Jan 2 2011

True Grit and Leaning on the Everlasting Arms – Pondering the Movie and Its Score

maureen

CAUTION: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Like the 1969 version, the Coen Brothers’ True Grit is a traditional western. Characters in the movie speak with the theatrical elocution of the nineteenth century that Charles Portis uses in the novel. While there is something rather funny about criminals involved in courtly verbal exchanges, the language also seems to fit the Old Testament concept of vengeance and retribution. The sepia tones and sweeping natural panoramas in the cinematography further remove the film from a modern setting. All these choices authenticate the sense of time and place and further reinforce the western ideals of rugged individualism and self-reliance. Continue reading

Nov 19 2010

Pride in Harry Potter

maureen

From the first movie pride has been an underlying theme in the Harry Potter story. It’s an undercurrent in the personalities of many of the characters. The stories have bit by bit eliminated fate, accomplishments, talent, position, heritage, or associations as means for judging personal worth.

Throughout the series Harry’s mentors have been taken away and now he’s reached a point of self-reliance. The prophecy that names Harry as Voldemort’s nemesis puts him in a unique position in the wizarding world. Harry fears for the safety of those who associate with him so he distances himself from others. Harry’s sense of being uniquely fated for his task makes him feel separate. Because of his connection with Voldemort, Harry is vulnerable to the self-absorbed egocentrism that defines Voldemort himself. Harry fights hard to pull out of himself and engage with other people, to appreciate other’s contributions and talents so that he’s not so into himself.

Hermione Granger seldom admits when she is wrong. While her advice and conclusions are often right on the money, her intellectual arrogance tends to annoy even her friends. Because her parents are Muggles Hermione may feel she has more to prove. She manifests an attitude we see in many bright and talented people: an assumption that her giftedness makes her contributions more important than those of others. Continue reading

Sep 24 2010

Anger in The Ref

maureen

Often marriage offers a comfort level that can make taking one another for granted or taking advantage of one another standard practice. Anger and resentment builds when one or both members feels undervalued. We may also resent it if we feel our spouses want more or demand more than we are able to give. We may end up feeling trapped in our most intimate relationship. When the seven deadly were first named anger was called wrath. As opposed to the occasional episode of anger that is a reaction to a specific event, a wrath is a general disposition of malice, fury, vengeance or bitterness.

Lloyd and Caroline Chausseur in the movie The Ref are experiencing these emotions. Bickering has become a way of life. The title character, Gus, kidnaps the Chausseurs after a bungled burglary in order to hide out at their house but instead finds himself “reffing” this dysfunctional family on Christmas Eve. He describes the experience as “the fifth ring of hell.” Exasperated he gives them an ultimatum “Married people without guns – for instance – you – DO NOT get to yell. Why? NO GUNS! No guns, no yelling.” But even the gun cannot keep them from arguing. Continue reading


Aug 9 2010

Sex, Lies, and Don Draper in Mad Men

maureen

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


Jul 31 2010

Transitions, Passages, Loss, and Growing Up in Toy Story 3

maureen

Toy Story 3 is funny and wise and heart-rending. The Toy Story series has grown up with its audience. Pre-schoolers who saw Toy Story in 1995 are now leaving home for college. Kids who saw Toy Story and Toy Story 2 when they were in elementary school are transitioning into jobs, marriages, parenthood and new homes. Relationships between the Toy Story generation and their parents, grand-parents, friends and mentors are in transition too.

The first Toy Story helped these little ones figure out how to welcome new siblings and share friends. Then Toy Story 2 showed them that personal worth is found in loving relationships rather than status. Foreshadowing Toy Story 3, Woody and Buzz have a conversation in Toy Story 2 about the possibility of Andy growing up and outgrowing his toys. They conclude that being loved and fulfilling their purpose as toys – to be there for Andy – is worth the uncertainty.

Jul 16 2010

The Ultimate Reality – The Deadliest Catch Faces Phil Harris’ Death

maureen

More than any reality show I’ve seen, there is a sense that the captains and crews are living out their life stories in front of the camera, but they don’t seem to be doing it for the camera. Most of these fishermen are doing what they’ve done for years before camera crews set up on their boats. They do dangerous work in uncertain conditions. More than any other reality show, The Deadliest Catch feels like life rather than television.

Discovery Channel is currently running its tribute to Cornelia Marie’s captain Phil Harris, who died in February during filming. Most of the events leading to Phil’s stroke and subsequent death were documented on camera. The moments in the hospital between Phil and his sons may be some of the most personal, most universal moments I’ve seen on television. Death, like the massive ocean waves, makes us forget about cameras or entertainment. Death awes. Death is humbling, unpredictable, and unscripted.

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

May 15 2010

O Sleeper On The Epic Battle Between Good and Evil

maureen

My son told me that O Sleeper’s Vices like Vipers reminds him of my Sinema7 book, so I took a look at the band. I’m not really in the hardcore/metalcore demographic and I definitely had to read the lyrics because I’m not used to screamed lyrics. Honestly, the depth of emotion and gut wrenching delivery reminded me a lot of opera. It has an epic feel. Much of their music is about the battle between God and Satan or good and evil. I found myself reflecting on the epic nature of Christianity.

O Sleeper’s most recent album is based on the culminating battle between God and Satan described in the Book of Revelation. In the title song, Son of the Morning, Satan spews out his hatred for God and contempt for Christ, calling him the “weak forgiver” and telling God “you’re wasting power on grace.” God replies “If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything.” There is a back and forth between screamed and clean lyrics, cacophony and melody that represent the conversation between Satan and God. Throughout the album Satan declares his intention to thwart the work of Christ, to assault those God loves and to amass power by turning them away from God. God’s power and defeat of Satan culminates in The Finisher with God’s graphic promise to Satan that he will “cut off your horns.”

The songs between these bookends describe Satan’s attempts to win the hearts and souls of men and man’s battle with temptation. In the third song, In All Honesty, Satan crows “I’m forever stalking the streets for the next one. I’ve found I can run faster than guilt…” The anguished cry of a man in Satan’s grip “I wish I could be so much more than me” and God’s response, “you could be the one who pleases me…because I can reach through anything.” The intensity of the music matches the intensity of the ideas expressed. It’s sort of hard to imagine “Bring out your dead” in Commissioned by Kings sung to Contemporary Christian instrumentation and American Idol-ish vocal stylings. Continue reading


Apr 24 2010

Vengeance and Compassion in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and How the Book of Leviticus Fits In

maureen

SPOILERS:  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a truly satisfying murder mystery with a complex plot, unrelenting violence, and unique characters.  This is a bleak film that explores how people get psychologically twisted and whether a history of past abuse should be a consideration in how harshly we judge them. It is not for the squeamish with scenes of graphic sex and violence.

Mikael, an unjustly discredited investigative journalist, is tapped by an elderly corporate magnate, Henrick Vanger, to investigate a decades old family mystery. The cover story is that Mikael is writing a Vanger family history. Lisbeth is a goth hacker with body piercings and, yes, a dragon tattoo who is contracted by Henrick’s nephew Martin through some computer connections at Vanger Corporation to keep tabs on Mikael’s research. Without this girl with the dragon tattoo the story would be just another murder mystery, but Lisbeth bring the noir to this detective story.

While the murder plot is complex the psychological exploration is even more compelling. Lisbeth is smart, independent, and very damaged. Lisbeth is unwilling to let go of her anger. It seems to be the force that’s holding her together. But this anger isn’t uncontrolled rage but focused, almost detached vengeance. She finds power in revenge. Continue reading


Apr 22 2010

On Earth Day, Disaster Movies Remind Us That Nature is Bigger Than We Are

maureen

Its Earth Day so I thought it might be fun to celebrate movies in which the earth dominates. So far this month we’ve experienced a couple of earthquakes, a volcano, and a meteor. Not very friendly, Mother Earth. Disaster movies usually involves hysterics, heroics, loved ones in danger, someone bucking the system, the official who won’t believe it’s happening, and at least half of an all-star cast dying one by one. Usually some high profile American icon is destroyed. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty and the White House pillaged by the forces of nature. If the special effects are good that’s a plus, but in the older disaster flicks bad special effects just adds to the cheesy charm.

I only included movies on this list in which nature is the true aggressor. I love zombies, giant mutant creatures, genetically engineered mayhem, dystopias, alien invasions, etc. but that’s fodder for another list. I also left off those movies in which the natural disaster is linked to environmental irresponsibility on the part of mankind. Though many disaster movies try to give mankind some credit for causing the disaster, the focus of this list is the power of nature. This isn’t a preferential ranking. The first 3 movies deal with geological disasters, the next 2 deal with meteors, then the rest are weather-related disasters.

1. Volcano was basically Tommy Lee Jones vs. lava. This movie had everything a disaster movie should have: clever repartee, the smart scientist who sees it coming, selfless acts of courage, familiar icons exploding, L.A. in shambles, and prejudice almost eradicated by the need to pull together and survive. Without this movie our family might never have found the LeBrea tar pits on our last visit to L.A. Someone remembered the line “They down on Wilshire!” and we found them with ease. Continue reading


Apr 15 2010

10 Comparisons Between Lost and Quantum Theory

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1. Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it. – Niels Bohr

I am approaching this with shockingly little understanding after reading many “for idiots” articles on quantum physics. Please feel free to add to or correct anything I’ve said, and please, post your own theories.

In the Lost universe this means that we are supposed to be confused. Even the scientists who study this stuff are trying to wrap their heads around it.

2. Energy is quantized in the form of small packets. If something is quantum it means, that instead of being continuous, it can only exist in multiples of certain values. Electromagnetic energy does not follow classical mathematical equation in which energy increases on a steady continuum but instead can only be emitted in discrete packets of energy proportional to the frequency. Additionally, quantum objects do not exist as independent entities because they are in an interactive relationship with each other. For example, electromagnetic forces can also be forces of repulsion.

In the Lost universe could this explain why everybody has to move on and off the island together? Continue reading


Apr 9 2010

The Catholic Church, Priests, Pride, and Sexual Abuse in Doubt

maureen

I’m reposting my reflections on Doubt. It came to mind because of the current Penn State situation. In Doubt there is no eyewitness, only suspicion. Powerful men at Penn State – Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Graham Spanier, are all told by a graduate assistant, an eyewitness, that he’d seen Sandusky naked in the showers molesting a young boy. They tell the graduate assistant they’ve taken away Sandusky’s keys and reported the incident to The Second Mile, a youth charity Sandusky founded in 1977. Apparently he was caught before in 1998 and questioned by police but the district attorney did not file charges. The frightening reality is that, like Sr. James in Doubt, there is a tendency to deflect suspicion and even ignore facts, “so you can have simplicity back.”

 

 

CONTAINS SPOILERS. Is Father Flynn a child molester? Young Sr. (Sister) James, played by Amy Adams, sees some indications that the progressive young priest may have an inappropriate relationship with one of her students, an altar boy, but is reluctant to believe it. Sr. Aloysius, an austere older nun not only believes it, she seems to want to believe it.

The Catholic Church’s most recent controversy involving alleged child molestation by priests reminded me of Doubt, the 2008 movie that starred Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Set in the Bronx in the 1964, Doubt centers around the question of Father Flynn’s guilt or innocence. It also probes into how far “the benefit of the doubt” should extend, and gets into the motives behind willingness to believe or disbelieve.

When Sr. James brings her concerns to her superior Sr. Aloysius pursues the matter. She calls Father Flynn’s former parish where the priests vouch for him, but another nun also has suspicions. We never hear definite proof of guilt but we also are presented with doubt about his innocence. Like many religious people of her generation, Sr. Aloysius sees it as her calling as to ferret out and punish wrongdoing. She is willing to be severe, to be disliked, and to confront anyone she believes is doing anything remotely “wrong.” Her judgmental attitude leaves no room in her life for compassion or doubt. She relies on certainty to justify herself. Continue reading


Mar 25 2010

Lost Hell, Good, Evil, Book of Job, Seven Deadly Sins and More… Part 1 as Season 6 Progresses

maureen

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

The Smoke Monster, the Man in Black, and Fake Locke are, we now know, all the same and I will call that being, Smokey. The conversation between Jacob and Smokey (Man in Black currently inhabiting Locke’s body) is reminiscent to the conversation between God and Satan at the beginning of the biblical Book of Job. There seems to be a long history between the two. Jacob describes Smokey to Hurley as “an old friend who became tired of my company.”  In Jacob and Smokey there seems to be a representation of good and evil.

Jacob keeps bringing people to the Island to prove that humans are not innately corruptible.  Smokey works to prove him wrong.  Jacob tells Richard that he doesn’t help the people he brings to the island because he wants them to do the right thing without being told what it is.  In his conversation with Hurley in the cab he emphasizes that returning to the Island is a choice.

According to Smokey, Jacob is the protector of the Island. Smokey seems to be trying to escape the Island but Jacob seems to have been able to come and go. He visits various Flight 815 survivors prior to their arrival. We now know that these people are candidates to replace Jacob. In earlier episodes we are led to believe that Jacob speaks only through Ben but later we find out that Ben has never seen Jacob, but Richard has. We don’t actually see Jacob until the final episode of season 5. Some of the things the Others claim he directed them to do caused me to spend at least 5 seasons thinking the Others are the bad guys and that Jacob might be a force for evil. As the story unfolds we find out Jacob is Smokey’s adversary. Continue reading


Mar 19 2010

Love, Lust, and Traveling Light in Up In the Air

maureen

CONTAINS SPOILERS

Ryan Bingham has an empty backpack. In fact, when he’s not doing his day job as a traveling employment separation specialist (he fires people for hire), he’s an aspiring motivational speaker.  He asks his audience, “What’s In Your Backpack?” Ryan believes that not only do our material possessions weigh us down, but our relationships as well. He urges others to free themselves from all life’s baggage, including human baggage. Ryan lives in a converted hotel room, owns what fits in his suitcase, and spends most of his life flying from place to place. His immediate life’s goal is to reach 10 million airline miles.

In a hotel bar he meets Alex, who also travels for her job. They trade road warrior stories and get turned on by comparing traveler’s perks. They enter an uncommitted, casual relationship in which they meet when it’s convenient. They are unashamedly in lust and find one another’s detachment incredibly sexy. Continue reading


Mar 6 2010

Comparison and Contrast Between A Serious Man and The Book of Job Plus Schrodinger’s Paradox Just for Fun

maureen

A Serious Man poses some questions of Biblical proportion: What does God want from me? Are the bad things that happen some sort of a sign? Am I righteous? What have I done to deserve this agony?

Larry, a physics professor who teaches the theory of uncertainty, begins to live it. According to Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox, which appears among the physics equations on the board in Larry’s classroom, a cat is placed in a box with a flask which may or may not break and emit radioactive poison. According to quantum physics as long as we don’t check to see what happened to the cat there is a superposition of states in which the cat exists in every possible state simultaneously. In other words, until you open the box and look the cat is both alive and dead – a quantum system that is a mixture of states.

The simultaneous car accidents in which one man lives and one man dies sort of echo this theme of alive and dead, as does the story of the Dybbuk at the beginning of the film. The two scenes in the synagogue juxtapose a funeral followed by a bar mitzvah. Larry does seem a bit like the cat in the box being acted upon rather than acting, uncertain whether he is spiritually dead or alive. Larry has no context for answers, only questions, confusion, and pain. Continue reading


Feb 27 2010

Paradise Falls Up in Pixar’s Academy Award-Nominated Movie

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Spoiler alert: This movie is way too good to miss. If you haven’t seen it, this post does give some of it away so you might want to see it first.

Up begins as a childhood romance between two dreamers that blossoms into a happy marriage.  The wordless montage of Carl and Ellie’s life together is emotionally breathtaking. In a few moments we see how time and circumstances edge out a dream they’ve shared since childhood. It captures the way relationships spark and settle. We see how important this couple is to one another and how much their shared dream figures in their relationship. This just might be one of the loveliest bits of film I’ve ever seen. The fact that it’s animated just made it more universal.

Ellie’s scrapbook, which Carl reverences but never opens, details their childhood plans to move their clubhouse to Paradise Falls, South America. When they were children he promised to help her. Their shared love of adventure and admiration for explorer Charles Muntz brings them together as children. Even after Muntz is discredited they continue to believe in him and dream of visiting Paradise Falls some day.

For Carl their South American adventure is a catalyst for hope. From time to time they make plans which fall through and the dream finally dies with Ellie. He feels he’s failed her because they never made that trip. Continue reading


Feb 22 2010

The Hurt Locker, the Olympics, and Adrenaline Addicts

maureen

On the surface Sgt. James looks like an adrenaline junkie. The Hurt Locker suggests this by beginning with a quote from journalist Chris Hedges: “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Kathryn Bigelow, its director, also directed Point Blank, which depicts surfers seeking that adrenaline high. Disarming bombs before they detonate is an exciting job and James does seem to get a rush from doing it.

Sgt. James is a complex guy. He refuses to use some of the standard precautions designed to protect him but he’s competent and very good at what he does. While his methods add tension to an already stressful mission his support team Sgt. Sanborn and Pfc. Eldridge respect his bravery and skill, though they are very uncomfortable with his unpredictability. He’s competent and takes pride in his work. He seems to genuinely want to help and shows compassion for victims of war. While his desire for excitement seems insatiable, James is also a tough, direct, heroic soldier doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. James’ dismissive attitude toward danger gives him a bit of a Chuck Norris/John Wayne persona. Continue reading


Feb 14 2010

Four Loves Trump Greed, Hubris, and Envy in Avatar

maureen

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 6 2010

Heroes Redemption and Forgiveness for Sylar

maureen

Repentance and forgiveness bring down the wall in the most recent episode of Heroes, Season 4 Episode 18. Guilt is a wall that separates us from others and locks us into ourselves. Bitterness does the same thing.  Gabriel Gray, aka Sylar, reaches a personal arch in Heroes. He doesn’t want to be Sylar anymore. He wants to change. Vengeance, fear, and doubt drive Matt Parkman to entrap Sylar in the isolation of his own mind. With motives that have nothing to do with rescue, Peter Petrelli goes into Sylar’s isolation to bring him back.

This reminds me so much of Paul’s conversion.  Sylar wants redemption but, like Paul, has to wait for someone to come and lead him out.  It must have been frightening for Ananias to be asked to go to Paul. Paul had the power to kill him or have him arrested. Paul may have hurt some of Ananias’ friends and it’s possible Ananias wasn’t all that excited about letting Paul off the hook after all he’d done to make life miserable for Christians. Paul had to wait around in Damascus, blind, until someone from the community he had tortured came to help him. Moving on for both Paul and Sylar required being forgiven.

Trapped together in an empty world, Peter and Gabriel/Sylar struggle to find a way out. They cooperate because they have a common goal, but Peter feels compelled to continue to hate Gabriel/Sylar who killed his brother Nathan. Gabriel feels he’s changed but cannot begin to function as a changed person until Peter forgives him. We make redemption more difficult for others by harboring resentments or saddling them with baggage from the past. Peter’s forgiveness not only releases Gabriel but restores Peter so that his memories of his brother can be based on love rather than anger. Whatever happens on Heroes next,  watching Peter and Gabriel knock down that wall created a visual image for me of how redemption and forgiveness work together to free us.


Feb 1 2010

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

maureen

(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 19 2010

Characters, Symbolism, and Sin in The Book of Eli

maureen

Spoiler alert – Eli is ready to kill and ready to die to protect the book he believes he’s been charged by God to carry west. In this apocalyptic world Eli’s Bible might the last one known to exist. Apparently the Bible played some part in a war that resulted in nuclear holocaust thirty years earlier, which led to an attempt to destroy all known copies.

Eli doesn’t know what he expects to find when he gets there, he just knows that his part is to carry to book. He brings it out and reads it every night, but otherwise keeps it hidden from sight. The care and reverence with which he treats the Bible as he carries it reminds me of the Biblical accounts of the Israelites transporting the Ark of the Covenant.

The Book of Eli made me think about the power of the Bible and how it is used. It also left me with some questions about Eli, his mission, and the characters he encountered along the way. Perhaps I’m completely off, but the names of the characters seemed to carry some significance for me.

A glimpse into Eli’s pack reveals a K-mart employee name-tag with the name “Eli.” Like Noah, David, or one of the Apostles, Eli is an ordinary guy who God seems to have called to do something extraordinary. On one hand Eli believes he is divinely appointed, divinely led, and divinely protected. On the other he’s a sort of Samurai / western hero with mad self-defense skills. I sort of wondered whether Eli’s skills are divinely inspired or whether he’s developed his unique abilities to sense danger due to years on the road. Whatever the case it seemed to me that Eli is heavy on violence and may have failed to explore other communication options. Continue reading


Jan 2 2010

Bye-bye in 2009 Celebrity Deaths and Why We Care

maureen

This week I’ve seen several lists of celebrities who died in 2009. There have been some tribute segments on TV shows. All this has made me think about who I’ll miss and why I care at all. I guess when a celebrity dies it’s like losing a little slice of Americana. It is not that a celebrity death is more important, only that it has the potential to impact a lot of people at one time. Our shared enjoyment of entertainment provided by these people connects us to one another and creates cultural common ground.

The 10 celebs that died in 2009 who made my world sweeter:

  1. John Hughes directed some of my favorite flicks. I wish he hadn’t stopped making movies.
  2. Michael Jackson sang some great songs that still keep me dancing.
  3. Dom DeLuise made me laugh for as long as I can remember. His Caesar in History of the World Part I was hilarious.
  4. Brittany Murphy entertained me daily in King of the Hill. I’m going to miss the show as well as the lady. I really loved her in Clueless, too.
  5. Les Paul impacted the music I listen to in so many ways.
  6. David Carradine: Kung Fu, enough said.
  7. Larry Gelbart wrote brilliant scripts for M*A*S*H which was my favorite TV show in the 70’s.
  8. Paul Harvey made me think about a lot of stuff that I probably would have ignored if he hadn’t been on the radio.
  9. Farrah Fawcett inspired my hairstyle when I was 16.
  10. Patrick Swayze made me cry in Ghost (and I don’t cry at many movies).

For some reason all this makes me think about the song, American Pie. Writer, Don McLean said, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me… sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.” Now, I am not going to try and interpret American Pie, but I think it’s an example of how one person can be profoundly affected by the death of another even without knowing that person. American Pie demonstrates how powerfully connected we can feel to celebrities. Continue reading


Dec 19 2009

Top 10 Christmas Movies

maureen

Here are  my top 10 Christmas movies and what I get out of them:

Love Actually

Love Actually – We are created for relationship and some of us will slug through the insecurity that comes with love while others will settle for the temporary satisfaction that comes with lust. The sacrifices and pain that comes with loving imperfect people is worth the price.

Christmas-vacation

Christmas Vacation – We can worry too much about how others might judge us. Our desire for approval can cause us to focus on what we think people want from us rather than focusing on our relationships with those people. Continue reading


Dec 5 2009

Tiger’s Transgressions: Why Do Men Cheat?

maureen

Tiger’s Transgressions isn’t a movie yet but I’ll bet somebody at the  Lifetime or Oxygen channels  is probably working on a script. After allegations of multiple affairs became public, golf icon Tiger Woods stood in front of a press conference and said, “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings.”

Tiger Woods is just the latest celebrity linked to controversial extra-marital affairs. Here are 7 more peccadilloes of the rich and famous:

  • David Letterman apologized on his TV talk show for embarrassing his staff and hurting his wife after having an affair with a staffer.
  • Mel Gibson’s wife of 28 years divorced him and 6 months later he had a child with another woman.
  • Brad Pitt hooked up with Angelina Jolie while still married to Jennifer Aniston.
  • Bill Clinton denied his affair with Monica Lewinsky saying “I did not have sex with that woman.”
  • Hugh Grant was caught with a less-than-model-beautiful prostitute while married to Liz Hurley.
  • Jimmy Swaggart lost his TV ministry and let down thousands of followers when his visits to prostitutes was discovered.
  • JFK had an affair with Marilyn Monroe. Continue reading

Nov 23 2009

Top 10 Movie Prayers

maureen

Here are 10 of my favorite film prayers and what they’ve taught me. Sometimes touching, sometimes irreverent, prayer in movies reflects the gamut of our attitudes toward God and what we expect from him. The 7 Deadly Sins can even come into play when we are trying to pray.

1. Shenandoah The dad in this old movie returns one of the most prideful prayers of thanks I’ve ever heard. This attitude represents the hubris of “self-sufficiency.” Introducing God into the equation changes the impact of words like “deserve” and “earn.”  God really is the source of provision for everything I have and deserves my thanks.

Continue reading


Nov 4 2009

This Is It Michael Jackson’s Human Nature

maureen

Michael Jackson was an incredibly talented musician. With forty plus years of experience Michael really understood the concept of entertainment. This Is It is a glimpse into rehearsals for his upcoming show, mixed with clips of footage from music videos that were also being shot. He was acutely aware of every detail of music and movement in his show. He had a vision for how the whole thing should look and sound, and seemed to be involved in every aspect. He not only connected with his music and with his audience, but acted as a conduit that connected his music to his audience. It was impossible to walk away from a Michael Jackson performance without humming one of his tunes.

I’ve been playing Thriller a lot since he died. After watching This Is It, I came out humming Human Nature. “If they say, why, why? Tell ’em that is human nature Why, why does he do me that way? I like livin’ this way, I like lovin’ this way…” Just as he was gifted with music, Michael was also afflicted with the ravages of sin. Human Nature seems like his explanation for the various controversies that surrounded him: discord and violence within the Jackson family; the controversy concerning allegations of child sexual abuse; conjecture about multiple cosmetic surgeries; financial mismanagement (he earned $500 million dollars in his lifetime, yet his home Neverland Ranch was in foreclosure). Michael seemed to have struggled with human nature. Continue reading


Oct 24 2009

To Help or Not to Help: Homelessness and Sloth

maureen

Somebody’s Baby just wrecked me. The song  from Jon Foreman’s Winter EP tells the story of a homeless girl. Foreman is the frontman for the band Switchfoot but his solo project has more of an acoustic, experimental, indie feel. The use of strings in this song was compelling. It reminded me of another piece about homelessness that features strings, the movie The Soloist.

Both works reminded me that every homeless person has a different story. It is likely that somebody is worried about this person. And it is certain that this person is someone God loves dearly and wants to redeem. Continue reading


Sep 30 2009

Hope and despair in District 9

maureen

I finally saw District 9. An alien ship hovers, inoperable, above South Africa. After 28 years of conflict the ship’s inhabitants and their descendants have been rounded up and placed behind fences in slum-like conditions, where violence and crime are rampant. Over time the aliens became desperate, hopeless and violent.  The situation serves as an allegory for South Africa’s period of apartheid. But it also raises bigger questions. Wikus, a white South African government official, is sent into the settlement to inform the inhabitants that they are being moved. Unlike many of his co-workers he avoids hurting the aliens unnecessarily. He does not really see them as intelligent beings until he begins to stand in their shoes. In a search of a home he is exposed to an alien technology that causes him to begin to transform into an alien. Continue reading


Jul 25 2009

Sinema7 book update

maureen

The book Sinema7 is written, it is currently under review and in the process of being published. Ordering information will be posted here. Maureen is currently working on a small group study guide to go along with the book.  It will include references for movie clips in each chapter – we trust it will be a fun and meaningful tool to study the seven.


Jul 24 2009

Tom Riddle: Boy Megalomaniac

maureen

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Lord Voldemort, speaking through Quirrill, declares that “there is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” As we meet the young Tom Riddle in the latest installment Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince we see a child so caught up in his special power that he denies a moral order larger than himself. In an interview J.K. Rowling, writer of the Harry Potter books, compares Voldemort to paranoid megalomaniacs like Hitler and Stalin. Megalomaniacs exhibit an obsession with his or her importance and power that psychologists also call “delusions of grandeur”.

Tom Riddle reinvents himself as Lord Voldemort, relying on his hatred and pride to gather power. Whether the magic he employs is good or evil is immaterial to him. In fact he becomes convinced that he will amass greater power employing the Dark Arts. Pride motivates and enables evil. Voldemort, fueled by his evil pride, has complete disregard for the pain of others and may actually find his sense of power enhanced by inflicting pain. This is Voldemort’s M.O. As the young Tom Riddle pride shields him from revealing any vulnerability he may feel. Continue reading