Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Last week, I was challenged to be a little less verbose with my weekly cartoons. Or, to put it in movie terms, use my visual medium to show, not tell. Okay, fine, but don’t think every panel is going to be wordless from here on out. Even Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton starred in talkies once they got the chance.
Friday, November 13, 2015
I gritted my teeth and sat through Spotlight for Aleteia this week. As you probably know, that’s the film which details the Boston Globe’s investigation into the sex abuse cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston. Turns out, it’s actually a well made movie that doesn’t take any unnecessary cheap shots at Catholicism. A character or two does, but the movie itself does not. More than anything else, the film is an apologetics for the necessity of good journalism. That’s nice and all, but we long time comic book geeks don’t really need a feature length movie to help us appreciate competent reporters…
And that, my friends, is why Lois Lane won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. If you weren’t aware she won a Pulitzer, just ask her and she’ll tell you all about it.
Anyway, whether it’s Lois Lane or the Boston Globe, the Catechism tells us, “By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information. They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals. They should not stoop to defamation.”
Now, I didn’t read every word of the reams and reams of articles the Globe wrote on the scandal, so I can’t say for certain how well they stuck to their journalistic obligations as described in the Catechism. What I can say is that, in as far they reported the truth, of that we Christians have nothing to fear, for we worship a God who IS truth. And let’s face it, sometimes the truth hurts. Just ask all those folks in Purgatory.
As for Lois, on the other hand, I’m pretty sure she always upholds the proper standards when it comes to reporting. Some of that other stuff in the Catechism about placing one’s self in harm’s way, however, well…
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Monday, November 09, 2015
Well, another Halloween is in the bag, so I suppose it’s time to take a short break from things that go bump in the night. That’s one of the reasons why for Aleteia this week, I decided to take in The Peanuts Movie. Turns out the only horrifying thing about this latest outing with Charlie Brown and the gang is that Hollywood doesn’t make more movies like this.
But enough of that nice stuff, let’s get back to the terror. We’ve already mentioned Nick Alexander’s list of horror movies for Halloween. Well, Simcha Fisher put together one herself featuring 12+ Scary Movies Her Kids Loved. That’s a whole lot of spooky stories to take in but don’t worry, if you decide to watch ten or twenty of them, Sister Rose makes a good case for considering horror movies Catholic.
Even so, I know some of you out there don’t care too much for fright flicks. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. On the sci-fi front, a Star Trek inspired Jimmy Akin ponders the concept of time windows and wonders aloud, “Is God showing us a fictional past?” Meanwhile, over at Non-Modern, Jason Dietz lays out his list of best and worst episodes from the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. And for those who prefer fantasy, over at GeekSpeaker they’re discussing alignment, clerics, and D&D’s significant overlaps with Catholicism.
And finally, for what it’s worth, a preview of the first cut from that album featuring some of Pope Francis’ words accompanied by musical arrangements has been released. It sounds pretty much how I thought it would. Let’s be honest, though. When they first revealed this spoken word project was in the works, didn’t we all, for just a brief moment, find ourselves filled with dread (and maybe just a bit of hope) that the final result would turn out to be something like this…
Sunday, November 08, 2015
As he explains over at his blog, our pal Nick Alexander prefers to reserve his horror movie viewing for the month of October. Even then he’s a bit picky, insisting the films which make up his annual Horror-Movie-A-Thon be critically acclaimed, avoid exploitive scenes, and have a good underlying message. So, I’m guessing no Sharknados then. Anyway, one of the interesting things about the number one movie on his list this year (you’ll have to go there to see what it is) is that it isn’t what most people would consider a horror movie at all.
Which got me to thinking.
I myself have been steadily watching horror and science fiction movies since I was five or six years old. Love’em. Can’t get enough of’em. Which, if they were the films which got under my skin, disturbed me, or simply left me feeling weirded out, would probably be a real big problem. Oddly enough, though, such movies usually aren’t the ones that leave me feeling that way. Listed below are seven (mostly) critically acclaimed movies typically categorized as something other than horror which managed to accomplish for me what most horror films cannot.
To be honest, the first time I tried to watch Leviathan, I fell asleep. This documentary is the epitome of artsy-fartsy, and if you’re not in the mood for that kind of thing, it’s best just to let it be. The second time, though, I was in the right frame of mind and Leviathan managed to weave its spell on me. Make no mistake, I’m not one of those meat eaters who are oblivious to where their dinners come from, but watching this attempt to capture the sensory experience of working on a commercial groundfishing vessel late one night left me feeling weird and disoriented. Something about the image of that hulking ship moving silently through the dark seas as blood and viscera poured over the sides was simultaneously unsettling and mesmerizing.
THE ACT OF KILLING (2012)
The premise of this documentary sounds absolutely insane. Track down the men who led the death squads during the 1965 anti-communist genocide in Indonesia and offer to let them reenact some of their more infamous killings using whatever film genre they chose. WTF right? The result, however, is an entirely fascinating, and sometimes horrifying, look into the psyche of people who commit such acts of violence and how they view themselves (or, in some cases, refuse to view themselves). The Act of Killing is maybe a bit too long, but if you stick it out, you’re unlikely to forget some of the people you meet, even though you’ll likely want to.
I’m not a big fan of writer Harmony Korine as each subsequent screenplay of his seems to get more and more desperate to stir up controversy. I’m looking at you Springbreakers. That being said, there’s no denying the impact his initial offering, Kids, had when it first hit cinemas in 1995. This “day in the life” tale of a group of unsupervised, directionless, drug-and-alcohol fueled teenagers is perhaps a bit too exploitative to actually recommend, but if you do take the plunge and decide to watch it, be prepared to alternate between feelings of anger, depression, and horror. The scene in which the HIV positive Telly finally convinces the virginal Darcy to consent to sex only to ignore her cries of pain while he roughly gets what he wants is bound to leave you feeling all three at the same time.
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000)
Forget all those old afterschool specials, if you really want to keep your kids off of drugs, just sit them down in front of Requiem For A Dream and press play. Trust me, they’ll never even think about touching the stuff. Of course, they’ll also probably require a ton of therapy to get over some of the images in this film, but at least they won’t do drugs. Artfully directed by Darren Aronofsky (yes, the same guy who brought you Noah), the film graphically portrays just about every negative consequence of drug abuse you could ever think of… and probably some you never wanted to.
It’s hard to imagine there was once a time when over 100 million people sat down to watch a made-for-television movie, but that’s exactly what happened back in 1983 when ABC aired The Day After. The funny thing is, The Day After wasn’t even the best telefilm to come out that year dealing with the aftereffects of a nuclear war. That honor belongs to the much less seen Testament, one of the rare films to ever bring Roger Ebert to tears. Concentrating on a single suburban family as they try to get by after the bombs have fallen, the movie is quiet, reserved… and emotionally devastating. This isn’t horror in the traditional sense. It’s the horror of watching your children slowly die of radiation poisoning while you can’t do a thing about it.
I first discussed Irreversible back when I reviewed I Spit On Your Grave and how the two films are generally perceived differently even though they both contain a long, drawn out depiction of a violent rape. I Spit On Your Grave is typically seen as sleazy whereas Irreversible is granted the honorific title of art. It’s not that Irreversible’s rape scene is any easier to stomach. In fact, it’s so realistic that it’s probably the worse of the two. But where I Spit On Your Grave applauds one act of violence leading to another, Irreversible unflinchingly shows the destruction that choosing the path of revenge can lead too, both to one’s self as well as others. That doesn’t make it one bit easier to sit through though.
A SERBIAN FILM (2010)
To hell with this movie. I went into A Serbian Film mostly blind, relying on a few online reviews from folks who are generally trustworthy. Foolish me. As someone who is occasionally paid to review films, I feel an obligation to sit through a movie until the end just to give it a chance to say what it has to say. A Serbian Film tested that resolve at least three or four times. I’m not going to describe the horrors this movie depicts except to say they involve the graphic sexual abuse of children. The last ten minutes of the film are absolutely soul crushing. I’m told by some folks who are in a position to know better than I would that this film is a devastating critique on the political system in Serbia. Maybe that’s true, but there has to be a better way to accomplish that goal than what’s in this film. Again, to hell with it.
So there you go. Seven non-horror movies that managed to provoke emotional responses from me ranging from unsettled to horrified to downright sickened, more so than most horror movies ever have. That’s not always a bad thing. Some of the films such as Testament I couldn’t recommend more. But some of the others, yep, after watching those, I think you’ll understand why, given the choice, I’ll pick a good old relaxing monster movie over a “drama” most any time.