May 11 2013

State of Play: Who can you trust?

maureen


May 7

In State of Play a reporter, Cal McCaffrey, is investigating a possible suicide by the aide of Congressman Stephen Collins, who had been his college roommate. Collins approaches him for help after it becomes public that the married Collins had been in a relationship with his aide. To further complicate matters, McCaffrey had an affair with Mrs. Collins and the three had been friends in college. Pretty much everyone’s relationship status could be marked “complicated”, except cub reporter Della Frye played by Rachel McAdams. Continue reading


May 6 2013

Ironman Three

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May 6

It doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, it might have taken itself a wee bit more seriously. Compared to the previous movies in the series, Ironman Three felt just a little campy.

It had all the expected archetypes and basic plot line that made it feel to me like it was wearing a sign that said “superhero movie.” Not to say it wasn’t fun. The writing in Ironman Three was funny. Stuff blew up. There were cool gadgets. I do love the Marvel characters and I have to say  Ironman Three disappointed a little there.

Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was a trip. I don’t want to spoil the fun for those who haven’t seen it.  His trickster villain was my favorite part of the movie. Continue reading


Jul 24 2012

My The Dark Knight Rises Review

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SPOILER ALERT

The Dark Knight Rises was a credible end to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. On the whole it was a great movie and I liked it a lot. Certain elements were incredibly well done and really satisfying. Even the storytelling choices that I didn’t like made sense. I can’t say they were bad choices, just that I wanted something else.

What I liked best:

1. Catwoman. She is a character who speaks to the present rather than operating entirely off her back story. This makes her decisions much fresher. She is a beautiful picture of the battle between the new man and the old man. She seeks transformation on her own terms but struggles with the actual journey. Catwoman’s transformation and story arc are perfectly played. Continue reading


Feb 21 2012

Downton Abbey: dealing with change and searching for significance

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CONTAINS SPOILERS: Downton Abbey appeals to me the way Jane Austin does. It’s thoughtful reflection on the human condition and relationships makes the setting somewhat irrelevant. Nobles and servants alike deal with love, pride, fear, and the longing for significance and belonging. Yet the setting is what creates the tension in the story. Downton Abbey takes place in a time of tremendous social change. The characters are products of the social expectations and traditions associated with British peerage. The modern era is pushing against the way of life they’ve always known. Downton manages to weave social and historical perspective into its storytelling but story and characters are its heart.

Robert Crawley takes his responsibility as a member of the British peerage seriously. He feels an obligation to his servants, to the people in the community, and to the traditions of the nobility to which he was born. He is willing to lose his house to preserve the integrity of that system. His personal desires are second to his sense of honor. The butler Carson represents this same commitment to tradition on the other side of the house. Carson treasures his role and is fiercely loyal to the Crawley family. They both find significance in their roles, as does his mother Violet and housekeeper Mrs. Hughes.

Downton’s heir Matthew has made a place for himself in the modern world as a lawyer. He comes to Downton with prejudices toward the lifestyle of nobility. As he spends time learning about Downton from Robert, Matthew comes to appreciate Robert’s perspective. He is not won over by the philosophy of the peerage but by Robert’s grace and honor. Continue reading


Oct 25 2011

Moneyball, belonging, and the measure of worth

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Based on the true story of the Oakland A’s 2002 season, Moneyball looks at how baseball accords worth to its players. Faced with the loss of star players and Oakland’s very tight budget, general manager Billy Beane uses a statistical approach called sabermetrics to recruit undervalued players. Sabermetrics was developed by statistician Bill James who challenged the use of  individual players’ stats such as RBI’s as predictors of team success. Beane hires economics major Peter Brand to analyze statistics using James’ formulas so that he can make data-driven decisions about players. Brand says “Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. In order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.” Based on Brand’s recommendations Beane recruits players who have the potential to get on base.  

Oakland’s managers and scouts  feel threatened by the change, and doubt  the validity of Beane’s method. Not only do the traditionalists dislike having their assumptions challenged, they fear that reliance on pure analysis undermines the heart of baseball. For them the romance comes from remarkable plays and individual prowess that make legendary baseball heroes. Billy Beane understands. At one time in his life he was just such a hero. He says “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Continue reading


Apr 20 2011

Celebrating Easter with 15 Moments of Redemption in Movies

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Sometimes truth dawns slowly and change comes in fits and spurts. We begin thinking about eternity and seeking purpose. We recognize our baggage and want something better. We find ourselves inching toward truth in the choices we make and the causes we embrace. We want peace and reconciliation and community. While redemption happens in a moment of decision, the journey toward that decision and transformation that follows  is often a process.

Jules Winnfield – Pulp Fiction. Jules recognizes that redemptive forces are at work though he has not yet connected the dots. He finds himself longing to change his role from avenger to shepherd.   They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. Rom 2:15

Charlie Babbitt – Rain Man. When Charlie realizes that Raymond is the secret friend, the “Rain Man” of his childhood, his self-centeredness and greed begins to break down. It’s not the moment of truth but the truth that leads to the moment.  Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34 Continue reading


Nov 25 2010

Ron’s Envy and Insecurity in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1

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We get small glimpses of some of the old crew from Hogwarts but for the most part the players in Deadly Hallows Pt. 1 are Harry, Ron and Hermione. While Harry and Hermione seem to be focused on battling Voldemort’s minions and destroying horcruxes, Ron’s battle is with his own envy and insecurity.

Ron operates under misplaced perception that status is a criterion for worth. Though Harry makes a concentrated effort to downplay his importance, he is “the boy who lived.” Hermione’s the smartest. He’s not the most talented quiddich player on the team. He’s never the smartest or most talented person in the room. In Ron’s family Fred and George are the funniest, Ginny is the most magically talented, and Bill is the bravest. On top of that Bill is about to marry the beautiful Fleur, Ron’s idea of the perfect woman. Ron has no superlatives associated with himself. He sees himself as an unnecessary add-on in the groups to which he belongs. Continue reading


Nov 6 2010

Toby goes to church in The Office

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The Office went to church this week to see Jim and Pam’s baby christened. In interviews as everyone is filing into church Toby says “The Big Guy and I…it’s been a few years.” Throughout the christening Toby stands under a “You are Welcome” sign over the doorway of the church waffling between going in and remaining outside. After it’s all over Toby finally goes inside, looks toward the altar and asks “Why do you always gotta be so mean to me?” The depth of Toby’s misery is revealed in this one devastating question.

Disappointment with God is a common emotion. Toby has a number of broken relationships behind him. Divorce has breached his closeness with his child. Michael, his boss, despises and ridicules him. He’s experienced some professional set backs. He’s socially awkward and doesn’t have a lot of friends. Toby seems to blame God for his unhappiness and difficult circumstances.

I suspect there are lots of Tobys walking around wondering why God isn’t coming through. These people have two questions that need to be answered.

1. Is God good?

2. If God is good then why is my life so hard? Continue reading


Oct 15 2010

The Social Network and the Seven Deadly Sins

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The Social Network touches on just about every one of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, envy, and revenge, with a little lust, gluttony and sloth thrown in for good measure. Like any good fable it serves up some pretty obvious morals about relationships and business.

1. Hell hath no fury like a lustful hacker scorned.
2. Envy makes it easier to justify less than ethical behavior (Note to self: write down and date the details of the idea, make sure a non-compete is signed before revealing the details, and invite the tech guy all the way into the club or meet somewhere else.)
3. Hubris makes communication and conflict resolution nearly impossible. In the scene between the Winklevoss twins and the Dean, hubris oozes from both sides of the desk. Continue reading


Sep 8 2010

Football Movies – Some Lessons About Character, Sin, and Virtue

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Last Saturday when I sat down to watch my Texas Longhorns the sports pundits said that they expected more of a running game since they would need to adjust their game to match their new talent. I groaned. I love the thrill of seeing the football hurtling down the field to a receiver who catches it and runs it for a long gain.

But that’s not what happens in real life. In real life we inch forward, lose ground, and sustain hits that knock us down. In most football movies the struggle on the field, that tedious inch-by-inch progress punctuated by blocks and tackles, unjust calls and rookie mistakes is a metaphor for the way life usually works. Sure football movies are full of clichés, but the stories they tell can serve as reminders of how often our attitudes thwart our relationships and our forward progress.


Any Given Sunday – In the half-time pep talk Coach D’Amato says that, “the inches we need are everywhere. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch.” Life events come at us from every direction and sometimes seem to conspire to lay us flat. I can figure I’m just a victim of fate and envy the lucky ones; or I can learn some patience, figure out the holes in the line and rejoice in progress by inches. Continue reading

Aug 9 2010

Sex, Lies, and Don Draper in Mad Men

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He presents a slick, appealing image but Don Draper is a man on the run. He’s escaping his past by taking on a new identity. His carefully constructed persona earns him admiration in the first seasons. At work he is known for his creativity, good looks, and integrity.

Advertising presents an idealized image of a life that can only be attained by purchasing the product being sold. Advertising creates discontent with real life. It plays on envy and pride to create a desire to mold a life that matches the image presented in the ad, and to purchase whatever products necessary to prop up that image. Mad Men’s creator Matthew Weiner chose advertising as a subject, he said, because “it’s a great way to talk about the image we have of ourselves, versus who we really are.”

Don Draper is the personification of a man who is reaching for the image. He doesn’t think he can attain it as himself, Richard Whitman, so he becomes someone else. For awhile he succeeds in selling himself as the person he wants people to believe that he is. Even after his charade is discovered by a few people he manages to dodge consequences. He’s tried to compartmentalize his life, presenting himself as a successful, creative advertising executive and charming family man while feeding his alienation with lies, sex, and alcohol. But he can’t maintain the persona 24/7. While the excessive drinking is accepted cultural behavior in 1960’s New York for Don it’s more than social. Don’s lost and hurting so he self-medicates with gluttony (alcohol) and lust.

Just as he does at the office, Don is carrying on a charade at home. He is the image of affluent, upper-middle class America in the sixties. But his relationship with his wife Betty is based on lies. He’s married her and given her a name that is not even his own. He cheats on her. He carries on the social pretenses of the lifestyle but he’s not really engaged. Don’s personal emotional space isn’t just wide, it’s a chasm. Even with Betty. Continue reading


Jun 26 2010

10 Virtues of Summer – Summer Vacation Movies I Love

maureen
Things change in the summer. Students graduate. Kids go to camp. Families take vacations together. We leave our routines and embark on new adventures, visit new places, and meet new people. We have time to step back and evaluate where we are and where we want to go in our lives. Summer has the potential to work change in all of us. Our time away is often the time we grow as individuals and a time our relationships with those around us deepen. Here, in no particular order,  are 10 of my favorite vacation movies and the virtues I think they reveal.

Stand by Me (1986) Gaining perspective. On the last weekend of summer 12-year-olds Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern set out the find the dead body that is supposed to be hidden by the railroad tracks. They are about to enter middle school and, due to academic differences, probably will be separated. Each is struggling with limitations and perceptions about himself.

The Sandlot (1993) Taking chances. Scotty Smalls is the new kid in a neighborhood which seems to be primarily concerned with baseball, not one of his interests or talents. Benny Rodriguez, the leader of the group, reaches out to him and teaches him the game. Scotty takes a chance on Benny and baseball and allows himself to become part of the group. Continue reading

Feb 14 2010

Four Loves Trump Greed, Hubris, and Envy in Avatar

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For me, Avatar is about love. The relationships that form in this movie brought the term “hooking up” to a whole new level. The Na’vi  are biologically equipped to commune with nature and with one another. When Jake hooks up with this community he finds four kinds of love: love for god, romantic love, friendship, and love for himself.

Avatar starts by introducing Jake’s need for love. Loss of his twin brother and loss of his legs leave him disconnected. He can no longer fulfill his purpose as a marine. The unique bond between twins is broken and he feels alone. His identity as a marine brings him a sense of belonging so he jumps at the chance to fulfill a purpose that also brings him close to his brother. Jake is seeking what all of us seek – connection and fulfillment.

Jake finds something like an Eden on Pandora where everyone seems to be enjoying connection and fulfillment. This world is intriguing and refreshing. Jake’s avatar is sent into Pandora by those who operate out of self-interest. The film’s villains are a pretty one-dimensional lot with Parker Selfridge representing the evil greed of capitalism and industrialization while the Colonel represents the hubris of military might and imperialism. At first the scientists who seek objective knowledge and career advancement in academia, while not villains, are presented as morally neutral. While the politics might be controversial, what makes these characters villains is that they are willing to further their agendas at someone else’s expense . They love themselves before others and adjust what they see as ethical to support their desires. Avatar reveals how intimate and fulfilling love can get when we put god, spouses, and friends before ourselves and our selfish motivations. Continue reading


Feb 1 2010

Lost TV Characters and the Seven Deadly Sins—Will Season 6 Change How We See Them?

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(Other Sinema7 blog posts about Lost are available at http://sinema7.net/tag/lost/)

Lost starts Tuesday. Hopefully some of the questions that have built up over the last five years will be resolved. I recently came across this article from 2008: Get Lost in the Seven Deadly Sins by Amelie Rosseau, on the Lost Media fan site.

And here is a YouTube video called The Seven Deadly Sins of Lost:

I agreed with many of the assessments in these. I think each of the characters, like most of us, have more than one sin that motivates his or her choices. Here is my take on which characters seem to be driven by which sins:

Pride – Benjamin Linus &  Charles Whitmore are in a power struggle for the island. Pride is probably the besetting sin of leadership and power. When someone thinks they know what’s best for other people and is willing to lie, manipulate, and maybe even kill to further his own agenda that’s driven by pride. Jack is prideful, but not even close to being in Ben and Charles’ league. After years of feeling rejected and victimized Locke’s ego has to be stroked by feeling special and chosen. Juliet is just a bit sanctimonious about being right, and she’s pretty sure that she’s right on just about everything. It is ultimately Eko’s pride that drives his unwillingness to repent of his sins which apparently leads to death by smoke monster.

Envy – Jin’s insecurity pushes him toward envy. Charlie struggles with the same sort of thing. He’s jealous for Claire’s attention. He’s trying so hard to restore his image and wants so desperately to be a hero that he tags along with those that might be considered leaders hoping to be identified with them. Continue reading


Jan 4 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins at Christmas Part Three

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Envy – One-up on Christmas in The Office

 

We feel victorious when we score the coveted gift of the season so we can score the emotional currency by giving it to someone who will appreciate our savvy and effort. We may engage in bidding wars on eBay.  In the Christmas episode of the The Office, Dwight buys up several of the coveted Princess Unicorn dolls then in turn sells them for well over street value to “lazy parents” who waited until the last minute. In order to compete with his ex-wife for the children’s affection. “My ex-wife’s gonna be so pissed. And for once Daddy’s gonna be a hero.” When Darryl buys the last one, Toby is willing to pay him $400, twice what he paid Dwight and way more than street value.

In the same episode Phyllis blackmails Angela into allowing her to be the one who plans the Christmas party. She mercilessly orders Angela around, forcing her to  help fulfill Phyllis’ dream party. Angela is usually the one who plans the parties and Phyllis has been jealous of this. Angela’s prideful, superior attitude toward Phyllis has fueled Phyllis’ resentment even further. Putting on the perfect holiday event can become a huge competition. Continue reading


Nov 13 2008

Envy in Toy Story

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LaughingPlace.com is a fun blog for Disney fans. Back in 2005 there was a two-part article I found in their archives identifying Disney’s 50 Most Wanted Villains with the Seven Deadly Sins.

Part 1 http://www.laughingplace.com/News-ID509740.asp

Part 2 http://www.laughingplace.com/News-ID509750.asp

Here’s the rundown for Envy:

Ratigan –Great Mouse Detective
 Ursula –Little Mermaid
 Jafar –Aladdin
 Scar –The Lion King
 Stinky Pete –Toy Story II
 Yzma –Emperior’s New Groove
 Syndrome –Incredibles
 
Envy is a prevalent theme in many Disney movies. In thinking about the driving forces behind envy, Ursula, Jafar and Scar are all power hungry. Syndrome and Yzma are out for revenge. I tend to see Ratigan as driven more by pride and anger but he envies the Baker Street Irregulars. Toy Story II’s Stinky Pete is bitter, angry and vengeful. Both Toy Story’s are rife with envious characters but only Stinky Pete emerges as the villain. Other envious characters from both Toy Story’s that did not make the list are Woody, Mr. Potato Head and Jessie. All demonstrate their share of envy. Continue reading

Oct 17 2008

Envy in The Big Kahuna

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What we have looks pretty good until we see someone else with something better. Aristotle defined envy in his Rhetoric “as the pain caused by the good fortune of others.”  In The Big Kahuna Larry is in excruciating pain when Bob gets a lucky break but fails to capitalize on it. Often envy involves more than just wanting to possess something; it extends to having negative feelings towards the person who has what we want.

Three salesmen are at a convention to sell lubricants. They prepare a party in their hospitality suite in hopes that Mr. Fuller, a possible client, will come to  their party. Larry and Phil are experienced salesmen who have been in the business for some time while Bob is at his first convention. Making contact with Mr. Fuller is critical to their mission at the convention. Continue reading