October 31, 2013


“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in space…”--a terrifying movie like “Gravity” hits you in the face.

I read and heard nothing but effusive ballyhooing and mad props being given to “Gravity” from all quarters, and I was confused. Space is hip* again? What is this, 1969? And…I thought “Gravity” was one of those horrific solo, exposition-by-monologue-or-silently-mumbling-to-one’s-lonely-isolated-self  flicks OR  simply a whole movie of deafening, penetrating silence (cf. the 3-hour “Into Great Silence”) OR (very worst) “Castaway” in the Cosmos. Thankfully, it was none of these things (although Sandra Bullock’s character didn’t need to keep telling us what she was thinking and doing as much as she did. The silence WAS eloquent, and we got it. Good “showing,” so stifle the telling!

“Gravity” is one of those films you have to see for yourself, and I hate to give away even the barest of plots, but here goes. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock: America’s sweetheart or a total heavyweight actress? Or both?) is a second-career astronaut floating around fixing something up there with the incredibly seasoned (this is his last mission) Matt Kowalski (a chipper George Clooney who is so marvelous at doing either upbeat or downbeat characters). Come to think of if, Bullock is also great at comedy AND tragedy also.

Everything is more or less going well until those Ruskies (who else?) do something stupid to compromise the Americans’ mission. Didn’t they get the memo? Once again, the Russians are simply our favorite frenemies, and, let’s face it: we miss the Cold War. Good times, good times. But back to our plot. No, not back to our plot. That’s all I’m going to tell you. Pleeeeeeze try to see this in theaters. I saw it in REAL 3-D (excellent use of 3D, which should be used sparingly). It’s true what audiences are saying: “It’s like you’re UP there with them.” OR get the full experience with IMAX digital 3D.

The entire story takes place within about 24 hours. But one of the tensest (and most horrifying 24 hrs for Sandra,  91 minutes for us) time periods ever spent in a “movie house” (Ma’s archaic terminology). I was literally twisting and contorting in my seat like Mr. Bean and letting out rather loud “Oh, no!”s and strange bellows along the line of what a young calf might make. This is an EXTREMELY uncomfortable film. Space is the new deep water or haunted house or Bates Motel or forest or woodshed or whatever. However, the dazzling fear of becoming U-N-T-E-T-H-E-R-E-D and floating off into the dark forever was mitigated when I realized one wouldn’t die of starvation (as I previously thought), but of lack of oxygen when the source is quickly depleted.

THE SPIRITUALITY/RELIGION? Nice touch. More than a touch. There’s a St. Christopher icon in the Russian space station and a Buddha in the Chinese space station. Dr. Stone wants someone to pray for her, wants to pray for herself, but “no one ever taught her” how. This seems to be the line many people are coming out of the theater with. (I kind of liked “thank You” the best.) Obviously, the Latino filmmaker(s) are trying to tell us something (Alfonso Cuaron: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “The Children of Men”).


Is it ALL that? Yes and no. Could someone else have taken our BIG-TIME FEMALE PROTAGONIST’S place other than Sandra? Maybe. Who? I don’t know. Oscar material? Maybe. (Certainly for cinematography, VFX and audio.) Some of it really did feel like “we’ve heard this sob story before,” and the orchestral soundtrack was rather noticeably cloying at times.

As exciting and groundbreaking as this film is--several years in the making--I’m still holding out for
Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) for Best Actress as of this moment.


--If writing a screenplay is “running your main character up a tree in Act One, then throwing rocks at them for the rest of the movie,” “Gravity” succeeds like no other film I’ve seen! And as the next thing goes wrong and the next thing and the next thing, it didn’t feel improbable. At all.

--The film does not feel long. It actually felt a hair on the short side.

--“sun on the Ganges” (a lovely quote and reflective moment)

--Fill up your gas tanks, you evil Commies!

--the Chinese baby :)

--Dr. Stone talks to herself exactly the same way I do when I’m alone. Ha ha.

--The decisive pep rally speech was just sooooo “on the nose,” heavy-handed, Obviousman. A real false note at a pivotal point. But it kinda redeems itself because of the “surprise.”

--Heads up! Here come da trash again! J

--My new nightmare leitmotif is definitely going to be outer space.

--Wanna check the accuracy of the space logistics? Astronauts "weigh" in:  http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/10/08/gravity-questions-science-experts/
*I suppose Space never became unhip, what with all the celebs and billionaires vying for seats on shuttles to Uranus.


October 16, 2013


When I first heard about the subject matter of “Don Jon,” a new film written by, directed by, and starring child-star-turned-very-successful-adult-star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I was thrilled. Gordon-Levitt was taking on porn addiction! Astoundingly, the very existence of porn addiction is often considered  “controversial,” and is questioned as a true malady. Then I saw that “Don Jon,” was a comedy. Hmmm. Downplaying the gravity of porn? Probably not. In interviews, Gordon-Levitt seemed pretty intent on examining the damage done by unrealistic media images of the human body, sex and relationships. But he knew that no one is going to see a film upbraiding porn users. He’s going to entertain, or as Oscar Wilde said: “If you’re going to tell someone the truth, make them laugh. Otherwise they’ll kill you.” So far so good. I started thinking I might even be able to watch this film.

The storyline unfolds thusly: “Don Jon”—a nickname--(Gordon-Levitt) is a “Jersey Shore”-esque Casanova but prefers his daily dose of porn to the hot babes he picks up at clubs. (An online “Entertainment Weekly” article noted that most porn addicts are NOT picking up hot babes at clubs.) Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johannson) is just such a hot babe that Don Jon picks up at a club, but she’s addicted to her Hollywood love stories in which men are hopeless romantics and attentive to a woman’s every emotional need.

The more I read about the film, the more I realized I could NOT go see it (and not because I'm a nun, but because I'm a human being). A simulated porn montage is featured along with “strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity.” Porn is simulated sex and this film contains simulated porn. These are definitely postmodern times. Therefore, this “review” of “Don Jon” will be my second “historic” review, i.e., the second time I have “reviewed” a movie without watching it. (My first ever non-review was “Magic Mike” www.tinyurl.com/NunReviewsMagicMike.) So perhaps you could say I’m reviewing the subject matter, context and conversation surrounding “Don Jon.”

Many new films are dealing—from various perspectives--with porn/the porn industry. (How could they not—with its overwhelming prevalence today?) “Lovelace,” “The Look of Love." All this just goes to show the mainstreaming and normalization of pornography. Porn is now accessible (available everywhere, any time), abundant, affordable (free), anonymous and…acceptable. Even expected. Films on sex addiction are also cropping up: "Shame," "Thanks for Sharing."

Is Gordon-Levitt’s flick doing what Flannery O’Connor prescribes: “to the hard of hearing you shout,” or is porn in a category by itself, something so terrible and desacralizing of the human person that we cannot SHOW porn to cure porn? I applaud Gordon-Levitt for addressing this elephant in the middle of the room, and the film is getting rave reviews from many quarters. In interviews, Gordon-Levitt expresses Karol Wojtyla’s “personalistic norm” very well: “If you’re comparing your lover* to a checklist, that’s not romantic—that’s consumerism. What’s romantic is finding the nuances and the details that are unlike anybody else.” I do not doubt Gordon-Levitt’s altruism, but showing porn to critique porn can be like tobacco giant Philip Morris not hesitating to sponsor anti-smoking campaigns (as they do): because there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Even the mention/sight of a cigarette triggers cravings in smokers. Oh, and a real porn site paid to have it’s URL featured in “Don Jon.” In the end, it’s strictly business, I guess.


What is the solution for our thoroughly “pornified” culture? There is only one: Theology of the Body. The body reveals God and reveals the person.

1. See the body and beauty rightly.  (Porn automatically excluded.)
2. Reclaim human relationships. “We must find a new way of relating to each other as persons.” –Pope Benedict XVI
*3. Sex is only for the married because the language of sex says: “you alone, forever.” And a baby that may result from sex ideally deserves to be raised by their own Mom and Dad. In Theology of the Body, sex—the verb—is called “the marital embrace.”
4. “Heal wounds.” –Pope Francis     www.ReclaimSexualHealth.com
5. Repeat as needed.