Idol Chatter

If you took the Ben Stiller comedy “Meet the Parents,” rewrote it in Spanish, and added in a dash of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and a pinch of religious conversion experiences, you’d end up with “Only Human,” which opens tonight in New York. The film is a hilarious comedy of errors and of family relationships, focusing on the romance between Leni, an actress and the middle child of a tight-knit Spanish Jewish family, and her new fiancé Rafi, a Palestinian professor. When Leni brings Rafi home to meet her family, she neglects to tell them that he isn’t Jewish. In the chaos after his family history is revealed, Rafi escapes to the kitchen to get ready for dinner. With his nerves on edge, he inadvertently hurls a bowl of frozen soup out the window, hitting a passer-by (who might be Leni’s father, on his way home from work) in the head and possibly killing him. The ensuing cover-up of Rafi’s potential crime, the search for the family’s missing patriarch, and the growing resentment between Leni and Rafi about their religious–and moral–differences is an entertaining tour through the inner workings of family dynamics.

And though it is laugh-out-loud funny, the film has a serious–though not at all heavy-handed–side, offering poignant sketches of characters dealing with marital infidelity, inter-religious conflict, family tension, parenting crises, sexual promiscuity, and aging. But as filmgoers will find, the joy of being only human is that it’s possible to live through these conflicts and troubling circumstances and still laugh about it all in the end.

The movie will hit screens in several other U.S. cities this summer; a full schedule of openings is available here.

The price of saying seven words you can’t say on television just went up: Thanks to legislation pushed by the Christian Coalition and signed into law by President Bush today, fines for broadcasting what the Federal Communications Commission deems indecent content will rise tenfold, from $32,500 per infraction to $325,000. (All seven will now cost $2,275,000.) The law, sponsored in the Senate by Kansas lawmaker and avowed Christian conservative Sam Brownback, is the fallout, so to speak, from Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2005 Super Bowl.

Some commentators believe the sum effect will be to create a filthier and cruder radio culture on XM and Sirius, the fledgling satellite radio companies outside the jurisdiction of the FCC. Much like cable television, which can air racier fare because viewers consent to their programming by purchasing it, the satellite channels have already hired Stern and other shock jocks to attract their loyal listeners and lure more with the promise of outlandish chat.

As the spring television seasons wound to a close in May, I finally took the advice of many friends and joined Netflix, the super-fast DVD service that gets film and television favorites to your door in the blink of an eye. While at first overwhelmed with the possibilities, I narrowed my priorities to a top-three television series list of shows I’ve been wanting to watch forever but never actually caught on the air:

1. “Smallville“: Four entire seasons already available on DVD about the boy Clark Kent (aka Superman) who struggles “to come to grips with his emerging superpowers–and the effects of various forms of kryptonite–while battling the strange things that have plagued this idyllic Midwest hamlet since the meteor shower.” Season One so far has that same “Monster of the Week” theme of Buffy’s Season One, which brings back fond memories.

2. “Joan of Arcadia“: Though the show stopped after only two seasons, which I still can’t believe I missed, “Joan of Arcadia” follows the life of a teenage girl who is a bit quirkier than average because of “the unusual way various people keep popping up, introducing themselves as God and then giving her specific directions to do things, such as get a job, join the debate team or volunteer with children. ” Is she a contemporary mystic? Conversations with God are a promising place to begin in that category.

3. “Firefly“: I couldn’t overlook Joss Whedon’s 13-episode one-season wonder about life in outer space with a Western twist. It’s your basic good vs. evil with a lot of moral ambiguity about who is really doing the good, since the heroes are outlaws.

I’m counting on Netflix to fill the summer series void and hope I picked some winners. More later…..

Last week, we blogged about Britney Spears’ spiritual journey, capped by her proclamation that her baby is her religion. Turns out that Britney’s announcement did more than make headlines– it also cost her the close friendship of Madonna, an ardent student of Kabbalah who introduced Britney to the faith. The Material Girl–who is on a world tour in which she gets crucified on stage during one of her songs–is a huge supporter of the Kabbalah Centre in L.A. and has written several Kabbalah-themed childrens’ books.

Who seems to be stepping into the new vacancy in Madonna’s inner circle (which also reportedly includes Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney)? Lindsay Lohan, of course. The almost-20-year-old actress/singer reportedly wants to collaborate on a song with Madonna and has expressed an interest in Kabbalah. One source even claims they’re taking a trip to Israel together. Next up: kissing each other on MTV?

Even without Madonna in her life, a lot’s been going on in Britney Land. First, she went on the “Today Show” this morning to stump for tonight’s “Dateline” appearance, where commercials indicate she’ll defend her parenting skills. Brit’s been photographed lately with a young man accompanying her, and some outlets have said he’s her “manny,” or male nanny. After all, Brit’s part of the generation who grew up watching Tony Danza on “Who’s the Boss?”

It sounds like she needs all the help she can get, especially if she’s just lost one of her most powerful allies.

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