Dec 1 2012

Emmanuel and the 7 Deadly Sins in Christmas movies

maureen

Pride makes Clark Griswold do stupid things in Christmas Vacation. In fact, pride is a driving motivation for Clark in all the Vacation movies. His gloriously ridiculous light show, buying things for his family before he has the money and hiding his fears and problems from his family reveal the pressure he feels to measure up to the man he thinks he is supposed to be. When he finds out about his bonus Clark feels devalued by his boss and is devastated, not only that he might disappoint his family, but that in disappointing them he might lose their love and respect. Christmas Vacation is a reminder that love and worth are not determined by deliverables.

In The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington envies Santa and wants his job. Bored with his own role as king of Halloweentown, when Jack discovers Christmastown he finds it so much more appealing that he tries to turn Halloweentown into another Christmastown. Eventually Jack recognizes that he can take the imspiration and renewed energy that he found in Christmastown and bring that to the work he is meant to do. 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


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


Feb 27 2010

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

maureen



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 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


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


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


Apr 6 2009

Anger and love in Gran Torino

maureen

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Gran Torino follows an older man’s journey out of isolation. Walt Kowalski is angry and emotionally disconnected. Retired from Ford, Walt is part of a dying breed of men who worked one job in manufacturing. At his wife’s funeral Walt stands stiffly in his suit,  confused by his grandchildren’s attire. The kids have no idea in which war he fought or why he served. His snarliness, ethnic slurs and stoic demeanor make him an embarrassment to his sons. His cultural values are holdovers from the 1950’s. He carries prejudices. He is the sort of person we might call culturally irrelevant. 

His children are stereotypes of white, upper middle class culture. Sons Steve and Mitch and daughter-in law Karen seem more interested in relegating him to a retirement community and getting their hands on the house.  Granddaughter Ashley is interested in his Gran Torino but not in him. Grandsons Daniel, David and Josh find him sort of amusing and are interested in his war service but he’s not willing to discuss that with them. He seems content to be left alone with his dog and his bitterness.

Continue reading


Jan 15 2009

24 : Needs Redemption

maureen

Jack Bauer is back to prove, once again, that following the rules of bureaucracy is an ineffective method of saving the world. In the set up movie 24:Redemption Jack tries to reinvent himself teaching in a school in Africa. Jack quickly becomes involved in saving schoolchildren from genocide in fictional Sangala which sets up this season’s bad guy, the evil Juma. The movie ends with Jack sacrificing himself to save lives even though that choice leads to his capture and return to the U.S. to face a Senate subcommittee investigating the now defunct CTU.

Season 7 begins with Jack answering questions about his actions while a CTU agent:

Senator: “Mr. Bauer, did you torture Mr. Haddad?”

Jack: “Senator, Abraham Hadadd had targeted a bus carrying 45 people, 10 of which were children. I stopped that attack from happening. Don’t expect me to regret the decisions that I have made because sir, the truth is, I don’t.” Continue reading


Dec 23 2008

The Seven Deadly Sins at Christmas – Part Two

maureen

Anger – Grinchiness

Stupid happy people can be really annoying. It’s a time of year when some of us let down our guard. We open our wallets and donate money to causes we may have never heard of or buy our friends unnecessary (and sometimes ridiculous) gifts. We listen to music we’d never listen to any other time of year.  We abandon taste and decorate with of huge pieces of yard art and gaudy lights. We embrace hope and joy, perhaps only for a season, but we embrace it all the same. For whatever reason this sort of seasonal behavior makes some people angry.

These grinchy people refuse to abandon all hopelessness and enjoy the festivities. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas it’s not enough for the Grinch to ignore Christmas, he wants to spoil it for everyone else. The Grinch is an angry guy and his malice extends to the smallest Who down in Whoville. He finds the Whos’ joy offensive. He is convinced that it is a shallow joy that is centered around the “stuff” of Christmas. Continue reading


Nov 20 2008

Family Dysfunction in the Movies

maureen

I find awkward moments really humorous and dysfunctional family movies provide plenty of awkward moments. Dinner with the extended family usually involves lots of emotional undercurrents: veiled resentment, snide comments, whispered asides, and sometimes an awkward revelation. Here are defining lines from some of my favorite dysfunctional family movies. 

The Ref “I’ve seen loan sharks who are more forgiving.”

Home for the Holidays “You don’t know the first thing about me.”

Christmas Vacation “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

Meet the Parents “Greg, will you pray?”

The Royal Tenenbaums “You think you could start forgiving me?

The Family Stone “Are you comfortable?

Parenthood “It’s my kid brother, Larry, your uncle. Don’t give him any money.”

Continue reading


Oct 31 2008

Anger, Despair and Hope in Metallica’s Death Magnetic

maureen

For a generation who grew up banging heads to Master of Puppets, Death Magnetic is a musical reprise. After St. Anger angered fans with what James Hetfield admits was “one dimension…This is anger and here it is,” Metallica seems to go for something more enigmatic and layered in Death Magnetic.

The theme of their new effort is death. Primarily inspired by the overdose death of Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, this album explores the motivations that might drive someone to self-destruct. Metal has been blamed for angry, anti-social, sometimes suicidal behavior. But, perhaps, metal can merely reflect back the anger and frustration people are already feeling. Continue reading