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Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

January 1970 Archives

Is Britney Putting the Jew in Jewelry?

posted by Esther Kustanowitz

I hate to say I told you so. But way back when Madonna was embracing Kabbalah and taking my name as her own, I knew instinctively that Britney–who would have been a Wannabe, had she been a teenager in the […]

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“House” vs. God : The Continuing Drama

posted by Kris Rasmussen

Nowhere on television is God’s existence more consistently, vigorously, and eloquently debated than on Fox’s medical series “House,” and in last night’s episode the acerbic, cynical doctor’s faith–or lack of it–was once again put to the test in almost Shakespearean […]

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On the J. Lo: Lopez says Dad is a Scientologist

posted by Ellen Leventry

To those following the coverage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ recent paparazzi-chronicled nuptials, the attendance of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony probably wasn’t much of a surprise (unlike Brooke Shields and her husband). Lopez has been best friends with […]

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Michael Jackson, a Muslim?

posted by dali

So you think that Muhammad Ali is the most famous convert to Islam? Well the “fastest-growing religion” may be welcoming a new brother to the fold, and brother, this potential convert would be a thriller. It seems that Jermaine Jackson, […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: “Grace is Gone” but not Forgotten

posted by mkress

The only double award winner for drama at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival was James C. Strouse’s powerful debut film, “Grace is Gone.” John Cusack gives a remarkably restrained performance as Stanley Philips, a father of two girls, confronted by […]

Supreme, But Human, Beings

posted by Paul O'Donnell

In business these days, children are a fact of life. Working from home to stay with a sick child is an allowable indulgence. If anyone remarks on a small voice in the office or in the background on a conference […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: Competing Monasteries

posted by mkress

Who would guess that the Sundance Film Festival would offer not one, but two compelling stories of life inside Russian Orthodox monasteries? “The Island” is a dark, foreboding, but ultimately transcendent film set on an icy Russian setting. “The Monastery: […]

The Muslims of “24”

posted by dali

It couldn’t have gotten any worse on “24” when the first of five nuclear bombs was detonated, presumably by Muslim terrorists. And so the eagerly anticipated season began, with Muslim extremists as the villain this time around. There’s been a […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: The Fake Dakota Fanning Controversy

posted by mkress

The fake controversy surrounding Dakota Fanning’s new film, “Hounddog“–in which the child actress plays a victim of abuse who, in one much-discussed scene, is raped–demonstrates the unfortunate and continuing power of a press release. Political activists on both sides of […]

LIVE AT SUNDANCE: The Next “Napoleon Dynamite”?

posted by mkress

Don’t mistake “Eagle vs. Shark” for your average love story. This “romantic comedy turned on its head” by New Zealand director Taiko Waititi was one of the most talked-about premieres at Sundance. I heard at a previous screening someone called […]

A Rabbi Walks Into a Bar…

posted by mkress

I finally saw “The Aristocrats” this weekend, and will refrain from adding–at this late date–to the reams of commentary on this documentary about the telling and retelling of a single, legendary, vile joke by professional comedians. In a completely unrelated […]

Bleep Save the Queen: Delta Airlines Censors God from In-flight Film

posted by Donna Freitas

Last week my husband returned from Seattle on Delta Airlines, and told me he had some “Idol Chatter blog-worthy” news: As they crossed the country at 35,000 feet, they were treated to quite the interesting version of the Golden Globe-winning […]

Amish ‘Anatomy’

posted by mkress

For the most part, there isn’t always a lot of grace shown at “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Seattle Grace Hospital. The show dabbles with the “diseases” of the human condition, those murky, dirty, selfish gray areas of torrid love affairs, ruthless competitiveness, […]

Bad News Birthday Bears?

posted by Ellen Leventry

Many year’s ago, a relative of mine joked that she may have to induce the birth of her third child since the expected due date was the same as the Super Bowl and she wanted her husband to be there […]

“Persepolis” the Movie is Coming Soon…

posted by Donna Freitas

I may not be a comic book junkie, nor have I been swept up–at least in any lasting way–into the graphic novel craze that has hit the bookshelves of late, but I couldn’t pass by “Persepolis,” Marjane Satrapi’s vivid (literally) […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: Who is “Thy Neighbor?”

posted by jmcgee

Philip Yancey, author of “Where Is God When It Hurts?”, once said that if the church was more present in this world and attending to its pain, people would be asking the question that is the title of his book […]

Pelosi’s Hostile Look at the “Friends of God”

posted by Kris Rasmussen

Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi’s HBO documentary “Friends of God,” which premieres tonight, promises a behind-the-scenes look at the “broad tent” that is evangelicalism in this country, but instead, the film simply follows the same unimaginative formula of other documentaries, like “Jesus […]

“Heroes”: Superpowers are Divine

posted by Donna Freitas

NBC’s fantastic new show “Heroes” finally returned this week after a too-long holiday hiatus, premiering with the episode “Godsend” and leaving viewers with some interesting ideas to ponder: Are the heroes’ special powers gifts from God? At least one of […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: What is a Sundance Film?

posted by jmcgee

What is a Sundance Film? This was one of the writing prompts for an article review I wrote for a class in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival. I said it was simply the absence of a studio backed film […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: Sex Trafficking in the U.S.?

posted by jmcgee

Upon viewing the film “Trade” (2007) by Marco Kreuzpainter, the scales have been removed from my eyes by this frightening film, which portrays the horror that goes on with in the world of sex trade. Jorge (Cesar Ramos Ceballos) is […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: A Look at “Slipstream”

posted by jmcgee

Do we have a purpose? Can we control our life, or do we utterly lose control as we realize our helplessness? The movie “Slipstream” by Anthony Hopkins deals with these questions in a slipstream of so many flashbacks and sequences […]

‘Engaged and Underaged': Engaging Television?

posted by Ellen Leventry

Several months ago, while perusing a women’s magazine, I came across an article by a psychologist advising women not to get married until their late 20s/early 30s. She sagely suggested that marrying someone when you are relatively young virtually guarantees […]

No Awards for the Oscar Campaign Process

posted by Douglas Howe

The Oscars are fun—in fact they’re one of our family’s favorite nights of the year. We have three girls who (along with my wife) love the fashion show, while my son and I mostly laugh at that part while enjoying […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: God at Sundance?

posted by jmcgee

Looking for God at the Sundance Film Festival is an intriguing enterprise. The Festival is certainly short on Focus on the Family style films. That doesn’t mean, however, that God can’t be found lurking in shadows, alleyways and in other […]

Hoorah for The State of the Union!

posted by Douglas Howe

Hoorah for the State of the Union! Three Cheers! It’s the best TV I’ve seen in months, and it almost made it worth the pre-empting of Boston Legal! (I said almost.) Cheer #1—Decorum. Our country has rarely been more divided […]

Letters from the Queen: Sunshine Departed from Babel

posted by Esther Kustanowitz

Oscar noms are in, and in the Best Picture category, the big winner is… the concept of being an outsider. Outside your comfort zone, undercover in a dangerous environment, out of place, or in literal exile, these films illustrate that […]

Oscars Noms “Miss” The Mark

posted by Kris Rasmussen

I read the rumblings in the trade papers about how the dysfunctional family comedy “Little Miss Sunshine” was going to sneak its way into the Oscar nominations, but I was still disappointed that the rumors became reality in the early […]

“American Idol” and Our Culture of Lies

posted by dross

One of the few times a year I plant myself on my couch and only leave for bathroom breaks is during the first few episodes of “American Idol.” Am I interested in this year’s crop of talented singers, hoping to […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: Save Who?

posted by jmcgee

It’s not often that you finish off a film at two o’clock in the morning only to find yourself sitting in the same theater 6 hours later to begin the next. Well, at Sundance – what else are you there […]

Crowder Draws a Crowd

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Okay, so Internet polls are scientifically suspect–only the Oscars are as susceptible to email campaigns, multiple votes, and people voting blindly for artists they’ve never seen. But the audience for MSN’s Music Artist of the Year is so large and […]

“American Idol”: Embarrassing Tryout Edition

posted by mkress

Are the “American Idol” judges mean–and getting meaner by the season–or should contestants’ family and friends be more honest in advising them to stay off national TV? Our bloggers Ellen Leventry and Dena Ross debate this very topic, but what […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: The Sophomore Slump?

posted by mkress

Given our cultural obsession with the new and the novel, perhaps nothing is as daunting as following initial success. The sophomore slump can hamper creative efforts and lead to artistic blocks or overreaching. In 2005, director Craig Brewer (at right, […]

From the “Little Mosque” Creator: “Putting the Fun Back in Fundamentalism”

posted by mkress

How do you bring a little fun back into fundamentalism? By making a sitcom, as Zarqa Nawaz is fond of saying. Nawaz is the creator of the new Canadian TV series “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” The show debuted Jan. […]

Fanning the Flames

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s hard to recall the last time the Sundance Film Festival made any real noise–buzz, yes, but nothing like the howl sent up this year about “Hounddog,” an independent film starring Dakota Fanning as an urchin who is raped by […]

Faith Is More Than Skin Deep: The Failure of “Color of the Cross”

posted by jmcgee

This is how they touted “Color of the Cross”: a film that will completely change the way we view Jesus and the crucifixion. But, instead of changing my heart, it hardened it for every second of the movie’s hour-and-29-minute runtime. […]

Tyler Perry’s Latest: Exclusively on Beliefnet

posted by mkress

A couple of years ago, Tyler Perry came out of nowhere–at least for white Americans–with the smashing success of his film “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” A well-known playwright and actor among African Americans, Perry was suddenly one of […]

“American Idol”: Tryouts, Trainwrecks, and Schadenfreude

posted by Ellen Leventry

The season premiere of “American Idol’s” sixth season was the show’s most-watched opener ever, with nearly 15 percent of the country watching at one point in the evening. So, is it any coincidence then that the Minnesota auditions featured on […]

LIVE FROM SUNDANCE: The WindRider Forum

posted by mkress

Edgy, independent, artsy. Over the past 25 years, the Sundance Film Festival has become the place to discover new talent and launch original films. From first-time filmmakers searching for their big break to established stars seeking “indie” credibility, thousands of […]

Best Films of 2006

posted by Kris Rasmussen

As the red carpet season officially started with Monday’s Golden Globe Awards, I have decided it is finally time to announce my personal picks for the best films of 2006. Granted, there are two films I have yet to see […]

Conan’s Bit on Homo-Jesus

posted by Douglas Howe

On this week in which we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am growing tired of the disrespect that is tolerated in our culture–and even promoted–toward an individual who has had a far greater effect on the spiritual lives […]

Madonna’s Full-Time Guru: Rock-n-Roll Rasputin

posted by Ellen Leventry

My female friends and I often muse that if we were given a personal chef, a personal trainer, and a personal hair and makeup person, we too could look as good as any starlet out there. Apparently, though, another type […]

“Stomp the Yard”: The Real Feel-Good Movie

posted by jmcgee

Critics often throw around the term “feel-good movie” to describe a film that warms your heart to the very core, but “Stomp the Yard” was forgotten in that lot. The story follows DJ (Columbus Short), a troubled youth who witnesses […]

Memo to CNN: There’s No ‘EvangeliPope’

posted by Douglas Howe

I think the media has been propagating a dramatic myth for a long, long time and it does a disservice to our culture and our country. I wish someone would please tell them that I am not an EvangeliCatholic, although […]

Jack’s Back and Giving Like the “Tree”

posted by Douglas Howe

Donna Freitas is a gifted writer of spiritual insight, but her recent blog posting is dead wrong (literally) on both “24” as well as Shel Silverstein’s wonderful book, “The Giving Tree.” If you missed it, “24’s” two-night debut again showcased […]

Is Thanking God in Hollywood a B-Thing?

posted by vreiss

Last night’s Golden Globes ceremony included the usual reams of thank you’s to casts and crews and lawyers and spouses and moms and kids and agents and Helen Mirren. The most moving speech by far was from the sincerely enthused […]

“24”: Jack Bauer as the Sacrificial Lamb

posted by Donna Freitas

I looked forward to Sunday night’s long awaited “24” premiere on Fox with the same eagerness as the show’s most dedicated fans. But I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at the onset of what promises to be yet another season […]

The Scandal That Won’t End

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The sexual-abuse scandal that once looked to bring the Catholic church’s hierarchy in Boston crashing down has died away. The former Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, is comfortably esconced in a favorable position in Rome, and few of the radical […]

Alice Coltrane’s Supreme Love

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The passing of a great man’s widow is often taken as a second opportunity to mourn the man himself, but when Alice Coltrane, widow of the sax giant John Coltrane, died late last week, it was her accomplishments, and her […]

Documentary Filmmaker Catches Haggard Before “The Fall”

posted by Donna Freitas

On January 25th, HBO will air the documentary “Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi,” which follows key people among the Christian evangelical right in America. Yes, Alexandra Pelosi, the filmmaker in question, is one of those Pelosis–her […]

He’s a Jolie Good Fellow

posted by Paul O'Donnell

All through the elephant-dung Virgin Mary dust-up and the “Piss Christ” controversy, one might have drawn the conclusion that Catholic League president Bill Donohue just didn’t get modern art. Who would want to tackle the task of explaining to Donohue […]

Rest in Peace Lily Munster, Sephora

posted by dali

Yvonne De Carlo died of natural causes on Monday at the age of 84. The name isn’t familiar to you? Remember the quirky matriarch of the Munsters clan, Lily Munster? De Carlo breathed life into that television character–the serenely smiling […]

“Friday Nights” Still a Light in the Darkness

posted by Kris Rasmussen

While many in the press have continued to heap accolades on NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” as the best new series of the fall season, I withdrew my enthusiastic support after the show took a wrong turn and starting heading into […]

A Couple “Little Mosque on the Prairie” Clips

posted by mkress

They Shoot Footage, Don’t They?

posted by Ellen Leventry

Nineteenth-century American author and lawyer Christian Nestell Bovee once noted that “Bad taste is a species of bad morals.” So, what would he think of the posting of the Sadam Hussein execution video and the recent decision to air the […]

“Jack is Back”

posted by Douglas Howe

“Jack is back,” or so the commercials promise. Next Sunday, Season Six of “24” kicks off during its traditional slot right after Fox-TV’s playoff coverage. It will be eight days short of eight months since the last original episode of […]

“Little Mosque on the Prairie”?

posted by mkress

No, it’s not a joke. The CBC–a major Canadian broadcasting network–premieres a long awaited, much talked about new television series called “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” tonight at 8:30pm. And, it’s a sitcom! That’s right–a comedy about being Muslim and […]

“Children” of the Future

posted by Kris Rasmussen

A young mother gives birth to a miracle child destined to save humanity but then must flee with her child to safety or be killed. No, I am not describing the plot of “The Nativity Story,” but the plot of […]

The “Good Shepherd” Generation

posted by Douglas Howe

I liked “The Good Shepherd” and enjoyed Ellen Leventry’s Idol Chatter review of it, with one main point of disagreement. Where she saw it as perhaps an incomplete movie about the CIA, I thought it was a thorough–if not ingenious–look […]

“Freedom Writers”: Baptism by Books

posted by Donna Freitas

The world has seen its share of cheesy teacher-transforms-students movies (“Dangerous Minds” starring Michelle Pfeiffer is a classic example). But the “Stand and Deliver” examples of the genre–those that not only inspire but are also well-told, well-acted stories–are a rare […]

“Studio 60″ Opens Up to “The Door”

posted by Kris Rasmussen

If you need a “Studio 60″ fix while waiting for new episodes of the dramedy to return next week, I highly recommend you check out the new interview with director/producer Tommy Schlamme in the Christian satire magazine “The Wittenburg Door.” […]

‘God Grew Tired of Us’

posted by mkress

A clip from a new documentary about the Lost Boys of Sudan, some of whom came to America:

Soul Shepherd

posted by Ellen Leventry

Read any number of reviews of “The Good Shepherd,” Robert De Niro’s fascinating look at the birth of the Central Intelligence Agency through the eyes of a character loosely based on former counter-intelligence head James Jesus Angleton, and you will […]

Denzel Washington, Superstar

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Last fall, researcher George Barna–the Gallup of the Christian scene–found that Denzel Washington is better known and better loved than any living American religious figure. Lately, it seems as if Washington is running up the score. Denzel got a faith […]

“Dreamgirls” Hits A Few Good Notes

posted by Kris Rasmussen

With the success of the film adaptation of the musical “Chicago,” and to a lesser degree, “Rent,” Hollywood looks to the world of Broadway one more time for a hit–this time with the Motown celebration “Dreamgirls.” Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, and […]

Christmas a Silent Night for Madonna’s ‘Orphan’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Hard to say whether the Catholic-born Kabbalah convert Madonna celebrates Christmas. Last year, she reportedly prepped for the Yule by having four 72-pint firkins of ale delivered to her Wiltshire home: a good sign that Father Christmas was expected at […]

“I’m Sorry” is Big Business

posted by Douglas Howe

One more follow-up to CNN’s “Most Controversial Celebrities of 2006“: Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears not only provided non-stop fun and follies on which a starving (or bored) cultural audience feasted, but something else far more […]

A “Night” to Change Some Lives?

posted by Douglas Howe

While some reviewers panned it, I thought “A Night at the Museum” was full of surprises. The advertising run-up to this movie made it seem like it’d be sort of an indoors version of “Jurassic Park,” and the first several […]

Patricia Heaton: It’s Tough to Be Christian in Hollywood

posted by Donna Freitas

In “Not Everybody Loves Patricia,” Jesse Green of The New York Times writes a lengthy profile of Patricia Heaton–the two-time Emmy Award winner for her nine-season turn on “Everybody Loves Raymond“–and her struggles with being at once a popular actress […]

The Ford Legacy the Media Missed

posted by Douglas Howe

President Ford’s death has set off a week of reflection and commentary regarding his presidency and predictions about his lasting legacy. I’m sorry that one of the prime stories about his life has not been overly reported, and I understand […]

The Transcendental Art of David Lynch

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The connection between spirituality and art was once a given: think Dante or even the dark and edgy paintings of Breugel. In our day, art is understood to be secular, and the more edge, the more secular we expect the […]

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