There Just Might Be Dragons

“There is no movement of Catholics using the medium of cinema to do what Flannery O’Connor did with the short story or what Walker Percy did with the novel,” she said. “And when we do make a movie, we don’t use the medium anywhere near how it should be used.” Barbara Nicolosi

What does Nicolosi mean here by no movement? What is she doing then with ActOne? If she said there is no legal corporation doing what O’Connor or Percy did I would agree. At least nothing immediately comes to mind. However, what the heck is this whole enterprise over here about? Is Korrektiv not a movement?

Yes, in my opinion, it is. This comes to the point of why I agreed to guest blog in the first place. With my schedule it is very difficult, but I want to discuss how hopeful I am for the future. My guest blogging time grows short, but within that time I hope to inspire you all to keep struggling and resisting despite the difficulties of getting your works viewed and appreciated. What attracted me to this site a few years ago was the tag line “bad Catholics, blogging at a time near the end of the world.” I am still not sure what “bad Catholics” means, but I am certain that we are blogging at a time near the end of the world. I am uniquely privileged to see the implosion of our civilization in a microcosm, and simply am able to extrapolate to the broader impacts. I’ve seen the future and it is bleak, boring, and a cage. It is a virtual gulag with comfortable quarters and three squares a day. Hence the earlier Tolkien post, and another planned before I run out of time.

What Korrektiv is doing is providing a community of thought that will sustain Christian civilization as the materialism that “leaders” embraced, continues to occupy and expand into territory that Christians have ceded. Korrektiv is a movement, and even some members have used their skill to do what O’Connor and Percy did with their skills in their time. Some members have written scripts, and have attempted to engage the culture through their works. That is just film, but what about other projects? There is poetry and stories, and I am sure a few of you have some visual art up your sleeve–crafts too.

I liked the OSV article and largely agree with Nicolosi’s comments. However, this type of story grows old and tiresome. What is to be done? As the blog prophet I feel obligated to warn you of the approaching doom. Maybe that is a strong assertion. People enjoy the prophet in film and stories because they see that the prophet is correct fifteen minutes later during the big reveal. In real life, not so much. It’s hard to believe that the world is crumbling down when it crumbles so slowly and with little discernment, especially if one lives on clean streets and has penicillin. But it has been crumbling for decades even a century or two if one cares to look. The shadow has fallen. Tell me I am wrong. Engage me. Argue with me. Please! Prove to me that the materialism we have chosen will not run it course to the bitter end.

But I do know there is hope, and it is in the arts. I am convinced of it. I am convinced that “Beauty will save the world.” Indeed. I am committed to that idea, and know it is true. I live my life within a great Beauty, but I fail more often than not to convey it to all of you. As long as you keep working there is a movement to resist the shadow, and from your work you give hope to others to resist it too. Never give up or get discouraged, no matter how many times you are rejected. If you are a Christian artist the whole world is depending on you right now, so hope, I do, and become all flame.

(Disclaimer: I had no idea what JOB posted nor did we communicate before hand. Just saw it now myself.)


  1. Matthew Lickona says:

    That was flat-out beautiful, Cubeland. I may just have to print it out and stick it on the wall.

    • Really? I read it twice and still couldn’t say what the point was.

      >>What does Nicolosi mean here by no movement? What is she doing then with ActOne?

      She is trying to see that there is a drop in the bucket.

      But the point really was that the Catholics with a little fistful of cash who have cinematic pretensions very rarely have any understanding of the limits and possibilities of the cinematic art form. They make bad movies because they have no idea what it takes to make a good movie. But they love the Lord so, you know, it’s okay in the end.

      • Matthew Lickona says:

        I would say this is the point: “But I do know there is hope, and it is in the arts…As long as you keep working there is a movement to resist the shadow, and from your work you give hope to others to resist it too.”

        Also, it seems to me that your account is not entirely complete in this particular case. Because in this case, they put themselves in the hands of a non-Catholic who they believed knew what it took to make a good movie, no? Someone who they thought had some understanding of the limits and possibilities of the cinematic art form, based on his previous work. People thought well of The Mission and The Killing Fields. It seems to me that there was something other than Catholic cinematic pretension at work, seeing as how a non-Catholic sort of took over the project.

        • Barbara Nicolosi says:

          You really don’t know anything about it at all.

          They were full of hubris and ego and ignorance and had never been near any part of the movie business before. They put themselves in the hands of a man who had not made a good movie in thirty years, and had never written a good movie. (The Mission was, uh, Robert Bolt.) They put themselves in the hands of an avowed and committed Leftist who had spent the last twelve years making psycho-sexual pornish films. They were over their heads and beyond reason.

          You really don’t know anything about it at all.

          • Matthew Lickona says:

            I’m happy to grant that I don’t know anything about it at all beyond what was in the papers. Yes, it certainly seems that they put themselves in the hands of the wrong man, and that they were over their heads and beyond reason. But it’s a little different from, say, finding someone who was a faithful Catholic first and a competent director not at all, and giving him all the money and trusting in the Lord to produce a masterpiece. You said here that “Catholics make bad movies because they have no idea of what it takes to make a good movie.” I replied that these particular Catholics seemed to know that, and to seek out someone who had some reputation for knowing better than they did. Yes, they chose poorly. But Robert Bolt was an atheist, and he wrote A Man For All Seasons. Maybe they thought some good would come of it?

            • Matthew Lickona says:

              But of course, ultimately, you’re right. This is all based on a totally outsider view. I don’t really know anything about it at all.

              • Matthew Lickona says:

                p.s. Don’t miss the olive branch!

                • Barbara Nicolosi says:

                  Olive branch grateful acknowledged. I own that I am still smarting over the fiasco that was There Be Dragons. It was amazing t me how the Opus Dei folks behind the project were so willing to put their faith in a man they knew is a Leftist, um, pervert, and not willing at all to listen to me who was a committed Catholic on their side. They threw me under the bus with vigor and enthusiasm and self-righteousness. They were literally writing their Oscar acceptance speech while I was pleading with them that the script Joffe had delivered to them was not only not better than mine, but, in fact, undermined everything they had originally started out to accomplish in the project. They had celebrity stars in their eyes and it caused them to jettison their prudence and simple justice. It was ugly, and I remember promising them, “If you proceed like this, you will not only not bring honor to your saint, but he will fight against you.” Of course, it ended badly – $50 million blown all to hell.

                  It didn’t have to happen. It happened, because a group of people who knew nothing about movie making let themselves be completely eaten up by a Hollywood wolf who saw them coming from a distance.

      • Cubeland Mystic says:

        Hi Barbara

        My point is to encourage my friends here at Korrektiv to persevere with their efforts at art. I want them to understand that they do make a difference and are appreciated. They have talent and are gifted.

        When I first heard about ActOne a couple years ago, the first word that came to mind was “movement”. That is why I remembered it all this time, and pay attention to what you have to say when I hear you interviewed. I am in agreement with the direction in which you are moving. I support it. I see someone who is trying to use their talent counter to the dominant culture. Isn’t that a movement? Aren’t you trying to do what O’Connor, and Percy did?

        I think what you are doing constitutes a movement, and what the folks here at Korrektiv are doing is part of the same movement. I just thought that your comment was unclear, and that we should always be mindful that we are a movement counter to the culture of death. We might lose sight of that in the context of our own struggles. The point of the post was to encourage Christian artists including yourself.

        I do not wish to be dominated by the culture, hence I resist. I resist by my posts, my comments, my support, the small random acts of arts and crafts that I create around my home. I try to infuse this spirit in my children, others children, my like minded friends, and just about anyone else who will listen. What other choice do I have but to resist? My faith requires it. The mainstream culture is a coercive murderous all pervasive greasy haze of malicious intentions that attempts to dominate every aspect of our lives.

        That was my point.

        • Cubeland Mystic says:

          Hi Barbara

          Oh and I meant to ask What is wrong with a drop in the bucket?

          • Barbara Nicolosi says:

            You need clout to have cultural impact. There is no clout in being a drop in the bucket. You can’t do anything without money especially in the entertainment and media sector. The Catholics who have money tend to sashay away from investing meaningfully in media projects. Movies are a notoriously bad investment. The Left is generally willing to throw their money after entertainment and media projects, knowing that a few in every batch will score, as in, last year’s pro-euthanasia Emmy winner, “You Don’t Know Jack.”

            At the same time, we can say with relief, “At least, there is a drop in the bucket thanks to Act One and a few other ministries on the Evangelical side. The Catholic Church is beyond pathetic in the arena of mainstream entertainment, media and storytelling. Just this week, the official Archdiocese of L.A. outreach to the entertainment industry, Catholics in Media, announced that it is giving its annual award to Modern Family. You either know how stupid and counter-productive that gesture is, or you are not paying attention. Most orthodox Catholics are happily not paying attention. They are “eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage”…

            • Matthew Lickona says:

              Oh, dear. Modern Family? Oh, dear. Go Alphonse!

            • Cubeland Mystic says:

              Hi Barbara
              Through your fingers flow beauty, and it may be a drop but it is a mighty drop.

              I agree with all you said about how pathetic we can be. I worked on a media delivery system project once. After a few months of working with Catholics I wanted little to do with them or the project. Like you said, they were in over their heads. “Let’s get the Bishop to approve our Logo.” Wow seriously!?!? I totally agree about clout and money.

              I would like to thank you for your work and to encourage you to keep struggling. You have the ability to touch souls through your work. I know it must be discouraging, but honestly when I see projects like ActOne and people saying I am going to resist the darkness it gives me hope. It strengthens me. It really does.

              We can judge the culture by the content of its art. We can look through Netflix for hours and hundreds of titles and the universe of titles we can watch is small and narrow. Who watches the rest? At some point you have to say that I can only do what I do and hope. Have you considered that you are living in a time of a “cold persecution” for lack of better term. We are comfortable. I would luxuriate in the comfort but for the fact something is terribly terribly wrong, and I cannot relax despite a nice house, clean streets and penicillin. I hope that makes sense to you, but more importantly I hope I encouraged you a bit today.

        • Barbara Nicolosi says:

          Thanks, Cube. We were hoping to see a movement start. Now, we’d be happy to be able to pay the rent at Act One this summer…

          • Cubeland Mystic says:

            Have you gone up to Thomas Aquinas to evangelize some of those Catholic hippies up there? I know a bunch of kids there who are filled with desire to have an impact, but have no idea what to do. That wasn’t part of their consciousness growing up. I won’t go into it, but they are up there. They just need someone to talk to them. Plus it is a nice place to hang out for a couple hours. If you are interested Lickona can hook you up.

  2. CM,



  3. notrelatedtoted says:

    I believe that the man who wrote A Man for All Seasons was an atheist, if I recall correctly.

    Chew on that for a moment. A non-Catholic just out-Catholiced damn near everyone who has tried to do anything similar since.

    I made a comment a week or so ago about Don Draper sitting around wondering about how he could be even more Don Drapier. This, in my half-baked opinion, is the problem of our current age: we’re too self-aware, we spend too much time thinking about the image we want to cast upon the world. AMC Don Draper agonizes over every move in the midst of an existential crisis. Real World Don Draper did whatever he wanted, and figured it out later, if at all. The danger for AMC Don Draper is that he loses all authenticity.

    Pondering over the Identity of the Catholic Artist is a dead end, in my opinion. When Beauty does save the world, it will be because it is Beautiful, not because it is Catholic.

    Yes, easy for me to say…..talentless comment box blog commenter that I am.

    • Cubeland Mystic says:

      I agree notTed. “I liked the OSV article and largely agree with Nicolosi’s comments. However, this type of story grows old and tiresome.”

      Don’t duffy me in the combox dude. :-) I have never seen Mad Men. Not sure that I want to. That is where Don comes from no? If that is the case I am not sure if you are disagreeing with me or not since I don’t know much about DD, and I think I carefully avoided the word “Catholic” Please clarify?

      • notrelatedtoted says:

        I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m sort of taking issue with the question itself. That said, I think the question is natural enough and bears some consideration…..I just think there is a tendency to get bogged down in trying to answer it.

  4. Betty Duffy says:

    Beauty did have a chance to save the world once. And Eve still ate the apple.

    • Cubeland Mystic says:

      There has been a context shift since then. If I am not mistaken A and E beheld God too, and still fell. I have to think about this now since I am at work. If you are fishing and you fall into the lake swim toward your boat.

      • Bernardo says:

        Well, if we’re getting into theology, Adam “walked” with God in the garden, true, but I don’t think anyone has ever equated that prelapsarian sort of communion with the beatific vision. Some theologians speculate that man’s existence on earth, fall or no fall, would have been a temporary affair. This seems right to me on the grounds that humans had, from the beginning, an eternal destiny, but the world and everything in it is contingent and passing away.

  5. Southern Expat says:

    I’m unclear where the discussion is happening.

    B-Duff: C’mon. It’s not that bleak!

    I think we need to reframe the narrative away from constant focus on what The Talent can do. The Talent needs to read more Flannery. The Talent needs to point to Truth without explicitly saying “HEY LOOKY HERE!” The Talent must remain true to the sacred architecture of whatever medium floats The Talent’s boat while saying things that are eternal in a new, different way. That is a lot of pressure on The Talent.

    Mister Lickona commented elsewhere, bleakly, that Catholics don’t give a hoot about supporting the arts, but I would expand that to say that nobody nowhere cares about supporting the arts, a fact I enter into consideration based on way too many poorly-attended community choral concerts. (You, the person getting ready to make a Guffman joke, you hush your mouth.)

    Boston University has a program of study on Professional Fundraising that, as I understand it, helps entrepreneur types consider how to invest their millions. I don’t know if any Catholic universities have something similar, but it seems like there could be a less formal but still effective move to educate the vast pool of not-necessarily-artistic folks with a little money to spend on why supporting Beauty is important, and how it can be done.

  6. Betty Duffy says:

    There Will Be Enclaves!

    • Cubeland Mystic says:

      Good we want enclaves. That is what I am getting at. How else can I write
      “I am uniquely privileged to see the implosion of our civilization in a microcosm, and simply am able to extrapolate to the broader impacts. I’ve seen the future and it is bleak, boring, and a cage. It is a virtual gulag with comfortable quarters and three squares a day.”

      and then write

      “As long as you keep working there is a movement to resist the shadow, and from your work you give hope to others to resist it too. Never give up or get discouraged, no matter how many times you are rejected. If you are a Christian artist the whole world is depending on you right now, so hope, I do, and become all flame.”

      I see the dominant culture imploding, we exist in enclaves within it. Just like in the old days. We have to hope that our witness has a greater impact, but that is not up to us to decide. I wrote the contradiction in on purpose. The world is crumbling, beauty will save the world. How dumb is that? Why didn’t beauty keep it from crumbling in the first place. What is crumbling what is not crumbling? What is saving and what is being saved? I don’t see these things happening in discrete easily discernible pieces either. It is complex. Folks who can see will see it, and those who don’t will not. I think the difference is we become more Christian, and the others become more pagan or whatever. Then you have to ask what world is being saved? I certainly don’t see our current “death dealing” materialist world being saved, it is weighed down by sin. I have no hope for it. What world then? Our world will be saved. The Korrektiv arc will be saved. Whoever wants to join us is welcome.

      Hey are you duffying me?

      • Betty Duffy says:

        I’m not duffying you.

        But I do think saying “Beauty will save the world” is asking an awful lot of beauty (to hell with The Talent–what idiot would ever pick up a pen or a brush or a camera, if they thought the fate of the world hung in the balance?).

        Here’s what I think: Christ will save individuals. Beauty will add an extra dimension to the lives of the few (good or evil souls) who choose it, and the vast materialist society will fall victim to its own choices.

        • Matthew Lickona says:

          Duffy don’t duffy. Sounds like a good summation in that second graf there. But I’ll argue – I think a lot of artists pick up pen or brush precisely because the fate of the world hangs in the balance, starting with their own. Art begins in a wound.

          • Bernardo says:

            Hear, hear!

          • I think art starts with mind-numbing rigorous craft practice. That in itself is a kind of wound, but I don’t sit down and write from any sense of looking for therapy. I write because I’m good at it.

            • Matthew Lickona says:

              You write because you’re good at it, but you weren’t always good at it, else you wouldn’t have had to go through that mind-numbing rigorous craft practice. So a person might ask (out of genuine curiosity) why you found it worthwhile to go through that craft practice in the first place. What made it worth doing?

        • Cubeland Mystic says:

          “what idiot would ever pick up a pen or a brush or a camera, if they thought the fate of the world hung in the balance?”

          That is why I do this. The whole fate of the world hangs in the balance. I am not offended or disagreeing just for the sake of disagreeing. It is true. I am resisting. Nevertheless, I’d rather be called an idiot by you, than a genius by some of the folks who run this world.

          • Betty Duffy says:

            Fine. I lose.

            I WILL NOT call the Cubeland Mystic an idiot.

            And, maybe art does begin in a wound. Though I am tempted to argue with this one. What kind of a wound, exactly? Are we talking the wound of mortal sin, or are we saying that all artists have bad childhoods?

        • Southern Expat says:

          Well, if you take the reallllly long view, Beauty will save the world.

  7. Southern Expat says:

    Pulling over several snippets from the other dragon-related comment thread, as I have unilaterally decided we should consolidate discussion in one place.

    Matthew Lickona said:

    Gays, famously or stereotypically endowed with excellent aesthetic taste, have for years supported the existence of cinema that is aesthetically weak. They didn’t do it because they felt that they should get out there and support gay filmmakers. They did it because they were interested in seeing themselves at the center of stories. I have heard similar arguments with regard to Tyler Perry – people saying that his films are terrible, but by God, they hit a sweet spot among black audiences. I don’t detect a corresponding hunger among Catholics – the sort of hunger that would inspire a Catholic to consume mediocre or even bad art, not out of a sense of obligation to his fellow Catholic (the artist), because out of a sense of hunger.

    and was sorta-seconded by Cubeland Mystic, but Betty Duffy said “By your argument, M.L., Catholics are not narcissistic enough to support the arts.”

    ML replied -

    No, I think they’re not interested enough in the specifically Catholic aspect of themselves to see it receive narrative treatment. Art holds a mirror up to nature, yes? The enjoyment of any art depends to a certain extent on interest in the self, insofar as the self is human and worth illuminating.

    We talked about The Way, which did poorly in theaters but perhaps will have a second life on DVD.

    Betty Duffy countered with:

    I don’t buy it. We’re all catholics now. Or at least, we are not a ridiculous sub-market like the gay market. Catholic means universal. Our concerns are everyone’s concerns.

    And anyway, The Way, did not star Angelina Jolie. It’s in the same indie category as all the other low-grossing movies that don’t star Angelina.

    The thing is–I think we need to quite thinking in terms of the Catholic artist and the Catholic market. If it’s good, and it stars Angelina, everyone will go see it.

    Matthew also mentioned two philanthropic groups of note:
    The Clapham Group – “Whether through social marketing, public relations, or political and policy consulting, The Clapham Group believes that renewing the culture, confronting injustice and promoting the common good must be undertaken together if any one is to succeed and, ultimately, improve the lives of individuals and families.”

    The Wedgwood Circle – “Wedgwood Circle is a national network of high net worth investors, foundations, cultural gatekeepers and creators contributing to the renewal of culture by strategically investing in “cultural artifacts” that are good, true and beautiful for the common good. Wedgwood focuses on the art and entertainment industries, covering the sectors of film, music, television, publishing, theatre, fashion, fine arts, comics and graphic novels, computer/console gaming and new media.”

  8. Matthew Lickona says:

    Betty Duffy wrote elsewhere: “I don’t buy it. We’re all catholics now. Or at least, we are not a ridiculous sub-market like the gay market. Catholic means universal. Our concerns are everyone’s concerns.

    And anyway, The Way, did not star Angelina Jolie. It’s in the same indie category as all the other low-grossing movies that don’t star Angelina.

    The thing is–I think we need to quite thinking in terms of the Catholic artist and the Catholic market. If it’s good, and it stars Angelina, everyone will go see it.”

    Angelina Jolie is not a big box-office draw. The Tourist, 67 mil on a 100 mil budget. Changeling, 35 mil on a 55 mil budget. A Mighty Heart, 9 mil on a 16 mil budget. Alexander, 34 mil on 155 mil budget. The films she’s in that make money do so for other reasons, mostly explosions and or animated hijinks. Not because they’re good (Wanted? Salt?) Martin Sheen, on the other hand, is a minor legend, star of Apocalypse Now and The West Wing. 4.5 mil is chicken feed even for indies – Little Miss Sunshine took in 59 million, and wasn’t as good – it lost the courage of its own Proustian convictions about human suffering. Yes, we are all catholics, but there remain specifically Catholic stories that are worth telling, just as there remain specifically gay stories that are worth telling, and specifically black stories that are worth telling. Stories that arise out of the particular experience of this or that group.

    • Betty Duffy says:

      Alright, so I should have specified, “Angelina shoot-em-ups.”

      “There remain specifically Catholic stories that are worth telling, just as there remain specifically gay stories that are worth telling, and specifically black stories that are worth telling. Stories that arise out of the particular experience of this or that group.”

      –OK, but you were talking about stories that weren’t worth telling that sold because they spoke to a particular sub-group.

      –That said, I agree that there are stories worth telling. But the reasons any of these are worth telling is because they’re good stories that concern the broad, albeit common, experience of being human–not because they’re specific to that group, necessarily. The sub-group provides a framework and it’s own particular set of tensions without alienating viewers of all stripes.

      • notrelatedtoted says:

        Of Gods and Men is a good (albeit easy) example. I could be wrong, but that’s a good movie no matter who you are. Watching it, you don’t feel like the creative team sat down and said “Let’s make a really Catholic movie! One that will be on sale in the Ignatius Press Catalog and few months from now!”

        • Matthew Lickona says:

          Yes, a good movie no matter who you are. But it pulled in less than 4 mil. Catholics ain’t care.

          • notrelatedtoted says:

            True, but what I’m getting at is that it’s a “Catholic” movie that isn’t just for Catholics. The fact that it involves monks, etc. kind of undermines my point, which is to say, Catholic writers such as yourownfineself should tell the story they want to tell and not worry about whether or not it’s “Catholic.” I think you get that, though.

            So, to summarize: more Angelina and bigger explosions.

        • Barbara Nicolosi says:

          It was a good movie, even a great one, but because it leaned so heavily towards the art side of the cinema triangle (art-story-entertainment) it would be largely inaccessible to the mainstream audience. Of course, Ms. O’Connor is too. Our goal at Act One is to work through mainstream storytelling to normalize the actual norms.

      • Matthew Lickona says:

        When I spoke of stories that sold because they spoke to a group, it was to argue that Catholics don’t have that bone in their bodies, or rather, that appetite in their souls. Catholics ain’t care about being Catholic in narratives. I wasn’t arguing about the worthwhileness of telling stories. I was saying Catholics don’t want to see their stories told. I am very curious to see whether Silence proves my point. Great story, top flight cast, legendary director. Will Catholics want to see a story about the God who keeps silence in the face of suffering? I say no.

        • Betty Duffy says:

          And I’m wondering why we care what Catholics will and won’t go to see.

          I thought the point was to appeal to a broader market.

          • Matthew Lickona says:

            Sorry, I was responding to the article that included the quote that inspired this post, which article opened with a discussion about how Catholics stayed away from There Be Dragons. Appealing to a broader market is precisely what I’m trying to do with things like Alphonse. Failing, but trying.

            • Matthew Lickona says:

              Though there is something to the notion of a work of art finding support within a niche and then breaking out into the larger world.

              • notrelatedtoted says:

                Suddenly, I’m envisioning an EWTN version of The Jersey Shore. Tridentinists at Catholic Family Land perhaps?

                • Matthew Lickona says:

                  Now we’re getting somewhere. Red-faced middle-aged people screaming at each other about liturgy and the Council of Nicea = ratings gold.

              • Cubeland Mystic says:

                The art should have universal appeal, however, I don’t see it having the desired effect. I still think the civilization that we live in will implode. I still predict the monastery effect is coming and is indeed here. Even when you hide the message like in LOTR a lot of the folks don’t get it. It’s about action and thrills and no deeper story there.

                If the message is explicitly Catholic, most folks don’t like it.
                If the message is hidden in the symbolism and subtext the majority of people aren’t going to get it either. They will come for the sex and violence but will miss the christian allusion to self-donation at the ending. how is it any different than making an explicitly religious film? If Angelina does a frontal it makes a ton of money, but the salvific ending is lost on the majority. Do we say it was a successful venture because it made money?

                Isn’t it wash then between explicit vs implicit? Only a few are going to get the meaning. I wonder how many people went to the Passion just for the brutality.

                • Matthew Lickona says:

                  Which is why, I take it, you hailed the coming of the enclaves, which is the other reason I said I feared that Catholics wouldn’t care. Anyway, I’ll keep at it. Nuff said.

            • Betty Duffy says:

              I read the point of that article as being –any number of viewers from any social strata might have showed up, if it had been a well-told story. And then a lamentation about the myriad reasons why Catholics are not producing good stories–it’s not for lack of money (they had 40M in funding), and it’s not for lack of viewers (we’re the largest religion in the world), but for some reason, we can not escape this idea that art is evangelization. If it is, I don’t want to see it either.

              Though I would be interested in a reality TV version of Catholic family Land, in the same way I’m interested in watching Sister Wives.

              • Matthew Lickona says:

                “…and it’s not for lack of viewers (we’re the largest religion in the world).”

                Except Catholics ain’t care, which was my point. See also: Of Gods and Men, The Way. Both good movies, neither operating under the impression that art is evangelization. Hell, I’ll bet more Catholics went to Fireproof than either of those.

                • Betty Duffy says:

                  Those are Indie movies, like any secular Indie movie that doesn’t gross the Mass market.

                  There Be Dragons had a blockbuster budget and aspirations. But it was a bum story, and had no Angelina-Jolie-with-a-gun to carry it.

                  I think the problem is with what movie goers will pay 10 dollars to see. To tell you the truth, I see probably 1/100th of all movies released in the theater, and they’re usually a date movie that my husband will enjoy–which reads–not an indie movie. I take in my indies at home on DVD.

                  That said, The Descendants, though not produced by Catholics, was a very catholic movie. Maybe we just need to get over our proprietary feelings about what constitutes catholic art.

                  Not…Ted’s right– we can get bogged down talking about this stuff.

                  One more thing…I think there’s a temptation in the internet age (evidenced in the referenced article, chock full of quotes by Vogt and Nicolosi) to think that the whole Church is here online. And if none of us are making stuff that people will buy, it must not be happening. I’m pretty sure that there are under-the-radar Catholics all over the place doing really interesting stuff that most of the internet Catholics we know would not dream of seeing. Lars Von Trier comes to mind.

                  • Matthew Lickona says:

                    Who’s got proprietary feelings? I’m responding to the article and Cubeland’s post, and I’m talking about audiences much more than I’m talking about art.

                    Those are indeed indie movies I referenced, but they didn’t do well even by indie standards.

                    I have never imagined that the whole church was online.

                    Are you suggesting that Lars Von Trier is an under-the-radar Catholic?

                    • Betty Duffy says:

                      I’m responding to the article too. I think the article asserts some proprietary feelings. For example: “When WE do make a movie, WE don’t use the medium anywhere near how it should be used.”

                      Here’s Vogt:
                      “If WE want to reach people who are exposed on a daily basis to high quality, beautiful, evocative media in the secular sphere then OUR media has to be of the same quality,” he told Our Sunday Visitor.

                      “The modern, media-saturated audience is used to expertly produced media, so if Catholic media doesn’t meet or exceed those norms we risk the audience quickly clicking away to another site or channel,” he said.

                      –This is not the case for me–that the production value is the ultimate litmus test by which I judge a work. I don’t know about you guys. But I click away when I feel like I’m being preached to, or when the content is boring–both sins committed by There Be Dragons–which the article asserts had good production value. Or at least it had the budget for good production value.

                      And if we want to reach those secular viewers, Why? if not to evangelize?

                      Von Trier is a Catholic convert, maybe not under the radar, but his work is very disturbing–and I don’t reckon Vogt or Nicolosi would want to claim it as “ours.”

                    • Matthew Lickona says:

                      I understand you now. I don’t think they’re saying that good production value is the litmus test. I think they’re saying that without it, even good stories will fail to gain a foothold. They would, I’m sure, agree with you that storytelling is king. Production value is necessary but not sufficient.

                    • Barbara Nicolosi says:

                      Breaking the Waves is profound in its message although some of the choices they made in execution ends up in the project partly subverting itself.

                      But I would argue that Breaking the Waves is a more Catholic film than Bella, which also subverts itself, although the stakes in that latter film are lower because of its thematic banality. Breaking the Waves, as adeptly executed art, is a more Catholic film than The Mighty Macs and The Way and Fireproof and certainly what they ended up with in TBD.

                    • Betty Duffy says:

                      A question…
                      I didn’t see the movie Anti-Christ, so I can’t talk about it with much authority, but I read that Von Trier considered it a sort of exorcism of his personal demons (one of many reasons why it sounded unappealing to me).

                      We’ve talked here before about the artist’s quest for beauty as a longing for the Beatific Vision.

                      I’ve wondered too about the work of someone like Hieronymus Bosch, and maybe Von Trier–and is there also not a place for an unflinching imagination of how God and the Saints might view Earth, Purgatory and Hell?

                      It would be difficult to write that story without some subversive elements.

                      I worry that our current grasp on Heaven is so tenuous, that many Catholic would-be writers and artists are fearful of turning an unflinching eye on the world around them, in fear that the execution of the stories therewith would fall into the trap of glamorizing evil, just by noticing it. In which case, Catholic would-be artist faces persecution by fellow believers.

                    • Matthew Lickona says:

                      Bosch warn’t no Cratlick, facscinating as he were.
                      Your mention of an unflinching eye naturally recalls this bit from Flannery O’Connor’s essay “The Church and the Ficiton Writer” –

                      “What the fiction writer will discover, if he discovers anything at all, is that he himself cannot move or mold reality in the interests of abstract truth. The writer learns, perhaps more quickly than the reader, to be humble in the face of what-is. What-is is all he has to do with; the concrete is his medium; and he will realize eventually that fiction can transcend its limitations only by staying within them. Henry James said that the morality of a piece of fiction depended on the amount of ‘felt life’ that was in it. The Catholic writer, in so far as he has the mind of the Church, will feel life from the standpoint of the central Christian mystery: that it has, for all its horror, been found by God to be worth dying for. But this should enlarge not narrow his field of vision…When fiction is made according to its nature, it should reinforce our sense of the supernatural by grounding it in concrete observable reality. If the writer uses his eyes in the real security of his Faith, he will be obliged to use them honestly and his sense of mystery and his acceptance of it will be increased. To look at the worst will be for him no more than an act of trust in God…A belief in fixed dogma cannot fix what goes on in life or blind the believer to it…If the Catholic writer hopes to reveal mysteries, he will have to do it by describing truthfully what he sees from where he is. An affirmative vision cannot be demanded of him without limiting his freedom to observe what man has done with the things of God…It is popular to suppose that anyone who can read the telephone book can read a short story or a novel, and it is more than usual to find the attitude among Catholics that since we possess the Truth in the Church, we can use this Truth directly as an instrument of judgment on any discipline at any time without regard for the nature of that discipline itself. Catholic readers are forever being scandalized by novels that they don’t have the fundamental equipment to read in the first place, and often these are works that are permeated with a Christian spirit. It is when an individual’s faith is weak, not when it is strong, that he will be afraid of an honest fictional representation of life…”

                    • Betty Duffy says:

                      Great quote–thanks for that.

                      Why do you say Bosch wasn’t Catholic though? He was working before the Reformation. Accusations of heresy have been made (which is sort of my point) but to my knowledge, he died in good standing with the Church.

                    • Matthew Lickona says:

                      You’re welcome.
                      Re: Bosch. Three things:
                      1. I should not have spoken so definitively. I ask both your forgiveness and Bosch’s.
                      2. You may very well know more than I do on this front.
                      3. Lemme go digging in this book I’ve got and give the guy his own post sometime.

                • Cubeland Mystic says:

                  I think we got off track somewhere. Not sure where or how far yet.

                  I submit that Korrektiv is a movement.
                  I submit that what used to be Christian civilization has been replaced by materialist civilization. (since they love science read up on entropy)
                  I submit that while materialist civilization dies like the sun (more pressure and violence at the end) Christian civilization will revive
                  While the one descends the other ascends, and some on the sinking ship will swim toward the light
                  You the artist are responsible for creating the means by which that Light will be reflected. By doing that the world you are saving is your own, and there is room for everyone if they would open their hearts to the light. There are many dimensions of thought in the assertion that beauty will save the world.
                  The korrektiv movement is helping to save the world.

                  • Matthew Lickona says:

                    I need 40K to do a full-color Alphonse graphic novel. God bless us, every one. It’s a lot less than the $40 million they spent making There Be Dragons.

                    • Cubeland Mystic says:


                      Everyday corporations throw away millions of dollars in waste and incompetence. Can you please help Matthew obtain some of that money? For me personally, he and Mrs. L. have lived counter to the culture of death, and been a great inspiration to me. Please help him find $40,000 for his project if it is in your plan.

                      I pray this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


                    • Matthew Lickona says:

                      That was lovely. Thank you. His will be done.

                    • Bernardo says:

                      Hey Matthew,

                      I doubt this is an answer to your prayers as she is a starving artists who needs to make a living as much as anyone else, but I just met a graphic artist at my church. She draws comics, though her style is rather different than that of the illustrator of the first two issues. Still, who knows what may come of it.

                    • Matthew Lickona says:

                      Bernardo, can you send me a link to her work?

  9. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

    Once again, a thorough comments-box discussion on a topic of tremendous personal interest arises precisely when I am unable to participate. It’s almost enough to make a fellow a maltheist.

    On the plus side, it looks like yall have aggravated Lickona’s wound, which is a necessary (if not, alas, a sufficient) condition for producing art!

  10. Thanks, CM, for an inspired and inspiring post. Re: The End, I come from a family of JWs and grew up humming The Apocalyptic Rag, so I can’t argue with you there. After all, people have been calling for the end times since the beginning of time, which means there must be something to it.

    Re: Beauty and it’s saving power … we know how the world has been/is being/will be saved, so insofar as beauty is informed by the cross—yes, most definitely. But even then, I think (quoting WC Williams),

    beauty is a shell
    from the sea
    where she rules triumphant
    till love has had its way with her

    scallops and
    lion’s paws
    sculptured to the
    tune of retreating waves

    Thanks again, CM. It’s great having you here.

  11. so much depends

    a gunmetal laptop

    cruddy with cracker

    beside the backyard

  12. nice job

  13. notrelatedtoted says:

    This thread made me recall a conversation I had at a soiree at the end of 2011. I was talking with a few active/conservative Catholics, when the conversation inevitably turned to LOTR. One commented on how the movies were terrible, and the books were much better. The other participants agreed, then went on to comment how they don’t really ever watch movies, television or read books that haven’t already received the Serious Catholic Seal of Approval. I realize I sound kind of snarky, but good grief I’m tired of those conversations.

    So, here’s your audience: Catholics who don’t identify as Catholics, and Catholics who are dismissive of anything new and/or isn’t overtly Catholic. Tough crowd, no doubt. Y’all ain’t gonna keep the lights on marketing to that crowd

    • Matthew Lickona says:

      I like it. Approval given by the Serious Catholic Artistic Non-Development Action League (SCANDAL). “If it’s not LOTR, it’s crap!”

    • Cubeland Mystic says:

      I am in total agreement with you here. I’ve heard it from our team too in my circle. I want to be careful to point out that my post is not calling for separation but a parallel track within the ruins of our declining civilization. As Quin talk about above about the end seems to be the primary topic of every new beginning’s kick off party. “Hey this is great, btw the end is coming.”

      Our stuff will survive, and we will continue, but the other team is in decline. At some point the bill is going to come due in a few decades we are going to pay for all the debt. The systems they are creating relying on are not sustainable. At some point the music will stop, and a lot of stuff will come crashing down. Will those people have the ability to survive that sort of decline with all the hardship. That is just the economic portion. I leave out the moral portion because the sins are immense and God is just. Our side will survive.

      My point is that these artists have to reflect light to those who are in darkness. And I am encouraging them to do it. The world they are saving is their own. The other team is on another boat sailing for another shore, and we should say goodbye now. They are welcome to join, but I doubt seriously they will. I don’t care about the medium in which the message is delivered as long as the beauty is expressed.

  14. I don’t know what the worry over audience is.

    Perfect your craft, find your imaginary reader, write to her (always, for me, a her), shut the fuck up and let your words/canvas/clay/film/interpretative dance/whatnot do the talking.

    That’s all – and I mean ALL – we have control over.

    The rest is jittery silence, my dear princes and princesses, a jittery silence that detracts from the muse….


    • Matthew Lickona says:

      Oh, sure. Sit out the feather-ruffling and then come in and take the high road. Fine.

      • No, you guys are right of course.

        It is worth every as and drachma to fight over who we’re communicating ourselves to.

        I was mostly joshing.

        (I woulda joined the feather-rastling earlier, but deadlines – and a paying audience – have kept me bound to my keyboard as the vultures of attribution and transitional words, phrases and sentences continually peck out my liver…)


    • Cubeland Mystic says:


      Sub-creation YO! I live in Mystlanida I wish I could let you in. It is nice here. Lots of fall kissed Aspen trees with wind-trembled leaves singing all the time. Cool streams. Grass, the kind you walk on. There is even a bourbon tree too, Arborus JOBus. You’d like that.

    • Betty Duffy says:

      OK, I was going to come back and comment on this idea last night, but I figured, I’d duffied this combox enough for one day. But now JOb has gone and brought up the muse–and one of the reasons I’m doubtful that beauty will save the world, is because all of my muses are die-hard pagans and/or lecherous seducers.

      Did the architectural beauties of ancient Rome didn’t bring anyone to Heaven? Did Shakespeare?

  15. Catholics – and pagans and everybody in between – stayed away from There Be Dragons because it was a bad story badly executed.

    (And that remains true even if the “producers” did screw me out of my credit, my fee and destroy my script all in the name of Jesus!)

  16. (Commenting as myself now, a disorienting experience)

    Barbara, I’d be very interested in your thoughts on how we can go about educating Catholics to become patrons of the arts – not only in the sense of actually forking over money, but also in terms of recognizing quality. (I sent you an email to this effect but I know you get scads of email with people saying “will you tell me what you think of my idea?”). I’m trying to read up on how the patron/artist relationship worked in earlier eras and see what implications that might have for our time.

    • Barbara Nicolosi says:

      Hi Dorian -
      That’s one of those questions that gets immediately categorized as “too long to answer right now,” and then ends p getting answered never. Because the mess we are in has many dimensions, there has to be a multi-pronged solution. We need a change in attitude towards the culture. We need to see ourselves as bequeathing beautiful things to the future, not just swatting back at liberal gnats in the present. We need to decide to have our say in the culture and then back it up with meaningful investment as shareholders in studios and networks, as major investors in production companies, and then with smaller investments in talent. We need kids to be brought up seeing this as their culture, so that they will send their articles to WaPo and the Grey Lady instead of the Indianapolis Catholic Star. We need our best writers to be sending books to Harper Collins, not the sorry fiction division at Ignatius. (Sorry, guys, but it’s not good as literature.) The whole Catholic/Christian sub-culture is wrong thinking. We are supposed to be yeast in THE culture, not sit around patting ourselves on the back in a ghetto of our own making, that is, btw, getting smaller and smaller and smaller all the time. We need happy Catholic folks to set out for Hollywood the way they set out to be DRE’s now. Nothing will change without boots on the ground in the sphere of influence. If you start today, you might be able to do something beautiful on the screen in a decade or so.

      We are never going to get anywhere in the culture until we are willing to do for God what the pagans do for money.

      • We need to see ourselves as bequeathing beautiful things to the future, not just swatting back at liberal gnats in the present.

        YES. I think so many Catholics (and Christians in general) think that the way to influence the culture is to boycott advertisers and not watch all of the tawdry stuff that’s out there. But then we get bored, because we’re not watching anything as a result, and we try to make our own stuff.

        It’s such a bleak vision of what we can do, to say that our only contribution can be attempting to shut down some of the most offensive stuff and hoping that message – “don’t make such trashy movies! Even if they still make quite a bit of money!” – trickles over to the rest of the culture.

        I really appreciate your response.

      • Matthew Lickona says:

        Amen! Barb, have you seen Alphonse? It’s an attempt to get out of the ghetto. It’s okay if you think it’s a failed attempt. But it’s an attempt all the same. And much cheaper to make than a movie. I’m trying to raise funds now.

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