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 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


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


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


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


Sep 30 2009

The Themes of 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


Aug 12 2009

Julie and Julia Overcome the “Spell of the Typical”

maureen

Change in our lives often serves as catalyst for self-evaluation. In Julie & Julia, Julie is turning thirty. She and her husband move to an economical apartment in Queens. Having failed to achieve the level of success most of her college friends seem to enjoy, Julie is slogging away at her unfulfilling government job. She has allowed the rejection of a half written novel to deter her from pursuing her passion for writing. Julie realizes she needs to “break the spell of the typical” in her life. (Thank you Mutemath for such a fitting phrase.)

Julie decides to try blogging and, since she loves to cook, decides to cook through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blog about it. Julia Child began cooking in France as a result of a similar desire to find something fulfilling to do. When Julia’s husband asked her, “What is it that you really love to do?” She responded “Eat,” and that led her to cooking school… Julie & Julia chronicles the journeys of Julie Powell and Julia Child as each woman discovers what it means to find her passion. 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


Jul 10 2009

Apocalypto’s Black Hole of Pride

maureen

I finally got around to watching Apocalypto. Early in the movie a village elder tells a myth about man’s restless hunger for power and autonomy. His story concludes that “man has a hole inside him that will make him take and take until the world has no more to give.”

The Mayan city is a lurid demonstration of how this can play out in a society. Humans are sacrificed in a carnival-like atmosphere at a pyramid temple erected as a monument to the power and grandeur of their civilization.  Pompous Mayan royalty pile up more and more bodies in their attempt to appease an angry god and retain power over a people they care nothing about. Continue reading


Jun 25 2009

Frost/Nixon and the pride of insecurity

maureen

There is what we think of ourselves, there is what others think of us, and then there is what we think others think of us. Frost/Nixon reveals a man obsessed about what others think of him. In the interview with David Frost Richard Nixon describes the two of them as “scrambling our way up in undignified fashion.”
Nixon seems to suffer both from feelings of inferiority and from resentment toward those who may think of him as inferior. Even after serving a term as president of the United States Nixon feels that “the well born” look down on him. He feels the needs to prove himself and “make ’em choke on our continued success. Our continued headlines! Our continued awards! And power! And glory!” Continue reading

May 28 2009

The Themes of Pride and Wonder in Angels and Demons

maureen

Angels and Demons HD trailer

Had Angels and Demons been about a couple of likable characters running all over Rome trying to prevent the murder of some Cardinals it would have been enjoyable. It was a good mystery with some great action and nice plot twists. Two other elements fascinated me as well: the tension between science and religion and the “God Particle.”

The hubris of both religion and science were touched upon. In this corner we have the Catholic church with a history including the (fictional) public murder of the Illuminati for “a warning to others to stop questioning church ruling on scientific matters.” And in this corner we have the 21st century scientific community who push the envelope by creating a large amount of dangerous anti-matter in hopes of solving the energy crisis and, oh by the way, simulating the moment of creation. While much of the movie dwelt on the moral compromises of the church bent to suppressing science,  the Carmerlengo delivers a compelling soliloquy on the hubris of science and the motive of the church to protect faith. His insanity does not negate some of his points. Continue reading


May 4 2009

The Theme of Pride in Outbreak

maureen

Produced in 1995 the movie Outbreak is a timely diversion as the Swine Flu epidemic sweeps the nation (not). It’s sort of a conspiracy meets disaster flick in which the greatest fears of movie’s epidemiologists are realized when a deadly virus mutates and goes airborne. There is a squirmy scene in which someone sneezes in a movie theatre and we watch the infection float through the air into the mouth of another person. Soon an entire town is infected. The CDC and the military descend upon a town to assess the situation and try to eradicate the virus.

This movie shows how an event like a possible pandemic can become a political football. Decisions about how to handle the outbreak, what to tell the public, how to handle the media, and what the political repercussions might be all reveal the hubris of leadership. Before the virus spreads the Centers for Disease Control weighs the cost of a special alert. It comes down to whether it’s worth the money and the embarrassment of being wrong. Continue reading