Monday, October 5, 2009

PZed, will you be my dad?

I just finished reading PZ Myers' ancient review (2-23-09) of Bill Maher's Religulous:
On a related note, Bill Maher was one of the presenters for best documentary, and what did he do? Plugged his movie, Religulous, while moaning over the fact that it was not nominated. Bad form, Bill, very bad form. Maybe it just wasn't good enough.

I did finally see Religulous a few days ago, and I confess to being a bit disappointed. It consisted of a series of short interviews with, for instance, truckers at a truck stop chapel, Catholic priests, an "ex-gay" minister, a Muslim rapper, etc., and it was all capped with excellent and scathing monologue that strongly criticized religion. Don't get me wrong, it was good, and there were some funny bits, but something nagged at me throughout, and only when I saw the conclusion did I realize what it was.

Maher cheated. He had a clear idea of what his opinion was, but he wasn't sharing it with the people he was interviewing. They were left to flounder and make poor arguments in part because there are no good arguments for religion, but also because they were left in the dark about what they were arguing against. It may be funny, but it's no fair; contrast that with the Dawkins' documentaries on religion, which are less funny, but more honest, because the people on camera know (or should know) exactly what they are wrestling with.

A better Religulous would have recorded the closing monolog first, and sent that to each of the potential interviewees with a note saying, "Here's my position. Are you willing to argue against it on camera?" That would have made for a much more interesting movie, and Maher would have had to break a sweat to address criticisms…and it would probably be less funny. There's a reason Maher wasn't nominated for an Oscar, and I think it's because his documentary took no risks, and didn't probe very deeply.
Damn, PZ is a fast judge of character. I can see everything he saw now, but I missed most of it the first time through.

When I absent-mindedly watched Religulous on DVD some weeks ago, I thought, "Haha, long haired dude really does look a lot like Jesus." That's about as deep as I went with that film

Didn't watch the Oscars. So when I read a few moments ago that Maher was upset that he didn't get a nomination, I nearly fell outta my chair. Whaa? Must be kidding! No, not kidding. Oh wow.

PZ, I wish you'd been around to help me sort boyfriends back in the day when I was young and gullible.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dr. B.
    Just wanted to say thanks for your many enjoyable, humorous and insightful comments in various places circa the Maher debacle. It's nice to see you back in action and in top form.

    I also want to express my best wishes for to you and your mom. My mother in law is going through a very similar health crisis right now--atrial fib, two strokes in the past six weeks, now she can't speak or see well, alas. I hope you and your mom's health care team are able to keep her as healthy as possible.