554: Readers debate the Brothers Coen and stick up for Nellie Bly’s reputation!


Once again, thanks to readers like you,
we’ve got your feedback to share …

Nellie Bly’s Reputation Is at Stake …
Tell a Friend to Enjoy Her Story

THANK YOU, readers, for helping to spread the word that Nellie Bly is not a serial killer! We’re partly poking good-spirited fun at National Public Radio for mistakenly listing her as a homicidal maniac earlier this week. And we’re partly dead serious in asking you to help us celebrate her memory.
    Remember that more than 100,000 journalists have lost their jobs since the crash in print media began, so we need to celebrate all the heroic examples of what journalists can accomplish. Nellie was a barrier buster for women in particular—and broke barriers for all of American news media. Read exciting excerpts from her round-the-world journey 120 years ago!
    We heard from readers at our Home Office on Wednesday wanting to pass word to friends about the Nellie story. To help you do that easily, we’ve created a “tiny URL” that you can cut and paste into an Email to a friend.
    No kidding. Give it a shot. Email this Web address:
    It’ll give your friends a smile to celebrate the REAL Nellie.

Readers Hotly Debate the Brothers Coen:
Are They Terrific Storytellers …
Or Rascals Ripping Off Moviegoers?

DID WE EVER HEAR FROM READERS about the Brothers Coen!

    The first reader Email of substance came all the way from Australia! Writer Paul Wallis, a ReadTheSpirit reader, chimed in defending the Brothers Coen. Here’s Paul’s Web page listing some of his own book titles and you’ll note he’s the author of “Men Behaving Boldly,” so that’s an indication of Paul’s expansive creative spirit. Paul wrote to us …
    I write as one who is not offended by the movies of the Coen brothers. Indeed I applaud them. Few independent directors have an industry-sized public hanging out for their next movie. The Coen brothers do. Their range of genres is unusual as is, refreshingly, the constant background of a moral message. …
    One example is … O Brother Where Art Thou, where the plot follows three escaped convicts in an Homeric odyssey. Along the way one believes he has found the joy of forgiveness from God through undergoing Christian baptism. Perhaps a believer might be embarrassed that it’s the “dumb one” who rejoices in this new found faith. However, his “clever” counterpart quickly reverses his own atheism when cataclysm strikes. Their miraculous deliverance vindicates the faith of the “dumb one.” Yet after their deliverance the “clever one” refuses to acknowledge the divine answer to his prayer. Is that not simply true to life?
More profoundly the film forbids the viewer to reject the faith-view of the “dumb one” because this movie uncovers another layer in that our “heroes” are being pursued by the Devil. Initially the viewer may laugh the idea off since it’s another “simple soul” who has identified this “Devil.” Yet it quickly becomes clear that the Devil truly is present in the story—nicely portrayed as “The Law”—a malevolent cop-cum-vigilante intent on our friends’ destruction. Day or night, he appears in his every scene sporting dark glasses, the lenses always dancing with the reflection of flames. …
    Although in interviews, the Coen brothers are coy and opaque about their intended messages, those messages are there for the taking in films like: The Hudsucker Proxy, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Burn after Reading, No Country for Old Men.
    As a Christian believer, I find the Coens’ work in no way offensive to my faith. I applaud their production of films with thoughtful and moral messages; films which entertain evince great performances from some fine actors and remain at the cutting edge of American film-making. So I say more power to their arm and God Bless them!

    The Brothers Coen seem to be popular with writers! As Editor of ReadTheSpirit, I chimed in on Monday and again on Tuesday with favorable interpretations. And Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani stopped by on Wednesday to talk about her new book celebrating the Coens.
    In an Email, Graphic novelist Robert Luedke of HeadPress Publishing echoed those themes:
    Now this is a topic close to my heart! I am a huge fan of the Coen brother’s films not just for their always high level of entertainment, but their rare mix of irreverence, poignancy and yes…sometimes even spiritual truths.

They are the master of taking a life lesson and camouflaging them within spectacularly unforgettable dialog—probably some of the most quoted outside of Monty Python—hilarity or extreme violence. Their movies beg to be watched again and again, because there are usually multiple layers of wonderful dialog or narrative direction that is missed in the initial viewing. On top of that they go to great lengths to give each and every film its own unique treatment down to the settings, time periods and even shared regional dialects of the characters.

While many renowned filmmakers seem to develop a winning formula or look, and stick to it, each and every Coen brothers film has a look and feel all it’s own. Outside of Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers are the only filmmakers I will go to see no matter what the reviewers will say about their films. I’ve learned to trust that they’ll always entertain and challenge me with their stories.

    BUT, WAIT! That’s not all! There were strongly dissenting views, most articulately outlined by church consultant the Rev. Dr. Al Bamsey, who accused the Brothers Coen of sinking to the level of rascals who “ripped us off” with their new movie, “A Serious Man.” And did so—“Royally!”
    Al argued that this is a troubling time with far too much news, already, about “real, callous shortsightedness and chicanery shown by our financial wizards on Wall Street.” We don’t need to pay for movies that show us only more of this unrelenting bad news. In a movie like “Serious Man,” which purports to deliver the news about the fate of an American “Everyman,” Al pleaded: Enough’s enough with the relentless punishment of this guy! Here’s more of what Al wrote:
    Give me some glimmer of hope, of meaning. Just a tiny thread will do.
    I don’t know quite why I felt so betrayed by the Coens. My basic response was: There have been dozens of disaster movies made every year for the last few years. Why did we need another? I think I unconsciously hoped that the dismal dismantling of an ordinary man’s life that takes place on the screen in this movie would somehow leave us with a hint of rehabilitation, or redemption, or at least the possibility that the futility depicted would somehow be countermanded in some startling way. At any rate I left the movie feeling that a great visual film, in the end, was a cynical pile of ashes.
    This version of the Coens’ world—if this movie portrays it as they see it—is the story of basically good but stupid people who wittingly and unwittingly fall into troubles that only get compounded as they seek pathways through them until they collapse as lost ants on a planet beset by mindless hedonists, narrow self-serving students, parents, and whiners all of whom are winding down toward a banal closure of death, even though they are still breathing.
    Did I enjoy this movie? Yes, I enjoyed the writing, the humor, and the intricate interactions that still burn in my brain. It is worth seeing, especially if you get caught up in the technique of excellent movie making.
    But no, I didn’t like this movie. I don’t think it really is true to the nuances of life that I find in the world, some of them stupid and frightening, but others surprising in their creativity, civility and even astounding generosity. And I don’t believe that the world will end in disaster, however pedestrian its last days.
    How the good will triumph in the end is beyond my comprehension—but that hope burns brightly in my soul!


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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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