Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Evangelizer's Post: On the Necessity of Trinity

I have a new article up at

The first and deepest mystery of the Christian faith is the Trinity.

It is a mystery because we can never fully understand it: we have 3 distinct Persons in One God.  The Father is not the Son, neither of Them are the Holy Spirit, but They are all one in Being and thus only One God.

Some people become very uncomfortable talking about the theology of the Trinity because it bends the mind and tries to put an infinite mystery into the finite human brain.  But as mysterious as this is, the Trinity is the only mode of being that could exist if God exists.  

This is based on two things that exist in the universe: persons and love.

You can read the entire article here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

New TV Show Mini Review: Daredevil

Watch Daredevil.

It is one of the best shows I have seen in a while.

Now, keep in mind that I am a huge fan of the movie with Ben Affleck (I know, I'm the only one), but rest assured that this show is head and shoulders above it.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that this show is The Dark Knight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  This show feels grounded in a reality that nothing else Marvel has done.

For those unfamiliar.  Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) was blinded as a child but received enhanced senses.  He grew up to be a poor crusading lawyer with his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson).  At night, Matt dresses in a black costume and beats up bad guys with no real agenda other than beating them up.  But then they are drawn into a much larger plot when they decide to defend Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll).  What follows is a fantastic superhero show and crime anthology.

The action sequence are horribly impressive.  In the second episode there is a single take hallway fight that is as riveting as it is exhausting.  And the story elements are just as watchable.  It is an excellent sign that I can go almost an entire episode without watching Matt suit up as Daredevil and still be just as absorbed and entertained.

I was so impressed by the lack of obvious special effects on the show.  In the movie, the director made liberal use of Daredevil's "radar vision."  But the show has a gritty realism.  You can feel the roughness of the bricks and the closeness of the buildings.  Hell's Kitchen is an urban jungle like something out of the gritty '70's.

The acting is superb.  I never would have pegged Cox to hit this level of physicality.  And he does an incredible job of using his voice to project calm in away that is in complete contradiction to his violent behavior.  Henson brings a fantastic charm and humor that never feels out of place in this grounded universe.  Woll does a great job of appearing both determined and overwhelmed at the same time.  Vondie Cutris-Hall brings a weary grace as the seasoned but righteous reporter Ben Urich.

But special mention must be given to Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk.  At first I did not understand his performance.  He seemed completely socially awkward, slow to the point of stuttering.  As the Kingpin of crime, I expected him to have more swagger, the way Michael Clarke Duncan played him in the film.  But as the show went on I understood the method behind it.  Fisk is a volcano being held together by pure willpower.  At any moment he can explode in murderous rage.  Once you see that, the power of D'Onofrio's performance comes through.

The pilot shows us the large forces arrayed against the good people of New York, unbeknownst to Matt.  Fisk has a fearful alliance with the Russian mob, the Yakuza, and the Triads.  In fact, for most of the series, he is taunted by his adversaries by how little he knows.  Matt has no strategy.  He has no plan.  And as long as he remains this way, the villains have the upper hand.  Matt needs to both outfight and out think an adversary who outsmarts him and can beat him to a pulp.

This makes for exciting television.

Thematically, the show is not light.  But it does reflect smartly on good/evil, love/apathy, and it even is incredibly insightful about the difficult honest news has in breaking through the noise of Twitter/Youtube/Facebook.

As a Catholic, I love the way it shows Matt struggling with "the devil inside" him.  His frequent meetings with a tough city priest are some of my favorite moments.  Particularly there is a fantastic monologue the priest gives when Matt asks him if the devil is real.  What the priest says is not only solid Catholic theology, but it doesn't come across as empty spirituality but it feels like the tangible touch of evil in the world.

I binged watched the entire series in the space of about 5 days.  It is completely worth the investment.

My only complaint is that I have to wait to see more.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Best: Actresses of All Time #20 - Helen Hunt

photo by Greg Rizzo

-As Good As It Gets
-What Women Want
-Cast Away
-Pay It Forward

Helen Hunt is not a chameleon actress. To every role she brings the full range of who she is a Helen Hunt. But with that she brigs forth some wonderful talent and skill. 

She spent much of her career as a supporting actress who did good work in movies like Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Only You, and Mr. Saturday Night. But she rarely had a chance to show her leading actress skills. But then she became the lead in the NBC sitcom Mad About You, and new opportunities arose.

She elevates the material she is in when she is given the right material. In Pay it Forward, she plays a woman out of her depth intellectually and emotionally. She shows the wonderful contradiction of a woman who has a steely exterior but has a beaten down self. And in the final act, she hits some extreme moments of utter heartbreak, even when shot from a distance.

Hunt spent a good deal of her career doing comedy on television. And she brought that star power and technique to What Women Want. Standing toe-to-toe with Mel Gibson at his most charismatic, Hunt was every bit his match. Her Darcy embodies the complexity of the ambitious professional woman without losing any sense of femininity or pathos. In fact her mixture of strength and vulnerability is what acts as the catalyst for growth in Gibson's character. And yet she doesn't come off as an accessory to the story but as a well-rounded and real person. Hunt makes her funny and serious to fantastic effect.

She also became the first woman to star in #1 and #2 box office winner in the same week.  At the same time What Women Want was in the theaters Cast Away was released. Her part is much smaller than in most of her movies, but that does not diminish her power. In the first act, her performance is fine, but there isn't much for her to do.  But the last act allows her to shine. Watching her is heart-wrenching. She perfectly embodies the joy, guilt, and horrible restraint  she imposes. Watch the scene between her and Hanks and you can feel all of emotion bubbling horribly beneath the surface until the cathartic explosion when she flings wide her prison doors. And even there, her sadness mixes oerfectly with her joy.

But her best performance is as Carol in As Good As It Gets. She could have presented as the flat, idealized object of Jack Nicholson's affection. But Hunt gives her a weary edge. She is not a glamour girl Cinderella, whose beauty is hidden beneath the soot. Hunt shows us her beauty in her personality and her virtue. She is not a simply good person. She is a flawed person who has decided to do her best to be good. 

And here she not only layers her performance with some nice charter business. But she is able to express powerful moments with very little. When she feels overwhelming gratitude to a doctor for helping her son. She simply says, "Doc!" and is able convey all of her thanks. And when Nicholson tells her "You make me want to be a better man," the life-changing epiphany of that moment is telegraphed with every subtle expression of her face.

Hunt has done a lot of good work and her career is far from over.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Luke, Who Is Your Father?": Fathers and Sons and Star Wars

I'm sure that the musings below are not an original idea.  So my apologies to those who have written about this more intelligently than me.

With all of the Star Wars mania in the recent weeks with the new teaser, I began reflecting on the Saga as a whole.  A good friend of mine, the Doctor, was telling me about showing his son the original trilogy for the first time.  This is one of my own personal dreams for when God gives my wife and I children.  We share our stories because when we do, a little bit of what is in our mind/soul will then exist in another.

But this got me to thinking about fathers and sons and Star Wars.

Star Wars is pure mythology, particularly the hero myth outlined by Joseph Campbell in Hero with a Thousand Faces.  But there are many more mythological elements touched upon that are just as rich to the human experience.

One of them is the relationship of sons and fathers.

For the purpose of this article, I will focus purely on that dynamic.  Much of what is written here could be applicable to other relationships between mother/father/son/daughter.  But there are important nuances that differentiate all of those relationships that change the nature of what is discussed.

In the original Star Wars, Luke idealizes his father.  Even though his Uncle Owen told him that Anakin had a humdrum job of being a navigator on a spice freighter, that didn't stop Luke from leaving his little desert planet and flying across the stars.  So strong is Luke's idolization of Anakin that Owen won't even let him inherit his father's lightsaber from Kenobi.  That alone, it was feared, would send him on some "damn fool idealistic crusade."  And even when Yoda asks Luke in The Empire Strikes Back why he wishes to become a Jedi, Luke's answer is, "mostly because of my father, I guess."

But that is the way I think most of us begin by looking at our fathers.  They are giants.  They are supermen who are strong and stern and stalwart.  They stand between you and the big bad world.  They are every young boys primarily model of manhood.  An imprint is made in the tablua rasa of the child's mind of what nature of a man should be.

When I was young, my father had that same effect on me.  As a doctor, he always seemed to have all of the answers floating around his head.  His stern presence was enough to keep me in line most of the time.  But there was a power to him that gave my life solid footing.

When I was very young, around 3rd grade, I started suffering horrible panic attacks.  I never told anyone about this at the time because I didn't understand what I was feeling (fyi I was essentially experiencing existential terror at the realization that this life ends and the enormity of what eternity could mean).  I remember hiding in my room or bathroom when they would hit.  In fact, once we were at a Pizza Hut waiting for my dad for family dinner when I became overwhelmed and excused myself to the restroom where I had a mini-freak out.  But when I came out, I saw my Dad and then I was fine. He didn't say or do anything particularly reassuring.  He was just there.  He was solid.  He was strong.

He was my dad.

Somehow I knew everything was going to be okay with him around.  It was like the time I had chicken pox and he stayed up the entire night taking care of me.  He was a figure who loomed large and cast a gigantic shadow on my life, unlovable as a mountain.  And even though it was my brother and not me who followed in his footsteps to become a doctor, I molded a lot of who I was after him mentally and emotionally.

And that's what Luke does.  Watch the first movie again and you can almost hear the thoughts in Luke's head, imagining how his father would react, how his father would adventure, how his father would be a hero.

But then things turn darker.  It turns out that Luke's greatest enemy is none other than his father.  His father pursues him, ruins his plans, keeps him down, symbolically emasculates him (cutting off the lightsaber?), and tries to bully him into giving up his ideals.

There is a reason why the line, "I am your father," is burned into the collective brain of the movie-loving world.  It isn't just that it was a fantastic narrative twist.  It is because we all universally understood what this meant.  We all remember the times in our lives when our fathers' were our enemies.

As I got older, my father and I had a sour relationship.  For reasons that I will not go into here, back in high school I hated my father.  I looked at him as an emotional bully who enjoyed getting under my skin.  He kept trying to get me do thinks I didn't want to do (like join the hockey team).  He never seemed to support me in anything I thought was important.  He harassed me constantly about school and my friends.

He even forgot my own birthday.

My parents were divorced and I was convinced that he was at the root of it.  I did not like any of his subsequent girlfriends and I always thought he took their side over mine.

He was everything I did not want to be.  He was scientific, I went artistic.  He was a workaholic, I became lazy.  He was very practical, I immersed myself in imagination.

All those qualities of strength made him an almost insurmountable adversary.  And that is how Vader is to Luke.

But when I saw Return of the Jedi, Luke did something my young mind could not quite comprehend.  Instead of destroying and overcoming Vader, Luke reaches out to him in love.

Luke grows up.

He is not a naive youth.  He says to Vader, "I accept the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father."  He understands that he may not be able to change Vader.  But he holds onto hope.  And as his power increases and the dynamic of their relationship shift, Luke realizes that he has indeed, overcome his father.  His father goads him into one last confrontation and Luke ends up lumbering over him triumphant, emasculating Vader (again with the cutting off of the lightsaber?).

But in that moment he sees the bogeyman built up in his mind as a vulnerable, broken man with his hand up for mercy.  Luke stands up for him and lays down his life for his father.  And when Vader is redeemed, Luke can finally see his father for the first time.

That moment when Luke removes Vader's helmet is the most poignant of the entire series.  Luke see's his father as he is.  Anakin is not a flawless hero.  He is also not a shadowy monster.  He is a man.  He is broken and battered by life, but he is just what he always was: a man.

And this is also important because Anakin looks on Luke for the first time with his own eyes, meaning the eyes of truth.  He sees his son for the first time not as the child he has been towering over.  He sees Luke for who he is: a man.

After I had my spiritual conversion when I was 17, I had the life-changing realization that my father wasn't perfect, but he was the best father he knew how to be.  There is a long story that follows what happened between the two of us that I will share at another time.

But like Luke, I saw my dad for the first time not as the mountain of strength he was for me as a child nor as the monster of my teen years.  I saw him for he was: a man.

My father is not perfect.  But he has been through more than I have and he has the scars to prove it.  I look at him with a different kind of awe than I had a child.  A mountain can stand tall in the hurricane of life, but how do you do it as a man?  How did he remain so strong for his family when he had so much loneliness?  How did it break his heart to have someone with whom he felt romantic love only to have them at odds with the children he loved more than his own life?

I don't think I'll ever really comprehend how a man does that.

But I wanted to know more about him.  I became fascinated by the stories of my father when he was young.  This fascination hit me only after I saw him as he was.  And then I realized the obvious truth.  My father was a child.  My father was a teenager.  My father made mistakes.

And that is why the Prequel Trilogy is also important to Luke's story.  Once you go through the journey and accept that your dad is a man, you want to understand that man's history.  You want to know what his life was like as a child (The Phantom Menace), you want to hear about all his crazy teenage troubles (Attack of the Clones), and you want to learn about the pains in his life that gave him his scars (Revenge of the Sith).

So what now?

I am thinking about the coming Trilogy and what it can say to us about fathers and sons.  I do not know any plot details, but I'm hoping that it continues the story.  Now that Luke has been through the journey, what is the next natural step?  Becoming the father.

I am still waiting for that in my life.  But I am preparing for the universal story to be played out again with me and my son.  I hope that Luke has learned from his father and will honor him by doing better.

And I pray that I do the same.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

McConaughey Reacts to Force Awakens Teaser

I could not stop laughing.

Sunday Best: Movies of My Life

I usually don't participate in Facebook lists (especially since I am not on Facebook), but this one intrigued me.

The challenge is to go through your life and list the best movie from each year of your life.  You can have a tie once per decade.

I found this idea challenging and interesting.  What I found the most interesting is how little interest I had in most of the movies that came out just before I was born, but I have a strong affection for movies from my early childhood.  I wonder if that is common to most people who do this?

Anyway, here is my list.  For the sake of anonymity, I have started my list with the decade of my birth rather than my birth year (maybe).

1970 Julius Caesar Heston and Marc Antony is cinematic gold.
1971 The Big Boss Bruce Lee's first starring feature.  A bit violent, but you can see the star power
1972 The Godfather  An unquestionable masterpiece that changed cinema.
1973 American Graffiti The influence of this movie is unnoticed but powerful, especially on television

Enter the Dragon The gold standard of modern martial arts movies
1974 The Godfather Part II Darker and a bit overly long, but the best movie of this year
1975 Jaws A nearly perfect film
1976 Rocky Despite being sequalized repeatedly, it is still raw and strong
1977 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Movie magic.
1978 Superman The best superhero movie ever.
1979 Time After Time A tense and clever thriller. Malcolm McDowall's best performance
1980 Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Even better than the original Star Wars
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark For the sword fight alone
1982 ET: Extra-Terrestrial One of the most transcendentally child-like films
1983 Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi The best of the Star Wars Saga
1984 Ghostbusters Unrepeatable comedy/action/adventure/horror
1985 Back to the Future Extreme laughs, thrills, and nostalgia all at the same time
1986 Aliens The greatest action movie ever made.
1987 The Untouchables Brian DePalma's best film. Powerful.

Predator Manliest movie of the 1980's.
1988 Young Guns It has one of the strongest last lines of any film
1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade The greatest adventure movie off all time.
1990 Presumed Innocent The best legal drama of all time.
1991 Dead Again The best thriller of all time.
1992 Noises Off! One of the funniest films I have ever seen.
1993 Schindler's List Every frame, every angle, every cut is genius.
1994 The Shawshank Redemption Overlooked when released, it has stood the test of time.
1995 Braveheart Epic in scope, action, and human spirit
1996 Hamlet Visually stunning and enveloping

Swingers A small, indie comedy with confidence and cool
1997 Titanic Despite the haters, this is actually a fantastic, moving film.
1998 Life is Beautiful A unique film that uplifts with laughs and tears
1999 The Green Mile Sad and profound. It sticks with you long after its over
2000 Memento One of the best films ever made. Unlike anything else.
2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring A fantasy with some real gravitas
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Improves upon the first
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King One of the most emotionally satisfying movies.
2004 The Passion of the Christ The greatest film ever made.
2005 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith The best of the prequels.
2006 Casino Royale The bond reboot works on so many levels. Best of the Bond films.
2007 Juno Simple premise with lots of heart. Sneaks into your heart like a child's laugh.

Lars and the Real Girl A strange movie that should be filthy but is richly innocent
2008 The Dark Knight The best Batman movie ever.
2009 Up Devastating, hilarious, and uplifting.
2010 Inception A puzzle wrapped in an enigma
2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 The best of this franchise
2012 Les Miserables Pure emotional power
2013 Man of Steel Visually and thematically mature take on Superman
2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier Taught political thriller and action film

Interstellar Amazingly bold in concept and emotion
2015 Cinderella A colorful, visually rich film of sweetness.

A few observations on my own list:

-5 movies directed by Steven Spielberg
-4 movies directed by Christopher Nolan
-3 movies directed by Peter Jackson
-3 movies directed by George Lucas
-3 movies directed by Kenneth Brannagh
-only 4 movies are comedies (not to be confused with drama-dies)
-only 6 are tragedies (in the sense that they do not have a "happy ending")
-4 of the 6 Star Wars movies are represented
-4 of the movies are superhero films 
-2 movies based on Shakespeare plays
-2 movies not in English
-only 1 Western
-only 1 Musical
-3 movies involve time travel
-only 4 of the movies have a woman as the lead.
-7 Harrison Ford movies


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Priest Watches Force Awakens Teaser

I don't think I could continue to call myself CATHOLIC SKYWALKER and not include this video on my blog.


(although not to nitpick, but I'm not a fan of a priest saying OMG)

Trailer Time: Batman v. Superman Teaser

Okay, here are some of my initial thoughts:

1.  Bad Timing.  Star Wars just released an AMAZING teaser a day earlier.  This teaser, while not bad, suffers in comparison.

2.  Visual Design.  It is difficult to tell from just this tease, but it seams like director Zack Snyder is abandoning the more realistic photography of Man of Steel, with its location shooting and direct lighting and going for more of a CGI feel ala 300 and Watchmen.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I really liked the tactile feel of Man of Steel.

3.  Affleck.  I'm digging Ben Affleck as Batman.  In the regular suit he looks like he stepped right out of the comic book.  I also like the fact that they didn't make him try and do "Batman Voice," but filtered it electronically.

4.  Themes.  One of the things I like about the teaser is that it seems to deal with big themes of hero worship, even when the hero doesn't want it.  I remember watching Superman IV: the Quest for Peace and watching the entire world give over its power to Superman like it was nothing.  This movie seems to be addressing a more real-world reaction.

Overall, this was the tiniest of teases.  The first Force Awakens teaser was fine, but it didn't blow me away.  That's how I feel about this teaser.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New Evangelizers Post: Romance Has No Reason

I have a new article up at

I don’t believe the cultural attack on marriage is an accident.

While we are making progress as a culture in some areas like respect for unborn life, there is little question that we are losing the importance of marriage.  There is a reason why fewer couples are getting married.  There is a reason it looks like “gay marriage” will soon be legal in all 50 states. There is a reason divorce rates have skyrocketed since the 1960’s.  
Have you ever tried to explain to a loved one why their significant other is completely wrong for them?  If so, you know that the reaction was probably not pretty.  They become insulted, incensed, and irritated.  This is the case even if all of your reasons are legitimate.  
This is especially worrisome when this relationship draws them away from God.  I remember I had a former student who returned to school once to tell me about her life.  She left the Catholic Church and moved in with her boyfriend.  I even found out later that her boyfriend had such control over her life that he began picking out her college classes so that her schedule made her more available to him.  While she was a student in my class we got along very well.  But when I tried to explain how her romantic relationship was problematic, a wall was raised between us.  Nothing I said, none of the legitimate and logical arguments I made, seemed to get through.
This is, of course, very common.  Very few of us like to be told our decisions are wrong.  But when we are told that there is something wrong with our relationship, especially when we are “in love,” a fiery indignation arises that sees every argument against it as a bristling attack.
And that is because romance has no reason.

You can read the entire article here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Film Flash: Cinderella

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Bold, colorful, and magically simple.  Childlike and charming (pun intended)

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, April 10, 2015

New TV Show Mini-Review: Better Call Saul

I loved Breaking Bad.

I think it is one of the truly best television shows ever.

So I was very excited to see the spinoff sequel/prequel Better Call Saul.  In preparation I went and did a Netflix mini-marathon of Saul-centric episodes.

For those who don't know, Saul Goodman was Walter White's shady, sleazy lawyer on Breaking Bad. He mostly provided comic relief but would also come in with some rather sage advice.  One of his associates was Mike Hermantraut (Jonathan Banks), an ex-cop who got his hands dirty as a fixer/cleaner.

The opening to first episode of the new show is fantastic.  It is almost a silent film but it picks up perfectly where we left the character.

But then the show goes into flashback and here is where it loses some of its steam.  Breaking Bad was a gradual acclimation to a darker and darker world.  The further you went, the more complicated things became.  Show creator Vince Gilligan throws you into the deep end without a lot of set up.  The most jarring part of the show is watching Saul (at this point known by his real name James McGill), take strange care of a strange character played by Michael McKean.  Don't get me wrong, I like writing that doesn't spoon feed you, but this was a tough slog.

But things improved very quickly.

Once James' relationships come into sharp focus, the show flies on its crisp dialogue and fantastic direction.  The producers of Breaking Bad made sure to import the high quality of their previous show here.  And Bob Odenkirk has been such a revelation.  On Breaking Bad, his character never really rounded out dimensions.  But Odenkirk has kicked up his technique and showed us layers and ability I never new he had.  He plays James McGill not as an inherent sleaze ball, but as a man who knows all of the slick angles but is really, really trying to live on the up and up.

But as great as he is, the real gem of the show is Banks.  In the middle of the season there is an episode centered on Mike where James is a side character.  Banks plays Mike with his trademark stoic minimalism.  But at the end of the episode, he is given a monologue that is so strong, so powerful that it breaks through that cool stoney exterior and breaks your heart.  Weeks after seeing it, it still sticks with me.

Right now, Better Call Saul plays like a fascinating origin story.  I hope in future seasons they flip through time a little more and see what his post-Alberquerque life is like.

But for now, the writing, directing, and acting make Better Call Saul one of the best new shows around.

4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why We Care About Awards (And Maybe Why We Shouldn't)

One of my good friends who shall remain anonymous (Rick O.), lives in hope that I will be convinced of 2 things:

1.  That the Star Wars Prequels are total crap (not going to happen)
2.  That the Academy Awards (and any other awards show) is a waste of time.

On the second one he has seen some progress.  The utility and enjoyment of awards is becoming an issue.

I like awards.  I think they are fun.

Here at this blog, I give out yearly awards for movies, television, and comic books.  But the awards here are different, because they are only one man's opinion.  I can be rebutted or dismissed easily.  I remember I shared with a group of my friends my lists of best films of all time divided by genre.  Rick O. kept shaking his head and mocked it mercilessly.

But that's okay.  That was part of the point of the list: to spark discussion.

But other awards mean something else.  Things like the Oscars are supposed to be times to celebrate what has collectively enchanted all of us fans.  We get together and communally share our love and admiration.  This is a powerful thing.  It can be a great bonding experience.  I actually felt vicarious joy for Peter Jackson as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King swept the Oscars.  I felt happy that he and the rest of the Middle-Earth crew could be acknowledged for their contribution to film.

Of course this is the ideal.

For the most part, awards like these are decided not by artistic excellence but by politics.  "Politics" here could mean the inner social navigation of the sub-culture or civil politics in general.  American Sniper was the largest grossing film of 2014 and was loved by audiences, myself included.  But I had little doubt that it would lose most Oscar categories because it had a political bent heterodox to most of the Academy voters.

Politics is also why Wes Anderson movies keep winning awards.  Perhaps I'm wrong, but I cannot fathom the amount of creative awards his movies win when they lack any kind of popular acclaim or real depth.  But Wes Anderson is loved by those who are in power in these circles, so he wins awards.

But what is the alternative?  Create a counter voting block?

That is what has happened with the Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Awards are science fiction awards given out each year.  Nominees and winners are voted upon by members of WorldCon.

There was a group of frustrated voters who believed that politics at large was responsible for the outcome of the Hugo awards and that science fiction.  They thought that politically incorrect authors were shut out because of their views.  In response a group organized by an internet campaign Sad Puppies and Angry Puppies got a number of like-minded people to register at WorldCon and as a result a majority of nominees share their political point of view.

Of course the opposing side is crying unfairness and prejudice.  But I think both sides have a bit of the same problem: neither voting bloc speaks to artistic quality.

One of the greatest comics ever made is Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen.  It is a marvel of the art form.  I don't agree with much of the underlying philosophy, but I cannot deny the skill that went into it.  I acknowledge its thematic and moral shortcomings, but I cannot deny its artistic merit.

The Hugo Awards and the Academy Awards (and so many other awards) appear to overlook the artistic in favor of whatever is deemed orthodox thinking.  That isn't to say that some great pieces of art aren't honored by these awards, but having the correct philosophy does not mean that your art is great.

And that is the problem with most awards.

I sympathize with breaking the stranglehold of an elite few tastemakers.  If this move at the Hugo Awards is simply a way to open the door to more politically incorrect themes, then I am in favor of it.  But if the awards are simply replacing one philosophical stranglehold with another, then it is bad.

But maybe I'm naively optimistic.  I think we can find a community somewhere that still cares about art and not mere popularity or politics.

And if we can't find one, let's make one together.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New TV Show Mini-Review: Younger

I love Sutton Foster.  She received my CatholicSkywalker award for Best Actress in a Comedy for Bunheads.  She is an amazing performer who projects intelligence and emotion all the while showcasing a fantastic song and dance talent.

She is already a star on Broadway.  She deserves to be a TV star or movie star.

She deserves better than Younger.

Younger is a terrible show.  It is not lacking in wit, but the humor is filtered through a morally disgusting filter.

The plot of show is interesting.  After getting a divorce, 40-year-old Sutton Foster's character is trying to make it in the big city, but all her potential employers in the publishing industry think she is too old.  But because she is in such great shape and was mistake for someone much younger by a suitor in a bar, she decides to try and pass herself off as a twenty-something.

It is a cute idea and has potential to juxtapose a Gen-X mindset verses the Millenials.  And there is some of that.  There is a great visual gag where she changes her email from to It almost works as a critique of the narcissistic, techno-idiocracy of modern young people.  But it seems to revel in its baseness rather than step above it.

The show is made by the makers of Sex and the City and it shows.  I was shocked that on TV Land they would have graphic discussions of female genitals and would show the groping of private parts.  But the frank sexual nature of the show is a gigantic turn off.

To give you an idea of the tenor of the jokes, Sutton Foster's character maps out her fictional younger life.  When asked why she has "9/11" and "First [insert vulgar sex act]," listed together, she says, "Both happened on the bus to middle school."  I was so disgusted by that one joke that I couldn't invest at all in any of the other jokes or the characters.  They all appear to be different shades of awful.

Sutton Foster is a star.  This show dims the luster of her brightness.

1/2 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tolerance and Twitter

Twitter is a fascinating social media application.

It allows for a sense of immediacy that I don't think other forms of media do. When Pope Francis was elected to the Chair of Peter, I didn't have to google him. My twitter feed was already full of information.

But Twitter can also be a place of strong reaction rather than reason. One of the most commonly felt social problems in the digital age is the lack of connection to your audience. It is difficult to insult someone to their face. But sounding the air horn behind the anonymity or buffer of Twitter makes it easier to say mean-spirited things. I am no different, especially looking back on some of my live Tweets of award shows.

But in regards to this new controversy regarding the Indiana Religious Tolerance law, I've had to make an assessment: what is my threshold for unfollowing someone.

To be sure, many of the people I follow are of a similar mindset, but not all. There are many people I respect and admire with whom I disagree.

But I think there is a difference in reactions.

As I made clear in my previous post, I believe it is rational to not force someone to needlessly participate in something that violates their conscience. Others disagree.

My favorite writer, Geoff Johns, is one of them. He wrote of the Indiana pizzeria that was at the center of an online firestorm for saying they would not cater a hypothetical sam sex wedding due to religious beliefs. Johns wrote simply: There is only one place in the world I won't go eat pizza. It's in Indiana.

While I disagree with this judgment, he simply expressed his sincere beliefs. It does not take away from his talent or skill as a writer, nor does it impede my enjoyment of his work.

I also have a friend of mine who disagrees with the Indiana law. She retweeted: "Being gay isn't a choice, but living in Indiana is." Again, this is a sincere belief put in a humorous way. And nothing that is written here is contrary to Church doctrine. The Catholic Church is open to the idea that your sexual orientation is beyond a person's ability to choose. (And I assume that "being gay" here refers simply to orientation).

But then there was someone I follow who retweeted a television star whose work I enjoy on a show I love. I cannot re-write the Tweet, suffice to say that he wished that anyone who opposed the law should have the Easter Bunny defecate in their mouths.

Notice the difference: the first two examples were of people who voiced support for their opinions and commented on either their own behavior in reaction (boycotting) or commenting with humor.

The third one, however, was crude and vicious statement, wishing humiliation and harm to another because they do not share his point-of-view.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, who you follow on Twitter is about as important as choosing a font for an invitation to a birthday party for your pet cat (I chose Helvetica). And I enjoy engaging with people who have different ideas than my own. If I am wrong, they can help me see the error of my ways. If I am right, conversation with them forces me to think about my own arguments more critically and make them stronger.

But this lack of tolerance on Twitter, which is not a surprise, has worn me down. I have unfollowed the one who retweeted the hateful message. How can we engage in dialogue if the other person only wants to shout?

I know, I know, you might say that this is all part of the horribly dark world of the internet. But in a world where we can communicate with so many, so quickly, and so personally…shouldn't we be better at connecting?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sunday Best: Movies to Watch on Easter (repost from 2014)

There are 3 movies that I would recommend for Easter viewing.

1.  The 10 Commandments:

This has been an annual television staple on Easter for years.  It is the prototypical Hollywood religious epic.  To this day it it still filled with power and wonder and color and majesty.  I know very few people who can imagine Moses without thinking of Charlton Heston.  It is a reminder of God's power and promises.

2.  Jesus of Nazareth:

Franco Zeffirelli made the greatest television epic about Jesus.  I know a lot has been written about last year's Bible mini-series with its big budget and special effects.  But this movie will take you through Jesus' entire life and show all the people he touched along the way.  The movie is completely immerse and handles the Resurrection in a such a wonderful way that it feels grounded and real.

3.  Quo Vadis:

The epic shows the effect of the Resurrection on the Roman Empire.  It centers on the love story of a Roman soldier and a Christian woman set against the backdrop of Nero and his persecution.  One of the many things I love about this movie is how Marcus (Robert Taylor) comes off as puffed-up and brimming with arrogance only to watch him slowly get conquered by real love.

Alleluia! He is Risen!

Sometimes the way we say things is as important as what we say.  And it is so important in the Christian tradition that we tend not to say "Christ rose from the dead."  Instead we say, "Christ is risen."

The Resurrection is not an event of the distant past, found in dusty books and old stories.  It is an event that is happening right now.  Christ is risen body and soul, and Christ can be resurrected in our lives, even though we are dead in spirit, he can give us new life.  Even if we've fallen away, even if we continue stumble in sin, even if we have cut ourselves off from His grace, though we are dead, we can become alive again.

Because Christ is alive.

Right now.

He is Risen.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Summer Movie Season 2015

I know that it is only the end of March, but its time to look forward to one of my favorite seasons of the year: Summer movie season.

But after Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released in early April last year, the blockbuster window is much wider.

Here is a list, with a few brief thoughts of my own, including on a scale of 1-5 stars my likelihood of seeing it in theaters (1 being “Not at all” 5 being “Cannot wait!”).

So here is what is on the horizon:


Furious 7 (**) - This is a franchise I have never gotten into.  But if I have time to catch up with the other 6, I might check this out.


The Longest Ride (*) - I am disturbed by the Saw-like body count found in the typical Nicholas Sparks movie.

True Story (**) - The trailer looks slightly interesting, but I don't like the principle actors.

Ex Machina (**) - I think I figured out that there is going to be a big twist to this sci-fi thinker.


Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (**) - The first was incredibly low-brow.  And though I love Kevin James, this one looks even more mindless.


The Age of Adaline (*)  - Even Harrison Ford in this can't help wipe away the sense of "boring."

Little Boy (***) - I found the trailer surprisingly moving.  A story about child-like faith.  I might check it out.


Avengers: Age of Ultron (*****) - I might end up going to a midnight showing of this!


Hot Pursuit (*) - I actually find Sophia Vergara annoying and Reese Witherspoon does not look funny in this.

MAY 15

Mad Max: Fury Road (**) - I have never been fan of this series.  The Road Warrior is super-dark and Beyond Thunderdome is an ugly mess.  I don't see the updated technology as a big improvement.

Pitch Perfect 2 (****) - The sequel will probably not capture the same fun and spirit of the first, but it has built up enough good will for me to give a try.

MAY 22

Tomorrowland (****) - I don't have a strong sense of the story, but Brad Bird has earned my trust.

Spy (***) - Melissa McCarthy comedies are hit or miss for me, but the unrated trailer made me laugh.

MAY 29th

San Andreas (**) - This doesn't appeal to me.

Aloha (***) - I am incredibly suspicious of Cameron Crowe.  His movies are incredibly tedious.  But the cast looks really good so I am curious.


Insidious: Chapter 3 (*) - I don't like horror movies.

Entourage (*) - Didn't watch the show.


Jurassic World (*****) - Star Lord riding on a motorcycle leading a pack of trained raptors.  I'm there.


The Transporter Refueled (*) - Not a fan of the series.

Inside Out (****) - This PIXAR outing looks original and moving


Ted 2 (****) - I am fairly certain this will be much, much worse than the first.  But the original made laugh more than most movies I've seen in the theater.

Big Game (*) - This movie looks so awful I cannot believe that it isn't a parody.


Terminator: Genysis (**) - All of my instincts are telling me that this will actually be the worst entry in the Terminator Franchise.  But I am curious.

Magic Mike XXL (*) - I don't know what's more disturbing: that this movie about pornographers got a sequel or the long lines of ogling women who are going to see it.


Minions (****) - Hands down, the minions are the best part of the Dispicible Me movies.  This movie is like having a cake made of only frosting.


ANT-MAN (****) - The trailers haven't sold me, but Marvel has been solid.

Trainwreck (**) - I don't care for Amy Schummer, but there is a small possibility it could be good.


Pixels (****) - The trailers weren't as good as I hoped.  But the concept is fun and I love the cast.

Poltergeist (*) - Another pointless remake.

Pan (*) - A pointless prequel

Paper Towns (*) - Looks angsty and pretentious


Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (****)  - The trailer looked fun and I loved the last one.

Self/Less (*) - I'll wait for Netflix


The Fantastic Four (****) - I haven't seen a lot of compelling footage, but it's a comic movie so I'll be there.


The Man from UNCLE (**) - It looks fine, but forgettable


Friday, April 3, 2015

Divine Mercy Novena: 2015

A reminder that the Divine Mercy Novena begins today and continues through until Mercy Sunday.  You can find the novena here:

This has been a powerful and profound devotion in my life and many graces have come to me through a devotion to Jesus' Divine Mercy.

I look forward to joining all of you in spiritual communion through this novena.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Religious Freedom Law

I try as best as possible to stay out of politics per se on this blog.

The main reasons, as I've said before, are twofold:

1.  Political disputes tend to shut people out.  I do not want that on this blog.  I want it to be a place where we can have a free flow of ideas.

2.  My political convictions are strong, but they should never be mistaken for my religious convictions.  I will go to the cross over the defense of unborn life, but I will not die for my position on what the income tax rate should be.

But because there is a lot of talk and a good deal of confusion on this new law that has come out of Indiana, I thought I should take a crack at shedding some light.

I am a complete amateur when it comes to reading legislation.  I am happy to take any correction on what is written here by those of you who are more learned than I.

First, let us begin with the text of the law.  I wonder how many people have read it.  And I wonder how many people had to read it multiple times (like myself) because it is written in legalese.

The main thrust of the law is in section 8:

Sec. 8. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. (b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

So let us take a look at the different sides.


The main purpose of the law is to prevent the government from forcing any person or business to act in a way that violates their religious conscience.


The main issues is the fear of discrimination, particularly against homosexual persons.  Could a restaurant refuse service to a gay person if the owner's religion tells them that homosexuality is wrong?  Doesn't that sound like the kind of thing black people endured during the Civil Rights movement?

A violation of civil rights occurs when someone is discriminated against unfairly because of who they are.  If this law takes away basic rights of homosexual persons, it is must be an unjust law.


But it must be remembered that the rights of religious groups have already been violated by the state.  The most famous example was Catholic Charities in Massacheusetts.  The Archdiocese of Boston was told that they would have to begin allowing same sex couples to adopt children through Catholic Charities.  Rather than violate Church teaching, the bishops shut down the adoption program.

Now, the situation was slightly more complicated because Catholic Charities accepted state funds.  And it is difficult to simply render unto Caesar when Caesar is bankrolling you.

But in addition to this we had the contraceptive mandates in Obamacare that forced all people, regardless of their religious conscience, to pay for contraceptives and abortafacients.  The Indiana law, and others like it, are meant to prevent the individual states from enacting similar legislation.


"Gay Marriage" has been legal in Indiana for less than a year.  But under state law, it is full recognized with all the rights of marriage.

The main thrust of the controversy seems to hover around compelling business to participate in "gay marriage."  

Again, a violation of civil rights occurs if a person is unfairly discriminated against because of who they are.  Refusing service to someone simply because they are homosexual would appear to be a violation of civil rights.  If a homosexual person hired a photographer to take pictures of a graduation and the photographer refused because of the person's orientation, then this would be a violation of the homosexual person's civil rights.

But we have a different case if the homosexual person hires the photographer to take pictures of a "gay marriage."  Here, the issue is not the person, but the activity.  

If a straight person asked a Muslim photographer to take pictures of a Koran burning party, I believe it would be rational for the Muslim person to refuse.  If a Jewish photographer was asked to take pictures for the cover of a book that was about how circumcision is wrong, I believe it would be rational for the Jewish person to refuse.  And if a Christian person is asked to take pictures for a "wedding" that is in violation of God's plan of marital love, then I believe it is rational for that Christian to refuse.

Remember, when someone is hired for a wedding, they are required to celebrate.  By this I do not mean that they are required to feel enjoyment.  "Celebrate" in this case means to affirm and advocate.  This is not simply a matter of recording the proceedings dispassionately for posterity like a reporter or historian.  The photographer, the florist, the baker, and all the rest involved are there engaging and celebrating the event.


The crux seems to be around "gay marriage" because it is not in keeping with the Gospel truth of human life.  But according to Jesus and the Catholic Church, neither is serial monogamy without the benefit of annulment.

If a couple came to a Catholic photographer and made clear that both were divorced without benefit of annulment, wouldn't that Catholic photographer have to place that marriage in the same area of conscience violation as a homosexual couple?

Logically, the answer would have to be yes.  If that Catholic photographer turned away a homosexual couple, but not this divorced and unannuled straight couple, then it would be a clear violation of civil rights.  That is because the only reason the one was denied service and not the other was because of who they are (homosexual orientation) and not the activity in which they are engaged ("gay marriage").


In the movie "A Man for All Seasons," St. Thomas More was being compelled by the state to sign a document that declared King Henry VIII's divorce and remarriage to be legal and acceptable.  When told of the document, Thomas' response was: "If I can sign the document, I will."

Thomas may have had many misgivings about the king's marriage.  But he was also a good Englishman and wanted to serve his king faithfully.  If there was any way he could sign the document without it violating his conscience, if the document simply said that he should remain silent on the matter or not speak out against the king, he would.

St. Alfonsus Ligori said that if you have a choice between a more burdensome and less burdensome choice in your conscience, you have the right to choose the least burdensome.  

If you are a religiously devout photographer and man and woman ask you photograph their wedding without disclosing their previous marital status, then you can be free in your conscience to act hire yourself out.  They may be in violation of God's plan for marriage or they may not.  Since you are ignorant, you may (but do not have to) err on the side of assuming virtue.  Just as when someone comes up to receive communion, the Eucharistic Minister does not try to evaluate the state of each soul, but gives Christ's Body and Blood and lets the propriety of that fall on the communicant.  (Although public, defiant sin is a separate case).

The problem with that same situation if a same-sex couple comes to the Catholic photographer, that Catholic photographer cannot claim ignorance.  There is no question as to whether or not this marriage is valid in God's eyes.


It would seem to me that it would be wrong for the state to force an individual to violate their religious conscience unless there is a compelling reason such as the violation of civil right.  It would also seem to me that this is what the Indiana law does that in its text.

But as I said, I am no expert.  If anything I have written here is illogical, if my terms are unclear, my premises untrue, or my logic invalid, I would ask you to do me the kindness of showing me the error of my ways.  Perhaps this law is too broad and too subject to gross violation.  Perhaps not.  We must support or oppose this law based on what our conscience dictates.

Above all, we must pray that God guides us to recognize the dignity and humanity of all on either side of this issue and pray that He leads all of us to His justice.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Evangelizers Post: Failure on the Faith Journey

I have a new article up at

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly confronted by my own failure on this journey of faith.  Sometimes it even feels like all of my efforts to holiness end in failure.  Looking back on my life, there are still some vices I have been falling into for decades.
So how do we deal with repeated failure?

Here are some personal reflections and I don’t claim to be a saint.  Believe me, I am not writing this as someone who is an expert at overcoming sin.  I am venal creature who spends more time rolling in the mud than flying with the angels.  So please understand that this is not me giving you my personal secrets to moral success.  But these are things that I have found helpful.

You can read the entire article here.