Incredibles 2: A Review

 

 

My family and I went to see Incredibles 2 on Saturday.  Most sequels I find disappointing, but this one more than lived up to my expectations.  Review below the fold and the caveat as to spoilers is in full effect: (more…)

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Published in: on June 18, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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American History: Memorial Day Weekend Movies

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

              Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

A few films to help remember that there is much greater significance to Memorial Day than sun and fun:

 

 

1.  American Sniper (2015)- A grand tribute to the late Chris Kyle and to all the other troops who served in Iraq.

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
Chis Kyle

2.   Hamburger Hill (1987)- A moving film about our troops in Vietnam who served their nation far better than their too often ungrateful nation served them.

3.  Porkchop Hill (1959)-Korea has become to too many Americans The Forgotten War, lost between World War II and Vietnam.  There is nothing forgotten about it by the Americans who served over there,  including my Uncle Ralph McClarey who died a few years ago, and gained a hard won victory for the US in one of the major hot conflicts of the Cold War.  This film tells the story of the small American force on Porkchop Hill, who held it in the face of repeated assaults by superior forces of the Chinese and North Koreans.  As the above clip indicates it also highlights the surreal element that accompanies every war and the grim humor that aspect often brings.

 

4.   Hacksaw Ridge (2016):  Mel Gibson fully redeemed his career as a director with this masterpiece.  A film that goes far beyond mere entertainment and illustrates what a man of faith can accomplish when he stays true to his beliefs and cares so much more about helping others than he does about his own mortal life.  Incredibly, the movie does justice to Desmond Doss, a true American hero.

 5.   Sergeant York (1941)-A film biopic of Sergeant Alvin C. York, who, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive  on October 8,  1918, took 32 German machine guns, killed 28 German soldiers and captured another 132.  Viewers who came to see the movie in 1941 must have been initially puzzled.  With a title like Sergeant York, movie goers could have been forgiven for thinking that Sergeant York’s experiences in World War I would be the focus, but such was not the case.  Most of the film is focused on York’s life in Tennessee from 1916-1917 before American entry into the war.  Like most masterpieces, the film has a strong religious theme as we witness York’s conversion to Christ.  The film is full of big questions:  How are we to live?  Why are we here?  What role should religion play in our lives?  How does someone gain faith?  What should we do if we perceive our duty to God and to Country to be in conflict?  It poses possible answers to these questions with a skillful mixture of humor and drama.  The entertainment value of Sergeant York conceals the fact that it is a very deep film intellectually as it addresses issues as old as Man.

The film was clearly a message film and made no bones about it.  The paper of the film industry Variety noted at the time:  “In Sergeant York the screen has spoken for national defense. Not in propaganda, but in theater.”

The film was a huge success upon release in 1941, the top grossing film of the year.  Gary Cooper justly earned the Oscar for his stellar performance as Alvin C. York.  It was Cooper’s favorite of his pictures.  “Sergeant York and I had quite a few things in common, even before I played him in screen. We both were raised in the mountains – Tennessee for him, Montana for me – and learned to ride and shoot as a natural part of growing up. Sergeant York won me an Academy Award, but that’s not why it’s my favorite film. I liked the role because of the background of the picture, and because I was portraying a good, sound American character.”

The film portrays a devout Christian who had to reconcile the command to “Love thy Neighbor” with fighting for his country in a war.  This is not an easy question and the film does not give easy answers, although I do find the clip above compelling. (more…)

The Real Sermon on the Docks

Probably the most powerful sermon ever placed on film, Father Barry speaks of Christ and his crucifixion on the docks.  The best performance Karl Malden ever gave.  Elia Kazan’s masterpiece, On the Waterfront  (1954) was also his response to the criticism he received for naming names before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952.

 

 

The character of Father Barry was based on the actual work on the docks of a hardbitten Irish-Catholic Jesuit Priest, Father John Corridan.  From 1946-1957 he waged a one man crusade in New York against the gangsters who controlled the International Longshoreman’s Association.  One of the bosses who controlled the union was “Tough” Tony Anastasia,  a brother of Albert “The Madhatter” Anastasia, one of the former bosses of Murder, Inc.

In the face of these murderers, Father Corridan, son of a New York cop who had died when Corridan was nine, was completely fearless.  Teaching longshoremen Christian principles in labor\management relations at the Saint Francis Xavier Labor School, Father Corridan faced down a union thug sent to disrupt his class:  “If anything happens to the men I’m trying to help here, I’ll know who’s responsible, and I’ll personally see to it that they are broken throughout this port. They’ll pay and I’ll see that they pay.”

Father Corridan compiled information which eventually filled sixteen filing cabinets on the mobsters who controlled the ports and who made life miserable for honest longshoremen.  He shared this information freely with reporters, including Malcolm Johnson of the New York Sun who won a Pulitzer for his series in 1948 on “Crime on the Waterfront”.  Father Corridan realized the pressure that could be exerted on the mob and the crooked politicians who protected the mob by such stories, and he used every opportunity to expose them in the press.  He wrote scorching articles himself for America and other publications.  Gradually the public began to become aware of the problem of mob domination of the docks.

A turning point came in 1951 when a faction of the longshoremen rejected a union negotiated contract and went on a wildcat strike.  Father Corridan supported them to the hilt.  The strike shut down ports in New York and New Jersey for twenty-five days.  To refute a claim by the mob dominated union that the strikers were communists, Father Corridan held a public prayer service with the strikers.  He also successfully pressured Governor Dewey of New York to address the issue of mob control of the docks.

Father Barry in the movie had his sermon on the docks.  Father Corridan preached many of them and one of them had this memorable statement:  “I suppose some people would smirk at the thought of Christ in the shape-up. It is about as absurd as the fact that He carried carpenter’s tools in His hands and earned His bread by the sweat of His brow. As absurd as the fact that Christ redeemed all men irrespective of their race, color, or station in life. It can be absurd only to those of whom Christ has said, ‘Having eyes, they see not; and having ears, they hear not.’ Because they don’t want to see or hear. Christ also said, ‘If you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me.’ So Christ is in the shape-up.”

The shape up was the system by which the mob completely controlled which longshoremen would work and which would not.  Father Corridan succeeded in having the shape up banned by the time that he left the docks in 1957, and a New York\New Jersey commission was in place to regulate the harbors.

Father Corridan went on to teach economics at LeMoyne College in Syracuse , theology at Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City and was a hospital chaplain in Brooklyn until his death at 73 in 1984.  It is said of Father Corridan that he could swear like a longshoreman himself at the sight of injustice.  If true, then I imagine his language is pure in his final abode.

Published in: on May 15, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Real Sermon on the Docks  
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Know Your Enemy: Japan

Produced by the Army in 1945 and narrated by actor Walter Huston, Know Your Enemy: Japan, directed by Frank Capra, helped explain to a war weary America why it was going to be a fight to the finish against the Japanese militarists.  Mercifully Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the War to a conclusion before it became necessary for an American invasion of the Home Islands which would have almost certainly involved a million American casualties and tens of millions of Japanese casualties.  If you want to place yourself into the mind of the average American in 1945 as to the showdown with the Empire of Japan, this film is an excellent starting point.  Ironically the film was released on August 9, 1945 and quickly pulled from circulation due to the Japanese surrender.

Published in: on May 14, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Know Your Enemy: Japan  
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Chappaquiddick: A Review

From a distance, Kennedy has long seemed like a man playing a role: the role his staff expected him to play, the role his public expected him to play, the role his brothers and their retainers expected him to play, the role his father expected him to play. “Ted Kennedy, Liberal Icon” was performance art which dragged on for decades. One of his more vigorous opponents over the years, Raymond Shamie, pointed out that his signature issue was ‘national health insurance’, but that his proposal had never got out of subcommittee, and he was chairman of the subcommittee. Maybe all along what he really cared about was making waitress sandwiches.

Art Deco, commenter, The American Catholic, April 7, 2018

 

 

My son and I saw the movie Chappaquiddick on the  Saturday before last.  It is a superb evocation of time and place and a damning indictment of the cowardice of Ted Kennedy that led to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.  My review is below the fold, and the usual caveat as to spoilers is in full force. (more…)

Published in: on April 23, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Chappaquiddick: A Review  
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The Death of Stalin

 

I finally saw The Death of Stalin (2017) with my wife and bride last Saturday.  Most films that I have high expectations for often leave me at least slightly disappointed.  This film exceeded my expectations.  It is a superb evocation of the power struggles that ensued in the wake of the death of Stalin in 1953.  The blackest of black comedies, it is also hilarious, albeit with quite a bit of very rough language.  The language however in this context works.  The men of the Politburo were gangsters, murderers.  We would no more expect them to use decent language than we would expect the demons to do so in Dante’s Inferno.  However, if there are gradations in Hell, the worst was Stalin’s Himmler, Lavrentiy Beria.  A Georgian like Stalin, and head of the NKVD for the latter part of Stalin’s rule, Beria had the blood of millions on his hands.  However, his colleagues were little better than him.  None of them had the courage not to go along with Stalin’s paranoia that executed millions and send millions of others to living deaths, and often simply deaths, in the Gulag.  All of them had to sign off on execution lists and imprisonment lists of people they knew to be completely innocent.

 

Beria is the villain of the film, as the film depicts, albeit in truncated fashion, his rise and fall post Stalin.  The film’s comedic tone leaves it right at the very end when during his “trial” Beria is denounced for his habit of taking advantage of his position to rape women at will, to have women prostitute themselves to him in usually futile efforts to save themselves or their men and children and Beria’s involvement in pedophilia.  Only then do we see moral outrage from his colleagues, because here they are talking about crimes they did not engage in themselves.

 

 

 

Communism is back in vogue on the Left, and thus this film appears at an opportune time to remind us of the gruesome reality of Communism in practice.

 

 

 

Published in: on April 13, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Death of Stalin  
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Paul: Apostle of Christ-A Review

Hollywood, when it goes into the realms of History and Faith, often does justice to neither, getting the History wrong and making a complete hash of the presentation of religious faith on the screen.  I am pleased to report that Paul: Apostle of Christ defies this usual litany of failure.  My review is below, and the usual caveat as to spoilers applies:

 

(more…)

Published in: on April 6, 2018 at 4:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Seven Samurai

(I posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

 

 

This is the nature of war. By protecting others, you save yourselves.

Kambei, leader of the Seven Samurai

 

 

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts takes a look at Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, The Seven Samurai.

 

I finally did it.  My entire life, I’ve heard of the almost mythical movie The Seven Samurai.  Considered one of the greatest foreign language films by American critics and universally praised by critics around the world, I just never got around to watching it.  When I did look for it, it was difficult to find.  And when you could find it, it was always expensive.

Finally, this last Christmas, The Seven Samurai ended up under the tree.  Because of its length of 3 1/2 hours, we couldn’t find time to see it.  Since the two oldest have moved on with college, they’re not around to watch things like they used to, but they wanted to watch it with us for the first time.  So it wasn’t until Tuesday night that we could get everyone together for the first viewing.

It was worth the wait.  Long and short, it lived up to the hype and then some.  Everyone knows of its influence.  We all know The Magnificent Seven was just an American version of the film.  We know that from Guns of Navarone to A Bug’s Life, the movie has been considered one of the most influential and copied movies of all time.

Despite this high expectation, and I can’t put my finger on why, it lived up to all I had heard and more.  I think, when the dust settles, it was the interaction between the players.  Oddly, in the end (without giving away too much), the seven Samurai do little of the fighting, instead funneling the fight over to the village farmers and letting them do most of the heavy lifting.  The movie is mostly about the relationships between the villagers and the Samurai, and the Samurai (technically mostly Ronin) and each other. 

But here’s what dawned on me.  In America, there is this notion that only in America, and all because of that infamous ‘Code’ of the 1930s, our films were repressed and unable to express themselves openly.  We have this notion that the sex and drugs culture, with explicit and open and unrestrained sexuality and hedonism, accompanied by increasingly gory and bloody violence shown graphically in film and on television, were all just the logical result of the ‘Code’ finally crumbling and true artistic expression emerging.

Furthermore, we are now just getting back to how it always was, when sex and sex and graphic sex and gore and graphic violence were just the way it should have been or always was or both.  Without saying it directly, we have this notion that we’re finally getting things back to the rest of the world, where gay sex, group sex, graphic violence, drugs and all the explicit ‘invite the camera in the bedroom’ movies were common around the world.

Except, it wasn’t.  The Seven Samurai, a movie where hired guns come in to save a village from rampaging bandits, is violent.  There are dozens of deaths.  And yet, you never really see much.  No blood.  No gore.  No guts hanging out.  You see a few fights at the end.  You see some duels.  But no explicit violence.  You see a case where a village girl and a young Samurai get together in a barn, much to the father’s dismay.  Later, the head Samurai chuckles that they’ll expect more from the youngster now that he has ‘become a man.’  We all know what that means, just as I’m sure audiences did back then.  But they didn’t show it.  And all that restraint without the evil Hollywood Code, driven by the nefarious Catholic Church.

And that got me to thinking, as I am wont to do.  The fact is, there was no real ‘Hollywood Code’, at least any different than anywhere else in the world.  Oh, there was a code.  And it had its demands and its expectations from films, just like today.  If you think on it, there isn’t a lack of movies coming out of Hollywood that question homosexual normality, or challenge abortion rights, or reflect on the failures of the Civil Rights movement over the last quarter of a century, because there is nobody out there imagining these things.  They simply aren’t allowed.  If they were made, they would be boycotted, banned, attacked and even sued.  Codes have always been around.  I’m sure they always will be.

And not just in America.  Being a fan of old, silent movies, I’ve seen my share from around the world before there was this mythical Hollywood Code. Heck, a few predate Hollywood.  Sometimes you get a little more than you would in 1930s or 1940s Hollywood fare.  Sometimes you might catch a bit of skin in some old, silent Italian film, or see some more direct examples of innocents dying in an old Soviet propaganda film.  If there was any nudity at all, it came off as more artsy than anything sexual, and that’s stretching it since I don’t recall anything, but I’m willing to allow for the possibility.  Yes, you could get a little more nitty-gritty at times, like the original King Kong, but like 1954’s The Seven Samurai, there just isn’t a case of flagrant, porn like sex and graphic blood and gore violence that I have found.  There just isn’t.  Anywhere.  Around the world.

This is something that has arisen only over the last fifty years or so of film making and other visual entertainment.  Sure, the ‘themes’ were there.  Samurai was about the real, down in the trenches lives of these legendary warriors as much as it was anything.  It was taking the chivalrous knight down a notch, by showing warts and all.  But it didn’t show it with the camera.  It showed it with the dialogue and the mind of the viewers.

Somewhere, however, filmmakers in America, Europe and around the world began showing us, rather than pointing our minds to think it through.  By the fifties, violence was starting to creep into the explicit levels.  By the sixties, sex was getting more open as violence became more graphic.  No longer did a mixture of camera angles and convenient barricades mixed with clever dialogue point the audience to what happened.  Nope.  By the late sixties, the cameras were going into the bedroom or showing the gunshots and saying ‘here you go, this is what happened.’ 

It was about then that the same began happening around the world, to a greater or lesser extent. By the late seventies, everything was on the table.  Explicit sex (not counting the porn film industry that had been developing apace for a couple decades by then) and graphic violence were the name of the game.

And it was right around that time, if memory serves, that the mass killings began, at least as we  know them today.  And not just here in the old US of A.  Of course movies and entertainment around the world have become pretty graphic – including in Japan.  And it seems that mass killings are quite the global phenomenon.  Oh, not the shootings like we have.  But mass knifings, mass bombings, basically attempts to kill as many innocent people you might or might not know as possible.

Could it be connected?  Based on the film record, there simply was no culture at the dawn of the film industry that threw all manner of graphic sex, violence, gore and smut out there for public consumption.  Even outside of the Hollywood ‘Code’, there seemed to be pretty strict codes around the world.  But all of that changed by the mid to late 20th century.

Could there be a connection with this relatively new phenomenon of people seeking to slaughter as many innocents as possible for no other reason than to slaughter them, and the rather graphic level that entertainment has risen to?  We already elevate celebrity and entertainment to the place that religion and national identity enjoyed in ages past.  Could there be a connection?

It turns out that this whole ‘Code’ thing wasn’t reserved for America, just like this phenomenon of mass killing of innocents isn’t confined to America. Because the breakdown of barriers in cultural output, and the rise of mass killings through terrorism and personal crime seem linked in the timeline, could there be a connection worth examining?

Just curious and sort of thinking out loud after watching one fine romp of a film. 

 

Go here to comment.  In his capacity for endless violence Man reveals himself as lower than the beasts.  In his capacity for self-sacrificial violence in defense of others Man stands above the angels.  Once upon a time, film makers understood that central truth of the human condition.

 

Published in: on March 12, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Seven Samurai  
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Incredibles 2

(I posted this on The American Catholic and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

Well, fourteen years is a long time to wait, but Incredibles 2 is coming out on June 15.

 

 

 

The original Incredibles was the most conservative movie to come out of the entertainment industry in many a moon.  Don’t believe me?  Go here to read the 2005 moans of a Leftist about the movie.  Politics aside, it was a grand movie, hilarious and heart warming, and the best family flick of 2004.  I am looking forward to this.

Published in: on March 1, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Incredibles 2  
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Darkest Hour: A Review

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Winston Churchill, June 4, 1940

 

 

My bride and I and our son saw Darkest Hour on December 23, 2017.  It is a very good film, perhaps a great one.  My review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in full effect. (more…)

Published in: on January 12, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Darkest Hour: A Review  
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