A bit of artistic justice

Lurking on some of my usual movie sites today, I noticed a fun fact that has gone unnoticed by the godless blogosphere. I still haven’t seen Bill Maher’s Religulous; I understand the ACA had a little group movie night when it opened here, which I missed due to being out of town. No one saw fit to blog a review of it here, though, so perhaps it just didn’t make much of an impression at all.

Still, it’s gotten pretty good notices in Free Inquiry and other sources I keep up with, and so I’m looking forward to the DVD.

But here’s the fun fact. Religulous had a minute fraction of the hype Expelled got, and never played on more than half the screens of Ben Stein’s disasterpiece. And yet, Religulous almost doubled Expelled‘s box office take.

So go Bill. Sometimes, the good guys win one. Now all he has to do is jettison his ill-considered anti-vaccination issues, and he’ll really earn his skeptic stripes.

Celebrate the new year by beating up on some religious wankers!

What better way to get 2009 off to a positive start?

Wanker A: Kent Hovind.

The 11th Circuit Court of appeals has upheld Hovind’s conviction. Too bad, so sad. One thing I’ve always been amused by is the way that, nearly two years later, this post has become AE’s zombie thread, with the occasional Hovindite still popping up like a gopher after finding the thing via Google, and posting some petulant comment about how we’re mean and evil and a bunch of heartless bullies and they hope we find the grace of Jebus in our hearts and all that. And oh yeah, Kent’s innocent and the tax laws are unfair/illegal/evil/whatever, too. There is no breaking the delusions of fundies, and there’s no overestimating just how profoundly disconnected from reality they are. After all, Kent still indulges in his laugh-a-minute “dialogues with God,” which you just have to read. (HT: PZ)

Wanker B: Ben Stein.

What fun! You can vote for Ben Stein to receive the Malkin Award, handed out by Andrew Sullivan over at the Daily Dish. The Malkin Award is, in his words, “for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric. Ann Coulter is ineligible – to give others a chance.” Hat tip on this one to Jim Emerson, editor of RogerEbert.com, where the venerable movie critic already beat Stein bloody a few weeks ago. Emerson has his own flogging to deliver unto Stein at his own Chicago Sun Times blog, too.

Addendum — Wanker C: Casey Luskin

The Discovery Institute’s official punching bag gets his ass handed to him by Ken Miller, for getting everything wrong about Miller’s testimony in Dover…let alone the pathetic foolishness of still trying to win a case his side lost decisively three years ago. ID is deader than dead, Casey. Deal.

Quite possibly the best Ben Stein beatdown I’ve yet read

If it weren’t enough for this moon-faced git to have ended up one of Olbermann’s Worst People in the World, try this on for size. No one has quite dissected what a deeply immoral, cretinous piece of lying filth Ben Stein is like Jeff Dorchen. Beauty.

That a man, let alone a Jew, could, without shame, walk on the graves of Holocaust victims and claim the theory of evolution was at fault, let alone a man whose nationalism, social darwinism (which is not Darwinism, by the way), anti-intellectualism, and disregard for the truth are beyond doubt – it’s like some ghastly executioner’s joke.

True dat.

The latest brilliant observation from Ben Stein and Dan Marvin

You learn something every day if you pay attention to the courageous freedom fighters for creationism. For instance, did you know the reason people pursue higher education and become teachers and academicians? It’s because they’re frightened people. Really, it’s true! Okay…it’s not really true. But Ben Stein says it, and it flatters creationists’ sense of victimhood and anti-intellectual smugness, so that makes it better than true. Because it doesn’t matter if something’s really true or not. If the creationists want it to be true badly enough, then it will be, and wanting things is so much easier than actually doing the hard work to earn them. For one thing, if you actually do hard work, you might find out what you want to be true isn’t really true after all. And that would be bad. So don’t waste your life actually learning things. Just believe, and leave the hard work to those pitiful academics. After all, they’re frightened people.

Another Expelled victim: Could Ben Stein’s lies launch a wave of religious hate?

Over at Richard Dawkins’ site, Dawkins posts a crazed, histrionic letter from a Jewish man to Michael Shermer. This fellow evidently saw Expelled over the weekend, swallowed the movie’s foul calumnies about evolutionary theory being responsible for the Holocaust with complete credulity, and went berserk. Dawkins publishes his own calm and even-tempered response to the man (who wails that Shermer ought to be run out of the country, a point which Dawkins admonishes the man is shamefully just like the views the Nazis held towards the Jews), in which he makes the facts abundantly clear and assures the man he has been most callously and cold-heartedly lied to by evil, mendacious people with an agenda. It will be interesting to hear if the man replies, or tucks his tail between his legs and runs off.

This is something that has, perhaps, not been fully addressed in the runup to Expelled‘s mild opening weekend, but which perhaps should be addressed now: the possibility that certain individuals will take the movie’s lies to heart and a wave of flat-out religious hatred towards the sciences and academia may begin. We already know that religious extremists don’t need a whole lot of motivation to go completely unglued. Fundamentalists are, by definition, fearful and irrational. It hasn’t taken much to inspire the God-soaked to pick up a rifle and gun down an abortion provider, or to beat gay men to death, or to dress up in white robes and lynch black people, or crash jetliners into buildings. Those, of course, are the very worst examples. Right now we have scientists getting hate mail. Is there a chance we might see a Molotov cocktail or two lobbed through the window of a university classroom somewhere?

Hopefully that’s just slippery slope thinking. But then, as history teaches us, the more fanatical the belief in the divine, the more dangerous a person is apt to be. And remember, those Wehrmacht belt buckles didn’t have Darwin fish on them; they read, very clearly, “Gott Mit Uns.” I hope it doesn’t turn out that Ben Stein ends up having far more to answer for than just stolen animations and music. Shame on you, Ben. What you’ve done is deeply immoral and unforgivable.

Talking to a victim of Expelled

Some of our Christian commenters are just idiots or mean-spirited trolls, but occasionally we get someone who’s sincere and easily duped by the lies spewed by Ben Stein’s little movie. One of these, a young woman (I assume) calling herself Verity, has commented here, and my comment, straightening out a number of the falsehoods and misconceptions she holds as a result of taking Stein at his word, follows right away.

While I have no sympathy for the fundie fanatics of the world, for the people who concoct the lies Expelled is selling to begin with, I do have sympathy for the victims of their deception, and how their view of the world is thus impoverished by trusting in ignorant ideologues like Stein, rather than in reality. Go have a look see, and comment yourself if you see any details I might have missed.

Meanwhile, the weekend estimate for Expelled is shaping up to place the movie at 9th overall, with earnings of around $3,153,000. Its per-screen average of $2,997 means that it was getting about 111 viewers a day on each of its 1,052 screens. Of course, distribution will not be even, so that means some showings each day were nearly empty while others would have been fuller. But mostly this means that Expelled had a thoroughly average opening weekend, actually a bit above average due to its being a propaganda film “documentary.” But a far cry, I’d have to say, from the projected $12-15 million that Mark Mathis said was the opening he’d consider “successful.” I suspect that on Monday, however, he’ll have downgraded his expectations accordingly and be raving about what a blowout success the movie was.

Mostly, though, I think we can consider Expelled pretty much a blip on the “culture war” radar at this point. Hopefully now that they’re done being vilified as Nazis, all of America’s hard-working and underpaid scientists can get back to work now. You’ve earned it, gang.

Why yes, the bad reviews are all part of the [echo]Conspiracy-iracy-cy![/echo]

Via Expelled‘s site:

“Big Science Academy” is proud to have the support of the “Mainstream Press” in stifling the rise of freedom of speech in our science classrooms. In so many ways, “Big Science” and “Big Media” are on exactly the same page, when it comes to making sure that dissenters and troublemakers are properly expelled.

Well, what can I say? It’s been a busy week for us here at the Nazi Darwinist Conspiracy Headquarters (I could tell you our secret handshake and door-knock, but then I’d have to expel you) over at Area 51. I myself have had to wash and wax half a dozen black helicopters all by myself! That hasn’t left me much time to suppress anyone, but Obergrüppenführer Dawkins tells me he’ll let me have some overtime on Tuesday.

There Will Be Blood: The critics have at Expelled

As happens with all shitty movies, the distributor for Expelled declined to screen the movie in advance for critics. Indeed, we know they kept their advance screenings a tightly controlled series of fundie lovefests, expelling any knowledgeable, scientifically literate viewer if they were able. After all, in a movie that beats the “free speech” and “academic freedom” drums long and loud, it’s certainly very important to keep opposing views silent, eh?

But now real movie reviewers are getting a chance to eyeball the film, and the results aren’t pretty. It will be interesting to hear how Stein and Mathis and their usual gang of idiots try to spin this as the expected reaction from a liberal Darwinist cabal hostile to competing ideas, considering that these are just movie reviewers who are going to see the film as part of their weekly roster along with everything else. They really can’t be said to have a horse in the creation-vs-evolution race. Which is also true about most people who don’t make the atheist/science/Christian/creationist blogosphere part of their daily routine. And the movie’s emotional caterwauling is unlikely to sway or even interest them. There’s such a thing as overkill, and even unsophisticated audiences will recoil if they think they’re being beaten over the head.

Expelled is currently tracking at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. By comparison, here is the critical scorecard for the works of self-proclaimed genius auteur Uwe Boll: House of the Dead: 4%. Alone in the Dark: 1%. Bloodrayne: 4%. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale: 5%.

Thus I’d like to offer Nathan Frankowski my congratulations on being able to boast that he is a more critically acclaimed director than Uwe Boll.

I’ve posted some choice reviewers’ quotations in the sidebar. Now it will be entertaining to see how the opening weekend pans out. Since Premise Media actually managed to get the thing on over 1000 screens, the heat is on far more crucially than if they’d opened in limited release and then done a regional release pattern throughout the rest of the summer. If they don’t score huge numbers this weekend, they’re losing their shirts in a way they would not have if they’d just hit smaller markets in 50-100 screen rollouts in succession. Executive producer Walt Roloff perhaps got overly excited at the prospect of being able to boast the widest release ever for a “documentary.” But I think he’s just a teensy bit optimistic when he goes on to cheer that he thinks Expelled‘s numbers could exceed the $23.9 million opening weekend of Fahrenheit 9/11. After all, that movie had colossal pre-release hype going for it. Plus Michael Moore was feeding off a zeitgeist. And despite Roloff’s apparent beliefs to the contrary, there isn’t this groundswell of public outrage over some conspiracy theory about “Big Science” and its suppression of ID as there was in 2004 over the depredations of the Bush administration.

I must say, it will be interesting to sift through the rubble on Monday.


Amusingly, RT has logged a second positive review for the movie (against 20 pans), and this one is from Christianity Today, which you’d expect to be receptive. Yet even they admit the movie is scientifically empty: “…if you’re looking for ammo to argue your Darwinist friends under the table, look elsewhere.”

Home of the Cuttlefish Fan Club

PZ’s regular readers may be acquainted with the poetry of commenter “Cuttlefish, OM”, whose own blog is chock full of his witty, satirical rhymes. As prose, and not poetry, is my own literary background, I can’t tell you why I love his stuff in a way that will earn me an A+ and a smileyface sticker from my Analyzing Poetry professor. I’ll just say, the man has flow. Here’s his latest masterpiece, about a certain ex-Nixon-speechwriter turned conspiracy theorist.

I am the very model of a devious creationist
I’ve made a film that’s best described as stolen-animationist
I know the use of rhetoric when facts are unavailable
To render the impossible into the unassailable

I’m very well acquainted, too, with data manufacturing
I’ll claim I stand on solid granite even as it’s fracturing
I document complexity, like when it’s irreducible…
And think my movie’s in the league of Arthur Miller’s Crucible

And think my movie’s in the league of Arthur Miller’s Crucible
And think my movie’s in the league of Arthur Miller’s Crucible
And think my movie’s in the league of Arthur Miller’s Crucible

I’m very good at lying, both the verbal and statistical—
Like Darwin in his later years, I’m openly theistical
In short, you might describe me as a mental masturbationist
I am the very model of a devious creationist

I believe we need to assign Cuttlefish his very own heroic theme song. Possibly that old R.E.M. tune. “Iamb, iamb, iamb Superman…” (Of course, unlike the Expelled producers, we better make sure we secure the proper music rights first.)

(Okay, start the flames over my lousy pun in the comments whenever you’re ready…)