ReasonForOurHope

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Lack of Updates October 2020

 Hello, Dear Reader,


As normally happens a few times a year, I am finding myself unusually busy, with many projects converging at once.  Because of this, I may not be able to update this blog regularly for the next couple weeks.  During that time I will be busy with:


-grading the classes I teach for the end of the quarter

    -(this includes grading around 130 projects)

-writing a term paper for a Master's class

-taking care of a house project

-assisting at RCIA at my parish

-stepping up rehearsals for our Fall Show for Theater


Once I am able to finish a few of these, I will be able to return to regular, blogging as I have in the past.


Thank you for you patience, Dear Reader.  I will be back soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

St. Teresa of Avila Prayer - 2020

 



Years ago, I encountered this prayer for the first time by The Curt Jester 

Since then, I have made it a permanent post on my own blog because it is such an important reminder in times of stress and anxiety.

With all the craziness in the world, I thought it would be a good idea on this feast day of Teresa of Avila to share this prayer with all of you once again and invite you to pray it with me.


Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
– St. Teresa of Avila

Monday, October 12, 2020

New Evangelizers Post: The Corpse Groom: Adam and Christ

   


 


I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com.  

The story of Adam and Eve is one of the most familiar stories in all of Scripture. God makes man and woman and places them in the Garden of Eden. In the center of this paradise were two trees: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. God only gave the man and woman one rule: Do NOT eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But the serpent enters the garden and tempts the humans to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and thus paradise is lost.

As I said, the story is familiar. In fact, it is so familiar that we can forget how shocking it actually is.

Many years ago, Dr. Scott Hahn put forth a different image of this story than we may have in our minds. He pointed out that the Hebrew word (“nahash”) that gets translated into English as “serpent” or “snake” can also be translated as “dragon.” On this view, Dr. Hahn posits that the story is not about a subtle snake seducing the woman into sin. Instead, it is the story of a large, scary monster who intimidates the woman into looking towards the Tree of Knowledge. One of the most telling lines is Genesis 3:6, where it says, “So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Up until this point, Genesis 3 recounted the dialogue between the nahash and the woman. And then suddenly Adam appears.

Where the heck was Adam this whole time?

The Bible is not clear on this point, but it is possible that he was standing there the whole time, letting his wife be bullied by this dragon. If that is the case, that puts a new spin on the story where it is primarily about Adam’s failure.

I want to be clear that I am not giving my 100% endorsement to Dr. Hahn’s interpretation. But there are some very interesting reflections that come about when you view the story this way. Dr. Hahn frames the story of the Fall as a marriage test. God is testing Adam’s worthiness as a husband. One of the most important roles of a husband is that of loving protector.

I ask my female students what would happen if they were on a date with their boyfriend and some random guys started shouting obscenities at her. Most of them say that they would expect their boyfriend to stand up for them. This is not to say that these young ladies could not stand up for themselves. But there is an expectation that the man in the relationship come to the defense of his lady.

On Dr. Hahn’s view, Adam should have stood up to the nahash. But what would happen if a simple, naked man with no weapons fought a giant, hulking dragon?

He would die, of course.

And that is the point of the story: Adam the groom should become a corpse.

There is no way that the man should overpower the dragon. Instead, the dragon will kill him. And in that man would finally discover what true love really is.

Up until this point, Adam and Eve share affection, friendship, and romance. There is something beautiful about how he says, “Here at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23) He sounds like Jerry McGuire saying to his wife, “You, complete me.” And we see reflected in this love those many sentiments of deep emotion we hear on the radio. This is the stuff of love songs.

But it is still missing the deepest of loves.

Beyond affection, friendship, and romance, there is the type of love that is represented by the Greek word “agape.” This represents a completely selfless, unconditional love. This is the type of love that offers itself completely without seeking anything in return. This is the love that would pay any price, not for any gain, but only for the good of the beloved.

This is the love where I would give my life for you.

Adam has not yet experienced this love. But he has the opportunity to live this true meaning of love by standing up to the nahash and laying down his life for his wife. But wouldn’t that be bad that Adam dies? Yes, but there is a solution: the Tree of Life.

What should happen is that Adam should die for his wife and then she should feed him from the Tree of Life and he should be brought back, now fulfilling his vocation of agape for his wife.

But he fails.

That is why we need Christ.


You can read the whole article here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Trailer Time: Dune


Word recently was released that this movie was pushed back until next year.

I don't think this trailer was meant for me.

I have never read Frank Herbert's Dune series and I have only seen a little bit of the David Lynch film.  Nothing about this trailer helps my lack of familiarity.

I think this trailer was for fans of the series.  I don't know who the characters are or what is really happening.  I think the trailer was made to show the people who DO know that the filmmakers are taking care to give them a big screen adaptation that is worthy of the place Dune has in sci-fi lore.  

The visuals are striking.

But I need to see more of the plot before I get excited.

Thoughts?

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sunday Best: STEVEN SPIELBERG MOVIES RANKED - #8 - LINCOLN


Lincoln 2012 Teaser Poster.jpg

One of the best movies ever made about Jesus was Franco Zefferelli's Jesus of Nazareth.  There have dozens of movies made about the life of Christ.  And since the source material is the most-read story in the history of the world, you can imagine that taking an original point-of-view would be difficult.  But one the smartest narrative strategies this movie does is in how it approaches Jesus.  He is so iconic and so far above us that it becomes incredibly difficult to do Him justice.  CS Lewis said that it is easy to enter the mindset of someone worse than you.  All you have to do is remove the moral restraints in our soul.  But it is so much more difficult to put ourselves into the mind of someone better than us.  Jesus of Nazareth sidesteps this by being much more about what it was like for ordinary people to be in the presence of the God-Man Jesus than it is about telling the story from Jesus' perspective.


And that is the same way it is with Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.  This hagiographic approach to the 16th President actually works because instead of making us walk in Lincoln's shoes we walk in Lincoln's shadow.  The opening scene sets the tone as he sits under a canopy as Union soldiers shuffle around for deployment, speaking to him with a mixture of awe and affection.  He is not only holding court with them, but with us the audience.  We are invited to sit by the great man and learn from him.  He keeps the camera distant at first.  There is a respect here that is evident in how he is framed.  You can tell that Spielberg holds this man in the same awe as the soldiers.  

Normally, this level of awe would be a detriment to telling a good story.  Putting someone on a pedestal makes it difficult to see them as a fully realized character.  But somehow Spielberg is able to do it.  It works because Lincoln is an enigma.  He is such a striking person, both in appearance and in voice that you aren't quite sure what to make of him.  Spielberg strangely applies a principle he learned in Jaws to his filming of Lincoln: leave an air of mystery.  With Jaws, Spielberg keeps the shark away from the camera and lets your mind fill in the horrible blanks.  In Lincoln, he keeps the president just enough out of range so as to be mysterious.  He doesn't hide him visually, but he films him in a way in which you get good glimpses of his character and his genius, but you never get the sense that you've figured him out.  Lincoln is an iceberg and all you see on the surface hints at his hidden depths.

Rather than following his life from start to finish, as many biopics do, Lincoln is primarily about the 2 and a half months between his re-election to the presidency and his fight to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery.  By doing this, the movie avoids the major problem that most biopics have, where they are meandering and disjointed as they try to cram many unrelated historical events into the narrative.  But this story has a beginning, middle, and end because it focused only on a slice of Lincoln's life.  And while there is a good deal of his personal life that informs his actions, the movie is mostly about the political maneuverings of the time.  It feels very much like an extended episode of The West Wing set in 1865.

And Lincoln must navigate his way through the swamp of Washington.  He has convinced the common people that the 13th Amendment is necessary for winning the war.  But if the war ends first, which looks to be the case at the beginning of the film, then popular support for the amendment will evaporate.  His Secretary of State Seward (David Strathairn) leads the back alley negotiations while Secretary of War Stanton (Bruce McGill) pushes for heavier attacks.  Meanwhile Lincoln needs the help of Radical Republican Abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) while at the same time needing him to moderate his position so as not to alienate the moderates.  And Lincoln must do most of this while fighting a war with the South and a war at home with his mentally unbalanced wife (Sally Field) and estranged son (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt).  If all of that sounds incredibly complicated, it is.  But that is a good thing.


The movie is not a political allegory; it is not a mask for some other current political issues dressed up in 19th Century clothing.  It is rarer and better.  It has what Tolkien called "applicability."  You can use this story and apply it to any political cause.  For example, we Catholic Pro-Lifers seek to outlaw abortion because we believe in human rights for all, born and unborn.  But popular support in the country does not exist for banning abortion in the case of rape and incest.  So what is a Pro-Lifer to do?  Lincoln does an amazing balancing act of principled leadership and political pragmatism.

I must speak now about Daniel Day-Lewis' much lauded performance as Abraham Lincoln.  This earned him his third Best Actor Oscar, being the only actor in history to achieve this accomplishment   I was not impressed with what I saw of him in the trailers, so I went in very skeptical.  But there was a bit of genius to his decision to play against the expected baritone, imposing type that is typical of most movie Lincolns.  By breaking with that tradition and giving him a high, cracking voice and unassuming posture, you never feel like he is doing an impression of Lincoln.  Day Lewis gives you a performance that feels like a complete, three-dimensional character.  He draws you in with his quaint stories and then hits you with his crystal-clear wisdom, but he always keeps you at a distance.  It is the feeling you get when you are in the presence of someone truly great: you don't feel worthy enough to draw too close.  Day-Lewis' Lincoln is flawed, but his all the more admirable for his flaws.  The other actors do very well in their parts, like Gloria Reuben in a small but memorable role as White House employee Mrs. Keckly and James Spader as Mr. Bilbo, a slimy scoundrel who happens to be fighting for the right side.

This is probably the best movie Spielberg has directed since Saving Private Ryan.  This movie shows a lot more restraint that Spielberg is used to.  He lets scenes play out quietly, trusting the power of his actors to carry a great deal.  He moves the camera slowly.  He lights the late-night conspiracies subtly.  All the while, he lets you feel the weight of history on these few months.  

Historical movies are always a challenge, especially when they are made about great men and women.  How can you, as Shakespeare said, dare to bring to life "so great an object."  But Spielberg did a fantastic job of presenting to us Abraham Lincoln in all of his greatness.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Film Review: Tenet

 




Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

Christopher Nolan has not yet made a bad movie.

His latest, Tenet, is not one of his best, but it is not bad.

The movie centers around our main character played by John David Washington.  After a botched extraction operation at a Russian opera house, he chooses death over giving up his allies.  However, he doesn't die and is instead recruited into an unexplained organization that has discovered some items whose entropy is reversed.  This means that these objects move through time in reverse.  For example, a gun that has been reversed would catch bullets instead of shooting them.  At some point the exposition scientist Barbara (Clemence Poesy) says to the main character that you shouldn't think about it too much.  Instead you should just feel it.  Washington's character is told that they need to prevent a coming catastrophe and that the only clue they have is the word "Tenet."  To help him he enlists Neil (Robert Pattinson) who seems to have a weary charm about him as he sets up the connection that our hero needs.  Somehow his path leads him to a Russian oligarch named Sator (Kenneth Branagh) and the only way to get to him is to make a connection with his estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), whose desperate desire to be free of Sator is matched only by her fear of losing their child.  Washington's character proceeds to uncover a conspiracy that could have consequences that would make a world war look trivial.

As always, Christopher Nolan is the master of visual storytelling.  I heard that there is little to no CGI in this film and that most everything is done with practical effects.  This makes a great deal of the action, though wild and eye-popping, much more real and tangible than most films.  Even without the special time effects, Nolan knows how to build and create tension while at the same time giving marvelous, world-hopping villas.  In a lot of its look, this felt like Nolan making a James Bond film: a hero spy who has to span the globe to exotic locations while confronting a evil maniac.  

The acting is also quite excellent.  Washington has charisma, like his father Denzel, but he is his own man.  I would not have made the familial connection.  In this movie, Washington is cool and smart while being a decisive man of action.  He is able to do a lot with very little (more on this later) and he is able to draw you in as a protagonist.  Pattinson continues to prove that he is more of an actor than a movie star.  The Twilight films made him a heartthrob, but the guy actually has talent.  Neil appears flippant, but there is always something behind the eyes that lets you know there's something more.  Debicki plays her part with claustrophobic grace.  She is suffocated by her lack of choices and you can see her desperately holding it together behind a veneer of grace.  And I always love Branagh, who just sinks his teeth into a man of simple malevolence.  There isn't anything in this performance that is horribly different than some of the other villains he's played, but he does what is required of him with great skill.

Despite how cool and how slick the film is, it lacks something: heart.

Interstellar was Nolan's most emotionally intense film.  In fact, its biggest flaw is that it leans too heavy on sentiment in the final act.  It feels like Nolan's last two films, Tenet and Dunkirk, are reactions to the criticisms he received on Interstellar.  The emotional root of both of his latest films is so blunted that it lacks the emotional hook necessary to make the movies great.  Technical achievements are a tool to tell and engaging story.  But without the emotional connection to the characters it is very hard for the story to have any lasting impact.  Notice that I have not mentioned the name of Washington's character in this review.  That is because it is never given.  The withholding of the name doesn't really add anything to the story.  In fact, it is emblematic of a the film, which keeps the audience at arm's length and prevents us from fully embracing it.  The exposition is confusing, and not in the usually heady way that Nolan does where he simply does not talk down to you.  Here it feels like he is intentionally talking over your head.  He feels like that college professor who uses big words so that you feel too stupid to question him.

His time-travel hook feels much more like a gimmick than anything he has used in his other movies.  He still makes the most of this gimmick, using it to recontextualize scenes as they are revisited from different perspectives based on their relative motion in time.  But in the end it is still a gimmick.  It should be the means by which you advance an engaging plot, theme, and characters.  Nolan tries to do this, but setting up and executing the gimmick takes up so much of his storytelling energy that the other elements suffer for it.

And Nolan wants to deal with big questions like fate and free will as it relates to time travel, but he can't quite seem to get there.  There seems to be a very annoying consequentialist ethics at play, where things that should be seen as moral evils like suicide are acceptable as a practical end.  Too many characters casually talk about suicide as a forgone conclusion to horrible situations.

The movie also suffers from horrible sound design.  I thought that it was simply a problem with my theater, but after watching the movie I saw a review that mentioned that the strange mix of sounds was by design.  Nolan wanted the characters to be swallowed up by the environments and the score.  At least that is how it felt.  I can't see the artistic advantage to this if your audiences struggles to make out important plot points.

It is a shame that Nolan keeps you at arms length, because with the right emotional hook, Tenet had potential to be one of his best.  If he continues down this stylistic road, he may very well be on his way to making his first bad movie.


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Charity of the Month: Michael Hogan Fund

 


Hello,

I know I have been lax in promoting monthly charities.  But I would like to return to offer The Michael Hogan Fund.

I am a huge fan of the Battlestar Galactica reboot and I was particularly impressed with Michael Hogan's performance as Saul Tigh.  He portrayed a man that was horribly broken and flawed, but through the crucible of suffering, he came out the other side a more noble person.

His wife, Susan wrote this on their Gofundme page:

“ You probably know Michael as an actor.  Or maybe you know him as a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a father, a grandfather, or a husband. My husband. I am Susan Hogan and I am married to this extraordinary man. We have been each other’s best friend for decades. 

On Feb. 17, 2020, everything changed drastically in our world.  Michael was in Vancouver participating in a Battlestar Galactica convention, and at dinner following his day’s work, he fell and hit his head. Hard. He went to bed that night not realizing that the impact had caused a massive brain bleed.  He was unable to be woken the next morning and was taken to Vancouver General Hospital and emergency surgery performed. It took 57 staples to close the part of his scull they had to remove in order to reach the damage.
 
The accident left him with complete paralysis on his left side, memory loss, cogntivie impairment and an inability to swallow.  
Then things became incredibly more difficult during the COVID pandemic with visits by family being restricted then denied and no care team (physiotherapist, 
OT, speech therapist, etc. ) allowed in.


They are trying to raise money for all of the therapies and medical expenses.  I believe that since the accident neither Michael nor his wife have been able to work, which puts them in greater strain.

There are many noble charities out there that help serve many people.  And I am sure that you, dear reader, are supportive of many of those causes.

But this is a chance to collectively help one individual.  

I do not know Michael Hogan personally.  I have never met him, even casually at a convention.  I do not know his life, his morals, his politcs, or is personality.  All I know is that there is someone who has fallen on hard times and is in need.  There are many people struggling out there like the Hogans, but that should stop us from helping them out if we can.

And as always, I will never ask you to do something I am not willing to do myself.

Please consider giving to this charity or another worthy cause.

CLICK THIS LINK TO GO TO THE GOFUNDME PAGE