November 26, 2008



Romances are very difficult to create today. Why? Because to maintain romantic tension, the lovers have to be kept apart by something, and hardly anything is taboo in our postmodern culture. Gender, race, class, parental wishes, societal mores, customs, monogamy, commitment, money, etc., used to be major obstacles, but not when the zeitgeist is: "even publicly and legally, anything goes." (Age, that is, underagedness, might be the only remaining no-no. For now.)

"Twilight" successfully solves this problem by creating a kind of interspecies romance between teen human Bella (Kristen Stewart) and teen vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson). The result is a kind of goth "Pride and Prejudice." "Twilight" is based (very tightly) on the mega-selling book series by Stephenie Meyer (a practicing Mormon) so look for a film sequel. I will be. I did NOT want this movie to end.

The rainy, lush Pacific Northwest is perfect for the dark feel of this tasty tale. Teenage girls and their moms have gone gaga over the books, but the movie tested well on teen male audiences also. It's full of special effects because of Edward's suprahuman powers.

"Twilight," although not a "message film,"--it's great entertainment--definitely models for teens (and the rest of us) the wound of love, the restraint of love, the risk and danger of love that begins from the very moment we fall in love. (Kind of like when a baby is born—you're attached to the kid with a new umbilical cord of responsibility and worry and selflessness for the rest of your life.) The continual self-sacrifice involved in love is expressed through the apt metaphor of a vampire-turned-vegetarian who must always be self-vigilant, and a young woman who trusts in the best self of a "monster," a "killer," a "bad guy." This is not some easy "good girl falls for bad boy" stereotype, it's about the potential of humans (and other beings) to change, to exercise willpower, to transcend self.

Edward's desire for Bella's blood is a perfect kind of metaphor for the true love of sexual restraint. At a certain point, Edward MUST exercise this restraint to both save her life AND refrain from killing her. Dr. Carlisle Cullen, Edward's "foster father," fellow vampire and friend urges him: "Find the will to stop!" However, let it be said that in the movie, Bella and Edward woulda if they coulda.* They were ready to go for it in her bedroom. And what was she wearing (or not wearing) anyway? T-shirt and panties? (Not her fault, Edward barged in through the window.) In the BOOK--I am told by "Twilighters"--Edward makes it clear to Bella that he wants to marry her before they have sex, because he is an old-fashioned gentleman--in the best and fullest sense of that word--(he's from 1908).

Stephenie Meyer has tapped into some deep stuff: myths, food, conversions, free will (even vampires have free will!), love, immortality. The mix of mythical and human creatures is a perfect playground for the imagination to work out emotional and moral sticky-wickets. It's a great Theology of the Body film also, although some conundrums would be purely hypothetical. "Twilight" is all about laying down your life for another, whether Bella for her Mom, Edward for Bella, Edward's family for Bella, Carlisle for Edward, etc. It's a chain that just goes on and on.

There's no God so far in the world of "Twilight," but the principles are definitely Judaeo-Christian. There are promises and pacts made that reflect an unquestioning sacredness for human life and relationships.

"Twilight" doesn't quite hit its stride until about twenty minutes into the film. As a matter of fact, it takes itself too seriously until then, and is humorous in places it's not supposed to be (Edward looks like he's going to throw up rather than being overcome with passion when he meets Bella. Edward looks like the Snoopy-vulture cartoon, over-obviously staring and brooding in the background). The "buttons"--how a scene ends--should be punchy, but they're very weak in the beginning. But stick with "Twilight," and it gets good. It's total suspense because we have no idea what's coming next, and Act Three turns drastic as Bella becomes the obsession of a sinister band of human-hunting vampires. I gave the movie four stars despite these problems, because, as in life, it's not how you begin but how you end that counts.


--I'd like to know—beyond "love at first sight"—what Edward and Bella see in each other. WHY are they so attracted?
--The Bella/Edward "meet-cute" could have been much more artful than the Cullen vampire family filing into the school cafeteria while Bella's new friends gossip about them.
--Why do vampires bother going to school? And WHY would they want to be stuck in high school forever?
--How can Bella and Edward "live a long life" together if Edward will always be 17? (I'm sure this will be resolved….)

A word about the DIRECTOR. Catherine Hardwicke, who was raised Presbyterian, ("Thirteen," "Lords of Dogtown," "Nativity Story") gets teens. Her four movies celebrate teens. If there's a particularly feminine sensibility in her work, it's the interaction, conversational and otherwise between her characters. She started her movie career as a production designer and is known for her use of color ("Twilight" has a blueish tinge, especially in its outdoor scenes). Incidentally, she went to UCLA (yay!), and "Twilight" is the biggest opening weekend for a female director ever. You go, girl!

A word about the ACTORS. Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) of the "fwoopy hair," is sort of amateurish, but this fact coupled with his stiff Britishness and struggles to cover his accent actually assists in making him "otherly." Kristen Stewart (Bella), an arguably better actor, is sometimes too twitchy, and once in a while overacts (out of character with the feel of this movie)—like the scene where she's in the hospital bed. Robert has more chemistry with her than she has with him (which evidently was also the case on the set).

A word about the MAKEUP. Can you spot the vampires? Yes you can, because they all have (unfortunately comical) white mime makeup, lipstick, and anchorperson starched hair. Almost all bear an uncanny resemblance to Grandpa Munster. However, their eyes—which they use for communication and warfare—totally hit the mark.

COOLEST SCENE: The vampire family baseball game in the thunderstorm.

COOLEST VAMPIRE: Victoria (Rachel Zoe fashion chops). NOT a vegetarian.

COOLEST LINE: "Being a vampire vegetarian is like a human only eating tofu. It gives you strength, it nourishes you, but you're never fully satisfied." –Edward

NON-COOLEST SCENE: Edward does some fancy car maneuvering, but it's in one of today's ugly little "every-car-looks-like-a-Honda-Civic-even-if-it's-a-Cadillac-and-who-cares-how-much-you-paid-for-it-it-still-looks-like-half-of-a-bowling-ball" cars.

BEST ACTOR: Bella's new friend, Jessica (Anna Kendrick)

CLOSING THOUGHTS: Get the soundtrack!

*Edward wasn't "strong enough" NOT to suck every last drop of her A positive hemoglobin out of her succulent body when he got too close to her.

November 25, 2008


So, I clicked on the Tyra Banks Show to see what topics were being dealt with. Something about PLANNED teenage pregnancies (a la Gloucester, Massachusetts). One teenage girl in the panel planned to get pregnant by her boyfriend (without telling him)--by using NFP. When she was six months pregnant, she told him, and he was irate. (Her whole plan--as old as the hills--was that he would stick around forever.) He did not. (Why does this young woman need a forever boyfriend at age 16? Did she want to marry him? Does she truly want to be a mother right now or was the baby just a tool of entrapment? Can we see why teen sex is a bad idea? Our brains aren't fully formed till their early 20's--especially the decision-making/consequence part of the brain. There's science to prove this. So why, then, are we fertile in our teens? Perhaps God is trying to tell us that we SHOULD be more or less rapidly moving toward maturity in our teens, instead of prolonging adolescence through our late 20's. How many of our grandparents were married and beginning families in their teens?)
In the audience was the young woman's mother holding Nate, the teen's extremely adorable, extremely bald baby boy. Tyra began interrogating the mother who looked, talked, and dressed very sensibly (that is, "older" than her daughter). Tyra wanted to know if Mom approved of her daughter's actions. Mom said: "I didn't know she was having sex. When I found out she was pregnant, I was very upset." Then Tyra got exasperated. She said: "You know, everyone is horrified when a teen gets pregnant, but then when the baby is born, it's all, like, 'Awwwww, isn't the baby cute?.....'" Tyra was upset by this "conflict." (At least she could see the conflict here, and it actually bothered her that something wasn't making sense. For soft relativists, certain things ARE taboo--for the moment, anyway. The most obvious option, abortion, was never mentioned either because the producers think it's too ugly for a such a pretty show and everyone was clued in not to talk about it, or Tyra herself might be anti-abortion.) Tyra posed the question--aren't we sending the wrong message? Once the baby's born, it's OK. Does that mean teen girls should go on having MORE babies?
No mention of HOW babies come to be, because teen sex, of course, is totally legit. Tyra and Mom were talking about the teenager like she wasn't sitting right there (maybe this is part of this teen's problem?) Mom said she didn't want to "kick her daughter out of the house," (couldn't Mom think of any other alternatives?) but she laid down an ultimatum: If her daughter continues having sex, she'll kick her out of the house (it wasn't clear if Nate would land on his diapers on the sidewalk also).
Tyra: "Well, that's very unrealistic, isn't it?" (Heaven forbid! Once we start doing something, we can't possibly STOP, now can we? And we can't possibly tell teens NOT to have sex, even after they have a baby they're not going to raise themselves. We can't possibly say "no" to any one about anything, can we? Because we have absolute freedom, right? Teens will be animals, won't they? I mean, that's what all the teen flicks show us, right? I remember one teenage girl in a newspaper article saying: "Will adults please stop treating us like we have no self control? We're teenagers, not animals.")
BUT the teen (a very sweet, almost shy-looking girl) is continuing to have sex. Tyra: "So, now what?" Mom: "Well, I bent the rules to: 'If you get PREGNANT again, you're out of the house.'"

Sigh. Relativism is just so confusing, isn't it? Nothing stays the same, gosh darn it! Just when you lay down a principle, you HAVE to change it!

November 15, 2008


November 12, 2008

"Man and Woman He Created Them" by JP2G
newly re-translated and expanded text

[superfluous and useless comments in brackets by Sr. Helena]

Starting p. 264

More important than the presidential election was the passing of California's Proposition 8 (same-sex "marriage"). Mormons [ironically, historically in favor of polygamy!] are being persecuted now because of it (they poured $ into defeating the bill). If CA had passed it, the whole country probably would have. The Mormons and Evangelicals were fasting for this. The Evangelicals were speaking of a "sacramental view of marriage." [According to Rick Santorum, quoting an article in Atlantic Monthly, there is a billionaire gay activist, Tim Gill, who is pouring his millions into various state battles over same-sex marriage, managing to oust politicians and replace them with pro-same-sex politicians, etc. He has been "70% successful."]

Try asking a political candidate: "What is your view of the human person?" This is the most important question we can ever ask.

"Ethos"—the difference between "commandment" and "ethos" is very great. "Ethos" is your internal, moral position. We're supposed to live the laws out of our ethos. The goal is not to need laws at all.

JP2G knows we need the big vision behind Humanae Vitae or we wouldn't accept it. There are only two reasons why people don't accept Church teaching: hardness of heart or not understanding the big vision. Once we accept the big vision, we automatically accept the specifics. It took JP2G to fill in the total vision that Paul VI gave us. Once you have the "why," you have the "how to."

The world has a different view of the human person that will never converge with the Church's view—it's like two parallel railroad tracks. The world can't understand why the Church can't change. That's why they beat on the Church constantly.

Jesus takes us back further than the Old Testament. The people of his time kept quoting the Scriptures to him, but He said that wasn't God's original plan. We can't totally regain our lost innocence, but we can get back. But Jesus didn't stop there—he wanted to bring us into the future and show us the ultimate of God's plan for us.

Jesus said: "If a man looks lustfully at a woman, he commits adultery." And then JP2G said even if a HUSBAND looks at his WIFE lustfully, he commits adultery. Father thought all the feminists would rejoice at this, but they didn't understand because we are all so confused about what lust is. People thought—oh, great, now we can't even desire our spouses!
[Lust is always wrong, it's looking at/treating a person as thing for our own self-gratification. Desire is to want someone in their totality as a person. Desire can be disordered. We can desire someone we can't "have, but at least we are desiring them in their totality as persons. Desire within marriage is "go for it"! (Because we're relating to the other as a person, not as a thing, and all the mutuality that goes with that.) Lust within marriage is never permissible, which is what JP2G is saying.]

p. 267-269: The term "adultery" is used (even thought it applies to single men and single women) because of the spousal meaning of the body!!!!!! Every BODY has a spousal meaning. In a sense, any sexual sin IS adultery. ["The body is for the Lord."]

"The spousal mystery is the fundamental element of human existence." –JP2G

Abraham and Sarah didn't really understand God's intention and so they gave "an interpretation that had superimposed" (p. 268) itself on the original vision of good and evil (Sarah gave Abraham her slave girl in order to raise up an heir).

Just because something's in the Bible doesn't mean God approves of it! Some of it is just a narrative of what happened!

There were all kinds of interpretations and twisting of the Law—so people could justify themselves and say "I haven't done anything wrong according to the Law," and yet our consciences (p. 270) know better, actually DO know what the Law really means.

Contrary to popular belief, studies are showing that men are genetically hardwired for monogamy. [So are women.]

Q: So why is it so hard for us to do the right thing?
A: The Fall. The "man of concupiscence." We want absolute autonomy without answering to an authority. We want to be our own god, decide what is right and wrong.

p. 272: Altho' some OT laws about sexuality seems severe, it's in order to protect the order of the social life—marriage and family.

Aside from the Law, what IS this relationship of man and woman? (p. 276)

We treat people as we believe God is. Our TWO basic images of God: TRINITY (communion of Persons), INCARNATION (God becomes one of us, one of our stuff). BOTH images are God going out of Himself to unite Himself with the other.

In Eastern Church, Christmas is called: "The Incarnation" or "The Divine Condescension."

THE ONLY STORY THERE IS: An invisible God has become visible through the physical. ALL CHRISTIAN HERESIES GO ASTRAY FROM THIS IN SOME WAY. Jesus was completely God and completely human.

JPII was not original—that's a compliment. He took the riches of the Catholic Church and organized it in a new way. [Properly.]

The language of the liturgy is conjugal. To be Catholic is to be fully human. It's the fullest truth about the human person. The human being is the apex of Creation. When spouses come together conjugally, they become "virginal," meaning they are singular, one. [John Lennon intuited this: he felt "virginal" with Yoko, thus his album "Two Virgins."]

Q: So in heaven, we're all celibate because there's no marriage?
A: Marriage in heaven is not like it is on earth. Marriage is union. Heaven is union. Heaven is the one marriage of the Lamb and we are the Bride. In Latin-rite Church we say: "till death do us part." In Eastern Church: "till death bring you together forever." It means the same thing.

Comment by participant: So, when a husband looks lustfully at his wife, he violates her virginity, or rather HIS virginity WITH her. [Wow.]

The "H" Zone:

If we're HONEST, we'll be HOLY, it'll lead to HAPPINESS and HEAVEN.
If we DISS HONESTY or are DISHONEST, we'll HURT (and God and the Church don't want you to hurt), and wind up in H-E-double hockeysticks. (So Father tells the teens who ask "how far" they can go in dating—if it's totally honest, go ahead and do it.)

If you give yourself wholly to one person, you're done! You only have ONE body to give to one person! That's why polygamy, promiscuity, etc., is such a lie. Look at the tension between Sarah and Hagaar!

December 13—Fr. Loya doing day of recollection for men on lust, desire, how to see/look at women, etc. "Anatomy of a Woman."

p. 280—The Bible seems to pick on men particularly when it comes to warning about lust. Woman instead, is frequently pictured as the seductress, but not only—the virtuous woman is also praised. [Different warnings because we're different!]

Q: How can we look at persons in a way that doesn't just look at externals?

A: Practice looking at nature and other things in their entirety, in their integrity, etc. When you look at women, even in billboards, "personalize it." Make up a story about this woman, make her a real person. SEE, PRAY & PASS ON. Praise God for such beauty and move on. Spirituality of wonderment. "Unless you become like little children." Beauty should make you pray rather than lust. That will become your ETHOS.

In Europe, they're better at portraying the human body in all its beauty without making it provocative. Why Europe? Catholic country, Catholic ethos.

The way they teach people in D.C. to recognize counterfeit money: they NEVER show them the fake stuff, so that as soon as they see it/feel it, they know it!

For past 500 yrs: [Cartesian] Mind/Body split: body is not of value any more, so we just use it, pollute it, destroy it, etc. It became all about the rational. JP2G put Mind/Body back together and said: here's the proper worldview.

November 12, 2008


There can never be too many Holocaust movies. It's true there are many different "holocausts": the Armenians, Rwanda, the Ukrainians, the pre-born, etc., but the Jewish Holocaust is quintessential, at least for modern times. The Nazis employed and developed the latest technologies to make human extermination/extinction a science. The great modern project of paradise-on-earth-via-science-and-technological-progress was twisted almost beyond repair, and instead, created hell on earth. Postmodernism is born.

"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (from the 2006 children's novel) is a fresh, unblinking, exacting gaze at the horror that happened not so long ago. The movie poster says it all (please ignore the lame tagline on the poster)--there is "us" and "them," or rather "us" and "not-them." Two little eight-year-old boys on either side of a barbed wire fence, Bruno (German) and Schmuel (Jewish), try to make sense of something that doesn't make sense at all.

Bruno's (Asa Butterfield of the biggest, bluest peepers ever) Dad (David Thewlis) is a Nazi officer who moves the family a little too close to a concentration camp. Bruno, who loves adventure books and aspires to be an explorer, disobeys and has--very believable--clandestine meetings with Schmuel (Jack Scanlon). Once you get over the British accents and British-isms coming out of the mouths of Germans and European Jews (just embrace the exquisite British acting!), "Pajamas" is a "perfect film." I repeat, "Pajamas" is a perfect film. It's rated PG-13, but younger children should definitely see it also. (The Brothers Grimm pulled no punches either.) Life hurts, life is harsh. Evil is real. What side do YOU want to be on? This is probably THE best Holocaust movie for children because the story is simple, linear, and follows a child's process of reasoning.

If we are becoming a post-literate society, film can be a great way to peer into history, and examine our values. Although no Holocaust movie seems to capture the terror, the utterly debased living conditions, the outsized cruelty, this film gets to the living heart of the matter: What was going on in Nazi Germany and why, in all its nationalistic, ideological, "we're making the world a better place," murderous fervor. (See Ben Stein's movie "Expelled" for the Darwin-Hitler "natural selection" connection.)

"Pajamas" is also the story of a little boy who wants to be proud of his father, but can't. (What DID the Nazis tell their children when the propaganda didn't work?)

The score by the incomparable James Horner is imperceivable and scant. Silence and words are the eloquence here. Note the silence after Bruno asks Schmuel what he did wrong and Schmuel answers: "I'm a Jew." The same uber-civilized piece of classical music wafts through happy and gut-wrenching scenes alike.

The ending? Better the young people who go see this film realize what really happens when you start calling certain categories of persons "non-persons." Life is not a videogame.

November 3, 2008


YY 1/2
"Slumdog" is an improbable--nay--fantastical story of Jamal, a little boy living in the slums of India, who grows up to work in an Indian "call center" (you know: those outsourced customer service destinations--ha ha! we have NOT seen that before in a movie), and winds up on India's "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire." And wins the jackpot. (The host is no Regis Philbin. He be nasty.)

It sounds like I'm giving away the ending, but that's actually the beginning. Through a series of flashbacks, we relive Jamal and his brother Salim's tragic young life--although they have many fun scrapes and chases with police, and clever entrepreneurial forays in order to survive. Along the way, they pick up their "third musketeer," a girl, Latika, who becomes Jamal's true love. "Slumdog" is really a love story in true Indian fashion: one love forever, and it's all the more delightful that they find each other while they are just kids (a set of three different actors play the children, teens and young adults--the best actors being the children, teens and adults, in that order).

The film promises a great escapade as we follow the children, but bogs down once Jamal reaches adulthood. We are forced to suspend our disbelief many, many times from this point on, which we wouldn't mind if the story was bloody good. Every ensuing plot point and event happens predictably and with impossibly perfect timing.

Although there are some rough torture and violence scenes in the beginning of the film (including rough treatment of children), the spirit of the film is one of "dogged" determination and triumph over obstacles, with a sense of destiny and a higher purpose running things. It actually changes in tone from an earnest look at the lives of the poor (earnest but hopeful, through children's eyes), to a slick coming-of-age gangster-type caper.

Hats off to director Danny Boyle who made a thoroughly Indian-feeling film (albeit very modern, with a Mumbai-meets-Harlem hip-hop vibe). Methinks Boyle likes trains (he directed "Trainspotting" and "Millions" which also have trains figuring prominently. And whether he knows it or not, Boyle's masterpiece is "Millions.") He uses trains as pounding, pulsing characters, driving the energy and action forward.

DO notice how India is looking more and more like the USA. DON'T expect too much from the film and you just might find it enjoyable.