as if they’ve spent their time wisely watching your show. By learning from each other, we’re able to create great, longer-lasting, and more meaningful content.”

Along with developing a rather scientific dating game involving Google glasses, the Huff-Po contributor maintains BizarreTV, a Facebook page where he chronicles the strangest television shows he’s encountered around the globe. My personal favorite is While You Were Sleeping:

How would you feel if you woke up in the middle of the night and discovered that you’re in the middle of a TV game show? ‘While You Were Sleeping’ is the first game show that gives you money while you’re fast asleep! In each episode one couple plays for a chance to win a cash prize. The twist – only one partner knows what’s going on! To stay in the game they must answer the trivia questions correctly, or risk performing a crazy and hilarious challenge – without waking up their partner!

Other shows featured include The Shower, in which contestants sing in the shower before a live studio audience, Guys in Disguise, a dating show that requires a woman to choose from 2 secret admirers dressed in bizarre costumes and I Wanna Marry “Harry” a new FOX dating game featuring a Prince Harry lookalike.

Currently working under an exclusive, multi-year deal with European media conglomerate ProSieben, chances are Marcus’s shows will be hitting American shores for decades to come.

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The #1 Worst New Sitcom for Fall

Thursday, May 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Or, as Anthony Ha says, “There’s An Upcoming TV Show Called Selfie And I Hate Everything About It“:

Executive: God, I hate millennials.
Showrunner: Yeah, but they’d totally watch a show called Selfie.
Executive: A show … about taking photos?
Showrunner: No no no, that’s just hook, see? It’s really a way to talk about our modern condition as a technological society.
Executive: Forget millennials, I hate you.
Showrunner: (quickly) Not as a serious drama. As a comedy.
Executive: Really? How many jokes can you tell about … whatever the hell they’re called?
Showrunner: That’s the beauty of it. You don’t need jokes, because technology is inherently funny. We’ll just throw in lots of smartphone screenshots and random buzzwords like “Insta-famous” and “oh-em-gee” and the kids will laugh and laugh. You won’t have to hire any actual writers!

One of the funniest (fictional) prospective pitch dialogues I’ve read in a while, Ha’s attack on ABC’s horrible (and horribly over-promoted) new sitcom for the fall is only one of the many signs that Selfie promises to be about as big of a hit as Viva Laughlin, the CBS non-starter based on a BBC series titled Blackpool. But hey, two episodes is better than nothing, right? And in the words of The Soup‘s Joel McHale, “Why would you cancel that? We need that.” After all, a millennial non-starter pilot that rips off one of the most popular classic movies of all time does make great material for those of us who prefer to MST our TV shows.

The real loser in this is Karen Gillan, formerly of Doctor Who, now the “Eliza Doolittle” of Selfie, who will be yet another reminder to British actors (alongside Downton‘s Dan Stevens and Call the Midwife‘s Jessica Raine) that Hollywood plays a totally different game than does the BBC. I doubt that even the Doctor could save this network bomb.

Joel Hodgson, on the other hand….(watch video on next page)

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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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Noah: A Good Jewish Boy’s Cinematic Drash

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

AronofskyNoah

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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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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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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