February 12, 2019


It was recently brought to my attention (by a young woman in discernment) that there exists on YouTube (for free) the 6 episodes of an award-winning Australian TV mini-series called "Brides of Christ." It's set in the turbulent 1960's before/after Vatican II (featuring a young Naomi Watts and Russell Crowe!)

Now. I am bringing this series to your attention NOT in order to recommend it, but rather to briefly review it, warn you and head you off at the overpass. I have been a vocation directress for a long time, and I keep abreast of the latest "discerning" trends. Young women today do tons (or tonnes) of online "research" regarding religious life, and they watch all kinds of documentaries and movies (like the heinous and completely unrealistic "Novitiate," see my review: https://hellburns.blogspot.com/2017/09/movies-novitiate.html#.XGMifjNKiM8) about nuns. Some guidance is in order.

The storyline: Some young friends attend an all-girls nun-run boarding school. Some of their teachers are young women, not much older than their students, who are in formation to become full-fledged nuns. We enter the drama on both sides and the intersecting drama of teachers and students as well. Masterfully done! So much attention to detail, camera angles, etc.

"Brides of Christ" has excellent production values, stellar acting and deep insider knowledge of how the Catholic Church (and religious life) operates. I saw the name of a priest and two nuns as advisors in the credits. It goes from a very realistic moment to the next moment being "um, that would never happen," so, it's confusing. The nuns are, for the most part, genuine, lovely people, each with their unique personalities and approaches to life and religious life in particular.* However, it's fairly clear (while voicing some good arguments for healthy tradition and doctrine) that the perspective of "BoC" is a "liberal" one. Ugly moments like the shaming of a divorced Catholic, some heavy-handed (but accurate!) sex education with morality (what a concept!) and quandries about "renewal" in the convent, as well as the jettisoning, trashing and under-bus-throwing of "Humanae Vitae," all make this abundantly clear.

"Brides of Christ" is SCREAMING for Theology of the Body: not only in the 1960's setting, but in the 1991 setting of the filmmakers who only seem capable of examining the whys of Church teaching in a truly rigid, harsh, truncated, negative, legalistic, controlling, judgmental, inadequate, incomplete, impersonal way. The rudimentary elements of Church teaching are there, but not the positive, "what are we saying yes to when we say no?" abundant fleshing out. And so, it all falls miserably short. (And yet, we can still see glimpses of the beauty of order and discipline and how it benefits everyone concerned.)

Watch at your own risk of becoming misinformed and having faulty scenarios lodged forever in your cranium. I would love to "teach" this entire series by freeze-framing and commenting on the good, the bad and the preposterous. Until that becomes a reality, may I recommend reading Anne Carey's "Sister in Crisis (Revisited)"--the hands-down best chronicling of "what the heck happened" to women's religious life in the 20th-21st century.

January 28, 2019


In case you're thinking--as I was--that you pretty much know what the film "The Wife" is all about? You kind of do and kind of don't. If you think it's about a woman who has devoted her whole life to her husband while she stays in the background and then has regrets, you're half right. Glenn Close is absolute perfection in the role of an older woman whose husband has just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Jonathan Pryce is sterling in all his irresponsible despicableness. The opening scene is the white-haired couple canoodling in bed, so you know their relationship is strong and sweet. So why the strange look on the wife's face when she listens in on the phone call announcing the prestigious award?

The second wrinkle in the blissful afterglow of the jubilant news is the adult son, himself an aspiring writer, being patronized and rebuffed by the father he idolizes. In fact, it doesn't take long for us to realize that this Nobel awardee is a bit self-involved, rude and self-indulgent. His wife strives--sometimes in vain--to keep him cordial, healthy and on time.

But hubby seems to truly adore wifey. He introduces her to all the bigwigs, credits her constantly and sincerely with being the love of his life, his muse. He evens says he is nothing without her. So what's the problem? What is the discontent between them?

This lean, tight drama that unfolds like a Harold Pinter play, could easily have been a play, but fits smoothly on screen. There are untold amounts of foreshadowing everywhere, and the acting is so believable that we are almost convinced we're watching a documentary of the pair in Stockholm--getting ready for the biggest day of a deserving, brilliant writer's life.

Flashbacks tell us how the relationship began: he the writing professor, she the enthralled student. What secrets they have built up together over the years gradually emerge. The exposition is incremental and masterful. The relationship is steady as a stone and as volatile as a volcano. Who will win? Who will lose? Whose love is real, whose is not? In some ways "The Wife" reminded me of "Phantom Thread," where the logic of unspoken husband-wife agreements from another era seems inscrutable to us. But as my mother once told me in no uncertain terms when I was dishing out advice on her marriage (to my Dad): "You can judge us as parents, but not as a couple. You have no idea and no understanding about what has gone on between us."


--The young wife is played by Glenn Close's real-life daughter!

January 24, 2019


Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, "Green Book" is a feel-good, road-trip, buddy movie. Or is it? Someone recently commented: "'Green Book' isn't saying as much as it thinks it is"--or maybe what it's saying is even worse than vapid. But first, my first impressions watching the film. The premise is delicious, of course. An uncouth, Italian-American New York bouncer becomes a chauffeur for a highly-cultured, fastidious African-American genius pianist in the 1960's. But that's not all. They're going on tour in the Deep South. It's the mismatched Odd Couple among wolves--a spin on the "fish out of water" story.

Oh, and the title "Green Book" is apt. There was actually a book for "Negro motorists" telling them what they could and couldn't do, where they could and couldn't eat and sleep in the South. I think this title, this chilling and pathetic "little" piece of history is a bigger part of the film than we might first realize. Lest we forget. 


Although the premise had promise, I was skeptical about the execution. Was the film going to be full of facile, writ large SET UPS for trouble with a capital T? Was it going to be brimming with polarizing white vs. black stereotypes and truisms? Would it really "go there" to the roots and heart of racism and make us uncomfortable and convicted (I speak as a white person, of course)? Although remaining rather surface (GB is a light comedy), I was pleasantly surprised by the nuance (for the most part) and humanity and mirth (meaning it made me laugh a lot).


GB is billed as "based on a true friendship," but the main character is squarely Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen in the role of his life, not for the depth of the part, but for his "inhabiting" the character).  Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is almost an under-developed, one-dimensional prop in the back seat. Ali does a fine acting job (far better than "Moonlight," where I didn't "buy" his tough guy acting at all). In fact, Dr. Shirley's character is so under-developed, isolated, conflicted, reticent and one-dimensional that it seems impossible that this portrayal could have been the real Dr. Shirley (a man who left his cushy digs and gigs in NYC to put himself in harm's way on purpose). We're not even sure why he's so interiorly conflicted (beyond the constant challenges that prejudice presented).
It seems my suspicions may be correct. (If this was a work of pure fiction, go ahead and develop a Hollywood-type, interesting persona for the man, but it is not--much like the movie "Silence" falsified the life/history of a Jesuit missionary in Japan, using his real name, when the facts were known to be otherwise: http://hellburns.blogspot.com/2017/01/movies-silence.html#.XEnpMlxKiM8 .) I understand the "BASED on a true story" poetic license, but I believe that has limits when you're talking about real, historical people. Toward the end of the film I thought: this really isn't an "equal" film about friends (no matter what "color" they are). Shirley is fading into the background and we barely know him at all.


Not only is "Green Book" being castigated by many in the Black community for being a "white savior" film (although there is some tit for tat with Shirley challenging and teaching Vallelonga to "do better," helping him write love letters to his wife, appreciate the finer things in life and not always immediately resort to his fists), it seems that not only is Dr. Shirley's life, work and personality misrepresented and mischaracterized, he never gave "life rights" for this film to be produced.* Vallelonga's son, Nick, along with director, Peter Farrelly, claim some kind of verbal permission, but this has been roundly denied by Shirley's family (Dr. Shirley died in 2013). In fact, the only person Dr. Shirley allowed to tell his story was a neighbor living in the artist's colony above Carnegie Hall, Josef Astor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY69eoacdLg  "Let It Shine--Donald Shirley In His Own Words." (Enjoy this delightful eight-minute snapshot!)


Like fellow musical prodigy Nina Simone, who was trained to be a classical pianist but was denied the right to perform and pursue this genre professionally simply because she was Black, the same happened to Dr. Shirley, and that's why he had to create an amalgam of classical and jazz in order to have a career of any kind. (This fact alone in Shirley's story is incredibly outrageous and infuriating.) However, Shirley was able to put his foot down on many other (albeit lesser) issues in his life and demanded to be accepted on his own terms (e.g., wearing tuxedos).

Why the short, truly humiliating homosexual bath house scene (where Tony is, once again, the hero)? Is this just a political statement that, like the prejudice of racism, the prejudice against homosexuals needs to be done away with? It seems the real Dr. Shirley wouldn't even exactly declare himself on the "question" of his "sexuality." I found it very off-putting that the filmmakers chose to include this scene, in the sense of anyone--especially such a distinguished figure as Dr. Shirley--being exposed, naked, in flagrante (although the visuals are discreet) in the context of a light comedy. It really didn't match the tone.


As far as GB being labeled "racist," it's not so much for the racial epithets hurled around on all sides in the film--which is absolutely true to life--(much like TV's "All in the Family" which did the same in order to highlight the wrongness and ridiculousness of it), but for the perspective. The white entertainment perspective. I get that. I'm white and I admit I thoroughly enjoyed the film with few misgivings at first. I'm sure that there are Black people who don't take offense at GB and appreciate "the effort" to make Dr. Shirley and his music known once again to the world (even while glorifying Vallelonga over Shirley), and to deride bigotry by skewering it.

However this film got made and however it was executed may have been at least partially unjust, but think about this: "imitation is the sincerest form of admiration."** Tony Vallelongo and his son Nick literally hitched their wagon to a star.


Please read this ENTIRE article (finder's fee = @belovedbless):
but also note this one comment at the end:

johnatdell . / Jan 14, 2019 11:20:29 AM
I don't blame the Shirley family for being hurt by not being consulted by the film makers prior or during the making of the film, but the truth of the matter is that Tony Vallelonga and Dr. Shirley had long relationship as friends that the family were obviously unaware of (i.e. decades of letters, visits and interviews). The family claimed that the two men only had an 'employee/employer relationship'. But, there is a on camera footage of Dr. Shirley saying these words regarding their actual relationship. “I trusted [Vallelonga] implicitly. See, Tony got to be, not only was he my driver, we never had an employer-employee relationship. We didn’t have time for that. My life was in this man’s hands. Do you understand me? So we got to be friendly with one another." I don't think it would have benefited the film to have had the family standing over the shoulders of the Director and Editors making content decisions that would only serve their own interests. Why would they want his closeted homosexuality to be included in the story, in light of the fact they came from very conservative/religious roots? If the Shirley family's relationship was so close with their brother, why were they ALL left out of Dr. Shirley's Will when he died in 2013? That fact should tell you quite a bit about their 'close' relationship.
*My understanding of "life rights" is that if they had made a biopic directly about Dr. Shirley, that would not be allowed without some kind of express permission (from the person themselves, their estate, etc.). But since the main character is Tony Vallelonga, one can include--even in a major way--acquaintances, employers, family members in the telling of one's own story.

**This, incidentally, is why I have a problem with much of the outcry against "cultural appropriation" (coming from any culture). Um, cultural appropriation is an incredible compliment (if done sincerely and not to shortchange, rook, distort or mock). Cultures have ALWAYS appropriated all kinds of good stuff from other cultures. It's what human beings do. If we want to trademark/patent every last aspect of our culture (and is it purely ours?) then we won't matter any more and we won't have influence and we are ghetto-izing ourselves.

On the other hand, "Imitation" may be the "highest form of admiration," but there's also the question of "cultural appropriation" as described online by Nicole G. Cowie as: "Imitation without giving respect to the originators of a said [culture]/artform and at times a poor imitation at that. Also the fact that those who appropriate a [culture]/artform can get more accolades and financial rewards for their watered down version than the originators." Agreed! But I guess my question is this. How does one always and exactly determine this bad kind of cultural appropriation--in cases that aren't blatant, obvious and/or malicious?

Here are some examples:

(stay tuned) 

January 12, 2019


...from a Caps fan. (I'm a Blackhawks fan.)

Ooops! TWEEEEET! Ovi is high-sticking again! (See what I did there?)

January 8, 2019


I will be in this Thursday, January 10, at the "Gigs, Geeks & Gods" Conference (Church & Media Literacy, basically). Come on down!

January 7, 2019


I will be speaking on "The Feminine Genius" at St. Benedict Church on Kipling Tues night, January 8! Mass at 7:30, Rosary at 8pm followed by talk. A small display of books on the topic as well! Join us! ♀️

December 30, 2018


The new "Mary Poppins Returns" is a soaring success, a rousing romp and a tremendous triumph! If I thought I wouldn't get trounced, I might even say I like it as well or better than the original (I feel the urge to duck right now). Emily Blunt (who sings and dances splendorifically) is practically perfect in every way for the role of the world's favorite nanny--a role which she nails and owns while captivating and commanding the screen. From her mysterious, shaded British eyes that exude both steely resolve and an impish glow, to her affected and snooty accent, Blunt's every turn of the head, every under-her-breath witticism hits the mark with precision.


The setting is exactly as the title says: "a return." The children in the first Mary Poppins film, Michael and Jane, are all grown up. Michael is a widower with three young children who are growing up before their time. They are responsible and capable, but also sad and cynical. Michael is a bit of a scatterbrain and terrible with finances. His patience has worn completely thin and he's at his wit's end, about to lose the storied (pun intended) family home. Enter Mary Poppins, dressed in her old-world, eccentric, spit-spot attire. (It's a kite that brings her back to the Banks' family.)

In no time, Mary revives the children's joie de vivre, has them believing in magic (although MP firmly denies her magical powers as "absurd" and "rubbish") and agog at the world around them. The kids set out to save the house with schemes they've concocted themselves, under the watchful eye of Miss P.


Lin-Manuel Miranda (the lead in Broadway's "Hamilton") is OUTSTANDING as Jack the lamplighter. A big dance number with Jack and the other lamplighters (including a kind of lamplighter improv rapping) steals the show. I love, love, love the opening song about "holding your loved ones close" and hoping for "blessings from above." Yes.

No effort was spared on the rich, magnificent, but never overblown sets, props, camera angles, cinematography, FX, details, animation (yes, it's all there, even strains of the original songs and constant references to the original story with important story elements and plot points originating in the past). I do hope these new tunes will be sung and memorized every bit as much as "Feed the Birds," "Let's Go Fly a Kite," etc. The lyrics express wonderful sentiments, mostly about not giving up hope, not listening to naysayers--making us feel, with Mary Poppins, that, pish-posh, ship-shape: "nothing is impossible." The cinema experience is truly exhilarating. (I was responsible for initiating the applause in my theater at the end of the movie.)

It's delicious to see Colin Firth (usually playing a complex dramatic role) as a one-note, cardboard villain. He plays it to the teeth. Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury also join the fun. The biggest show stealer, or rather show stopper, of course, is the beloved Mr. Dick Van Dyke, dancing away at 92 in top form.


There is one bawdy song in which the umbrella-clutching governess herself dons 20's flapper gear and takes to a stage. I live with a Sister from Florida who is an aficionado of all things Disney, and she was horrified: "Mary Poppins is NOT bawdy." The words of the song go by so fast (nothing visually objectionable) that kids might miss it. Might. Something about not judging a book by its cover till you're under the covers. I get why Sr. Carly was upset--it almost makes us think that MP's devoted, disciplined, modest front is just that, a front. And that maybe the point is (wink, wink, adults) Miss Mary Jekyll turns into Miss Hyde at night, frequenting dives and speakeasys. Well, maybe it's not that bad, but Hollywood just can't seem to refrain from an injection of lasciviousness into everything, almost like a subversive trademark.


There are--thankfully!--no modern-day anachronistic agendas and ideologies plopped into London of the 1930's. However. I have a question for all us women viewers. We all love Mary Poppins, right? But why don't we want to BE Mary Poppins? Why don't we see more current-day women LIKE Mary Poppins on the screen? This is a great tragedy. Women are so good at children. We are so gifted by God for nurturing good little men and women into great adult men and women ("the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"). But it takes time. Lots and lots of time. And attention (of which we have a sore deficit, even when families are physically together). Children are not like cats (hardly any care required) or dogs (a little more care required). They need constant conversation and supervision and adventures and formation and instruction and correction and consolation and education and leading and role-modeling and inspiration and encouragement and TLC. Love gives of the very marrow of the self (not just money, things, and busy busy actions/deeds/tasks on behalf of the other)--but this is often the hardest gift to give--not just for women, but for everyone. And yet, it seems women used to give this gift more easily and naturally and now it has become foreign to us. Perhaps the point of the bawdy song was to separate MP from the children...she has a life of her own! But it's almost back to the "virgin or harlot" false dichotomy/false choice. There's another way. I shall call it "The Mary Poppins Option."


"The Mary Poppins Option" is how women can truly "have it all"--but not in the usual, improbable sense. In my book, the mysterious Mary Poppins is the best of what a woman can be. She is more of a matrix, a Maria Montessori, a galvanizer, a (healthy) enabler, more a mediatrix than a savior, and certainly a shepherdess and wisdom figure. She's a helpmeet who assists children and adults in finding the ingenuity, will and gumption in themselves. The Mary Poppins Option is that: a woman can be smart, sweet, supercilious and sassy all at the same time (like the all-the-rage melange of sweet and salty, or the sweet and sour soup that we all love); primp her appearance (if she wants); have a meaningful, challenging job; use her resilient, resourceful and receptive womanly gifts with all she meets, enriching them and making herself and them better people for having encountered her; hold the reins to the zeitgeist of a culture and steer it toward virtue and heroic sacrifice (sacrifices of both men and women); put the person, people first, love expressed in deeds, commitment, loyalty and precious time poured out.

Only out of Mary's prim and proper, well-ordered life, inside and out, could emerge true daring, could emerg educated risks, trust in an unknown future, taking the heat when plans fail, the courage to soldier on in the face of hardships, and...abandonment to carefree fun and imagination. They seem mutually exclusive don't they? Wise order and crazy antics? Or perhaps they're not really crazy antics but constructive, creative play that one should never outgrow. Only through self-denial, training and inner growth will be able to discern the difference and be able to truly cut loose...in the most delightful way. Only when we live according to the divine order can beauty and joy manifest.

"Mary Poppins Returns" is a solid project, a brilliant new classic--where the adult actors are as good as the child actors--that should win many awards and thrill audiences of all ages for years to come.


--Take the kiddos! See it in the CINEMA! Hurry up! Jiggety-jog!

--Julie Andrews wouldn't do a cameo because she didn't want to upstage Emily Blunt.

--2 Millennial Sister that I live with say they "don't trust" Emily Blunt/MP. They only trust Julie Andrews/MP. Interesting! But, of course, they also love Mr. Rogers whom I used to mock even when I was a child. Granted, Julie Andrews/MP was sweet. Emily Blunt/MP is not sweet.

--After the long, boring and not terribly inventive opening credits (besides the fact that it is probably supposed to be the paintings of Michael, dabbling in the new art form of "Impressionism"), the opening scene bursts out in song with Jack the lamplighter riding his bike, going from lamp to lamp, turning them off in the first few streaks of morning light. (I thought to myself: that looks like the guy from "Hamilton," but I hadn't done any research beforehand.) The song was fabulous and I was completely one over and knew I was going to love this film. I particularly liked the lyric: "You'll be blessed from above." #God

--The only miscast thespian was Michael, IMHO. I didn't care for him, Sam I am. And his hair was all wrong for the time period. Sideburns? Are you kidding me?

--There are all-out boisterous, celebratory songs and some incredibly tender, tear-jerking songs (especially "Where the Lost Things Go" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TFOZF0DokE ).


--It would be fun to go back and view the original "Mary Poppins," as well as "Saving Mr. Banks": the story of the female author of the MP series making Walt Disney's wait a very long time to obtain the rights to do the film, which, according to Sr. Carly, became his favorite work.

--"Grownups forget. They always do." --MP

--"Today or never, that's my motto." --MP

--"We're on the brink of an adventure, children, don't ruin it with too many questions."

--"Mary Poppins never explains anything."

--I watched this with Ma and she guessed the resolution immediately.

--The balloon scene really made me think of Jesus' Ascension. Don't laugh. I'm dead serious. Think about it. The human spirit longs to ascend. "No Place To Go But Up."

--2 hrs and 10 min did NOT feel long.

--The best "time lock" in a movie ever! And it's steam punk! (A "time lock" is a device that adds to the suspense. Characters only have a very limited, exact amount of time or disaster will strike and all will be lost.)

--Some BMX-like action makes it feel a bit modern, along with the "rap," but we know every age had its version of everything else. "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." --Ecclesiastes 1:9

--Jesus said: "It is no part of your Father's plan that any one of these little ones should ever come to grief." That means us. Little ones grow up. God wants us all to be saved, to choose salvation.

--MP is kinda like the woman of Proverbs 13. She laughs at troubled times because she knows there's a big picture and the story isn't over yet.

--I think it's silly to have MP be vain. I wonder if that's in the original stories and, if it is, why.

--Some VERY jazzy musical offerings that make rock n' roll look like Lawrence Welk.

--Two informative interviews with Blunt and Miranda: https://www.cineplex.com/Magazine

--A young Dad:

December 21, 2018


"Instant Family" starring Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg as foster parents is pure boosterism, as well as simultaneously clever, touching and...crass. A young couple--who flip homes for a living, get it?--aren't even sure if they want kids ever, but all it takes is some online surfing looking at pics, profiles and quotes from some pretty adorable kids in need and they're sold on fostering. Their naivete is matched only by the eager, elephantine energy they put into trying to make three siblings feel happy and at home--including, uh-oh-they-were-warned, one TEEN girl.

More than anything, the film is a comedy. It's trying very, very hard in the beginning NOT to be maudlin, to let so many F-bombs and names of unmentionable body parts fly that we'll never mistake it for a Hallmark film. Manic dialogue, exaggerated conflicts and generalized slapstick kookiness rules the day. However, the film slowly gets better and better, hitting its stride and addressing virtually every trope about what goes on in the foster system: the good, the bad and the ugly. The dialogue settles down a bit and is often great sassy fun. "Instant Family" is actually a smart and novel way to educate the public--and the filmmakers know that we know we're being edutained. Olivia Spencer and Tig Notaro play tough officials from the county (a comedy duo of their own) who guide potential parents through the ropes (the parent support group meetings are a hoot). They make no bones about the fact that: "It's not going to be easy." These young people have been abandoned and betrayed over and over again. To ask them to trust is to almost ask the impossible of  them.

At one point, the rebellious teen asks her new guardians: "Why did you suddenly want to become foster parents, huh?" When they're at a loss for an answer, all seems lost. On top of this, the children's birth mother reappears and it looks like the family will reunite (the ultimate goal of the foster program--if it's the best thing for the kids).

Of course, in our hearts, we know there's going to be a happy ending of one sort or another, but it will only be through a lot of heartache and growth--on everyone's part. The film wraps up well and with some unexpected flourishes and...lots of joyful celebration. (Oh, and watch for the Joan Cusack cameo.)

Kudos to the creative minds (and hearts) behind "Instant Family" for taking up such a delicate, fraught and needed conversation about the young minds and hearts who fall through the cracks and need a helping hand, a place to crash (and maybe a sledgehammer with which to smash) while families mend, dissolve or reconfigure themselves.

The MPAA rating is PG-13, but should be R because of persistent salacious language and subject matters talked about (no objectionable visuals). 


--The portrayal of Wahlberg and Byrne as awkward, average chumps is in line with the government's current foster program campaign: "You don't have to be perfect to be a parent."

--Rose Byrne always does such wonderful light comedy.

--"Instant Family" is often genuinely hilarious and has gotten good reviews for being a very atypical film for its topic (and a very atypical feel-good film).

--Faith in God is hanging around the film a bit, and it, too, is pretty hilarious.

--This film is better than heartwarming because it's beyond heartwarming to the definition of true love: "willing the good of the other as other, no matter what it costs me."

--Solid plot turning point: Thanksgiving scene where everyone's true feelings come out.

--Another great film about fostering (group homes): "Short Term 12" with Brie Larson

--"The Florida Project" is a spendid film about kids in precarious situations, but seems to lean toward the argument of staying with birth parents even if there's certain risk involved.

--My half-sister fostered kids and wanted to adopt one in particular. His birth Mom wouldn't agree, but to this day, with kids of his own, he still calls my sister Mom.

December 20, 2018


An elegantly-shot, black-and-white, English-subtitled Oscar contender is Alfonso Cuarón's new film "Roma." (Cuarón is known for "Children of Men," "Gravity," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"). The story is about a young woman named Cleo, a domestic servant and nanny to a young family with four children in the "Roma " neighborhood of Mexico City in 1971. She has much more of an indigenous look while the family is extremely fair.


More than anything, this film is a "slice of life," a love letter to women and a celebration of quotidian life in the midst of the shocking abandonments of women and children by men. Or rather it's about women being "left alone" with the children while men pursue false ideals and dreams. But nothing is dull, nothing is formulaic, nothing is stereotypical in this telling. Women are resilient, women are resourceful, women survive, women are the glue that holds everything together. (Later in the film we find out that feisty, passionate Mom is actually a biochemist, and it's obvious she also loved her husband, it's just that he loved something else more.)


The film progresses with a gentle, quasi-sleepy rhythm--almost unfolding in real time--and we are enchanted by the wide angles and long shots of a well-appointed home, streets filled with dogs and rag-tag marching bands, fields, beaches and wherever else the boisterous family finds themselves. There are only two settings that feel narrow and congested: the garage into which the Ford Galaxy barely fits (and scrapes, if Mom's driving) and the servants' kitchen and quarters. The entire mise-en-scène is mesmerizing and captures the slower pace but also more energized human interaction of just a half a century ago. (I was told to see this film in the theaters, and how I regret that I didn't!)

There is NO music in "Roma," only some of the richest and most realistic ambient sounds you've ever heard in a film. The DeMille-sized cast of thousands feels intimate and personal (no actor is ever a prop to this director), the screen teeming with life, peopled and populated, filled and subdued. There is unbelievable attention to detail, without ever overemphasizing any one detail, without ever being self-conscious, precious, precocious, twee or squee. There are many of life's giggle-inducing moments that, I'm certain, evinced hearty chuckles among movie lovers in the theaters I did not go see this film in.

If we are waiting for something violent or intrusive to happen, we shall wait in vain. The only intrigue is the mystery brewing when Dad leaves on a business trip and is delayed in returning.


There is one unexpected scene of prolonged full-frontal male nudity. Cleo's boyfriend performs a fierce martial arts routine for her, naked as a jaybird. There is not even a hint of female nudity in the film. Why is this? I'm really wondering if it has something to do with fertility. All the children in the film are the result of a man initiating new life...but then disconnecting from his own offspring (and thereby, himself) (Malachi 4:6).

Children are real characters with budding lives of their own, with age-appropriate dialogue and behavior, but of course this is 1971, before DMDRE (Digital Media Devices Ruined Everything). The organic relationship of mothers, grandmothers and female caregivers with their male and female progeny is truly organic and refreshing to behold. This is also a story about the dignity of children, and could easily have been entitled: "Women and Children."


Rather than glibly treating profoundly sad events with a light touch, Cuarón does delve into the depths a bit (but it's hard to contemplate emotions when the only semi-close-ups will be of Cleo's face). Instead, "Roma" reminded me of Viktor Frankl's dictum that the last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given situation. Mom and Cleo turn travesty into "a new adventure" for the kids...and themselves.

Life is peppered with both calmly and urgently uttered prayers--a pre-emptive and reflexive reaction to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

If you read about Cuarón's life, it becomes evident that "Roma" is reconstructed snatches from the recent past of a place in Mexico he is very familiar with, having grown up exactly there at exactly this time in history. There are recurring side-themes of water, airplanes, militarization/revolution.

Once in a great while, a man attempts to make a film from a woman's perspective, a film to honor women's experience--and gets it right. The visually-stunning "Roma" is one of those films.


--Realistic sibling squabbles.

--We see how Dad's absence affects his sons--the heaviness of the loss of fatherlove.

--Cleo's boyfriend likes focus.

--Children bring the life, joy, TRUE focus to life.

--Now, instead of Mom or Dad or even Cleo, we have Alexa raising children.

--"Women don't heal." (movie: "Tully")  But men also don't heal--in a different way.

--YouTube has lots of free oldie goldie movies. Although "The City That Never Sleeps" (1953) is noir, the themes are similar to "Roma." Plus ça change...

--Revolutions come and go, families remain (but in what way do they remain...without fathers?)

--Children used to be part of the Modern Project. It's when we cut them out that it all went to pot. Literally.

--And what happens to the divine order without men? What happens to civil and familiar order without men? It becomes overly feminized and therefore lopsided.

--The film is rated R most likely because of the male nudity. The sophisticated simplicity and lack of any real story arc would probably bore kids any way.

--Although Cuarón is fond of long shots in his work anyway, it made me think of the all-inclusive horizon-love of women. Before Eve, Adam was all by himself with God and the animals. The personal only came into view later for him. But for Eve, persons were always in her purview.

--"Roma" reminds us why we love the unique medium of film.

--In Hollywood, the way people communicate with the big execs is through billboards (I'm not joking: to get to the studios, their limos have to drive on the same roads as all us ham-and-eggers, commoners, rank and file, hoi polloi, pluggers, plebs, the proletariat, the unwashed masses)--it's also the way the head honchos communicate with everyone else. So, I was just in L.A. and there was a big billboard with a (b & w) still from the film stating that Yalitza Apiricio (Cleo) should receive the Academy Award for Best Actress. :)

December 11, 2018



A brilliant new film entitled "Searching" is about a loving father and his teenage daughter who are both grieving the recent loss of their wife and mom to cancer. What makes this film brilliant--beyond nailing the experience of grief and sometimes awkward or tense father-daughter dynamics? The fact that the entire film is told through screens. When I heard about this film, I thought "not possible," or "gimmicky," but it's nothing of the sort. Instead, we watch just how organic our online lives have become (without it even feeling hi-tech or unnatural). The human elements of life are wonderfully preserved. However, the peril of anonymity and illusion are showcased as well.

What is utterly fascinating is the blend of video and the printed word (mostly texting and online posts) forwarding the story. The thoughts and sentiments people begin typing and then, on second thought, erase is just as important as what they actually wind up sending.

The father-daughter pair actually have a very close relationship and are in constant communication via media devices. The question for parents that always arises as young people individuate and maintain secrets and private lives is "how well do I really know my child NOW"? And, of course, the intense and fluctuating emotions, challenges and choices that pave the way to adulthood are exponentially exacerbated by these digital tools. But it is also these same tools that give insight into and externalize what young people are dealing with and may find hard to express otherwise--at least they give insight in this film where Dad eventually has access to his daughter's innermost world.

BUT why is it that parents who are doing a pretty darn good job at parenting always beat themselves up--and those who could use years of classes on parenting skills think they're amazing? This cinematic Dad falls into the first category. If you watch and listen carefully for the moral of the story, it's the fact that it's always better to talk about it, to go there. Our young people--despite all appearances and attitudes--desperately want and need to talk it out with us, but WE have to provide that space and keep at it.

"Searching" is a mystery, a crime drama, a twisty thriller and a tender familial love story all in one. Kind of a perfect film.

(Perfectly OK for pre-teens and teens.)

December 10, 2018


Not too familiar with Dr. Peterson?

This is a great introduction. He gets contraception wrong (thinks it's a good thing), but the rest is mighty fine.

Of course, Natural Family Planning is a good thing, but it is qualitatively different from contraception and a completely different lifestyle. In fact, the difference between contraception and Natural Family Planning is so huge that JP2G called it: "two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality" (Familiaris consortio, 32). 


November 27, 2018


I have not watched this propaganda for the kingdom of darkness and I won't. You shouldn't either and you shouldn't let your kids. But DO watch the trailer below to get the gist. Note the fun music and campy feel given to things that can never be fun or campy because they are pure evil.

I'm sharing a letter below (about the series) from a fellow Sister who teaches at a Catholic high school. Note the interweaving of deviant sexuality/sexual practices with Wicca, Witchcraft, Satanism, etc., and...So. Many. Bloody. Killings.

Why does there seem to be so much more blatant Satanism everywhere (not just on the screen)? Nature abhors a vacuum. Is Christianity in decline? Well, there are lots of other spiritualities that would love to and are filling that void. When the salt departs, the meat goes bad.

At the very end of this blog post is a promo video for Celine Dion's new "gender neutral" clothing for babies/children. Note the same fun music and campy feel given to an ideology straight out of hell.

Welcome to the 2018 phase of the Antichrist where Satan no longer even tries to hide. (Read this WHOLE article: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/armstrong/exorcists-warn-about-dangers-of-wiccan-spell-to-bind-donald-trump )

Why did I hide Sister's identity below? Because Satanists, like their master, are a hostile bunch and go after those who critique their religion. She has already experienced it.

"Dear ______,

A friend of mine, who is a priest who is training as an exorcist, watched the first season of "Sabrina the Teenaged Witch" on Netflix with me. We watched it because we had a sneaking suspicion there was something really, really bad about it. 

Currently a few hundred satanists or wanna be satanists and general trolls are blowing up my twitter for warning people against the show.

When I was a kid I watched "Sabrina the Teenaged Witch", the one with Melissa Joan Hart in it. It was about her being a witch, but nothing within it had anything to do with explict satanism or was overly dark and creepy. The Netflix remake is nothing like that one. 

The premise of the show is that Sabrina was consecrated to satan from birth by her father, promised to him. Her mother, knowing this was coming, had her secretly baptized, which invalidated her consecration from birth because the "false god" had already claimed her. (interesting, eh?). 

Sabrina lives with her two spinster aunts who are also witches. Her father was the high priest, but he died (I cannot remember how) so the aunts raised her. She is considered a half witch, as her mother was a mortal. 

Sabrina takes place in many rituals and spells. They are all in Latin (and accurate Latin, so the exorcist and I suspect they are probably from real satanic rites). Regarding the episodes, this is what I remember (I wasn't taking notes):
  1. Sabrina finds out she is a witch and will be signing her name in the Book of the Beast, vowing her life to satan, on the evening of her 16th birthday. Then she will go to the "Academy of the Unseen Arts", where she will study the ways of the coven. The 3 "weird sisters", who are orphan witch children, place a blood curse on Sabrina. The girls being harassed by boys at her normal high school (non witch) start a club to rally against the patriarchy called "Wicca". 
  2. We meet "Father Blackwell" who is the high priest of the Church of Night, the coven that Sabrina's aunts and family line belong to. He is also the principal of the Academy of Unseen Arts. Sabrina and her WICCA friends are harassed by boys so she teems up with the 3 weird sisters to punish them. The boys join them for a make out session in the mines, but the weird sisters do a spell and the boys are making out with each other. Sabrina's aunts have a fight, Zelda kills Hilda, who is latter resurrected (apparently this happens a lot). Dressed as a bride, she goes to a halloween party, promising to make it to her "dark baptism" into the coven at midnight. She is a bit late, but arrives dressed as a bride, but ends up refusing to sign. Her family is humiliated. This is a wholesale mockery of baptism with "unholy godmothers" and such. The rite of Baptism is quoted, but with everything inverted to have an evil meaning. 
  3. Sabrina is put on trial for breaking a contract with satan because she was promised to him as a baby. It comes to light that she had a Catholic baptism, meaning the devil could have no claim over her. She is free to choose if she wants to belong to satan or not and sign the book of the beast. We find out that witches go to hell when they die, but satan doesnt torment them since they served him in this life. Sabrina is not found guilty by the witch court, but Father Blackwood says she must begin her study at the Academy of Unseen Arts immediately, attend weekly Black Mass, and break with her non-witch friends. 
  4. Sabrina is subjected to the "harrowing", which is a hazing like initiation for new students. She meets the ghosts of students who died from it. Sabrina learns to astral project. We see the statue of satan surrounded by children in the center of the school (remember the one the church of satanin Detroit had made a few years ago and is now on display surrounded by statues of children? its the same one--Baphomet). 
  5. Sabrina's family is tormented by a sleep/dream demon named Batibat. The episode involves more astral projecting and spells. 
  6. A friend's uncle Jesse is demonicaly possessed. Sabrina exorcises the demon, which she can do because she is a half witch.  They make the comment that this is something usually the Catholic Church specializes in. The demon is named Apophis, the devouring worm. Uncle Jesse is murdered by a witch whom we will later discover is Lillith. 
  7. Horrible episode about the "Feast of Feasts", which commemorates Queen Freya, a witch who fed her coven with her own body during a bleak winter of starvation. Each year 14 witches are chosen and the "dark lord" as they call him (satan) picks one to be the queen of the feast. She is celebrated and then slaughtered and eaten by everyone at the feast day celebration. Many obvious symbols point to this being a mockery of the Eucharist.
  8. Two gay warlocks get together, if you catch my drift. A curse is made on some humans who are descendants of witch killers, causing a horrible accident in the mines, killing several people. Father Blackwood hears Zelda's "satanic confession" (as they call it). He assigns them both a BDSM (bondage/domination-discipline-submission/sado-masochism) "penance" involving a cat of nine tails.. its disgusting. Again, mockery of a Catholic rite - this time confession. 
  9. . Sabrina tries to do a resurrection spell, which involves killing someone in exchange for the person she wants to resurrect, her boyfriend's brother who was killed in the mines. It goes horribly wrong. She creates a zombie, which has to be killed. Her boyfriend kills his own brother. 
  10. The season finale -- We find out that one of the characters is the demon Lillith, who is trying to bring Sabrina to agree to be satan's bride. The Red Angel of Death is summoned to kill the first born of all families, witch and mortal. I believe Sabrina signs the book of the beast. 
Lots of echoes of "praise satan" and "satan willing" are spiced throughout the show. Its really horrible. The exorcist thinks that some of the rituals within the show are possibly real. He is at a meeting of exorcists this week and he will discuss it with them. I posted on Twitter that its bad and like I said, I'm getting all kinds of attacks. There is definitely something evil behind this. its not like the usual fantasy witch craft show... this shows actual satanism."

Sincerely in Christ,

Sr. _____________


"Christmas Chronicles" (Netflix) is a cut above the usual cutesy, cheesy, syrupy, sappy Yuletide flix. Great bro/sis relationship. Let yer kids watch for some mindless, Christless Christmas fun. Kurt Russell=SUPERB as a non-annoying smart-alecky Santa. (KR is always superb in my book. I am totally BIASED.) Well, it's not totally Christless. The kids stop briefly at the doorstep of a church (with a good purpose).

CC starts off in Massachusetts and winds up in Chicago (with a whirlwind tour of the world on Christmas Eve).

Watch till the bitter (no, actually, it's sweet) end for a surprise and a great moment for the brother. SHOCKER: "Chronicles" features a postive father figure! (And it's not just Santa!)

Yes, some plot points are stolen right out of "Elf," and the whole "true believers" thing always borders on the blasphemous for me (see also my screed against the "Believe!" theme in "Kung Fu Panda," and anything Disney that invokes "Believe!")--but, in this day and age to find something that features regular kids with regular kid problems and solid, loving adult mentors? I'm gonna let that slide.