Friday, October 10, 2008


This is going to be a filmtastic weekend, to make up for my inability to find time to see much in recent weeks. First up: "Religulous" with Bill Maher.

First things first: Before many movies these days, the National Guard has a commercial. Today, for the first time in my experience, the audience booed at the end of it. I guess it's obvious that an audience of religious skeptics might not be the biggest military fanatics. They also laughed quite happily at the trailer for "W," Oliver Stone's new film skewering George W. Bush.

Back to "Religulous," which is basically Bill Maher wandering around the world interviewing people about religion. He has fun with it, taking pains to argue and provoke and smirk at the preposterousness of what he's told. There are even a few interesting tidbits, like when he demonstrates the parallels between the story of Jesus and similar stories of ancient gods in the Mediterranean thousands of years earlier. (Some of this was new to me. Many ancient gods were born on December 25? Really?) He also finds a "Vatican Senior Priest" outside the Vatican, who has such a healthy and humorous skepticism that I'm not quite sure I buy that he was for real. Maher slams Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and the ol' punching bag, Scientologists. (Sadly he doesn't visit a Unitarian Church, but probably would not know how to deal with a group of people who don't prescribe any particular dogma, who in fact believe in doubt and skepticism.)

There are some great laughs and some cringe-inducing moments. But then it all goes downhill when Maher takes the last minutes (how many? felt like 20 but likely more like 4) to pontificate on why he thinks religion will kill us all. It reminded me of why I stopped watching his HBO show - it was great when he interviewed people and got into verbal battles, but he lost me when he talked directly to the audience. I guess it's also part of the whole "show, don't tell" approach I prefer - the film did enough to sell the idea of religion as "ridiculous," so let it stand for itself, don't swat me over the head with it.


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