Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Evangelizers Post: Policy vs. Doctrine

I have a new article up at

The 2014 Synod has come to a close and more has been made of it in the media than most synods in recent history.

Going into the synod, we knew that since the topic related to all things regarding the family, controversial issues surrounding divorce, homosexuality, and communion would all be brought up.  Our news media enjoy hitting these hot button topics to drum up controversy. 

And drummed up it was when the synod released their “Relatio post disceptationem,” which means “report after the debate.”  In a very narrow section it brought up some points made by some of the cardinals at the synod.  They suggested that under they use a principle called “The Law of Gradualness,” divorced and remarried couples should be allowed to receive communion and also that there should be greater acceptance of homosexuality in the Church community.

A few things before I move on to the main point of this article:  

1. The “Relatio” was not an official pronunciation but was instead a report of the different arguments made.  When I run debates in my debate club at school, I encourage students to think out and entertain every position brought to them, even if they disagree.  The fact that these suggestions were made does not mean that they are part of Church teaching.

2. There were many other issues behind the scenes that caused controversy.  As Jeff Miller writes, it was like watching a soap opera “As the Synod Turns.”

3. In the end, there was not major, earth-shaking policy change.
It is on this third point that I would like to remain.  

What if a change did occur?  What if people living adulterous marriages (as described by Christ) would be allowed to receive communion?  What if those “living in sin” would be allowed to receive the sacraments?  Wouldn’t that violate Catholic doctrine?

The short answer is no.

You can read the entire article here.

Wednesday Comics: Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3

Okay, I don't have time to blog about this, but I couldn't let this simply pass by.

Phase One began with Iron Man and went through to the first Avengers.  Phase Two With Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Phase Two ends (actually it ends with Ant-Man, but I'm splitting hairs).

So what do we have in store next?

Marvel Answered that on Tuesday with its announcement of its Phase Three slate: 9 movies in 5 years.

I don't think that it's a coincidence that this happens so soon after DC announced it's ambitious movie slate.  Marvel does have the advantage as already being a marketable cinematic brand.  DC is still finding its audience.

But here is the breakdown (text via

·        5/6/16 –     CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
·        11/4/16 –   DOCTOR STRANGE 
·        5/5/17 –     GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 (previously dated 7/28/17)
·        7/28/17 –   THOR: RAGNAROK
·        11/3/17 –   BLACK PANTHER
·        5/4/18 –     AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR PART I
·        7/6/18 –     CAPTAIN MARVEL
·        11/2/18 –   INHUMANS
·        5/3/19 –     AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR PART II
Some thoughts:

-We've known about the Captain America: Civil War movie for a little while now, but this makes it official.  Still not a fan of the idea, but we'll see how it plays out.

-There has been a lot of buzz over Doctor Strange the last few days.  A few weeks ago rumors were spreading that Ewan McGregor was zeroing in on the role.  Now its reported that fan favorite Benedict Cumberbatch is the frontrunner.  I think either would be good, but Cumberbatch would be (pardon the pun) stranger.

-Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was originally slated for the end of summer, but since it was the highest grossing movie this year so far, they made it their May tentpole.

-I dig the idea of the 3rd Thor being a Ragnorak story.  "Ragnarok" for those unfamiliar, is the Norse myth about the end of the world.  This has the potential to be epic and tragic..

-Marvel has been getting a lot of flack for not including more movies about women and minorities.  At least this has been the focus of the stories regarding Black Panther and Captain Marvel.  I personally don't care as long as they are good stories.  And you have some very new insights into the Marvel universe.  I find Black Panther particularly interesting because he is a hero who is also a king.

-I'm not crazy about an Inhumans movie.  These characters never really connected with me in the comics and I am surprised that Marvel is pushing them, although I heard it was their answer to the problem of no mutants in the their movies.  But I was surprised at how good Guardians of the Galaxy was, so who knows?

-Like Justice League, Mockingjay, Breaking Dawn, and Deathly Hallows, Avengers: Infinity War is being broken up into 2 parts.  After seeing the box office returns the above movies (though still waiting on Justice League), I can't blame them.  And it if it leads to more epic stories, all the better.

-What about after Phase Three?  With the introduction of the infinity stones, anything is possible, even a reboot.  But by 2019 Robert Downey Jr. will be 54.  The other main actors will age.  What will happen to our beloved Phase One actors?  I know that it is not uncommon to recast characters, even in the current Marvel Universe (I'm looking at you, Hulk).  But I would hate the idea of saying goodbye to these founding fathers of Marvel Movies.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Best: Top 5 Movies to Watch on Halloween

With All Hallow's Eve coming up, I thought it was appropriate to take a small break and make a list of recommended movie watching for the night.

Full disclosure: I really do not enjoy horror movies.  Or scary movies in general.  My basic philosophy that life is horrible enough.  I don't need to pay someone to make it more horrible for me.

But I do see real artistry in many scary films.  It is amazing that a piece of audio/visual stimulation can elicit such a strong emotional response.

The following recommendations are NOT the 5 scariest movies of all time.  Some of them are scary and some are not.  But I would recommend watching them for an entertaining Halloween.

5.  The Monster Squad.

This is like a discount Goonies fighting classic Universal monsters.  The quality of the film is not the greatest in terms of writing or acting.  But I can't tell you how much this movie captured my imagination as a kid.  There is something wonderfully cathartic about a little fat kid kicking Wolfman in the Nards.

4.  Shaun of the Dead.

This is heavily on the vulgar and violent side, but this is a comedy that completely understands the genre it is parodying and does so with great love.  It is both funny and scary.  A modern classic.

3.  Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Like Monster Squad, this is has the traditional stable of Universal movie monsters, but it also has the incomparable genius of Abbot and Costello bring insane life to every scene.  I can't tell you how many times I watched this as a kid with great delight.  Perfect comedy.  Perfrect for Halloween, at least.

2.  Poltergeist.

If you are in the mood for somethings scarier, this is the one I would recommend.  It does such a wonderful job of creating a scary atmosphere in that cookie-cutter community and the scares still hold up.  It made the supernatural both awe-inspiring and awful.  Watch, but turn off the TV when you're done.

1.  Ghostbusters

Whether you are into the supernatural or not, Ghostbusters is the perfect movie to watch on Halloween.  It is fun and creative, full of lots of tricks and treats.  You can't go wrong with these guys.

New TV Show Mini Review - Selfie

I originally thought the concept of this show was too gimmicky, a way to cash in on whatever the current social media trends are today.  But I like the lead actor, John Cho, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The story centers around Eliza Dookley (Karen Gillen), who is a social media maven working at an ad agency. She is self-centered and vapid. She is essentially a Kardashian without the money. But then she has an embarressing experience that is plastered all over he beloved social media and she comes to the realization that virtual friends are not real friends. So she decides to to turn to new, refined, uptight co-worker Henry Higgs (Cho), who makes an experiment of making Eliza into a normal person.

If the names and plot remind you of My Fair Lady, then you hit the bullseye.

And that is actually a good part of the shows's charm. This Eliza is as unrefined as the original, but we can see in her the same self-obsessed narsisicm that infects much of society. And yet Gillen has the unenviable task of making her relatable and likable, which she does by making her vulnerable and , in a weird way, innocent.  Like so many young people who grew up not knowing a world without the wide web, you feel a sense of pity for her.

And the chemistry between her and Cho is excellent. Eliza, while clueless in many ways, helps Henry come out of his shell.

The writing also is incredibly witty. Not only is it astute in its observations about social media etiquette and protocol, it keeps the other human interactions strange and funny.

And while all of the ethics of the show aren't perfect, there are some nice insights
Unfortunately, the show is very low rates and will probably get the axe.  But this is a show with potential.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lack of Updates (part IV)

Dear faithful reader,

I know that I have been lax in getting up essays and more articles. 

This school year I have taken over as the director of the Fall and Spring Plays.  We are coming up on our production debut, so my time is very crunched.  Often do not get home until very late at night.  

As a result, I have not been able to spend as much time on updating this blog as I would like.

Please be patient with me over the next few weeks as I try and learn how to manage my time better (I know, I know, "there is no try.")

When things settle down, I will return with more of my ramblings including:

-complete my New TV Show Mini-reviews
-finish my Best Sitcoms of All Time
-write about the Most Morally Subversive Film of the 1980's.
-write about the descent of Kevin Smith
-start a new feature on the blog tackling some core themes
-write a film review for The Equalizer and Gone Girl
-Do a "Fixing Movies" article about The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Thanks for your patience!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trailer Time: Avengers - Age of Ultron

So the interwebs gave us an early gift.  Marvel announced that the new Avengers trailer would premiere during next week's Agents of SHIELD.  But it leaked early.  Marvel wisely decided not to fight it and released the trailer early.  They even showed some humor by tweeting this:

Anyway, I really like the trailer.  It is very dark, which I find interesting for 2 reasons.

1.  The original Avengers came out the same year as The Dark Knight Rises and there were a lot of comparisons between the lightness of Avengers as opposed to the darkness of TDKR.  And yet a lot of those same people are excited about the darkness of Age of Ultron.

2.  I'm wondering if the Avengers series is going to go Full Whedon.  What I mean by that is that I've noticed that Joss Whedon's stories start out light and fun, even a little campy.  But then they degenerate into existential dred.  This is something that I believe is an outgrowth of his atheistic philosophy.  I am curious as to how dark he is going to let the Avengers get or how dark Marvel will let him make it.

Here is the trailer:

I especially like the creepy Pinocchio music.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Best: Sitcoms of All Time #7 - The Cosby Show


The Cosby Show sometimes takes hits with TV critics for being too milquetoast, too normal.  But that is exactly the show's strength.  It is a show based on universal experiences of family that are told through the lens of the greatest stand up comic of all time.

Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad gave us in Cliff and Clair Huxtable role models of successful parents.  And by "successful" I don't just mean financially.  They were successful parents in that their children had strong values and character, even at their worst.

But it would be a mistake to lump in this show with the overly sappy and bland family comedies of the 1950's.  The Huxtables were a non-dysfunctional family, a rarity in TV today.  And yet there is part of its genius: making the seemingly normal hysterical.

To be sure, there was a lot of hyper-reality stretching, such as the day they all played make-believe that Theo was living in the "Real World Apartments" or where the family got to meet Stevie Wonder.  But beyond that, The Cosby Show drew its humor from they every day insanity of family life in a way that few other family sitcoms had.

A note should be made about "The Cosby Kids."  The show was famous for featuring an incredibly young cast of children that was ever expanding with husbands, nieces and cousins.  It should be noted how talented these young performers were and how they grew in their comedic instincts.  Even when they weren't the most ranged actors, they could still elicit great laughs from simple line delivery.  One double-take from Elvin or a confident smile by Theo could set off major laughs.

Some people might mis-remember Cliff Huxtable as being a fun, indulgent dad.  But re-watch the show and you will see a tough father, one not afraid to yell and make waves.  The children are constantly hitting the parents with the insanity that only children can bring and Cliff and Clair react with amazing deadpan exacerbation.

I should also note something about race, in that it was mostly a non-issue for the show.  That isn't to say that The Cosby Show shied away from its African-American heritage.  Not at all.  Instead, it embraced the heritage and history of the Huxtables in a way that made the audience appreciate their own heritage as well.  The Huxtables were America's family for 8 years.

But above all, the show was funny.  Even after being off the air for over 20 years, every episode still holds up as if it were filmed this year.

And there are too many great moments to count, like: the horsey ride, Cliff's vacation, the Gordon Gartrell shirt, Mrs. Westlake over for dinner, Vanessa introducing Dabnis, the Pinocle game, Kentabo, the wilderness store, Sandra and Elvin's apartment, Cliff and Olivia and the cake, the romance contest, Sondra's engagement prank, "We heard there was going to be a rainstorm so we thought we'd watch," and so on.

Pilot (1x01)

Everything you needed to know about The Cosby Show and its greatness was in that first episode.  You immediately understood Cliff's relationship to his wife and each of his children while understanding his success and his frustrations.  And of course, what sets it all apart was the two scenes with Theo:

The first has one of the funniest bits in the entire series where Cliff lays out to his son how limited his options will be if he does not get an education.

But its that second scene that sets it all apart.  Theo gives a heartfelt speech about he should be loved and accepted not because of what he does but because he is Cliff's son.   Listen to how the audience applauds with approval to that monologue.  To which Cliff responds: Theo… That's the Dumbest Thing I've Ever Heard In My Life."  And it was at that moment that we understood that Cliff was not an idiot.  This was not going to be one of the shows where the children are wiser than the parents.  This was a show that reminded us that in a parent-child relationship, the parent needed to be the adult, and sometimes the bad guy.  And all the while it was clear that it was done out of complete and utter love.

Period of Adjustment (7x04)

The Cosby Show took flack for adding a younger child in Raven Symone to bring back the funny bits that Cliff used to have with Rudy.  But little Olivia was a welcome addition to the cast and served the dynamic well.  But in the 7th season they added cousin Pam (Erika Alexander), who had a harder edge than the other Cosby kids.  This was an attempt to bring a little more sharpness to the series just when shows with more aggressive humor like The Simpsons started to become popular.

However, Pam never really clicked.  It felt a little like pandering and it began to feel like the show was running out of ideas.

Denise: The Saga Continues (6x01)

There are so many fantastic episodes of The Cosby Show.  But the one that drives home the humor at the heart of the show is this episode.

Cliff and Clair paid for their second oldest, Denise, to take a trip to Africa to "find herself" expecting her to return home and continue on with college studies.  Instead, she turns up married to a divorcee with a 3-year-old daughter.

I would encourage anyone to watch the show again.  One of the great things is how Cosby himself recedes into the background and let the other actors do most of the dynamic work.  And yet the biggest laughs come from he and Rashad reacting to the insanity around them with patience pushed to the limit.

You can see the joy and hope deflating out of them like a leaking balloon especially with the realization that this is going to mean that they will have to continue to support their daughter and her new step daughter.

Everything about this episode is funny!


I don't think I will ever see a show like this again.  Too often, sitcoms feel like they need some sort of twist or edge to make sitcom families look like a modern family.

But there really is no trick to it.  Bill Cosby understood that if you made a show that was universal in theme and outstanding in its comedy, then people will come to love and respect it for years and years.