Thursday, July 16, 2015

Worldview Review: "Self/less"

Shortest WR ever:

This beautifully told parable in the guise of a sci-fi action thriller is not recommended for the young'uns, but for adults and young adults with well-formed consciences (say, anyone capable of appreciating St. Augustine's Confessions), I'd have to say it's a must-see.

Side notes:

1)  It's a beautiful advertisement for New Orleans, and it's nice to see Hollywood notice that life does exist in the U.S. in places other than New York City and various California coastal cities.

2)  I'm always surprised to find that Ryan Reynolds can actually act.  His physical type is such that I always expect him to be merely a "face man"--and then he repeatedly reminds me that I am mistaken (not that I've seen much of his work, or would recommend any of his other films that I have seen, other than perhaps "Buried").  I've no idea if he could handle a stage performance, but a movie actor he certainly is.  Ben Kingsley and Victor Garber, as always, are a pleasure to watch work.  It would be nice to see more of Derek Luke; he has a great presence but we didn't get to see enough of him here.

3)  Ten "Venture Points" to anyone who, after seeing the movie, leaves in the comments here the same "moral of the story" that I had bounding through my head as I left the theater.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Special Forces Tasked With Covert Ops; The Role of the Citizen in the Resistance

[[High levels of violence, as well as drug cartels and abortion in the country, were the motivation behind the special rite of exorcism, known as exorcismo magno (the great exorcism).]]

I had no idea that this could be done for entire towns, regions, or nations, as opposed to only one individual at a time.   If these (quoted above) are sufficient reasons, then the U.S. is far overdue. Indeed, I hope it is already being done regularly, and we just are not being informed about it (see next comment, below).

[[ Comment Posted by C.S.:
This is an inspiring example of the faith of the bishops of Mexico. I’d like to see this done in our country. Probably the location should be kept secret to avoid disruptions but the date could be given out so that the faithful could support the effort by confession, fasting, and prayer.]]

No, the entire event, even the fact that it is being done, should be kept secret, for the physical and spiritual safety of the exorcists.  Our nation is in the grip of some truly terrifying "principalities and powers," and the "special forces" soldiers in the vanguard fighting this enemy need every advantage they can get, including the advantage of secrecy so that demonic forces cannot be (wittingly or unwittingly!) marshaled against them beforehand.  When I say "unwittingly," I refer to people who think, for example, that they are "atheists," but who would direct their hatred and contempt toward the event, which constitutes a spiritual assault, giving ammunition to the enemy even though they don't believe there is such a thing. 

What the faithful should be told is to be invited to add regular prayers for the support of exorcists to their daily prayers (I intend to!), as well as being invited to fast and perhaps make other offerings specifically for the support of exorcists--in general.  The less said about specific events, the better--certainly until AFTER the event is over, but even then, because spiritual acts are not time-bound, it is probably better not to reveal specifics of any operation like this, for the same reasons that highly sensitive operations in wartime are not announced beforehand OR afterwards, until many years after the war is over. 

Another thing the faithful must be told, now and repeatedly (it bears continual repeating, as wartime communications to general citizens during WWII demonstrate), is that we ARE, in fact, at war.  Of course, we always have been, but for Westerners living in what was until recently CHRISTENDOM, and particularly U.S. citizens, up until recently living in a nation explicitly founded on, and a culture deeply steeped in, a Christian worldview, that was all too easy to forget.  We have forgotten it, most of us, and we have become so ingrown into the creeping culture of mammon that we've failed to recognize how the thorns have grown up around us.  We're now waking up to the fact that we're caged in them, and there's a pitched battle forming all around us.  We need to slash our way out of those thorns, arm ourselves "with the whole armor of God," and get ready for the persecution Christ warned us would be our portion, but also that he told us would be our BLESSING. 

Our priests must remind us, at every opportunity, that we are at war, we live in occupied territory, we are the resistance--"not peace but a sword"--and help us to learn how to resist as Christians, not as belligerent, obnoxious Americans "fighting for MY rights," but as Christians fighting for the eternal souls of those we face--fighting "NOT against men, but against principalities and powers.”  We have no experience doing this, and far too many examples (we are constantly bombarded with images in our media) of people attacking EACH OTHER.  We must remember that the PEOPLE who APPEAR to be our opposition (e.g., those politicians you view as "the other side;" the activists you view as "against" your beliefs) are as desperately loved by our Savior as we are.  We "fight NOT against them," but against a real and present, but not as easily PERCEIVED, enemy.  We cannot attack them, much as we may feel ourselves attacked by them, and call ourselves Christians.  We need to truly "know our enemy," and we need to be equipped for resistance IN CHRIST--for it will avail us nothing if we win some kind of human battle against other PEOPLE, made in the image of God and for whom Christ died, like us; if we beat down our brother we may both be lost.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Worldview Review: "Terminator: Genisys"

Because of my soul-deep regard for Story, I am fervently philosophically opposed to the “reboot.”  Because of this, if I were not teaching a sci-fi-related course in the fall, I probably would not have seen this latest Terminator offering, having heard that it was that most deplorable thing, a "reboot" of a "franchise"--and that would have been a shame. 

As it happens, “Terminator Genisys” is not properly a “reboot” at all, but a continuation of the Terminator saga.  The sharp script with marvelous time-travel convolutions abides by all the rules of the Terminator world introduced in the first film, and respects (and even at times beautifully alludes to) the events of the previous films (certainly of the first two, both of which I’ve seen and studied so often for teaching my course that I nearly have them memorized).  The only thing “rebooted” about the film was the casting of the two young leads as different actors, of practical necessity, since the first film was made over 30 years ago.  In this regard they could hardly have done better for the Sarah Connor character; Emilia Clarke reminded me of the original’s Linda Hamilton throughout the film, not just her physiognomy but the crafting of the character.  While Arnold Schwarzenegger has obviously aged, the smart script even makes perfect sense of that, again strictly within the “reality rules” established in the very first film.  

From a worldview perspective, these “Terminator” films (certainly the first two and this most recent one) are quite interesting.  Yes, there’s a great deal of violence, but interestingly, unlike most sci-fi action adventures, which generally compete with each other for the record of most bloodshed and loss of life depicted in a two-hour timespan, these films are shot through with a very obvious regard for the value of human life.  In the second one, in particular, the young John Connor makes a big deal out of ordering his robot guardian not to kill anyone,
“because you just CAN’T!”  This regard for human life and reluctance to kill indiscriminately extends throughout this series and is reflected in a similar order to Sarah Connor’s guardian “Pops” in this recent film, as well as a clearly expressed distaste on the part of Kyle Reese to “kill” at all, even when those he is “killing” are only machines.  The filmmakers also seem to take pains to order the chaotic action sequences such that it is at least plausible that the hapless humans caught in the Terminator crossfire might escape the fate of “collateral damage.”  For example, in one chase sequence in "Genisys," a gas truck, driven by an uninvolved human driver, is wrecked to attempt to slow down the relentless human-killing Terminator pursuer.  I was surprised to see the Guardian target this vehicle—for the very reason that it is inconsistent with the usual Terminator “just can’t kill people” world rule—but, as the truck turns over, we see that the cab with the driver disconnects from the trailer full of gas, sliding out of view to our right as the trailer explodes off to our left, implying that the driver might have survived this incident.  Yes, it's subtle, but it's--something.

If you haven’t seen the previous films and are considering whether you’d like to, you should note that in the first film, we do get an obligatory 1980’s sex scene between unmarried adults, but it must be said that the fact that these two people have sex actually is essential to the story (spoiler alert:  the future’s inspiring leader of the human resistance, John Connor, who sent Kyle Reese back to protect his mother Sarah Connor, turns out to be the fruit of this one night they spend together).  At least we maintain the “human life is of ultimate value” worldview in the fact that Sarah Connor doesn’t decide to have the future savior of humankind aborted.  It’s also worth noting that the first “Terminator” movie was not just made quite a long time ago, but was fairly low-budget even for that day, so adjust your expectations accordingly with respect to special effects, etc.  It is still a compelling story, and an interesting study in heroic devotion on the part of the Kyle Reese character, and in fortitude and courage, and the growth of character through adversity, on the part of the Sarah Connor character.

The second film, “Terminator II:  Judgment Day” is a far better film in general than the first (although you do profit somewhat by having seen the first), and is far too busy with all the action involved in saving the young John Connor and his mother from the next generation Terminator, and then attempting to save the world from Skynet, to bother with gratuitous sex.  It manages to give us images of patience, determination, fortitude, self-discipline, and familial loyalty in the midst of the inevitable chaos.  It also has a lovely depiction of a scientist as a caring, brilliant, African-American family man of integrity and courage, played beautifully by Joe Morton, which is worth the price of admission, right there. 

I found the intervening films (3 and 4) generally forgettable, and can recommend with a clear conscience simply skipping from the second ("Terminator II: Judgment Day," which, in my view, remains by far the best of the series) to this most recent, "Terminator: Genisys."  The only thing you might wonder about is a reference in this most recent film to the destruction of a site in Denver (which happened in one of the previous films).  It was a major Skynet hub; they blew it up; all good.  Moving on.

I wouldn’t in good conscience recommend any of these films for kids, but for adults or young adults with well-formed consciences who like action/adventure and enjoy speculative fiction with at least a little food for thought regarding the nature of humanity and our relationship with the machines to which we increasingly hand over our daily lives, this series is worth a look.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Worldview Review: "Inside Out"

Nick Olszyk loves "Inside Out;" see his review here:

Cinematic Treasure in the Mind's Eye (Catholic World Report)

From a worldview perspective, though, it made me terribly sad; the girl's entire personality--her healthful being in the world--is built on "hockey," "goofiness," "friends," and her tiny family, which apparently consists only of her highly distracted and anger-controlled father and her mother whose dominant characteristic is apparently sadness.  No siblings, no grandparents, no aunts, uncles, no godparents, nobody else to provide support or take up slack in stressful times. Of course any and all of these things her life is built upon can crumble, as aptly demonstrated in the film, where all these worldly things are just floating, held up by nothing, and connected to her by only the thinnest of tethers. With just a bit of perfectly ordinary worldly stress, they all fall apart and collapse, and only by the skin of her teeth does she reconnect with her parents and escape the real-life fate of so many children who have no foundation firmer than the things of this world to build their lives upon. 

Throughout the entire film, I just kept wondering: Where is her connection with her Creator, with her Savior? "Unless God builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. . . " The house of her interior life is built upon things that will age, decay, and disappear. Oh, I forgot "honesty island," but apparently that only takes one dishonest act to crumble and disappear, so. . . where is the rock to build upon? At least we do have a depiction of an actual natural family: mother, father, child. . . and a message that at least tells kids you ought to try to stick with them. . . if they'll stick with you, which is certainly not a given these days. . . <sigh>  Like I said, it just made me sad.   :C

No, there's nothing outright obscene in the film (which surprisingly is increasingly rare, even in kids' films, these days!).  And yes, you can certainly use this film, as Olszyk suggests, to talk with kids about the dangers of attempting to deny our unpleasant emotions, and about constructively working through our unpleasant emotions through talking with trusted and caring adults.  Let me more strongly suggest, though, that if you watch this with your family, you use it as a "teachable moment" with respect to building your life on eternal foundations that can never crumble; on, indeed, the Rock of Ages.   


P.S. to Olszyk's P.S.:  That "Lava" short didn't make me sad, it made me ill.  It's built upon a cute (although queasily slightly ethnic-joke-y) pun, but all it does is to once again prop up the cultural lie that love equals feelings, and that marriage is based upon the same.  Hurrah for the Government Registry of Friends with the Most Feels!  It's the last thing we need to show our kids now.  Two thumbs down; for that matter, all twenty fingers and toes down.  Yuck!  What DO we need to show our kids?  The Irrefutable Argument.