Idol Chatter

For Catholics, yesterday was the feast of the Assumption of Mary. For almost everyone else, it was the eve of a different kind of holy day: the 29th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death on Aug. 16, 1977. So Catholics in Memphis, Tenn., where Elvis lived most of his adult life, have figured out how to combine these two important days: the annual “Elvis Mass” at St. Paul’s church, the Catholic church closest to Elvis’s mansion, Graceland.

St. Paul’s “would have been Elvis’ parish had he been Catholic,” remarks “Dennis,” a Catholic seminarian in Memphis who notes the double holy day–which he calls “the Vigil of the Memorial of Elvis” on his Vita Mea blog. The 3 p.m. Mass enables Catholics in Memphis to combine their obligation to attend Mass on the feast of the Assumption with their desire to honor their city’s most famous resident. As Dennis writes, it’s a way to “remember the Queen of Heaven, and to ask her intercession on behalf of the King of rock and roll.” Elvis probably needs her intercession, for his last days before his death at age 42, probably of a heart attack, seemed to have been a haze of prescription-drug abuse and serious overeating.

Still, the King, although a Protestant, was devoted to the Queen, and in 1972 he recorded “The Miracle of the Rosary” in her honor. The “Miracle” is always among the hymns sung at the Elvis Mass, along with “How Great Thou Art,” another favorite among the numerous hymns he recorded. After that, many of the thousand or so attendees at the Elvis Mass (many of whom are non-Catholics) join the crowd of thousands more for the annual candlelight vigil of song and prayer at the gates of Graceland.

As if this past week’s orange and red security threat alerts aren’t making us nervous enough, there are a slew of documentaries coming out soon on DVD or working their way across the country in limited release at art-house movie theaters that further illuminate the atrocities of war, terrorism, and governments out-of-control. As I mentioned last week here at Idol Chatter, I saw several independent documentaries recently at Michael Moore’s film festival in northern Michigan and it’s time now for me to highlight the best of the bunch.

The reason to make an effort to see these films is quite simple. Societal change cannot happen without further awareness of the pressing issues of our culture. Documentaries give coverage to these issues that soundbytes on TV simply can’t. The danger with watching any of these documentaries is that the documentary film is no longer an art form of presenting fair and balanced information, but an art form that, with few exceptions, celebrates rhetoric as its means of communication. So these films require a great deal of effort from the audience, as they must sift through what is simply emotional appeal and what is the truth.

And if watching these films discourages you too much about the present condition of our world, just head to the cineplex and watch “Talledega Nights” one more time.

The Road to Guantanamo: A mix of documentary and drama, this film tells the little-known story of three young British men of Pakistani descent who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were thrown into prison at Guantanamo Bay for two years because of it. I had never heard of this incident and found the details absolutely horrfying. The film is clearly going to be a P.R. nightmare for the Bush administration if the movie gets any kind of national release.

The War Tapes: A reporter was asked by the National Guard to do a documentary as an embedded journalist. Instead, she arranged for cameras to be given to the soldiers to allow them to shoot the film. The result is a raw look at life behind enemy lines and wouldn’t exactly make a good recruiting video for our military.

The Canary Effect: Native American cinema is rare, and this documentary traces the history of what the United States government’s policies have done to Native American culture, and puts forth the premise that the genocide of Native Americans is still happening in our society today. Even if you don’t buy into everything the movie has to say, it is truly a haunting look at the struggle of Native Americans to survive.

Who Killed the Electric Car?: Michael Moore gave this film his coveted “Roger Smith Award” (the award is named after General Motors executive Roger Smith, who was the subject of Moore’s documentary “Roger & Me”). The film should play as a double feature with Al Gore’s environmental documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” because “Car” tells the story of an alleged conspiracy by General Motor to kill their development of the eco-friendly electric car to make the oil companies happy.

For more information on other documentary winners from the festival, go here.

Apparently, with just 1 million “points” you can get into heaven! At least if you attend The Church of St. John the Evangelist in Ontario, Canada, that is. St. John’s and radio station CHEZ 106 (106.1 FM) have teamed up to sponsor a contest where congregants and radio listeners are offered “absolution of past sins” by God and a ticket into heaven. They’re enticing people with catchy advertising: “Lived the ‘Classic Rock’ lifestyle in the past? Coveted your neigbour’s wife? Lied to your boss? Feel like you’re being dragged down by your past indulgences?”

Are you interested yet? Check this out, from the press release, for full details:

St. John’s Anglican Church, 154 Somerset West in Ottawa, and Classic Rock CHEZ 106 are proud to announce an exciting new contest which allows Ottawa residents the opportunity to win something that no amount of money can buy!

Starting Monday, August 14th 2006 @ 5am, CHEZ 106 (106.1 FM) will offer members of its online VIP club the opportunity to exchange “Platinum Points” for absolution from their past sins.

“Living the Classic Rock lifestyle, we’ve all done things we’re not proud of,” says CHEZ 106 Program Director & Afternoon DJ Jeff Brown. “And as part of our new VIP Club, we want to offer listeners the chance at things they normally can’t gain access. What’s more exclusive than a free ticket into Heaven?”

“Heaven is not a pie in the sky when you die,” says Garth Bulmer, priest at the church. “It’s about unloading the crap which drags you down and picking up a new life. It’s just a click away.”

Listeners are encouraged to participate in this “Points” program through station contesting, events, or while the station is on location in the Ottawa Community. Normally, listeners can exchange these points for concert tickets, cds / dvds, books, station merchandise, or other prizes periodically made available to them through our website at

The contest, which runs until September 30th, 2006, offers no refunds and is not guaranteed.

I suppose this is one way to modernize what was a rather popular medieval means of getting into heaven!

I promised myself: No more Mel Gibson blog pieces. But I can’t resist sharing this thought, one insightful point in a long article full of insightful points, by Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman:

WAS IT MEL’S RAGE, OR HIS BETTER ANGELS, THAT DROVE HIM TO MAKE THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST? Both, and that’s why it’s a true Passion play. The simple explanation for why Gibson crafted his version of the Gospels is that he’s a self-confessed sinner, and therefore an ideal candidate to tell the primal story of Christian redemption. I believe that, yet what makes Gibson a singular poster child for the temptations (and ravages) of sin is that when you consider what a widely worshipped Hollywood star he is, a man who can do pretty much anything he wants, he is by now so obviously ruled by his addictions that it’s no great leap to say that they’re filling a hole in his spirit.

Gleiberman also says that despite Mel’s faults and bigotry, he’s eager to see “Apocalypto” anyway. I couldn’t agree more. Read the whole article here.