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Tuesday, March 19 2002

Much ado about Oscars

Having been abandoned by my muse* for today's entry, I'll make a comment about a news item now linked on my Xnmp site. The item regards a movie that was recently considered the most likely candidate to get the best-movie Oscar next Sunday, A Beautiful Mind, which is a film adaptation of a book of the same title about real-life erstwhile schizophrenic/genius mathematician John Nash, played by Russell Crow. I haven't seen the movie or read the book, but have seen interviews with director Ron Howard and some of the cast members. Nash appeared on "60 Minutes" on Sunday to address some of the controversy (I didn't see that, either, but have read accounts of it).

My interest is in just one point (maybe one-and-a-half points) about the tempest: claims of some critics that the movie's omission of any reference to Nash's homosexual encounters and a related arrest in earlier years and also his sometimes having uttered demeaning anti-Jewish slurs amounts to a gloss and, now that they've been pointed out, it should disqualify the movie from getting the Oscar.

It seems to me that critics who make these claims are practicing a kind of reverse "McCarthyism," to turn the tables on one of the liberals' favorite shibboleths. McCarthyism, as used to describe "artistic endeavors" like books, music, performances, and films, looks at the politics of the people performing rather than the performance or output, something we've always been told is wrong. We shouldn't have boycotted the movie in 1954 because it's director was—or someone, perhaps Joe McCarthy, said he was—a Communist, because it may have been a darn good movie if given a chance to stand on its artistic merits. Though some creative endeavors should be disqualified from public favor because they—on the whole—outrage public decency (a biography of Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin that fails to mention their evils, for example), that principle doesn't seem to apply here. John Nash hasn't been accused of being evil and has been treated for mental disorders should earn him some benefit of a doubt. And beyond all that, there is a whole life that is the kernel of the movie that treats those aspects of his personal history. Should the movie have been an hour longer, or two? Some might suggest so, but movies that long haven't been getting much support in recent years.

Every work of fiction has to pick which items to include and treat. Obviously, a book has more latitude than a movie. Howard, and his screenwriters (who happen to be Jewish, they've risen to point out) chose to tell the straight romantic story of John Nash and his wife, not the whole enchilada. That is legitimate in any artistic endeavor...in my humble opinion. As for the Oscar, I think I've seen only two of the nominees... Memento, on tape, and The Lord of the Rings in a theater. Memento is an okay diversion, but not in the best-film category, as I see it. The Lord of the Rings would be a worthy winner.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

*Noun: any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences

The warning sign

A local priest and pastor were fishing on the side of the road, when an idea came to them. They thoughtfully made a sign saying, "The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it's too late!" and showed it to each passing car. One driver who drove by didn't appreciate the sign and shouted at them: "Leave us alone, you religious nuts!"

All of a sudden they heard a big splash, looked at each other, and the priest said to the pastor, "Do you think we should just put up a sign that says 'Bridge Out' instead?"

—Sent by Sallie Covolo

Lenten thought for the day

Last year was unusual in that Eastern Orthodox and Western Churches celebrated the resurrection feast on the same Sunday, and their lenten periods also overlapped almost entirely. This year is on the other end of the spectrum, with Western Easter less than two weeks away, and Orthodox lent beginning this Monday, its Pascha coming in May. This department is thus shortening the lenten thoughts period, running only for the two weeks of the fasts' overlap. Though there are no "hard and fast rules" about this department, in general the lenten thoughts are more specifically aimed at the Christian doctrines of repentance and spiritual growth, rather than general "good thoughts." As always, contributions by readers to this department are appreciated. —Webmaster

The same terms are used [by the Bible's writers] to express the knowledge of God as are used to express knowledge of physical things; "O taste and see tht the Lord is good." "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia." "My sheep hear my voice." "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

These are but four of countless such passages from the Word of God. And more important than any proof text is the fact that the whole import of the Scripture is toward this belief. We apprehend the physical world by exercising the faculties by means of which we can know God and the spiritual world if we will obey the Spirit's urge and begin to use them. That a saving work must first be done in the heart is taken for granted here. The spiritual faculties of the unregenerate man lies asleep in his nature; they may be quickened to active life again by the operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration!

—Oswald Chambers
Sent by Judy Martin

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