Monday, December 31, 2012

Absent Friends

On this night of New Year's Eve,
I do much very much believe
that we should try to make amends
and call to mind our absent friends.

A year has past and all the while
they stood with us in times of trial
and joy for what fortune sends
even though they be absent friends.

Yet pulled and torn from one another,
though loved as dear as sister, brother.
The bonds we make, life often rends,
and fills our lives with absent friends.

But friends, though distant, are always near
they live in minds and hearts most dear
in deeper ways than man comprehends
So raise a glass to our absent friends.


Young Guns Wisdom

A few months ago I tried to start a hashtag trend and failed miserably.  But I thought the world needed the wisdom of the classic movies Young Guns and Young Guns II.  So as we prepare to enter the new year, let's bask in the wisdom of the regulators.

Young Guns Wisdom

On Capitalism: “You have a beef outfit and a store. I have a beef outfit and a store. You’re going to try to make money. I’m going to try to make money. It’s simple and it’s fair.”

On Mercy: “I’m glad I never killed you, Steve. You’re allright.”

On Grammar: “No, no. It’s ‘You and I.’”

On Moral Obligation: “It ain’t easy havin’ pals.”

On Friendship: “You got yourself 3 or 4 good pals, and you got yourself a tribe. There ain’t nothin’ stronger than that.”

On Humilty: “Billy, I know we’re good, but this is getting ridiculous.”

On Ambition: “Men of enterprise are practically sure of success.”

On Uncertainty: “There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.”

On Challenges: “You test yourself everyday gentlemen.”

On Animal Intelligence: “You pigs is as smart as dogs.”

On Endurance: “Here's to having enough grit to finish the last round.”

On Avarice: “Because $500 cuts a lot of ties.

On the News Media: “Papers can't do anything right.”

On the Cycle of Violence: “Alex, if you stay they're gonna kill you. And then I'm gonna have to to go around and kill all the guys who killed you. That's a lot of killing.”

On Mental Illness: “He ain't all there, is he?”

On Letting Go of the Past: “The past is like an old yellow-back novel. When it done you throw it out and start a new one.”

On Civic Virtue: “I have made a long, steamship journey from London, Mr. Murphy, so I shall be damned if I am persuaded by something as ugly as political corruption. So, I'd like for you to take your threats and your sheriff and get off my property.”

On the Frivolity of Youth: “Go On, William. Boys will be boys.”

On Navigation: Chavez: I told you I would find the way, and the way is west.
William H. Bonney: West, huh? Well west is that way...
[points gun in one direction]
William H. Bonney: ...and the [people] we gotta kill are that way.
[points gun in opposite direction]

On Finality: “Well I shall finish the game, Doc.”

On False Idols: “William H. Bonney, you are not a god!”

On Irony: “It's an ancient Navajo word. It means 'stop.'”

On Frugality: “Goodbye Bob. Best $1.80 I ever spent.”

On Anatomy: “Now it is a biological and historical fact that I had large wrists and small hands.”

On Pet Psychology: “Even their horses are crazy.”

On Fame: “Just remember Pat. You'll never be me. You'll always be the man who *shot* Billy the Kid!”

On Nicknames: “You have to earn it. Until then, you're just plain old Hendry.”

On Love: “Necessary is something you can't live without. I can't live without you.”
On Saying Good-bye: (silent head nod)

Monday Poetry: Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

The 10 Worst Films of 2012

I like to keep things as positive as possible on this blog, so forgive me this parting shot at the close of the year at the films that I thought were horrid.  There were many that I'm sure were worse than those on my list, but thankfully I did not see them.

10.  Premium Rush

-A waste of a decent plot and a good leading man.  It has an ending that makes the skateboard showdown in Gleaming the Cube look like the Battle of Agincourt.

9.  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

-This is another movie that had so much potential, but it felt like a muddled waste.  It had maybe one or two cool sequences, but nothing more.

8.  Silver Linings Playbook

-This movie has been heaped with critical acclaim, but I cannot see it, except for the final 20 minutes.  The characters are selfish and annoying.  Spending time with them was mostly a pain.  This would be lower if not for the terrific performance of Jennifer Lawrence.

7.  Taken 2

-Liam Neeson rocks.  Every time he kills a bad guy I cheered.  But he deserved such a better movie than this.  Shakey-cam must die.  And I don't need a half an hour of this dialogue:
Kim: Dad!
Brian: Drive!

6. Big Miracle

-There were times I started to like this movie.  But the hippie environmentalist nut main character was just too obnoxious for me.  The fact that she didn't really care that human lives would be at risk to save 3 whales made me understand how morally bankrupt the movie was.

5.  What to Expect When You're Expecting

-I think that pregnancy movies are supposed be a kind of horror movie genre now, where they focus on all of the pain and suffering and very little time on character development or happy endings.  This Love Actually wannabe is as empty as it is inconsistent.  You don't mix in silly go-cart chases with the heartbreak of miscarriage.  What were they thinking?

4.  The Watch

-The only reason that I laughed at all during this movie was Vince Vaughn who could make even the flattest script pop a little.  Very little.  It was needlessly violent and gross, which would be fine if it had any real wit behind it.  Shock of for shock's sake will only get you so far.  And I'm also calling it on Jonah Hill's career as a leading man.  I know 21 Jump Street was a hit, but I'm completely over him comedically.  And Stiller is on thin ice as well.

3.  The Vow

-I wanted to like this movie.  I really did.  I think Rachel McAdams is a fine actress and the plot was interesting.  But the dialogue was awful and the characters so completely flat that I had to imagine the script was written by a freshman in high school.  For me, the line was crossed when McAdams rolled up the car window so she could smell Channing Tatum's farts.  That was a good metaphor for watching this film.

2.  Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

-Again, another movie I wanted to like.  And it had some good moments.  But it was a circling pit of despair with no real laughs in a movie billed as a comedy.  Even without the whole bait-and-switch problem, it is a movie that will leave you feeling worse than when you walked in.  Not a good way to spend an evening.

1.  Cloud Atlas

-This is not just the worst movie of the year.  This is the worst movie I have seen in several years.  It isn't just bad, it is epically bad.   I am baffled how this script ever got approved.  I don't know why anyone would have paid money to make this piece of pretentious garbage.  And because it crosses over 6 generations, you feel like you've wasted 6 lifetimes.  The movie is meant to feel deep, to give the illusion that it reveals some of the great truths about life.  But in reality all it does is bluster about meaningless fortune-cookie platitudes.  Everyone involved with this project should be ashamed, not morally but artistically.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Most Catholic Movies of 2012

Beware, in order to discuss the Catholicity of the movies below, SPOILERS may be introduced.

2012 was a wonderful year for movies.  And we as Catholics should not shun the popular media per se, but embrace what is good and can be used to delight or illuminate.

What I found fascinating were the number of Catholic themes throughout the movies I saw this year.  And while I wouldn't go so far as to say that all of these movies mentioned below are consistently Catholic, you can pick out some very Catholic themes in them.


There were 2 movies produced with a very specific religious message that I saw this year: October Baby and For Greater Glory.  The former was the story of a girl who had survived a botched abortion and went in search of her birth mother.  The other was about the religious persecution done to the Catholic Church by the socialist government of Mexico.

Both were fine films.  But the problem that we tend to find with movies of this nature is that they feel preachy.  A good story should not be preached at you.  It should draw you in and let the story work on you at a primal level.  There were some wonderful moments that were moving in both movies, but they could not escape the preachiness.


Ever since the dawn of Christianity, Jesus has been the ideal archetype for the hero.  He defines what a hero is, particularly His willingness to lay down His life for the greater good.

In 2012 there were plenty of examples of this in movies.  In The Avengers, Tony Stark finally became a hero when he chose to take the nuclear missile out of harms way, thinking he was giving up his life for others.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle begs Batman to save his own life and not try to save the people of Gotham, who hunted him and hated him.  "You've already given them everything," she says.  He responds: "Not everything.  Not yet."  He understands that for love to be love, it must be unconditional and it must give everything.

In Les Miserables, Valjean makes the choice to save Marius' life, even though Javert would put him in chains forever.  The Hunger Games begins with Katniss volunteering as tribute to save her sister, thinking that by doing so she has called a death sentence onto herself.


One of the most refreshing things about the silly-fun movie Here Comes the Boom was its matter-of-fact sprinkling of Christianity throughout the movie.  The trainers quote scripture.  They pray together before fights.  The main character enters his final match to the song "Holy, Holy."

Les Miserables also does this in a historical context.  It shows us kind clergy and pious religious who try to create an air of virtue in a fallen world.  Some beautiful Catholic art and architecture are constantly on display to move you towards the films deeper meanings.

Even the generally awful Seeking a Friend for the End of the World has a scene where, with only a day left on Earth, people went to the ocean and were baptized.  Then they spent the day celebrating their rebirth before being united with the Lord.  It was a sublime moment in an otherwise raunchy film.


I maintain that one of the best Catholic movie's is The Godfather.  Michael Corleone is a generally decent man who chooses to do morally horrible things, thus losing his soul bit by bit.  This an important lesson about the Catholic doctrine of fallen human nature.  One of the most effective ways of combating sin is to experience it vicariously along with all of its soul crushing consequences.

The Hunger Games takes place in a future without religion.  There are some who strive for virtue, but they are few.  Power is the only right an wrong in Panem.  As a result the horrible spectacle of children killing children goes on because the Capitol has the power.  Without a religion like Christianity, there is no internal freedom of the soul that can lead to external freedom of the citizenry.

The Cabin in the Woods may have sharp dialogue and a clever twist on the horror movie genre, but ultimately it points to the real horror of life from an atheist point of view: life is meaningless.  Faced with that prospect, there is no reason to save human life whatsoever.


Teddy Bear may not have dealt directly with marriage, but it did show how love and affection are more important than empty sexual contact.  The main character is empty inside and wants to find someone who he can love.

Brave also made a strong point about the importance of family obligations.  Even when we are at odds to the point of shouting, family is family.  You do everything you have to for your family.

Despite the general dysfunction of This is 40, it held firm to the idea that marriage is a lifetime commitment in good times and in bad.

Even the movie Ted eschews the modern notion that marriage is an out-dated concept.  Part of John's growth as a character is getting over his old hang ups about marriage.

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards - Movies 2012

With 2012 almost over, and the world not ending as predicted (only a few more days to use that joke), it is time to look back and acknowledge excellence in movies this year.  We have actually had a number of very good movies in theaters.  When I started doing my movie reviews on this blog, I feared that most of the articles would be me pointing out the flaws I saw.  Instead I was delighted to find that most of the movies I went to see kept me entertained and emotionally connected (except for the amazingly dreadful Cloud Atlas).  

Regardless, I have gone through as many movies as possible this year. There were several that I missed and so was unable to place. So of the movies  I've seen this year, here are the winners:


Les Miserables

This was a tough call between this movie and The Dark Knight Rises. Both movies are incredibly different so comparisons were difficult to make. But in the end, I had to go with what had a deeper impact on me. Les Miserables works so well because Tom Hooper stripped everything non-essential away from the film until the bare bones of raw emotional truth were laid plain. I know this musical inside and out, and yet it felt fresh and new. I couldn't help let a few tears fall during “Little Fall of Rain,” or let out a full throated laugh during “Master of the House.” This is a showcase of the art of acting at its best. A great movie should pull you in and make you feel as though you have completed a long journey with the characters. The end credits should feel like coming up for air. And Les Miserables completely enfolds you in its world and it opens you up to the transcendent nature of art. It points to the higher and more perfect beauties of the world beyond in a way that does not seem cheap or flat, but is earned through the characters taking up their crosses out of love. I have not seen a musical, or any other movie, like it.

The Avengers – the most fun I had at the movies this year. Pure entertainment.
The Dark Knight Rises – A fantastic finish to the Nolan trilogy that brings everything full circle.
Ted – The funniest film of the year, and it is still funny every time I watch it.
Argo – A taut, tense thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the end.

Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight Rises

While Les Miserables may have taken the spot for best film of the year, the biggest contribution Tom Hooper's directing made was in letting go and trusting the actors to make his movie work. Nolan also assembles a top-notch cast, but fills the film with intense visual spectacle while at the same time wrestling with problems of wealth and poverty, self-preservation and self-sacrifice. He creates a world in Gotham that is a reflection of all of us, both good and bad inside. Through his direction, you feel the age and strain on Bruce Wayne and the energetic evil of Bane. He creates a tense, desperate conflict that continues to raise the stakes until the last few minutes. In the end, he showed us visually the main theme of the movies: Batman is a symbol of selflessness that can rally people together to serve the common good.


Joss Whedon – The Avengers
Ben Affleck – Argo
Tom Hooper – Les Miserables
Steven Spielberg - Lincoln

Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables

Hugh Jackman became a star with his turn as the most popular of the X-Men, Wolverine. Because it was a sci-fi/action movie, I don't think people took proper note of how precise and primal that performance was. I saw him in that movie and I knew he was a terrific actor. Now with his role as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, the rest of the world will see what I saw. Jackman believably transforms through scene after affective scene from being a furious ruffian to terrified fugitive to selfless father. He carried Valjean with a dignity that comes from having lived with the worst that humanity has to offer and coming out on the other side. He cannot be taken in by the Thenardiers because he has lived in their world before. He has nothing but endless compassion for Fantine because it was compassion that changed his life. Jackman uses his strong voice to show us the slow disintegration of a man's strength. By the end of the film he is “poured out like water” and Jackman makes you feel every drop of his life drip away.

Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
Kim Kold – Teddy Bear
Mark Duplass – Safety Not Guaranteed
Andy Garcia – For Greater Glory

Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games

Although she has received more accolades for her role as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence needs to be acknowledged for her wonderfully stoic performance in The Hunger Games. Katniss is not a character who wears her heart on her sleeve. She buries her emotions deep down to shelter herself from the horror of her life. Lawrence gives us Katniss' steely exterior, while letting us small cracks in her armor along the way. But when awful heartbreak hits her in the games, the dams break and we see a torrent of agony sweep over her. All the while she carries Katniss with incredible dignity, more dignity that most actresses her age could.

Anne Hathaway – The Dark Knight Rises
Emma Stone – The Amazing Spider-Man
Amy Adams – Trouble With the Curve
Keira Knightly – Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Tom Hardy – The Dark Knight Rises

There is a singular moment in The Dark Knight Rises when I realized how powerful Tom Hardy's performance was as the brutal terrorist Bane. Bane is being confronted by his employer over a change in plans. And without a word, Bane gently lays the back of his hand on the other man's shoulder. Immediately you see all of the power in the room shift. The lightest touch changes the entire dynamic. Hardy had to create a character without using most of his face and also through a partially distorted voice. So much of Bane had to be shown using only body language. And Hardy not only transformed his physique into a literal hulk, but he used every gesture, every posture to convey Bane's menace, to fantastic effect.

Rhys Ivans – The Amazing Spider-Man
Michael Fassbender - Prometheus
John Snieder – October Baby
Russel Crowe -Les Miserables


Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables

I usually don't buy into “buzz” when it comes to movies. I find myself departing from many critics regarding what they see as good art. So when I went to see Les Miserables, I knew that there was a lot of “buzz” regarding Hathaway's Fantine, but I ignored it as best I could. And I have to say that the “buzz” is well deserved. Her performance her was the exact opposite of her worldly and confident Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. Her Fantine is the picture of vulnerability. You feel as though the slightest breeze could knock her over. And all the while she takes you step by step through the agony of her life, so that even the smallest ray of hope fills her with so much joy that your heart cannot help but swell.

Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Emily Blunt – Looper
Samantha Barks – Les Miserables
Elsbeth Steentoft – Teddy Bear

Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild– Ted

Comedy is very hard to write. In some ways in much more difficult than tragedy. What makes Ted work so well is not just that it is funny (the funniest movie of the year), but that it isn't just a series of gags like you would expect from the producers of Family Guy. Ted has a solid story around it and it is actually about something. It's about growing up. There's a lot to be said about the arrested development of adults in this country, and Ted shows us how life falls apart when we don't grow up. Ted is the symbol of childhood irresponsibility, but he is so appealing despite his detestable behavior. That's because there is a part of us that doesn't want to lose that part of our lives that we know must be sacrificed on the altar of adulthood. And all the while it is conveying these themes, the jokes make you laugh more than most movies.

Tony Kushner - Lincoln
Joss Whedon - The Avengers
Rian Johnson - Looper
Derek Connoly - Safety Not Guaranteed

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

WETA once again demonstrates why they are the master of make-up effects, filling their world with enhancements that are both fantastic and subtle.

The Avengers

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Again, WETA has taken movie special effects to the next level. Especially in 48fps, the digital effects never looked so real.

The Avengers

Sune Martin - Teddy Bear

The score is so simple that it is easy to overlook. But in its simplicity is the heartbreak that is indicative of this fragile little movie.

Mark Silvestri - The Avengers
Geoff Zanelli - The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Howard Shore - The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey
James Horner - The Amazing Spider-Man

This Gift” - The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Glenn Hansard is an incredibly talented musician who puts all of his emotions into his songs, and you can feel it in the song about not letting go of your dreams.
"A Thousand Years" - Twilight: Breaking Dawn pt 2
"Big Machine" - Safety Not Guaranteed

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Not only are the costumes beautiful, but they feel as if they belong in that world. In other words, it never feels like the characters are wearing “costumes” but are wearing the clothes of a bygone culture

The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises

Below are the list of all the films of 2012 that I have seen, ranked in order of excellence:

  1. Les Miserables
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Marvel's The Avengers
  4. Teddy Bear
  5. Argo
  6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  7. Lincoln
  8. Ted
  9. The Hunger Games
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. The Amazing Spider-Man
  12. Skyfall
  13. Safety Not Guaranteed
  14. Pitch Perfect
  15. Looper
  16. Brave
  17. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
  18. John Carter
  19. Snow White and the Huntsman
  20. October Baby (2012)
  21. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
  22. For Greater Glory
  23. The Cabin in the Woods
  24. Here Comes the Boom
  25. This is 40
  26. The Expendables 2
  27. Trouble with the Curve
  28. Prometheus
  29. Premium Rush
  30. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
  31. Silver Linings Playbook
  32. Taken 2
  33. Big Miracle
  34. What to Expect When You're Expecting
  35. The Watch
  36. The Vow
  37. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  38. Cloud Atlas

iMy appreciation and judgment of a film should not be taken as a recommendation. Choosing to watch any of these films is the reader's responsibility

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards - Television 2012

And now we here at Catholic Skywalker would like to celebrate the best in Television this year.

There are a lot of wonderful programs out there that, unfortunately, time has not permitted me to see (I only caught up the The West Wing this year).

Here are the hows we watch:

How I Met Your Mother
New Girl
The Middle
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation
Big Bang Theory
The Office
The Soup
The Mindy Project
Go On
Walking Dead
Game of Thrones
Beauty and the Beast
Downton Abbey
Amazing Race

The winners, therefore, must be taken from this list.  If anyone has any recommendations for shows I should add to our nightly viewing, let us know.

So, without further ado, this year's winners are:

Best Drama:

Every mystery show in some way has been influenced by Sherlock Holmes. And so if you are going to do a show about the preeminent detective, you had better bring your A-game. And that is exactly what the producers of the BBC show Sherlock have done. The concept is simplicity itself: tell the Holmes stories in today's world. In fact, most of the stories have their basis somewhere in the original Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries. No small amount of credit should be given to the lead actors: breakout stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. Cumberbatch brings a lot of flawed, nearly psychotic tendencies to Holmes. But he makes him fascinating enough to watch. Freeman gives us enough of an everyman connection to keep us emotionally tethered to the stories. One other excellent innovation is that each episode is 90-minutes. This makes it feel like a self-contained movie, with full arcs and character development in one sitting. But above all, the show is smart. And this season watching Holmes match wits with his equals in Irene Adler and James Moriarty has made for some amazing television.

-Downton Abbey
-The Walking Dead

Best Comedy

Once again, this show wins top spot. Only 12 episodes of Community aired in 2012. But there was more wit, creativity, and genuine belly laughs in those 12 episodes than can be found in many sitcoms today. It doesn't look like Community is long for this world, which is a crime against TV. Community not only understands and dissects pop culture and media genres (look at last year's brilliant send up of Ken Burns' documentaries and Law and Order, not to mention the love letter to 8-bit video games that was “Hawkethorne”), but they use them as a means of character development. As silly as everything is on the show, it still beats with a very real heart. The season finally tied up main character Jeff's (Joel McHale) entire character arc from the pilot episode. In the very first episode he espoused moral relativism and that truth was whatever he said it was. But after finding true friendship, he knows that there are things out there that are real. They may be really weird, but they are real. When the show comes back in February, do yourself a favor if you haven't watched it yet (and I say this without hyperbole) : check out one of the best shows in TV history.

Parks and Recreation
The Big Bang Theory
The Office

Best Actor in a Drama
Andrew Lincoln – The Walking Dead

Most actors who win in these dramatic categories tend to do so because of their emotional intensity, which Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes has in spades. As the leader of the small band of survivors, Rick must make decisions that are decisive but may be deadly. And it is Rick that has to live with the consequences. Lincoln gives Rick the sense of solid strength we need to see from someone that others would trust with their lives. And he shows how this trust wears away at his soul. He takes on all of the burdens and gets all of the blame. Lincoln makes us understand Rick, even when we disagree with him, and makes us care about him enough to keep watching his journey, even if we can see no hope in the end. The level of emotional darkness that Lincoln has had to plumb already in this season show us a man whose soul is slowly being clawed apart.

Nathan Fillion – Castle
Johnny Lee Miller - Elementary
Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock

Best Actress in a Drama
Sutton Foster – Bunheads

It is easy to dismiss Foster as simply a reboot of Lorelei Gilmore from Amy Sherman-Paladino's other classic show Gilmore Girls. And to be sure, the personality and vocabulary are identical. But Foster infuses her dancing fish-out-of-water Michelle with a lot more quirky energy that adds layer upon layer of texture. Unlike Lorelei who had to grow up because of her daughter, this is what Lorelei might have been if she had never gotten pregnant. The result is that Foster must portray this neurotic, lost, intensely witty character while also showing us the the emptiness she has from being rootless. She peppers her performance with charismatic and unique voice inflection and body language that make clear there isn't another actress like her on television today.

Stanna Katic – Castle
Sarah Wayne Callies – The Walking Dead
Emily Van Camp - Revenge

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones

Tyrion Lannister, the character Peter Dinklage plays on Game of Thrones is not a good man. He is lecherous, deceitful, and ambitious. But unlike many of the characters on the show, he tries. He tries to be good as best he knows how. And that is the wonderful struggle that Dinklage shows us. And he does it with such amazing charm that you cannot help but root for Tyrion, even when he is wrong. And he gives Tyrion so much gravitas that he convincingly rallies his deserting army to defend their city. His plea is not for glory, but a simple heartfelt appeal to protect the basic things of life: home and family. And he delivers his last line of the speech with a matter-of-factness that implies the imperative of duty: “There are brave men on the other side of these walls. Let's go kill them.”

Colin Donnell - Arrow
David Morressy – The Walking Dead
Martin Freeman - Sherlock

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Lara Pulver – Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes is the stuff of legend. He is the ultimate opponent in a battle of wits. Lara Pulver's Irene Adler from the show Sherlock needed to be as good and as believably legendary. And Pulver delivered. Her Adler is playful but predatory. She chameleon-like adapts to any situation she is in and gives the appearance that she is in complete control (even when she is not). And she makes us believe that she could have true feelings for Sherlock. But we are never quite sure if that's real or just an act. Adler is that good of an actress. And so is Pulver

Laurie Holden – The Walking Dead
Lauren Cohan- The Walking Dead
Lena Heady – The Game of Thrones
Danai Gurira – The Walking Dead

Best Actor, Comedy

Nick Offerman - Parks and Recreation
Outside of Amy Poehler, Offerman's Ron Swanson is the most iconic character on the show. The writers deserve a lot of credit for not making him simply a punching bag for his non-liberal views ala All in the Family and Last Man Standing. But Offerman plays Ron so uncompromisingly sure that it is a surprise that he is so likeable. He is so perpetually annoyed with everyone and everything, but in a way that gives voice to your own frustration. Offerman is able to convey a great deal of comic intensity in great stillness. His deadpan is so funny because you can't tell if he's joking or about to kill you, which makes it all the funnier.

Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
Ty Burrell – Modern Family
Joel McHale - Community

Best Actress, Comedy
Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Once again Amy Poehler takes the best actress spot. There are a lot of good women comedians out there, but Poehler is the funniest one working in television today. Her Leslie Knope is full of an insane amount of energy that you work hard just to keep up. And it is very difficult to play someone fully sincere while at the same time not making them stupid. But Poehler's Knope is smart, but she wears her heart on her sleeve. She gives herself over to any emotion she feels, like Homer Simpson if he we was oriented towards public-spiritedness. What's great is watching Leslie try to overcome things that she can't. After she has a mini-breakdown from lack of sleep because of her heated campaign for city council, I dare you not to laugh.

Zooey DeChannel – New Girl
Kalee Cuoco – The Big Bang Theory
Patricia Heaton – The Middle

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy

Dany Pudi -Community

When Pudi's Abed is his normal self and not pretending to be someone else, the actor has a very limited palate to work with. Abed's emotional deficiencies mean that Pudi must continually limit his range of feelings. Abed feels things but doesn't know how to express them or see them in others. And yet he is very observant and caring. And witty. Abed has some of the best lines on the show, because he delivers it with an understanding that they are on a TV show. But where we see his skill work best is when he confronts “Evil Abed.” There is a believable character difference between the two beyond the superficial. In his narrow window, Pudi builds a mirror-universe version of Abed that is as emotionally unavailable but also morally repellent. He does that mostly with subtle changes to voice and body language, but he also does it to great comedic effect.

Neil Patrick Harris– How I Met Your Mother
Donald Glover – Community
Nick Offerman – Parks and Recreation

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory

When they first introduced Bialik's Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, she was meant to be a female Sheldon. And if you look at her early performances, they were not very good. She gave stale, flat answers as a way of conveying lack of emotion. But a character is not about what isn't there, but what is. And so Amy was only a flat, uninteresting character. But slowly Bialik has built an inner life to Amy so that we can now see her in 3 dimensions. Unlike Sheldon, she has a raging, beating heart in her, but it is smothered by over-intellectualism and social awkwardness. But Bialik shows you this emotionally raw and primal person hiding beneath her frumpy exterior. And it is when this emotional repression finally leaks through her brainy exterior that the laughs come flowing.

Aubrey Plaza – Parks and Recreation
Yvette Nicole Brown – Community
Alison Brie – Community
Martha Plimpton – Raising Hope

New Evangelizers Post: On the Necessity of Heaven

I have a new article up at

It is about why Heaven isn't just Divine reward for "good boys and girls," but an absolutely essential part to the logic of God's relationship with us.

You can check it out here

Sunday Best: Reader Poll Results - Best Movie of 2012

And in what is probably the highest participation poll we've had here at CatholicSkywalker, we have the result of what the people said is the best movie of 2012:

The Avengers.

I completely respect this decision.  It is a movie that is better than the sum of its parts and it some of the most fun I've had in the theater this year.

Thank you to everyone who voted!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Forty-Eight Frames per Second

Last night I went to go see The Hobbit again, this time in the special 48-frames per second version.

For those unfamiliar, film gives the illusion of movement by put a series of still images in rapid succession, usually at 24 still frames per second.  When filming The Hobbit, director Peter Jackson increased the frame rate to capture the images at 48 frames per second.  The idea was to get a higher resolution image.

I have heard a lot of people describe their experience seeing this new version.  It has generally been a polar spit: you either loved it or hated it.

And I am here to tell you that I loved it!

The best approximation I have is to imagine watching a Blu-ray movie on a 1080 HD tv.  There is a lack of blurring in this format that makes your brain think that you are watching video, like on the local news or on a soap opera, instead of film.  And since we know that video has less quality than film, some people felt like the quality of the visuals was diminished.

I found the trick is that since your brain (or at least my brain) automatically makes this lower resolution association, you actually have to consciously tell your brain that what you are watching is higher quality (much like the guy in the video above suggests).  Scan the screen to pick out the thick textures and rich colors.  There is an added tangibility to this format.

You should also prepare yourself for the difference in movement.  For the first few minutes, it felt like the characters were sped up as the walked around the screen.  At first this was jarring.  But after 5 minutes, this disappears.  In fact, half-way through the film I tried to notice the jerkiness of movement and I could not.  My eyes adapted

When I first saw The Hobbit, I thought the CG characters felt flat.  In 48fps, they come alive.  It is the most photo-realistic computer graphics I have ever seen.  This is the way 3-D should be seen.

I used to say that Avatar was the best 3-D I have ever seen.  The Hobbit if 48fps blows that out of the water.  I audibly whispered "wow," several times while watching.  I am now only going to see the other 2 Hobbit movies in this format.

Thank you, Peter Jackson.