Eyes of Tammy Faye

My wife Julie had a speaking role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a new movie based on the story of Jim and Tammy Bakker. We caught the premiere last night in Charlotte. Here, Julie is posing outside the theater. (The picture above, by the way, was made by Ken Garfield, the former religion editor of the Charlotte Observer.)

I thoroughly enjoyed it — and not just because my wife had a scene with Jessica Chastain, who delivered an honest portrayal of the one-of-a-kind Tammy Bakker. The movie is not a parody, but a tribute to a flawed optimist who somehow survived scandal, Jim Bakker, and copious amounts of diet Coke and Ativan.

It’s touching, funny, and dazzling — as this review in USA Today notes:

One of the Ten Commandments states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Considering her knockout, praise-all-her-glory performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” however, it’s going to be tough not to worship at the altar of Jessica Chastain throughout this Oscar season.

The movie was selected for special presentation by the Toronto Film Festival, and Jessica Chastain received the Festival’s Tribute Actor Award for her performance. And no wonder — Chastain is powerful and believable in this role. Check it out.

The Ancient One

The Ancient One mask

Lovecraft aficionados will appreciate this mask and its backstory. I snapped the image this weekend at the Seattle Art Museum. It was so delightfully gruesome that I couldn’t pass it by, and when I saw its name — “The Ancient One” — I knew I had to sneak a picture.

The mask is an artifact of the Ivory Coast. It’s a striking example of a “gela” mask, a disguise that supposedly transforms its wearer. The peoples of the Ivory Coast and Liberia believe a gela mask has the power to create a new being composed of the mask, the person wearing the mask, and the costume. The name of the mask, “The Ancient One,” suggests it’s a traditional design dating back many centuries. And no wonder — almost every culture recognizes a shadowy, shifting realm linking the human and animal worlds. This mask is a vivid and imaginative variant of that tradition.

The mask, made of wood, cloth, teeth, horn, feathers, hair, shells, mud, and natural pigments, deliberately combines human and animal features. It’s believed to have the power to absorb the feral passions in a community and redirect them back into the wild — where they belong.

Or so they say.