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Wed, 23 Apr 2008 16:18:42 +0000
Would you go to see a film about a pregnant New York waitress from a deprived background – estranged from her family, dumped by her lover, fired for being late, and about to arrange an abortion? Really? If you said no, you would certainly be affirmed in your decision by critics at the top Entertainment [...]
Would you go to see a film about a pregnant New York waitress from a deprived background – estranged from her family, dumped by her lover, fired for being late, and about to arrange an abortion? Really?
If you said no, you would certainly be affirmed in your decision by critics at the top Entertainment sections. Independent upstart Metanoia Films’ first effort (Bella, 2006) was roundly trashed, as this sample from Rotten Tomatoes shows:
New York Times reporter Stephen Holden dismissed Bella as a “saccharine trifle” and worse:
The Toronto Star didn’t get around to running a review of Bella by Susan Walker until April 11, 2008. But under the circumstances, why did the Star run a review at all? Ah, there is a story in that …
But what did the audience think?
Bella prompted a sudden second look when it won the 2006 Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice award – that, of course, is the audience rating, not the critics’ rating. As Hollywood Reporter (September 27, 2006) announced breathlessly
And Rotten Tomatoes grudgingly conceded,
Indeed, Bella soared in audience popularity in 2007, winning Best Picture and Best Actor at the 2008 MovieGuide Awards. It was also #1 in a New York Times’ readers’ poll, and at Yahoo and Fandango (WorldNetDaily, November 3, 2007) , as well winning as many other awards and honours – and doing just fine at the box office.
One reason Bella was trashed by elite critics is that they apparently perceived the film as anti-choice or even anti-abortion. To them, that meant that it was unrealistic about the limited and possibly unlivable future of working class people.
True, Bella has been enthusiastically plugged by prolife and profamily groups, but the film is in no sense an anti-abortion tract. The word abortion is not used, though the subject is discussed (“termination).” Jose obviously does not want his new friend Nina to abort her baby, but he refrains from offering “arguments” against it. He has a much larger project in mind, as we shall see.
The most interesting question about the film’s popularity is, why didn’t the elite critics’ condemnation matter much? Two reasons, I suspect: Not only is there a huge divide between elite culture and popular culture in North America, but elite culture is losing its hold on the Internet, which is fast becoming the primary medium of communication. For example, recent stats (April 15, 2008) show that time spent at news media Web sites is declining. Web users merely drive by and then go on to seek a variety of alternative views.
Bella and the design of life
If I told you exactly how I think Bella relates to intelligent design, I would spoil critical scenes and, – worse – tempt you to read it as some kind of an allegory. So let me hint: Nina starts out assuming that life is determined in advance, and it is very limited. No one cares, and no one will ever care what she does. Therefore, she must have an abortion.
She doesn’t exactly “want” an abortion. It would be more accurate to say that she cannot imagine a future in which she did not have one. An abortion will accomplish the only goal she can imagine: set her back on the treadmill to nowhere instead of tipping her into the abyss of nothingness. And that is her future – her full stop is delayed a while.
We are not encouraged to judge Nina for her past or proposed choices, but rather to see them in the context of her limited expectations.
But Jose, the chef at Nina’s former workplace, has plunged into the abyss himself. He has emerged, knowing that life is not as Nina thinks. On the contrary, there is a design to life, and that design is much larger and more promising than we usually imagine. If we cooperate with it, we become our best selves. If we don’t, we wander, aimless and self-destructive, forever bound by limits of our own making. Jose impulsively walks away from his frantic kitchen and sets out to demonstrate that to Nina.
He senses that he is one of the few men who can truly relate to the dilemma Nina and many other pregnant single women face. His own life, like theirs, was forever altered by the outcome of a few moments of unwise choices. After Nina learns Jose’s story, she will not likely ever say to him, “You don’t understand what it is like.” He does understand.
Bella avoids tipping over into mere sentiment in large part because Jose’s close family are the survivors of his tragedy. Their relationships are all they were left with – love among the ruins.
Bella is a beautiful film, and I can think of no higher praise than to say it is loved by the right people – and hated by the right people as well. Only at the very end do we discover the meaning of the title, and I will not spoil that for you.
Redemption motif: Redeeming the Latin lead
For Eduardo Verastegui, co-owner of production company Metanoia Films, the role of Jose was the outcome of a profound personal discovery and commitment. As Deborah Gyapong relates, in Western Catholic Reporter (May 28, 2007),
So far, Verastegui was well on the way to a career as a conventional Latin star, but
Verastegui spent months in tears, sold his goods, and vowed never to play another role that demeaned his culture.
Later, he ran into director Alejandro Monteverdi, co-writer of the screenplay with Patrick Million, and they formed an independent film company to produce the film, which was shot in New York in 24 days.
Bella official site
Bella Fan Club
Bella box office
Reviews, reviews: Denyse O’Leary’s reviews of recent books and movies relevant to the intelligent design controversy
Wed, 18 Apr 2007 00:22:26 +0000
by Denyse O’Leary ARN correspondent Before this arts site got started, I had been reviewing movies and books that are relevant to the intelligent design controversy at the regular ARN site. Here are brief intros and links to reviews that this site’s users might enjoy. I will add a link to this post to my [...]
by Denyse O’Leary
Before this arts site got started, I had been reviewing movies and books that are relevant to the intelligent design controversy at the regular ARN site. Here are brief intros and links to reviews that this site’s users might enjoy. I will add a link to this post to my future posts, so you can get back here if you are looking for a past review.
March of the Penguins: Why there was a fuss about the “intelligent design” implications of this film
Should you permit your children to see March of the Penguins? Not if you want to raise them as unquestioning Darwinists.
What the Bleep Do We Know?: Well, somehow, I don’t think we know this, anyway …
This film addresses the reasons, based in quantum mechanics, for doubting the radical materialist view of the universe. I’m all for doubting radical materialism, but I don’t quite think this approach is the answer, and here’s why.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Why was this tale of devilry linked to intelligent design theory? The only connection – but it is certainly an interesting one – is the film’s portrayal of what happens when an apparent truth cannot be accepted by a society that is committed to an ideology that rules that truth out of bounds.
Science fiction: Rob Sawyer takes on intelligent design in The Calculating God What if the aliens land, and they think the universe shows evidence of intelligent design? Even more remarkably, they are much more interested in Toronto (Canada) than in Washington or New York? Why?
Darwinian Fairy-Tales: Why evolutionary psychology is nonsense In Darwinian Fairy-Tales, agnostic Australian philosopher David Stove minces evolutionary psychology. The problem is that evo psycho is true to Darwinian theory but not to human experience.
Tech guru George Gilder: Why ID is onto something! One thing I learned from covering the ID controversy is that intelligent design makes many more converts among engineers than among biologists. I think that is because engineers have a much clearer grasp of the critical question, “how, exactly.” They must make processes work every day. So, for example, if six different processes involving cellular machinery consisting of hundreds of molecules must randomly self-assemble by means of natural selection, what, exactly, is the probability of success in given time frame? Gilder addresses Darwinism in this light.
Fri, 02 Feb 2007 11:25:27 +0000
We look to film for entertainment, escape, and occasionally to explore the deeper issues of life. But can film be an effective medium to explore the material/non-material boundary? Damah is a non-profit organization that encourages an emerging generation of filmmakers from diverse perspectives to voice the spiritual aspect of the human experience through film and [...]
Damah is a non-profit organization that encourages an emerging generation of filmmakers from diverse perspectives to voice the spiritual aspect of the human experience through film and provides a forum for these artists to develop, discuss and display their vision.
In January, 2001, a group of individuals met to brainstorm about how they could support artists who desired to explore spirituality. They had a desire to create an event where people from a wide spectrum of spiritual backgrounds could come together to form a community where ideas, thoughts and perspectives on the spiritual aspect of life could be explored through the art of the short film.
The cream-of-the-crop from the first six Damah Film Festivals are available on DVD, and a few of these short films can be viewed for free online. For an example of one that drifts into the ID space check out Gabrielle. This 15 minute film tells the story of an unborn soul who has to make the decision whether or not to be born. The materialist worldview proclaims that we are born, we pay taxes, and we die. Is there more to life then that? Where do souls come from? Where do souls go? Are we more than a collection of chemicals that decompose when we die? These are all worthy questions raised by Gabrielle.
Those of you who can’t make the trip to L.A. for the next Damah Film Festival in May 2007, might want to check out the Altarnet Film Society which is setting up chapters around the country to watch and discuss the Damah short films.
Tue, 16 Jan 2007 18:57:57 +0000
Reviewed by Tom Magnuson 1997 Drama/Sci-Fi (PG), directed by Robert Zemeckis, 153 min, IMDb Info Many are intrigued by the possibility of other advanced civilizations in the cosmos. The interest ranges from the general public to gifted scientists such as Carl Sagan, whose book Contact was the inspiration for a 1997 blockbuster film. Contact portrays [...]
Reviewed by Tom Magnuson
Many are intrigued by the possibility of other advanced civilizations in the cosmos. The interest ranges from the general public to gifted scientists such as Carl Sagan, whose book Contact was the inspiration for a 1997 blockbuster film. Contact portrays the scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) by the passionate Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodi Foster). Although Sagan was a outspoken public champion for a materialistic worldview, this movie raises many interesting discussion questions about the nature of our universe, the nature of reality, and the assumptions behind our worldviews.
The tensions in the film range from the career confrontations between Ellie and her former mentor Dr. David Drumlin, and worldview encounters between Ellie and religionist Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey).
While atheistic scientist Ellie is earnestly searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, Palmer claims to have already made contact with just such an intelligence: God. Ellie seeks empirical proof for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent material beings, while Palmer’s experience with God (intelligent designer) is more faith based. Ellie defines reality as only the space-time continuum, while Palmer is willing to allow for the extra-natural, as evidenced by our every day encounters with immaterial thoughts, emotions, and laws of logic and reason. At one point Palmer asks Ellie to empirically prove that she loved her father. This theme is repeated through the film. Some things or notions cannot be empirically established and, yet, they are just as real as those entities that can be.
Ellie Arroway asks questions and gives advice. “What if science simply revealed that an intelligent designer never existed in the first place?” “There’s no chance that your had this experience (with a personal intelligent designer) because a part of you needed to have it?” She claims that a personal intelligent designer did not give any proof of its existence in the material world, and that believers may be self-deluded. She shows her relativistic worldview, which naturally flows from her atheism, by encouraging young students to “keep searching for your own answers (their individual Truth of reality).”
Father Joss is a thoughtful and bright man. He claims that science cannot give man ultimate meaning, and is supposed to be a pursuit of the total Truth of reality, even if unavoidable metaphysical conclusions arise. He attacks scientific materialism by chastising those scientists who deify technology and limit their search for the Truth of reality to the material realm.
One mantra through the film is that if we are the only intelligent beings in the cosmos, then it seems “like an awful waste of space.” However, very recent discoveries have revealed that the mass density of the cosmos requires that it be as expansive as it is, for galaxies, and stars, and even one life habitable planet to form. In fact, the fine-tuning is astounding, better than one part in 1060. Even more finely tuned to allow for the existence of life in the cosmos is the dark energy density term, better than one part in 10120. This fine-tunedness is important to note, because Carl Sagan made his appeal for millions of advanced civilizations in the cosmos based on the Drake Equation. The equation makes many assumptions, such as the materialist’s view that life springs easily from non-living materials and is tenacious once it does so.
Dr. Arroway’s search of extraterrestrial intelligence is tireless. Early in the film, she is momentarily fooled by the beat of a natural signal source, a pulsar. When Dr. Arroway and her colleagues discover a message of specified complexity, a pulse sequence of prime numbers from 2 to 101, the universal language of math was recognized immediately as coming from an intelligent source. As the signal continued, it became even more complex; the blueprints to build a transport machine to take someone to the Vega system.
In an ironic twist, Ellie experiences an existential dilemma. A life-changing contact occurs, as she travels to the Vega system and is given the materialist’s meaning of life: the only thing we have found to make this emptiness (and ultimate meaninglessness) bearable is each other. But when she returned to Earth there is no empirical proof that she had this experience. The skeptics ask her if she wants them to take her experience on faith. She replies that everything she knows in her mind tells her it was real.
In its own unique way, Contact offers a taste of drama, romance, suspense, and science fiction. It is truly a great film which touches the emotions and the intellect.
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