If you haven’t already found this, I take it you will be happy to find it now (online only, excerpted in the print edition). Pair this with the next post from Speaking of Faith which includes a segment on The Wire — OG/MysticalCreative


In print. On-screen. It didn’t matter. No one was more eloquent (or honest) about the inner life of American cities than the men behind The Wire

By Alex Pappademas; Photograph by Mark Seliger


A cop show that eschewed “justice always prevails” reassurance. A convoluted all-the-pieces-matter narrative that defied passive consumption and punished latecomers. A “novel for television” with scripts written by world-class novelists like Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, and George Pelecanos. A profoundly angry work of pop sociology that looked through the keyhole of the Baltimore crack game at the institutionalized dysfunction of America at the cold dawn of the twenty-first century. In the course of its five-season run on HBO, which ended this spring, The Wire was all these things. And while it never got ratings commensurate with its rapturous reviews, it was also exceptionally entertaining TV—funny, profane, and (if you hung in long enough to fall in love) compulsively watchable. And since every passing news cycle makes The Wire’s assessment of our great, frayed nation seem less cynical and more prescient, we’ll permit creator David Simon a we-told-you-so moment. “The Wire explains New Orleans,” Simon says. “It explains Iraq. It explains the disconnect between facts on the ground and policy. The Wire didn’t reference the mortgage crisis and the drama on Wall Street, because we didn’t know about it yet, but it was about those things, and about this particular time.”




TV and Parables of Our Time [Speaking of Faith® from American Public Media]

TV and Parables of Our Time

Diane Winston appreciates good television, studies it, and brings many of its creators into her religion and media classes at the University of Southern California. In what some have called a renaissance in television drama, we examine how TV is helping us tell our story and work through great confusions in contemporary life. And, we play clips from The Wire, House, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica.

check out the origin page here:

Here we go, this is what it’s all about.  Speaking of Faith does it again.  Bravo.

Navigating Inglourious Basterds – a review by Owen Gottlieb

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Navigating Inglourious Basterds by Owen Gottlieb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

Copyright Owen Gottlieb, 2009
No reproduction without attribution to author

Amoral, virtuosic, the fantasy world of “the face of Jewish vengeance,” and a Nazi that can cite Heschel.

No question that Quentin Tarantino’s latest love-song to the world cinema, Ingourious Basterds, is riveting and suspenseful with moments of absurd and uncomfortable humor. At times it is Goodfellas meets Navajo Joe meets Schindler’s List. No doubt that again, the director’s post-modern playfulness is devoid of a moral core. Here, two wrongs make a right and nearly all characters lose what humanity they might have once claimed. It is a quilt of adrenaline and dark fantasies, buried deep within the world’s cinema-psyche, one that has likely not been mined since Tarantino’s favorite films of the 70s. This is the Tarantino style. 

Basterds the good guys are as bloodthirsty and sick as the bad guys, the Jews have morphed into B-film sterotypes of deadly rampaging Apaches on a “moral” mission. The finale is no distant document of continuing carnage, but the sick yet addictive pleasures of imagined vengeance. Unlike the finale of Hamlet or Macbeth – here the tragedy is the fantasy. Through Basterds, Tarantino argues that only movies can allow this kind of fantasy, and that this is one of most primal reasons why we love the movies.

What sets apart this latest paen to the power of 70s genre films re-imagined for today is not only the appreciation of international film history and literacy or the remarkable performances lead by Christopher Waltz as the Nazi Col Hans Landa. What sets Basterds apart are two aspects of the film that are emblematic of larger themes. First, there is the enigmatic moment in which a Nazi contemplates standing idly by while his fellow soldiers are killed. He notes that standing idly by is worse than committing the crime. While not mentioning Heschel, such thinking is core to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s beliefs about those who stood by while Jews were murdered. It is Heschel’s call for all of us to live up to our moral responsibility to never stand by while others suffer. Here, the Nazi asks himself the same question about his fellow Nazis. And here Tarantino, knowingly or unknowingly raises the philosophical question – what good is philosophy if one’s underlying values are anti-humanitarian? And the answer is: no good at all. This is the closest Tarantino gets towards deeper moral thinking, and is rather surprising to see in one of his films.


The second aspect that sets this work apart: The finale places the glee of butchery far beyond the pathos of human heartache. Unlike Kill Bill, here, Tarantino places the sheer joy of the fantasy of the power to avenge far beyond the tragedy of loss. There is no attempt to redeem the final frames of Basterds of Jew-turned-tower-guard-carnage — with pathos. The scales are far tipped in Basterds. They are flipped.


 Is creating a mythical bloodthirsty Jewish Vengeance brigade an attempt at tearing down Torah values – those of always choosing life, of treating the dead with dignity, of championing self-defense, but always turning away from vengeance? Disturbing and provocative, might the butchery-over-the-pathos of the film call into question Tarantino’s responsibility as an artist — just as we have questioned the responsibility of Leni Riefenstahl over the years? Riefensthal was one of the greatest filmmakers ever to live, and the most controversial, for having turned her remarkable talents to actively aid the Nazis (see documentary: The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl). I would argue that no, Tarantino is not working for a totalitarian regime, this is not clarion call for vengeance – only a fantasy, like Huck Finn’s visiting his own funeral. Who would ever want to torture their loved ones, but after reading Huck, who hasn’t imagined secretly witnessing her or his own funeral while still alive? Tarantino is writing precisely about the shadow-side (in the Jungian sense), that shadow-side, that when not honored through creativity and imagination, turns to repression and then to destruction. Sometimes fantasy can remain fantasy or even make for a well-told story. Movies allow for that.


 Owen Gottlieb is a fifth-year rabbinic student at HUC-JIR and holds an M.A. from the USC School of Cinema-Television. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, west.


Creative Commons License
Navigating Inglourious Basterds by Owen Gottlieb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at