Director Ang Lee doesn't like to make the same kind of movie twice, as he proved with films like Sense and Sensibility, a period drama, The Hulk, an action film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a martial arts movie, and Brokeback Mountain, a love story between two cowboys.
Lee wants to do projects that scare him, and his latest film, Life of Pi, fits that bill nicely. The film contains big philosophical questions about God and faith, and a big chunk of the story centers on a teenage boy, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, on a boat with a tiger.
On February 21, five women wearing masks and bright colors stormed the priests-only section of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior and staged a punk prayer protest. Among candles and gilded altars, they danced, genuflected and called out to the Virgin Mary. Were they praying for husbands, health, a record deal? No. They were the members of Pussy Riot, an art-collective branch of the larger art-collective Voina ("war" in Russian) founded in 2006 to protest the existing Russian government and President Vladimir Putin through art. Voina has performed dozens of provocative and politically charged conceptual art performances. More than a dozen criminal cases have been brought against the group.
On August 17, Pussy Riot perfomers Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samucevich were charged with public hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison.
"It is not clear in the Bible what Jesus thinks about lesbians, but it is pretty clear that he is okay with prostitutes." That is a rip-roaring line indeed, but writer and performer Maura Halloran already had me at Pussy, the title of her one-woman show that is part of DIVAfest, a theatrical festival that celebrates the work of established and emerging women writers, directors, and performers.
The show, which tells of the love "triangle" between three women and a cat, is not subtle in employing metaphorical and actual explorations of "pussy" in all its forms. As one audience member said of the show, "It was meow."
The amorous conflicts of a soft spoken, Christian woman who likes girls is a sweet story but the show also defies what many have come to expect from a one-woman show: therapy masquerading as art. The writer's sexuality is not the issue here, the details are not factual, and there are no torrid tales of childhood abuse.
Says Halloran, "In the post-Mike Daisey era, it seems imperative be totally transparent about solo work, so I feel I should state outright: I am not a cat. I also don't ID as lesbian. The story is inspired by true events and fleshed out by my own experiences of romantic love, but it's not autobiographical or documentary. It's just a story."
While the previously discussed Blood Freak is the high point of turkey-themed ultraviolent Christian Scare Film, there are other, non-turkey-themed ultraviolent Christan Scare Films to consider, and none is more considerable than 1971's If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, produced and directed by Ron Ormond and starring a Baptist minister named Estus Pirkle. So let's consider it. (The clips are largely NSFW.)
Back in 1985, Jean-Luc Godard released a movie called Hail Mary that made Catholics breathe fire. (Paradoxical metaphor noted.) It was a modern-day retelling of the immaculate conception where a woman named Marie gets pregnant even though she is a virgin. But it was also a French experimental film, so Marie has a number of unholy attributes, including a rather foul mouth. She uses words such as "cunt" referring to her own anatomy, and she appears wholly (not holy) unclothed. (Oh, the blasphemy!) I saw Hail Mary at the Roxie in 1985. Why? Because the Catholics were out in force trying to steer people away from it. Would I have seen it otherwise? Not a chance. Did I like it? Not really (hey, I was 18), but I liked seeing it because I got to cross a picket line of religious zealots and tell them just where they could stick their thought-policing.
The Catholics protesting a documentary called Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption could take a lesson from this: They risk sending more people to see the film by making noise about it, especially in San Francisco, a city that contains Catholics who are openly queer and don't feel one bit guilty about it. (Now there's a stand-off we'd love to see: red-state Catholics vs. San Francisco out-and-proud Catholics.)
"The Atheist and the Believer" is a tale as old as time, and a controversy as relevant this election year as ever. But author, philosopher, and entrepreneur Alain De Bottom proposes a middle ground and asks questions that blur the distinction between the two sides. What if we reject the notion of a deity, but personalize a kind of playlist of religious ideas that suit us best? Are we still atheists if we have religious-like philosophies in our life? De Botton address these questions in his latest work, Religion for Atheists, explaining that even if an atheist rejects religion, religion can still serve as a platform for good morals and ethics as well as a better life. We chatted with De Botton, who appears Thursday at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, to talk about his own beliefs, visiting San Francisco, misinterpretations of his book, and discovering the balance between atheism and religion.
The philosophy you share in Religion for Atheists, is it something you've practiced for a while? When did this idea come into your life, and how?
I was brought up an atheist and taught to think that all religion was nonsense from start to finish. Gradually I've lost that sarcastic attitude toward religion, and while I still don't believe, I've grown more curious and sympathetic toward certain religious attitudes and behaviors. While fully aware of the pain and bloodshed religions have been responsible for, I've also become more impressed by their high points, especially their attitudes to ethics, to aesthetics, and to ritual.