Tuesday, April 1, 2014

God's Not Dead

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

Chesterton is quite famous for having said that. Some may misinterpret this phrase as an excuse for lack of effort, but it is not what it says. I too took a while to understand it as well. And yet ever since I did, I have admired the wisdom of these words over and over.

Take the film I took my three teens to last night. A no-Oscar-pretentious Hollywood production, not by a stretch. Some of the acting wasn't even very good. Low budget. 

Wait! I never go to the movies! And, there was a blizzard last night! 

Well, yes, a blizzard. 

This was taken whilewe drove home at 20 MPH.

And no, I haven't seen a single Oscar-nominated film. No, wait, we did go see the Hobbit as a family. But I'm not sure it was nominated for an Oscar. 

Why? Because my idea of entertainment is not action films, and the rest of the films are either disgusting to see or trying to forcefully shove some weak ideal of save-the-earth or wrong-is-actually-right down my throat, both of which I don't welcome. Nothing wrong with great environmental projects--I am married to an ecologist, keep in mind--but from Hollywood what we get is "protecting the environment is the only moral absolute" and well, we know it isn't. Ultimately I don't trust the spiritual, interior life of Hollywood's producers or directors. 

There is an occasional great film--but I think the moral greatness of a film is almost always accidental, or even done despite of its producers like in the case of LesMis--they couldn't quite take away all of the great elements of the superb, very spiritual story of Victor Hugo's away from the production.

Back to last night's film. I heard about it and watched the trailer earlier in the day:

And I decided to go with the kids before it stopped showing in town. A film like that doesn't last, although it has had a surprisingly large viewership from what I read. I didn't expect a flawless production, but I expected, and enjoyed, a film that talks about what is real in life. Love. Faith. People's hearts seeing what they were blind to beforehand. Courage. 

I did get all that, and more. It wasn't sound Catholic theology but the theology wasn't off the charts either, nothing anti-Catholic. The protagonist, a college student who is singled out by an atheistic professor to prove the existence of God to the class, does a great job studying and preparing his three lectures about it he is allowed to give. Actually this young man is a Disney Channel actor and does a very good job in the film. 

Well, the trailer almost tells it all. There is appearance of a Duck Dynasty couple. I don't watch the TV show and I found them sincere and likable. There are issues of sin and love and loyalty or lack thereof, arrogance, greed, selfishness. There aren't any gratuitous graphic scenes of sex or violence. The photography and production levels are not amazing or breathtaking, but were fine, and told the story well. 

What I would have changed? Well when Lemaitre was referred to, I would have mentioned he wasn't simply a "theist" but a Catholic priest. I would have brought the sacraments into the story-line--especially Confession, and personally I would have preferred to skip the Christian rock concert in the finale. Adoration and Gregorian Chant would have been much better--but I had to love the members of that music group, which turns out to be a real Christian music group. They were all funny and sincere. And other minor things.

So back to Chesterton: If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." This story was worth doing, and they did a good thing with it. Not excellent or breathtaking, but they did it, and it was worth doing it. Go see it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


During the holidays last week our whole family enjoyed a marvelous BBC production: Cranford. Judy Dench as the lead gives a fantastic performance in this story of the town of Cranford based on the novels by Elizabeth Gaskell. From Husband through Number Seven and including the grown boys and the high school senior, we were all ready to drop all whenever an episode started in the TV room! Don't miss it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 10 Eucharistic Miracles

Benedictine's blogsite "The Gregorian" lists the top movies featuring the Eucharist:

Over at the National Catholic Register, my wife, April and I run down our “Top 10 Eucharistic Movie Moments” just in time for Corpus Christi. Here’s the list, updated from what we filed two weeks ago. Add further suggestions in the comments atCatholicVote.org.
10. Rocky II (1979) … and Rudy, and Cinderella Man.  You’ve got to love Rocky praying in front of the tabernacle, the giant crucifix absurdly close to Adrienne’s hospital bed so that it’s in every shot, and Rocky getting a blessing on the way to the big fight. But Rudy and Cinderella Man also have strong Catholic chapel scenes.
9. The Longest Day (1962): A priest puts forth heroic effort on D-Day to rescue his Mass kit.
8. Marcelino Pan y Vino (The Miracle of Marcelino) (1955): This great old movie only treats of the Eucharist symbolically, but the reference is unmistakable and powerful.
7. Romero (1989): Martyrdom at Mass is not just the climactic scene, but the theme.
6. Becket (1964): The saint is killed in Canterbury Cathedral.
5. The Maldonado Miracle (2003): The blood of Christ unites a town and saves souls in Salma Hayek’s directorial debut.
4. Brideshead Revisited (1981): Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) calls the chapel with an empty tabernacle “just an oddly decorated room” and is renewed when it is reconsecrated and “reloaded.”
3. The Mission (1986): At the end, there is a remarkable scene of enemies firing on a Eucharistic procession led by Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons).  Note to Jeremy Irons: Might God be trying to tell you something by putting you in two of the clearest, most direct Eucharistic movie scenes in the 20th century?
2. For Greater Glory (2012): There are priests martyred next to tabernacles, makeshift Masses on mountainsides, and an altar boy is the bravest hero.
1. The Passion of the Christ (2004): The top place has to go to the movie that takes pains to represent how the Eucharist is a window on the Crucifixion. The way the movie intercuts between the passion and the Institution the Eucharist makes it clear that Jesus wanted us to have contact with the first through the instrument of the second.
Update: Looks like I missed some great Eucharistic moments ...  There Be Dragons in particular. See them all and add more in the comments at CatholicVote.org.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Way, a personal review

The Way, directed by Emilio Estevez, starring Martin Sheen.

So you should read this only if you have seen the film already. It came out recently on DVD.

The film has been praised by many and it undoubtedly has some great points, and perhaps they make the film worth watching just for themselves:

  • the wonderful photography of the holy images of the Camino de Compostela, including the statuary along the way and the gorgeous basilica's interiors and Mass.
  • a strong, beautifully executed pro-life message, through the character of the one woman in the group of friends who talks about how her abortion early in life has marked her life
  • the character of the French gendarme, my favorite character in the film, a man of deep faith, full of understanding, respect, and kindness towards the newcomer, suffering American
Alas, I found also a number of problems in the film. Starting with the blatant--I have heard and read several references to this, as in this blog--I refer to the casual, not-recommended treatment Martin Sheen demonstrates with his son's ashes. It is not difficult to find the Church's position on this, for instance here. So no, taking his son's ashes in a Ziploc bag inside a box in your backpack and scattering them along the way is definitely not recommended.

Then there is the issue of the characters Martin Sheen befriends along the way. From what I read, there are indeed representative of the people on the Camino, if all a bit flat and stereotypical: a Canadian woman hurting inside from past problems, a Dutch man attempting to lose weight, an Irishman undergoing writer's block. Well, for one thing, yes, after walking 800 miles the Dutch man would have lost some of his stomach for sure, but in the film he does not. The Canadian woman swears the whole way she will give up smoking when she gets to "the feet of saint James", but the viewer already knows she will not quit. The Irishman does conquer his writer's block as he begin writing about Martin Sheen's personal journey, but of all of the characters he is the most forced one. His entry into the story is short of a theatrical caricature. Let's say if you or I met someone acting like that we would keep walking.

Another problem is the very premise of the film: "You don't choose a life, you live it". Good grief, and what exactly does that mean? I beg to disagree. We absolutely make choices for our life, the question is not if we choose it or not, but what choices we do make, and how. A no-brainer here.

But what about Martin Sheen? What about his character, a wealthy, California doctor who had just  lived a very routine life so far? We are to believe that he is transformed, that his impulsive desire to take his son's ashes and scatter them through the Camino, accomplishing for him what his death death made impossible, is a personal journey of discovery. Discovery of what exactly? The film seems to hint that he discovers himself and therefore God, or at least Love: he gets over, if reluctantly, of his closeness and anger, he begins caring for his newfound friends, and he evens hints to a priest along the way that his gift of a Rosary has "come in handy" (although that is not shown), and finally he is seen praying at the basilica, kneeling.

Finally, what crowned my concerns about the film is the very end. The final, five-second scene. After trekking with this man for almost 900 km we are to believe he has undergone this transformation. He now is a human being who has let go of his hangups, who has found God or at least Love. What would I like to see him doing? I know exactly what I would like to see him doing: I would like to see him going back to his responsible life of a caring doctor (which he was shown to be in the beginning of the film), taking now with him this newfound dimension of Love of Neighbor. So instead of wasting hours playing golf with his obnoxious friends, I would like to see him choosing instead to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen, caring for people in his life in a personal way, praying and being active in church, or doing similar works of charity. That is our calling, and a hard one, to do God's work where our life happens to be. So I'd like to him taking and applying to his daily life what he gained from the journey in the Camino. Instead, he is shown walking aimlessly, hippie-like, alone, through the streets of Morocco. Uh? How is that the life of someone who found true Love?

So this is my take. I have thought enough about the film after watching it at our neighbors' twice over this past weekend and just had to write this. I will post this on Amazon and Love2Learn.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Catholic Film!

Interesting article about a new Catholic film!

As I posted in the comments box, I knew about this Catholic uprising during the Reign of terror... because of the Catholic textbook Project's History books! 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Saint Phillip Neri

We received it for Christmas and have watched it in installments. Tears streamed from my eyes last night as the beautiful final scene filled the screen. We were all watching it, from my husband and 18 year old senior to the youngest, and we were all delighted in it.

I don't think I knew much about Saint Philip Neri beforehand although his name is so very familiar.  He is not a great saint of great accomplishments or great written treaties. He did not travel and his intellect did not shine above others.

What was great about him? His immense charity, his humble love for all who encountered him, poor and rich alike, wealthy merchants or nobles, murderers and pariahs, all were targets of his deep love and charity. He also had the ability to use great humor in all he did--all smiled and laughed around him! He lived in a hard time for the church and his unusual confraternity was investigated by the Curia more than once, only to disarm the pope completely when faced with his deep love for others and total trust in God's Providence.

The film was made for Italian TV and the production is very good. We loved the actors and the costumes. An impressive details is how they managed to gather such similar -looking actors to portrays the child and grown up versions of his followers, it is almost as if they started the film when they were children and waited ten years to continue, so similar they were.

Distributed in the USA by Ignatius Press, available anywhere, we bought it on Amazon.

Note: I read the other reviews on Amazon and am very respectful of them and recommend their reading. Perhaps because we had such a wonderful time watching it as a family, and perhaps because we already know real facts are changed in films about saints, I still give it 4 stars. The film does show Christian love in many beautiful ways and we live in a world so thirsty for that. After the film we read a brief account of his life online and were further enriched.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Downton Abbey - Part 2

A year later, we are finally able to watch Part 2 of the "Downton Abbey" series on PBS. My family thought the first episode last night was better than last year's conclusion! Lots of World War I action and reaction. It's free online to watch (for a limited time).