January 9, 2017



The new Scorsese film, "Silence," based on the 1966 historical novel (with the same title) by Japanese Catholic, Shûsaku Endô, is a take on: missionary activity, Christianity, the priesthood, the sacraments, religious persecution, torture, suffering, the suffering of God and the God of suffering. I read the haunting novel several years ago, and I'm sure the ending is what sticks with everyone: the conundrum of an ultimatum that does not allow YOU to suffer for your Faith, but rather makes OTHERS suffer for YOUR Faith until YOU renounce God (or "apostatize," making you an "apostate"). And actually, it doesn't even matter if those made to suffer for you are your fellow Christians or not: human beings will suffer greatly because of YOUR profession of faith.

The main way (among others) that Christians had to denounce Christ and faith in Christ was to step on His image.


Now, perhaps the above information was a bit of a SPOILER for you. If so, I apologize. But it casts a back-shadow over the whole story and is actually its premise. Two young Portuguese Jesuits (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) go to Japan to find their older mentor-priest (Liam Neeson) who, it is rumored, has apostatized. They meet up with secret Japanese Christians along the way and minister to them. For these young, idealistic and fervent men, the glory of martyrdom is straightforward and clear cut. They refuse to believe their spiritual father has abandoned Christ and are convinced it's simply the slander of Japanese officials. They can't imagine the choice and the crossroad before them--they will tread the exact same excruciating path their beloved mentor trod.


Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka) is a Christian who denied Christ out of weakness, and we can tell right away that he's going to be trouble, a kind of Judas figure that can't be trusted. However, just like the rest of this rich tale, he is not going to be a typical tragic Judas figure. In fact, he's even a bit of comic relief. At no point are we directed to judge anyone--only to keep putting ourselves in the midst of these troubled times and in the place of these troubled souls. Jesus Himself is presented in the film as a compatriot, a com-passionate-er ("to suffer with"), a Savior, a model, a friend--not a judge.


Japan is spoken of as a "swamp" by the missionaries and the Japanese themselves. A swamp that drowned Christianity (Christianity had flourished in the time of Francis Xavier and immediately after, until the Japanese officials not only instituted a crushing and murderous persecution, but forced priests to make the terrible decision.) But. #1 Christianity survived (albeit in small numbers) and was reintroduced in later centuries. #2 If the Japanese officials had found the perfect way to kill Christianity, why was this tactic not used everywhere in the world that opposes Christianity or opposes anything else for that matter? Surely this is not the first time oppressors realized that threatening someone's family/friends works way better than threatening the person themselves! So, on one hand, I think it's a false conundrum. What I used to think was the absolute death knell of faith (when I first read "Silence") is just another dastardly trick.


What does "silence" mean? The silence of God in the face of human suffering. In the face of prayers that seem to spiral out into a void. The silence of the lack of God's intervention in affairs both human and divine. But here we must be careful of demanding God to fulfill promises He never made. Tell me where/when Jesus ever promised a life free of suffering to His followers or anyone else? Where did Jesus promise us long life or even tomorrow? This is all wishful thinking on our part. Instead, Jesus promised us the exact opposite: persecution, death, hatred, the exact same treatment He received. "God is not a rescuer, He's a Redeemer" (my friend, Fr. Michael D'Cruz, OFM, 60 years a priest). Still want to be a Christian? "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life" (John 6:68).


But just to play devil's advocate here: was outward apostasy the only choice? What if the priests had refused to publicly "deny" Christ and had to continue to listen/watch as the Christians (who had already apostatized and would only be relieved by the priests' forfeiture) were tortured? (And we know the Japanese officials were true to their word and ceased the torture as soon as the priests capitulated.) Surely this was still a choice--but not a "Christian" one? Christ/Christianity does not believe in avoiding suffering at any cost, but neither does it accept suffering that can be avoided--even at great cost--out of compassion. And yet--might the Japanese officials have believed if the priests "stood firm"? Or would they have thought the priests and their God cruel beyond words--crueler than themselves? Or would it have made no difference either way? Did not the early Roman martyrs face similar choices? Who did the priests really need to witness to: God? Themselves? The Japanese officials? The Japanese Christians? Christian Europe? History? The future? All the above? God is merciful, certainly, but what of: "...if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us..." (2 Timothy 2:12)? Is our profession of faith the one thing we must never give up in this world no matter what?

BIG SPOILER ALERT: In the film, Jesus imaginatively begins to give an answer to the conundrum  (so much for "silence"). He soothingly says: "Go ahead. Trample Me. That's what I came for: to be trampled on." I don't know if I'm the only one who thought this--but those could be the very words of Satan. A deception of Satan. I really got the creeps at this point in the film.


Apostasy was THE great unforgivable (in many Christian leaders' eyes) sin of early Christian times. Many who apostatized were not readmitted to the Church after persecutions died down, and a controversy over how to deal with apostates raged. "Silence" just made me think how easily we apostatize today! Without even any serious threats! How we are actually living in times of such weak faith and mass apostasy--without people even realizing what they're doing. It's almost like we act as though we're living in an illusion where nothing really matters, nothing is really real and there are no real consequences to our actions or inaction. But such are our New-Age-tinged, relativistic times that tell us there is no immutable objective truth to be sought, known or adhered to. Let alone God.


Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, "the only Austrian to stand up to Hitler," was told that because he wanted to do his precious little conscience, his wife and three daughters were going to suffer. Although he wasn't faced with the clear, horrorful choice of the Portuguese Jesuits, he nevertheless stated: "I don't think that just because a man has a family he is dispensed from doing his conscience." Wow. Let that sink in. We all have someone to protect. During the time of the Maccabees, the mother of the seven martyr-sons was told to dissuade her sons from death, but she did nothing of the kind and instead encouraged them to give up their bodies and limbs to the One who gave them and could restore them. And the old Jewish man was told to pretend to eat pork and save his life, but he said: "What kind of an example will that give to the young?" I know this is all so harsh. I'm just sayin. (Incidentally, Jagerstatter was guillotined by the Nazis--face up--and nothing bad happened to his family.)


I am not strong. I have a pain tolerance of zero. And I am a totally chicken- and lily-livered in the face of any intimation of any kind of bodily harm. Without some kind of extraordinary grace of God, I would cave in, oh, the first 4 seconds of torture. What would I have done in the priests' situation? I don't know. And so, we must all throw ourselves on God's mercy. At all moments. This is definitely a film about mercy.


The Christians are all peasants who have come to see themselves as beloved sons and daughters of the Father. "Christianity brought love." They are no longer animals and slaves. Not only that, there is a "paradise" awaiting them. Are they fools? Only if it's not true. So Christianity is the religion of the poor? Yes. The poor in spirit. And guess what. We're all going to die. Rich and poor alike. As the non-denoms and fundys and Evangelicals like to ask: "Are you saved?" "Do you know where you're going?" It's kind of an important question. Actually, it's all that really matters, isn't it?


The padres are not seen as gods to the Christian peasants, but they understand very clearly that the sacraments (God working through matter) come through these chosen men. Sometimes they seem to have more faith in the priesthood than the priests themselves. How often the priests are edified by their great faith! Let's remember that these valiant Christians really did exist. Thousands were killed for their faith. And who are we to judge their faith? Maybe it is simpler and truer and purer than our own. If anything--these Christians could stand in judgment of the faith (or lack thereof) of us Christians of today.


There is so much in this non-tedious 2 hours and 41 minutes film that we could and should talk about for days. It's not that it's jam-packed, it's just that the very nature of God, faith, culture, Christianity and suffering are all glaring, blaring, blazing themes, and they all come together in one big package--of necessity. My head is still spinning. In a good way. And, on top of it all, many of us watching this film are looking at our Euro-centric forebears in the Faith who had a deeper, more tactile, more immediate, more vibrant, more black and white, more urgent sense of salvation than we soft, 21st-century, relativistic, dualistic (separating body and soul), abstracting postmoderns can even begin to muster a concept of. One would hope that we ahistorical folks are able at least to realize what a different mindset people had at this time in history (both the European Christians and the Japanese Buddhists). "Freedom of religion" as we understand it today was largely unheard of in the 17th century.


What does Scorsese think? What does Scorsese believe? I think he tipped his hand in the closing scene and the brief text-epilogue-dedication. I would rather the film have been without both.



--Garfield was good. Perhaps a bit too perky and hopeful and not anguished enough. Driver was also good, but wasn't given many lines or much of a part, really.
The Japanese actors are P-H-E-N-O-M-E-N-A-L.

--The cinematography was not really lush, certainly nowhere near as lush as "Kundun." "Silence" is a dire human drama that can't afford to get lost in beauteous nature. There is no great horrific gore-fest here (that Scorsese could have done so well). Rather we get lost in the faith of the people, not their pain.

--Evil is not "beautiful." It is glamorous. And no one needs be "worthy" to be called evil as though evil is an actual good or substance. It is only a lack. Evil is the great illusion that will be done away with.

--Bishop Barron's even-more-spoilery-than-my-review-review (I agree with his critique in part): https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/scorseses-silence-and-the-seaside-martyrs/5360
Before the film came out, friends of mine were worried that the message would be: "See? Capitulation and dissembling and complying are ALWAYS better than suffering: one's own or someone else's." But that wasn't quite the message, especially when we see in the film plenty of Japanese being killed for the Faith outright with no complex dilemmas involved.... I do agree that the heroes put forth here are the "simple" Japanese faithful. But when we get to the other side, we'll see whether or not they were so "simple." Maybe just "stalwart"? At any rate, we know for a fact that they are saints. Martyr-saints.

Bishop Barron draws an interesting parallel with today's persecution: the privatization of the Faith. A Faith which is increasingly being restricted from being Catholically operative in the public sphere or in works of charity such as education, healthcare, etc. The Catholic Church increasingly cannot actually require that her institutions be Catholic any more. She "must" operate according to the "progressive" mores and policies of an "enlightened" society.

--Good, brief overview of book and film: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silence_(novel)

--"America Magazine" interview with Martin Scorsese: http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/creating-silence

--A historian friend of mine has this to say:
"Cristóvão Ferreira, the priest (Liam Neeson) in , actually recanted his denial of Christ & died a Christian martyr"
"A simple Google search reveals that historically there have been sources revealing that witnesses reported his conversion at the end of his life and subsequent martydom. The book 'Silence' is historical fiction. There is controversy regarding this real priest. Unfortunately Scorsese and his priest consultant James Martin SJ chose the negative interpretation. The Japanese author admitted that he hypothesized what could have happened not what did happen. We need a Catholic historian to write a review based on historical analysis.

I think Endo did nothing wrong because he presented it as fiction. Scorsese conflates the history and the fiction by focusing on a real person without a disclaimer, without a note in the beginning that this is based on a novel. It is not fair to include a real historical person in a film yet not acknowledge that the ending is fictional. It saddens me that Scorsese neglected to include even the possibility based on historical accounts that Fr. Ferreira may have returned to the Church and died as a martyr.

The beautiful part of the film was the coverage of the martyrs. Very moving. It's too bad the ending had to be so negative. Jesus would never say deny me and trample on me. He said if we deny him, he will deny us. Of course he is merciful to we who do things out of fear but this film glorifies apostasy and doubt."

--My 90 second audio review:

January 1, 2017


Tiny reviews.

Newer reviews:

DEATH TO 2020 (Netflix)--This supposed mockumentary from the "Black Mirror" people is actually quite serious. (Yes, yes, it's very clever and funny at first, but then you realize this is simply an anti-Trump, anti-conservative screed, making anyone who rejects leftist ideals out to be a racist, a hater, a fascist, a hypocrite, a "Karen," and just an insane conspiracy theorist who can't tell reality from fiction/fantasy.) EVERYONE gets skewered, including Joe Biden (a lot), but Samuel L. Jackson, the "host" (but not the narrator) is a wisdom figure. Kamala Harris, also, is treated with kid gloves (no jokes about her). In fact--because the filmmakers know so well what the right is thinking--they even go so far as to say "...and then President Harris will reveal her real agenda." Given the uncanny, eerie prescience of "Black Mirror," this is truly scary. I could deconstruct further how the parody doesn't even work many times because the spoof is based on lies and misrepresentations to start with, but this is a "micro" review. :)  Oh, and Jordan Peterson (yay!) must be very terrifying to the filmmakers because he gets a mention. 


Older reviews:

-- Kevin Bacon (the sheriff) and two pre-teen boys who steal his car.

Great fun. I thought the cop would find the kids right away, but he doesn't.
Delightful tween dudes. Funny, but not really a comedy. So much suspense just waiting for the FIRST shoe to drop. Kind of a modern day "The Ransom of Red Chief." Kind of.
There is NO back story.
There is NO exposition.
We cut in so deep we have no idea who these people really are or what their intentions really are and it totally works without being postmodern or "just the middle of the story" or "just an Act 2."
Brilliant filmmaking.
Kevin Bacon and the boys are a revelation.
6 stars out of a possible 5.

GET OUT -- "Race" relations in the U.S. are complicated. This psychological suspense thriller is a woke, meta, savvy commentary on how crazy (northern?) white people simultaneously despise, fear and envy black people. With an hilarious, unlikely hero: a TSA agent.
5 stars out of a possible 5.

UNDER SUSPICION -- (Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Monica Bellucci) While pretending to be shocked and outraged by the rape and murder of young girls, this film is a chic, well-acted and sophisticated defense of adult men's interest in underage girls. Pathetic. If Hollywood is the playground for pedophiles that it's rumored to be, this film is evidence.

SLEEPLESS --  (Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan) Well acted and well filmed with all the state-of-the-art everything (only sore thumb is the repeated use of "dirty cop"), this tense and plot-twisty action flick of big-time crime alongside intimate family drama is just more of the over-the-top graphic and sadistic treatment of the human person that is par for "entertainment" today. Even 10 to 20 years ago, these multiple scenes of creative torture would have been reserved for one small debased scene in a Scorcese film. I can't imagine what a steady fare of this evil is doing to the children of today who are allowed to watch R rated films, let alone the adults.
Oh, and skinny, hi-heeled women in mano a mano fighting with huge male bodyguards? ONLY in the movies.
5 stars for unrealistic: human bodies are not made of rubber. One does not walk away and continue fighting and shooting after crashing through a plate glass window. One does not miss a human target after 5 minutes of shooting an automatic weapon. "Sleepless" is obscene (ditto for "The Equalizer," even though both of these main characters are unequivocal "good guys," doing what they do to protect the innocent....). Of course, this gore-pain-torture-as-entertainment is pretty ubiquitous these days. :(

BOSS BABY -- Hilarious. Reminiscent of "Storks," only way funnier. I laughed uncontrollably at the projectile vomit scene, followed by the toilet head scene. But then again, I have the sense of humor of an 8-year-old boy. Alec Baldwin was the perfect choice for the fast-talking, all-business baby. The premise: PEOPLE LOVE PUPPIES MORE THAN BABIES NOW, AND THIS BABY IS ON A MISSION TO FIND OUT WHY. Can you say "pro-life"???? However, strange origin of this baby. He's been manufactured at "Baby Corp." (The puppies come from "Puppy Co.") Or is it so strange?

Some interesting theological overtones: sarcastic-y references to "the Baby Jesus," a TRIANGLE is superimposed on Mom, Dad and kid ("3 is the perfect number"), a take-off on WWJDO, "I've come for your soul!" (riffing on a horror film), baby says: "God, I hate that." In the end, this is about LOVE, specifically family love, even more specifically SIBLING LOVE. What starts out as sibling rivalry turns into: "I want nothing more than a baby brother." A+++. The baby's facial expressions are riotous.

THE OUTSIDERS -- (1983) This novel-turned-movie about teen boys, written by a teen girl is unusual and eclectic in so many ways. It's set in the 1950's (remember, the 1970's was coming off a 1950's revival) and is reminiscent of "The Warriors," or "West Side Story": highly "produced," old-timey Hollywood. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola! Lyrics written and sung by Stevie Wonder! Starring the biggest brat pack ever: Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Leif Garrett, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Sophia Coppola (little girl) and strange cameos by Tom Waits, Flea and Cam Neely!
The soundtrack is lots of Elvis, lots of rockabilly, lots of twangy surf rock. The story line is pretty simple: Greasers (poor boys) vs. Socs (rich boys). But what's so surprising is that these young men can cry, hug each other, talk about their feelings, express a full range of human emotions. The boys are a mixture of ages and have each other's backs. The feel is more like something from the Depression era--where everyone is "looking for the silver lining" (only this time it's gold). It's beyond pollyanna, and comparing it to today's increasingly rough fare, graphic gore, torture-as-entertainment--the contrast is...virtually unbelievable. Did we really watch such sweet stories not so long ago?
It seems the only reason this was made into a movie was because some librarian and her class in Fresno, California suggested it. (See panel before closing credits.)

ST. VINCENT -- (Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy) This is a heartwarmer if ever there was one. (Incidentally, 2 Chicago Irish Catholics in the lead roles.)
What I like about it:
--Follows Italian filmmaking trope of a grown man and a young boy learning to be men together.
--The Catholic stuff is cutesy and positive. In a modern sort of way.
--The little boy is very mature, takes the big view on everything, and doesn't seem terribly effected by the gargantuan downers in his life. This is very unrealistic, but wouldn't it be nice?
What I don't like about it:
--Prostitution looks...adorbs. (Naomi Watts as a perky Russian prostitute. Yup. You read that right.)
--And, OF COURSE, if your wife has dementia in a nursing home, you need to frequent prostitutes, right?
--Mom leaves kid with grouchy old total stranger?
--Mom sits happily next to ex at elementary school to watch son in assembly (after bitter custody battle)?
--Some things are so sweet as to be unrealistic. Or, rather, very, very optimistic. Which actually might not be a bad thing, especially in today's filmmaking which is often so negative, dark and hopeless (under the guise of "realism"). Film stories can show us POSSIBILITIES. Especially in ATTITUDES we can choose to adopt in life.

SLEEPING GIANT -- This intimate indie Canadian teenage male coming-of-age story is named for the imposing reposing island in Lake Superior off the coast of Thunder Bay, Ontario (finally--Canada exploiting her amazing landmarks in film!). It involves a Dad who knows how to coax (and allow) his son and his friends into manhood during a nature-soaked summer. What's Canadian about it? The accents, "chirping," "eh," and the more simple lifestyle, and way of being. No cellphones. No braces. The minimalistic music is tribal and perfect. The transitions are exquisite. Adam, the main character, finds out this beloved Dad is having an affair. The boys engage in some drugs, drinking and sex talk. Similarities to "A Separate Peace" and "The Kings of Summer," but better in some ways. Nature itself plays a big role, which is also typically Canadian. Not for the kiddos. Too many bad examples: grandma lets 15yo grandson smoke, graphic sex talk--also in mixed company (once), adultery, teens smoking pot with older guy, dangerous stunts....

SNATCHED -- (Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack) Amy the Exhibitionist keeps the raunch-talk to a minimum, but just can't stop herself exposing a breast. Goldie is her amazing queen-of-light-comedy-self, but tones down her super-ditz-self in order that Amy can shine, I'm sure. Amy is genuinely funny when she's G- or PG-13-rated. The storyline is a hoot (a mother-daughter getaway in Colombia goes sour when they're kidnapped) and well-executed. This is old-fashioned comedy: chase/adventure/caper stuff with interesting new situations. There are no agendas or feminist overtones (except for the "you can't degrade me because my self-degradation is worse than anything you can do to me" type feminism). The mother-daughter relationship is actually very tender and so true to life. I don't think we've seen this before. (People are always asking: Where are the women "buddy movies"? This is one--if you can get past several vulgarities.) I've watched some of Amy's standup online. It's unbelievably debased and inhumane. Sadly, the women comedians are so much worse than the men today and are messaging that women really don't care about their dignity, so men shouldn't either.

LIMITLESS -- (Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro) Would you take a drug that would let you use ALL of your brain, so you could get incredible amounts of work done, have a 4-digit I.Q. and, of course, become very, very rich? What if you weren't sure of its long-term side effects? This is an exciting and very watchable thriller, but too much sadism, unblinking gore, Machiavellianism, torture-as-entertainment (see "obscene" above), and winds up being an argument for mind-enhancing drugs, and maybe all enhancing drugs (don't forget to include energy drinks here, either). The movie was made in 2011, but it would have been incredibly responsible to make a film like this today with the resurgence of recreational drugs like heroin, and the current epidemic of opiod abuse and fatalities. "Limitless" has an eponymous spin-off.

CRIMINAL -- (Kevin Kostner, Gal Gadot, Gary Oldman, Ryan Reynolds) A CIA operative dies with crucial information in his brain (Reynolds). A criminal psycho (Kostner) with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex has the operative's brain "downloaded" into his, in order to recover the information. Along the way the psycho becomes a bit civilized and falls in love with the CIA operative's wife (Gadot). This is an old-school "spies that save the world" plot with hi-tech filmmaking. Kostner and Gadot are just such warm and likeable actors. The body count is high, but this movie is good-hearted, not mean-spirited. I do recommend. Good to see Kostner again, and he's great in this unusual role. But then again, I've always liked Kostner. And yes, I liked "Water World." Deal with it.

3 DAYS TO KILL -- (Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld) Another huge body count, as a former spy(?) tries to reconnect with his wife and teenage daughter. This is much more a comedy than "Criminal," with some hilarious moments involving a ringtone, and some sappy but devoted scenes with his daughter. McG's svelte directing and cinematography (and some great car chases) top off this violent but fun flick.

CRIMSON PEAK -- (Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam) Super atmospheric. Victorian creepy (the best kind of creepy!). Lush sets. Stunning FX. Lavish, flowy costumes. A bit too much violence and head-on brutality. Jessica Chastain's best role ever (who knew she was such a great villainess?). Mia (Aussie) employs her opaque "musing on my role as I go" almost-method-acting style of acting. Hiddleston's eyes are riveting. Hunnam (the Brit with the American vibe!) is solid, but looks like he's ready to laugh at any moment (not taking the role serious enough or something: a bit tongue-in-cheek). Now I know what's so great about Guillermo Del Toro. You simply cannot look away for a second (except for the gore). Total eye candy. The attention to detail is intense. Stay for the credits (finishes the story off). This needs a spin-off TV series. "Ghosts are real, this I know."

SOLACE -- (Anthony Hopkins, Abbie Cornish, Jeffrey Dean Morgan) A pro-euthanasia serial killer and a pro-euthanasia film. Skip this one. Hopkins and Morgan are good, but the "culture of death" theme, amateurish directing and old FX make this turkey a time-waste.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN -- (Eva Green) A wonderful, fantastical children's fable, except (and it's a very big except) for the monsters eating human eyeballs, especially those of children. Very graphic. Not for impressionable wee ones. In a book, kids can giggle and imagine it themselves. In a film? Yucko!!! Otherwise, loved it, enjoyed it. Eva Green is marvelous. Kid-positive message. Main character is a teen boy whose Dad is pretty useless, but the teen has a fantastic relationship with his caring and heroic grandfather.

THE INTERPRETER -- (Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn) SPOILER ALERT! An interpreter at the UN overhears an assassination plot to kill the leader of an African country and reports it to authorities. But it turns out the interpreter is actually from that country herself. Where does she really stand with regard to the plot? Which faction is she with? A Secret Service agent assigned to her isn't so sure she wouldn't be happy to see this leader taken down. A charming love story develops between them, and--wonder of wonders!--they never jump in bed with each other! In fact, in the end, their lives will take them in separate directions. This is a marvelous example of how #6 TRUE LOVE may not always turn into #7 MARRIAGE (the only place for sex). And that's OK. (7 Stages of Love from Karol Wojtyla's "Love and Responsibility")

THE DROP -- (Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Galdofini, ) This Dennis Lahane crime story set in a bar in Brooklyn, NYC, is perfectly, perfectly executed with a simply perfect score. A perfect film. It is a curiously international effort (actors playing Americans): Hardy (British), Rapace (Swedish), Schoenaerts (Belgian), director: Roskam (Belgian), cinematographer: Karankatsanis (Greek)

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY -- So tediously boring I almost fell asleep (and I NEVER fall asleep watching movies). Despite its top-notch cast, not only is it unwatchable, it's unbelievable and unfollowable: just a bunch of cut-too-short snippets strung together. All I could gather is that there's a Soviet mole in the British intelligence. But (another thing I NEVER do) I stopped watching because "I can't even," and I didn't even care to find out who the mole was. TTSS is that poor of a film.

THE GREAT BEAUTY -- (won the 2014 Oscar for best foreign film) This is NOT a film. It's a stuck-in-the-60's Fellini fever dream. A lecherous, 65-year-old, has-been, elite man-of-the-arts slouches around Rome with his equally vacuous friends commenting on the arts and Italy. Stupid nudity. Stupid everything. Narcissistic and solipsistic. A vision of hell. I stopped watching after 30 minutes of this 2hr20 min film because, as the main character says: "At 65, I've decided I will no longer do things I don't want to do."

AN AMERICAN FABLE -- This PERFECT little life-affirming film was written and directed by Anne Hamilton. It could also be called "The Man in the Silo." Excellent use of subtle foreshadowing and symbolism throughout. Sprinkled with stories within stories, riddles and fantasy images (which I learned at film school is a good thing to do). Just a PHENOMENAL ending, unlike any I have ever seen.

THE OFFICE (American series--NETFLIX) -- This incredibly popular, deadpan, hilarious, addictive series not only has a heart, but some principles. The cast is a populous ensemble that shouldn't work, but it does. The sweet Jim & Pam romance always avoids talking about sex or any kind of crassness. In fact, Pam won't move in with Jim until they're engaged. These days, that is grounds for consideration for beatification. SPOILER: As soon as Jim and Pam are married, they have two children in quick succession. Although super-ordinary, theirs is, in some ways, a fairytale marriage.

The premise is that a doofus, clueless, frequently inappropriate-in-every-way boss (Steve Carell) is ineptly running a dying paper supply company (with antiquated methods and the awkward name of "Dunder Mifflin") while the big box companies bury them on the recycle bin of history. But Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is a bonafide human being. Michael's JP2-approved personalism is on full-strength display in S:4/E:5 and S:3/E:16. Michael will fiercely defend the humanity of each of his "family" members (employees) no matter what. They come first. Always. 

The Christian figure (Angela) on the show is skewered for her Christianity. She is consistently severe and mean with everyone BUT also has double-timing sex with her boyfriends on the side. One rather sad and shocking scene was an office Christmas party where the gay character (Oscar) comes in with his boyfriend when Angela is singing "Little Drummer Boy." Just at the sound of that song he tells his boyfriend they need to get out of there. Oscar (as well as Jim and Pam) are the only "normal" ones on the show.

As great as Steve Carell is, he is rivaled as the real star of the show by his loyal-to-the-death sidekick, Dwight (Rainn Wilaon).

Added bonus: political-correctness is not allowed on this show. 

For the most part, "The Office" is smart, humane, nuanced, clever, joyous, old-fashioned human fun. Seasons 6+ begin to flounder and sadly devolve into non-stop graphic sex talk. Adultery is the lightest of jokes. So unneeded because "The Office" does situation comedy, slapstick, etc., so well. But the end redeems itself and baldfacedly tells us that the whole series is about "the beauty of the ordinary." Jim and Pam's contemporary courtship/marriage is a shining jewel in the midst of what is often Hollywood's ash-heap of despaired-of true love and male-female relationships.

THE ICE STORM (1997) -- This juvenile, pathetic, soulless excuse for a sophisticated, "brave," ground-breaking film defies logic. It boggles the imagination as to why anyone couldn't easily see through this adolescent nonsense. Every scene is short, stilted, strangulated and episodic. There's no character development, no coherent plot. The dialogue is beyond immature. The entire film seems to revolve around the writer's historic uncovering of the swinging 70's practice of wife-swapping. Spare us.

THE PAPER CHASE (1973) -- Another non-story with no beginning, middle or end. Timothy Bottoms plays a brainy, well-rounded Harvard law student who falls in love with a liberated Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner)--who just happens to be his toughest professor's daughter. BW is firmly in charge of the relationship by her constant dismissive whimsy (she doesn't want to be tied down to anything or anyone) and also firmly anti-Establishment (while firmly benefitting from everything Establishment). "The Paper Chase" is about as tense and interesting as "Jonathan Livingston Seagull."

WIND RIVER (2017) -- Jeremy Renner is utterly believable as a Wildlife & Fisheries man embroiled in a woman's murder on a Native American reservation (it's close to home because he also lost a daughter). Elizabeth Olsen shines as a tough FBI agent. This film sets out to honor Native Americans (Tantoo Cardinal and Grahmam Greene also star). There's a bit of a non-gorey bloodbath, but the point is good people "going the mile" and honoring other "good people." It is a Hollywood "just" ending, if not a merciful one. Very well-acted and constructed, with only two slightly-hokey short speeches.

THE WOODSMAN (2004) -- Kevin Bacon plays a pedophile on parole, just released from 12 years in prison for molesting (he "never hurts them," he "just" seduces them) young girls ages 10-12. This is a ridiculously sympathetic and unrealistic film. He's quickly "cured" by the love of a good woman (Kyra Sedgwick, of course) and a new potential victim (11 years old) who helps him to empathize with her (eureka!) Oh, and then he beats up a fellow pedophile for being a pedophile and gets in the good graces of the cop keeping an eye on him. Give me a break. Ironically, 2004 was two years after 2002 when the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal broke. It was already public knowledge by then that pedophilia is not curable.

WANTED (Netflix Series) (2017) -- An Aussie "Thelma and Louise." But are either of these women really innocent as T and L? It's tense, the dialogue is realistic and amusing. Lola and Chelsea are an odd couple, similar to Thelma and Louise: one older and street-smart, the other a bit ditzy and naive. AND they have their unseen guardian angel male cop working for them. Lola and Chelsea both talk about "distant" fathers. [Think for a moment about how many screen characters have chats about these types of fathers....] Over all is the "life-affirming" Australian acting and filmmaking spirit--not to mention the beautiful sun-drenched Australian countryside. There are two sad and unnecessary murders (one while ironic, humorous music plays), but this is not really about gore or gratuitousness or violence. It's about scrappy people trying to survive. We believe every single words that comes out of the older "Louise" character's mouth. She's just so tough and world-weary, and every word is weighted.
HOWEVER, as with any interminable "series":
As the episodes start to mount
sadly, so does the body count.
As they win every hand in this game
our suspended belief begins to wane. :)
As is ever more common, when running out of plot-points, character development and dialogue, "Wanted" turns to what I call "the killing spree." The ending is incredibly anti-climactic.
SEASON 2: Less blood, more bonding between Lola and Chelsea, interesting scrapes they need to get out of, better story-line. Sadly, a big pro-euthanasia message at the end.

This documentary by her nephew is a slice of life of the lifetime of Joan Didion. However, so little of her actual writing is employed (coupled with her cultivated "writer's mystique") that I feel I still don't know Joan, the writer. There are tidbits of her adult 1950's life that show just how radically things changed in the 1960's--a period of massive upheavel which she chronicled for various top USA magazines. I've read other bits by Joan on my own, and it's clear that as a disciplined writer (and according to her reserved personality) she did not appreciate disorder in civic life. I learned a few new things about the Manson Family killings, runaways and drug use during this time. But even how she coped with the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter are cloaked in a great deal of silence. Joan is now so old (and has MS) that I think it was even difficult for her to express her pain (I supposed we have to read her book: "The Year of Magical Thinking.")

This incredibly unrealistic, whole-new-low of a teen flick is just so sad. "DUFF" stands for Designated Fat Friend. A frumpy-looking teen's two besties are "hot chicks." DUFF's make them look even better and are kind of brokers for guys getting access to them. The main character doesn't know she's a DUFF until a childhood guy friend blurts it out. The two good things about the film are: the DUFF fights back (but it seems this kind of a revelation would have an adverse-reverse effect), a cool guy likes her. Oh, and of course, the "DUFF's" mother is also dating and the cool guy's parents are getting divorced. It's interesting with what gravitas (thank God) screenwriters still make children see divorce. If there's any lightness, it's usually on the part of the adults.
Lots of degrading sexual talk (you know--yawn--mostly the equal objectification of men). Men and women's sexuality are almost interchangeable, however. Girls need to "grow a pair"? Really?
Oh, and of course all teens watch porn, so it seems the DUFF is watching older, tame porn and needs to get with the newer stuff.
And all heaven weeps.

A slapped-together little dramedy about the losers at Table 19 at a wedding (not too much time or thought has gone into this little carbuncle--the gem). Crass. BUT there's also something incredibly sweet about two particular couples whose relationships are on the rocks--when we all know they really should stay together. But how can they make it work again? How can they crawl up from their self-imposed abysses? Well, if you don't know what love really is or marriage really is (looking at you, our present culture), starting with "forgiveness" is not bad at all, not bad at all. AND there's a baby involved here. In a world of screw-ups, the baby is seen as "the perfect screw-up." In a good way. The best possible way. Nihilism has just been annihilated. :)

Good scary fun. Don't care for James Franco? He's not really the main character. 

Dismal, dreary, ghastly, mournful. Dreadful view of the human person and afterlife.
Huge, "brilliant" speech in the middle by some guy who knows more than God-Who-Is-Love.
Abysmal eschatology. Hopeless. The more we stray from the Biblical worldview, the more our imagination returns to been-there-done-that-already paganism. It's an endlessly looping, reincarnating cycle, NOT a linear "story." This was NOT a story. A story has a beginning, middle and end. Like each of our lives, like history. Salvation history. (This film is truly episodic with a capital "E." It's really about clinging to human love beyond the grave. See the film "Ghost" and countless other films. Not a bad thing, that. But don't try to tell us about the bigger picture if all you believe in is physics. If all you believe in is physics, why do you believe in love at all?)
BUT perhaps there IS the image of purgatory here? Purification and then one is "released"? Perhaps, but I doubt it. But, anyhoo, what is eternity without God?
I think the filmmakers were really trying. But no.

A beautifully "shot," fantastically acted, harsh film about a mild-mannered money man who--through a series of unfortunate events--becomes a hardened prisoner. But all that he does he does for his family. "How far will a man go to protect his family?" This far. On one hand, he faces the conundrum of conundrums. However, the story has two "fatal" flaws:

1. "Money" (his prison name) could've just been a "wimp/victim" and refused to kill in prison (because it's wrong--5th Commandment) in the beginning. Nothing would have happened to his family (although he might have eventually gotten killed himself. They were in no danger at this point.
2. Why doesn't his fair and kind parole officer offer him and his family witness protection? We could have at least heard that conversation even if Money rejected it because he doesn't think they could actually protect him.

So, in the end, this is an amoral film without a compass. And we will see more and more of these films in postmodernity. There are no absolutes. The Commandments don't matter. All is relative. But Money chooses his family as his absolute and sacrifices all for them. All. I suppose if a man doesn't believe in the 10 Commandments, he will have to choose his absolutes, and then he will be measured by them and against them.

(Jason Momoa) Not bad. Man protects his Alzheimer's Dad and little daughter from dangerous drug dealers. In the snowy wilderness. See "Wind River" above. "Wind River" has more of a story.

DO NOT WATCH THIS. I love Australian films. But I regret having watched this "beautifully" filmed, incredibly acted, blood-chilling, killing-a-young-family-for-sport, unredeeming, unredeemed, unredeemable film. Halfway through I got a very bad feeling that this was not your typical, "life-affirming" Aussie offering. I should have shut it off, but I did not. It is depraved and gratuitous and pointless (the killings and the film). This should never have been made. I repent of having watched it.

The incomparable Helen Mirren plays Sarah Winchester, heiress of the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. (rifles). She believes she is cursed because of all the death and destruction wrought by these guns, and so she builds a sprawling mansion at the behest of the "spirits" of those killed by Winchester gunfire. Fascinating. Very timely with all the debate about gun control. The film itself is well acted, some good dialogue, but kind of spins out of control trying to scare us in the most unsubtle of ways--similar to Stephen King's stuff. (I'm not a Stephen King fan.) Less is more when it comes to suspense-thrillers and horror. Here's the skinny on Sarah Winchester: http://hellburns.blogspot.ca/2017/03/micro-movie-reviews.html#.Wp85mujwaM8

The revisted series with all original cast is a true-to-its-roots wholesome blast from the past. Very colorful, very funny, very cute, very pro-life. Lots of teens, kids, babies and dogs keep things popping. Some tasteful double entendres, but good fun for the whole family to watch. HOWEVER: in "Fuller House," there are some intimations that Stephanie and D.J. have sexual relationships outside of marriage. Steph is single and D.J. is a widow. Also some very, very creepy, inappropriate  "sexy Mom" comments (esp. when D.J. dresses very inappropriately in short, tight dresses and shorts) from men--very young and older. It's almost like Hollywood NEEDS its dissolution and moral bankruptcy to seep through here and there. It's sad cuz Candace Cameron-Bure (actress who plays D.J. is/was(?) a Christian...the little sister of Kirk Cameron). It's really total objectification. There's no need. And she always ditzily accepts and enjoys the commodification.
S3:E9 = WHOOOOPSIE!!!! Stephanie (who has been told she'll never have kids, she's not married yet, either) is told she has a few eggs and can do IVF to have a child using a surrogate. She begins looking for a sperm-donor/baby-daddy and isn't sure if she should ask her boyfriend and if they should raise the baby together (no mention of marriage). The whole fam rallies to cover the expenses. YIKES. Can you count how many unethical things are going down here????

William Fichtner plays a stultified, repressed man going through a mid-life crisis (even though his wife is nice enough, and his life is good) who falls for the girl next door: a young married couple have just moved in. Once again, a great film about adultery. It seems our culture still holds marriage so sacred in spite of everything. At one point his wife tells him: "Whatever is going on with you doesn't belong in this house." What a great line! He's making some really stupid mistakes, but we can also feel bad for him and have mercy for him in his humanness. On the other hand: Why are our lives dull? Perhaps we need to get out and volunteer? Perhaps we could focus on our own families more (including extended family and relatives that might need our help, our friendship). Get some exciting hobbies. Fight for a good cause. This man's whole life was a mid-life crisis waiting to happen. And it didn't have to be that way. 

"Collateral" is a gloomy, British, 2-season drama about the Iraq-Afghanistan War, refugees, misogyny in the military. Otherwise, "Collateral" is tough women acting like tough men and British people being terrible to each other in general--what with their caustic tongue-lashings and rapier wit (is that a national pastime)? It has some good things to say and think about. Very timely.

"In 2010, David Crowley worked on a film about a future in which the government crushes civil liberties. When Crowley and his wife and child are found dead in 2014, conspiracy theorists speculate that they have been assassinated by the government."
What ths sad, sad, documentary is really about is an Iraq/Afghanistan war vet.

I'm classifying this incredible "Black Lives Matter"-themed drama a "perfect film." It's not flawless  because of the topic, but because of the execution, the acting, the plot twists, the story evolution, the cinematography, the dialogue, the contemplative moments, the closeups, the pacing, even the ultimate handling of religion. SS is very much about mothering and fathering. Cops look really, really bad and unredeemable except for one. Corruption is everywhere. The point here is not so much police brutality or prejudice, but justice in the courts. It's hard to watch because we enter deeply into each character's pain. Netflix is really producing "can you top this," exponentially finer and finer work.
S1:E4 47:06 the damage a distant father does

(Robert Redford, Debra Winger) Putrid, misogynistic nonsense by an old-time, old-boys Hollywood club director.

(Martin Henderson, Jason Momoa, Julianna Nicholson, Kiowa Joseph Gordon) A rich story with a rich backstory and many well-developed characters that are well acted. A cop and his wife and two girls become embroiled in the struggles of a Native American tribe near their home. Many topics make for a timely, interweaving story and plenty of intrigue: mental illness, suicide, Native American casinos, Indian self-determination and governance, police and government corruption, dumping of toxic waste on indigenous lands. There are more bad characters than good ones and a high body count. There are a few squishy moral lines. A good watch. But be forewarned, the ending is abrupt, tragic and unresolved.

REQUIEM (NETFLIX SERIES)Set in Wales, this supernatural tale involves a rising young twentysomething musical ingenue and many unanswered questions about her childhood. Druid/pagan rites are portrayed as bad and abusive(!) Confused angelology. The power and strength of human love and heroism is what matters. Draggy in parts with non-sequitur type reactions and dialogue at times. Unfortunately, men are fairly useless while women are the movers and shakers. 


Based on G. K. Chesterton's character. An unmitigated delight.
The Father Brown Series just gets better and better. Great theological conversations.
Fr. Brown is like "eternity man." He may like tea and scones, bicycles and English gardens, but he never forgets who he is and the only thing that matters: salvation. He is keen to give every person every opportunity to save themselves: "no one is beyond redemption."
Uh-oh. S5:E3 Fr. Brown says: "Witchcraft is not Satanism. It's a spiritual path that honours nature." (Also sees syncretism: voodoo + Catholicism as harmless, legitimate.) Otherwise, Fr. B. is rather orthodox.

Laughably unadulterated, Rousseauian (society alone forms us), sheer Foucauldian (nothing in human behavior is "abnormal"), trans/intersectional feminist propaganda set in the 1800's. Police are downright evil and corrupt, priests are awful, religious people are the worst kind of mean. Scientists virtue signal. The acting and dialogue are stiff, on-the-nose, unartful and juvenile. Most of the actors are extremely uncomfortable with the slightly antiquated language of the time. "Alienist" was an early term for doctors of the mind who believed that mental illness "alienated the person from their true nature." This, of course, sounds like a very accurate and elegant description. However--when speaking of the transperson, their "nature" is purposefully said to be trans. The "trans" people are all young boys. The little boys are being horribly murdered, and yet there's something super-creepy and voyeuristic about the way the cross-dressing boy prostitutes are presented to us, the viewer.
Lavishly filmed (the cinematography, camera angles and sets just get better and better).
An interesting characteristic of the story is not that boy prostitution is bad/wrong, only the murder of them. The plot reveals a "monster," a huge pedophile ring branching throughout the entire city of New York's prominent individuals, families and classes that are quite untouchable (is not THIS true about pedophile rings)?
So much graphic sadism in the visual arts today. Also, children used to be sacrosanct when it came to film. The German film "M" (1931), in which Peter Lorre stars as a child molester-killer, the only thing we see is a balloon or a doll left behind. There were actual ethical limits until very recently. Now we see children tortured and otherwise graphically abused. In HD and 4K. Pretty sick.
God is blamed by everyone for everything. The sadistic serial killer (who had a very abusive childhood) is, of course, deeply religious, and kills on Catholic feastdays. But is ultimately excused as just a "damaged child" himself. The anti-God secular mind of today is incredibly DARK. It peers into evil and finds no redemption, no escape, only a morbid fascination and attraction. It sees human pain everywhere but can't call anything actually "bad" because that would be judging and therefore doesn't know how to help because it doesn't know what to call good, either. The series ends with the hope that science will eventually find out why people do evil.

THE BOSS (Melissa McCarthy)
Reminiscent of "Troop Beverly Hills," this far raunchier comedy involving an unconventional gang of girl scouts is thankfully rated "R." The ever watchable McCarthy is, perhaps, the funniest woman in America (and so funny without the raunch), but she obviously has no problem spewing forth bottom of the barrel fare. The plot is fine, it's the trimmings that are lowlife and could easily have been spun a different way. Too bad, because this could have been a family friendly film with lots of big laughs for everyone.

I am not a Katie Holmes fan, but she plays quirky, rigid, uptight women very well. Miss Meadows is a mild revenge fantasy fable. Do not expect anything realistic here. The righteous and prim Miss Meadows is a beloved elementary school teacher, but she's packing a lady's pistol in her coordinated handbag, and she's not afraid to use it. And she does. A lot.
I must say that I really enjoyed this film. Perhaps I would have to call it a "guilty pleasure" film. Perhaps I shouldn't have enjoyed it, but I did, and I make no apologies for it. So judge me. I'm not necessarily recommending this film, but it has a staying power. Most revenge fantasies are male: a father wreaking massive violent revenge on whoever murdered/kidnapped/wronged his family. There are some female fantasies as well, but they're usually ridiculous: badass MMA women taking down hordes of men. Instead, Miss Meadows is a frou frou femme with a tragic event in her childhood who does not suffer evildoers well.

This dramedy features a British pscyhologist who is a human lie detector. He's an expert at people's speech, tones, twitches and body language, and is hired mostly by law enforcement (but also by others for lots of interesting reasons as well). If you like "Sherlock" and other sorts of "science-based" crime-solving, this is a very well done show. However, the contradictory nature of the main character is that he's a good guy, a traditional gentleman and single dad who loves, respects and protects women and his daughter...except when he doesn't (here and there). And at the end of the series there is one of the most horrifying sequences I've ever seen in mainstream fare. Dad comes home from work and we hear what appears to be sounds of his 16-year-old daughter having sex with her boyfriend (prolonged, realistic sounds that go on and on and on). Turns out she and her beau had been out running and he's helping her stretch her muscles. But, with daughter on her back on the floor and two men standing over her, the moaning and sighing goes on and on and on and on. IT IS UNMISTAKABLE WHAT THE FILMMAKERS ARE DOING HERE. REMEMBER FOLKS, THE ENDGAME OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION, "SEX ED" CURRICULUM, LGBTQ+ MOVEMENT IS TO BREAK DOWN THE ADULT-CHILD SEXUAL DIVIDE. Oh, and later she tells her father she broke up with said BF because he doesn't have sex before marriage and she admits the muscle-stretching was her substitute for it. THE ZEITGEIST GETS BOLDER AND BOLDER.

This dark drama features a tough female English detective who has lots of family issues in her own life. Season 2 focuses on one case: multiple child abductions and murders with the same m.o. A convicted pedophile is under suspicion (along with others). Now. This sympathetically-portrayed pedophile is dashing. I mean, he could be 007. And although he has a snide way of talking (sorry, but not unusual for any Brit), he's got his life together and is married to a woman (even though he prefers boys and girls) who is expecting their son. The continued "harrassment" of this man throughout the case is presented as prejudice. We are schooled in the fact that his pedophilia is "genetic," similar to an alcoholic, and he can't help it, and he's married to a woman now because he doesn't want to live alone and likes companionship, even though he keeps his "urges" under control. His loving wife knows of his past and protests: "people can change!" 


At the end of the second season, Marcella begins to self harm in a rather grotesque way. Not as horrifying as a certain "Black Mirror" episode, but along the same lines. (Great, our young people who "cut" and otherwise self harm get to watch adults do it, too?) Today's stories are careening more and more to utter NIHILISM. There are more movies, videos, films, shows, YouTubes, clips, documentaries, etc., than ever, a total glut. But what are they saying? Do we really need this dark fascination with despair? To what purpose? Part of me wants to stop reviewing. I've wanted to journey with, accompany our media-saturated world and media-saturated audiences, but I'm sure what I see and hear (even with prayer and discrimination and discernment) is still taking its toll on me. We shall see.

Do we have too many stories today? No, as long as they are sincere, authentic stories, not fodder or agendas or indoctrination. Torture and harming of children? Remember, it's all ENTERTAINMENT. Why would we ever find torure and harming of children entertaining? Unless in our surfeit and boredom we've become sadists.

A (talking) Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) is his good old bumbling self in this slow-moving but chock-full-of-chuckles James Bond-esque spoof. "Dear God, don't let me die at the hands of the Swiss." Lots of physical humor.

(Ryan "Deadpool" Reynolds) DON'T WATCH this film. I stopped halfway through. This is not entertainment. This should never BE entertainment.
A nine-year-old girl is kidnapped and kept in a furnished basement-prison by her older male captor. He uses her to talk into a webcam online and lure younger children in to her fate (now that he's no longer interested in her because she's a teen). The presentation is without horror, pathos, urgency or drama. It is so ho-hum, in fact, that we feel like we should just accept that, hey, this stuff happens! (Yawn.) I think what's actually happening is that it's just a poorly made film. We were taught at UCLA that emotions and reactions should be true to life. Not much of that in this film. Either way, this plot-line is beyond sickening and we really don't need to go there.

THE GAME (1997)
(Michael Douglas) A wonderfully imaginative, suspenseful, sheer escapism film. The best of its kind the 90's could offer. A mega-wealthy investment banker is gentlemanly enough, but actually lives an insular life, caring for no one but himself. His brother gives him an unusual, life-changing birthday gift: a real-life game that will cost him everything. A few subtle life-lessons can even be learned along the way.

Now THIS is a horror movie. Don't be fooled. It starts out like a formulaic horror film clinic. Eager, optimistic family with sullen teenager moves into house with a history. Supernatural stirrings or not? Just wait till the ending. Just wait. You have no idea.

This beautifully-shot, beautifully-crafted film from India treats sexual violence as it should be treated (if you're going to make that the theme of your movie at all). JUST enough visuals that we get the idea and the horror and the aftermath. It's a revenge film, but really a mother-daughter story like no other (and rich, multi-layered mother-daughter stories are rare). Men are NOT demonized or useless in this film, not at all, it's just that the main characters are women (watch and learn, "Frozen," and all you other copious contemporary misandric films). My favorite character (maybe now in my top 10 fav filmic characters!) is the comic-relief male detective. He's hilarious, goofy, brave, wise, prescient and religious.

REAL DETECTIVE (Netflix procedural docudrama series)
Interviews seamlessly interjected with well-done reenactments (more drama than interview). Real retired homicide detectives talk about their most emotional and affecting cases. This is very human and moving, not sensational. Similar to "Forensic Files," but not as cold and clinical. Great exposing of the toll policing takes on law enforcement personnel. Some are PTSD survivors. Not a super-downer. It's warm and caring. And there's a sense of closure and justice when they get their guy. I never realized that cops wind up having such an intense connection and relationship with murder victims and victims' families. These men, and a few women, are unsung heroes getting their due.

Why are you and your kids not watching this????? Sweet, innocent, delightful, very, very clever fun. Babies vs. kittens. Babies vs. puppies. Babies vs. old people. Babies vs. babies. Always a great plot.

This mega-long, just-creepy-enough story is refreshingly different. At first. A family with 5 kids (that's refreshing enough!) moves into a rambling old house with...shall we say...a mind of its own and lots of ghosts. The ghosts go after mothers the most. The parents want to just fix it up, flip it and sell it (like so many times before)...but this house is hungry and can haunt people long after they've left it. (Ya gotta wonder what kinda parents would put their kids through all that scary stuff!) The kids are adorbs when little but LOTS of family fights when they get older. Lots. But by the end, the story's often meandering, the bickering is non-stop. Then ALL the dialogue gets abstractly philosophically poetic, almost meta-Shakepearic (word?) and everyone whispers through the last few episodes. A few quick non-graphic lesbian sex scenes.Too many lengthy repeated scenes in order to fill in blanks. Too many dream sequences startling us into reality until we can't tell which is which. Bad theology about the afterlife. Ideas not fully formed. BUT definitely about LOVE and FAMILY--and not in a cursory way. I knew the writer was from Massachusetts. He sounds like our ilk. This series is TEDIOUS. Only for the very patient.

CAM (Netflix 2018)
BEWARE: #Netflix now mainstreaming PORN. For the 1st time in my experience (longtime subscriber) they are FEATURING straightup porn (pops up as "recommended"). The new "movie" entitled "CAM" is about women who do live webcam porn. It unabashedly shows lots & lots of porn/nudity. It's categorized under "Critically Acclaimed Films." HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.
Because I did little tweet about this film, basically warning folks, I was descended upon with a Twitterstorm by HUNDREDS of Satanists and real-life webcam girls who were proud that their profession was finally being represented in film, the body is beautiful, lots of vicious personal attacks, etc. It's the first time I ever had to lock my Twitter account (for 2 days) and then they went away. I was told by folks who observed the Twitterstorm that porn is a gateway to Satanism. This same bunch attacked a Salesian Sister a week earlier for her Twitter warning about "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina."

A law professor is stringent about ethics, but has she always been ethical? A student desperate to get good grades is willing to dig and expose her. The bookends are short, interesting discussions on ethics.

A bunch of military buddies come out of retirement to do a rogue operation: rip off a drug lord of his millions in South America (to compensate for their low U.S. Army pay) for themselves. This is not really about bro camaraderie, but a visceral movie about money. There are sad fatalities and violence, but think about how YOU are feeling about the money as the movie progresses. And let's remember--at the end of the story--whose big idea this was. He's no hero.

Period piece, supernatural thriller. Stoic, slow, still, stuffy, stifled, cardboard and dead. Lacks plot, thrills, stakes, character development, rising action and a reason to watch. Only thing going for it--sorta--is "atmospheric." Skip. Nothing to see here, folks.

This well-crafted indie starts off with lots of heart. He's a good guy! He loves baseball! No one was supposed to get hurt! He cries! Then, for absolutely no reason he turns into a cold-blooded killer in love with another CBK. And it's so cool. NOT.

--Sometimes the women are just the emptiest version of a male fantasy gal pal toy. But you can tell that even the men are frustrated by this reductive unreality and not having an "equal."
--In other films, much importance is laid on a woman standing by her man no matter what (it's almost the measure of the worth of a woman, not only to her man, but to herself).
--Other films have whip-smart, fully-developed characters where it isn't even a question whether or not woman is man's equal. These are the best films where there's equal spunk on both sides--but not identically expressed. (Toward the end of WW2, the silver screen is enjoying the novelty of women capably driving cars. Men are their passengers.)
--So often, when a woman enters the scene, the music goes soft with violins and sweetness, almost as though men are grateful for something soft and sweet in life (even if she's a grifter).

--Other films sport a beautiful, romantic, complementary relationship of husband and wife (kids are ALWAYS part of the picture, a given) who support each other through thick and thin, who are aware of each other's individuality, needs, strengths and weaknesses.
--Male/female differences are usually (but not always) commented on from the male perspective. But they are definitely commented on, frequently. Often good-naturedly and accurately, and not always a put-down. Sometimes it's nasty and angry and accusatory (90% from the male side and only 10% from the female side).
--Just like guys call each other "bro" today, WOMEN USED TO CALL EACH OTHER "SISTER," AND SO DID MEN. A kind of kinship. That we've lost. (The only time I've heard "Sister" in a modern film: Jim Carrey in "Dumb and Dumber": "Move it or lose it, Sister!" on his way to the jetway. :)
--Sometimes men remind other men to treat women better, treat a woman like a "lady."
--Men often put their hands all over women's bodies, overpowering women (women they know OR even strangers).
--There seems to be animal magnetism just driving men and women into each other's arms, even when they barely know each other, or one just tried to kill the other one. This happens quite frequently and makes no sense. A real lack of female writing here. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to many intimate relationships. Often times one or both of the lovers are absolutely horrible people.

An * means worth seeing. ** means VERY worth seeing.


Wicked As They Come (1956)--A femme fatale goes from man to man, exploiting them (after being sexually abused as a child). Psychology was beginning to delve into these things. And the MEN in the film understand this about her "why she is the way she is"! One man sees through her and wants to love her. Will she give in? The woman winds up in prison (female prison guards=nuns). The ending is UNRESOLVED. 

*Turn the Key Softly (1940's?, British)--3 women released from prison are looking for love. Very unusual topic! Main character is doublecrossed (again) by her lover who landed her in prison in the first place. Anecdotal, not much of an Act 3. The ending unravels. But a window on the times.

*City That Never Sleeps (1953)--Chicago! A depressed cop (played with incredible gravitas by Gig Young--Google his life/death!) is tempted to switch sides and engage in crime (dirty cops are a theme in film noir).

*Manhandled (1949)--(Dorothy Lamour) A sweet young thing is set up by her lover. Will the cops figure it out and save her?

Whiplash (1948)--A boxer-artist is in love with a conflicted woman. 

*Phone Call from a Stranger (1940's?)--(Bette Davis) A plan crashes and a surviving passenger seeks out the loved ones of those who didn't survive.

*Wicked Woman (1953)--A female drifter-grifter-homewrecker moves in on a bar-owner (and his unaware alcoholic wife). But missy should have been nice to ALL the men in her life.... Karma is a witch. :)

The Price of Fear (1956)--Convoluted story full of plot holes and gaps. An unconscionable man falls in love with an unconscionable woman. No chemistry. Who cares.

*The Pushover (1954)--This noir film is a big deal. Fred MacMurray established himself as a serious actor (not just an light comedy actor) and this is Kim Novak's debut. Kim Novak was a big, big deal. Men really like Kim Novak. Stay for the TCM channel commentary at beginning and end. MacMurray plays a cop tempted to turn to the dark side.

*My Name Is Julia Ross (1945)--A woman is gaslit. Good fun.

*Inside Job (1946)--A young, enterprising couple get in way over their head in a bank heist.

I've Lived Before (1956)--A snail-paced Twilight Zone about reincarnation. Is this the beginning of a kind of jettisoning of the Judaeo-Christian imagination? After WWI and WWII is "anything possible"? Are we looking for another meta-narrative?

Breakaway (1956)--No.

British Crime Thriller--No.

Madison Avenue (1961)--Lord, no. Tedious, technical. All boring business-speak. Men and women in the workplace. Hard as nails chick vs. soft, sentimental chick. How could there ever be romance here? A pathetic view of women (and men).

Whispering Footsteps (1943)--Rumors and suspicions swirl as to who the mysterious serial killer really is. But it's hard to know who to trust when everything points to....

Woman on the Run (1950)--The shrew wife. Anne Sheridan is a terrible actress.

*Victim (1961)--8 years before the Stonewall Riots and 1 years before the first Gay Pride Parade (NYC), this British film takes on (in a sophisticated story) why homosexual acts (buggery) shouldn't be illegal. The lives of several "gay" men of varying ages and social status are portrayed, most of them "respectable" members of society. Each makes the case for "no harm is done" by their "natural" acts, finding "love the only way they're able." The wife of one these men--who knew about his proclivities before they got married--stands by him when he (and the other men) are blackmailed for hiddenly breaking the law (photos). The arguments are similar and not similar to today's. "Nature played a cruel joke." But one judge talks about the "corruption" that allowing this behavior to be legalized and spread will bring. One woman blackmailer is a Christian who is "disgusted" by the "blasphemy." The film is, of course, sympathetic propaganda. A "message" film.

*It Happens Every Thursday (1953)--A deeply optimistic and light-hearted film of a young family (the fast-talking, spunky Loretta Young is wife/mom who can do anything) trying to make a go of the American Dream.

*Craig's Wife (1936)--A very young, very serious Rosalind Russell (like you've never seen her before!) is an ice-in-her-veins, controlling, emasculating wife who loves only her well-appointed home and nothing else. A kind of morality play. "Those who keep to themselves are often left to themselves."

**The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940)--A splendidly-executed, mile-a-minute-paced screwball comedy that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that women and men ARE equal. Loretta Young and Ray Milland at their finest (full of palpable disdain for each other) are forced to work a deceit for each other's benefit and in order to benefit themselves at the same time. A truly excellent specimen of the madcap genre.

*Call of the Wild (1935)--Loretta Young & Clark Gable. Based on the Jack London story. Lots of canines. Lots. Not much of a story-line, but Loretta and Clark!

*Portrait of Jennie (1948)--Joseph Cotten & Jennifer Jones  Uber-sentimental, dreamy love story with time travel and yearning for the eternal. Starts off kind of creepy: a young girl and an older man who must wait for her to grow up before they can be together. Lots of nuns!

*The Strange Woman (1946)--Heddy Lamar. Set in early 1800's New England. Come for the costumes, stay to observe the beautiful, brainy Lamar at her craft. "Unjust" ending (weird male logic: beauty and passion trumps promises/fidelity). Creepy robbing the cradle, murderous/gold-digging predatory female wiles, incest-y.

*A Night To Remember (1942)--Loretta Young & Brian Aherne. Truly hilarious murder-mystery-comedy. Young and Aherne are well-matched equals as a young married couple, both writers, who get entangled in a real-live murder. Funny lines and predicaments. Holds up today. Aherne is a hoot.

*The Man I Married (40's/50/s)--An American woman marries a German-American and they take a trip to pre-WWII Germany where Hitler is on the rise. A must-watch for the sake of "how could this have happened"?

*Molly and Me (1945)--A troupe of musical theater stage actors are recruited to pose as a rich man's household staff to save the day.

*Dishonored Woman (1947)--Poor Hedy Lamarr (who was a scientific inventor in real life) has to play a floozy being courted by an upstanding scientist who knows nothing of her past.

The Intruder (1933)--An almost plotless, ridiculous "talkie."

Johnny Allegro (1949)--Just a fun criminals vs. cops movie. A woman seems to be in charge at first, but her backstory is that she attached herself to a rich man. But she proves herself to have spunk and guts.

*Together Again (1944)--(Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer) A widow lady mayor lives with her father and precocious daughter. Watch this ONLY for the daughter and her boyfriend: two hilarious young adult actors.

*Shield for Murder (1954)--a solid, tough-talking, hardboiled tale about a dirty cop (with great sympathy toward the underpaid, overworked, cynical flatfoots), great side characters, great plotlines. The cop's girlfriend is controlled by her man--they love each other, but she doesn't like his violent side. Women are only about the feelz and don't like to have to "think." But she's not dumb and wants to help him along with his cop friend--neither of whom know he's dirty, but they're getting suspicious. Suspenseful entertainment that has held up for 70 years. Oscar-winner Edmond O'Briend is the main actor (and a writer). Superb. (Except for the sardonic statement of one cop to another cop getting off duty: "Go home and beat your wife." Nice.)

The Black Doll (1930's)--Murder and voodoo? Or is it voodoo at all. Big body count.

*My Cousin Rachel (1952)--Richard Burton. Wow. Olivia de Havilland. Meh.

*He Walks At Night (1948)--Film noir about a cop-killer. Cops are definitely the good guys. The actor who plays the murderer eerily conveys the coldest-blooded evil. Watch it for him.

*Detour (1945)--True noir with cheesy narration throughout. Our main character is a bad luck Brian to the max! Get a load of the tough-as-nails blackmailing hitchhiker dame.

*Hitchhiker (1953)--Directed by a woman, the great Ida Lupino! Edmond O'Brien isn't so great in this one (chews scenery), but everyone else is mighty fine. Mexicans are portrayed as full, able characters, not chumpy sidekicks or inferiors. Aside from this lovely subjective feminine sensitivity, the rest of the film is like a gritty guy's Western.

*Pick Up On South Street (1953)--I'm ashamed to say I never even heard of Jean Peters. JP is a revelation. As soon as her plucky streetwalker character sears onto the screen, it's impossible to take your eyes off this Juliette Lewis lookalike (or rather, the other way around) as she convinces you are watching a real person. But, if you ever wondered about women's status in 1953 (incidentally, the year "Playboy" was born), watch if you can (I had to look away) as Peters' character is brutally beaten and brutalized more than once by either of her two criminal element boyfriends in this otherwise "actors film." In what universe was it acceptable to show this????? Peters herself is an enigma: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Peters

*Killer Bait (1949)--Film noir. Ridiculous fun, more like a morality play. The evils of greed.

*Eyes in the Night (1942)--A blind cop and his trusty pooch is a formidable (and physical) crime solver--and Edward Arnold a formidable actor.

*Spellbound (1945)--(Hitchcock) Ingrid Bergman and a very young Gregory Peck play psycho-analyst and patient with a mysterious guilt complex. (The whole film is very Freudian!) Doctor (Bergman) not only falls in love with patient (Peck)--she's determined to cure him and save him from the police who want to pin the very murder on him that he (mistakenly?) thinks he committed. Although Bergman is alternately treated like the accomplished scientist she is (by both her all-male colleagues and the filmmakers), she is also the hopelessly emotional female. However, if you really watch/listen to what's being conveyed, it's seen as a strength, as something essentially human, as something men don't have and are missing, and, SPOILER ALERT: She is right and does save the day! A woman saves a man! Quite extraordinary.

The Scar (1948)--Horrible, amoral love story that makes no sense.

*Whispering City (1947)--A French guy in Montreal is being gaslit. Pretty good stuff.

*Big Town After Dark (1947)--If you like nasty, old-timey gangsters, this is your film.

*The Accused (1948)--A real psycho-thriller about a real psycho student who obsesses over his teacher (Loretta Young). However, "Fainting Spells Loretta" plays her increasingly annoying "type": a weak, delicate, high-strung, silly, frilly, frivolous, confused dame.

**Roses Are Red (1947)--Guys and dolls--with that "war effort" spirit--working together to solve crimes. Good fun. Incidentally, competent, intrepid women journalists were a fav character of the time.

*Finger Man (1955)--Ruthless crime boss will stop at nothing to maintain and expand his power. Women are expendable and sources of income. Brutal treatment of women shown. (See: "Pick Up on South Street.") Interesting. Women treated with deference in the 40's. Suddenly, with post-war prosperity, Kinsey and Playboy (1953), women are some kind of fair game/blood sport.

**Wiretapper (1955) Billed as "true crime," this film is actually a well-disguised early BILLY GRAHAM CRUSADE FILM. (BG made films all his life that included an actual rally of his where the main character gets saved, breaking through the 4th wall, sort of.) This is very good filmmaking for its time with a very broad secular appeal. Will a ne'er-do-well finally break free of his life of crime (now that he's a family man)?

*The Inner Circle (1946)--More gaslighting and whodunnit entertainment. Wonderfully developed, homey, fun characters.

*Heroes in Blue (1939)--"Blue Bloods" of the 1930's! An Irish-American family of cops has one son who strays. A rich ethical dilemma. Cops are good guys.

*Her Favorite Patient (1945)--(rom com) A wise-cracking lady doctor must deal with a patient who just won't leave...because he's in love with her.

**Meet the Boyfriend (1937)--A super fun almost-musical. Just grand. Bouyant characters, tremendous sense of humor. Equality and complementarity of the sexes. I could watch this over and over. Well-preserved, clear black and white.

*The Hatbox Mystery (1947)--Great, great fun. A struggling detective agency gets mixed up in "murder" they are duped into committing. Also, hamburgers. Lots of hamburgers.The guys' long-suffering, hard-working girlfriends are hardly acknowledged by their mooch boyfriends.

*The Madonna's Secret (1946)--Exploitative (of women), creepy thriller with a twist ending.

**Ladies in Retirement (1941)--The versatile Ida Lupino (unrecognizable 7 years later in "Road House") glowers in this dark, moor-swept British delight.

The Big Bluff (1955)--(Noir) Amateurish  acting, directing, dialogue and everything else, but a fantastically twisty, just ending.

*Not Wanted (1949)--This incredible film directed by the incredible Ida Lupino (who also makes a cameo!) is about a young woman pregnant out of wedlock. But exactly who's unwanted? A great look into the attitudes of the past...so much more noble and pro-life than our own. Lupino's camerawork is progressive and her subject gritty, as always.

Sanctuary (1961)--Based on a novel by William Faulkner, this dark, decadent story contradicts its plot and logic all over the place with huge plot holes. A young woman falls into a brothel almost by mistake...and loves it! Horrible notion of "quality of life" (a child is better of dead than with a poor quality of life, a great argument for abortion). Lee Remick is a great actress in this sad, what people would call "brave" film today. Only one high note: a black actress is the wisdom figure that the Southern white woman must listen to (with lots of lines)! This was hugely avant-garde. For all its bizarre "morality," the language used is the vestige of Christianity (because there was no other lexicon): "den of sin," "illicit sex." With male attitudes (or unhealthy male fantasies) like this shown in mainstream media, no wonder the Women's Movement was begun!
--Women are ditzes who can be "bought" with a bunch of pretty clothes (and you can smack them around)
--Um, was she raped or not? She was!
--(In other news, Ava Gardner was smacked around in real life by George C. Scott, and almost killed by him.)


Documentary of a mentally-ill, homeless New Hampshire woman who died in an abandoned house from needless starvation. Highlights the nonsensical laws allowing severely mentally ill people to make their own decisions about treatment, meds, etc. (The laws of the past went from harsh, forced overtreatment to irresponsible, fatal undertreatment.) Very, very sad and depressing film that will haunt you. If you're sensitive? Don't watch: a real downer. A sad, sad movie that you'll never shake. You'll never look at apples the same way.

This Australian series is a political thriller with a conscience, a very conscientious conscious. Good for them.

An Apocalypse of sorts happens in a wealthy Connecticut town. Only the teens are "left behind." In true "Lord of the Flies" fashion, the teens have to organize themselves while discussing and performing graphic sex acts* for us (every 30 minutes or so--and extremely salacious like the series "You"--I am convinced that the influence of our youth watching porn is translating into soft porn everywhere on the screen now because...at least softcore is seen as next to nothing), trying out socialism, getting STIs, getting pregnant, getting into their parents' booze, drugs and guns. They really do love and miss their parents, however. The series might seem to have some depth or meaning, what with the church being ground zero and aimless, truncated** conversations about ethics, God, prayer, punishment--but there's not much of a moral compass beyond a utilitarian social contract and some scattered good will. The one redeeming feature, IMHO, is that these teens have to grow up fast and create a microcosm of an adult world of law enforcement and justice. But kind of "Hunger Games" style. All the societal*** issues they've started to think seriously about or studied in school are now very REAL and they must make some big decisions. A prayerful, Christian girl is actually cool, pretty, smart and nice.

Much talk of parallel universes and how they work.

See: S1:E3 on pedophile priests, "progress" & LGBTQ issues for a little sample of the dialogue.:
Deaf/Gay Male Teen: "My priest said it's OK to be gay."
Girl: "That's progressive."
DGMT: "Yes, but I can't act out on it."
Girl: "Well, there you go."

One girl gets pregnant (from a drunken consensual encounter with a stranger at a pre-Apocalpyse party):
Girl: "But I didn't get a CHOICE about being a mother!"
(There are no abortionists in Dystopialand.) However, the baby eventually brings joy to all.

S1:E7 Has beautiful scenes of one young couple who want to get married (although there are future probs).

"The Society" is a lesson/experiment in different political systems: democracy, socialism, totalitarianism, mob rule...AND MOST OF ALL HOW POWER WORKS AND CAN WORK. As one character says, a good society is all based on TRUST (me: "trust but verify"). What makes a good and wise leader, how weak people are propped up and used by smart and/or psychopathic people.

This series grows on you and is seductive in its sober considerations of "how then shall we live together"? As well as the creepy mystery surrounding the disappearance of the teens. (I always knew the dog was significant.) A lot of serious thought has gone into this series.
*Is the point that they are all seniors in HS, therefore we're NOT watching minors engaging in simulated sex/sex acts? Think about how many shows are actually about minors having sex (with each other) and we're supposed to watch....
**(like the amoral "The Simpsons")
***"The Society" is well named!

Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman are fabulous together. Melissa--an over-the top ruthless, selfish jerk steals the boring, straightlaced, niceguy Bateman's identity and he's uncharacteristically out for revenge. Too many sexual situations, but this is very, very, very, very funny (writing, slapstick, etc.).

Sci-fi a la "Blade Runner." Replicants are A.I.  Futuristic cops. Hi-falutin philosophical dialogue. Super bleak. Way too much nudity. Lots of violence. Some "religious" talk about bodies and bishops and dioceses and dead people having rights. But nope. Couldn't stick with it. A Catholic Dad of four boys recommended it to me. Maybe I will revisit.

This well-crafted action-thriller starts off as an old-fashioned, super-fun caper-chase wherein a hitman and male nurse team up to save the nurse's very fesity, very pregnant wife who has been kidnapped. But then it takes a serious, turn with a dark twist (Marcia Gay Harden as a "hardened" dirty cop!) Men are really men (and I don't mean macho). You just have to see it. But is this film sophisticatedly moral or just immoral? Amoral? Is it an anti-cop film? Is it a cop-killer film? Bad good guys? Good bad guys? It's tricky, but not totally ambiguous. I'm sure it could be figured out/hammered out. The way the men treated Harden's character reminded me of something a woman says on a very interesting Tony Robinson doc ("I Am Not Your Guru"): when she acted like an aggressive male, men treated her in kind. (In my former radical feminist days, I found this to be personally true as well!)

THE OA (2018)
The ethereal but tenacious Brit Marling (worked on Wall St. in a former life) stars in this sci-fi series about many things. Like her other always-interesting and unusual films, The OA (trippy but with a hardcore plot) belies intelligence,  a deep searching for transcendence, caring, authenticity, the truest nature of reality, deepest meaning. P1:E6 discusses the morality of human experiments, multi-dimensions, life/death/eternal life, time travel, healing. All Brit's films envision cult-like experiences. I think she's really searching (along with Zal Batman, her real-life partner and co-filmmaker).

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This truly brilliant (in every way) and funny story of a rudderless new Mom, Audrey, and her male partner (the father of her child), is also crass and very, very sad, all wrapped up in bright Australian spunk. But it's also a realistic commentary on our times and what happens when we doff the Judaeo-Christian vision of the human person (viz., human dignity). In the end, it's chilling and scary.

There is a kind of benign residue of Irish Catholicism (skewered, of course, along with everything else) with a no-nonsense aboriginal priest. It made me think that this is the last generation that will ever be able to do this because the Faith is now completely unintelligible to the Millennials and Gen Z who have left the Church en masse.

The saddest thing about the babies in this series is that they're not even characters, let alone persons. It's all about the self-centered adults who can't get their bumbling acts together. The babies are carried around like sacks with exactly no recognition that they are picking up emotions, vibes, clues, etc. Moms have no problem screaming the word "abortion" in babies' ears, but covering them for the frequent "F" word. The babies are not caressed, kissed or loved, and are barely attended to. The main character's daughter looks like she does not want to be in this charade (this series). Although little, she looks like she knows something's wrong the entire time. Sex (and babies) are a consumeristic, mechanical, "anything goes" joke with virtually no sexual ethics coming into the picture. Men are incredibly emasculated and try to please their ladies' every whim (when neither actually know what they want). Being parents, according the "The Letdown," really is a letdown. It's a terrible advertisement for babies.

Bright spots:
--Some true tender love between Audrey and her partner. They really to care for each other.
--Today's gender insanity is shown up for what it is (hilariously), but at the same time reinforced, normalized. (Same-sex relationships, sperm donors,* etc., are not spoofed, because they are old hat now and fully supported.) However, Australians being meticulously PC when they don't really believe in it is very funny.
--The lovely short speech at the end by the older woman who heads up the new mums group where she says that modern motherhood is so complicated today, but babies are not. They are the same as they ever were.
--One of the poignant moments is when Audrey seriously doubts aloud if she can ever truly put her daughter first and not be selfish.
--Audrey's abortion is at first dismissed, but then comes back and is dealt with no less than 4 times. As a tragedy. (But sadly, it's justified, albeit with some heavy regret.)
--The lead actress is completely self-deprecating as she tries to be a radical feminist and a mother at the same time, and whether or not the series intends it, she demonstrates that it's not possible. One of the closing scenes is a total affirmation of new life.
*the same-sex attracted single Mom actually says--in an unqualified way--that the sperm donor (a friend) is "not the father" of her child. Um....

To sum up: "The Letdown" is a sad harbinger for the much colder winds and darker times to be ushered in very shortly in the real world, and I don't think the so-called bright spots will be able to stay lit much longer.