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How the Oscars got grouchy: In your face politics

26 Feb

by Patrick Novecosky

(February 26, 2019) — When Jack Palance stood up to collect his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1992, I distinctly remember thinking, “I bet the old guy has a heart attack by the time he hits the third step.”

Jack Palance with his Academy Award in 1991

Palance did, indeed, drop to the floor. Not because he went into cardiac arrest, but to execute three one-handed push-ups – and one more with two hands to top off the performance. He checked his politics at the door.

Those were the days.

Over the past couple decades, the Academy Awards’ prestige — along with viewership of the live broadcast — has waned. It hit an all-time low last year when Jimmy Kimmel took a turn as host. The 26.6 million people who tuned in to the ceremony were the fewest to do so since Nielsen began estimating the program’s viewership in 1974.

Last night’s numbers weren’t much better, up a modest 2.1 million.

Why the Oscars Are Dying

Philip Bump at The Washington Post blames the slump on people not actually seeing the nominated films, therefore having no interest in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood’s biggest night.

Using statistical analysis, Bump makes some good points. The more popular the nominated films, the more popular the Oscar broadcast. Make sense.

But there’s something deeper going on here. Politics.

It’s Getting Too Shrill

Actors have always worn their politics on their sleeves. Humphrey Bogart organized a delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1947 against what he perceived to be the House Un-American Activities Committee’s harassment of Hollywood screenwriters and actors. Jane Fonda blasted the U.S. military’s involvement in Vietnam in the 1970s, and a bevy of stars — from Mark Ruffalo to Meryl Streep  — lined up to support Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in their 2016 bids for the White House.

But that’s on their own time.

Americans are free to tune out celebs’ activism (and they do) at the push of a button. While Fonda’s shrill rants against most of America’s war efforts are annoying, most of us are able to palate her on-screen performances. As annoying as I find Susan Sarandon’s liberal politics, it didn’t dissuade me from watching Thelma and Louise for the third time.

Marlon Brando famously refused his Best Actor statue in 1973 for his role in The Godfather, sending Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his stead. On stage, Littlefeather cited “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”

Brando’s stunt was an exception to what was generally an entertaining awards program.

Crashing America’s Party

Michael Moore delivers a rant against President George W. Bush at the Oscars in 2003 (Getty)

The last couple of decades, however, have seen an excessive number of stars use the Oscar pulpit to lecture Americans on how to vote, how to spend their money, and which causes to embrace.

In his acceptance speech for winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Cider House Rules in 2000, John Irving gave a nod to “everyone at Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights League” and thanked the Academy “for this honor to a film on the abortion subject.”

Three years later, Michael Moore delivered a blistering speech, lambasting President George W. Bush only four days after the U.S. invaded Iraq. “We are against this war, Mr. Bush! Shame on you, Mr. Bush! Shame on you!” Moore shouted, drawing boos and groans from the audience, as well as some soft applause.

When Leonardo DiCaprio accepted the Best Actor award for his role in The Revenant in 2016, he lectured America:

Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.

Spike Lee channels Prince at the 2019 Oscars

And last Sunday, Spike Lee (dressed as Prince), took a not-so-veiled swipe at President Trump. “The 2020 election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize and be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”

Americans don’t mind lectures from qualified experts. But they don’t have much patience for overpaid entertainers posing as authorities on anything but entertaining. Maybe if they’d take a page from Jack Palance’s playbook, we would give the Oscars a second chance.

Patrick Novecosky is a Florida-based media relations professional, founder of this blog and NovaMedia. This article originally appeared on Feb. 26, 2019, at The Stream.

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Masculinity, heroism and the Gospel

28 Aug

(AUGUST 28, 2018) — There was a time not long ago when men were expected to be the provider, protector, and leader of their household—and of their culture, society, and nation. In our day, however, such “outdated thinking” is sometimes branded as “toxic masculinity.”

According to Wikipedia, “scholars have used the term toxic masculinity to refer to stereotypically masculine gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express—including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the ‘alpha male’) and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.”

In common parlance, however, men who exercise authentic masculinity are often branded as being infected with toxic masculinity. Certainly, the most toxic thing for anyone—man or woman—is sin.

Further, as rational, God-fearing men, we can all agree that “stereotypical gender roles” are just that—stereotypes. True, some men seek to be dominant, alpha-male types and have a limited range of emotion. The converse is also true. Some men have a wide emotional range and have no interest in dominating anyone.

However, the vast majority of boys and men (at least in my experience) fall somewhere in the middle. We have a normal range of emotion and seek to find our place in the culture, our families, and our communities.

But the bigger question is this: What do scripture and our faith tradition teach us about what it means to a man? First and foremost, men (and women, too, of course) are called to be saints. We’re called to be holy. This is the primary reason we exist. “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven,” the Baltimore Catechism teaches.

Noted Catholic therapist and author Peter Kleponis expands on that concept: “To live a happy, fulfilling and productive life, we need to know our primary purpose, our mission. For men, that mission is to be effective leaders, providers, and protectors. This is our nature.”

Catholic men, especially fathers, need to understand their nature and purpose, and then they need to model it for their children. We need to embrace our masculinity, not shun it. But I’m talking about authentic masculinity, not the toxic variety. A true man protects and defends his wife, children, his faith and all that is good and true.

Men of God who seek holiness must also be the faith leaders in their homes. Studies show that if men want their children to embrace the faith, they must model it for them. When I met my wife on AveMariaSingles.com in 2001 and started talking on the phone, one of the first things I asked her was if I could pray with her. Every time we got on the phone, I’d lead a prayer.

Now, nearly 18 years later, I lead our family in prayer every night. Then I pray with my wife before we go to sleep a few hours later. Prayer is the glue that connects us to God and to each other. My life is living proof of that.

Our faith calls men to stand in stark contrast to toxic masculinity. Men must be bold warriors for Christ. That can’t happen unless our lives are rooted in prayer. We must develop a habit of praying the rosary regularly. St. Padre Pio instructs that “the rosary is the weapon for these times.” There can be no heroism, no holy boldness without a committed prayer life. While rooted in prayer, we must also temper our strength with tenderness, just as St. Paul instructs:

“I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3).

St. Augustine, whose feast day we are celebrating today, wisely counseled: “You aspire to great things? Begin with little ones.” In our day and age, there can be no better advice.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is a seasoned Catholic speaker, journalist, and thought leader who founded NovaMedia this blog. This article was originally published by The Troops of St. George on Aug. 28, 2018.

Dads: Model your lives after God the Father

12 Jun

by Patrick Novecosky

(June 12, 2018) — One of the key points I hit every time I give a talk is this—we’re at war. The battle raging all around us is a war of ideas, a war over the best way to run our country, the best way to raise our children, the best way to live our lives.

This war is bigger than left versus right, liberal versus conservative. The real war is a spiritual one. It’s a battle for souls that will rage until Jesus comes again in his glory. Men cannot be passive. We’re called to engage.

Father’s Day is a great time to take stock of the battle—and the role we’re called to play in this war for souls. At the end of it all, when we take our last breath, we’ll face Him—the Lord of Lords. If we’ve been faithful and selfless, living our lives for others, we can expect Jesus to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

But Jesus will likely also ask us, “Who did you bring with you?”

It’s not time to shrug and say, “I dunno.”

Our job as members of the Church Militant, in a nutshell, is to get to Heaven and to take as many people with us as we can. If that’s firmly planted in your frontal lobe, chances are you’ll be counted among the saints in Heaven.

Fight the good fight

Three years ago, Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted challenged men to step up and be leaders in the culture war—and to be spiritual leaders in the home and society

“Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men,” he wrote in his apostolic exhortation entitled Into the Breach. “This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.”

The battle he describes is real. When men fail their families, children suffer. The Fatherhood Initiative reports that children with absent fathers are:

  • Four times more likely to live in poverty;
  • More likely to suffer emotional and behavioral problems;
  • More likely to commit a crime and go to prison;
  • Seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen;
  • More prone to neglect, abuse and substance abuse;
  • Twice as likely to become obese; and
  • Twice as likely to drop out of school.

That’s just the physical side. The spiritual side is even worse. When men fail to lead spiritually, children suffer in a way that has eternal consequences.

A 2000 study found that when both fathers and mothers attended church regularly, about 41% of the children would go to church when they reach an adult stage. Amazingly, when the father attends church on an irregular basis, 60% of the children reaching adulthood will be irregular attendees or drop out altogether. When the father doesn’t ever attend church, only 2% of children that grow into adulthood will attend church with nearly none of them ever becoming Christian.

When this same equation is with the mother, the numbers are not nearly as drastic. The conclusion is that fathers have the greatest influence on their children’s lives and have the most impact on their becoming a Christian and attending church regularly as adults (Patheos.com, The Importance of Good Christian Fathers).

Modeling God the Father

Herein lies the challenge for us as fathers. Our call is to mirror God the Father, which begins by being a devoted son of the Father. No small task, but it must always be rooted in prayer. Our children will do what we do far sooner than they’ll do what we say. Our words matter, but our actions speak far louder. If we’re devoted to our faith—praying the rosary, going to Mass, leading the family in prayer—our children are much more likely to take the faith seriously.

We must love our wives. Never stop trying to win her heart… even if you already have. My father was madly in love with my mother to the day he died. I’m convinced his love for her only increased when he crossed the threshold of Heaven. When your sons witness your love for your wife, they’re more apt to do the same when they’re married. Your daughters will look for a husband who will love her like you love your wife.

We must love our children. Each one is a precious gift from God. Irreplaceable. Unique. Each has the potential to change the world. And they will. They need to feel loved, safe and valued. I always think of Viola Davis’ memorable line in The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Bishop Thomas Olmsted

On top of that, our children need to know they are loved eternally. God loves them, and their destination is heaven. If we get this right, the rest is gravy.

The world needs such men who model our Heavenly Father. The world is desperate for your witness. Bishop Olmsted said it best to his flock in Into the Breach:

Men, your presence and mission in the family is irreplaceable! … We need faith like that of our fathers who defended the children of previous generations and who gave up their own lives rather than abandon their faith in Christ. My sons and brothers, men of the Diocese of Phoenix, we need you to step into the breach!

St. Joseph, patron of fathers, patron of families, patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the president of NovaMedia and editor of this blog. This article appears simultaneously in the blog section of The Troops of Saint George.

The Case for Christ is a compelling love story

10 Apr

Starring Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway
Run time: 112 minutes
Rated: PG
In theaters April 7

After reading Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ a few years ago, I attempted to contact him by email. In his book, the former investigative journalist recounts his journey from atheism to Christianity. He set out to prove that Jesus was a hoax and the resurrection never happened.

In my email, I challenged Strobel to write a sequel: The Case for Catholicism. I asked him to apply the same passion and take the same approach — turning over every rock, probing every historical crevice to prove that the Catholic Church is not the church founded by Jesus Christ. I’m not sure if my email got through. I didn’t receive a response.

Mike Vogel stars as Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ

Strobel’s best-selling book is now a full-length motion picture — a very important one at that. The film — produced by Pure Flix, the studio behind God’s Not Dead (and its sequel) and Woodlawn — cracked the Top 10 last weekend. It should be a massive hit, entering the box office race right before Easter.

The story is compelling, well-acted and better written than most Christian (or even mainstream) films these days. In the movie, Strobel (Mike Vogel, The Help, Cloverfield) is frustrated that his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen, Parenthood, Flightplan) finds Christ and gets baptized. He sees Jesus as his rival and sets out to prove that Christianity is a sham. In the process, Strobel uncovers massive amounts of evidence, but none of it backs up his own worldview. He discovers that it takes more faith to disbelieve in Jesus than to embrace the historic truths that back up everything about the Lord, his death and resurrection.

“In the end, The Case for Christ is a love story.” ~Patrick Novecosky.

In the end, The Case for Christ is a love story — Strobel’s love for his wife, his wife’s love for him and Jesus, and, ultimately, Jesus’ love for each and every one of us. In our age of rapid secularization and indifference to facts and the truth, The Case for Christ is one of the most important films of the past decade. Strobel’s book is powerful and compelling. The film version captures it perfectly. Let’s just pray he takes up my challenge. It would be a riveting sequel!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor of this blog. His review appeared in the April issue of Legatus magazine.

 

Jennifer Fulwiler Show: Can you bring your faith to work?

7 Feb

the-catholic-channel-logoNEW YORK (Feb. 7, 2017)–Legatus magazine editor-in-chief Patrick Novecosky was a guest on The Jennifer Fulwiler Show this afternoon on Sirius XM’s The Catholic Channel. Fulwiler asked Novecosky about the challenges about sharing one’s faith in the workplace. In a post-Christian culture, there is a debate about the best way to live between those who have a daily walk with Christ and those who live a secular life, he said.

They discussed how business owners and other leaders can live their faith at work — and also how regular workers can be more overt about their faith at the office. Novecosky talked about praying for those we work with and waiting for an opportunity to share our faith as St. Peter wrote: “Always be ready to give a reason for our hope.” CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview (17 minutes).

Jennifer Fulwiler Show: Business leaders can be saints

28 Dec

the-catholic-channel-logoNEW YORK (December 28, 2016) — Legatus magazine editor-in-chief Patrick Novecosky was a guest on The Jennifer Fulwiler Show this afternoon on Sirius XM’s The Catholic Channel. Fulwiler asked Novecosky about Legatus–what it is, how it was founded, and whether or not business leaders can be saints. Can one put God first and at the same time seek excellence in the business world?

Novecosky highlighted the work done by Legatus members and how they–and all of us–are accountable for how we use our talents and material blessings. CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview (First 23 minutes of audio).

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Ambassadors for Christ in the marketplace

7 Nov

morningshow31-trans800FORT WAYNE, Indiana (November 7, 2016) — Legatus magazine editor-in-chief Patrick Novecosky was a guest on The Kyle Heimann Show this morning on Redeemer Radio. Host Kyle Heimann asked Novecosky about what Legatus is and how its members are making a difference in the world.

Novecosky highlighted the work done by John Martin, founder of The Amazing Parish program and Tom Peterson, founder of Catholics Come Home. They also talked about how faith informs the business practices of Legatus members and how Catholics can live out their faith in the business place. CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview (13 minutes, 40 seconds).

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