ReasonForOurHope

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Best: Thoughts on the 66th Emmy Awards


I'm back.  Sorry for the lack of updates, but the first week of school has been insanely busy.  I'm hoping to get back up to our regularly scheduled blogging post haste.

Anyway, I didn't make it through the whole Emmy show.  Here are my thoughts (in no particular order)

1.  Live Tweeting.
Last year I was kind of snarky as I live tweeted.  This year I tried to come up with only funny but not mean things to say.  That was very difficult to do, especially when I turned on the TV and the first thing I saw was someone who, I kid you not, I thought was dressed as Bucky Larson in drag.

My point is that I think the pressure of live tweeting is to come up with something funny right there on the spot in real time.  It is a good exercise to sharpen your improvisational skills because it requires timing and brevity.  But mockery seems so easy.  True wit is difficult.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong with Hollywood celebrities getting a gentle tease from us the fans.  But mean seems so easy on Twitter.  The laughs are cheap, but that's why we purchase so many of them from our minds.  True wit, I think, should not be mean.

2.  Seth Meyers was Terrible.
I know this sounds like I'm going back on my first point about meanness, but I'm simply making an assessment of his skill as a host.  His monologue had only 3 good jokes and most everything else was flat.  Most of the jokes were bad, but that's expected from an awards show.  The job of host is not to make all of the jokes work (they can't), but to make the bad jokes funny.

That sounds like a contradiction, but think about Johnny Carson or Conan O'Brien.  They would tell a terrible joke, but then there was a twinkle in the eye as they looked at you knowingly, as if they too were in with you in how bad the joke was and you laughed conspiratorially with them.

3.  Billy Crystal's Robin Williams Tribute

I thought this was powerful and beautiful.  The most heartbreaking part was where he said "It's so hard speaking about him in the past tense because he was so present in our lives."  While you don't want to make the death of the other stars lesser, it was important to acknowledge the particular genius of Robin Williams.

So one last time: "Nanu-nanu!"

4.  I'm Terrible at Predicting Award Winners.
I only predicted the winners with 27% accuracy.  I think the main idea I left out of my analysis was that Emmy voters might experiment with something new, as they did last year with Netflix (none of whose shows won an Emmy this year), but their main tendency is to tradition an inertia.  I know this is ironic for an industry that prides itself on breaking from traditional values and being cutting edge.

In all non-writing/directing categories for series this year (not counting mini-series or specials) ALL of the winners had won before.

Let me say that again ALL of them have won.  Some several times.  Modern Family has won all 5 years it has been nominated and Jim Parsons has won 4 of the 5 years he has.  Allison Janney won for a new show, Mom, but she already has won 4 Emmys.

I'm not saying that all of the winners aren't deserving (though some aren't), but that Emmy's tend to stick with what they like until its gone.

5.  Weird Al Makes Everything Better

Weird Al Yankovic came on and added lyrics to the lyric-less themes to modern TV shows.  And while he was often flat (I don't think they changed the key of the songs to fit his range), it was the best part of the night.  As Homer Simpson said, "He who is tired of Weird Al is tired of life."

(Best line "Type, George, type!")

6.  Breaking Bad Goes Out With a Bang
I was very happy for all of the awards that Breaking Bad won.  Its final season was incredible.  I always compare the show to the Godfather of television.  It's the story of a man who slowly loses his soul by degrees and it is presented with such tragic beauty that it compels attention.  Winning Best Drama, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, and Best Writing is a fitting way to send off one of the greatest dramas ever seen on TV.  "Felina"

7.  Snubs
Of the people nominated, here are the snubs:

-Mayim Bialik: She is consistently one of the funniest things on a show that is already hysterical.  She should have won a long time ago.
-Amy Poehler:  Consistantly she is the funniest lead actress in a comedy.  Year after year I fail to come up with someone who matches her.  And she still has never won for playing Leslie Knope!
-Robin Wright: Her Claire Underwood is icy and vicious, but she lets you see that there is still something human beneath all of that.  Fantastic performance!

8.  Bilbo and Smaug won Emmys!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday Best (on Monday): The 66th Emmy Awards



We're taking a break from the list of Best Actors of All Time to talk about the Emmys

Tonight will be the 66th Emmys.  I am going to try to live tweet them again this year (@CatholicSkywalk), but I might not because I still have a lot of work to do before tomorrow

My wife and I watch a LOT of TV.  But so many of the shows we love don't get nominated.  

Anyway, here are my choices for what I would like to win, and my predictions for what I think will win.

CategoryMY CHOICEMY PREDICTION
BEST DRAMABreaking Bad True Detective
BEST COMEDYThe Big Bang Theory Orange is the New Black 
BEST ACTOR, DRAMABryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
BEST ACTRESS, DRAMARobin Wright (House of Cards)Kerry Washington (Scandal)
BEST ACTOR, COMEDYJim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) 
BEST ACTRESS, COMEDYAmy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMAAaron Paul (Breaking Bad)Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMALena Headey (Game of ThronesAnna Gunn (Breaking Bad) 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDYAndre Brauer (Brooklyn 99)Andre Brauer (Brooklyn 99)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDYMayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
BEST VARIETY/MUSIC SHOWSaturday Night Live The Daily Show 


BEST REALITY SHOW (COMPETITION)The Amazing Race Dancing with the Stars 


BEST TV MOVIE or MINI-SERIESNONEFargo


BEST ACTOR, TV MOVIE/MINI-SERIESBenedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
BEST ACTRESS, TV MOVIE/MINI-SERIESNONE Helena Bonham Carter (Burton and Taylor)


I have to admit I'm not that good at picking Emmy winners.  

I am curious if Breaking Bad is going to be big this year or not.  The final episodes were amazing, but they aired over a year ago.  Voters might think that they are now old news.

I still am pulling for Bialik to win an Emmy.  Her work on The Big Bang Theory has only gotten better and better.

And while I think that Cranston should go out on top, I think voters might just give McConaughey the win as a reward for his massive renaissance   And while I wasn't a fan of the mostly boring True Detective, his performance is top notch.

As to the other categories, my rule of thumb for choosing winners is this: find the one that is the furthest away from traditional Catholic morality and you have a better chance at winning.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Manliest Movie of the 1970's: Jaws



I don't think there are enough superlatives that can be given to Jaws.

It is easily in my top 10 movies of all time.

But for the purposes of today, I want to focus on the nature of manhood and what Jaws says about that.

The 1970's was a decade of gritty cinema.  We had a number of Dirty Harry films, not to mention Death Wishes.  We had characters like Popey Doyle and Rocky Balboa.  There were a lot of rough and violent men in the movies of this time.

But I don't equate violence with manliness.  To be sure, strength is a key component.  But physical strength alone is just pure machismo, not real manliness.

This is why Jaws is the manliest movie.

The movie has many fantastic themes and motifs.  But the most important theme is this: what is to be a man?  My main evidence of this is the fact that half of the movie only has 3 characters all living in a different Freudian space.

But let's take a step back.  Ultimately, the movie is about Martin Brody becoming a real man.  We first see him waking up in a very cozy, domestic bed with simple life problems.  He says in the movie that he retreated to Amity Island to escape danger.  This is a man who avoids danger.  They make a big deal about how he never goes into the water.  He lets the mayor push him around and change his original decision to close the beaches.  He only lets Hooper cut open the tiger shark and go out to sea because he's drunk.

It isn't until his son is attacked that he gets the guts to confront the mayor and force him to take action.  What is so important about this moment is that it occurs not before the 3rd act but only half way through the movie.  This is only a step on his character arch, not its resolution.  Part of manliness is overcoming fear.  But that isn't all.  This is where the second half of the movie is so insightful.

On the Orca you have 3 men: Quint, Brody, and Hooper.  They represent Id, Ego, and Superego respectively.  I don't mean to say that the movie is a simplistic allegory, but you cannot deny the psychological space these characters make up.

Let's first look at Quint.  He is a man of pure passion.  He feels and then acts.  Look at his introduction in the movie.  Have you ever wanted to scratch a chalkboard even though it hurt your ears?  Quint shows no hesitation and goes full throttle on the board, holding nothing back.  He cuts through polite society like a knife.  He has no manners, insulting anyone and everyone around him.

But he is strong and decisive.  He acts on instinct and doesn't question it.  When the shark first encounters his line, he barks orders and intuitively understand that the shark is smart and has gone under the boat, even when smarter people like Hooper tell him differently.  He barks abuses and others act.

This is because passion is powerful.  There are very few things that can motivate us to action like emotion.  It is like the fuel that gives energy to the engine.  Your GPS might know where to go, but without gas, you are inert.  Quint acts with fire and strength.  He makes the other men feel inferior and weak.

But Quint is not the image of manliness.  He is broken.  Listen again to that amazing, Oscar-worthy monologue by Richard Shaw as Quint about the USS Indianapolis:


There are so many wonderful things to pick out here.  Notice how it the story has no logical structure.  He says they didn't know what the sharks looked like because no distress signal had been sent.  Also notice how he doesn't really think about the story, he just feels it.  His mood swings wildly.

But I think the most important part is this line: "So, 1100 men went into the water, 316 come out, sharks took the rest."

Quint never actually says that he was rescued.  He says he most frightened waiting for his turn, but he never says he got out.  Quint was never saved.  He never got past that event and he has gone a bit mad. Rationality and willpower have no real place in him.  He lost those in the terror of the waters.  The sharks took his sanity.

This is why he refuses to get a bigger boat.  This is why he destroys the radio (and by doing this cripples the free will by removing the ability to choose rescue).  This is why he pushes the engines even though Hooper tells him they will blow.   And if that is all there is to a person, they will burn out and die.  I will speak more on this later.

But let us turn now our attention to Hooper.  He is the intellect or superego of our trio.  Brody calls him in with all of his expertise in sharks and Hooper is the on-the-spot expert.  Martin listens to him as his intellectual superior.

Hooper is also curious and sarcastic.  His main weapons are his wits.  A big deal is made out of his scrawniness as he's physically intimidated by fishermen like Quint.  He feebly tries to get men out of an overloaded boat and mutters, "They're all gonna die," under his breath.

But he needs to see and examine things.  He goes through the remains of the first victim.  He cuts open the tiger shark.  He swims to examine Ben Gardner's boat in the middle of the night.  These things could be considered brave, but I would say it speaks more for his need to know.  The intellect needs to have knowledge to feed it.

But Hooper is not the image of manliness either.  He has a lot of tools at his disposal and has a wealth of knowledge.  The problem is that he is ultimately weak.  I don't mean that he is not willing venture out.  But he has an inability to succeed on his own.  He drops the tooth in Ben Gardner's boat.  He drops the poison javelin.  He lets Quint beat him down about the engines.

This leaves us with Brody.  He represents the ego or the will.  And one of the main reasons he is not the man he should be at the beginning of the movie is that his will is weak.  As written earlier, he lets himself get pushed around.  And he is terrified of making the wrong decision.  Notice how he shuts down after Mrs. Kintner confronts him.  His job is to make choices and he made the wrong one, which resulted in a boy's death.  He loses all confidence.

Except for confronting the mayor, he constantly defers to others.  He leans on Hooper's intellect.  He tells Quint "You're gonna need a bigger boat."  Notice it's not "We're gonna need a bigger boat."  He is rely on Quint to kill the shark.  He follows Quint's lead and direction.

Martin begins asserting himself, but again assertiveness is not the same as manliness.  Notice how he impotently empties his pistol into the shark to no effect.  The will by itself cannot accomplish what it needs to accomplish.  Neither can the passions or the intellect.  But the will is the central and key aspect to manhood.

By themselves, each of these three qualities will lead to ruin.  Notice how Quint dies.  He made reason his enemy.  He cannot think his way out of problems.  Notice how blank he becomes when the shark takes down 3 barrels.  He is not open to new ways of thinking (though he comes close by helping Hooper with his cage).  And so Hooper's oxygen tank roles over his fingers, showing reason and logic rejecting him.  He reaches out for the will to save him, represented by Brody.  But the full weight of his passions are too much and he slips. into destruction.  He was damaged by his past and became a being of pure passion.  But that passion ended up leading him back to the fate that he never really escaped to begin with.  By not listening to reason or the will he is burned up.

Hooper must hide.  He is not the thunderbolt that Quint is and cannot save himself.  He has enough knowhow to think his way out of a trap and to avoid confrontation.  But he will be overwhelmed.  The same is true of pure intellect.  You can know what is right and have the correct knowledge of how to do the right.  But if you don't have the power or the will to do it, you are stuck.

This is where Brody becomes the model of manliness.  He is the will.  And manhood is primarily defined by the will.  His will starts weak but then becomes strong.  As the Orca sinks he does not give in to simple fear.  He acts.  He plans.  Watch how he positions himself ready despite going down.

But he is not simply acting as pure will.  Movies like The Matrix Revolutions tried to make the will alone the mark of humanity.  But Brody has integrated both the passions and the intellect in its proper place.  Notice how he kills the shark: with Quint's rifle and Hooper's oxygen tank.  He takes the role of Quint by aiming and firing and acting.  He even mutters and shouts obscenities to himself like Quint.  But he uses Hooper's brains he actually has a plan.  He is not simply shooting wildly.  He is actually aiming for the tank to blow up the shark.

Brody becomes a man by using his passions and making a friend of reason.  Even in the end, all three are needed.  He and Hooper kick their way to shore.  But Quint's barrels are what keep them afloat.  The passions need to keep us afloat, but they must be our servant, not our masters.

And thus Jaws gives a true vision of manhood: someone who is a creature of action in close union with reason and can muster the passions to bold action.


Trailer Time: (Old Song Remix Trend)

Has anyone else noticed the following trend in movie trailers?

Take an older pop song and do a dark moody version of it.

I first noticed it with Wrath of the Titans' use of Sweet Dreams:


And then I saw it again with Imagine Me and You in The Great Gatsby.



Earlier this week when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy a second time, they played this trailer for Dracula Untold and a famous Tears for Fears song that I used to associate mostly with the movie Real Genius.



And then in 50 Shades of Gray they remix an old Beyonce song (I won't show the trailer here for obvious reasons).  But at the end at this trailer, they even make a special note about how the movie will feature this new, darker remix.

What do you think?

It has a very specific effect for me.  By taking something lighter and draining all the color out of it and infusing it with angst, it is deeply evocative.  In the musical Rent, there is a very happy song in the first act called "I'll Cover You."  Later in the musical the same song is played at a much slower, lower rhythm and it is heartbreakingly sad.

They did the same thing with the music in Up.  Watch that famous montage and it is essentially the same melody.  But when it is slowed down and solemn, it is all the sadder for the joy that it once had.

Can you think of any other examples?


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Evangelizers Post: Is Suicide a Mortal Sin?



I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com

With the death of Robin Williams, many people are talking a great deal about the tragedy of suicide.  Sadly, many of us have known people who have taken their own lives.  The shroud of darkness that covers a family that experiences this horrible kind of death can be overwhelming.

Often during these times questions arise.  Is it a mortal sin?  Is that person going straight to hell?  Can they ever be forgiven?

But how do we talk about suicide?  If we speak too harshly we might wound people too deeply who are already heartbroken.  If we speak too lightly, we might give the impression that we tacitly approve of such an act.

So what are we to do?

I write now not as a mental health expert, but as a theologian and teacher.  I write based on those experiences alone.  If you or a loved one is struggling with this issue, please know that there is zero shame in seeking counseling.

Is suicide a mortal sin?

You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trailer Time: Men, Women, and Children

This trailer is a little bit on the mature side, but I bring it up here for a few reasons.

I love Jason Reitman as a director.  I think Young Adult was a misfire and I missed Labor Day.  I think he is capable of doing something very interesting with the subject.

The other thing is this: I've been teaching film production for a few years and I've had this theme or something like it brought up in a few student films.  The idea is that even though we are more and more connected through technology and social media, this artificial connection blunts and acts as a barrier to real human connection.  Because I've seen it so often I think its tapping into something in the zeitgeist.

Thoughts?


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Best: Top 10 Robin Williams Performances

Robin Williams was a terrific actor.  That didn't always come across in his movies.  He had some pretty terrible performances over the years (I'm looking at you, Flubber).  But if he had a good director, they could bring out some fantastic talent.


10.  Dr. Cozy Carlisle in Dead Again
The role was very small, but he added a hardened edge and darkness to a character that needed to act as both comic relief and exposition.



9.  Jack Powell in Jack
A lot of this is Robin Williams acting like a big kid.  But the movie does allow him some nice turns.  There is a scene that a critic once pointed out to me that highlights his work.  Williams plays a 10-year-old who looks 40.  He goes to a bar and a drunk commiserates about adult life.  As he talks, Williams alternately looks understanding and bewildered in just the right proportions.

8.  Daniel Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire
There are two things that are great about this performance.  The first is that Robin Williams is able to convincingly put on the air and demeanor of a middle-aged English nanny.  But what really gets me is his manic and desperate role of the father.  His frustration and rage below the surface is palpable and makes his moves towards the ridiculous understandable.


7.  Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam

The first part of the movie feels like basic Robin Williams schtick.  But director Barry Levinson allows the character to grow and shows how the horrors of war begin to overcome him.  The best part is how you can see the melancholy behind the jokes as he raises the spirits of GI's going to the front

6.  Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society

Again, many focus on the humor he brought to the role, but the best part is when he sees the good brought out in his students.  Look at his performance in the final scene and how little he speaks and has to communicate with his eyes.  It is great.


5.  Walter Finch in Insomnia

This was such a break from all of his other roles.  I would never have cast Williams in this part as it didn't allow for his usual improv skills.  But what was genius about the casting is that Williams conveyed a gentleness to his killer that defined him.  Finch was someone who was so impotent in the world and in people's eyes that he snapped and acted in a way no one could foresee.

4.  Parry in The Fisher King

This role took Williams zaniness and let it boil over into full-blown madness.  Most of Williams' great performances come from directors focusing his energy into a precise character.  Here, director Terry Gilliam simply pushes Williams to the extreme until he explodes on the screen like a hand grenade.  He holds nothing back and the performance is like one, long, manic howl.

3.  Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo

This is the most chameleon-like Williams ever became.  He disappears completely into this role so that it is difficult to recognize him.  Like his character in Insomnia, he is all rage.  But unlike that character Seymour, or "Sy" is so desperate for love and affection that his loneliness causes us more sympathy than repulsion despite the fact that he ends up doing vile things.

2.  Dr. Malcolm Sayer in Awakenings

This is a character who is hiding.  Hiding from the world, hiding from life, hiding behind his bushy beard and glasses.  Williams had to layer his character with layers of emotional armor to hide his loneliness.  He was so cripplingly shy that in a way he is less alive than his patients.  Williams restrains himself so well in this movie that you want to reach in and nurture that spark you know is just below the surface.

1.  Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting

The role that won him the Oscar is truly his best.  It merges all of the best elements of his dramatic and comedic skills.  He never goes to far in "performing" comedy.  All of the comedy comes from a grounded place of truth.  All of the drama comes the wounded nature of his character.  His first scene with Will is a fantastic example of expertly moving from character beats.  Watch as he goes from nervous counselor to a one-handed choke hold.  And none of it rings false.  And who could forget that amazing monologue that holds you by the power that could only come from Robin Williams (warning: vulgar language below)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Movie Season: Winners and Losers

Since school is beginning for many people next week, it is time to take an assessment of how this past Summer Movie Season shaped up and shook out.

WINNING MOVIE:  Guardians of the Galaxy

I was prepared to call this one a bomb before I saw it.  It had all the earmarks of a bomb, which would have been Marvel's first after establishing their cinematic universe.  But not only is it a great movie, it is a gigantic hit.  As of this writing, Transformers: Age of Extinction is currently the highest grossing domestic movie this Summer (May through August), but I think that Guardians of the Galaxy just might outpace it.

WINNERS:  Franchises.

As of right now, only one of the top 10 grossing Summer films is not associated with a movie or book franchise (Neighbors).  And that's only if you don't count April's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  But with the rise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for two weeks in a row, that will probably change.  I think that if Guardians was a stand-alone movie, not associated with Marvel, it would not nearly have gotten the haul that it did.

I think there are two reasons why this is:

1.  Built in audiences.  If the previous book or movies in the series have a fan base, you can hope that you don't need to convince them that the story is good.

2.  Consistency.  The only reason I saw Guardians was because all of the other Marvel movies have been good (here I'm talking about movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so this doesn't count movies like The Amazing Spider-Man 2).  On that alone, I risked my money.  But even more so, I went to see it because I was afraid I would not be up to speed for the next Marvel Movie.  For film/comic book geeks like me, that is a powerful draw.

LOSERS:  Movie Stars

I wish I could claim credit for this analysis, but I read somewhere online that the Movie Star is dead and the Franchise is what matters.

The biggest example is Edge of Tomorrow vs. The Fault in Our Stars.  Tom Cruise is still a huge name and Edge was actually a fantastic movie.  Fault's Shailene Woodly has a bit of a following, but it was the popularity of the book that really brought in the audiences.

I also think that Edge was hurt by Cruise's last foray into sci-fi: Oblivion.  That movie did moderately well, but people found it a bit bland.  I think that feeling carried over towards Edge, which is a superior movie.  But this goes to the point: Edge of Tomorrow was billed as a "Tom Cruise Movie" and was still not able to draw the appropriate audience in the States.

LOSERS:  Original Raunchy Comedies

To be fair, Neighbors did gross $150 million.  22 Jump Street also did well, but they were part of a franchise.

But all the other R-Rated comedies this summer (Tammy, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Sex Tape) all bombed.

I don't think this is a statement about Americans turning away from raunch.  I think it is a statement that people want some actual wit and humor underneath the shock factor.  I look at last year's Ted, which was horribly vulgar but the writing was actually well structured and witty.  If a comedy makes you truly and deeply laugh, you will more likely get others to see it so that they can laugh with you.

WINNER: Foreign Markets

Transformers: Age of Extinction has grossed over $1 billion this summer.  About $800 million of that is from non-American audiences.  It is no accident that the final act of the movie takes place in Bejing.  I think there is going to be even more of an effort to market films across the world rather than just the US.

LOSER: The Amazing Spider-Man Series.

I loved The Amazing Spider-Man.  And I loved lots of parts of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  This movie was poised to be the big hit of the summer and was given a wide berth.  But it failed to live up to expectations (I am convinced because of the stupidity of the Electro storyline).  Sony was prepping 4 more movies in this franchise, but all of that halted and has now been recalibrated, bringing the entire series into doubt.

WINNER: X-Men Series

Last year's X-Men movie was the lowest grossing domestic box office of the series.  But now Days of Future Past has breathed new life into the X-Men universe both creatively and financially.  Not only are they working on X-Men: Apocalypse, but there is serious talk of doing a Mystique spin-off once The Hunger Games wraps up.

LOSER: Summer Movies.

The box office has been down a lot this year.  While many blame the quality of the films, I don't think that is the problem.  The main reason is this:  it is too crowded.

While Days of Future Past is essentially tied for highest grossing X-Men film, it is actually in the middle of the pack adjusted for inflation.  There was no breathing room.  The same thing happened to The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in 2008 as it was sandwiched between breakout hit Iron Man and the long awaited Indiana Jones sequel.

This year Godzilla hit big, but the next week X-Men: Days of Future Past stepped up.  The following week it was Maleficent and A Million Ways to Die in the West.  The next week it was The Fault in Our Stars and Edge of Tomorrow.  Next week was How To Train Your Dragon 2 and 22 Jump Street. The next week was Transformers.  Two weeks later was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  Etc, etc.

We may be seeing the end of Summer as the king of the blockbusters.

Last year's largest grosser came out in November (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).  This year's came out in April (Captain America: The Winter Soldier).  Batman v. Superman is staking its claim in March.

Studios might eschew tradition and look more towards elbow room.

For me this is a mixed bag.  I love looking forward to Summer especially for the movies.  But I like the idea of having event movies to look forward to spread across the year.

Thoughts?

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Feast of the Assumption

What a glorious day!

I have been very busy the past few days getting ready for the new school year.  So rather than write an original reflection, I am reposting my essay from the Feast of the Assumption last year.

God Bless!
 -CatholicSkywalker


The Importance of Today

August 15th.

The worst part of my morning is the parting.

Indulge me, please, a moment.  I know I come off as overly sentimental, but I cannot get enough time with my wife.  This past Monday was taken up by hours of doctors visits, wandering from one office to another.  But even all of that expanse of time was preferable to the next morning when we both had to head to our respective jobs.

Throughout the day we will talk or text about various things.  Usually while whichever one of us is last to come home, we pray the rosary over the phone.  And while I can't say that I am inconsolable when I'm not with her, there is a part of me that feels missing.  Speaking through a phone or hitting a small screen with my thumbs helps, but it is not enough.

The best part of my day is usually the moment I hear the door open and she walks through.  I feel like kid who has woken on Christmas morning.  Because she's here.

But one day, there will be another parting.  It is one that neither of us can avoid and it looms over us inevitably.  One day, unless we both leave together, one of us will cross over the threshold to the undiscovered country leaving the other here alone.  It is, to say the least, a most unpleasant thought.

I try not to think about it.  But the older I get and the more trips I take to the doctor I awaken more and more to the reality that this coil really is mortal and will be shuffled off.  The thought of living in a world without her is unbearable.  And I think that way of all of my dear family and friends.  I wrote back in January that a childhood friend with whom I had lost contact died.  Even though I had not spoken to him in years, the concrete reality that I would not hear his voice again or shake his hand hit me profoundly.  It is easy to take for granted those whom you can easily contact.  It is difficult to shake the heavy shadow of the dead.

I believe that if, God forbid, I lose my wife then the Lord would see me through.  I know that I will be tempted to despair.  I know that I could surround myself with pictures of her or home movies so I could hear her voice.  And there may come a day when I can feel her spirit with me.  But it would be nothing compared to each night when I would put my arms around her.

And that is why today is important.

Today is August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Mary lived one of the most authentically human lives, second only to her Son.  She never fell into the spiritual cesspool of sin, so that its stench never touched her.  And yet she suffered.  After Jesus' birth, the prophet Simeon said to her, "And a sword shall pierce your heart."  At the foot of the cross, she had to watch the love her life, her baby boy, be murdered by the people He was trying to save.  And then he died.  He rose.  He flew off to Heaven.

He promised He would always be with us.  Where two or more are gathered in His name, so too He is there.  And He gave us the Eucharist, His substantial presence in our lives.  And when we die, our souls will touch His divinity directly.

But it is not enough.

And we see that with Mary today.  It is not enough that her soul, beautiful and pure as it is, be taken to the presence of the Lord.  But the hands which held Him as a babe, the hands that lifted him when he fell, the hands that fed him, changed him, held him tight when he was scared... that these hands should be taken up to heaven to touch His hands again.

Mary, this day, reminds us that we are human.  We are bodies as well as souls.  Mary is the first one us creatures (as opposed to Christ the Creator) to experience the fulness of the Resurrection.  She is not dead, but like her Son, she is alive, physically alive.  She is not simply the spiritual remains of the Woman that once was.  The Assumption is about the necessity of being fully human, body and soul, in the end.  It is high-minded and pious to speak of our souls living in eternal light.  But it is indelibly stamped into our bones that we want to embrace our loved ones again, not figuratively, but literally.

And today promises that literally we will be able to do so.  Mary had to endure a parting from her Beloved Son, but only for a little while.  He was with her in spirit and in the Eucharist, but what mother does not long to embrace her child?  How many of us have had those we love go before us to the Lord and feared that we should never feel the warmth of their embrace?  Because of today, we need not fear it.

Mary is the first creature of God's creation to go before us to show us what we shall be.  The simplest of bodily affections are not scuttled, but sanctified.  God does not want us to get beyond the body.  We are our bodies.  We were always meant to feel and express and receive love not just with our minds but with all of ourselves.  And we will continue to do so at the Resurrection, the day when we awaken from these Shadowlands and into real life.

I am able to endure the long expanses without my wife because I know that at the end of the day I will  once again hold her in my arms.  And when the parting that we call death comes to us, I will be able to endure.

Because just like Mary on this day, I will be one day able to hold the one I love in my arms forever.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Film Review: Let's Be Cops



Let's Be Cops is not a bad movie.

But it isn't anything very special either.

The premise is standard boiler-plate comedic stuff.  It centers on lovable losers: Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.).  Ryan is a Vince-Vaughnian lout who misses his glory days of college.  Justin is a shy video game designer who can't even hit on the girl he likes (Nina Dobrev).  The two friends go to a party dressed as cops in authentic uniforms down to the kevlar.  And just when they decide to give up, they start being mistaken as real cops.  The two get caught up in the power trip with funny results and they keep upping the ante until they get in over their heads with real danger.

Johnson and Wayans have fantastic chemistry that translates well from their work together on the TV show New Girl.  Rob Riggle also adds a nice performance as a real cop who befriends the two fake ones.  In addition, Andy Garcia adds a fantastic level of menace and gravitas just at the right time.  Everyone in the movie seems like they are having fun and the film is pleasant enough.

But the movie drags.  Even though it is a crisp 104 minutes, director Luke Greenfield lingers a little too long on the jokes and the scenes that he likes.  During the movie, I found myself wondering how much longer we had left.  That is not a good sign.  And to be sure, some of the moments are very funny, but it feels like he let the actors play around and improvise and Greenfield wanted to keep as much of the fun in.  And the scenes are fine and fairly funny, but it slows down the story with bits and gags that could easily have been skipped.  In comedy, it is sometimes much funnier to hit a joke and move on than to beat it to death.

In the 3rd act, the movie moves from comedy to action/comedy.  In fact, it makes an interesting commentary about the difference between fake violence and real violence.  Greenfield handles this very well and Johnson and Wayans roll with it too.

At the beginning of the story, Ryan and Justin get drunk on cop power and engage in all manner of immoral and illegal behavior.  The movie also uses full frontal male nudity for shock comedy.  But as the story progresses, their lies catch up with them and playing make-believe begins to have serious consequences, which helps the characters to grow.  But not much.

Let's Be Cops is a pleasant enough, sometimes vulgar comedy that has some good laughs, but never really takes off.

2 and 1/2 our of 5 stars

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Batman v. Superman v. Captain America (3)



For  while both DC's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was scheduled to open on the same day in May 2016 as Captain America 3.

I enjoyed asking my fellow comic book geeks about which movie was a priority for them.  It was clear that this could not stand.  This current summer is a testament to how even a great movie can get lost in the shuffle of too many Summer tentpoles.  I wondered who would blink first Marvel or DC.

The answer is DC.

Batman v. Superman is now set to open March 25th, 2016.

I have a few thoughts in no particular order.

-I am glad that the companies did not play chicken for too long.  While they are rivals, a healthy Marvel leads to a healthy DC and vice versa.  If it wasn't for The Dark Knight I don't think comic book movies would be as respected as they are.  If it wasn't for The Avengers I don't think we would ever get a Justice League movie.

-I think it was very smart for DC to push the date up rather than back.  Pushing back usually shows a lack of confidence.  Pushing up usually means that you think it is strong.

-March is a great time to open a big movie.  This past April, Captain America: The Winter Soldier did gangbusters mainly because it had no real competition.  The entire month belonged to that movie.  Spreading out the hits over the year is a much better idea.  As I wrote above, Summer is getting too crowded.  The biggest hit of last year was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which opened in November.  Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth movies all opened in December.

-A lot is riding on Batman v. Superman.  It is, for all intents and purposes, a prequel to Justice League.  DC is doing the opposite of Marvel.  Instead of doing a bunch of individual films and merging them in a team movie, DC is focusing on the team movie and spinning them off into franchises.  It is not a bad plan.  All of the Marvel movie sequels post-Avengers have done better at the box office than the originals.

-March 25th is not only the Feast of the Annunciation and thus the Incarnation, it is also the date when the One Ring of Sauron was destroyed.  Now it will also be the date that one of the biggest comic book crossovers finally came to the big screen!  I think I'll celebrate by going to a midnight showing, followed by Mass and Return of the King.

New Evangelizers Post: God in the Gaps

I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com

The phrase “God of the Gaps” refers to poor argumentation for the existence of the Supreme Being.  There is a gap in our ability to explain things so we use God to explain what we have not been able to so far.

This poor form of apologetics got me to thinking about the gaps not in our logic but in our lives.

We often complain that we don’t have any free time.  At least, I know that is the case for me.  This coming year I will be adding to my course load and extracurriculars by taking over the drama department.  In addition to this I recently joined the Knights of Columbus as a Second Order and hope to become more involved in charity.  So I predict that this coming year will be busier than ever.

But if I’m really honest, I actually have lots and lots of time, just not in the large chunks that I would like.  Have you ever thought about a large project that needed to be done, but when you calculated your time needed against the time available, you cast the project aside?  I do that all the time.  

Yet throughout the day, I’ll have lots of little free moments.  Sometimes I am so free I literally do nothing.  By nothing, I mean nothing, not even sleep.  I might just stand there and stare at something, maybe the microwave, maybe a picture on the wall, while not thinking about anything in particular.  It’s like my life hit pause for a moment.

Granted these moments aren’t long, but they’re there.  It could be between classes or while driving that there is an air of emptiness.  These are the little gaps of life.  And they can be filled.

You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams and the Gift of Laughter

1951-2014

When I heard the news that the great Robin Williams was dead, I was shocked.  I could not believe it.

Growing up, I loved watching stand-up comedy.  I was way too young, but most evenings I would stay up till midnight watching A&E's Evening at the Improv and soak in the art of telling jokes.  And I always looked forward to HBO's comedy specials.  I videotaped their standup marathon fundraiser Comic Relief year after year.  There were some comedians who were funnier than others.

But Robin Williams was something special.

His Evening at the Met is one of the funniest shows I have ever heard.  I still laugh every time I listen to it.  I can't tell you the accumulated hours of laughter I experience because of Robin Williams.  And that is his legacy to me.

There are a lot of tragedies in this world.  Christians are being killed in Iraq today for their faith.  Hundreds of poor souls have succumb to the ebola virus.  Many of our neighbors are probably right now suffering through their personal heartache.  But the death of Robin Williams makes me particularly sad.

St. Augustine once pondered how he could be moved to tears by actors with fake problems in the theater, but not sum up that same compassion towards the real suffering of his fellow man.  While Robin Williams' tragedy is real, it is, for most of us, distant.  I have never met him and I don't think I know anyone who has.  And yet I feel as though I have lost someone I knew.

This isn't uncommon.  But I think with him it is different than when celebrities like Princess Diana, Heath Ledger, or Kurt Cobain die.  It wasn't just that he was a good guy, which he was.  He had his faults and his struggles to be sure.  But you can read about a lot of the good he did off stage here.  Yet it wasn't just for this that his death feels different.   And I think that difference has to do with the laughter.

Robin Williams made us laugh.  And from what I've read, that was the one thing that was constant throughout his entire life.  He never stopped trying to make people laugh.

Laughter is one of those special human pleasures.  It is a simultaneous pleasure of the mind and body.  Your thoughts go giddy and your body gives itself over to it.  It is also, somehow, always a kind of surprise.  It feels like a sudden burst of sweet rain that we cannot make fall or make stop.  For that reason, laughter truly is a gift.

We gravitate towards people who can make us laugh.  I never laugh so well as when in the company of old friends with private jokes.  And so I always seek that company.  Robin Williams always made me laugh so I always sought his company.

Robin Williams making us laugh was different than other people doing so.  Actors in movies and TV tend to be simply reading lines and playing parts.  Stand up comics also are playing parts and are reading lines rehearsed over and over.  I'm not saying Robin Williams didn't do that too.  But it wasn't the same.

His act was full of odd vulgarity, but it never seemed pointed or mean.  Even when he took on his political punching bags, it was always done with such goofball enthusiasm that you couldn't resist.  I remember him saying, "Ronald Reagan was like Disney's last wish!  Right before he died he was like 'Make a President!'"

I remember he did a bit on the idea of God getting stoned.  "Have you ever seen a platypus?  I really think He might [get stoned].  Imagine God saying 'Okay, let's take beaver… and put on a duck's bill!  Hey, I'm God, whattaya gonna do?  And let's see… it's a mammal… but it lays eggs.  Hey, Darwin!' [gives the middle finger]"

But even through all the salty language it didn't feel cynical or angry.  There was always a mischief in his eyes like a little boy who says the f-word for the first time and can see that it makes the adults laugh because of its inappropriateness.

If you've ever watched his standup, there was something different about it.  Rick O. pointed out to me that Robin Williams always put his heart in his performances so you always felt like you were seeing the real him.  That is especially true of his stand up.

When Robin got on stage he engaged the audience in a way I've never seen.  It wasn't just that he would sometimes go into the crowd, but it was that he made you feel special.  It was as if you weren't there to see him.  It was as if he was there to see you.  And he wanted nothing more than to make you laugh.

Watching him with his wild energy, jokes, improv, and every other talent was amazing.  On stage, Robin Williams wasn't performing.

He was playing.

And he wanted you to come and enter his sandbox and play with him and get lost in the mirth that made you forget about the world.  Robin Williams shared not just his jokes or his talent, but himself when he performed.  From everything I've read, that man we saw on stage was not a character or a persona.  It was a person.  It was Robin Williams inviting us to play.

But now recess has ended.  Play time is over.

He will be providing no more new laughs for me.  I will have to go back to the ocean of laughs he has already given and swim in those pleasant waters.  Robin Williams has given me the gift of laughter and done it more than most artists I have ever seen.

So in return, I will give him the only gift I can give him now: my prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Best: Sitcoms of All Time #14 - Friends





10 Seasons (1994-2004)

10 years ago, this show would have been much higher on the list.

But either the characters don't hold up as well or I got older and lost my patience with their immaturity.

Regardless, Friends still has a lot of excellent qualities as a show.

When it first came onto the scene in 1994, it had a quicker wit than anything on television.  The banter was fast and funny in a way that wasn't common at the time.

The show also hit a chord with the people growing up in that era.  There was an experience of extended adolescence as post-college young people found their way through the world.

And the ensemble cast had a fantastic chemistry.  There was something honest about they way they related to each other as they teased and taunted each other, though still held by a deep bond of affection.

But as I said, the show has lost a good deal of its luster.  While there is real affection, there is also an inherent self-centeredness in each character.  They are self-involved in a way that most younger people are.  I am reminded of the episode where Rachel lets a relative stranger babysit her child so that she can do a business presentation.

They are also way over-sexed.  This is not an uncommon problem even in the best of shows, but it is so saturated that it becomes tedious.  Every other joke is about sex.  Now, you can have some very funny sex jokes, but Friends never seemed to get past its adolescent fascination.

And early on it was very in-your-face about trying to buck convention.  In "The One with the Boobies" (1x13) the show has a particularly repugnant theme, where Joey is decides that encouraging his father's infidelity is what will make both his parents happier.  And then there was "The One with the Lesbian Wedding" (2x11) that not only promoted gay marriage but had Newt Gingrich's sister as a minister saying "Nothing pleases God when two people, any two people, come together in love."

And while all the actors did a good job, the stand out was Matthew Perry.  Many of them grew as performers, most noticeably Matt LeBlanc.  But Perry's Chandler was the tone setter of the show.  I honestly believe that without Chandler, the show would not be anywhere as close to the comedy achievement that it is.

Friends also has a strange distinction as the only show I can think of that has Jumped the Shark and then Un-Jumped it.  As I will describe momentarily, Friends began to lose steam already in the second season and was heading towards obscurity.  Ross and Rachel kept seesawing their relationship, but nothing important ever seemed to really happen.  But that changed when the show became re-invigorated by putting two other leads, Monica and Chandler, together.

It is a fascinating development because originally Monica was supposed to be coupled with Joey and Chandler was intended to be gay.  Luckily both of those things did not pan out and we got a relationship that was fresh and funny.  I'm spending so much time on this element because it really was a game-changer for the show.  A lot of humor was mined exploring two characters we saw as friends for so long become lovers almost out of nowhere.  It took the focus of the show in a much funnier direction and the characters finally began to show some growth.  I truly believe this gave the show its longevity and helped it survive for an entire decade.

TV THRESHOLD

"The Pilot" (1x01)
This is one of those rare shows that really fires on all cylinders during the pilot.  In it, you get a strong sense of each of the characters, their relationship to each other, and the type of humor that you are going to find along the way.  If you are not sold on this in the pilot, the series is going to not be your cup of tea.

But the episode starts off with tiny conversations at the coffee house that have the tempo of everyday life conversations.  It introduces Rachel and how she enters into the group dynamic and she is our vehicle for entering into this social circle.  It sets up the romance between Ross and Rachel, which is at the heart of the show for the next few seasons.

JUMP THE SHARK
1.  "The One With the Prom Video" (2x14)

This was the episode that finally brought Ross and Rachel together.  It is touching and funny, but it led to a common problem: Ross and Rachel were more interesting apart than together.  The romantic tension as one fell for the other and pined for the other was fun to watch.  But their relationship was much less so, even to the point of watching them horribly breakup over the course of an entire episode the following season.

2.  "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding pt 2" (7x24)
As I wrote earlier, Friends got a second wind when they put Monica and Chandler together.  But the wedding episode set the stage for the final leg of the Friends journey.  Seasons 1-4 are primarily about Ross and Rachel.  Seasons 5-7 are centered on Monica and Chandler.  But Seasons 8-10 are focused on Rachel (and to a lesser extent Joey).  The final moment of this episode reveals that Rachel is pregnant, resetting the spotlight onto her character.  But she was never as funny or engaging as Monica and Chanlder.  The producers tried to create a romance/love triangle by having her and Joey fall for each other.  This might have worked if they hadn't dropped the ball on this and gave up on the idea way too early.  The show would have been much better served if they had taken a chance on these two and let two camps develop around them like they did on shows like Dawson's Creek.

BEST EPISODE
"The One Where No One's Ready" (3x02)
There are a lot of great episodes of Friends.  I love the episode where they play trivia for the apartment.  I love most of season 5.  I love the episode where Chandler proposes.  There are a lot of fun moments.

But for me, the best episode was a real-time bottle episode that takes place almost entirely in one setting (something very unusual for this show).  Ross is going to a special gala at the museum and is desperate to get there on time, but none of his friends are ready to go and one thing after another causes the situation to deteriorate and escalate.  It all culminates in Joey doing the opposite of Chandler stealing his underwear.

I've seen this episode dozens and dozens of times and it makes me laugh every time.

OVERALL
Friends is show of its day.  As a result, it doesn't have a universal, timeless quality that I hope it would.  But when I watch it captures a time in life that, though gone, I remember fondly.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy



This movie shouldn't work.

I've been vocal on this blog about my distaste for the trailers, my dislike of director James Gunn's previous work, and my disdain at how the movie felt like something out of The 5th Element.

One of the major problems with movies like The 5th Element is that the characters felt less like out of this world aliens and more like modern humans wearing costumes.  I saw that in the portrayals of characters like Yondu by Michael Rooker, Dey by John C. Reilly, or Glenn Close as Nova Prime.  That is a huge turn-off to me as a sci-fi fan.

And yet it all works.

I thought I would hate this movie so much, but I found myself loving it.

Credit has to be given to Gunn for standing by his insane vision.  And one of the reasons that vision works so well is that he taps into the magic of 1980's classic science fiction space movies.

The story begins with young Peter Quill as a young boy in 1988 who is orphaned and abducted by aliens.  The story cuts ahead 26 years to an abandon planet where the adult Quill (a fantastic Chris Pratt) aka Star Lord literally dances his way to get an ancient orb that sets the whole plot into motion.  Two alien races, the Kree and the Nova Empire, have just signed a peace treaty.  But a rogue Kree zealot named Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) has made a deal with Thanos (the main villain of the Marvel CInematic Universe played by Josh Brolin) to give him the orb in exchange for the destruction of the Nova homeworld.  Ronan sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Thanos' adoptive daughter to retrieve the orb from Quill.  Meanwhile, a bounty is placed on Quill's head.  Rocket (Bradley Cooper) a cybernetically enhanced Raccoon and his gigantic Ent-like friend Groot.  Quill, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot all end up in a prison where they meet up with a vengful Drax (David Bautista).  Together they form a rag-tag group who need to save the galaxy.

The plot is fittingly convoluted.  But Aristotle made the point that plot is character.  And the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy make the movie what it is.  Gunn manages to make every character feel important.  But most importantly, he lets the characters develop such a wonderful chemistry that you cannot help but enjoy them and root for them.  I found myself laughing more here than during some straight-up comedies (this was also my experience watching 2012's The Avengers).  Particularly, Pratt shines by bringing a comedic, dramatic, and action-oriented performance.  He makes Star Lord so affable that you look past any of his foibles.  And Rocket is given some of the best lines in the movie that I found myself quoting after the film was over.

The first scene is so heart-felt dramatic that it almost feels out of place with the rest of the movie.  But it establishes that '80's sci-fi tone.  Star Lord is a man-child hero whose arrested development stopped in the '80's.  So his life is full of references to that era that are simply delightful.  Like Super-8, it wasn't just that the setting was in the past, but both movies captured the aesthetic and feel of the movies made in that era, but with updated special effects.  And the movie is a fun spectacle, there is no question about that.  And while the rest of the movie is much more comedic, that first scene sets about an underlying drama to the movie.

And that is what makes this movie work.  Under all of the jokes there is a big beating heart.  I thought the movie was going to be a cynical, pop-culture reference heavy, mess.  But instead, the spectacle is just there to get us to fall in love with this band of misfits and go on a grand space adventure with them.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Revenge of the Nerds - The Most Morally Corrosive Movie of the 1980's



(Note: I've been planning this article for a while but haven't gotten around to it till now.  Since then, someone has written a post that expresses a lot of the same thoughts, probably better than I will here.  You can read it here.  Hat tip to LindaMarie84 for the link)

One of the central themes of this blog is the intersecting of Catholic culture and popular culture, especially as they conflict.  There are an overwhelming number of examples of movies and TV shows rejecting traditional morals in favor of a more hedonistic, nihilistic outlook on life.

That this type of art is made is nothing new.  But the effectiveness that they have on our moral character cannot be overlooked.  For that reason I have decided to make an analysis of which movie from the 1980's is the most morally corrosive.

Note, I am not saying that this is the most immoral movie that there is.  I'm sure you can find worse ones,  But the reason why it is so corrosive is that it has influenced the way we think.

Revenge of the Nerds is a silly raunchy college comedy from 1984.  It is a story that is not uncommon in a number movies from that era.  A group of misfits in college are picked on by the jocks for being nerds.  Then the nerds get revenge in a supposedly humorous way.  So what is so bad about this movie?

First, we have to address saturation.  This movie played ad nauseum on channels like HBO.  This was at the beginning of the computer PC boom and pre-Internet.  Many of the people who would grow up and be movers and shakers in the technology business would be represented here.  Even people who had never seen the movie are familiar with the concept of nerds taking revenge on jocks for being mean.

But the real problem is this: righteous evil.

Here is a list of the bad things the jocks did to the Nerds:
-called them names
-displaced their housing
-trick Gilbert and Lewis
-stand up the Nerds for dates
-send pigs into their party
-moon the Nerds
-burn something on their lawn
-refuse to investigate themselves
-trashing their home.

Here is a list of what the Nerds did:
-home invade a girl's dorm
-set up cameras in that dorm to film the girls in the bedrooms and bathrooms
-poison the clothing of the jocks to cause them intense physical pain
-cheat their way winning contests
-peddle pornography to win a contest (without the girl's knowledge)
-impersonate another person for sex (which is technically rape)

Now, look at the lists above.  Which one do you see as more immoral?  Heck, which is more criminal?  I know that the '80's were a little looser in terms of privacy laws and sexual norms, but still!

And yet, the Nerds are clearly the heroes of the movie.  Why?  Because they are the perceived victims.  The jocks were mean to them.  As a result, the Nerds are justified in their hatred of the jocks.  It is not only that the jocks receive some kind of justice.  Instead, the Nerds go above and beyond what would be considered vengeful.  But because they are the perceived victims, they cannot be wrong in their hatred.  What they do to the jocks is not too much because they righteous in in their hatred of the jocks.

This way of thinking is far too common in our modern society, and that is why I cite this as the most morally corrosive movie.  Particularly as those who were in that group of Nerds growing up, now that they have achieved seats of power in society, in areas like business technology and popular culture, they are now taking their revenge with glee.

Think of the campaign against Orson Scott Card because he supports traditional marriage.  His enemies not only went after him viciously, but they were convicted in their own goodness because Card was considered by them as hateful.

I remember watching a video from 2004 where employees at MTV were counter protesting people who supported a pro-life candidate.  One of the MTV employees asked an opponent if he was married.  When he responded yes, she said, "I hope your wife gets raped and can't have an abortion."  And she said it with a smile as if she made a great point.  She could say something that ugly because in her mind the other person was the villain for being against abortion.

Remember the video of the man in the Chick-Fil-A drive through who verbally attacked an innocent employee for the corporation's beliefs.  Why?  Because she worked for an EVIL organization that rivaled COBRA.

Speaking of Chick-Fil-A, do you remember the man who went into the Family Research Council with a gun to shoot up the place and kill as many members as possible?  He had a bunch of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in his bag that he was planning to place on the bodies of his victims.  In his mind, it was a hateful epitaph on the bodies of those justifiably killed.

Now, those are extreme cases.  But there is clearly an attitudinal orientation towards "justifiable" hatred by those who see themselves as victims.  Check out websites in the Gawker network or even simple humor sites like Cracked.com.  Or think about some of your own conversations with others about politics where someone might wish great harm to a politician because they view them as "evil" and themselves as the victim.

And it is perceived social outcasts, the Nerds, who spew much more of this hate and intolerance than I see in the supposedly powerful.  And this hatred is spewed out with righteous intonations.  I am reminded of something CS Lewis wrote:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

I think he overlooked that there would be people who not only act for "our own good" but from their own internal determination of their own moral righteousness.  And because they act for "the good" they can do no wrong.

Of course this is not justice.

This is revenge.