Monday, August 22, 2016

CUTAWAYS: THE TOOTH FAIRY

Today is National Tooth Fairy Day! Now, like most of you, I am at  a loss to explain why any single person, let alone the whole nation, would want to celebrate one of Dwayne Johnson's worst movies ever. In fact, Tooth Fairy was so bad, The Rock was worried his acting career was headed, well, right down the toilet...


Johnson spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about this phase of his career...
"I was told that I had to conform to a standard in Hollywood that would beget me more work, better roles," he explains. "Which meant I had to stop going to the gym, which meant I couldn't be as big, which meant you had to distance yourself from wrestling. You essentially had to deconstruct yourself." 
For a while, he says, he bought into that, in part because he did not have the high-level industry contacts he could turn to for advice. "Then that started to not feel good to me. It reached a point of, 'I'm not feeling authentic."
"After [2010's] Tooth Fairy," says [manager Dany] Garcia, "we recognized that Dwayne was moving away from his core of who he was."
Judging from recent box-office results, it looks like The Rock course-corrected his career pretty well since his Tooth Fairy days. There's a lesson to be learned in that. While there's nothing overtly spiritual in The Rock's statements, that doesn't mean we can't recognize some deeper truths in the actor's decision to abandon false self-images and return to an authentic vision of himself. Author and speaker Fr. Jacque Philippe notes that we Christians should strive for such epiphanies in our own spiritual journeys... 
“We have tried to construct a personality for ourselves... and yet a part of us is still empty, unsatisfied, perplexed: Who am I really? Does what I have lived through up till now really express what I am?... Everything we may learn about ourselves by human means (experience of life, psychology, human sciences) is not to be despised, obviously. But that provides only a limited and partial knowledge of our being... That deepest part comes to light only in the encounter with God, which strips us of everything artificial in our identity to bring us to what we really are, at the heart of our personhood. Our true identity is not so much a reality to be constructed as a gift to be received. It is not about achieving, but letting ourselves be begotten... We human beings can only know ourselves truly in the light of God. "
So, by being who God wants us to be, we actually become a fuller version of our true self, we... what's that? You say National Tooth Fairy Day is actually about dental hygiene awareness and not at all about The Rock's terrible movie? Oh. Okay. Well, I'm sure God wants us to take care of our teeth too.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

NOW SHOWING AT A BLOG NEAR YOU

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It’s time again to check in around the web and see what’s going on with religion and movies. In case you missed it, I’ve got a new gig at SCENES where I discuss horror related offerings such as The Witch and Stranger Things. I’m also still contributing reviews of new releases to Aleteia where recently I’ve taken in Ben-Hur and Pete’s Dragon.

Speaking of Pete’s Dragon, the reboot of the Disney semi-classic  has some folks once again digging up Michael O’Brien’s book, A Landscape with Dragons, in order to make the argument that such creatures should never, ever be portrayed as good characters. Jimmy Akin weighs in to debunk that notion once and for all.

Now, if all this talk about Pete’s Dragon has whetted your appetite for 1970s-era House of Mouse, then be sure to stop by Speculative Faith where Audie Thacker spends some time exploring Disney’s sci-fi gem, The Black Hole. Thacker even mentions the comic book adaptation of the film, which I just so happened to own a copy of back in the day.

Of course, I owned a lot of comics back in the day, so I’m a sucker for a blog like Christ, Coffee, and Comics where Greek Orthodox priest Father Niko does stuff like talk to former Marvel scribe Ann Nocenti about religion, philanthropy, and Daredevil.

Let’s face it, comic-based movies pretty much rule the box office at the moment, so it’s inevitable that a news outlet like the Desert News National should get around to asking the question, “Does God exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?” The answer seems a little fuzzy.

If you really want fuzzy, though, look no further than the films of the Coen Brothers. Over at NonModern, Jason Dietz has been taking a look at the filmmaking duo’s various films and he’s finally gotten around to their first effort,  Blood Simple. The Coen’s take on film noir about “a series of people choosing to do stupid things” is cult movie making at its finest.

And finally, just in case you missed the link I put up recently on Twitter and Facebook (join us, JOIN US), The Independent reports a new study published by the journal Poetics which makes the bold claim that enjoyment of trash films linked to high intelligence.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

SHORT FEATURE: STAR TRACT

Considering the contents of this blog, I am hardly in the position to cast stones at anyone’s efforts at evangelism, especially when they use the trappings of a classic science fiction show...

Must… not… cast… stones!

Anyway, those who have spent some time in evangelical churches like I have should be more than familiar with the practice of handing out tracts to non-believers. Passing along those little pamphlets is done in the hope of planting a small seed in the non-Christian’s mind that will eventually blossom and lead them to Christ. Tracts can range in content from benign bible musings to the notorious ravings of Jack Chick.

For better or worse, tracts aren’t quite as ubiquitous these days as they used to be. A few years back, Christianity Today even asked some prominent Christians if anyone should still be handing the things out at all. Christian Smith, professor of sociology at Notre Dame, was most definitely in the NO column, stating, “Very rarely. Most people become Christians through relationships, not by being handed pieces of paper. The latter usually has more to do with some Christians feeling like they are ‘doing something’ than anything that changes people.”

That being said, tracts are still around, even Catholic ones. Most Catholic bookstores have a few for sale and Catholic Answers has a whole section devoted to them, so if you feel called to pass some out, they’re available. Whether or not you should do so while speaking in a bad Shatner imitation, that’s entirely up to you.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

THE TWILIGHT BINGE #015: I SHOT AN ARROW INTO THE AIR

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S01E15 – I Shot An Arrow Into The Sky

“The world's first manned space mission goes awry, stranding the crew on an apparent asteroid that is desolate and waterless. One man ruthlessly grasps for survival before a peculiar symbol reveals the group's true location.”

One thing The Twilight Zone rarely had a shortage of was ideas. In fact, with the likes of Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, and Charles Beaumont contributing on a regular basis, one would imagine the show’s creative font was constantly running over. At the beginning, though, that wasn’t the case. As detailed in Don Presnell & Marty McGee’s book, A Critical History of Television's The Twilight Zone, Serling and his wife Carol were dining one evening with another couple, John and Madelon Champion, when  Serling brought up how CBS was pressuring him to deliver a large amount of finished teleplays before they would begin production on the show. Off the cuff, Mrs. Champion suggested Serling should do a story about astronauts who think they’ve landed on an asteroid, but who in reality were just walking around outside Las Vegas. Serling wrote her a check for $500 on the spot and I Shot An Arrow Into The Sky was born. Why don’t these kinds of things ever happen to me?

Anyway, the title of the episode is an obvious reference to the opening lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Arrow and the Song. However, since that particular work is generally considered to be a rumination on the long-lasting and often unintended consequences of harsh words, the poem doesn’t actually have much relevance to this episode’s story. I guess Serling could have referenced some other sonnet, but there’s really not that large of a selection dealing with cowardly murderers to choose from.

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When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing how quickly the character of crewman Corey goes from believing he’s stranded on an asteroid to deciding he has to bump off his fellow castaways in order to get their water and prolong his own life. I suppose if he cared enough to do so, Corey could attempt to justify himself under the principle outlined in the old Catholic Encyclopedia “that in extreme necessity every man has a right to appropriate whatever is necessary to preserve his life. The starving man who snatches a meal is not an unjust aggressor.” Based on his ramblings, this does appear to be Corey’s basic rationale for doing what he does.

The problem with Corey using this line of reasoning is threefold. One, he isn’t starving yet, so the theft isn’t necessary. Two, even if Corey was starving, this principle falls under the larger category of self defense which also allows for “a thief [to] be slain in the act of carrying away stolen property provided that it cannot be recovered from him by any other means.” Self defense, it turns out, also applies to defense of property because certain material goods are necessary for life and should be protected. And three, Corey isn’t just stealing to survive, he’s flat out killing his friends to get their stuff. This is a big no-no because in no way are Corey’s fellow crewmen showing the slightest indication that they mean Corey any mortal harm. Sure, they want to punch the guy in the mouth, who wouldn’t, but that kind of thing won’t kill him. Without a mortal threat, Corey really has no justification for his actions. In the end, Corey is just a selfish S.O.B. who puts his own self-preservation before all moral concerns. Fortunately, whether he’s on an asteroid or on Earth, he’s still in the Twilight Zone, so we can be sure he’ll get what’s coming to him.

Twilight Tidbits: A good portion of this episode was filmed in Death Valley National Monument, a location which has been utilized in many a movie, including a little one by the name of Star Wars where it served as the planet Tatooine.