Maybe it’s because I was on a predominantly Catholic island, but even on vacation thousands of miles away, breaking news about the chocolate Jesus planned for display in a midtown New York hotel managed to trickle down to me. Apparently protesters succeeded in having its exhibition blocked. Julian Sanchez is surprised that no one protesting seems to have put very much thought into what that artist was trying to accomplish with the piece, but it seems religious agitators are generally on the prowl for pretenses to be offended and perhaps are ultimately seeking to obviate the need for a legitimate reason to be offended altogether—for many religious activists, perpetual outrage is their brand. This seems to be part of that campaign.
The incident prompted me to wonder whether religious demagogues are wasting their time flexing their muscles over something so patently insignificant, especially these sorts of “desecrations” of icons tend to reinforce their fading power rather than dissipate it; such art attempts to trade on the icon’s residual power. At the In These Times blog, Brian Zick points out how chronically offended demagogues and purposely offensive artists work together like moss and lichen, and that artists inevitably benefit from this kind of attention, while the outraged inevitably seem foolish. But demagogues benefit as well, as they do whenever media gives them a megaphone. In these inane disputes are opportunities to stage those rituals of ultimately futile defiance that religions, when marginalized by secular society, fuel themselves on.
We are far beyond the point where the circulation of images can be controlled; churches maintain power not by mandating prohibitions and successfully exercising censorship, at least not in the West. Instead their power now lies in staging pseudoevents, supplying experiential goods—say, the pleasure felt when a petty triumph such as sending Chocolate Jesus to limbo is secured. Perhaps the manufactured controversy (a faint echo of the Danish cartoon brouhaha of 2006 and reminiscent of the now annually renewed “war against Christmas) is merely part of the pas de deux for replenishing symbolic power—religious images becomes truly trivial when nobody shows up as expected to complain about alleged misuses, when a sanctimonious rally can’t be gathered as a kind of parallel form of worship.
Hopefully not a late-April Fool’s joke, it looks like Arthur Magazine is coming back again. An e-mail from editor Jay Babcock says: “I bought (publisher) Laris (Kreslins)‘s 50 percent interest in the magazine thanks to the efforts of family and friends. Now I own 100% and am moving forward with all Arthur activities as quickly as possible. Apologies for the interruption in service.”
Having spent the last eight months dishing out advice about the weekly plethora of DVD releases hitting the marketplace, SE&L has begun to sense some manner of merchandising pattern. It’s a ploy more problematic than the dreaded double dip and more irritating than the basic bare bones title. No, this new B&M blueprint could be labeled “2T2W” – translation: Testing the Want Waters. It seems like, more and more, major entertainment distributors are waiting (sometimes for several years) to measure the amount of interest the fans still have in a certain specific title. Then they will hold off releasing said movie/TV show until desire trumps design. Then, they can package up anything they want and guarantee some manner of sales explosion. This is clearly the case with our prime pick this week. Ardent admirers of this show have waiting so long for this series completing box set follow-up that they were ready to accept almost anything. And that’s exactly what they get the week of 3 April:
Twin Peaks: The Complete Second Season
All right, all right – it’s a TV show, so discussing it would be in direct contradiction to SE&L‘s FILM only mandates. But it’s also the by-product of cinematic genius David Lynch’s auteur imagination, so sue us. Many fans felt that this series jumped the proverbial killer fish when Laura Palmer’s murderer was finally revealed, and there are debates all over the ‘Net about the effectiveness of the finale (about as open ended as you can get, frankly). Between the cockeyed character conversions (Nadine now thinks she’s in high school???) and the Black Lodge/White Lodge mumbo jumbo, what started out as the most accomplished one hour TV drama in the history of the medium slowly de-evolved into a kind of surreal stunt series. Not even the influx of famous directors (including a much maligned pass by actress Diane Keaton) could quell the complaints. Still, as one of the many ‘holy grail’ releases that devotees have long hoped for, this is a must own DVD collection – flaws and all.
Other Titles of Interest
All That Jazz – Music Edition
Bob Fosse’s autobiographical deconstruction of the movie musical holds up today as one of the ‘70s last masterpieces, a movie of startling depth and personal exposure. Still, with a previous DVD release already on shelves, this double dip seems like a considered cash grab. With only a few song oriented extras differentiating the two packages, fans should really think twice before indulging in such a misguided marketing ploy.
Why it took so long to bring this beloved children’s classic back to the big screen – especially after the Oscar nominated success of the similarly themed Babe – is anyone’s guess. While many still prefer the animated version from the ‘70s – featuring a fabulous turn by the late Paul Lynne as Templeton the Rat – this is indeed a wonderfully inventive offering filled with wholesome family fun div>
Death of the President
Talk about your over hyped non-events. When this mock documentary about the assassination of George W. Bush was announced for inclusion at the Toronto Film Festival, tongues began wagging feverishly on both sides of the political fence. Words like “dangerous” and “treasonous” were tossed about. Then the movie was shown. Terms like “derivative” and “unexceptional” became the norm. Thanks to DVD, you can now decide for yourself.
No one knew what to expect from this supposedly standard heist flick when it first hit theaters back in 1978. But thanks to magnificent work from Elliot Gould and Christopher Plummer, and some sequences of shocking, over the top violence (including one memorable moment involving a fishtank), this intriguing Canadian effort definitely deserves a wider audience. With its arrival on the digital format, here’s hoping it finds a warm home theater welcome.
Trying to trade on the chemistry displayed between the actors in Robert Altman’s masterful M*A*S*H*, Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland are re-teamed to play secret agents trapped in some standard espionage events. Without the caustic political undercurrent present in the pair’s previous work together, many dismissed this off the mark merriment. But as flat out farcical comedies go, it’s a decent diversion.
And Now for Something Completely Different Black X-Mas: Unrated Version
Forget about the fact that all commercial critics seem to hate horror. Ignore the reality that Bob Clark’s original is a far more startling experiment in fear. Take this remake for what it is and give Glen Morgan credit for bringing a decidedly personal purview to the motion picture macabre. Then simply sit back and enjoy this sensational old fashioned slasher film. In one of those ‘how quickly they forget’ situations, what would have been celebrated two decades before is now lambasted as dull and dumb. But Morgan actually makes this update into something far more interesting – a look at familial discord taken to disturbing, disgusting extremes. By giving enigmatic killer Billy a backstory, including a particularly dysfunctional home life, we learn what would cause someone to be so vile…and so villainous. If you ignore the dimensionless nature of the victims and settle in for a good bloodletting, Black X-Mas will not disappoint.
As digital media blazes new trails and transforms itself, the need for fresh ethical standards grows more urgent with every deadline. At Poynter Online, Bob Steele has written “Helter Skelter No More: An Evolving Guidebook for Online Ethics,” which outlines one of the institute’s recent projects: to assemble professional journalists with experience in online journalism to establish a new Guidebook for Online Journalism Ethics. The project was triggered by a survey the Institute conducted that revealed what many already knew: deep ethical dilemmas exist when doing journalism online. And they are different than the ethical challenges print journalists frequently encounter. They include vetting the opinionated nature of “news” blogs; easing the tension between the speed of news delivery and the quality of news content; understanding the sophistication of digital advertising and its relationship to content; and tempering the growing need for more visual content, to name a few. The Golden Rule applauds these efforts and looks forward to reading that guidebook.