February 26, 2019


This star-studded Coen Brothers Oscar-nominated film, "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," is a typical Coen Brothers quirky, stylistic offering. Buster, a cowboy in white on his trusty horse, Dan, clops through the opening scene, strumming and singing a lonesome ditty about water--as the majestic canyons echo back. Suddenly, Buster turns to the camera and begins to narrate. At length. In fact, he's the only one who says pretty much anything for the first 15 minutes or so. Yeah, the monologue is pretty funny, but the Coen Brothers' unique style of shocking, callous, in-your-face, "campy," bloody, mounting violence comes all too quickly. I had to shut it off. Maiming and brutal murder isn't funny. Watching a man's fingers be blown off one by one is not my idea of entertainment. Sometimes I think this is all the CBs have. None of their stories are terribly coherent or feel like a real story. They just have eye candy and mayhem. Thus endeth my review.

February 12, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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