Posts Tagged ‘Brad Pitt’

Today is July 5.  You can charge me with waiting past the last minute if you like; but I prefer to think I prudently chose to wait for the holiday happenings to die down 🙂

john_adamsI’ll take this opportunity to return to one of my favorite films, the HBO miniseries “John Adams.”  Adams (Paul Giamatti), even before becoming part of the Continental C0ngress, frequently alludes to the “great men” of the past in his discourses as a lawyer.  His wife and dearest confidante, Abigail, warns him this makes him come across as pompous and erudite; he defends himself on these grounds: Men of various times and places have throughout the ages agreed on certain universal principles, and therefore their “witness” is important for his defenses.

brad-pitt-12-yearsThen there’s the Best Picture for 2013, Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.”  In the film, an itinerant abolitionist (Brad Pitt) confronts a tyrannic Louisiana plantation owner with the possibility that the laws of the state protecting his supposed right to own slaves just might not be enough.  He points out that the laws of times and places change, while “only universal truths abide.”

He adds: “What’s true and right is true and right for everybody, black and white alike.”

Media references aside, you can certainly go to the horse’s mouth and read the Declaration of Independence.  As much of an enigma as Thomas Jefferson was as a person, we can hardly accuse him of being a relativist when it came to  principles.

Far from suffocating people’s freedom and keeping them in thralldom, absolute truths are actually what liberate them.

Intimately related to absolute truth/principle is virtue, which pertains to the human ability to live up to the aforementioned high and noble principles.  Out of this comes heroism, patriotism, love, sacrifice, courage, compassion, and the many laudable qualities that make for a happy life and a prosperous society.

Not all of America’s Founding Fathers were Christians, but they were all inspired by the principles of the West’s Judeo-Christian heritage.  Underlying their defense of independence and liberty were two basic assumptions:

1) Man is capable of virtue, and therefore of self-governance; and
2) There is a natural law ingrained the fabric of the universe that guarantees and protects mankind’s liberties.

St._Gregory_of_NyssaIn the fourth century A.D., fourteen centuries before the Founding Fathers, St. Gregory of Nyssa had this to say:

[T]he best Artificer made our nature as it were a formation fit for the exercise of royalty (…) for the soul immediately shows its royal and exalted character, far removed as it is from the lowliness of private station, in that it owns no lord, and is self-governed (insofar as its relations among humankind are concerned)

[T]he King of all, made as it were a living image, partaking with the archetype both in rank and in name, not vested in purple, nor giving indication of its rank by sceptre and diadem (…) but instead of the purple robe, clothed in virtue

(From “On the Making of Man,” Chapter IV — bold and parenthesis mine)

Human beings need governance and authority, of course. But all governance and authority must operate with respect for the dignity of each person, and with a view to the rights of persons as individuals and as meaningful groups (the family most of all).

But again, all being held equal in rights and dignity also implies all being accountable to the same standards.  To the extent that we ignore or stray from virtue, we become less fit to govern ourselves and more vulnerable to tyranny.

We Americans celebrated our independence yesterday.  Hopefully, we take a moment each day to consider the privilege of living in a country so free and so great.  But let us not forget the role of principles and virtue in the very foundation and history of this great nation, and of our freedom.

Movie images obtained through a Google image search; other images from Wikipedia

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Marc Forster’s zombie thriller “World War Z” has been available for viewing for a while — I probably can’t say too much that hasn’t already been said.  But I did have three particular thoughts I wanted to share.

1. The Westward Journey

brad-pitt-world-war-zAs former U.N. employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) sets off on a globe-encompassing journey to find the antidote to the sudden zombie plague overtaking humanity, we notice that his trajectory leads unfailingly westward — from Korea to Israel to Wales.

The archetypal westward journey has always intrigued people, as the west — the direction of the setting sun — has traditionally been associated with death.

Sure enough — SPOILER ALERT — Lane does have an encounter with death by the end.  He must enter into the very center of the zombie “infestation” of a Welsh laboratory in order to procure an antidote that could save mankind.

Christ_Carrying_the_Cross_1580The Christ reference here is obvious.  Jesus Christ’s was the definitive Westward Journey.  He conquered evil by journeying into the very heart of darkness and death itself (much to the surprise of those who expected Israel’s Messiah to be more of a military conqueror).

2. Israel’s Wall

Film-Speedy Zombies

I was also fascinated by the fact that Israel knew about the oncoming zombie plague before the rest of the world, and accordingly prepared itself.

Just as “World War Z” envisions a zombie plague infecting all of humanity, the Old Testament draws attention to the universal plague of sin.  Furthermore, just as Israel gets a heads-up about the zombie epidemic and builds a defense against the onslaught in “World War Z,” God elects Israel and gives it His divine laws so as to make them holy in the Old Testament.

But ultimately, the zombies make it over Israel’s wall.  In the same way, the preparatory Mosaic Law given to Israel could not take away sin.  That took an act of God, who undertook a self-effacing journey into death like that of Gerry Lane.

3. Noise

zombieFinally, the notion that zombies are attracted by noise was, at the very least, intriguing.

I don’t think there’s any way around it: We are a culture of noise.  Between iPads, televisions, blasting car stereos, busy traffic, and our many other sources of auditory overkill, silence has become a rare commodity indeed.

Color me extreme, but I think we could say that noise has a way of “attracting” the enemies of mankind — namely, the devil and his minions.  Let me explain: When we don’t make sufficient room for silence, reflection, and introspection, when we distract ourselves too much with useless noise, then bad influences can creep into our lives without our even realizing it.

To be sure, there is also such a thing as too much silence, and the devil can use that against us as well.  But frankly, I don’t think our culture has that problem.  I think, rather, that it stands in need of rediscovering the legitimate function of silence.

But that’s a whole different post.  Thanks for reading.

Other reviews:

Image of “Christ Carrying the Cross” by El Greco from Wikipedia; others obtained through a Google image search.

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We are now officially in the second week of the Lenten season (for a real short video presentation on Lent, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm3JK7JYAKs&feature=player_embedded).

For those of you who observe Lent and for those of you who don’t, but would like to try and “get at” what we are observing during this season, here are some movies that you may want to check out between now and Easter Sunday.

The Way (2010)

Emilio Estevez’ remarkable mini-epic “The Way” follows the journey of California optometrist Tom Avery (Martin Sheen), whose son, Daniel (Estevez), died while walking the historic “Way of St. James” in the Pyrenees.  Not a particularly religious man, Avery nevertheless chooses to take the journey in his son’s place, carrying his ashes with him as he does so.

The film is a beautiful, emotional, and deeply personal exploration of a physical and spiritual journey that I think anyone can appreciate.

The Tree of Life (2011)

From the Big Bang to babies, from happiness to suffering, from family to faith, from sibling rivalry to death, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” is without a doubt (in my humble opinion, anyway) the most moving film of the last half-decade.  The film communicates a sort of sacramental view of creation and human life.  Through a highly poetic visual and cinematic style, Malick suggests — through a world of the ordinary and everyday — a creation that is haunted by a mysterious and holy presence.

I have to say, there are few films that move me immediately to prayer, and this is one of them.  If you want a movie that stirs up the sense of being personally loved by a God who invites you to love Him, see “Tree of Life.”

The Mission (1986)

The_mission(Trailer unavailable)

Roland Joffé’s 1986 period piece “The Mission” is a great look at the work of Jesuit priests fighting for the rights of natives in 18th century South America.  Fr. Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) is an especially shining example of selfless Christian love and resistance to oppression through nonviolence.

Of Gods and Men (2010)

Based on the true story of Trappist monks facing death at the hands of militant rebels in 1990s Algeria, “Of Gods and Men” is a deep and profoundly affective story of fidelity, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

Jesus of Nazareth (1977)


(Trailer unavailable)

If you have some time on your hands, see if you can get a hold of Franco Zeffirelli’s epic miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Well-directed, well-written, and featuring very good performances, “Jesus of Nazareth” really accentuates the mercy of Jesus and His healing mission in the world.  I would especially recommend this film to people who struggle with scrupulosity and negative images of God.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)


(Trailer unavailable)

And of course, if you’re up to it, try to check out Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”  Yes, it’s visceral.  Yes, it can be very disturbing.  But for Christians, it is an excellent source of meditation on how much it cost God to redeem us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8).

And last, but perhaps not least…

The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy)


Yes, Peter Jackson’s unparalleled films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy trilogy are wonderful Lenten fare.  Why?  Because they deal with such themes as self-sacrificing love, the value of suffering, and heroic virtue.  They can inspire people to change their lives, if they let them.

For those of you who are interested, here is a link to the first of two videos featuring Fr. Robert Barron’s commentary on “LOTR”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pio5pf-Eoi8.

There you have it.  Until next time, take care, and God bless.

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