Posts Tagged ‘DVD’

This is a great demo for concerned parents and for anyone who likes to be careful about what media content they take in.  I have not used this technology myself (I recently learned of it from a nun, believe it or not), so I can’t speak to its efficacy myself.  But being a big film buff and a fan of certain TV programs, I may see about acquiring it for myself in the near future.

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Nebraska_PosterFor part one, click here

So we’ve established that Woody and Kate Grant (Bruce Dern and June Squibb) do not enjoy a blissful marriage.  We can only assume that Woody’s deep discontent, which his supposed $1 million winnings are meant to alleviate, is tied to this.

It seems to me that there are two possible explanations for this.  First, Woody and Kate may have approached marriage with insufficient circumspection in their early days.  Kate comments that boys growing up in their hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska spent their young lives looking at the backsides of pigs and cows, and therefore were hopelessly lost at the sight of the first girls they saw.


Nebraska_WalkingBut there is another possible explanation.  What I have in mind here is the image of Woody walking, which is fairly constant throughout the film.

All sentient creatures have in common the trait of movement (though to varying degrees).  From my perspective as a Catholic Christian, I believe that such creatures are more like their Creator than, say, rocks and plants, which have no consciousness or awareness; as such, unlike the latter they tend toward motion, or activity (while God does not have to “move” as creatures do, since He is infinite and perfect, He is never idle).

With human beings, this goes a step further.  Our drive toward movement is not just physical, but also spiritual (and, as a derivative of both, psychological).  In the depths of our being, we are never satisfied.  We are always yearning for something more, something that seems within and yet painfully outside our grasp.

Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_ChampaigneThis is because, as St. Augustine of Hippo famously said, our hearts are made for God, and are therefore “restless until they rest in (Him).”

bruce.dern_.et_.june_.squibb.dans_.nebraska.dr_It is quite possible that Woody and Kate approached marriage with the idea that it would be a “domestic utopia.” giving them perfect happiness.  One way or the other, it is clear that they were not approaching the whole question of marriage with any profound spiritual basis in mind.

Marriage is a glorious thing.  But if we are expecting it to be the one thing that will fulfill all of our deepest human needs, then we are placing a burden upon it that it is unable to carry.  In this way, we come to expect more of it and of our spouses than they are meant to give.  This expectation affects those who get married for that reason as well as those who avoid marriage because they are afraid of its imperfections; I suspect the latter tendency is, in part, what affects the generations that have followed that of Woody and Kate.

Indian WeddingBut if we view marriage as a calling, if we approach it with attention to the will of a Higher Power and see it as a common mission between husband and wife, that changes things.  If we see it as a sign to the world of the Great Bridegroom, Jesus Christ’s unwavering love for and fidelity to mankind and a foreshadowing of its perfect consummation at the end of time — a promise far more fulfilling than a million bucks — well, that changes things even more. (See my June 7 post for more on this topic)

Grant Family

“Nebraska” ends on a fairly positive note.  The members of the Grant family, having spent some time together on their unexpected trip to Nebraska and gone through a lot of interesting adventures, grow closer.  A situation like this reminds us of how God can, as they say, “draw straight with crooked lines.”  So thank you, Alexander Payne, for leaving audiences with hope rather than despair.

Movie stills obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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Director Ben Afleck’s latest film, “Argo,” did very well at the Oscars.  I’m sure Afleck and all those associated with this movie will never forget being presented with the Best Picture award by First Lady Michelle Obama — a quite interesting occurrence, given the nature of the story.

Set during the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-1980, ‘Argo’ features Afleck in the lead role as Tony Mendez, the CIA agent charged with rescuing six escaped American hostages receiving shelter at the Canadian ambassador’s home in Iran.

Mendez’ plan involves joining the six of them in posing as a Canadian film crew scouting exotic locations for a (fake) science fiction film called “Argo.”  When he arrives at the ambassador’s house, he gives each of the hostages a script with complete information about their fake identities — including minute details such as where they went to school, their middle names, their parents’ professions, etc.

And it is this aspect of the film that I want to focus on.  The hostages must memorize their roles to perfection, and in a very, very short period of time.  Watching the movie comfortably on our couches, we could easily ask ourselves: “How can they possibly do that?  Who could muster the discipline and brainpower for that kind of thing?”

But the answer immediately comes to us along with the question itself.  If our lives depended on it, as theirs do, we would do the same thing.  No matter how hard the task, we would find a way to do it.

The connection I am about to make to Christianity may seem forced, but this aspect of Mendez’ rescue mission turns my attention to God’s great rescue mission.

How many of us, if we truly understood the importance and the urgency of our conformity to God’s will, would become more zealous in our faith?  How many of us would then strive to know our faith and grow in virtue as best we can (without becoming scrupulous, of course), knowing that any moment could well be our last?

I think that the role memorization scenes in “Argo,” while not being among the most memorable or attention-catching parts of the movie, can be very useful in helping us Catholics (and other Christians as well) to think about this.

Jesus Christ does make many demands of us, most of which seem virtually impossible (and indeed they are from a merely human standpoint).  I would say that there are two things that need to be kept in mind here:

  1. The stakes are infinitely higher for us when it comes to living our faith than for the American hostages in memorizing their fake identities.  Their lives are at stake, but our immortal souls are at stake.
  2. While the stakes are higher, the pressure is, in a certain sense, lower.  As Mendez was happy to remind the American hostages, one very small error in communicating their cover-up stories to Iranian interrogators would get them killed.  But with the faith, as long as we are truly doing the best we can to grow in the faith and in holiness, God will not withhold His grace.  In fact, it is safe to say that, due to remaining imperfections, most of us will not go to heaven immediately after we die.  Fortunately, the Catholic Church teaches us that God’s mercy extends beyond this present life, so that all those who die in a state of grace but still without the perfection necessary for heaven will go through a final purification.  We call that purification Purgatory.

So in effect, our sense of the stakes and the urgency can protect us against negligence, while trust in God’s mercy and kindness can protect us against scrupulosity and servile fear.

In both cases, we see God’s mercy at work.  What God wants is not to make things hard for us, but to change us, to make us more like Him…to give us life.

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10)

And He will not fail to give us the strength to do whatever we cannot do on our own, so that we are never taxed beyond our capabilities.

Actually, there is another — though intimately related — aspect of “Argo” that relates to the spiritual life.  When Mendez comes to the six hostages with his plan, he asks them for total trust, assuring them that he has “never left anyone behind.”

Jesus Christ asks us for such trust as well.  And since He is God incarnate and love itself (1 John 4:8), our trust in Him is well placed.

In conclusion: Yes, the challenges of the Christian life can be very daunting.  But hopefully the most recent Academy Award-winner for Best Picture helps, in its own indirect way, to put these challenge in perspective.

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I finally got around to seeing Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie over the weekend.  This final installment takes place eight years after the events of the previous film, “The Dark Knight.”  Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become somewhat of a recluse, but is inspired to take up the cape, mask, and suit once more when Gotham is threatened by the masked villain Bane (Tom Hardy).

And that’s the point from which I want to take off.  Having seen all three movies, I am struck by the many faces of villainy in the Batman trilogy.

Ra's al GhulRa’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), head of the League of Shadows and the antagonist of “Batman Begins,” represents a sort of right-wing totalitarianism that seeks to impose order and justice using force.

JokerThe Joker (Heath Ledger) represents evil in the form of nihilistic anarchy in “The Dark Knight.”

BaneFinally, Bane is the incarnation of a left-wing totalitarianism that “hooks” people through false promises of establishing an earthly utopia by toppling corrupt power structures and returning all power to “the People.”

In due course, we learn that Bane was once part of the League of Shadows, but was eventually exiled for differences with Ra’s al Ghul.  Bane’s relationship to the League struck a chord in my mind.  It seems to suggest, in its own way, that two supposedly polar realities — namely, right-wing and left-wing tyrannies — are much more closely connected than one might think.

Hitlermusso2_editThe middle part of the twentieth century saw the rise of various forms of totalitarianism from both the right (most notably, Fascism) and the left (most notably, Communism).  Although I am an expert neither in history nor in politics, I think we can safely say that both styles of dictatorship proved to have the goal of reducing society — perceived to be all wrong and unredeemable — to ashes so as to build something new and better from scratch.

But herein lies the problem: We live in an imperfect world, and any “system” of society or government is going to have its problems and, sadly, evils.

Bane2Turning from any attempt at political commentary back to the Batman films themselves, I would have to say that Bane strikes me as the most dangerous of Nolan’s villains.  Although he is not blatantly oppressive (at least not to the masses) like Ra’s al Ghul, nor unprincipled and totally unpredictable like the Joker, Bane is dangerous precisely because he plays off of one of the strongest, deepest, and most innate elements of the human psyche — hope.

Hope is a powerful and dear thing.  If you can get a hold of people’s hope, there isn’t much you won’t be able to do with them and to them.

I will return with reflections on hope in “The Dark Knight Rises” by the end of the week.  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.

Image of the Joker and second image of Bane obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia.

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