December 22, 2010


The buzz is true. “The Fighter” is a contender. An Oscar contender. If you ever, ever doubted Christian Bale’s acting chops (after those stiff Batman performances—hey, maybe the Batman WAS stiff and Bale is just playing to character)—get yourself to a cinema and be prepared to gape. “The Fighter” (based on a true boxing story) could be either Dicky (Christian Bale), a one-hit (literally) wonder, “the pride of Lowell, Mass.,” now washed up and on crack, OR his brother Mickey (Mark Wahlberg, who puts in an interestingly gentle and almost contemplative performance). Bale totally nails the Boston charmer/wiseguy attitude, Boston accent and mumbling-and-talking-in-bunches which isn’t easy to do. The entire cast gets it, too. Amy Adams, as Mickey’s girlfriend Charlene, latches on to the immediate, in-your-face, rapid-fire, Bostonspeak. Amy plays against type here as a lovely toughie who could probably hold her own in the ring, and is firmly in Mickey’s corner, even over against his family. Melissa Leo—whom we just saw in another Boston story, "Conviction," as the evil small-town police chief—plays the boxers’ scheming manager Mom.

The opening sequence is a wonderful introduction to the love between the brothers, their place in the community, and who they are as people and sluggers. This story never lets you go, there are no lags, only plenty of Oscar scenes, moments and performances, without them posturing to be “memorable.” Masterful movie-making all around. David O. Russell (“Three Kings,” “I Heart Huckabees”—both also starring Mark Wahlberg) directs, and it probably doesn’t hurt that one of the screenwriters is a native of the Bay State and also wrote the gritty “8 Mile.”

Dicky has always coached Mickey, but Mickey’s career is going nowhere and Dicky’s addiction is becoming a liability. Will Mickey stick with family or take advantage of other opportunities? This is the deceptively simple choice Mickey has throughout the movie. “The Fighter” has miles and miles of heart. You almost want to be part of this crazy, brawling, dysfunctional family that sticks together like glue. Almost. The dialogue is some of the real-est, non-stop, conversational banter I’ve heard in movies in a long time.

“The Fighter” is rated “R” for “language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.” The instances of the “F” word are certainly pervasive and it’s used constantly both as an expletive and a verb, but the drug abuse is an object lesson, and “sexuality”? We see Charlene in her underwear, there’s implied sex between her and Mickey, and off-screen oral sex performed on a john by a prostitute in a car. The violence is not excessive or glorified—it’s just what this family does, the family business, almost matter of fact—but the punches during the fights are audio-enhanced to sound like oil drums thudding around inside a cement mixer.

God/prayer/religion are natural and interwoven like they really are in the lives of people of faith. Children are ever-present, and although they don’t have many speaking parts, they are important, precious members of the family who count, and about and around whom important decisions are made (even if the adults are often acting like big kids).

Definitely a feel good movie (after the bruises and cuts heal) about wanting to make your mark in life, and doing it for your family and the place on the map you call home.


--Make no mistake. This is Christian Bale's movie. Without the character of Dicky (and Bale's embodiment of him) this could have been a middling movie. Bale has managed to make his character a backdrop, a landscape for the whole film, thus enabling the other actors to shine. Amen.

--Sugar Ray!

--Like the actor who plays the pivotal role of the serial killer in “Changeling,” actor Jack McGee does such a realistic turn as Dicky’s and Mickey’s stepfather that you forget he’s an actor, too! (But I could also feel that in real life he is a New Yorker, and so he is. New Yorkers are truly unedited because they have a completely closed worldview--they have it all figured out, and they know New York is a world-class, world-vital city. Bostonians ARE edited because their worldview is not quite closed. For all their bravado they hesitate, they're not sure, they don't have it all figured out, they're still open and they have the "small city," "little brother" complex, especially toward the city of New York.)

--The extremely short epilogue of the real Dicky and Mickey doesn’t say much at all, but is just tastily random.

--“You owe me $200!”

--Christian Bale is a sold-out-to-his-art actor. Period.

--THEOLOGY OF THE BODY? Well, “Fighter” certainly shows how a MAN can be USED for his body, how others can use his body as a commodity to make money. The female prostitution is a sad note. The premarital sex is not taken terribly lightly because both Mickey and Charlene are people of integrity in other aspects of their lives, and Charlene’s main concern is for Mickey to the right thing for himself, and even breaks up with him until he does.

--The soundtrack exposes Michael Brook as a fine connoisseur of the best music of the 70’s (even though the story is set in 1993) and present day. He includes at least two Boston bands: Aerosmith and the DropKick Murphys.

--The way Bostonians (and I’m sure they’re not alone) don’t want their own to get ahead is shot through this movie. (“Thinks she’s superior ‘cause she went to college!”)

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December 11, 2010

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Metaphysics of love:
Senses – cognition – impression – emotion. Our culture gets stuck at the first two. Feelings are not the sum-total of reality. Our culture has such a hard time understanding this, because it’s all subjective. Feelings are like indicators on our dashboard, they are pointing at something else, asking us to look at something else, take some kind of action.

But our ultimate value should be THE TOTAL PERSON. Our goal is “integrated love.”
There is a kind of backlash today—some couples today are only wanting to use sex for procreation, and do things like having sex in the dark, half-clothed, trying to diminish enjoyment! (But this, too, is a kind of utilitarianism! It would make God utilitarian, also—just using us and not loving us.) There is a belief that all pleasure is bad (p. 59), but the Church has condemned this heresy a long time ago! (Manichaeism).

Sooo…we can’t “use” sex just for pleasure OR just for children. It has to be both, otherwise it becomes utilitarian—even for good purposes! K.I.T.=Keep It Together (see movie “Bowfinger”). Can’t separate LOVE and LIFE. Human beings can even understand how they are PARTICIPATING WITH God, (not being used by God).

The evolution story: “We have sex to procreate and keep the race going” is just a little tiny piece of it and doesn’t take into account the whole person, and is not EVEN utilitarian, because nature is blind and can’t have a will or purpose!!!

Advent/Christmas is nuptial: God, the Bridegroom coming to wed the Bride, HIM coming to participate in OUR humanity, wedding humanity to Himself. And this is directly connected with our sexuality, because it’s about INTIMACY AND INTIMATE UNION. The whole liturgical year is ONE MOVEMENT: even the gifts of the Magi foreshadow his death and resurrection.
The Church Fathers called Christmas “the great condescension.”

Q: “What’s the morality of participating in erotic, racy love scenes in movies, because you’re supposed to enter into the experience of the character?”A: “Know yourself, monitor yourself.” There are layers of insincerity in a sense there. Those actors are not really in love with each other. [Other levels of insincerity with body doubles also!] All acting is “lying,” in a sense. The author of TOB was an actor and playwright! [Aristotle believed in acting, Plato did not.] [Sr. Helena thinks there’s a lot of work to be done in this area, now that we have TOB.]

There is something unique that happens in “love between man and woman”—they develop to a fulfillment of themselves as persons. This kind of going out to the “other” does not happen in same-sex relationships.

p. 78—If “love” is based only on attraction/feelings (which are of their nature fleeting!), we are basing love on something fleeting! Sometimes we project qualities on people that aren’t there.
Father said he is counseling couples who are not married (pre-marriage counseling) as though they are because they are living together and living a married lifestyle! And usually, the man doesn’t want to commit and the woman is trying to get him to! [WE THINK WE ARE BEING SO “NATURAL” AND FREE, BUT WE ARE WORKING AGAINST NATURE BY SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE. NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE MEANS THE MAN WILL BE BONDED TO THE WOMAN AT MARRIAGE.]


COUPLES LIVING TOGETHER BEFORE MARRIAGE HAVE A HIGH DIVORCE RATE because they’re playing at something and expecting to derive the full benefits by only going halfway. THE MAN IN PARTICULAR DOES NOT FEEL THAT THIS IS AN EXCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP (AND RIGHTLY KNOWS THIS BECAUSE MEN ARE MORE ABOUT EXTERNALITY). We need to just keep affirming that 1) you want true love 2) God wants you to have true love 3) HERE’S HOW TO GET IT....! [“Sex and the City” is all about that: wanting the benefits of commitment without the actual commitment: trying things out, trial run, etc.]

Young couples today are good at the subjective but terrible at the objective! Perhaps couples of the past were good at the objective, but not so good at the subjective. JP2G says: feelings are GOOD, but is that ALL there is?

p. 79--Don’t do the… “I love you because….” No. We love the WHOLE person, not just their qualities.

In counseling, Father asks couples having problems: Go home and just look at each other as a Christian man and Christian woman in a Christian home (forget that you’re married). What does that mean in everything you do and say? What would a day in the life of the Holy Family be like? What’s your real family life like? How do I get them to match? (3 sheets of paper) It’s called a “family covenant” because it’s above everyone and everything. It’s higher than all those involved.

Q: Should couples get married younger?A: Yes—the vocational part of life (wife, mother, religious, husband, father, priest) is put on hold for a long time. And then the reversion to the faith happens, the vocation rises up. It’s almost a new area of ministry. [New York City has become a city of singles!] It takes a harder toll on women, in a sense, because they are told you must have a career (whereas men would be working/providing for the family anyway) and then they get totally involved in that, and motherhood requires a much greater commitment/cost/involvement physically, etc., on the woman than fatherhood does on the man, the biological clock for women is much shorter, juggling career and motherhood is much more difficult for women, etc., etc.

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December 8, 2010


Our Lady spoke about evangelization and catechesis!

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At first I thought I was watching the worst movie of 2010. But it somewhat ameliorated itself. But the beginning is a true mess. On many levels. “Warrior” should have scrapped the beginning and made it match the rest of the film—it was finding its way for a long time, dragging us along, embarrassed for it. Writer-director Sngmoo Lee offers up a martial arts film (“Crouching Tiger” style) with a surrealist twist. But it’s also a Western. And a comedy. And it doesn’t really work. The U.S. Bishops/Catholic News Service gave it an “O” rating, that is, morally objectionable, and I agree.

Yang, a ninja warrior (South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun—a fine thespian) spares the life of a baby princess from a rival tribe (this baby, Annalin Rudd—cutest on film since “Babies"--is somehow actually acting, and with better reaction shots than many of the adult actors!), and flees to America’s Wild West to hide. He runs a laundry, plants a flower garden, and meets tomboy Lynne (a little too precocious and precious Kate Bosworth, but it was a tough role) to whom he teaches the art of fighting with knives and swords.

The town is filled with all the usual suspects: the town drunk (the awe-inspiring Geoffrey Rush—what in tarnation is he doing in this film?), the savage U.S. Calvary Colonel (Danny Huston, who surpasses even Dong-gun’s quality performance—no wonder: his father is director John Huston, his half-sister is Anjelica Huston), the midget from the circus (Tony Cox), etc., who don’t really seem to have much of a connection to each other until the final showdown when they band together to save their collective necks.

There is much (even some mostly-hinted-at sexual) sadistic violence and carnage. The long end-battle is pure, gratuitous, choreographed, ain’t-it-cool violence. What’s most disquieting is that cute-as-a-button Lynne (because her whole family was murdered) has a huge taste for revenge that the usually quiet and dignified Yang makes sure she gets to satisfy. But, we shouldn’t be too surprised at Yang, because he is a trained assassin who must “destroy everything he loves,” and his ninja-master comes to the land of the free and the home of the brave to remind him so.

The love story build-up is slow and sweet as the lovers get to know each other as persons, and each other’s deepest values/dreams. There’s a lovely scene in the desert under the stars where Yang and Lynne do a kind of romantic dance with swordplay. Films are supposed to find new ways to say: “I love you” and “Warriors” does. Quite well. Until….

The ethic at the end—which has been simmering all through—is so profoundly unChristian, un-life-affirming and un-Theology-of-the-Body (but so are many classic Westerns!) that nothing short of a round rejection, a sounding “strongly disagree!” is in order. Or, as the movie would say: We should “put the greatest distance between” ourselves and this film.


--Why is “Warrior” un-Theology-of-the-Body? SPOILER ALERT! Because the man walks away from family. St. Joseph STAYED, people! Mary and Jesus needed him. WITH them.

--From a recent book review I did of “Myth of the American Superhero”:

The American Monomyth:
“A community in a harmonious paradise is threatened by evil; normal institutions fail to contend with this threat; a selfless superhero emerges to renounce temptations and carry out the redemptive task; aided by fate, his decisive victory restores the community to its paradisiacal condition; the superhero then recedes into obscurity.” (p. 6)

The authors contend that the American Monomyth of heroic redemptive violence is unique to America by contrasting it with the “Classical Monomyth”:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (p. 5, from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” Joseph Campbell, p. 30)

One of the main differences between the Classical/American Monomyth is that in the Classical Monomyth, the hero returns as an integrated, mature adult to the community, who can serve in new ways, whereas the American Monomyth portrays a lone, celibate [the authors use the term “sexless” which I believe is inaccurate] hero who disappears.

Some say that Americans are living in a “postmythical” culture, but the authors disagree. They believe there is a clearly recognizable mythic pattern in American pop culture artifacts (films and TV) such as Rambo, The Matrix, Star Trek, Star Wars, Left Behind, and even Touched by an Angel.

The American Monomyth derives from tales of Judeao-Christian ideas of redemption (linear) rather than pagan (circular), and secularizes them, makes them about temporal matters only. The “supersaviors” are replacements for the Christ figure.

--At least the fighting (which I do not enjoy, unless we’re talking hockey here) is artistic. But so much surround-sound-blood-gurgle-spurting and heads-popping-and-rolling and throats-slitting that it rivals “300.” Yeesh.

--SPFX did nothing for me. But then again, they never do. I’m convinced that SPFX are almost totally a guy thing. We women are in it for the drama, emotions, romance, story.

--Annalin Rudd (the baby princess) is just such a natural! Her parents must be very proud.

--Every time I harshly review movies, I ask myself: And what have YOU produced???

--The most peaceful person I ever met was an AAA guy in Los Angeles when my alternator exploded on the 405 late at night. I mean, he had those imperturbably peaceful eyes like Yang, and it turns out he was a serious practitioner of Aikido.

--Cinematographically, the close-ups are great. Lee really excels at close-ups.

--Good soundtrack.

--“Gallipoli” is one of the best war films ever made. Shows the reality. The fragility of human beings. That we are not made for war. (Not even the toughest of warriors.)

--There’s something just wrong about women-warriors, killer-girls. When did we start to see a proliferation of them in film?

--Anachronistic automatic weapons in the old-time Wild West. Seems to be the only anachronism in the movie. Just had to ratchet up the mayhem I guess. The rhythmic pounding of the “artillery” almost becomes a sick* soundtrack at a certain point.

--Kate Bosworth is very pretty.

--When Yang is young and in training, his ninja-master tells him his heart isn’t hard enough, that he has the heart of a “priest.” Hmmmm.
*original meaning of word “sick,” not “cool”

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December 5, 2010


A real nun: Sr. Mary Thecla, fsp

1. “The Trouble with Angels” 1966/”Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows” 1968—“Showed different personalities in community, how we’re not perfect, how virtues like patience are needed.” Some liked the sequel better than the original. Others didn’t like the sequel at all. “Rosalind Russell potrayed a mother superior who was a blend of strength and sisterly love." “This movie STILL wants to make me be a nun” (from a Sister in religious life over 40 years). “Realistic enough.” “This movie has endured.” “Rosalind Russell expressed the right emotions at the right times.” “Great nunny, idealistic, can-do, spunky spirit. Nuns aging gracefully.” "Nuns loving and forming a generation of younger women who will not share their lifestyle, but the nuns don't look down on the pop culture, they just give the young ladies values and inspiration."

2. “Sound of Music” 1965—“The mother superior was inspiring.” “Mother superior’s theme song ‘Climb Every Mountain’ is a great summation of religious life.”

3. “Song of Bernadette” 1943 (winner of 4 Oscars!)

4. “Bells of St. Mary’s” 1945—The sisters don’t seem to mind the maudlin movies as opposed to the priests who do not suffer them at all. They somehow find them inspiring before and after entering the convent themselves. The question here also is: Was the Church “acting” like this and was Hollywood “reporting”? Was society a little more actually “like this” at the time? Was there a certain earnestness, high ideals, keeping up of appearances, perhaps some denial mixed in? Was American society as a whole truly more innocent and simple as depicted? Remember, these movies were made on the heels of the Depression (when the cheeriest songs ever written played on the radio to keep people’s spirits up: “Always Look for the Silver Lining,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” etc.) and World War II.

5. “Doubt” 2008—Several sisters agreed this was realistic to the times it portrayed (and of course, this is the overwhelming consensus of anyone who did the Catholic school experience of these times), and several mentioned the “gristle” scene as very true! Sr. Aloysius also rocks the casbah.

6. “Come to the Stable” 1949 

7. “Dead Man Walking” 1995—“The most realistic/authentic, best-developed character of the reality of a particular nun ever.”

8. “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” 1957—“More realistic than most.”

9. “Sr. Act I” 1992—Nuns always mention the freezer-raiding scene for ice cream as very realistic. (Also, the songs about Jesus being our honey are the heart of religious life.)

10. “Painted Veil” 2006—(Diana Riggs as a nun again!) “Wise, down-to-earth mother superior.” One nun liked this line from Mother Superior: “When love and duty are one, grace is within you.”

11. "Entertaining Angels--The Dorothy Day Story" 1996--Sports an intelligent and engaged nun who can match wits with the pre-conversion Dorothy Day.

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