Friday, March 31, 2017

Trailer Time: Justice League Trailer 1


Okay, let's talk about the Justice League trailer.

As you can imagine, I have some thoughts.

-What has surprised me is the overwhelming positive reaction to the trailer.  Considering the venom that was spewed on Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, I was happy to see people being genuinely excited for this movie.

-Love the remix of the Beatles "Come Together.  It is very much in keeping with Zack Snyder's aesthetic.

-This felt much more like a teaser than a trailer.  We get a sense of the world and tone and characters, but not the overall story.

-I think I would have preferred Cyborg to be more practical makeup and costume than CGI.  But I will wait to see it in a greater context.

-I am still not sold completely on Ezra Miller as Barry Allen.  I think he will be fine, but I need to see more.

-I understand the absence of Superman from the trailers, but I don't think it will really feel like a Justice League movie until I see him.

-I am really excited to see this movie!


Friday, March 17, 2017

Temporary Blog Pause

Hello all,

I will be taking a brief blogging pause.

Don't worry, not long, just a few weeks.

In these past weeks in the weeks to come things will be very busy.

We had death in the family and the funeral is in the next few days.

And not that this compares to the above statement, but I am directing a musical that opens next week.  And we are planning the final month of filming for our film project.  And the academic quarter ends on Tuesday.

There just happens to be a perfect storm of things that make blogging a bit difficult.

This is will not be a long hiatus, dear reader. (God willing)

I shall return soon.


Monday, March 13, 2017

New Evangelizers Post: Have a Chestertonian Marriage

I have a new article up at  

I have to say that in the last few years I have become more and more enamored of GK Chesterton.  I have been pulled into his orbit (and given his size he has a significant gravitational pull).  My thanks to The Bishops for this introduction to him.

A few years ago, a former student invited me to lunch. He was discerning the married life and he wanted my advice as a married man. I was shy to give it. It is not because I have a bad marriage. I have an awesome marriage. I had some reluctance because as wonderful as my marriage is, I really don’t take any credit for it.

I married someone who is in every way my better.  She brought to our relationship all of the virtues that people tell us that they see in us. I have hitched my wagon to her star. So in terms of advice, there is little I can give, except maybe this:

Have a Chestertonian marriage.

GK Chesterton is a mountain among men, not only in intellect and spirituality, but in stature.  Chesterton’s writings are filled with irony, paradox, and delight.  As a young man he dabbled in  until he met Frances Blogg, whom he married in 1901.

In his letter to her in which he proposed marriage, his last paragraph began (speaking of himself in the third person) But there are four lamps of thanksgiving always before him. “  I shall now go through each of these four lamps of thanksgiving as Chesterton’s model for marriage.

“The first is for his creation out of the same earth with such a woman as you.“  

Chesterton understood his unworthiness before his wife.  My brother and I were both gymnasts, though I blush to use that term in reference to myself.  Compared to his Olympian skills, I was a sad sack of flesh and bones tossing myself across gym.  And when I look at my wife, I can hardly believe that we are made of the same stuff.  If humans are made of earth, then I must be mud and she gold.   

We must, of course, avoid an idealism that is out of contact with reality.  My wife would be the first to say that she is a woman who struggles with faults and sins like any other.  But when choosing a spouse, it should be someone who makes you better.  Or at least you can see a way that the two of you together could become better.  Frances made GK a better man, and I am sure she would say that GK made her a better woman.  But the realization of unworthiness must be placed before us.

This is not a false humility that berates the value of the self.  But it is a check against selfishness.  Perhaps you, dear reader, are made of more moral strength than those like me.  But even with my wonderful wife, I struggle against feelings of selfish desire, seeking my needs over her own.  One thing that helps keep this in check is the constant realization that she outclasses me in love and holiness and it would be shameful of me to think of her less.

“The second is that he has not, with all his faults, ‘gone after strange women.’ You cannot think how a man’s self restraint is rewarded in this.“

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Best: Anti-Populist Academy Awards

I know I have made this point a lot, but the Academy Awards keeps shooting itself in the foot with their insistence on its anti-populism.

Again, the popular film isn't always the best.  But the Academy appears to have an aversion to things that are popular among the movie-going audience.

Allow me to demonstrate.  Here is an analysis of the Top Grossing Films by year for the 2000's, along with the rank of the highest grossing non-animated, non-franchise film and the ranking of The winner of the Best Picture Oscar:

Top Grossing FilmNon-Franchise/Non Animated Top GrosserGross Rank of "Best Picture
1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas2. Cast Away4. Gladiator
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone7. Pearl Harbor11. A Beautiful Mind
1. Spider-Man 5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding10. Chicago
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King7. Elf1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
1. Shrek 23. The Passion of the Christ24. Million Dollar Baby
1. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith4. War of the Worlds49. Crash
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest10. The Pursuit of Happyness15. Departed
1. Spider-Man 36. I am Legend36. No Country For Old Men
1. The Dark Knight12. Gran Torino (Hancock (#4 in gross) is technically not a franchise film, but it was intended to be).16. Slumdog Millionaire
1. Avatar8. The Blind Side116. The Hurt Locker
1. Toy Story 36. Inception18. King's Speech
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 213. The Help71. The Artist
1. The Avengers13. Lincoln22. Argo
1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire6. Gravity62. 12 Years a Slave
1. American Sniper1. American Sniper78. Birdman
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens8. The Martian62. Spotlight
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Stor14. Hidden Figures95. Moonlight

You can see the breakdown like this:

Only The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the highest grossing film of the year to win Best Picture.  

Notice too how erratic the grosses are for Best Picture.  The Academy seems to have a hard time giving an Oscar to a semi popular movie.  After 2003, every time a relatively popular film wins an Oscar, the Academy goes out of its way to choose an obscure film.    Look at the swing between Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, and The King's Speech.  And if you notice the trend since 2012, the Academy is moving further and further away from popular films.

But even if you controlled for non-franchise, non-animated films, the Academy is not in step with the movie-going public.  Granted, most of the films in this category were nominated for Oscars, but they rarely won.  Even if the Academy decided eliminate every franchise or animated film from Best Picture contention, they are still incredibly far apart from their audience.  

What does this mean?

The Academy voters want to tell us what is good.  But I tend to trust the movie-going public more.  But I think it goes beyond that.  Look at the themes in the non-franchise, non-sequel films:

2. Cast AwayHold on to hope
7. Pearl HarborPatriotism and friendship
5. My Big Fat Greek WeddingFamily and Marriage
7. ElfFamily and Christmas spirit
3. The Passion of the ChristThe Love of God
4. War of the WorldsProtectiveness of Fathers
10. The Pursuit of HappynessProtectiveness of Fathers
6. I am LegendFaith and self-sacrifice
12. Gran Torino (Hancock (#4 in gross) is technically not a franchise film, but it was intended to be).Caring for others who are different and self-sacrifice
8. The Blind SideFamily and racial unity
6. InceptionThe nature of dreams
13. The HelpHuman dignity and racial justice
13. LincolnHuman dignity and leadership
6. GravitySurvival and faith
1. American SniperPatriotism and courage
8. The MartianInnovation and courage
14. Hidden Figuresinnovation and racial justice
For the Oscar winners its this:

4. GladiatorStrength and Honor
11. A Beautiful MindLove overcomes all challenges
10. ChicagoFame corrupts
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingCourage and Goodness against evil
24. Million Dollar BabyHandicapped life isn't worth living
49. CrashEveryone is racist
15. DepartedLife is unjust
36. No Country For Old MenWe're all going to die
16. Slumdog MillionaireLife is all connected
116. The Hurt LockerWar is a drug
18. King's SpeechWe can overcome our handicaps
71. The ArtistAdapt or die
22. ArgoCourage and creative movie-making
62. 12 Years a Slavecourage and endurance
78. BirdmanArt is better than life
62. SpotlightCorruption in the Church
95. MoonlightRacial and orientation injustice.

Now my interpretations of the theme are debatable.  But for the most part, there is a higher appeal to traditional values in the first list as opposed to the last list.  

I believe the Academy is not only trying to sell us on style, but on theme.  The reason why is that themes deal with the transcendent part of the story and those are the places that truly affect our world-view.  I believe that as the years have gone on, the Academy is less interested in reflecting the themes that truly are universal to all humans and instead focus on trying to push new and innovative themes.

This is a mistake for several reasons.  But the primary reason is this:  truth always wins out.

If art is not touching on something truly transcendent and universal, then it is too much tied to the zeitgeist.  And when that happens, it becomes quickly out of fashion.

Be honest, in the last 10 years, from which list of films are you going to find movies that are still relevant?  And from which list will we find movie that will be relevant in 30 years?

The Academy voters need to stop thinking only of the moment but of the film's place in the pantheon of great films.  To horribly repurpose and paraphrase a quote about Shakespeare, great movies should not be for only their time, but for all time.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Wednesday Comics - Justice League vs. Suicide Squad Review

I have been asked to write for

For my first article I wrote a review for the recent Justice League vs. Suicide Squad mini-series.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is a comic book mini-series done right.
I approached this event with a bit of trepidation.  With a Suicide Squad movie this last summer and a Justice League film coming soon, there was a part of me that suspected that this was a cynical, synergistic cash grab.
But I was very happy to be wrong.
In the story, the Justice League, the premiere pantheon of heroes in the DC universe, decides that they have had enough of Amanda Waller and her Suicide Squad, a group of imprisoned super villains who go on difficult missions in exchange for reduced prison sentences.  Waller uses them to do Black Ops throughout the world, especially on missions that are ethically dubious.
Here are a list of 7 things that Justice League vs. Suicide Squad does right:

You can read the whole article here

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Evangelizers Post: Jane Roe on the Damascus Road

I have a new article up at  

In 1973, Norma McCorvey sued District Attorney of Dallas County Henry Wade over her desire to abort her unborn child.  Given the pseudonym “Jane Roe,” the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.  The result has been a holocaust of tens of millions of unborn babies murdered legally in the US.

On February 18th, 2017, Norma McCorvey died of heart failure.  

And I have little doubt that she is destined for glory in Heaven.

To be sure, she was the impetus for all of the horrors of legalized abortion in our country.  It can be argued that if it wasn’t her, another woman would have been “Jane Roe.”  But regardless, McCorvey  was the one.  

In her personal life, she also has many struggles.  She had an alcoholic mother and became a juvenile delinquent, often becoming a ward of the state.  She married her husband Woody McCorvey when she was 16 and divorced him soon after he allegedly assaulted her.  She also began to abuse alcohol like her mother and started a long time lesbian affair with a woman named Connie Gonzales.  

After the landmark case making abortion legal, she became an abortion advocate and worked in the clinics.

All of this factually accurate portrays a life far away from God’s plan for us.

Norma never ended up having the abortion that she sued for the right to have.  Instead, her daughter was born and placed for adoption.  I remember when I was a kid seeing a news report about how McCorvey wanted to find that child and reunite with her.  I am ashamed to say that in my lack of charity I thought, “No way!  She didn’t even want the kid so she has no right to have any relationship with the girl she tried to murder!”

I wonder how many people treated McCorvey with the same hard-heartedness that I expressed?  I pray very few. Because we must never forget that every human being is the stuff out of which saints are made.

Oscar Wilde once said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”  

Not only is this true of McCorvey but also one of the most important men in all of Christianity: St. Paul.
You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Best: Oscar Results 2017

So, how about those Oscars?

Here, once again were my predictions:

I wrote last week:

"I am going a little rogue here and predicting that Lion will win Best Picture.  This goes against all the other awards shows, but I am using the best model that predicted last year's Best Picture winner Spotlight that upset against The Revenant (two movie few people really care about anymore anyway, just saying).  And based on those predictors, Lion has the edge over La La Land.  I am going way out on a limb here and will probably be wrong, but I'll take the shot."

-it turns out I was correct about the upset, but wrong about the winning movie.  The insiders are saying that La La Land peaked too early with voters and was not the most talked-about movie when the time came to vote.  I have not seen Moonlight, but I get the feeling no one is going to care or remember the winner in a few years.

I wrote last week:

"Again, most of the trends are going to Casey Affleck, but since Denzel won the SAG award, I think he is going to get most of the actor votes."

-I missed this one.  I haven't seen either film, but Denzel did not look happy as Casey was getting his award.

I wrote last week:

"This should go to Arrival, but it is going to go to Moonlight.  For some reason, Moonlight was considered an Original Screenplay with the Writers Guild of America, but it is an Adapted Screenplay for the Oscars."

-I called this one.  Again, I haven't seen Moonlight, but Arrival had such a well-crafted screenplay that I cannot help feel still disappointed that I was correct.

I wrote last week:

"This will be Emma Stone's night.  Gosling will not win Best Actor.  And if I am right about Best Picture, La La Land will not be Best Picture.  So Stone will be the most recognizable winner for their film.  This gives me someone to root for because she was my pick for Best Actress for the Kal-El Awards.  I'm hoping the Academy finally gets one right."

-And they did.  Stone was fantastic.  

"La La Land will win all of the design and technical awards for which it is nominated.  It does a fine job in all of its categories, but it will overpower any of the better nominees."


"Of all the nominated films in the major categories, Hacksaw Ridge is the best that I have seen.  And while Mel Gibson has the Hollywood door open to him, his overtly spiritual and patriotic themes will not play well with voters."

-I was wrong that La La Land would win ALL of the technical awards.  It came out on top for things like direction, cinematography, and production design.  But Hacksaw Ridge won some well deserved technical awards.  

I wrote last week:

"If the previous award shows are any indication, the winners (except for Denzel) are going to use their platform to speak about politics.  This will make for a long and uncomfortable night.  I predict at least 10 President Trump jokes in the opening monologue alone.  This is why I miss Billy Crystal as host: he kept the show light and fun even when it became slow and bogged down."

-For the most part I was correct.

Other thoughts:

-Once again, the ratings were down.  This has everything to do with the movies nominated.  As I wrote when the nominations and their box office rankings:

"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.)"

Since then, only La La Land and Arrival have crossed the $100 million mark.  Moonlight still isn't even in the top 100 box office earners of the year.  That means more people saw Bridget Jones' Baby than saw what is supposed to be the best movie of the year!

-Jimmy Kimmel did a decent job as host.  I liked how he tried to step in and take the blame on stage for the Best Picture debacle in order to cover Warren Beatty.

-Speaking of that, it was just embarrassing and painful to watch.  I get the feeling that if the production team for La La Land is ever nominated in this category again, they will pull a strong sympathy vote for Best Picture, regardless of the movie's quality.

-I am torn about the tour bus stunt.  I imagine if I was on the bus and got to see the Oscars and I think I would be thrilled too.  But it also had, as one commentator put it, a "Bring in the dirty peasants for our amusement" vibe.  Also, these people didn't ask to be famous and have their dirty laundry aired all over the internet as has been done to some of those on the bus.

But now the moment you've all been waiting for:


I ended up in the middle of the pack with 15 points.

But this year, we have a TIE for winner:

With a score of 22 points, our winners are:

Undefeated Champion Nicole Koubek
and New Champion Danny Newman

Congratulations to both of you.  You will receive a prize in the coming months.

So, what are your thoughts on the Oscars?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Film Flash: Logan

Logan 2017 poster.jpg

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

Bloody, visceral, intense, meditative, and heart-breaking.  Unlike any Superhero movie.  Logan is a triumph.

4.5 out of 5 stars  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tenth Leper Challenge (repost for Ash Wednesday)

A couple of years ago, I wrote this piece for New Evangelizers.  I found the experience to be very rewarding, so I thought I would share it with you again on this Ash Wednesday!

I apologize in advance if someone wiser than I has already come up with this idea and in my ignorance I have now aped someone’s originality.  

But a number of years ago, I was introduced to an activity called an “Affirmation Circle.”  What happens is that people gather in a circle and one person is chosen.  Then everyone in the circle goes around and says at least one thing they like, admire, or generally think is good about that person.  The person chosen can only respond, “Thank you.”

I don’t know about you, but I tend not to be a big fan of these touchy-feely exercises.  My patience for them is limited.  But despite that, I have witnessed the power of this activity. 
We often only hear or allow ourselves to hear the negative things about ourselves. 

 Sometimes we not only have to face our fears, but we have to face our hopes.  It is amazing to me how some people never recognized the good effect they are having on others.  When I participated, I learned things, surprisingly good things, about myself.
Giving thanks is an essential part of who we are as Christians.  I always think of the tenth leper who Jesus healed:
 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee.  As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”  And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”  (Luke 17:11-19)
I cannot tell you how often I go through my life like the other nine lepers, having momentary gratitude and then moving on and forgetting the amazing gifts given to me.
But I don’t want to be that anymore.

So I would invite all of you to join me in The Tenth Leper Lenten Challenge.

You can read the entire article here.