by Bobby Maddex
When my wife and I were first married, we went to the movies at least once a week, usually more. Having since acquired two baby girls, however, we never go to the movies, and this—in my mind, at least—is one of the most serious drawbacks to having kids. So perhaps this is why, when we snuck away this past Thursday to see the film Juno, it was such an affecting experience.
I can't stop thinking about this movie, and it's not because it's an "important" film or one that contains "deep" themes on which to chew. I think it's because Juno seemed so real. I taught high-school English for a couple of years, and the teens in the movie talked in the ironic fashion that marks real teenage conversations. The expressed emotion was authentic throughout, exhibiting immaturity, yes, but also a budding adultness that is likewise part of the teenage psyche. Juno's decision to forgo an abortion thus flowed naturally from realistic adolescent thought processes, making it both shocking, at least in this day and age, and wholly expected. As you might be able to tell, the movie is difficult to put into words, which is probably as good an indication as any that it is a truly excellent film.
In Salvo 5, I talk to Barbara Nicolosi, a Hollywood screenwriter and film critic, about Juno, as well as the other films nominated for academy awards this year. She, too, admires Juno, but will not concede that it is a pro-life movie. Indeed, when I contend that 2007 was the year of the pro-life film, citing Knocked Up, Juno, Waitress, and Bella, she is quick to correct me with a very compelling argument.
According to Nicolosi, such films do not reflect pro-life attitudes, but rather culture-of-life attitudes. Here's the distinction:
Those constituting the new generation of filmmakers responsible for Juno et al. care little for either the pro-life or pro-choice political positions. The debate between these positions was the province of the Boomers, and for this reason alone they do not participate in it. At the same time, this is a generation (in which I count myself) that grew up with photographs of sonograms on the refrigerator, making it extremely difficult for those within it to deny that embryos are children. It is also a generation that exhibits a sort of collective survivor guilt, elicited by the knowledge that many within it were themselves the victims of abortion, which has resulted in an avoidance of the practice whenever possible. This in part explains why abortion rates are falling.
Consequently, Nicolosi maintains that 2007 was not so much the year of the pro-life movie as the first indication that we are entering a new culture of life that is being built in response to the culture of death that has held sway since the Sixties. Generation X or the Millennials or whatever you want to call them (us) may not pay lip service to the pro-life position, but they are actually doing something far better. They are actively choosing life. And this, says Nicolosi, is reason for hope. Hope for the culture and hope for the kinds of stories that will be told by the next generation of filmmakers. In the end, maybe such hope is what I actually experienced while watching Juno, and perhaps it is hope that explains why I can't stop thinking about the film.
Whatever the case, you really don't want to miss what Nicolosi has to say about the state of Hollywood. She is at once funny, amazingly insightful, and courageous in her assertions about the culture. Beginning with Salvo 5, I will be talking to Nicolosi in each and every issue. Subscribe today so you don't miss a single conversation. In the meantime, check out Nicolosi's blog, Church of the Masses, to get a sense of her astute and nearly encyclopedic knowledge of all things movies.
Oh, and if you haven't done so yet, go see Juno—particularly if you haven't been to the movies in awhile. You won't regret it.