I love New York Times critic A.O. Scott’s review of this movie, my favorite romantic comedy of the year so far by far. Scott beautifully captures the charm of this lovely film.
As thin as an iPod Nano, as full of adolescent self-display as a Facebook page, “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” strives to capture, in meticulous detail, what it’s like to be young right now….Norah’s wary, pouty manner and Nick’s odd mix of timidity and sarcasm are both strategies of self-protection.
I particularly admire this wonderfully evocative description of one of the key elements of the movie, as suggested by the title — the soundtrack, and how it complements and counterpoints the story and themes:
The tunes that play alongside their nocturnal adventure express longing, sadness, anxiety and joy with more intensity than they can muster themselves. Nick, played by the wet-noodle heartthrob Michael Cera (“Juno,” “Superbad”) and Norah (Kat Dennings, who has a hint of Kate Winslet’s soft, smart loveliness in her face) are, like so many kids these days, most comfortable with diffidence, understatement and a deadpan style of address that collapses the distinction between irony and sincerity.
Beliefnet bloggers speak out on Bill Maher’s new movie:
From Rabbi Brad Hirschfield of Windows and Doors:
[F]or starters, let’s stop giving Maher credit for attacking all religion. He doesn’t.
Instead, Maher selects the worst of religion and compares it to the best of secularism — hardly a fair fight. But he does make some very important points in this wickedly funny, if totally lopsided analysis of religion. And it’s the people who will be most offended by what he has to say that should listen the most. Why? Because religion shouldn’t get a free pass and it certainly hasn’t earned one.
Maher doesn’t have to go far, or look too hard, to find examples of truly frightening versions of religion, versions which are likely to get most of us killed. In fact, more people are dying today in the name of religion than any time since the crusades. And the more religious you are, the more that should bother you. It’s up to the faithful to clean up the mess that we have too often made of faith.
Over on Idol Chatter, in addition to my review, they have Paul O’Donnell:
If you’re going to see one movie that prowls the religious landscape, asking difficult questions and taking potshots at crackpots, see Bill Maher’s “Religulous.” Maher is no theologian, and even his grasp of international relations isn’t always firm, but this documentary, directed by Larry Charles, mixes the timing of a Chaplin short with the acidity of a stand-up act. In other words, you’ll laugh a lot. You’ll laugh despite yourself, no matter what you believe.
and Kris Rasmussen:
There is plenty to satirize about religion. There is plenty to debate about religion. But Maher spends time offending those believers of all faiths who are easily offended or fearful and never engages with believers who aren’t afraid of clever banter, witty one-liners, and cheap shots. Not only is there not much sport in that, but, come to find out, there’s really not much entertainment value in it, either…How much more interesting–maybe even funny–could the movie have been if Bill had really had the courage to go toe-to-toe with some of the more charismatic and intellectual religious minds around? But then maybe his pre-prepared zingers wouldn’t have seemed quite so clever. That doesn’t seem to be a risk Maher was willing to take.
I wondered what Steven Waldman would say about Maher’s quotes from the founding fathers about religion, since he wrote a superb and meticulously researched book on the subject.
In the beginning of the movie, he offers this quote from our second president, John Adams: “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”
Wow. That certainly provides stunning support for Maher’s thesis. Did Adams really mean that? Well, no. Here’s the full quote from Adams, which came in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817:
“Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’!!! But in this exclamation I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly [two clergy from his childhood]. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite society, I mean hell.”
Slightly different meaning when you see the rest of the quote, eh? Sort of makes one wonder how scrupulous Maher was with the rest of the editing. Perhaps this is an anomaly.
Or perhaps not — Maher is a provocateur, not a scholar.
I am grateful to Beliefnet blogger Aziz Poonawalla for bringing to my attention the 28 million free DVDs that were delivered with the Sunday newspaper throughout battleground states last month. The movie is called Obsession. According to Poonawalla, it
is a polemic for the modern age, the digital equivalent of a Jack Chick tract, only directed at muslims rather than Catholics. The movie is somewhat ironically named, because if anything it reflects the obsession that the Islamophobes in western society have with Islam as the bogeyman threat to their romanticized concept of perpetually-threatened Western civilization – muslims as Orcs.
Naturally, tens of millions of copies have been distributed for free in newspapers to voters in critical swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. And segments will be shown on Fox News, which reaches tens of millions more viewers.
The filmmakers insist that they are not anti-Muslim but anti-terrorist.
A new menace is threatening, with all the means at its disposal, to bow Western Civilization under the yoke of its values. That enemy is Radical Islam.
Using images from Arab TV, rarely seen in the West, Obsession reveals an ‘insider’s view’ of the hatred the Radicals are teaching, their incitement of global jihad, and their goal of world domination. With the help of experts, including first-hand accounts from a former PLO terrorist, a Nazi youth commander, and the daughter of a martyred guerilla leader, the film shows, clearly, that the threat is real.
A peaceful religion is being hijacked by a dangerous foe, who seeks to destroy the shared values we stand for. The world should be very concerned.
A U.S. Muslim advocacy group Tuesday asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether a nonprofit group that distributed a controversial DVD about Islam in newspapers nationwide is a “front” for an Israel-based group with a stealth goal of helping Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
The promoters of “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” denied trying to promote any presidential campaign. They said it’s also incorrect to tie the DVD campaign to Jerusalem-based educational group Aish HaTorah International, although current and former employees are involved with the project.
Distribution of the film was underwritten by the Clarion Fund, which does not disclose its staff, directors, or sources of contributions on its own website or the site devoted to the film. They may have some legitimate security concerns; nevertheless, the lack of transparency calls into question the integrity and objectivity of their materials.
A possible hate crime at a mosque in Dayton may be related to the distribution of “Obsession.”
But it is clear that the movie has inspired at least one act of principle and heroism. According to Poonawalla, one newspaper editor refused to distribute the movie.
John Robinson of the Greensboro, North Carolina News-Record explained their publisher’s decision on his blog:
He said it was divisive and plays on people’s fears and served no educational purpose. The revenue it would have brought in was not a motivator.
As I’ve said on other occasions about news decisions, just because you can publish doesn’t mean you should.
“Blindness” is the story of unnamed characters in an unnamed community who all suddenly lose their sight with just one exception, a doctor’s wife played by Julianne Moore. The newly blind citizens, along with Moore’s character, who pretends to be blind, are quarantined and quickly confront a series of tragic choices and heart-wrenching moral compromises and violations as they struggle to survive. The movie, like the novel that inspired it, is an allegory along the lines of “Lord of the Flies” or “28 Days Later.”
The National Federation of the Blind has criticized the film, saying that it portrays blind people as monsters. That is not true; it portrays human beings as monsters, or at least as animals who cast off the thin veneer of civilization when their infrastructure and external controls were removed. They also say it perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes, portraying the blind as unable to care for themselves and navigate. Again, that is not true. It portrays people who suddenly become blind and have no support services or training as having a very difficult adjustment. Indeed, there is one character who was blind before the epidemic, and the movie makes it clear that he does have the skills to use a cane and a braille machine.
Once again, misplaced activism attacks the most superficial details of a movie without taking time to understand that it is on their side.