January 14, 2016

MOVIES: "THE REVENANT"



The 2016 Golden Globe Award for Best Picture was "The Revenant"--from a novel based on a true incident--starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a hunter-trapper who, mauled by a bear, is left to die by his companions. There's a little more to it than that, but that's the basic premise. I can't really compare this visceral (in more ways than one), lushly-filmed, gruelling-to-make film to anything else I've seen. It's part Western, part journey film, part revenge flick, part mercy flick, part historical rectification, but always a film-experience you will be totally immersed and lost in. "The Revenant" feels 4-D and makes us feel alive, not hypnotized or numb. We can almost smell the fresh air and taste the snow on our tongue. The film never blinks. The film never flinches. The film never looks away. The film never relents. Is it "all that"? Yes. Does it deserve accolades? Yes, fling lots of Oscars at it, please.

NEVER A DULL MOMENT

Although it's 156 minutes, the film does not feel long, and there are no dead spots in its masterful pacing. Lest you're afraid there'll be too much "Castaway"-style DiCaprio mumbling to himself in isolation's ennui? There's none of that. The entire film is interspersed with the doings and progress of several different groups, which all weave into the story without it ever feeling busy or like an ensemble piece: a band of Natives, a band of French, Fitzgerald and Bridger, the Captain and the rest of the hunters, the soldiers and settlers at the Fort.

What does "revenant" mean? A "revenant" is one who comes back from the dead to terrorize the living. Many are calling "The Revenant" purely a revenge film, but it's more than that. It's also about justice and the will to live. The will to live was biggest for me. Hugh Glass (Leo DiCaprio) had a son with a First Nations woman (presumably deceased because she whispers encouragement and appears when Glass needs hope--but not in a "nick of time, cue the ghost" kind of way--simply in a way that our loved ones stay with us). This son is a teenager and travels with the hunting party--but he is despised as a half-breed. Glass speaks harshly to his son in his native language in order to protect him from harm by the other men.



A WORTHY NEMESIS

We know there's going to be big trouble right away. Fitzgerald (the incomparable and completely unrecognizable Tom Hardy) is a self-serving, weasely whiner who contradicts and rejects everything the well-respected Glass suggests they do (that always turns out to be the best thing)--after an ambush by a Pawnee chief and his braves, looking for the chief's abducted daughter. Hardy, affecting an unwavering Texas drawl, never shuts up as he alternately complains and taunts. Like Tom Sizemore in "Saving Private Ryan," you feel like he walked right out of the era he's portraying. 

Fitzgerald/Hardy is old-world and blood-chilling and dangerous and untrustworthy and doesn't have a decent bone in his body or one iota of conscience.

IF IT BLEEDS, IT LEADS

Is it violent and gory? Let's just say there's lots of blood and guts, but it's never gross, over-the-top or gratuitous. This is a wild and disciplined film at the same time. Nothing out of place. If you just keep telling yourself "this is a film about raw survival," you'll get it. The scenery is all harsh beauty, much of it panoramic. You will be plunged into freezing waters and feel it, your lips will parch and crack. 

DiCaprio's breath is amplified throughout the film as a clever ambient noise, to the point where it's almost a character or part of the soundtrack. That sounds in print like it would be annoying, but it's not. Every pain-drenched gasp and grunt and growl and groan is rhythmic and becomes our own. The camera is everywhere: extreme close-up, close-up, mid-range, long-range, just everywhere, almost like virtual reality, but without gimmicks. The camera is a participant deep inside the film which takes us with it and makes us the same. Glass' breath often fogs up the camera (purposely), as we enter into his travails.

HOW ABOUT THAT SCORE?!

The dialogue is meted out, rich without being poetic--and never superfluous. There is naturalistic background chatter that we're not meant to decipher, and what we can hear is not rarified and highly stylized. Life is not cheap in "The Revenant." Oh, and this is also a profoundly religious film. The soundtrack is original music by Ryūichi Sakamoto. It's mostly a sewn-in, atmospheric hum with something akin to drums, but not exactly (hints at First Nations drums, but also, perhaps, Japanese drums?) A cello is used sparingly--as cellos should be. The film was shot all over the world and made by an international cast of thousands. Financing from Hong Kong. I stayed through every last credit (and highly recommend doing so) just to continue being swept along by the thought-provoking, parts-of-your-soul-you-didn't-know-you-had-stirring, never-maudlin score that continues like an undercurrent till the bittersweet end.

Alejandro González Iñárritu is a very unique director ("Babel," "Birdman") but doesn't act like an auteur or indie-guru. His films are deeply entrenched in the best of Hollywood, the Hollywood that can enliven our imaginations and hold up a mirror to our humanity. It's meaty and earthy, but always polished. Not too much grit here: the Hollywood showmanship, glitz and glamour we love are never too far away.

OTHER STUFF:



--Although rated "R," I would guess that mostly for f-bombs. This is a great movie for younger mature teens (13+).

--Horses die.

--"Revenant" is slightly reminiscent of "Noah," and the frequent wide-angle vistas are similar (but without the FX). The only detectable FX in "Revenant" are the animals.

--Two unintentionally comical moments involving animals: a bear and a horse.

--Leo is good, but he's too studied. As usual.

--The instrument, ondes martenot (an early electronic instrument invented in 1928) is used wondrously in the soundtrack.
Here's a sample: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrBUMZ7aNBQ, and here's a sample from the actual wondrous "Revenant" soundtrack (don't think martenot is in here):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CfCbM0wNPY

--Discovered a new filmmaking term in the credits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensman

--It's not white people bad, native people good. It's a little bit of a mix, but we definitely see the cruel oppression and injustice done to First Nations peoples.

--Is this a man's film? Very, very, very much so. And there is no BS in the wilderness, so we see Glass pondering what is real, what is real about God, what is real about religion. His manly heart tells him what is true.

--"I ain't afraid to die any more. I done that already."

--"In a storm when you look at the branches of the tree, you're certain it will fall. But if you look at the trunk, you'll see the stability."

--"If you can take just grab another breath, you can live."

--This film could also have been called "Breath."

--LOTS of women and First Nations people worked on this film. (Women always excel at: casting, costumes, makeup, but this film has women in many other key positions as well.)

--Please see the COMMENTS section regarding the improbability factors. :)

--"The Revenant" is a real film.


January 4, 2016

MOVIES: "FULL OF GRACE: THE STORY OF MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS"




"Full of Grace" is an art-house, indie film about the last days of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Bahia Haifi) on earth. The story is interwoven with the plight of Peter (Noam Jenkins) who--although the Church is growing--is faced with heresy upon heresy, distortions of the Faith in thought and practice ("they are picking apart the Living Word of God") and the malaise of his own indecision. He is reminded by other Church leaders that Jesus gave him the authority to lead, and that if he doesn't, impostors will fill the gap. Mercifully, Our Lady (whom all call "Mother") summons Peter--because she knows she is getting ready to go to the Father's house. Mary is able to strengthen Peter's faith (and ours as we listen to her!), not only by recounting details of the Annunciation and Jesus' life and ministry, but through her own reflection and wisdom about what it all means and "where to go from here," when the Apostles and first Christians had no Church history to fall back on. (It seems the difficulties the early Church faced are not that different from today's difficulties.)

Imaginatively faithful, "Full of Grace" bases itself in part on the Didache and what we know of the early Church. At the end, we do not see Mary's Assumption, but rather her body wrapped in a shroud and placed in a tomb (presumably the Assumption happening much like Jesus' Resurrection).

UNIQUE FORMAT

For starters, this is more of a filmed play than a film. It is a series of longish dialogues and monologues. There is precious little action. Perhaps the writer-director's background in horror films (Andrew Hyatt, a revert to Catholicism) informs the moribund pace and mournful string music throughout. I just discovered that Hyatt directed an amazing 2012 pro-life horror film called "The Frozen" which I recently watched. (I never watch horror because I am perfectly capable of scaring myself silly in broad daylight thankyouverymuch, but something drew me to this little film and I highly recommend it. I'm sure true horror fans will find it tame, but the story line really "haunts." In a good way.)

Do not expect anything like "Mary of Nazareth" or "The Passion of the Christ" when you watch "Full of Grace." Don't expect anything like Roma Downey's "Bible" series or Ridley's Scott's "Exodus" or Daniel Aronofsky's "Noah." Think scaled down. Way down. This film could actually work as a one or two person play. Handheld and extreme close-ups dominate the camera work. "Full of Grace" joins the ranks of "Into Great Silence" for a film you have to be in the mood for, a contemplative mood.

MARY IS ALL ABOUT JESUS

The acting is very fine and the dialogue is often brilliant and completely applicable to today without sounding anachronistic. Mary and Peter are not primarily focused on Church structures, rules and internal strife. They know that's not the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is the Risen Lord (not the Lord who lived on earth in the past) who has not left them, who offers a risen life to all through the spread of the Good News.

The film is a snapshot of the early Church at a low point: Peter is discouraged and Mary is dying. But Mary, "the Church at the source," saves the day. Toward the end, when Mary has the Apostles gathered 'round her, she begins to "preach" in a womanly way to the men--as a raconteuse--and instructs them as to how they, too, can have her faith. Very, very Theology of the Body at this point.

FILM COULD HAVE BEEN SHORTER

The most disappointing parts of the film for me are the flashbacks to the Annunciation. Mary strolls about in a white dress that looks like a twenty-first century sun dress with capped sleeves. And, like virtually every Bible film before it, no angel is shown. The beginning of the film could also have had more tension and dialogue, rather than waxing meditative so immediately. We needed more exposition and more investment in the characters, even though we know them outside the film. Every film has to make us know these characters anew. The film owns these characters now. Who are they? Every scene and beat of the film could have been trimmed to shore it up, and the film would have worked better if it was shorter.

The sets are sparse, tightly contained, and filmed either outdoors in the remote hills where Mary is staying--mostly likely due to the ongoing persecution--in a cave, or inside Mary's house. There are repetitive establishing shots.

Personally, I would love to have an audio of Our Lady's final soliloquy to bolster my faith on a daily basis! The well-cast actress has a strong, elegant and persuasive cadence. At the very end of the film it is Peter, however, who has the payoff lines regarding the solution to the multiple impasses facing the Church. God's ways are always simpler than we think. Never easy, but always sure and true. And the Truth--who never leaves us all alone--also sets us free.

Available at: www.fullofgracefilm.com and Walmart.

OTHER STUFF:
--Full disclosure: I personally know quite a few of the people in the credits.
--Some of the music is Hildegard's!
--Lest you think Peter was all hunky dory from Pentecost on, remember how he dissembled (in his actions, not teaching) with regard to the Gentiles, and Paul had to set him straight.

--Interview with the filmmakers: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2015/1227/6.aspx




December 12, 2015

MOVIES: "GUADALUPE: THE MIRACLE AND THE MESSAGE / EL MILAGRO Y EL MENSAJE"


A beautiful new 60-minute documentary, "Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message" (in English or Spanish), put out by the Knights of Columbus, lays out the story, history and significance of the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the last days of the Aztec empire to the present. It's really not to be missed, even if you're very familiar with the story and have watched other documentaries and films on Guadalupe (as I have). What more is there to say about this incredible event, testament and relic--beyond its occurrence in Mexico City in 1531? A lot. Our Lady, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Reina de las Américas, was just getting started in the sixteenth century. Her influence has only grown and reached out to all the corners of the world.

DESPERATE NEED FOR DIVINE INTERVENTION

The Aztec religion was caught up in the frenzy of prolific human sacrifice, particularly human blood and hearts which--as the seat of life--they believed their gods demanded. Not only that, they believed that  Tenochtitlán, the location soon to become Mexico City, was the center of the universe and that the world would end without these sacrifices. (Mel Gibson's fine movie, "Apocalypto," depicts these sacrifices in all their horrific magnitude.) Catholic missionaries were not successful in gaining converts. The cruel Spanish conquistadors were wiping out the native population with diseases and slaughter--a kind of human sacrifice of their own making. The treatment of the Indians was so egregious that missionary Franciscan Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, called "Protector of the Indians," was ready to withdraw the very presence of the Church from the land ("strip the altars!" he had commanded his priests). The Aztecs were beyond demoralized. Robbed of their gods, culture, land and lives, they no longer saw a purpose in living. Something had to give. Divine intervention could not have come at a better time.

APPEARING TO THE ELDERS

Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, a middle-aged Indian convert to Christianity, and not to little children as she subsequently seems to do. Why? Because she was honoring the elders, according to native tradition. Not only did she appear to St. Juan Diego, but also to his elderly uncle who was dying. (She cured him and revealed her name to him: "The Ever Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe," which some also translate not as "Guadalupe" but as: "the one who crushes the serpent.")

"I AM YOUR MOTHER"

Unlike other apparitions, Our Lady of Guadalupe had no urgent message. She didn't ask for prayer or fasting, only that a shrine be built. Her message was simply: "I am your mother." At the shrine she promises to the bishop that, regarding the Aztec people: "Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes." Her miraculous image appeared on Juan Diego's tilma (cloak) as a sign for the Bishop of the validity of her appearance and message. (The roses that had suddenly appeared on the barren Tepeyac Hill that Our Lady commanded Juan Diego to pick and bring to the bishop, were Castilian roses from the bishop's native Spain.)

OUR INDIGENOUS WINTER VIRGIN QUEEN MOTHER DANCING ON THE MOON

Our Lady of Guadalupe is probably the most fascinating of all Marian apparitions, and with the profoundest of meanings. It is the most visited Marian shrine in the world. Science is still not able to explain many, many things about the image, or why the tilma itself hasn't been utterly corrupted (as are all other contemporary samples of the same cheap fabric) after five hundred years of stressful conditions. The image is not only of an indigenous Madonna--much to the joy of indigenous peoples the world over, it is saturated with symbolism that spoke to the visually-literate Aztecs. She used all of their own signs and symbols to communicate a perfectly clear message: I am the Virgin-Mother of the True God. I am one of you. My Son and I are greater than your gods. I am your Mother who cares for you. She is depicted as dancing (dancing meant prayer to the Aztecs) on an eclipse of the moon (one of their deities). The stunningly specific communications just go on and on. They were so clearly understood that in seven short years--due to Our Lady's direct invitation--nine million Indians converted to the Faith. The words of Psalm 147:20 are engraved at the shrine today: "He has not dealt thus with any other nation."

CRY IF YOU WANT TO

This documentary is in the style of any History Channel piece. It begins with too-fast, old-MTV-style cuts, but simmers down quickly. Jim Caviezel's mystical-yet-definitive sounding voiceover lends drama (Placido Domingo narrates the Spanish version). The soundtrack is inspiring, and although we are not given all the voluminous details surrounding the apparition, the focus is on Our Lady's effect on believers through the ages. The brief re-enactment of Juan Diego and the beautiful lady are very pleasing. Many contemporary Church luminaries are interviewed, and I caught myself bawling a few times at Our Lady's solicitude for all peoples.

GUADALUPE FILMOGRAPHY

I would like to recommend a few other films on Guadalupe that I consider helpful to rounding out "the basics" of the significance of "Our Lady of the Americas." (To be watched in this order.)

1.  "Guadalupe" http://www.doscorazonesfilms.com/EN/guadalupe-movie.html  (English subtitles) Do NOT watch the hideous trailer. Starts with a hokey fake story about two rocky marriages in Spain, but once the couples travel to Mexico it gets good. Real good. Lengthy re-enactment of the Guadalupe event in Nahuatl with English subtitles (magical!)--and scientific explanation of image.
2. New Knights of Columbus documentary: "Guadalupe: the Miracle and the Message/El Milagro y el Mensaje" www.GuadalupeTheFilm.com
3. Our Lady of Guadalupe's significance for the pro-life movement. A must-see video by Dan Lynch: http://www.jkmi.com/our-lady-of-guadalupe-store/cd-dvd/our-lady-of-guadalupe-mother-of-hope-dvd-1
4. St. Juan Diego animated movie for da kids: http://www.jkmi.com/our-lady-of-guadalupe-store/cd-dvd/juan-diego-messenger-of-guadalupe-dvd … (by former Disney animators)






November 27, 2015

MOVIES: "THE LETTERS" (MOTHER TERESA)



"The Letters" is another film about the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (acted with aplomb by Juliet Stevenson)--specifically that part of her life where, posthumously, personal letters that revealed her prolonged dark night of the soul surfaced. The stunning revelation is chronicled in the book "Come Be My Light--The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta." She had wanted these letters burned at her death, but, thankfully, her spiritual advisors did nothing of the sort. To know that the woman whose name is synonymous with acts of charity ("Who do you think you are, Mother Teresa?") struggled with not just intermittent spiritual dryness but full-blown, persistent desolation, can give courage to even the most skeptical of believers and non-believers alike.

A BIT OFF THE MARK

The question is: Does the film succeed in covering this omnipresent yet hidden aspect of Mother Teresa's life? Is it actually the focus of the film? Not exactly. Granted, it's very difficult to externalize such a state of soul in film, especially when it's also necessary to show her intense, concurrent missionary work and tell the story of her life...but could it have been done? Yes, and here's how.
1) I would say that most people are familiar with the notable events of Mother Teresa's life, so many details--although fascinating, and many never seen before in film--could have been left out.  2) It is not necessary to retell almost the entire life story of someone in a biopic. It's better to focus on one part of their life and go deep. 3) The pace really needed to be stepped up. I felt that "The Letters" needed a lot of editing instead of the feel of everything unfolding in real time. Had the pace been snappier and the film unflinchingly edited, it could have accomplished much more and we would have a much better insight into who the private Mother Teresa was (perhaps even more quotes from her letters, more prayer times/work times where we could see/hear the devastation of her spirit manifested). Otherwise? This is a well-made film, capturing the spirit and spirituality of Mother Teresa (not turning her into a secular social worker).

ON TARGET

All that being said: 1) We can't have too many movies about Mother Teresa. 2) A new generation wants new films and doesn't want to have to watch old films. 3) The film succeeds as a lovely depiction of a call from God in the life of one of the 20th century's greatest luminaries. (Mother Teresa's vocation was a "call within a call" since she was already a professed Sister with the teaching order of Loretto.)

The film's slow, reflective pace and truly lovely soundtrack makes it suitable as a retreat film or for viewing when one is in a contemplative mood.  The start of the film is especially laid back as the priest-postulator of her cause for canonization (Rutger Hauer!) speaks with her spiritual director (Max von Sydow!) about the secret that Mother Teresa hid from the world: her trial of darkness. Both priests are clearly used as devices to give us information in the baldest of ways (postulator calmly and blandly questioning spiritual director). But it gets interesting once we jump to the heart of the story, and whenever Mother Teresa (the adroit and utterly believable Stevenson nails Mother's Albanian accent) is onscreen, it's good.

A POSTMODERN SAINT

Mother's dark night of the soul lasted for approximately fifty years--beginning when her work with the poorest of the poor began. No wonder she famously said: "Sometimes it's hard for me to smile at Jesus." Yet she was ever faithful to her prayer time, her religious life, her apostolic duties, and grew her congregation, the "Missionaries of Charity" to about three thousand while she was still alive.
I remember when Mother Teresa's spiritual struggle was made public, atheists rejoiced. Yes. Let me say that again. Atheists rejoiced that she understood them, that she was almost one of them. In fact, there was even some confusion (quickly cleared up, however) that Mother was an atheist herself! Mother's objective belief in God never wavered, she simply didn't feel Him at all, and she even felt a persistent negativity that she was unacceptable to God, that He didn't love her somehow, even though she acknowledged intellectually that God loves everyone. She experienced only God's absence--the "via negativa"--which makes her a very postmodern saint, doesn't it?

“If I ever become a Saint–I will surely be one of 'darkness.' I will continually be absent from Heaven–to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”  –Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa had a succinct way with words, similar to Pope Francis. Her manner of speaking is well-portrayed in the film: Young nun: "I'm afraid this man is dying, Mother!" "Yes, well, we can just give him a little bit of God's love. That's all." "The greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted, unloved."

A CONTROVERSIAL SAINT

The film captures well her simplicity, her clever and unconquerable spirit, her seeing the face of God in the poor, and her delight in loving and serving Christ in the poor, her poor. The film strongly brings out the moments of opposition to this "white Christian woman teacher" who lived among and almost exclusively cared for Hindus. She did not hide Jesus from them, and yet she had no ulterior motives of wanting to ultimately convert them (something Christians criticized her for!). But there's a difference between NOT wanting people to come to Christ (or being indifferent about it) and NOT being called to be the one to make that happen. Certainly, she would have been delighted if she sparked mass conversions to Christianity, but she was simply obeying Christ in taking care of these people. She stressed: "I am here to help."

The work of "development" is often seen as pre-evangelization by the Catholic Church. And what greater actual evangelization could there be than putting faith, hope and love into action in the name of Christ?  These utterly destitute "untouchables" had no one but her to help them. Little by little, she won over everyone, including the Vatican (for permission to begin her new congregation) and the government of India, locally and nationally--to the point that she was given a State burial.

THE COMEBACK QUEEN

It may be hard for us to imagine now, but in her day, Mother Teresa was a controversial figure to some people. Catholic social justice aficionados accused her of not attacking systemic problems of poverty, not getting to the root cause of it all (thereby presuming to tell her what her vocation was/should be). A particular "progressive" Catholic periodical even calumniated her by saying she zipped around the world in a "Lear jet" with a "dishrag wrapped around her head" (referring to a few public speeches she gave: at the UN, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, etc.). Mother, of course, always had the perfect answer for her detractors: "While we are discussing systemic causes of poverty, this man is going to die in the gutter. May I take care of him first?" She often refused large sums of money as "checkbook charity," and instead would invite the prospective donor to "come, experience the joy of loving." She loved and cared about the rich as much as the poor.

OTHER STUFF:

--Max von Sydow (Swedish) played Jesus in "The Greatest Story Ever Told," The Apostle Peter in "Quo Vadis," and the priest in "Exorcist 1 & 2." Check out his extremely long and illustrious career on www.imdb.com  His first credit was in 1949!

--Rutger Hauer (Dutch) has an outlandish personal history--perfect for an actor (check it out www.imdb.com). Sr. Helena's favorite roles of his: "Blade Runner" (the 1982 director's cut WITHOUT the cheesy voiceover) and "Escape from Sobibor." (Both are must-see's.)



November 24, 2015

MOVIES: "HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY--PART 2"


If you already know how the "Hunger Games" saga ends, you may want to skip this third installment--unless you are fond of tedium. The beginning gets off the ground well enough with lots of dialogue and ominous music that is just setting the stage for future action scenes. However, said action scenes drag on and on, do little to advance the story, and one infuriatingly long sequence involves scores of fantastical creatures that just keep coming and coming and coming at our characters. It became almost comical and all I could do was envision those police cars piling up and up and up in "The Blues Brothers," or myriad clowns piling out of a VW.

TO EDIT OR NOT TO EDIT? EDIT

At times toward the middle and end of the film, the movie felt almost unedited, like the filmmakers just let the camera run, or they just got tired of editing, but I suspect they were running out of ideas at this point in the film and also just wanted to make the ending of the whole series feel epic (by its completely unnecessary length of 137 minutes). This lack of editing gives the story an uninteresting, amateurish feel, like first-time filmmakers who are so attached to their every shot that they can't decide which "gems" to get rid of. This desperate need for editing was felt not only in the action scenes, but also when the camera constantly plays on Katniss' (Jennifer Lawrence) face for prolonged periods of time. Granted, Jennifer Lawrence may prove to be the Meryl Streep of her generation, and she masterfully holds the camera's (and our) attention with every slight shift in mood, every small twitch or squint, but...enough already.

Another consistent flaw with The Hunger Games, IMHO, is the fact that Katniss' love interest is all wrong. The characters and/or actors of Peeta and Gale should have been switched.  I find no chemistry between Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss, but lots between Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Katniss. Am I wrong?

WAR AND PEACE

Let's recall at this point, Suzanne Collins' intention for writing "The Hunger Games" in the first place. She came from a military family and wanted to get young people thinking about the seriousness and horror of war before they might blithely or naively consider enlisting at the tender age of 18. Although--as I stated in my reviews of the previous films in the series--I have big problems with the milieu of children killing children (even granted Collins' noble cause), this film has some excellent ethical discussions that unfold organically as the characters are forced to make decisions, react, retaliate and plan their course of action.

The strongest point of the film is Katniss' moral compass that just won't quit. She gets the complexity of the situation, but she never wants to lose her humanity. She is not afraid of the hard thing, of the hardest thing if it's the right thing. The questions the film raises are worth looking at carefully: If we are willing to use the same ruthless tactics as our "enemy," what makes us so different from our enemy? Does it matter if we're any different from our enemy? And how different are we from our enemy, really, as fellow human beings? Can we win if we use ethical tactics and our enemy doesn't? What if we begin to commit the same atrocities that kicked off a war in the first place--then what are we fighting for? Where does it all end? What happens when authority breaks down in the ranks? Is there one mutual enemy of us all? Clarity is needed more than ever in times of armed conflict.

SAVING LIVES IN THE MIDST OF WARFARE

There are some good shockers at the end--but getting there was fatiguing to say the least (I can't tell you how many times I looked at my watch), and the relentlessly heroic soundtrack was draining. Katniss is still looking a lot like Joan of Arc (and a bit like Cupid in the promo pic above), even literally "catching on fire" in a bad way (Joan died by being burned at the stake at 19 years old). Joan prided herself on never having killed anyone personally and even reached out to the enemy, begging them to save their lives, even as she was in the thick of battle with her men. (Katniss, also, is always concerned about saving as many lives on both sides as possible.) When President Coin (Julianne Moore) sees that a French Revolution-style bloodbath is imminent, she finds a creative way to lessen the bloodshed.

In some ways, the whole "Hunger Games" experience is summed up toward the end of the film in a letter from Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, RIP) to Katniss. He tells her that they have now entered that sweet period of peace that happens after a bloody conflict while the horrors are still fresh in people's minds. The question to all of us is: how quickly will we forget and return to our all-too-easy bloodlust? To violence as one of the first and best solutions?

OTHER STUFF:

--Caesar Flickerman's (Stanley Tucci) purple eyebrows

--Like "Twilight," two men love one woman (the ultimate female fantasy)

--People are more scary than fantastical creatures. Fantastical creatures are non-sadistic and, well, dumb.

--This movie could have been named "Sewer Games."

--So  many plot points of the advance on the Capitol were unrealistic: they were in broad daylight and didn't get killed? Didn't the Capitol have face-recognition software and surveillance technology everywhere?

--Irish music is always the go-to music for weddings, happy times and happy dances

--MY REVIEW OF PRECEDING "HUNGER GAMES" FILMS:



November 17, 2015

NOVENA TO BLESSED JAMES ALBERIONE--FEASTDAY NOVEMBER 26


Today begins the Novena to Blessed Father James Alberione! 
Film: http://www.MediaApostle.com
Prayer: http://sabahapc-prayer.blogspot.ca/…/prayer-through-interce… …
Feastday: November 26
Blessed Fr. James Alberione, SSP -- Founder of the Pauline Family -- 1884-1971

November 5, 2015

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY IS THE ANSWER--TORONTO


BOOK: "LOVING MY (LGBT) NEIGHBOR: BEING FRIENDS IN TRUTH AND GRACE"


Excellent book!


This excellent book is what we really need today. Stanton walks the walk himself (with many true and deep friendships with people in the LGBT community--without compromising a Biblical, sacramental worldview). I am a Roman Catholic nun who teaches Theology of the Body and I have been desperately looking for a rational, even-handed, truly loving (the truth in charity, the charity of the truth) book like this to give us insight into our rapidly changing culture and what our response as followers of Christ needs to be.

This is not a book about activism, but about individuals' sincere relationships with other individuals--who just might disagree with each other (and our world no longer knows how to civilly disagree, but only to sling loaded, incendiary, accusative slogans at each other). Stanton breaks down the myths on both "sides." I follow the pastoral practices of www.CourageRC.net wholeheartedly (Courage Int'l, the Catholic Church's spiritual support and pastoral outreach to the same-sex attracted: recommended on the U.S. Bishops website), and have many friends in this organization. I find "Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor"'s in-depth explorations and advice to be in accord with these guidelines. This is not a theoretical book but one of sound, practical advice and real-life examples.


November 2, 2015

MOVIES: "SPOTLIGHT"




"Spotlight" is the recounting of the "Spotlight" team of intrepid investigative reporters at the Boston Globe who broke the Catholic Church's clergy sex abuse story in January 2002--mainly concerning the Archdiocese of Boston. For starters, this is not a Church-bashing film even though it easily and rightfully could have been. It's an accurate, stark, almost understated presentation. It's rated "R" simply and appropriately for subject matter. Just enough of the horrific details of cases are disclosed in the film, the rest is hinted at discreetly.

This is a story that had to be told, and the filmmakers have done a capable and responsible job.

NOT ENTERTAINMENT

"Spotlight"--as a feature film--is not a pseudo-documentary, nor is it juicy, sensational, exploitative entertainment. (And it feels wrong to critique it as such.) "Spotlight" is what I would call an "information film." The acting, too, is muted: none of the big name actors shine. The excellent cast seem to be humbly striving only to serve the story. Is it hard to watch? Yes, of course. The tone is somber, dreary and somewhat suffocating--as it should be. The monolithic power of the Catholic Church (till 2002) over civic, religious and spiritual affairs in the city of Boston is chilling. It extended even into the Globe where employees (many of whom were Catholic) simply knew you don't take on the Catholic Church. They are even trained to believe that when the Catholic Church dismisses claims, they can't possibly be true. It took an outside editor from New York (the New York Times purchased the Boston Globe in 1993) to press the issue.

MAGNITUDE

The timeline unfolds without much fanfare. Little by little, the magnitude of the number of priests, victims, and the span of years and cover-ups becomes clearer and clearer. Since we, the audience, presumably know the sordid story and outcome, there are few surprises and no real highs, lows or even serious crisis points. The kicker is that everything, all the evidence was hiding in plain sight. All the reporters needed was a few names of priest-abusers, the secret code words "sick leave," "unassigned," and "leave of absence," and the cooperation of a few victims, lawyers and judges. Much is made of the fact that B.C. High (a Catholic Jesuit boys high school that some of the reporters themselves attended, maintained an infamous priest-coach molester on staff) is directly across the street from the Boston Globe building.

Ironically, both the Catholic Church in Boston and the Boston Globe were at the height of their influence at the beginning of the new millennium, while a third character--the internet--is just becoming a serious player (a billboard for big, bad AOL is subtly placed in the film).

WHO'S TO BLAME?

Very self-effacingly--and I would say unnecessarily and misplacedly--the film blames The Globe itself in a big way for not reporting the story years earlier when lawyers and victims provided plenty of damning information that went ignored. Whatever culpability The Globe bears, they more than made up for it by compiling overwhelming, carefully-researched evidence that wouldn't be just another isolated story that would get buried. "The Church" and Cardinal Law are distant, cold, uncaring shadows. The abusing priests are sick and distorted men--almost excused. The names Geoghan, Shanley and Talbot (among others) will conjure up ugly memories for all who lived at the heart of this nightmare or on its peripheries.

FOCUS ON THE VICTIMS

The faces and voices of the victims are given three-dimensional reality and the major focus. Even the heroic, crusading lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian--who insisted on bringing victims' cases to the courts to expose the Church's wrongdoing--is modestly underplayed.

DENIAL

Part of the initial incredulity of sectors of the public and the average Catholic in the pew to the Globe's scoop was due to the Globe's notorious anti-Catholicism since its very inception in 1872 (not unlike most of the old Boston WASP establishment). And many just didn't believe that so many heinous crimes of this nature could have been so well hidden for so long. If it were true, surely we would have known? Surely we would have heard some rumors and gossip? Whoever did know something was silenced with hush money, or gave up when crushed by the power of the Church's legal and "moral authority" arsenal and sway. But it didn't take long for the undeniable, verifiable veracity of the charges to grip the city and the world.

NO AFTERMATH

There is precious little aftermath in the film, as it wraps up on the day the first big story is released (there were a total of 600 stories run relentlessly about the scandal for at least a year afterward in the Globe). A few words of Epilogue are given, and then we are left with a gaping wound of sadness.

NO HOPE

There does not seem to be any hope put forth in this film. Not about healing for victims or reform for the Church. But maybe that was not a part of the film's scope. Maybe there is no way to find the silver lining here. There is also hardly any insight into the root causes of this terrible state of affairs. It's just raw evil on display. Perhaps this is the best way for this particular film to handle this grave matter. Sexual abuse destroys hope. No soothing, reassuring sugar-coating or "Hollywood ending" in this film.

NO GOD

There is hardly any mention of God in this film. No angry questioning of "Why did God allow this?!" or "Where was God?!" or  "How could purported men of God do this?" or "This has destroyed my faith in God!" There is only mention of "devout Catholics" and those who "go to church" or "don't go to church." There didn't even need to be a distinction made between a good God and bad men who represent God (and are doing a terrible job at it) because God is pretty much absent from the film. The one tragically poignant mention of God is from a male victim, now an adult, who says: "You don't say no to God" (meaning when a priest propositioned him at twelve years old, the only right answer was "yes"). Again, perhaps this was the best way to handle "God" in this story that had nothing to do with a good God, and everything to do with bad men. (The Church, although divinely instituted by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, is still human and sinful because of the free will of her members--even those who hold the authority. Thankfully, the sacraments and everything we need still operates through these men, regardless of their personal holiness.)

THREE FLAWS

As I see it, three minor drawbacks to the film are:

1) They got Cardinal Law a bit wrong. They made him a much older man (he was only 68 in 2001) with a hint of an Irish accent (Wha?). They made him a rather flat--although bold--stereotypical bureaucratic figure, when in reality he was a magnetic, charismatic personality who had actually been a media favorite when he first came to Boston.

2) The feeble, brief explanations given for the (unfettered) abuse were screaming to be explored and were even contradictory.
--"Celibacy is the issue. It creates a culture of secrecy." Really?? So if one attempts to practice (priestly) celibacy they have a good chance of being/becoming a depraved, predatory pedophile? And how are celibacy and secrecy related? This makes no sense. And sadly, most sex abusers of children? Married men.
--Another reason given  is that some of the priests were "psycho-sexually stunted at the level of a 12-year-old"--which may be very true, but that does not make one an automatic repeat child molester. The one priest molester we see being interviewed begins to say that he was raped, but the thought was not continued. (The rest of that statistic is that it was discovered that some priests who molested children were molested by priests themselves when they were children. They grew up, became priests and continued the incestuous cycle.)

3) I would like to have seen some rage in the film. Some of the rage that I felt and still feel in the pit of my stomach. Perhaps the filmmakers are leaving that up to us, the audience.

THERE IS HOPE

But of course, there is hope. Although sexual abuse (and spiritual-sexual abuse) takes a deep, deep toll, and a certain proportion of the victims tragically committed suicide, emotional healing is always a possibility.

SEE THIS IMPORTANT FILM

"Spotlight" is an important film to see, even if you kept up and delved into these darkling waters--as I did--when they first hit the shore. The restrained even-handedness of the story-telling is remarkable and will prevent it from being a "controversial" film. It's truly a "talkie" film--as you would expect the milieu of a newspaper to be--but never tedious. The narrative and the horror is in the information itself each time more is unearthed. Why should you see this film? To honor the victims, first of all, and second of all to understand how corruption--of any sort--works, in order to be vigilant and oppose it. NEVER AGAIN.

Has ANY good come of all this sorrow? The suffering of the children, teens and their families has not been totally in vain. There is now a much greater awareness of the sexual abuse of minors all over the world, and new laws have been created to protect young people where there were none.

OTHER STUFF:      
  
WHAT ARE THE REAL ROOTS / REASONS / CAUSES FOR THIS TRAVESTY?
--this problem is centuries old
--it's not celibacy that is the problem, but a culture of secrecy brought about by a culture of absolute power and lack of accountability
--absolute power corrupts absolutely
--abuse of power is not an inevitability, it's a choice
--unbridled male chauvinistic power is insensitive to women, children and the vulnerable
--pedophiles automatically gravitate to wherever they have trusted access to children (seminaries, schools, sports teams, law enforcement, etc.)
--seminaries did not do good screening of candidates
--anyone who reported behavior was threatened (get kicked out of seminary themselves, lose a job/position)
--silence=loyalty
--silence/playing the game=perks, advancement
--it was a numbers game (to have lots of priests)
--it was keeping up appearances (bishops knew they could quash "problems," abusers knew they would never get in trouble and would always be shielded: the perfect set-up)
--it was keeping up appearances ("not on my watch")
--toward the middle of the 20th century, psychiatrists and psychologists got involved (assessments, "treatment") and kept giving the green light to put the priest back in ministry (bishops blindly "obeyed")
--it wasn't known that pedophilia is not "curable" (but it's also not rocket science to see that a man abusing over and over and over and over again needs to be stopped, removed permanently)
--gross blindness and ignorant cluelessness as to what sexual abuse does to a child/teen
--careerism, clericalism, wrong priorities
--evil and sin

SOLUTIONS?
--the clergy sex abuse problems will continue unless there is courageous breaking with mentalities, cultures, habits, patterns and cycles
--the presence of women in all (non-ordained) positions at all levels and places of Church life will help mitigate undisciplined male power (and male lack of empathy and sympathy)
--following preventative and protective protocols for child safety immediately and unilaterally
--child safety is everyone's job, not just those in positions of authority
--stringent screening/dismissals at seminary level
--thorough training in human sexuality for seminarians (including THEOLOGY OF THE BODY)
--a deep prayer life, spiritual direction in seminary
--priestly spirituality
--normal, healthy relationships with laypeople, families, women of God
--priestly fraternity, camaraderie, seminary follow-up, oversight by and relationship with bishop
--bishop accountability (Pope Francis is putting this in place)
--availability: doing ministry where needed (while maintaining healthful lifestyle, self-care and avoiding burnout)
--pouring oneself out as a spiritual father (love and zeal for the Bride [the Church] and the world) conquers loneliness

When the shocking news broke, it was the only time in my life--since my conversion at 15--that I wanted to leave the Catholic Church and run screaming to the hills. A close friend even accused me: "You're a nun--you knew!" But I didn't. Nobody knew. Or very, very few people knew. I agonized for months over it. I couldn't understand. I thought priests and bishops were the good guys! I thought they wanted to protect and help people! I just couldn't figure it out. And then--through my study of Theology of the Body--I got a powerful insight: Men do NOT want to be Superman or the Lone Ranger. They do NOT want to break ranks. Men are HORRIBLE at whistle-blowing. They are all about BAND OF BROTHERS. And this is a good thing! Men are stronger together. They have each other's backs. They can provide for and protect hearth and home better TOGETHER. The problem lies when they BAND TOGETHER FOR EVIL. To hide each other's sins. To give each other a pass for their sins. Look the other way. Code of silence. Complete corruption. Whole cities run on this notion. But it doesn't have to be this way. 

MEN NEED TO BAND TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD. Positive peer pressure. And call each other out when they need calling out. So, guys? Join some good guy thing to do charitable works together, pray together or just hang out together. Live by the "10 Commandments of Chivalry" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chivalry (except the showing no mercy to the infidel part). And always, always BAND TOGETHER FOR GOOD, NOT EVIL.

"The Long Lent of Sex Abuse Survivors and the Road to Recovery": (excellent article from a Boston woman) http://aleteia.org/2015/11/05/the-long-lent-of-sex-abuse-survivors-and-the-road-to-recovery/





October 30, 2015

MOVIES: "JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS"





"Jem and the Holograms" is a live-action tween movie based on the animated TV series of the same name that aired from 1985-1988. Although I have been informed by some fans of the TV series that the film is not cleaving exactly to the TV version, it is nonetheless a delightful, "family-oriented" film that is innocent and fun, and skillfully avoids all kinds of pitfalls that a flick of this nature might have fallen into headlong. I was all prepared to say that in many ways "Jem" is the anti-"Pitch Perfect" movie (something I would relish), but then I checked the lyrics to the songs used in the film and in the complete soundtrack. Please read on because there is a major, major CAVEAT with this film.

What pitfalls does the film avoid? It is not cutsie. There is no Valley Girl talk or vocal fry. The teen girls are not stereotypes of today's radical feminist agendas, and neither are they Barbies. They seem like (albeit extremely well-groomed) regular gals. One is a little tougher than the others (she's a hacker and has spent time in juvie). The film does not drown us in song after song after song. In fact, the musical numbers are well-placed and are mostly power pop, with one initial soft ballad.

CAVEAT

Most, most unfortunately, the lyrics to some of the songs are very, very risque and beyond inappropriate for tweens or teens or anyone (although the visuals in the movie do not match at all--the songs are not acted out in any way). It may be a bit difficult to hear all the lyrics as they're being belted out in the film, but of course young people don't have this problem. This is a huge, huge drawback to the film. Check out especially the words to "Mi mi mi": http://genius.com/albums/Various-artists/Jem-and-the-holograms-original-motion-picture-soundtrack which is used at least partially in the film (I don't remember hearing any of the most objectionable words from this song in the film, but still). Other songs used in the film: "Youngblood," "Alone Together," "I'm Still Here." If songs with objectionable lyrics (very objectionable) were not included in the film or on the soundtrack? There would be no problem here. But there is a problem. A big one. Why should we wonder why our young people engage in bacchanal-type sex on college campuses when they've heard this stuff from their tenderest years in "PG" movies? Sigh. I'm sad to say this film was too good to be true. Very sad to say. Unless you are willing to have a serious discussion with your young people about the lyrics to ALL the songs on the soundtrack, I'd say this is a "no" film. But why NOT have that discussion? Ask your young people what they think of these lyrics. Take this opportunity to do some Media Literacy and Theology of the Body with them. There are many, many good things about this film, but they are totally undermined and undone--perhaps even destroyed--by the lyrics to some (not all) of the songs featured in the film and on the soundtrack.

FAMILY VS. FAME

Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples) whose stage name is "Jem," becomes an instant, viral internet sensation when she dons a crazy pink wig and sings a sensitive ditty into her webcam. Her three sisters (one blood sister and two cousins, all being raised by their aunt--but they all consider themselves true sisters) are her band. A star-making music company (appropriately called "Starlight") comes calling in the person of Erica (the inimitable Juliette Lewis, digging her fangs into every scene and stealing it). Lewis could really make a new career out of playing luscious modern-day villainesses.

After seeing the trailer, I thought the film might be a good exploration of what "fame" means today, and it is, but it's even more focused on family. Jem and her sisters are all about family, about being a family. And they're all about their music. The "famous" thing for them is a just a great way to spread the love, and get some badly-needed cash so they don't lose their house. (Molly Ringwald, as the devoted aunt, has one of the best lines in the movie--aimed at Erica--that pretty much sums up the whole fame thing).

Jem lost her Dad when she was young. He encouraged her in her musical abilities and gave her words of wisdom to live by. He was also working on an invention before he died: an adorkable little robot named "Synergy" who gets mysteriously activated at the same Jem's career takes off. Synergy is the most fantastical part of the film, which otherwise might pass as a non-sci-fi film.
Jem's relationship with her Dad is really the heart of the story. He is the unseen guiding light. There is a mild romance between Jem and Rio (Ryan Guzman), Erica's son, which culminates in a kiss at the end.

CLEVER SOUNDTRACK

The entire feel of the film is that of an after-school special. It's not a "big" film, and it's pretty low on hype. The girls remain incredibly grounded through their whole experience, even through their one big crisis and band breakup--which alone can speak volumes to a starry-eyed, "everyone-is-having-their-15-minutes-of-fame-now-in-our-digital-world" world. Jem video-narrates to us, the audience, the entire saga of her rise to fame. She and her sisters critique and are highly aware of the ersatz nature of "social media"--even as they use it. It's great social commentary.

The clever, thoughtful backbone of the soundtrack is actual uploaded-to-the-internet amateur musician videos (often just doing rhythms and beats). How do we know they're videos? Because we see them briefly, intercut with our characters' story. There are also lots of fake "Jem and the Holograms" fan vids throughout the story that feel very authentic.

Stay for the credits or you'll miss the lengthy zinger leading directly into a sequel where rival band "The Misfits" will thicken the stew.


October 16, 2015

MOVIES: "HYENA ROAD"



"Hyena Road" is the latest film about the war-with-no-end-in-sight: Afghanistan.* Canadian writer-director-actor, Paul Gross, delivers what is now a standard, sand-infiltrated, khaki-camo-dappled screen adventure in the nouveau tradition of "Jarhead," "Hurt Locker" and "American Sniper." "Hyena Road" looks and feels pretty much the same as these movies, except that this tale is exclusively about Canadian troops and one of their slices of the battle--a lethal supply route in Afghanistan's notoriously inhospitable terrain, riddled with IED's and "insurgents."

A CANADIAN FILM?

My main question about this film was: "Is it a Canadian film?" And if so, what makes it Canadian or not? Canadians are known for their non-bellicosity. It's not that they don't have the stomach or skills for war. They don't have the heart for war--which isn't a bad thing. Having lived in Canada for over a decade, I can testify that Canadians are a truly peaceful and genteel people. But Canada is an ally of the U.S. and part of the free world that opposes terrorism and is willing to combat it with force. So why are "they" making this ostensibly glam war film? I haven't seen or read any interviews with Paul Gross, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it may be from motives of national pride to honor (honour) the Canadians who fought and those who lost their lives in this maddening desert morass.

One Canadian film critic went so far as to call "Hyena Road" "jingoism," and there was a bit of that. However, patriotism is coupled with a somewhat cheesy voiceover beginning and ending the film with Alexander the Great's deferent words about this indomitable land and people. The film is trying to make sense of it all by showing us the big, big picture while zeroing in on the smallest human details of this particular war--which, in reality is "many different wars." Unlike American films about the Gulf Wars, the enemy is not as demonized in black and white--rather the point seems to be that it's individuals who choose to be and do evil during war time or any time.

War quickly becomes personal and deeply conflicted for the idealistic and/or duty-driven North Americans. As with many war-weary populations, Afghans have learned to switch allegiances to suit their own purposes, survive and thrive. Nothing is clear-cut and there are layers of purposes and strategies that  Pete (Paul Gross)--the PR "heart and minds" guy--doesn't even share with his company until they're in the thick of it.

"FOR THE GREATER GOOD"

Perhaps the greatest dilemma posed in the film (a dilemma in all wars) is "the greater good." (The distinctly American phrase "collateral damage" is not used.) When children are abused and become pawns, it's too much for the men to "do nothing" as they are ordered. They righteously and naively assume that war is about doing heroic and worthy things like protecting children. That's why they signed up. That's what they're here for. But they forget it's not their war and that they too are pawns of far bigger and more powerful forces and entities. When it comes to light that Pete is OK with this arrangement, there was an opportunity to really cut open the dark underbelly of the  amoral soul of war. Instead the filmmakers made nice.

Art imitates life here. A recent article in the Toronto Star reveals a scandal wherein Canadian troops were told by their superiors not to intervene when Afghan troops and interpreters sexually assaulted  young Afghan boys: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/10/14/canadian-military-probe-of-alleged-afghan-sex-assaults-drags-on.html

The acting is a bit bland (sorry, Canadians!) and lacks any kind of star power, juice or chemistry. The swaggering, scenery-chewing Paul Gross character brings some, but he never quite nails the role--I felt that he was  working hard at drumming it up and going through the motions. The firefights are quite tense and well-done, except that no Canadian soldier ever gets hit (for most of the movie), even though they are impossibly exposed. The cinematography is on point except for a few strange, experimental (the experiment fails) camera angles and pans here and there (in non-combat scenes). The soundtrack is lush, exotic, operatic and conjures throbbing war drums.

Exposition? Too much showing and telling at the same time. And lots and lots of telling by Pete who frequently goes on disclosure binges that feel like...disclosure binges (helpful as they are). The story actually begins with no plot or stakes and proceeds rather episodically. But maybe that was on purpose, to show the subtle futility of war's Sisyphean tasks.

Canadian Rossif Sutherland (son of Canadian Donald Sutherland) is a main actor, but his New York-ish accent is odd. The native actors are OUTSTANDING. One captivating elder figure in particular takes the cake.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

"Hyena Road" had the potential to be a much greater film. It has some powerful set-ups and tackles some powerful human dramas. But it needed to "go there." It needed to go all the way and not back off, back down. It needed to show us WHY people return from war with PTSD, as well as truly mine why we (as nations) really go to war. War can't be about protecting innocent people and not protecting innocent people at the same time.

In the end, I think this is a Canadian film. Simply, perhaps, because Canadians know it's not all about them.
_______
*
Canada pulled out of Afghanistan in 2014.

OTHER STUFF:

--Canadians are terrible at cursing.

--The film avoids twee Canadiana. Just the requisite hockey and a funny little scene where a Canadian soldier very naturally and casually uses elegant language. There's one misuse of the word "medievalist," but that might have been intentional. Oh, and "Quebec" must be the code name for the letter "Q" because it's used ad nauseam--to the point of ludicrousness throughout the film, especially at the direst moments.

-- Paul Gross is famous from the delightful TV series "Due South," about a Mountie (Gross) and a Chicago cop who team up to fight crime. (This Canadian creation was delightful until the Americans took it over and ruined it.)

--A few lovely pro-life (as regards new life) scenes.

--Filmed in Manitoba and Jordan.

--Because of the episodic-ness, there is no prolonged or sustained suspense (except for the gun battles). You never feel like something really bad is going to happen....

--This film made me think about suicide and war. The elements of suicide in every war.

--How do you measure "winning" in a war like this? Pete says it's not about winning, it's about preventing the craziest crazies from getting in power.

--War movies are the real horror films.

--It was good for history to be reiterated through this film, in order to put the saga that is Afghanistan in perspective (from B.C. to the recent Russian fiasco).

--A lovely little documentary:  "The Beauty Academy of Kabul" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0439130 Also a book: "Kabul Beauty School." I also recommend the 2010 war doc filmed in Afghanistan: "Restrepo." My review: http://hellburns.blogspot.ca/2010/07/movies-restrepo.html#.ViFMRfmrSM8


--The deeper question of "why does the USA/Canada go to war?" has become even more problematic than ever in an "anything goes" world. Are highly-trained, highly-disciplined, self-sacrificing soldiers fighting to preserve the right of people back home to do absolutely anything they want? Are they fighting for wanton license back home and using the rule of law to flatten laws, create a climate  of lawlessness  or create tyrannical laws based on pure subjectivity? When there's no longer a common goal and ideals, no shared ethics, no agreement about what human dignity even is--how do you fight to uphold it?

One of the last sacrosanct taboos is to harm a child. Yet abortion is legal and there are those pushing for the "rights" of a child to be free from the upbringing, mores, morality and religion of their parents (which, of course, is swiftly replaced by those of the State). There are those pushing for the "right" of a child to be "sexually active" (including with adults) and to do away with the "discriminatory" concept of childhood altogether. Perhaps these incongruous realities are subconsciously as crazy-making to a soldier's psyche as an IED.

October 13, 2015

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY TRAINING -- TORONTO 2016


Registration entitles you to exclusive audio recordings of each session.






October 9, 2015

DAUGHTERS OF ST. PAUL 2nd ANNUAL BENEFIT DINNER -- TORONTO




MIAMI PREMIERE OF "MEDIA APOSTLE"!


Hey Miami! 

"Media Apostle: The Father James Alberione Story" 

is showing October 17, 12:15pm 

Cinepolis--Coconut Grove 3015 Grand Ave. Miami, FL 33133

at the John Paul II Film Festival!

...  

Buy tickets here: