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


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

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 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


Apr 2 2010

Jesus of Montreal takes on Hubris and Pride in the Church and the Media

maureen

It may not be a typical inspirational Easter movie, but Jesus of Montreal is a relevant, devastating, contemporary take on the real power of Christ. Hollywood Jesus recently posted a list of their top 20 stirring Easter flicks with this 1990 Academy Award nominated film as their #3 pick.

SPOILER ALERT. In Jesus of Montreal the life of the actor who takes the role of Christ begins to strangely parallel Jesus’ life. A group of actors led by Daniel Colombe are hired to “freshen up” a passion play but they make changes that are unacceptable to the Church. The religious establishment in the form of the Catholic Church plays the part of the Pharisees. The media, like Rome, evaluates everything by how much money it will make and how much influence it will generate. In this movie the media industry is portrayed as yielding more even power than the church. These people enjoy their power to influence and exploit others. Continue reading


Mar 31 2010

Season 6 Part 2 – Fate, Science, and Charles Widmore’s Hubris in Lost

maureen

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

Charles Widmore is a key player in Lost. He’s powerful and he’s desperate. His methods are ruthless. There are more questions than answers about him right now. Today’s episode revealed that he’s opposing Smokey. He doesn’t seem to be on Jacob’s side but we know he’s not on Smokey’s either.

If Jacob represents the supernatural and advocates choices, I think Charles  falls into the area of reason and, like Smokey,  fate. Charles looks for causes and for factors he can control and tries to capitalize on those. Both agree that Smokey is evil but employ different methods in fighting him.

This chronology of events reveals Charles as ruthless, uncompromising, deceitful, and controlling. His hubris and arrogance seems to extend into the lives of everyone involved. He seems to feel that reaching into other’s lives, even killing some people, is justified in order to accomplish his objective. If all hell is about to unleashed, if human life is about to be extinguished, does what’s at stake justify his methods? 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 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


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 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


Mar 13 2009

Amazement takes a little humility

maureen

Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy YouTube Link

Commedian Louis CK did some comedic commentary on Conan O’Brein’s show recently about amazement and what he calls a generation of spoiled idiots. He contends that people who fly, instead of complaining about delays and inconveniences, should recognize the amazing fact that “You’re sitting in a chair, in the sky…” and can arrive at a destination in six hours on a journey that once took months. Instead stories of flying usually include complaints about the wait and the inconvenience. 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 17 2008

The Theme of Pride in The Devil Wears Prada

maureen

Vanity is one of the most recognizable forms of pride. We want everyone to notice our possessions, our accomplishments, or our appearance. We may also believe that we are better than other people, at least in certain areas. We may become so arrogant that we actually believe that we are as knowledgeable, capable, beautiful and important as we want people to think that we are.

People who receive lots of admiration or hold lots of power can develop an inflated sense of their own importance. Miranda Priestly, the boss in The Devil Wears Prada determines what clothing and which models will appear in her very influential Runway magazine. She believes that she, and she alone, decides what people will buy and wear. She treats those around her with disdain, dismissing major designers with a purse of her lips, calling models “fat,” and treating her staff disrespectfully. Protagonist Andrea comes into the job because Miranda decides to take a chance and “hire the smart, fat girl.” She is called “fat” a number of times throughout the movie. Everyone in the movie has a fixation about weight, and dropping a dress size is the ultimate affirmation of self-worth. Andrea’s co-worker Emily declares that she’s “one stomach flu away from reaching my goal weight,” while size six Andrea is told by Nigel, the office designer, that size six is “the new fourteen.”   Continue reading