December 27, 2011

MOST IMPORTANT INFO YOU COULD EVER GIVE A TEEN

(also available as print magazine)

"For Guys/Girls"
100% pro-life & according to Catholic Church teaching.
Includes latest scientific data.


http://www.humanlife.org/Resources/J4G/J4G%20WEB.pdf

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December 20, 2011

MOVIES: "THE MUPPETS"

Everyone (who hasn’t seen the movie and loves the Muppets) wants to know: Is “The Muppets” movie any good? Well, I think so. Not outstanding, but good enough. For those of us who grew up with the Muppets, they are magical—a part of our shared pop culture memory bank. They burst on the scene with “Sesame Street” (which my friends and I were too old for by then, and which, OF COURSE, we didn’t watch secretly just to see Kermit and friends). The Muppets also had brilliant specials like “The Frog Prince.”

Then, lo and behold, they got their own prime time show (“The Muppet Show” 1976-1981) which would guest star all the 70’s biggest celebs. But we didn’t care about the human characters, we only cared about the endearing, guilelessly clever FELT personalities: Animal, the Swedish Chef, Pigs in Space, Gonzo, Beaker, the irrepressible Miss (“moi”) Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and the list goes on and on. It was incredibly good, clean fun. (Some have—admiringly--talked about the Muppets “adult” subversiveness. Um, no. It wasn’t there. Not in the 70’s anyway.)

When Jim Henson, the Muppets’ inventor, died at the young age of fifty-four in 1990, he signed over his creations to Disney, believing they were the company that could preserve and continue the legacy. Disney proved their mettle by releasing “The Muppets Christmas Carol “(based on Dickens) musical in 1992. I’ve seen ALL the “Christmas Carols” except Jim Carrey’s and I love the Muppets’ the best. I dare you not to bawl when Tiny Tim (Kermit’s [as Bob Cratchit] frog progeny) starts singing.

Disney released 2011’s “The Muppets,” due to the instigation of Jason Segel (TV’s “How I Met Your Mother,” and the big screen’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), who is a life-long Muppet fan and general puppet aficionado. When Segel first pitched his idea for a Muppet movie comeback of sorts, the execs at Disney thought he was joking. But he persisted and not only wrote the script, but starred in it as Gary, (along with fellow Homo sapiens Amy Adams, perfectly cast as his girlfriend, and Chris Cooper, perfectly cast as Tex, an evil oil baron—“maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh”).

The story is precisely a “comeback” story. The Muppets have been forgotten by the public and are estranged from each other. They are all doing rather likely (and a few unlikely) jobs (Gonzo is a toilet magnate), suited to their characters. But the old Muppet studios are in disrepair and about to be demolished by Tex. Gary and his bland little Muppet brother, Walter (yes, they are an interspecies family), set out to save the theater by reuniting the Muppets and organizing a telethon. The jokes are pretty funny, the Muppets are truly themselves, but the story is rather predictable, and at times, boring. However, there are some delightful surprises along the way and at the end. Miss Piggy towers over the rest of Muppetdom, as usual, and is riveting as always. Is there a hint of “Brady-Bunch-Movie-in-the-Grungy-90’s” cynicism? Maybe, but I don’t think so. The movie actually seemed to be directed towards kids, to tell you the truth!

The bizarre story of human Gary and Muppet Walter didn’t cut it for me and something seemed distinctly out of whack with it and unsatisfying from a storytelling point of view, but I can’t quite put my finger on what was amiss. It seemed like we didn’t need Gary AND Walter. Just one of them. The songs (some are old Muppet classics) are fantastic and Muppety. There’s a certain plaintive innocence and hopefulness and melancholy and bittersweet sanguinity and utter sincerity to a Muppet song. They must be very difficult to write/compose. (And not to be missed is Chris Cooper’s brief rap song—but I really don’t want to give too much away.) Oh, and don’t miss the bajillions of cameos (several uncredited). Did you catch David Grohl??? The far out 60’s psychedelic tie-dye band was a fun throwback with all those good vibrations.

But you know what occurred to me VERY strongly while watching “The Muppets”? No, you don’t. So here goes: Nostalgia is NOT Christian. We Christians are people of the present and future with a very healthy “hermeneutic of continuity” with tradition/Tradition, the past and history, but we are not nostalgic. Nostalgia is a strictly “worldly” sentiment like John the Beloved describes:

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” –John 2:16-17

This is NOT the Bible passage I was looking for. I can’t find it. Hey, I’m Catholic. It’s something about wasting our time pining away for bygone illusions or something. That’s what I mean by “nostalgia.” I'll bet Pope Benedict said something about "nostalgia" and that he agrees with me. Yeah.

And I just want to go on record to say that the dancing in the streets finale was WAAAAAAY better than “Slumdog Millionaire,” “T-mobile,” or ANY other train station dancing flashmob, with, PERHAPS, the exception of “The Fisher Prince.” But only PERHAPS, because the dance number at end of “Muppets” continued and completed the story sooooo well and left us on such a high note.

Someone once said that Jim Henson’s genius was to “make the good guy interesting.”

My question is: Did a new generation of potential Muppet fanboys and fangirls LIKE the movie? GET the movie? Fall in LOVE with the Muppets BECAUSE of the movie? In a way, that’s all that matters.

OTHER STUFF:

--The evil “Moopets” tribute band! “The Moopets are a hard, cynical act for a hard, cynical age!” --Tex

--There’s a fun, non-sardonic self-consciousness that they are all IN a movie. Like, they talk about the budget and montages. Ha ha ha.

--“Growing up is about becoming who you want to be.”

--“Life’s a better song with someone to sing along.”

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December 8, 2011

MOVIES: "HUGO"



"Hugo" is Martin Scorsese's engaging adaptation of the children's book by the same name. What's it about? Get this: It's an elaborate introduction to a slice of film history. Yup.

The book was written by Brian Selznick—no doubt to pass on his own love of film history to a new generation. http://theinventionofhugocabret.com/about_brian_bio.htm It’s interesting to note that Selznick has written other children’s books, including a book about Houdini (you’ll get the connection if you see “Hugo.”)

The threads in “Hugo” are: tinkering with machines, fixing things, everything having a purpose, magician’s tricks, dreams, imagination, film. I would say that another theme is that of children coming too soon and unbeckoned into our lives to mess up our tidy little frameworks, neat little plans. To pry into our secrets and closed boxes and expose us. And in doing so, they save us.

The all-British cast plays out the story set in a 1930’s train station in Paris. At first, the story seems to be a misfortunate orphan-urchin tale in the line of “Oliver,” but we can’t help noting this is no ordinary orphan. Hugo is very good at fixing things because his deceased father was a watch/clockmaker (horologist) and taught Hugo the tricks of the trade. Hugo lives in the train station unbeknownst to anyone and keeps all its clocks running like, well, clockwork. “Hugo” is a total nod to steampunk. There are puffing trains, vents, pipes, chimneys, sewers, as well as plenty of ticking and undulating gears in almost every shot. Even things like a mechanical toy store and live musicians with their instruments play into the “moving parts” theme. Bygones such as horses and (quel horreur!) mounds of hardcover books seem to be meant to make us yearn for a return to them.

Steampunk (see also the newest “Sherlock Holmes” movies) is a movement that celebrates the mechanical age of actual, physical, clanking, whirring parts—hardware—that kept everything going, as opposed to our digital world of software and intangible “cloud computing.” The iPod is the ultimate anti-steampunk: impossible to break into, take apart and put together again, mysterious, internal, unseen.

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) has an unpleasant run-in with a bitter old toy shop keeper (Ben Kingsley) who recognizes the boy’s genius and eventually takes him under his wing, but Hugo doesn’t seem to be able to keep himself from unintentionally betraying and hurting the already-wounded man. Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the shopkeeper’s goddaughter—also an orphan—who befriends Hugo.

There are some interesting but inchoate thoughts (Robin Hood, “time is all we have,” Hugo and Isabelle’s parents, etc.) that could have been continued or woven in to the story more. There are quick breaks from one action to another to move the story ahead, without each reveal and development flowing out of/being the outcome of another action (bad screen-storytelling).

The editing (Scorsese’s long time editor, Thelma Schoonmaker) really needed to be tighter and faster-paced (with a few disjointed scene-cuts sticking out like sore thumbs). There could have been more camera angles and cuts in general, but on the whole, it’s an eminently watchable film, especially when the film history is delved into and recreated.

Strong THEOLOGY OF THE BODY theme: “Everything has a purpose, even a machine. They do what they’re meant to do.” “If you lose your purpose, you’re broken.” “When something can’t do its work, it’s sad.” (Hugo and Isabelle wonder out loud what THEIR purpose is. Being young, they realize they haven’t found it yet. Isabelle wonders if she WOULD know what her purpose is if she had known her parents!)

OTHER STUFF:

--For the first time in my life, the 3D glasses worked! I wonder why. Usually they do nothing—I put them on and see them same blurry mess as without. I actually loved the use of 3D for real human beings (rather than animation). It was like Ben Kingsley was hovering over our seats in the middle of the cinema like a hologram. Kewl.

--The usually crude Sacha Baron Cohen does an amazing job playing a bumbling station inspector who has a particular dislike of little orphan-urchin types. I would love to see him in more performances like this. He seizes the role in a very alive and generous way, twinkling with kid-friendly mischief.

--Great film-within-a film.

--Great build-up to the film-within-a-film!

--I gasped aloud in the theater when they told the fate of certain precious old celluloid films (among the first films in the world)! You will too, I hope!


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November 21, 2011

MOVIES: "THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN--PART I"

PLEASE SEE A VERY DIFFERING VIEW AT THE VERY END OF MY REVIEW! IT ALSO MAKES SENSE!

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part I” (the third movie in the “Twilight” series) is a very pro-life, very Theology of the Body movie. I know there are other opinions rolling around from high-profile Catholics, but I really think they’re reading it wrong.

Here’s the storyline (not a total spoiler) for anyone who has managed to escape familiarity with this phenomenon. Bella (human, Kristen Stewart) marries Edward (vampire, Robert Pattinson). Bella could “turn” immortal vampire if Edward bites her, but so far she has not opted to go that route. On their prolonged honeymoon Bella gets pregnant (something that Edward and Bella thought impossible). The pregnancy is very difficult and seems sure to kill Bella.

Jacob (werewolf, Taylor Lautner) who also loved Bella and had hoped to marry her is exceedingly angry about this situation and blames Edward (vampires and werewolves are also sworn enemies).

Bella, from the get-go, although she is scared, loves her baby (even though exactly WHAT the baby is is not even known) and refuses to abort it. (The word “abortion” is not used, but “getting rid” of “it” and other phrases are.) At a certain point, it becomes almost definite that either mother or baby can be saved, but not both. But Bella is steadfast in her St. Gianna Molla-esque decision, which leads to a transformation and change of heart in those around her.

Objectionable parts of the movie would be the sex scenes (even though Edward and Bella are now married). Are we really supposed to watch people making love? Ever? Bella is often scantily-clad, also. The birth scene is kind of violent and bloody, but, um, isn’t the pain and peril of real-life childbirth?

A strange feature (or at least the way the movie portrayed it), is Bella’s continuing, demonstrative affection for Jacob. It’s almost like she has two husbands sometimes.

“Twilight” is pure female fantasy. Obsessive female fantasy. Two men adore one woman. But, you know what? It’s about time. 98% of what Hollywood produces is male-conceived, male-written, male-directed, male-driven, male-marketed, male-consumed.

How does Theology of the Body play out in the “Twilight” series? First of all, a chaste relationship because an honorable man takes the lead. (Good things happen when good men lead.) Second, Bella is truly the “bride,” whom the men in her life (OK, vampire and werewolf) will lay down their lives for. As Christopher West says: “It’s all about you, ladies,” (just as Jesus did everything He did FOR His Bride, the Church). And third, Bella is not a selfish prima donna. She returns “the gift” and is self-sacrificing in her love also.

The theme of immortality and “forever” is so strong in “Twilight.” Echoes of the unending heavenly marriage feast that awaits us.

Jacob’s role at the end of the film is pretty incredible. A beautiful resolution. I left the theater soaring.

OTHER STUFF:

--Do NOT look for good filmmaking or dialogue or acting or anything. This is camp. And it knows it. It’s like a soupy, sappy, tragic romantic comic book brought to the screen in slow motion. (My audience members—mostly young adults—laughed at the jokes in the movie AND at the most serious, melodramatic moments, which is pretty much the whole film.)

--This is a movie that girlfriends drag their boyfriends to. Overheard in line: Boyfriend: “Why am I here again?” Girlfriend: “Because I HAVE to see what happens!”

--So, could this female fantasy give young (and not so young women) the wrong idea about true love? Yes, BUT I really think that female romantic fantasies are closer to the truth about love, and not as potentially harmful as male fantasies.

FEMALE FANTASIES:

• He really listens to me!
• He knows what I like!
• He wants to be with me all the time!
• He thinks about me all the time!
• He likes to cuddle!
• He tells me I’m beautiful!
• He likes to surprise me!
• He’s gentle with me and doesn’t treat me like one of the guys!

--www.decentfilms.com movie reviewer, Steven Greydanus, did an excellent in-depth article in Catholic World Report not long ago about the massive appeal of the “Twilight” series. He ends it by saying that maybe if guys were more romantic, women wouldn’t have to escape into vampire fantasies. Guys: Look at the bullet points above. That’s all we want! It’s not that hard! Sometimes I think guys DON'T do the above simple things because they don't FEEL it and don't want to be hypocritical or insincere. But it's when you DON'T feel it and you do it anyway that it's selfless, pure love! All you need to know is that it means ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING to us, so just DO IT if you really love us! You don't have to FEEL it. We get that you don't feel it. WE feel it. We need it. Desperately. I've heard it said (by a woman) that women are like flowers that need watering and care every day or else we'll wither. OK--maybe the "thinks about me all the time" is asking a bit much.

--Stephenie Meyer (author of the “Twilight” books) is a good little mythmaker.

--The human blood Bella has to drink could be synthetic, yes?

--Who "created" Edward and why?

--Does Bella's family know anything about the vampires and werewolves?

--What did Edward bite with his teeth during the birth?

--Full disclosure: I haven't read the books. Only saw movie #1 and #2.

--No media tech. One cell phone. Just people and face time. And wolves howling communications and some vampiric telepathic communication.

--Bella and the Cullens (Edward's family) are definitely people of leisure. They have nothing much to do. They just sit around staring at each other and dealing with their supernatural problems.

--Bella gets married at 18. Like everyone used to. We need to rethink the possibility of getting married younger again.

--Soundtrack pop song: “I find strength in your fragile heart.” Nice. “In weakness, power reaches perfection.”

--For those still fretting that this may actually be an anti-life film in disguise, consider this: Catholics (some of whom I consider to be literalists and alarmists) are condemning it, AS WELL AS super-secular sources like the Huffington Post (who are even warning parents)! What is the “anything goes” HP worried about? The realities of childbirth, for one. Another criticism I heard is that it glorifies violent sex (Edward is super-strong and Bella wakes up slightly bruised on her arms and shoulders). But Edward is horrified and vows never to touch Bella again. Are characters pro-abortion (at first)? Yes! Characters! Not the whole film and not the heroine, Bella! And Bella prevails! What is the problem here?

--Dr. Michael Waldstein (who found the Polish original of Theology of the Body and wrote the extensive Introduction to it) says that we need to get away from the language of “rights” when it comes to pregnancy, even “the right to life,” because we immediately set up an opposition between mother and baby (of course, this can be a dire move just to save a baby’s life). I did a week of studies with him and he talked so much about our “NON-COMPETITIVE GOD,” not competitive within the Trinity and not competitive with His Creation. It just blew all our minds.

--Isn't "intermarriage" historically what always brings about peace? In Theology of the Body, all differences (starting with the sexual difference of male and female) are a call to communion, not strife.

--While everyone around Bella talks about “choice,” “choice,” “choice,” Bella just loves.

--Puts a whole new spin on “the first year of marriage is the hardest.” :]

--Right across from the cinema when I stepped outside was the store: “XXI Forever.” :]

--The only thing wrong with the “Twilight” series is that Bella is married to the wrong guy. :]

--Here are some insightful FB posts from a young Mom:

• Christina Yep Hi Sr Helena! Haven't seen movie yet either and I can see how some people would draw this articles' conclusions, but I think with guidance, today's teens can see through the negative messages and pull out the positive. In fact, this movie raises some of those more intimate "mom questions" that they deal with every day - the question of saving oneself til marriage, marriage itself, who to choose (baby or mother) in extreme pregnancies. Bella and Edward might seem entirely too obssessed with sex, but as with the best of us, their love matures over the course of their relationship and the message that they wait until they are married is pivotal for them.
Saturday at 3:36am • Like

Christina Yep Regarding Edward hurting Bella...it needs to be put in context, which books do well but movies generally don't. He has been living an extreme self-control of both his passions for blood and to make love to Bella for years at this point, and has preserved both their innocence intact, so when at last they do try on their honeymoon, the appropriate time, it's hard for him to maintain that self-control. This seems so realistic to the pure married relationship to me! And when they get pregnant, like with a human pregnancy, he doesn't have a bond with his baby yet...all he sees is his wife slowly being killed before his eyes by this creature he doesn't yet love. This too seems so realistic to the human experience of fathers who struggle as a child seems to come between him and his love.
Saturday at 3:41am • Like

Christina Yep It's the powerful love of the mother, Bella, who seems to mature overnight with the presence of Renesmee inside her, and who opts for the same type of sacrifice evidenced by St Gianna Beretta Molla, that is the most beautiful of all... When I read the books and having been through 2 pregnancies myself, my first though was, of course Edward tries to force Bella to an abortion! He's losing his wife. In the end, he's not trying to get her to abort...he feels powerless to alleviate her suffering and grasps at the only solution he can reason. The fact that Bella chooses LIFE despite attacks from within and from without is a heroic example, and her reward is both her child and her living. The child herself (half human half vampire) turns out to be a brilliant, sweet prodigy of a girl who demonstrates extreme virtue and love to all those around.
Saturday at 3:50am • Like

Christina Yep Perhaps they didn't intend to get pregnant but it wasn't because they weren't "open" to life, they just thought they couldn't. In the end, the book tells me a few messages: 1 save yourself for marriage; 2 who doesn't want that type of passionate married love with their husband? this is possible; 3 no matter how difficult the pregnancy and no matter how many "extenuating circumstances" and how many people pressure you to abort, it's always better to "choose life", or your baby's life to be specific, and God will bless you.
Saturday at 3:53am • Like

Christina Yep Sorry, this got really long!!! So of course, watching the movie...these questions are going to be raised and lets hope Mom and Dad are there to counsel teens with some solid answers. It's much harder to transmit a complete message by film. God bless, Sister!
Saturday at 3:55am • Like

Christina Yep Oh, one more thing...someone mentioned the Bella-Edward relationship not being ideal. Well-said. I think teens struggle with being objective already and it's hard for them to take a step back from the emotional attraction to a passionate relationship and realize how, yes, we can all identify with elements of their relationship, but mostly it's not a very realistic relationship. The LOVE and PASSION is possible...but the strange plot and predicaments...not so much. A good story only. And the characters themselves are very flawed...but I guess the hope is that aren't we all...and despite that, love and happiness are eventually possible.
Saturday at 4:00am • Like • 1

Cynthia Morales I haven't read any of the books and I don't plan to see the movie, but I did read a review in the Chicago Tribune that described the series as "anti-abortion" and "pro-abstinence." Go figure.
________

BUT GET A LOAD OF THIS VERY DARK AND MENACING READ ON THE "TWILIGHT SERIES." (NOT ABOUT THE OCCULT, BUT PEDOPHILIA!)

SPOILER ALERT: THE ORIGINAL QUESTION ON FACEBOOK WAS ABOUT JACOB--A YOUNG ADULT, "IMPRINTING" (KINDA LIKE ARRANGED MARRIAGE) ON BELLA'S BABY GIRL (IN ORDER TO SAVE HER).

ME: Kinda like Benjamin Button. Aren't vampires and werewolves kinda ageless/timeless? Of course he's gonna hafta wait for her as in the vision AND i hope no one reads this cuz it's a big fat spoiler!!!!
JEN: thanks for your take ...you can delete my post sister .. though I can't imagine anyone who is interested who doesn't already know anything we could spoil - but maybe someone has been hiding under a rock and it will spoil it :o) personally ... it's a bit too pedophilia -ish for me. Benjamin Button was a little different because they were actually the same age ... This part of the Breaking Dawn story reminds me of Lewis Caroll and his feelings for Alice Liddle ... sick. I know it is rationalized in the story as "it's not sexual - it's imprinting" and "she's not like a normal human child" ... I know it's fiction ...but fiction reflects and shapes the mind of society... and these sort of arguments are arguments that adults who abuse children make in the real world.
The prolife vs prochoice conversation in Breaking Dawn is interesting enough but it should not be the primary controversy surrounding this story ... there are so many darker deeper sicker issues in Breaking Dawn. Pedophilia is threaded throughout the entire series.

Edward is hundreds of years older than Bella - who is an immature teen... but okay .. there's no story without it ... but once we accept that story line the slide into blatant pedophilia is swift. Meyer teaches young girls that love is obsessive - that young girls are to be possessed by men ( who look like boys) and that age and experience are inconsequential. She started with the Bella and Edward relationship and continues it in increasingly disgusting ways.

Claire is imprinted by Quil ( if I remember rightly) as a fully human child at 2 years of age - at 16 she will be imprinted to him like it or not. Then Jacob imprints with a newborn. Sorry if that's a spoiler - but educating people about the evil of child abuse is more important than whether or not someones surprise is ruined. This is not just an innocent story - it like many stories has a cultural impact - more so than others considering the record breaking opening box offices.

Our stories become our schemas. We create scripts for living and social interaction largely based on the stories that we step into. This story has many misguided notions about what sexuality should be - physical violence, abuse, obsession - are not elements of healthy relationships. Being willing to damn your eternal soul for a man is not good for a young woman but it's a choice - the pedophilia portrayed in this story on the other hand is not a choice.

Jacob and Nessie are obviously eventually intended to have a sexual relationship sometime in the future. Earlier in the story ...Jacob imagines being the father of Bellas children ...and likewise she imagines the same. Jacob is going to be intimately involved in raising her. She is going to be raised by the pack - he's to be her father, sibling , uncle, moms former paramour and eventually her own lover - no conflicts there. The argument that she develops faster and will be an adult by age 7 ...is a common argument from pro pedophiles ... people develop and mature at different rates - so chronological age doesn't make a difference. Nessie may develop physically mentally faster than the rest of us - but with this situation of being raised by the man she's expected to mate with - she is bound to develop into a truly messed up person - she'll just do it quicker than most abuse victims. Similarly Quil is called Claires "best big brother" - a brother who she is expected to start mating with at 16.

This notion that somehow a child victim can be developed enough to be a willing participant is why we end up with real world situations like the Penn state situation - in which ( according the the grand jury report) on at least two occasions adult men walked in on another adult man abusing boys 10 and younger - and walked away without removing the child from danger - as if they had walked in on two consenting adults.

Although Meyers sets up the canon that the male imprints - later she seems to want to imply that the baby imprinted on Jacob first ...this is why Bella wants to to be around him and such. This is a common pedophile mindset - it is the victims fault .. he is helpless over his need. This reversal of victim hood - the idea that the victim exerts more control over the abuser than he does over the victim - is extraordinarily common. We don't like to admit it but we live in a blame the victim world.

The imprinting seems to have left Nessie with no free will. Another common thought process of abusers - the victims will doesn't matter.

Jacob gives her a token of his promise to force him to be his forever ..and were supposed to think this is sweet? BTW he gave a similar bracelet token to her mother - who he was passionate about and abusive towards ...when he can not have the mother the way he wants - when the mother does not adore him - he takes the child. This is unfortunately an all too true reality for many real world daughters.

And as happens all too often in the real world the child's parents do not protect her. Edward and Bella shrug it off.Edward even calls him "my son" ... the whole thing is pretty sick and not very TOB at all.
ME: Wow! Thanks for this in-depth read. It makes sense. Isn't it interesting how something can be superficially one thing (OK) and at a slightly deeper level--not OK at all. Jacob does it because it's "the only thing that can save her," (but, yikes! Doesn't that sound like a pedophile's argument, too?) I'm going to take this into serious consideration. Thanks so much!

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November 18, 2011

FEAST OF BLESSED JAMES ALBERIONE, MEDIA APOSTLE, NOVEMBER 26!

Join us for a unique Novena leading up the Feast of Blessed James Alberione, www.MediaApostle.com, November 26! Blessed James Alberione is the Founder of the Daughters of St. Paul and the other 9 congregations and institutes of the Pauline Family.

In this Novena, you'll get a sneak peak at what the Church is saying about the New Evangelization (the program for the upcoming Synod on the New Evangelization--see www.vatican.va), as well as Father Alberione's always awesome, cogent and inspiring quotes about media!

Novena in Honor of Blessed James Alberione

Nov. 17

The greatest of saints today would stay by the microphone in order to proclaim their message of truth, justice and peace. It is impossible not to think of the command of Jesus Christ, “Preach the Gospel to all creation.” The love for the Gospel is the sign and characteristic of persons whom God designates for great enterprises. --ALBERIONE

Introduction

Today we begin the novena in honor of Blessed James Alberione, whom John Paul II called “the first apostle of the new evangelization.” In gratitude we thank the Lord for raising him up—for our sake and that of our world. We thank him for having answered the Master’s call, as the first Apostles did. In this Morning Prayer, we ask him to help us open ourselves to the Spirit, who continually evangelizes us and draws us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the Apostle of the Father.

Readings

* Christian Prayer, p. 623,

* Liturgy of the Pauline Family, p. 179

* The following text: In John Paul II’s words, Blessed James Alberione is “the first apostle of the new evangelization.” Not only because he used modern media to proclaim the Gospel, but because, like Paul at the dawn of Christianity, he heralded in his person and his message the central call of the Gospel: total configuration with Christ the Master, a personal, life-changing, lifelong encounter with Christ. His reference was always the Gospel and he insisted that everyone of us read it in order to live it—a novelty at the turn of the last century. His lodestar was the primacy of Christ. His journey was a personal relationship with Christ and a burning desire that the whole world would join him on that journey.

This is the meaning of the new evangelization, outlined in the lineamenta for next year’s Synod of Bishops. With this novena, we are in a way initiating our own community’s preparation for that event. We entrust to Primo Maestro our own desire to witness to the saving love and truth of Jesus Christ with what the lineamenta calls new “ardour, methods, and expression.”

Yes, in the words of our founder that we just read, “The love for the Gospel is the sign and characteristic of persons whom God designates for great enterprises.”

Canticle of Zechariah

Antiphon: LPF, p. 184

Concluding Prayer: LPF, p. 183

Nov. 18—Dedication of the Churches of Sts. Peter and Paul

Jesus Christ has taught us not to wait for people, but to go in search of them. Like the Master, the apostle should spread the divine word in cities, villages and homes, even the remotest ones. The press, the cinema, the radio and the television constitute today the most urgent, the fastest and the most efficacious work of the Catholic apostolate. --ALBERIONE

Readings

Christian Prayer, p. 1346

LPF, p. 180

Lineamenta: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, n. 6:

“The new evangelization is a frame of mind, a courageous manner of acting and Christianity’s capacity to know how to read and interpret the new situations in human history which, in recent decades, have become the places to proclaim and witness to the Gospel….These sectors concern society, cultures, economics, civic life, and religion….

“…Our third great sector…[is] the means of social communications, which, while today providing great possibilities for the Church, also represents one of her greatest challenges….In this sector, the new evangelization means that Christians need to show boldness in these ‘new aeropaghi,’ where they live everyday, and find the means and approaches to ensure that the Church’s patrimony in education and knowledge, safeguarded by the Christian tradition, has a part to play in these ultra-modern places.”

Canticle of Zechariah

Antiphon: LPF, p. 184

Concluding Prayer: LPF, p. 183

Nov. 19

The machine, the microphone, the screen are our pulpit; the press, the production room, the screening hall and the transmission center are like our church. The temptations are many, but we shall make ours the words of Paul, “I do all things for the Gospel." --ALBERIONE

Readings

Christian Prayer, p. 655

Liturgy of the Pauline Family, p. 180

Lineamenta, n. 6:

“The first sector calling for the new evangelization is culture. In our times we find ourselves in an era of a profound secularism….in which God is completely or partially left out of life and human consciousness…. [This] can be seen in the daily lives of many Christians, who are oftentimes influenced, if not completely conditioned, by the culture of images with its models and opposing forces. Temptations to superficiality and self-centredness, arising from a predominating hedonistic and consumer-oriented mentality, are not easily overcome. The “death of God” announced decades ago by so many intellectuals has given way to an unproductive cult of the individual….

“At the same time, some regions of the world are showing signs of a promising religious reawakening.”

Canticle of Zechariah

Antiphon: LPF, p. 184

Concluding Prayer: LPF, p. 183

Nov. 20—Solemnity of Christ the King

Christian Prayer, p. 523

Let there be the persuasion that in these forms of apostolate a greater spirit of sacrifice and a more profound piety are required. Saints are needed, who lead us in these ways. Prayer before all, above all, the life of all. To leave out prayer in order to do more work is a ruinous way out. --ALBERIONE

Readings

Christian Prayer, p. 524

Liturgy of the Pauline Family, p. 180

Lineamenta, n. 15, 22:

“The agent for transmitting the faith is the entire Church which manifests itself in the local Churches, where proclamation, transmission and the lived experience of the Gospel are realized…. The Spirit gathers believers into communities that fervently live their faith, a faith which is nourished through listening to the teaching of the apostles, through the Eucharist and through the communities’ life of unselfish service to proclaiming the Kingdom of God…. In these communities, the faithful are gathered together by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the celebration of the mystery of the Lord's Supper, so that ‘by the food and blood of the Lord's body the whole brotherhood may be joined together’.”

“The new evangelization, then, which is primarily a task to be done and a spiritual challenge, is the responsibility of all Christians who are in serious pursuit of holiness.”

Canticle of Zechariah

Antiphon: LPF, p. 184

Intercessions

Add the following:

“In thanksgiving for the life of Sr. Mary Aparecida on this, her anniversary. May she rest in the kingdom of light and peace.”

Concluding Prayer: LPF, p. 183

Nov. 21—Presentation of Mary (optional memorial)

Christian Prayer, p. 686

We should always lead people to paradise, but we have to lead there not those who lived ten centuries ago, but those who live today. In order to do good today, we have to take the world and the people as they are today. Stretch forward. Always keep in mind what is wanting in us. There is no time to congratulate ourselves on the past.--ALBERIONE

Readings

Christian Prayer, p. 690

Liturgy of the Pauline Family, p. 180

Lineamenta, n. 13, 23:

“The synod fathers gave particular attention to proclaiming the Word of God to future generations. ‘Often we encounter in them a spontaneous openness to hearing the Word of God and a sincere desire to know Jesus....Concern for young people calls for courage and clarity in the message we proclaim…witnesses and teachers who can walk with them,.…[and] approaches to Christian initiation which, through listening to the Word, celebrating the Eucharist and the communal living of love and fellowship, will lead to a growth in faith.’”

“The first evangelization began on the day of Pentecost, when the Apostles, gathered together in prayer with the Mother of Christ, received the Holy Spirit. In this way, Mary, who according to the words of the Archangel is "full of grace", was present during apostolic evangelization and continues to be present in those places where the successors of the Apostles strive to proclaim the Gospel.”

Canticle of Zechariah

Antiphon: LPF, p. 184

Concluding Prayer: LPF, p. 183

Nov. 22—St. Cecilia (Memorial)

The apostle is one who carries God in one’s soul and radiates him around oneself. The apostle is a saint who accumulates divine treasures and shares the surplus with others. Sanctity is the stubbornness in fulfilling the will of God, always, in spite of any difficulty whatever.--ALBERIONE

Readings

Christian Prayer, p. 706

Liturgy of the Pauline Family, p. 181

Lineamenta, n. 7:

“Reread the present moment in light of the Christian gift of hope. Relearning the meaning of hope leads Christians to discover what they can offer in their world of encounters, experiences and dialoguing with others, what they can share in the process and how they can better express this hope which leads to perseverance. The new sectors which call us into dialogue require turning a critical eye towards our manner of life, our thinking, our values and our means of communication. At the same time, the occasion must also serve as a self-evaluation of Christianity today, which must repeatedly learn to understand itself, beginning from its roots.”


Canticle of Zechariah

Antiphon: LPF, p. 184

Concluding Prayer: LPF, p. 183

Nov. 23

God himself works for those who work for him. We must therefore be always disposed to do everything as if everything depended on us, and to pray as if everything depended on him. Our prayer is not genuine if our hands do not agree wit it. Hence: pray and work. Every action of ours should proceed from prayer.--ALBERIONE

Readings

Christian Prayer, p. 723

Liturgy of the Pauline Family, p. 181

Lineamenta, n. 11:

St. Paul the Apostle presents himself as an ‘apostle set apart for the Gospel of God’ (Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:17)…. In referring to the Gospel, we must not think of it only as a book or a set of teachings. The Gospel is much more; it is a living and efficacious Word, which accomplishes what it says. It is not so much a system of articles of faith and moral precepts, much less a political programme, but a person: Jesus Christ, the definitive Word of God, who became man. The Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, not only does the Gospel have Jesus Christ as its content; but even more, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is also the promoter and the centre of its proclamation and transmission. Consequently, the goal of the transmission of the faith is the realization of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, in the Spirit, thereby leading to an experiencing of his Father and our Father.”

Canticle of Zechariah

Antiphon: LPF, p. 184

Concluding Prayer: LPF, p. 183

Nov. 24

Let us make ourselves the pen and the mouth of God, for Jesus Christ, our Master. The whole man in Jesus Christ, for a total love of God: intelligence, will, heart, physical forces. All: nature, grace, vocation and apostolate. A cart that runs on four wheels: sanctity, study, apostolate and poverty.--ALBERIONE

Nov. 25

If St. Paul were living today, he would ascend the most elevated pulpits, and he would multiply his words through the means of current progress. The Pauline Family has been raised up by St. Paul to continue hiw work; it is in fact St. Paul, living and made up of so many members.--ALBERIONE

Use as an introduction to prayer: Liturgy of the Pauline Family, p. 182

Readings

Christian Prayer, p. 758

Lineamenta, nn. 6, 13:

Through migration “our societies are experiencing an unprecedented encounter and mixing of cultures….In such a situation, the new evangelization can provide the opportunity no longer to perceive the Church's mission as a north-south or west-east dynamic but one which transcends the geographic confines of past missionary activity. Today, all five continents are fields of missionary activity. We must also seek to understand the sectors and places in life where faith is absent, not simply as a result of drifting from the faith but from never having encountered it. Transcending the geographic confines of former missionary activity means having the capacity to raise the question of God at every moment in the encounters created by the mixing and rebuilding of the fabric of society….”

“Migrants must not simply be evangelized but be trained themselves to be evangelizing agents.”

Canticle of Zechariah

Antiphon: LPF, p. 184

Concluding Prayer: LPF, p. 183

Canticle of the Media of Social Communication

Response: Blessed by the Lord our God.

Blessed be the Lord our God, for our sister, the printed word, food for the intellect and light for the soul. R

We pray to you, Lord, for all the journalists of the world, cartoon and poster designers, publicity artists. R

Fill with the light of your wisdom writers, printers, distributors, and readers; keep them in your love and at the humble service of truth. R.

Praise be to you, O Lord, for our brother Cinema and his dynamic story-telling. He has the fascinating power of dialogue, drama, music and visual. R.

Guide, O Lord, producers, directors, actors and audiences towards all that is true and good, all that celebrated life and love of God. R.

Blessed be the Lord our God for our sister Radio who walks on the wings of the wine and makes the earth seem small. R.

We pray for all radio stations and transmitters; may this gift of God and work of humans be used for the freedom and growth and brotherhood of all your children. R.

Praise be to you, O Lord, for Television. May this pulpit in the heart of every home not disturb but increase harmony in family and prepare a people guided by Gospel values. R.

Praise be to you, Lord God, for email and internet, CD, FAX, cell-phone, social media and all the powerful means for the service of communication in the world and your Kingdom. May they sing your praise and glory. Amen. R.

To the Trinity

Most holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we thank you in union with the whole Church and in Jesus Master the Way, the Truth and the Life for the gift of sanctity, light and grace bestowed on your faithful servant James Alberione, the untiring apostle of the Gospel to the whole world. Grant that we may follow his example with complete fidelity to his spirit. May he be a guide and protector of all those who work for the coming of the Kingdom of God through the means of social communication. May he be to us light, guide and support in our work of sanctification and in our apostolate. Through his intercession grant us the graces we need. Mary, Queen of the Apostles, and St. Paul the Apostle, graciously support our petitions with your intercession. Amen.

Responsory

Liturgist: Jesus Master, we praise and thank you for the gift of James Alberione,

Response: our father and model in sanctity and apostolate. Amen.


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November 17, 2011

WIN A FREE DVD: "LOVE BEGINS"!



"LOVE BEGINS" stars MY awesome nephew, JERE BURNS (my half-brother's son), as the awesome sheriff.

In "LOVE BEGINS," Clark Davis is faced with the decision to follow his dreams of adventure or stay in the town where love begins. If given the choice between adventure and true love, which would you choose and why?

Oh yes, and it stars MY awesome nephew, JERE BURNS.

Submit your answer to lovebeginschicago@gmail.com to enter for your chance to win one of three copies of Fox Home Entertainment’s LOVE BEGINS DVD, inspired by the best-selling series from Janette Oke.

Contest ends next Tuesday, November 22 (the DVD’s release date). Winners will be notified by email.

Did I mention my awesome nephew, JERE BURNS, is in it?




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NATIONAL CATHOLIC SINGLES--DENVER--JAN 27-29, 2012

In the spirit of Theology of the Body!
http://www.nationalcatholicsingles.com/denver2012/

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November 13, 2011

MOVIES: "TOWER HEIST"




“Tower Heist” is one of those “almost” movies. It’s “almost” a good movie that “almost” achieved what it was going for. First of all, it’s difficult to define the genre: A satire? A comedy? A dramedy? Don’t be fooled by the Eddie Murphy billing. This is Ben Stiller’s film. But a rather serious Ben Stiller. Eddie Murphy comes into the picture far too late (I expected the audience in my cinema to start chanting “Eddie!” “Eddie!” while awaiting his delayed appearance. I almost started it myself.) Then, when he finally shows up, the missing-in-action-at-the-movies-for-far-too-long Eddie Murphy, the funniest guy in the room, spends much of his time standing around silentely like chopped liver in this semi-ensemble flick. Tres disappointing.

Ben Stiller (consistently fabulous) plays Josh Kovacs, an upright, conscientious building manager of an upscale apartment in New York City--a whiz at his job and someone who has a heart for all the “little people,” the domestic staff. Arthur Shaw (a very effectively heartless, soul-less, icy-eyed Alan Alda) is a Bernie Madoff-type who lives in the building and is indicted for securities fraud—if only the FBI can prove it—that directly effects Josh and the building staff who trusted Shaw with their money and pensions. Eddie Murphy is Slide, a petty criminal who lives near Josh and whom Josh eventually enlists to help get his and his staff’s vanished money back.

The rest of the cast is truly star-studded: Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, Judd Hirsch, and Tea Leoni who gives a show-stealing performance as an unlikely FBI agent.

The story-line hangs together very well, albeit at a slow pace that never quite revs up. The tee-hees are sparsely spaced. In the end, the whole point of “Heist” seems to be a kind of revenge fantasy in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street. The soundtrack is a monotonous super-cool, bass-driven loop.

There is an interminable sequence that takes up a good portion of the second half of the film involving a very expensive sports car and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. (What is it with filmmakers and iconic parades?)

Unfortunately, this PG-13 film is littered with frequent, graphic, offensive and over-the-top sex banter that really crosses the line for a PG-13.

“Tower Heist” is illustrative of the Gospel for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: “He who is faithful in little things will be faithful in greater,” both in a positive dimension (Josh Kovacs) and a negative dimension (Arthur Shaw).

The great lesson to be learned from “Heist” is that the underdog can fight back and win, but there will be a price to pay. This was so well executed that the folks in my cinema clapped at the end of the film—I could actually feel the applause coming—not so much for the film, but for the righteous point made.

OTHER STUFF:

--Why don't male Hollywood actors DYE their graying hair? They would look soooo much younger. This means YOU, Denzel, Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, (Clooney, you're OK). Alda and Hirsch--it doesn't even matter.

--Casey Affleck rocks, but this part was below him and he knew it.

--"What's Code Black?" ha ha

--"Heist" needed way more funny. But the funny was funny.

--A few "Jesus Christs." Even one is too many. ESPECIALLY in a comedy.




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October 29, 2011

CHICAGO--ADVENT WOMEN'S RETREAT!

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MOVIES: "IN TIME"



“In Time” is a sci-fi thriller set in a dystopian world (i.e., Los Angeles) with a fascinating premise: The new currency is not money but time. Everyone has a glowing green digital display clock on the underside of their forearm (reminding one of concentration camps) that ticks off the years, days, minutes and seconds. Poor people of the “ghetto” time zone have a short life expectancy and live from time-payment to time-payment. Rich people, who live in their own time zone (filled with “Surrogates”-perfect people), may have centuries. Or more. But everyone looks young because people are genetically engineered to live to twenty-five years old, and then they literally drop dead in one more year unless they can somehow get more time (often by fighting or gambling). Time can be “given” to another by a handclasp. (The concept of “In Time” is from the brilliant mind of Philip Dick who also inspired the films: “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “The Adjustment Bureau.”)

“In Time” was written, directed and produced by Andrew Niccol--who wrote the excellent “Truman Show,” and amazing “Gattaca”—however, he flounders with “In Time.” Justin Timberlake (a solid actor) is Will, a scrappy ghetto-dweller who is given a huge gift of time by a stranger. However, the ever-watching “timekeepers” (the new police) begin tracking Will as he heads to the rich people’s time zone for some payback (the rich have an economic system that trades off the backs of the poor). “In Time” is rather “timely” given today’s economic woes and ever-widening gap between rich and poor.

Will gets close to the uber-time-wealthy Weis family and falls in love with their coddled and sheltered daughter, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). The head timekeeper (the ever-mesmerizing Cillian Murphy who could be the next Al Pacino) picks up Will for questioning while revealing secrets to Will about his deceased father. But Will escapes the timekeeper’s clutches, dragging Sylvia along with him both as intermittent hostage and love interest. They return to the ghetto where Sylvia learns how the “other half” lives and is moved to some compassion.

SPOILER ALERT: Will and Sylvia become both Bonnie and Clyde time-bank robbers as well as Robin Hood and Maid Marian stealers from the rich who give to the poor—with the justification: “If it’s already stolen, is it stealing?” (Which slogan, I was thinking, could start a real-life anarchical class warfare revolution of gargantuan magnitude, so I’m hoping the Occupy Everywhere people don’t see this movie.) The End.

The movie fails as a movie in many ways, and EVERYTHING needed to be shored up: directing, editing, acting (Amanda Seyfried—surprisingly—breaks NO emotional sweat whatsoever and makes her character and the whole story verrrry unbelievable. And she runs and runs and runs and runs and jumps out of buildings and from roof to roof in tiny dresses and 6-inch inverted ice cream cone-shaped heels).

There are constant breaks in the action/tension and lots of small, unnecessary, repetitive scenes that bore us to death. The story/dialogue is completely linear and often laughably simplistic. The dialogue does not “cut deep” into the world we’re introduced to—the characters always sound like they are explaining something to US. (To quote “The Truman Show”: “Who are you talking to???” It also imitates one weakness of “The Truman Show”: someone raised in a totally rarified environment immediately adjusts to a completely foreign world.)

The three twentysomething gals in front of me in the theater were NOT buying any of this movie (and it seemed like they were genuinely looking forward to this film as I was). We are simply used to much more sophistication in films these days. This might have cut it 10 years ago, but not today.

The music is nothing special and the set direction is truly horrid and fake. The “ghetto” is just too clean and nice, and if you simply look to the periphery of the action, everything screams “this is a set!” (Along with the fact that there are very few extras, so there’s never the feeling of a crowd or a multitude.)

Multiple Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood made unfathomable choices: the ghetto people are all snazzy dressers who look like they just came from an upscale nightclub. Um, I think Hollywood doesn’t always know how to do truly “shabby.” Case in point: Another recent film had a lower middle-class character complaining about the “small hovel” he was living in. What??? With a huge kitchen lined with glass-windowed cabinets and an immense free-standing island with a granite counter-top? Hollywood just doesn’t get it.

And yet, for all my criticisms, this is not one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The premise is still solid and the concept of giving freely of the most precious things in life in a cutthroat culture that doesn’t understand the concept of “gift” or charity is well portrayed.

There’s some great soul-searching about whether or not it’s right to want to live forever here on earth (especially at the expense of others): “For a few to be mortal, many must die.” Some of the wiser heads see an innate, existential need for death. Others, a practical need: “If everyone lived forever, where would we put everyone?” Or, to paraphrase Steve Jobs: “Death sweeps out the old to make room for the new.”

There is also—yay!—an explicit condemnation of applying Darwinian notions of natural selection and survival of the fittest to capitalism and human beings—double yay!

In actuality, time IS the only “good,” the only “currency” we have. We just can’t know how much of it we actually have on this earth by simply glancing down at our arm every few minutes. Unfortunately, we Catholics don’t seem to emphasize the preciousness of time very much any more (or our eternal destiny and the eternal consequences of our use of time). Recommended reading: “The Last Things,” by Fr. James Alberione.

OTHER STUFF:

--The citizens of the world of “In Time” were genetically manufactured, and the poor are cogs in factories. New York City’s Cardinal O’Connor warned of a possible future where humans would be created in laboratories for just such types of “menial” tasks. And as zombie-like soldiers for wars.

--Only Olivia Wilde’s character made us feel how scary it is to only have hours at a time left on your clock.

--Everyone is just way too calm.

--Lulls.

--Information/exposition repeated.

--Big “fight” scene foreshadowed in detail so that when it actually happened, audience groaned: knowing exactly what they would have to sit through.

--“Are you insane?” is asked by characters of different characters about 14 times.

--The failures of “In Time” remind me of the failures of “Hotel Rwanda”: a completely tense set-up…and hardly any felt tension, with lots of little bouts of characters relaxing in between where there should have been no let-up.

--Awesome old cars. Awesome! Were those Caddinentals???




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October 23, 2011

MOVIES: "SNOWMEN" DVD


Yes. You wanna see this. If you liked "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," you'll love this. Teaches kids (and everyone else) what's important in our celebrity, "be seen" culture. Also stares death in the face. It goes there. Slightly reminiscent of "Letters to God," also.


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October 18, 2011

MOVIES: "THE MIGHTY MACS"


“The Mighty Macs” is based on the true story of the underdog Immaculata (thus “Macs”) College women’s basketball team in Philadelphia in 1971-1972. The college is run by the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters. In the film, Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn) is a rather severe but dedicated college head, trying to keep her school afloat. Her goals are very different from her school’s young upstart basketball coach, Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino), who is determined to get her ragtag basketball team to their first national championship. Cathy is newly married to her husband, Ed (David Boreanaz), and friction is created by her going against the expected cultural grain and not staying at home, but giving much of her time and energy to basketball.

Everything in the film is tenuous: the school’s solvency and future, the basketball coach’s job, and the very members of the basketball team—many of whom have pressing reasons not to stay on the team. A young Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton)—much to Mother St. John’s chagrin—gets over-involved with the basketball team, causing even more tension.

In 1972, the famous Title IX was being enacted. It was an educational amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and wasn’t specifically about sports, but ended up greatly impacting women’s sports, stating that any activity receiving federal funds couldn’t discriminate on the basis of sex.

There is a gradual build up and transformation of the team from raw talent to honed skills, in great part because of Cathy’s confidence-building.

In the end, the entire convent becomes the team’s biggest boosters and unofficial cheering squad.

Like the movies “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Soul Surfer,” this is a girls’ sports film, but with a Catholic twist. Tim Chambers, the writer-director, is from Philadelphia, and was taught by the IHMs himself. His intention in bringing “Mighty Macs” to the screen was to tell Catholic stories and portray Catholics from a Catholic point of view. Some concessions with Hollywood had to be made in order to make that happen (for example, some of the prayer was removed), because Hollywood thought the movie was “too Catholic.” (Are Woody Allen’s films “too Jewish”?) Um, the movie is about nuns, for Pete’s sake! The real heroes, however, are the young basketball coach and her team. Mother St. John and Sr. Sunday end up being rather one-dimensional and stereotypical (the stern Mother Superior and the scared rabbit younger sister), but otherwise, it’s a great slice of history. We can easily forget that opportunities for women were once much more limited, not so long ago.


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October 3, 2011

HOW'S "COURAGEOUS" DOING AT THE BOX OFFICE?




As you no doubt know, a little Christian-based film opened this weekend at #4 in the nation, and as the top new film, sharing the thin air with DOLPHIN TALE, MONEYBALL, and THE LION KING.

A few highlights:

1) Ranking. COURAGEOUS was the #4 movie in the country, though it opened against six other movies with almost three times as many screens. It was the #1 new movie of the weekend!

2) Audience. More than 1 million people saw COURAGEOUS this weekend.

3) Box office. Total box-office was $9 million, $2.2 million more than FIREPROOF on opening weekend.

4) Per-screen. Per-screen, COURAGEOUS averaged $7752, almost doubling everyone else.
5) CinemaScore. COURAGEOUS received a rare A+ CinemaScore, a signal to expect strong word-of-mouth in coming weeks.

6) Mainstream press response. Most general entertainment press and reporting outlets were surprised by COURAGEOUS. A couple of early excerpts before the actuals were in:

Variety
"Time and again, the pic effectively emphasizes how the deputies are reminded on a daily basis what eventually can happen to at-risk children who don't have fathers involved in their lives. Little wonder, then, that they're moved to ask God's help to hone their own paternal skills."

Box Office Mojo
"Sherwood Pictures' COURAGEOUS scored $8.8 million from just 1,161 theaters for a strong per-theater average of $7,580. . . The opening ranks fifth all-time for a Christian movie, and only trails THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and the three NARNIA movies." . . . "Made outside of Hollywood without any major stars, COURAGEOUS managed to fly under most radars (including my own) until very recently. It's unfair to ignore the vast majority of church-going Americans for whom typical Hollywood fare isn't of great interest, though, and Sherwood Pictures has impressively found a way to mobilize this subset of the population."

Time
(Best Title Award): Surprise! Dolphins and Jesus Beat Cancer and Dead Kids!“Like the Christian-themed SOUL SURFER, the Kendrick's holy-cop film (with a $1-million budget) was pitched to the faithful, who came out fervently this weekend and gave it an A-plus CinemaScore. Opening in just 1,161 theaters, COURAGEOUS had the top per-screen average of any movie in the top 25. Even an agnostic would call that heavenly.”

7) Other indicators. Sales of books and resources supporting film's message—The Resolution books and others—reflect the movie’s spreading influence. Kerusso, maker of t-shirts, reports five times as many COURAGEOUS t-shirts sold as for FIREPROOF. Meanwhile, Facebook fans count on the COURAGEOUS fan page has leapt in a few days from 224,000 to 247,000.

Sherwood Church and its national field of supporters have long prayed for God to do “exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine,” and He’s doing it.

Learn more:
CourageoustheMovie.com

Join COURAGEOUS on Facebook:
Facebook.com/CourageoustheMovie

Follow COURAGEOUS on Twitter:
Twitter.com/#!/CourageousMovie

Press material:
CourageoustheMovie.com/pressroom


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FREE PASSES TO "THE WAY" IN SKOKIE, IL--OCTOBER 5

So, you want to go to a free screening of "The Way" on October 5 in Skokie? Click on link (you can get 2 free passes!)

http://www.gofobo.com/rsvp/promotion/a809913f2fa7584a2130e48016fc3e50



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October 2, 2011

MOVIES: "THE WAY"




For anyone who has walked “The Camino”—the ancient pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, this film will be a treat as you relive your trek. For anyone who has not—this is your video travelogue, and much more! “The Way” is a journey film (physical and spiritual) and it’s a WALKING journey film.

Written and directed by Emilio Estevez--who also acts in it with his father, Martin Sheen—it’s a moving and all-too-common scenario of an estranged father-son relationship. Martin Sheen is the main character—a stubborn codger who winds up on “El Camino” with three aging Gen-Xers (one of whom dubs him “Boomer”). Boomer’s traveling companions are (successively): an hilarious, portly Dutchman (think John Candy in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”), a chain-smoking Canadian gal, and an Irishman with writer’s block. They all have their issues to work out, but “The Way” pretty much avoids heavy-handed clich├ęs in this regard.

This was a VERY difficult film to make. Think about it. Four strangers walking. For the entire film. But it holds your attention and interest the entire time. There are tiny suspenses, and a certain tongue-in-cheek, amiable self-consciousness of what a BIG METAPHOR FOR LIFE it all is. And we can see ourselves in this motley crew. The film totally works, totally comes together.

I don’t want to give too much away of the simple but rich storyline by telling you more of what happens, only that this film is a “sit back, relax and enjoy it” film. We are not given any beautiful countryside landscapes, even though we subtly note the changing seasons, because the film is shot in lots of tight medium range shots. This is squarely a film about people, not about breathtaking nature, and not about people being enthralled by breathtaking nature. But we WILL experience all the human customs, hospitalities and tropes along the Camino.

The lesson of the Camino seems to be that we’re all on it, whether we want to be or not. Whether we’re in Spain or not. And as the tagline of the film says: “Life is too big to walk it alone.”

“The Way” is as open ended as life. We have no idea what’s going to happen along the way. And opting out is really bad form.

“The Way” goes to great pains to make sure we understand that none of these “pilgrims” are doing it for religious reasons. I think at least one of them could have been. Hey, trillions of people from time immemorial have been earnest religionists. Why can’t we see that on the big screen (or any screen)? It almost felt MORE insincere to leave the believers out! It seemed to be a carefully-studied areligiosity. Any true acts of faith and devotion belong to those outside our little cadre. But of course, the reality is that many, many who take up the sojourn are NOT there for religious reasons. To each his own. And I guess it IS more reflective of our postmodern world where belief in God and expressing that belief through the practice of religion is something that is declining in the West.

Buen Camino!


OTHER STUFF:

--Smart and funny.

--"The Way" is a filmic journey not to be missed.

--Just as "life is too big to walk it alone," so "The Way" is too good to watch it alone!

--This film totally makes you want to go do the Camino or get out and hike with others…and Him.

--I think my favorite part was the Gypsy sequence. It’s another mini father-son story (there are MANY in the film)! But it’s tied as my favorite with the swanky hotel scene where they all start off in separate rooms….

--Martin Sheen plays a father’s grief so well. He also plays his terse, tight-lipped role so well.

--There’s a book about the Camino called “Walk in a Relaxed Manner.” “The Way” nails this pace, and maintains it consistently. Again, I think it must have been very difficult and very crucial to nail the right pace in a walking film! AND it’s NOT episodic, another huge would-be pitfall of this movie.

--Frequent fun mis-en-scenes of the four travelers.

--Pope Benedict calls the Catholic Church in Spain “creative.” You’ll see why.

--All I can say about the incense thurible at the end: “W-H-O-A.” Pretty wicked awesome. At a screening, Martin Sheen said that in the old days, it was actually used as AIR FRESHENER for stinky pilgrims! Flying Febreze!

--Very funny how Americans are perceived in Europe and the rest of the world.

--There’s a certain amount of philosophizing, as one would expect along the Camino, but it’s not tedious.

--A short but beautiful cremation scene. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thing in a film.

--The soundtrack is mostly lovely light rock and folk rock. But light rock with teeth. And a very fitting Alanis Morissette ballad. Sometimes the walking is just silent. But the audio always always feels natural and right on the money.

--Martin Sheen looks like he’s in VERY good shape. It’s hard to even think of him as “Boomer.” Isn’t he the President of the United States of America? “The Way” could have devolved into “Grumpy Old Man on the Camino,” but Sheen is just too classy for that.

--At the very end, Martin Sheen’s character should have “littered.” Because of the wind blowing in the wrong direction. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

--The only few false notes for me were the Canadian woman’s initial “introductory” speech as well as the Irishman’s. Both of them were a little too theatrical. Also, the Gen-Xers looked more like Baby Boomers.

--I don’t know if I like the movie poster. It looks like: 1/3 Abbey Road, 1/3 the famous evolutionary progression chart, and 1/3 the Jesus Freaks’ “One Way” symbol. But maybe it’s supposed to!

--Great Lenten film. Great film about community. Four seekers who still need community. Who still need to be “alone together.”

--We meet A LOT of people along the way, but it doesn’t feel like too much. Just like all the people we meet in our own lives.

--There’s lots of WINE on the Camino. :]

--Shot with Red??? The background was often in focus with the foreground!

--Why are we afraid to show MORE Western religion (Christianity) in films? While we can.

--Hmmmm: were the precious (various) guidebooks a BIG METAPHOR as well? Of course.

--“The Way” is screaming for a group-discussion booklet or guide book component of its own!


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