92-Year-old Marie Randall Blocks Keystone Pipeline Trucks

Wanblee, South Dakota – Oglala Lakota Nation – March 5, 2012. Marie Randall is 92 and standing in the road blocking the trucks carrying segments for the Keystone XL pipeline. Five Lakotas on Pine Ridge Indian land in South Dakota were arrested Monday after attempting to block two tarsands pipeline trucks from entering their land. According to the Lakota activist the six-hour standoff started when the trucks refused to turn around claiming they had “corporate rights that supersede any other law.”

Here are three films on the Pipeline for use with your communities and congregations.

DIRTY OIL (USA, 2009, 73 min.)

Exposing the environmental and human rights issues in Alberta’s toxic oil sands, the film traces the environmental and social impacts of Canadian oil on both sides of the U.S. border. It follows pipelines from the Alberta oil sands to the American Midwest to witness how U.S. refineries, much like their Canadian counterparts, are increasing toxic dumping into the Great Lakes. It features interviews with top environmentalists, scientists, government officials, local residents and chiefs of nearby aboriginal tribes. Narrated by Neve Campbell. Directed by Leslie Iwerks.

PIPE DREAMS (USA, 2011, 40 min.)

Across the heartland of America, farmers and landowners are fighting to protect their land, their water and their livelihood in what has become a controversial environmental battle. This film spotlights the David and Goliath struggle over the tar sands Keystone XL Pipeline, proposed to be routed from Hardisty, Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing the country’s largest freshwater resource, the Ogallala Aquifer, and the fragile Sandhills of Nebraska, posing devastating consequences to human health, livestock, and agriculture. Interviews are featured with farmers and ranchers along the pipeline’s route and with Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, International Program Director, Natural Resources Defense Council. Narrated by Daryl Hannah. Directed and produced by Leslie Iwerks.

DOWNSTREAM (USA, 2008)

At the heart of the multi-billion dollar Oil Sands industry in Alberta, Canada, a doctor’s career is jeopardized as he fights for the lives of the aboriginal people living and dying of rare cancers downstream from one of the most polluting oil operations in the world.

What You Need to Know About Stieg Larsson Before Seeing ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’

Naomi Pfefferman over at the Jewish Journal has posted an interesting interview about Stieg Larsson of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” fame — just in time for the U.S. film release. (In theaters tomorrow!)

Pfefferman examines Larsson’s history fighting neo-Nazi movements in Europe and his grandfather’s time spent in a little known Swedish concentration camp.

I read Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and couldn’t put them down. An amazing investigation into modern evil – from the financial industry to far-right anti-democratic movements. With his fantastic protagonist Lisbeth Salander, Larsson flips the femme fatale script on its head. This girl uses her wicked smarts, rough-hewn moral code, and a vicious instinct for life to overcome her attackers. These novels are very violent–but it’s violence with a purpose and it takes readers into worlds where many people live and most of us would never ever want to visit.

Here’s an excerpt from Pfefferman’s article:

Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author of the international best-selling “Millennium” series, including “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” died in 2004 at age 50 of a heart attack, before the publication of his crime thrillers made him one of the most famous writers of the decade. They have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, already spawned three Swedish films and, on Dec. 21, fans will no doubt be lining up for the opening of Hollywood’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, with a screenplay by the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List” scribe Steven Zaillian. (The film opens in selected theaters on Dec. 20.)

But amid all this “Stieg industry,” as the late author’s life partner, Eva Gabrielsson, put it, a crucial element often has been overlooked: Just how much Larsson embedded in his novels a fundamental passion of his life — his crusade against neo-Nazism and violent far-right movements, which he viewed as anathema to Sweden and to all modern society.

“Those who see Stieg solely as an author of crime fiction have never truly known him,” Gabrielsson writes in her memoir, “There Are Things I Want You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me” (released last June by Seven Stories,and due out in paperback on Jan. 10). The “Millennium” series, she said, “is only one episode in Steig’s journey through this world, and it certainly isn’t his life’s work.”

“The trilogy is an allegory of the individual’s eternal fight for justice and morality, the values for which Stieg Larsson fought until the day he died,” Marie-Francoise Colombani wrote in the foreword to Gabrielsson’s book. … –by Naomi Pfefferman

Read Pfefferman’s whole article.

“Darth Vader! Only You Could Be So Bold.”

Hi. My name is Rose. And I’m a Star Wars junkie.

As my grade school friends will recall, I saw the original Star Wars approximately 24 times when it was released in the spring of 1977. Nearly all of them were at the Century Theaters at the corner of Arden Way and Cal Expo in Sacramento–huge screens, plush bouncy seats, and the theater had just installed speakers compatible with SurroundSound. I had every line memorized.

I still get chills at the rise of John Williams’ opening score and recall the breath-takingly long Imperial battle cruiser glowering low over my head. The theater walls actually rumbled!

So while the new docuflick The People vs George Lucas may do nothing more than reveal what happens when a culture has no roots, I do understand their hunger for mythos.

Along with all that, the great folks over at Improv Everywhere (“We Cause Scenes”) staged a reenactment of the first Princess Leia/Darth Vader scene from the original Star Wars on a New York City subway car. “The white walls and sliding doors on the train reminded us of the rebel ship from the movie, and we thought it would be fun to see how people would react to a surprise appearance by the iconic characters.” (I love it that Princess Leia is reading “Galactic Rebellion for Dummies.”) Just for fun, here’s the video clip:

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to High School: “Jennifer’s Body”

jennifers-bodyJennifer’s Body (“She’s evil … and not just high school evil.”) is a new horror/slasher flick written by Diablo Cody (Juno and The United States of Tara — who also happens to be Catholic). It’s got all the blood, gore, cannibalism, revenge on teenage hormones, that we’ve come to expect from the genre. But don’t take that as a recommendation.

If you are a closet fan of American horror/thriller films and what they uncover about our social psyche, I suggest reading Jennifer’s Body and Why I Like Buffy’s Body Better by W. Scott Poole. He’s an associate professor in history at the College of Charleston and has written several books dealing with American religion, race, and popular culture. His latest is Satan in America: The Devil We Know.

According to to Poole, the dialogue in Jennifer’s Body is slick and ironic, but falls short of overturning the tables of misogyny in the genre. Even though writer Cody says she wanted to subvert the genre by inserting a sort of feminist “Trojan Horse” into the script. (See NYT‘s review by Michelle Orange.) However, J’s B is nothing compared to Joss Whedon’s 7-season TV hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I’m a huge fan. See my article Damnation Will Not Be Televised.)

I’m always glad to find smart interpretations of Buffy’s mythic themes, feminism, and deep religious narrative. Here’s an excerpt from Poole’s review comparing Buffy with Jennifer’s Body:

Religion often goes to the horror movies, taking with it a raft of cultural baggage. In 1968, Rosemary’s Baby incorporated the Devil, anxieties over feminism, and the controversy over birth control. A few years later, The Exorcist served up an unsettling combination of religious conservatism, the perceived dangers of single-parent families, and the power of adolescent sexuality. Jennifer’s Body is the latest offering in this genre. …

I prefer to see powerful religious and cultural paradigms more thoroughly subverted than this. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer—in which another high school cheerleader is revealed as “the Chosen One” who slays monsters rather than becoming one—provides a good example.

Buffy’s seven seasons did more than simply reverse the formula that makes women the predators rather than the prey. Whedon and his writers and directors created a truly nuanced and complex hero, an archetypal figure in the same sense that Beowulf and Achilles represents the heroic. Rather than perform a parody of female identity (or simple revenge fantasy), Buffy instead embodied both the limitations of human ability and the struggles against darkness that are the price of transcendence.