Monday, January 30, 2017

New Evangelizers Post: Why Can’t I Overcome My Sin?

I have a new article up at  
One of the most frustrating and depressing things that many Christians experience is the problem of persistent sin. There are those of us who live sinful lives and then have a miraculous encounter with Christ and leave those sins behind. But there are many of us who begin a relationship with the Lord and find ourselves still in the thralls of a habitual sin.

For some of us, we want to stop gossiping, but we can’t. For others, we find ourselves in the thrall of drugs or alcohol. Or maybe we constantly give in to our tempers at the slightest provocation. And in this technologically advanced age, many are habitually chained to the sin of pornography.

The guilt that we feel over these sins is real and it is made all the worse by the constant pricking of our conscience.  We know what is right and we still continue to fall into this sin. And we pray and pray, but we don’t seem to be making any real progress.

But couldn’t God deliver me from this sin? Isn’t it within his power?

I remember reading in St. Faustina’s diary that the Blessed Mother appeared to her and presented her with a mystical golden sash that, when worn, would remove from her all temptations of lust. I remember being a young man and reading that thinking, “Why can’t I get one of those?”

And yet many of us keep waiting to turn the corner and find that one final piece of enlightenment that will place everything into place and we can finally put our sins behind us for good. But that day never seems to come.

So why does God let me persist in my sin?

Maybe God is allowing your sin to persist for a reason.

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Best: Oscar Nominees and Oscar Game 2017

So the nominees were announced this past week for the 89th Academy Awards.

These awards remain the most prestigious in film.  And while many of you, dear readers, are of the opinion that all awards shows are terrible and should simply be shunned, it is my perpetual hope that Hollywood will reform itself and once again nominate movies that matter.

For example, here are the top 10 grossing films of the year:

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2. Finding Dory
3. Captain America: Civil War
4.  The Secret Lives of Pets
5. The Jungle Book
6.  Deadpool
7.  Zootopia
8.  Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
9.  Suicide Squad
10.  Sing

And if you exclude G-Rated children's films from the list, it would also include Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Doctor Strange, Jason Bourne, and Star Trek Beyond.

Keep in mind that I have always maintained that box office alone is not a statement about a film's quality.  My own top ten of the year include:

1.  Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
2. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
3. Hacksaw Ridge
4. Captain America Civil War
5. Kung Fu
6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
7.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
8.  The Accountant
9.  Arrival
10. Finding Dory

While I am in the minority regarding my love of the movie I think was the best picture, more than half of the ones on my list are in the top ten box office.

This year's Oscars for Best Picture?  Where do they rank?

29.  "Arrival"
65.  "Fences"
47.  "Hacksaw Ridge"
92. "Hell or High Water"
31. "Hidden Figures"
27. "La La Land"
111. "Lion"
75.  "Manchester by the Sea"
115. "Moonlight"
Not a single one is from the top ten of the year and none of them (as of now) have made over $100 million.  

This tells me 2 things:

1.  This will once again be an incredibly low-rated Oscars.  The majority of movie goers do not have a dog in this fight.  Apathy is not a big ratings draw.

2.  The winner will be insignificant.  No one will really care about the winner in a few months.  The Oscars used to be about timeless movies.  But in the last decades they are about the film industry patting itself on the back for either being incredibly clever or send the "right" message.  Spotlight, Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist... Are these all films people will still be watching in 10 years?  (Of this list, I would favor Argo, which was an excellent movie.  But Lincoln is the more timeless film of that year.)

So below are my thoughts on some (not all) of this year's nominees.  

And make sure you scroll to the bottom if you would like to participate in this year's Oscar Game!

Performance by an actor in a leading role
    Casey Affleck in "Manchester by the Sea"
      Andrew Garfield in "Hacksaw Ridge"
      Ryan Gosling in "La La Land"
      Viggo Mortensen in "Captain Fantastic"
      Denzel Washington in "Fences"

      -I've only seen Garfield's and Gosling's movies.  And while Garfield showed more emotional range, Gosling's naturalness and charisma wins me over.  But this year it will probably go to Affleck.

      Performance by an actor in a supporting role
      Mahershala Ali in "Moonlight"
      Jeff Bridges in "Hell or High Water"
      Lucas Hedges in "Manchester by the Sea"
      Dev Patel in "Lion"
      Michael Shannon in "Nocturnal Animals"

      -Did not see any of the these, but lets just go with Dev Patel as a prediction.

      Performance by an actress in a leading role
      Isabelle Huppert in "Elle"
      Ruth Negga in "Loving"
      Natalie Portman in "Jackie"
      Emma Stone in "La La Land"
      Meryl Streep in "Florence Foster Jenkins"

      -I only saw Stone's performance, but I think this might also be her year.  This is especially true if La La Land sweeps its categories.  Of course Hollywood my reward Streep for her anti-Trump speech at the Globes.

      Performance by an actress in a supporting role
      Viola Davis in "Fences"
      Naomie Harris in "Moonlight"
      Nicole Kidman in "Lion"
      Octavia Spencer in "Hidden Figures"
      Michelle Williams in "Manchester by the Sea"

      -Again, didn't see any of these.  Williams might be due, but Davis is a fantastic actress (a 2 time Kal-El winner).

      Best animated feature film of the year
      "Kubo and the Two Strings"
      "My Life as a Zucchini"
      "The Red Turtle"

      -I've heard great things about Kubo, but none of these nominees have me truly excited as in years past.

      Achievement in cinematography
      "La La Land"

      -both Arrival and La La Land were gorgeously shot, but for its use of color, I'd have to give it to La La Land.

      Achievement in directing
      "Arrival" - Denis Villeneuve
      "Hacksaw Ridge" - Mel Gibson
      "La La Land" - Damien Chazelle
      "Manchester by the Sea" - Kenneth Lonergan
      "Moonlight" - Barry Jenkins

      Villeneuve had a unique voice and Chazelle created bright, beautiful spectacles.  But I have to give it to Gibson here.  His work on Hacksaw Ridge is powerful (though Chazelle will probably win).

      Achievement in film editing
      "Hacksaw Ridge"
      "Hell or High Water"
      "La La Land"

      -This is actually a tough call for me because each film I saw did some wonderfully different things with their editing.  Arrival created great time distortions for awesome emotional impact.  Hacksaw Ridge cut the battle scenes for maximum effectiveness.  And La La Land cut the films with a toe-tapping rhythm.  If I had to choose I think  I would go with Arrival, but again La La Land will probably win.

      Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
      "La La Land"

      -La La Land.  No question.

      Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
      "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" from "La La Land"
      "Can't Stop The Feeling" from "Trolls"
      "City Of Stars" from "La La Land"
      "The Empty Chair" from "Jim: The James Foley Story"
      "How Far I'll Go" from "Moana"

      -Again, La La Land.
      Best motion picture of the year
      "Hacksaw Ridge"
      "Hell or High Water"
      "Hidden Figures"
      "La La Land"
      "Manchester by the Sea"

      -Of the ones I have seen, I would give it to Hacksaw Ridge.  Mel Gibson made one of the best war movies in years that was beautifully shot and thematically strong.  A harrowing tale of faith and courage.  (But it won't win)

      Achievement in visual effects
      "Deepwater Horizon"
      "Doctor Strange"
      "The Jungle Book"
      "Kubo and the Two Strings"
      "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" 

      -While I give the edge to Rogue One, The Jungle Book had some amazing CGI and it was filmed in LA, which might be a big deal to voters.
      Adapted screenplay
      "Hidden Figures"

      -I only saw Arrival, it was very good.
      Original screenplay
      "Hell or High Water"
      "La La Land"
      "The Lobster"
      "Manchester by the Sea"
      "20th Century Women"

      -Only saw La La Land.

      So now, if you've read this far, I would like to invite you to participate in the CatholicSkywalker 2017 Oscar Game.

      OBJECT: Get the most points!

      HOW TO PLAY:  Fill out a score sheet for each category with your choice (who you want to win) and your prediction (who you think WILL win).  


      1.  MAJOR AWARDS
      -Best Picture
      -Best Director
      -Best Actor
      -Best Actress
      -Best Supporting Actor
      -Best Supporting Actress
      -Best Original Screenplay
      -Best Adapted Screenplay
      -Best Original Score
      -Best Original Song
      -Best Animate Feature

      On the night of the Oscars, give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.  If you get a prediction wrong, subtract 1 point.  Give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY CHOICE.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY CHOICE.

      For example:

      -MY CHOICE = Mel Gibson, "Hacksaw Ridge"
      -MY PREDICTION = Damian Chazelle, "La La Land"

      -MY CHOICE =Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
      -MY PREDICTION = Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”

      -MY CHOICE = Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
      -MY PREDICTION = Natalie Portman, “Jackie”

      If Damian Chazelle Best Director, gain 1 point for a correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS, but no points for an incorrect MY CHOICE  (total points = 1)

      If Ryan Gosling wins Best Actor, gain 1 point, for a correct MY CHOICE, but subtract 1 point for an incorrect MY PREDICTION (total points = 0)

      If Natalie Portman wins Best Actress, gain 1 points for correct MY CHOICE and 1 correct MY PREDICTION.  (total points =2)

      You may NOT make a guess for a MY CHOICE in a category if you have not seen any of the films in the category.  You may, however, make a blind guess for the MY PREDICTION section even if you have not seen any of the nominees.

      -Best Editing
      -Best Cinematography
      -Best Visual Effects
      -Best Sound Editing
      -Best Sound Mixing
      -Best Makeup
      -Best Costumes
      -Best Production Design

      For these, give yourself 1 point for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.   Give yourself 1 points each correct guess in MY CHOICE.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY PREDICTIONS or MY CHOICE.

      3.  MINOR AWARDS
      -Best Documentary Feature
      -Best Documentary Short
      -Best Animated Short
      -Best Live Action Short
      -Best Foreign Language Film

      For these, give yourself half of a point (0.5) for each correct guess in MY PREDICTIONS.   Since so few people have seen these, there is no MY CHOICE section.  There is no penalty for incorrect guesses for MY PREDICTIONS.


      Fill out the below score sheet in the link below.  I will be the designated score-keeper.  You may change any choice up until the broadcast begins.

      The winner will receive bragging rights and recognition on this blog.


      Thursday, January 26, 2017

      Film Flash: Patriots Day

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

      Director Peter Berg completely redeems himself for making Battleship.  Tense, taut ensemble drama. Wahlberg's excellent.

      4 out of 5 stars

      Monday, January 23, 2017

      Star Wars Episode VIII Title Revealed revealed the new title for the next installment of the Star Wars Saga...


      This gives me chills.  It is certainly incredibly ominous.  It reminds me of the pattern of moving from dark to light as A New Hope went to The Empire Strikes Back, now The Force Awakens goes to The Last Jedi.

      It also conjures for me the line from Yoda in Return of the Jedi, "When gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be."  I remember doing the one day 6-movie marathon and that this line carried with it a lot more weight when you see the utter decimation of the Jedi.

      Is this title referring to Luke being the Last Jedi?

      Or is it hinting at his ultimate fate?

      Or since Jedi can be plural, does it refer to him and Rey and maybe others?

      Luke Skywalker might be my favorite fictional character of all time, (probably a no-brainer given the title of my blog), so I am heavily emotionally invested in this title.


      Sunday, January 22, 2017

      Sunday Best: Top 25 Superhero Movies of All Time #17 - Batman (1989)

      Batman (1989) theatrical poster.jpg
      "Have you ever danced with the Devil by the pale moonlight?"

      It is difficult to fully express how important Batman is to the relationship between comic books and movies.

      While there had been other impactful superhero films like Richard Donner's Superman, most of the time, the comic book properties were treated with childish camp.  And to be sure, there is a great deal of camp in Tim Burton's vision.  But for the first time it felt like films were taking their cues directly from the comics.

      I had just started reading comic books in 1988.  Burton's movie came out a year later.  And it came out 3 years after the dark re-imagining of him in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.  But I remember being blown away by the all black costume.  It didn't look like the comic book version of the character, but it felt like it was.

      A lot has been said about the darkness of the film.  And as you can read from the above, it is something which factors heavily into the feel of the movie.  Burton jettisoned the bright pastels and daylight adventures of the 1960's TV show.  Here was a Batman that felt like he melted out of the shadows to prey on the fears of criminals.  This movie is mostly about tones.  Burton is less interested in telling a grounded story as he is immersing you in a unique aesthetic.  He wants you to feel transported.

      Batman also does an incredible job of world-building.  The retro-40's look gives the movie such a distinct flavor that it feels nostalgic and new at the same time.  By mixing the classic with the modern, Burton unsticks his movie from any particular decade or era.

      Stan Lee (of all people) pointed out something very important about the movie that I've never been able to overlook since.

      Batman is not a Batman movie; it is a Joker movie.

      Bruce Wayne is an enigma, an object of mystery, especially in the first act.  On the other side, Jack, soon to be Joker, is given a series of obstacles, motivations, and dangerous relationships.  This is not necessarily a flaw, but it is does lead to the problem down the line of villain overload in later superhero films.  While great villains are important, they are there to show the hero's journey and not vice-versa.

      And the performances are excellent.  Nicholson gets most of the notoriety because of his showy take on the Clown Prince of Crime.  And the actor chews up as much scenery as possible without it feeling out of place for his character's insanity.  But people should not overlook Michael Keaton's seminal performance.  It should be remembered that his most famous works to date were Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice.  Many have noted that if the internet had been prevalent in that day, there would have been a huge online backlash to his casting.  But Keaton does some great things with the character.

      It was Keaton's idea to give him the lower-registered voice that has become standard in our portrayals of the Dark Knight.  He gave him his cool and distant demeanor.  Watch Keaton's performance when he is not playing "Bruce Wayne" and he is simply inhabiting Bruce's world.  He is stoic and restrained.  And he came up with the iconic line, "I'm Batman."  The only time Keaton breaks from this is in the confrontation with the Joker in Vicki Vale's apartment where he falls back into Beetlejuice voice.  Kim Bassinger, Michael Gough, Robert Wohl, Pat Hingle, and Jack Palance also do a good job.  It is a shame that both Vicky Vale and Alexander Knox were jettisoned from the following films.

      And while it breaks with comic book canon, having the Joker be the one who kills Bruce's parents creates a strong personal, primal dynamic to the relationship.

      And Danny Elfman's score cannot be overlooked.  His themes may not be as iconic as John Williams' take on Superman, but hearing them immediately conjures a very specific feel that was carried over into the animated series.

      The movie does have its share of flaws.  The biggest is that Batman is a killer.  Like Batman vs. Superman, this movie does not understand that fundamental aspect of his character and how that is his most important rule: the protection of life.  The other is that despite its dark tones, the movie lends itself to a kind of camp that too easily slides into stupidity.  Luckily this film is able to hold the line, but you can see how quickly that slippery slope led to the devolution of the franchise in subsequent Batman films.

      But despite these future failings, the original Batman still holds up incredibly well today.  And that is why it deserves its place in the greatest superhero movies of all time.

      Wednesday, January 18, 2017

      New Evangelizers Post: The 10 Commandments in the Modern World Part 5 – Do Not Kill

      I have a new article up at  
      When it comes to this commandments, most people think of themselves as scot free regarding the fifth.
      “I never killed anyone!”

      And to be sure most of us (I pray) are not murderers.

      But this commandment goes beyond the mere act of killing. Yes, most of us will not willfully take an innocent human life. And a lot of ink has already been spilled on issues of abortion and euthanasia. These are incredibly pressing and important topics, but I would like to spend time on something a little closer to home.

      But do we kill people with our anger?

      Let me be clear, there is nothing sinful about anger speaking purely about it as an emotional reaction. We may not have control over our immediate emotional response. If someone steps on our toes or cuts us off in traffic, we may feel the made flush of anger rise up in us. This is not a sin, it is only a feeling.

      And to go further, not all anger is bad. Jesus never sinned. But if you look at the Gospels, Jesus got angry quite a lot. Anger at sin and injustice can be a positive force that can fuel the fire for positive change in the world. Abolitionists were angry about the dehumanization of slavery. Pro-lifers are angry about the murder of the unborn.

      CS Lewis wrote, “Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery We ought to hate them… But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry the man should have done such things, and hoping… he can be cured and made human again.” (Mere Christianity Book III, Ch. 7, Paragraph 6)

      You can read the entire article here.

      Tuesday, January 17, 2017

      Film Review: Passengers

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

      Passengers is a good movie that could be great with a little more attention paid to the third act.

      The story revolves around a very high-concept sci-fi premise:  Earth is colonizing planets outside of the solar system.  In order to get there, people go into hypersleep for the nearly more-than-century-long trip.  Due to an accident, Jim Preston's sleep pod malfunctions and he wakes up more than 80 years too soon and cannot go back to hibernation.  As a result he is alone on the ship, the Avalon, with only the robotic bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen) to keep him company.  Even as he breaks into most of the amenities that the Avalon has to offer, the isolation starts driving Jim insane.  Things change when Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up.  Together they explore this isolated life together as things begin to go even more horribly wrong.

      The movie's concept is excellent and it explores the ideas of human loneliness even with every technological comfort.  I couldn't help but make the connection to the modern world where we get better at interacting with technology but have an increasing sense of isolation.

      The design of the film is also beautiful. Director Mortum Tyldum does a wonderful job of making the Avalon a spectacle to behold.  And the outerspace scenes are made with the appropriate balance of terror and wonder.

      The production design also wisely makes this future not too distant from our own.  Everything things familiar enough so we are not lost yet fantastic enough to stimulate the imaginations.  And the use of special effects is not too showy but is very creative.  Watching gravity fail inside of a swimming pool was stunning to watch.

      The performances are also fantastic.  Pratt has to carry most of this film and it is probably his best performance to date.  Tyldum probably could have pushed him a little more, but the actor pulls off the lonely madness while still being sympathetic.  Lawrence also does a great job.  She is able to play all kinds of conflicting emotions all believably.

      A lot of ink has been spilled over what I call the movie's "original sin."  To adequately review this film, it is not possible to do so without getting into spoiler territory  So be warned:


      The main controversy of the film regards Jim and Aurora.  After a year of loneliness, Jim is suicidal.  But then when he sees Aurora's sleeping pod he reads up about her and in his mind he falls in love with her.  He then is tempted with the idea of waking her up.  If he does he will be able to spend his days with the one he has been pining for.  But in doing so, he would condemn her to death aboard the ship before reaching their destination.  Jim struggles for a long time about what to do, knowing it is wrong but being overwhelmed by temptation.  But in the end, he wakes her.

      While this is a deplorable act for our main character, the movie does an excellent job of showing that it is deplorable.  Jim knows what he has done, but once he chooses, it is irrevocable.  Tyldum films Pratt (who does a remarkable job with the layers here) in such a way that the weight of his choice is always present.

      But this does lead to a particularly problematic story dynamic:  the film wants us to be invested in this relationship.  But the circumstances of its genesis are so creepy that it becomes difficult.  This is not an impossible task and movies like Ben Affleck's The Town do this incredibly effectively.  And for the most part, Passengers does get you to buy into this romance.  Lawrence and Pratt deserve a lot of credit for this because of their chemistry.

      And part of the tension is in whether or not the sin will be revealed.

      And here is also where the third act falls short.

      Because of the emotional complexity of the first two acts, the thirds act required a lot of nuance and delicacy to untangle these moral knots.  Instead, the third act is a series of contrivances that force our characters into extreme circumstances that only happen because the writer needed them to happen to get the ending that is desired.  This is a real shame because most of the story is about how each choice has a consequence.  But there is so much sheer coincidence in that third act that it can feel like a betrayal of the early sophistication.

      The movie deals with a lot of deep moral questions regarding conscience, loneliness, sin, atonement, and forgiveness.  With the exception of unrepentant fornication, I would say that this is an excellent movie that you can use to explore moral issues in the human condition.

      Your satisfaction with the movie will probably rely on whether or not you believe that Jim has sufficiently atoned for his sin or not.  That is the key to making the movie work.  If you don't believe that Jim has "earned" his redemption and Aurora's love then you will think that the film is too pat and contrived.  On the other hand, if you think that even though he did something awful, mercy and forgiveness makes sense, then the movie will be satisfying.

      Passengers promises a much more sophisticated payoff than it gives.  Because of that, it's not great.  But even so it is still pretty good.

      4 out of 5 stars

      Monday, January 16, 2017

      Martin Luther King Day

      (originally posted 3 years ago)

      I just have a few random thoughts on the secular feast of Martin Luther King.

      As cliche as it sounds, I still marvel at his I Have A Dream speech.  It is a marvel of rhetoric and too many people have tried to imitate with its lofty rhetoric and his echoing voice.

      I have always held his principle of a Color Blind Society as the true end goal of the Civil Rights Movement.  Anything which seeks to sub-divide us by race is antithetical to the American Dream.

      My father began working with American doctors at Clarke Air Base in the Philippines.  I once asked him at dinner if he ever experienced racism from the white doctors there.  He he gave a little shrug and said "Sure," and then continued eating.  When I asked him how he handled it, he said, "I worked harder than anyone to be the best doctor there so that they knew to respect me."

      To me, that is best way to fight back against racial bigots.  Success is the best victory.  But that only comes with hard work and perseverance.  My dad had no chip on his shoulder over ill treatment.  He figured you're going to get stupid people in life.  The only thing to do is be excellent.

      On a lighter note, there is a reason beyond his importance that MLK is revered today as a secular saint. Ask any school child about him, and they will say that he is a great man.  How do children know this intuitively?  Because they get the day off of school because of him.

      Ask them who the greatest presidents are and they will say Washington and Lincoln?  They get a day off of school because of them too.

      You can imagine how important Jesus is: you get 3 weeks off because of Him.  He must have been great!

      Sunday, January 15, 2017

      Film Flash: Live By Night

      A man in a white suit, sitting a large brown armchair, pointing a gun.

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

      Surprisingly mediocre outing for director Affleck.  Like Godfather-lite.  Not bad/not great
      2.5 out of 5 stars

      Sunday Best: Golden Globes 2017 Results

      I was going to live-tweet the Golden Globes last Sunday like I have the past few years.  But to be honest, I couldn't bring myself to do it.

      Not only could I not find myself very excited about most of the nominees, I couldn't even bring myself to a sufficient level of anger to make sarcastic comments.  I had, for the most part, an emotionally nil reaction to the whole affair.  This is indifference is far worse than any negative reaction, because it means that the Golden Globes are sliding further and further into irrelevance (though I know many of you say they are already there).

      The best part of the evening was the opening number.  Having seen La La Land, I enjoyed the homage and loved seeing all of the celebrity cameos.

      But it was all downhill from there.

      To be honest, I'm having trouble even remembering who won in each category.  The most memorable thing about the night and all that most people are talking about is Meryl Streep's speech for accepting her lifetime achievement award.

      Speaking of Streep, and this following comment is not meant to be political in any way, I found it very odd that she took this opportunity to speak about Donald Trump.  She was receiving an award for a lifetime of work in the arts.  And instead of thanking the people who made her career possible or sharing anecdotes about her time as an actress, she focused all of her words against someone she despised.  And I did not understand her attack on the NFL and MMA.  I don't know what those sports organizations ever did to her so I found her denigrating of them baffling.

      If I had not seen La La Land, the only movie I would have seen that won an award last night was Zootopia.  And none of the TV shows I watch won anything.  Without a dog in the fight, why should I care?

      The Globes are sometimes a barometer for the Oscars.  That has been less and less of a factor, but La La Land is building steam and movies about movies tend to win Oscars.

      But otherwise, this awards season looks incredibly boring coming up.  That is why part of me is really hoping the dark hours campaign to get Deadpool an Oscar nomination for Best Picture comes through.  I don't believe that Deadpool will win or is even one of the best films of the year.  But that nomination would make the Oscars just a little more watchable.


      Sunday, January 8, 2017

      Sunday Worst: The Bizzaro Awards 2016

      My good friend the Doctor said that I should do a parallel list to my Kal-El Awards that reflect to worst in pop culture from the year.  He suggested that I call them the "Lenny Luthors" after the horrible Jon Cryer character from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.  The rational for choosing Lenny was that "he is terrible in every way that Superman is awesome."

      I liked the idea, but I thought instead of Lenny Luthor we would name the awards after the true opposite of Superman:


      Bizarro is the anti-Superman, literally.  He even maintains speech patterns that are the opposite of what he means.  "Good-bye, me am not Bizarro.  Me like you!  Live!"  said by Bizarro actually means "Hello, I am Bizarro.  I hate you! Die!"

      So since Superman is my mark of excellence.  Bizarro will be my mark of utter awfulness.   Unlike the Kal-El awards, these will be focused only on movies.  The reason is that serialized work like television and comics require a longer time commitment in order to understand the material.  You may have to watch a show or read a comic for several months before you discover if it is truly bad or good.  It took me a few episodes to understand the logic behind Vincent D'Onofrio's performance in Daredevil.  The investment of time and/or money also precludes a lot of unnecessary sampling, so my exposure to bad material is a bit less.

      With a movie, you can have a complete understanding of the product after 90-180 minutes

      There will be 2 new categories that I will add:

      -Worst TV Show I Stopped Watching
      -Worst TV Show I Still Watch

      In both of these cases I will be giving my critical condemnation of shows about which I have some significant experience and thus have a basis for calling them critical failures

      So now, here are the Bizarro Awards for movies this past year.  (based on the movies I have seen).


      Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

      Some movies are so bad that they get you angry, like last year's Bizzaro winner Terminator: Genisys.  But this is not the case with TMNT: OOTS.  The problem with this movie is that it so incredibly lame.  The first movie was not good and this was even worse.  Not only did the plot make absolutely no sense, but the movie was utterly boring.  The only reason I ended up seeing it is because I won it free in a contest.  The shame of it all is that the main concept has potential for hundreds of enduring stories.  And what resulted was something so empty that it feels amazingly wasteful.

      10. The Nice Guys
      9. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
      8. Bad Moms
      7.  Batman: The Killing Joke
      6.  Central Intelligence
      5.  The Secret Life of Pets
      4.  Ghostbusters
      3.  Shin Godzilla
      2.  Independence Day: Resurgence
      1.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.


      Forrest Whitaker - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

      When I reviewed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I wrote: "And when it comes to Whitaker's performance, I honestly cannot tell if it is great or awful.  His Saw Gerrera is so over-the-top that that he may have pushed past his outrageousness to a point of brilliance.  But I cannot make up my mind about it."  

      Well, I decided.  His performance is awful.  And what is the deciding factor is this: his performance is distracting.  A great performance casts a spell on you and draws you in.  But as I watched him, I kept trying to figure out why he was making these strange choices.  I never saw Saw Gerrera.  I only saw Forrest Whitaker trying to be weird.


      Megan Fox- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

      Empty.  That is how I feel about this movie and this actress.  There is nothing behind her exterior.  This performance is the film equivalent of a hollow chocolate bunny.  Everything that is interesting on the outside.  I don't mean this as a comment about her looks.  But her performance is all about unmotivated actionIn fact, I cannot even bring myself to get angry enough to be mad at her bad acting, because there is nothing there to attack.


      Paul Feig - Ghostubusters

      I wrote in my review for Ghostbusters: "The remake employs modern awkward humor, the type made popular in shows like The Office and Arrested Development.  Instead of using punchy, tight jokes in the dialogue which hit the punchline and then hop off to the next joke, Feig preferred to drag out the jokes and keep circling back to the central humorous anecdote, hoping that the awkwardness would increase the absurd humor.  This works incredibly well in the above mentioned TV shows.  It does not work at all well in Ghostbusters."

      And it was Feig's inability to understand his own subject that puts him on this list.  Feig is not without talent, but he doesn't grasp the core of what makes his own concept work.  His humor has also transformed into a weird smugness.  Some humor is broad and crude, but Feig's movies present the jokes and then you get the distinct impression that he looks down on you if you don't get it.


      Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

      Again, it is almost more fun to rage against a terrible film, but it disappointing to express nothing but vacant apathy on a story that is so hollow that it may as well be a donut.  There are literally hundreds of hours worth of stories that are better than the one presented here.  If they simply took the script from 4 random TMNT cartoons it would be better than this.



      I am grateful that didn't see anything this year that I found directly offensive to the faith.  The closest I saw was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but it was vague enough that I may have been projecting onto the film.  I'm sure there were some awful things out there in the movies (like X-Men villain Apocalypse telling us that he is the God of the Bible), but I didn't spend any money seeing them.


      Bad Moms

      From my review: "But the biggest problem with Bad Moms rests with the themes.  Movies like this need to follow a general structure in order to be satisfying

      1.  Get a sense of how stifling the character's world is at the beginning of the movie.
      2.  Enjoy the liberation the characters feel in rejecting their old life and responsibilities
      3.  Pull back from the reckless total rejection and find balance between the two.

      Bad Moms does one and two well, but they don't really get to the third.  I imagine there is something cathartic and satisfying parents, especially mothers, might feel in being able to complain about the foibles of their children while being understood that they lack no affection for them.  The second act is filled with these vent session and we are treated to the sense of freedom they have from the pressure to be perfect.  But instead of coming to a strong understanding that total irresponsibility is bad and so is expecting perfection, the movie embraces being a bad parent.  At the end of the movie there is a scene where several moms confess how they are bad.  But instead of it being a session to air contrition for their shortcomings, they all celebrate each others badness.

      On top of this, the movie takes a very dim view of marriage.  When Amy's husband wants to come back and reconcile, they try counseling, but the counselor (an unfunny Wanda Sykes) says that they should get divorced.  The movie tries to move you to root for Amy to leave her husband and hook up with Jesse.  And while I understand that marital infidelity may be a bridge to far for some couples to reconcile, the easy dissolution of this marriage speaks to how impermanent the filmmakers see it.  In fact, none of the marriages in the movie are happy.

      And it is any wonder that when the marriage are devoid of the love of God and the self donation that is a part of sacramental Christian marriage that the result would not only be bad marriages but bad dads.

      And Bad Moms."



      The first season of the show was fun and silly.  But the second season took a weird turn.  Suddenly it became horribly preachy and strangely political.  It portrayed people who opposed the abortion pill as insane.  And if you believe that men are men and women are women the show labeled you a bigot.  So rather than sit through another series that decided to punch me in the face on a weekly basis, I gave up.



      I stopped watching the first season of Supergirl about halfway through.  But I started up again when it came to the CW.

      The reason I still watch is because when the show works it is a lot of fun.  When it digs deep into its comic book roots and seeks to tell epic sci-fi stories that are open to a world of imagination, Supergirl is fun.

      But the show is bogged down in its constant virtue signaling.  Every week it cloyingly makes a ham-fisted attempt to teach us a message.  Whether or not I agree with that message is irrelevant.  When message-sending trumps storytelling, there is a real problem.

      Supergirl is redeemable.  The show wants to use it's sci-fi premise to talk about the real world.  It could take the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a model.  While the show landed on the same ethical side as Supergirl, Joss Whedon focused on telling the story first and let the moral flow from it naturally.  Take for example how both shows turned characters into lesbians.  On Buffy, Willow's relationship with Tara slowly became more intimate over the course of thirteen episodes.  Whedon took the time for the audience to follow Willow's journey on an emotional level (again I am not making a comment on the morality presented one way or another).  But on Supergirl, Kara's sister Alex meets a lesbian police officer and in two episodes the previously straight character has made a radical life change.  The show was more interested in making a statement than bringing the audience on a journey.