The Caine Mutiny: A Review

Friday, August 16, AD 2013

(I originally posted this in 2009 when the blog readership was much smaller.  The Caine Mutiny has always been one of my favorite films and I am taking the excuse of my vacation from the blog to repost this review.)

For my sins, perhaps, I have spent my career as an attorney.  Over the past 31 years I’ve done a fair number of trials, both bench and jury, and I am always on the lookout for good depictions of trials in films, and one of the best is The Caine Mutiny.  Based on the novel of the same name by Herman Wouk,  who served in the Navy as an officer in the Pacific during World War II, the movie addresses the question of what should, and should not, be done in a military organization when the man at the top of the chain of command is no longer in his right mind.

 

The cast is top notch.  Humphrey Bogart, an enlisted man in the Navy during WWI and a member of the Naval Reserve, he tried to enlist again in the Navy after Pearl Harbor but was turned down because of his age, gives the performance of his career as Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, the captain of the Caine.  In the hands of a lesser actor Queeg could easily have become merely a two-dimensional madman.  Bogart instead infuses Queeg with pathos and demonstrates to the audience that this is a good man who sadly is no longer responsible mentally for his actions.  Van Johnson delivers his usual workmanlike job as Lieutenant Stephen Maryk, the “exec” of the Caine, a career officer who does his best to remain loyal to an obviously disturbed CO, while also attempting to protect the crew of the Caine  from Queeg’s increasingly erratic behavior.  Robert Francis, as Ensign Willis Seward Keith, is the viewpoint character, too young and inexperienced to make his own judgment he relies on Maryk and Lieutenant Keefer.  Fred MacMurray is slime incarnate as Lieutenant Thomas Keefer, a reservist who hates the Navy, spends all his time writing a novel, and eggs Maryk on to take command away from Queeg.  Finally, in a typhoon, reluctantly and only, as he perceives it, to save the ship, Maryk, with the support of Keith, relieves Queeg from command.

In the ensuing court-martial of Maryk and Keith, lawyer Lieutenant Barney Greenwald,  portrayed with panache by Jose Ferrer, reluctantly agrees to defend them.

What I admire most about the film is the realistic way that the defense is depicted.  A legal case consists of the facts, the law and people.

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3 Responses to The Caine Mutiny: A Review

  • Would not the crew also be charged with mutiny?

    Here s the best navy movie speech I ever heard.

    “At home in America, when today reaches them, it will be Flag Day. For us who wear the uniform, every day is Flag Day. All Americans are morally bound to die for our flag if called upon to do so. Only we are legally bound. Only we live our lives in a day to day readiness for that sacrifice. We have sworn oaths — cut our ties.

    “It is said there will be no more wars. We must pretend to believe that. But when war comes, it is we who will take the first shock, and buy time with our llves. It is we who keep the Faith…

    “We serve the flag. The trade we all follow is the give and take of death. It is for that purpose that the people of America maintain us. Anyone of us who believes he has a job like any other, for which he draws a money wage, is a thief of the food he eats, and a trespasser in the bunk in which he lies down to sleep.”

    From the movie, “The Sand Pebbles”, CO Collins addressing the crew.

    Never could sit through that movie.

    PS: I found this US Navy ship with a near-mutiny. True events that came close to “The Caine Mutiny” occurred aboard Vance, a destroyer sent to Vietnam in December 1965. Captain Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter, was alleged by his crew to have instituted a program of inspections, etiquette lectures, and mandatory religious services led by himself; kept a hoard of liquor; and allegedly ordered one officer to act like a “pompom girl.” Arnheiter supposedly told subordinates to falsify reports, shelled a Buddhist pagoda and nearly grounded the ship while shouting at ricochets from the ship’s guns, junior officers passed word to HQ and the captain was relieved of command. He accused his offficers of mutiny, but a naval hearing upheld his removal and no mutiny charges were filed.

  • The war at sea produced three noteworthy novels; Monsarrat’s ‘The Cruel Sea’ (1951), Wouk’s ‘The Caine Mutiny’ (1952), and Buchheim’s ‘Das Boot’ (1973). Of the three, I rate Wouk’s book the highest.

  • I watched the movie years ago. What I remember the most is that Queeg was mentally unbalanced. I cannot imagine the despair of fighting men who are serving in war under a commanding officer who has gone nuts.

    Ferrer’s performance was nothing short of awesome. McMurray’s character really was a skunk.

Saving Lincoln: A Review

Wednesday, July 10, AD 2013

 

In the past year three films on President Lincoln have been released:  the truly odious Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, the superb Lincoln and now the low budget, funded by Kickstarter, Saving Lincoln.  I am pleased to report that I think Saving Lincoln is much closer in quality to Lincoln than Vampire Hunter.  The film has an intriguing take on Mr. Lincoln and I was both amused and moved by it.  My full review is below.  The usual caveat regarding spoilers ahead is given.

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Top Ten Patriotic Movies for the Fourth

Wednesday, July 3, AD 2013

(This post originally ran in 2010.  The movies listed would make excellent viewing tomorrow and any day.)

 

 

Last year I listed here my top ten picks for movies about the America Revolution for the Fourth.  This year here is my list of patriotic movies for the Fourth.

10. National Treasure (2004)-Sure it’s cursed with a ridiculous plot involving the masons and a treasure, it is still a lot of fun and calls us back to the foundation document, the Declaration of Independence, that is the cornerstone of our Republic.

9. Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the video clip which may be viewed here.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.

8.    Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)-James Cagney in perhaps the greatest film bio of them all, a salute to George M. Cohan, the legendary composer, playwright and patriot.

7.    The Alamo (1960)-“The Republic” scene from The Alamo, a film which was basically John Wayne’s love note to America.

6.    Gettysburg (1993)-The movie that I think comes the closest to conveying to us the passions of the Civil War.  You really can’t understand America unless you understand the Civil War.  As Shelby Foote, one of the greatest historians of the war, said:  “Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.”

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Fortnight For Freedom: Top Ten Movies For The Fourth of July

Monday, July 1, AD 2013

 

Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.

John Adams

 The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

 

 

This is a repeat from a post last year, with some slight modifications, but I think the logic behind the post still holds true.  As we are embroiled now in a struggle to preserve our religious liberty, I think the Fourth of July is a good time to recall the price paid to establish our liberties.  It is trite to say that freedom is not free, but it is also true.  A people who forget this eternal lesson will not remain free for long.

 

 

A number of feature films and miniseries have been made about the events of the American Revolution.  Here are my top ten choices for Fourth of July viewing:

10.  Ben and Me (1953)- Something for the younger patriots.  Disney put to film the novel of Robert Lawson, Ben and Me, which related how many of Ben Franklin’s bright ideas came from his mouse Amos.  Quite a bit of fun.   Not a classic but certainly an overlooked gem.

9.  The Crossing (2000)-A retelling of Washington’s brilliant crossing of the Delaware on Christmas 1776 and the battle of Trenton.  This film would rank much higher on my list but for Jeff Daniels’ portrayal of Washington as sullen and out of sorts throughout the movie.  Washington had a temper, and he could give vent to it if provoked, although he usually kept it under control, but the peevish Washington portrayed here is simply ahistoric and mars an otherwise good recreation of the turning point of the Revolution.

8.  John Paul Jones (1959)  Robert Stack, just before he rose to fame in the Untouchables, is grand in the role of the archetypal American sea hero.  Bette Davis is absolutely unforgettable as Catherine the Great.  The climactic sea battle with the Serapis is well done, especially for those pre-CGI days.  The only problem with the film is that many of the details are wrong.  This is forgivable to a certain extent since scholarship on Jones was badly skewed by Augustus Buell in a two-volume “scholarly biography” which appeared in 1900.  Buell was a charlatan who made up many incidents about Jones and then invented sources to support his fabrications.  Buell was not completely exposed until Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard professor of history, and an Admiral in the Navy, wrote his definitive biography of Jones. Here is a list of the fabrications of Buell compiled by Morison.  Morison’s book appeared after the movie, which is to be regretted.

7.  The Patriot (2000) Finally, a film which depicts the unsung contribution of Australians to victory in the American Revolution!  Actually not too bad of a film overall.  Heath Ledger is quite good as Gibson’s oldest son who joins the Continentals at the beginning of the war against his father’s wishes.  Jason Isaacs is snarlingly good as the evil Colonel Tavington, very loosely based on Banastre Tarleton, commander of Tarleton’s Raiders during the Southern Campaign.  The film of course allows Gibson to carry on his over-the-top vendetta against all things English.  No, the British did not lock up American civilians in churches and burn them alive.  However, the ferocity of the partisan fighting in the South is well depicted, and Banastre Tarleton  at the Waxhaw Massacre earned a reputation for slaughtering men attempting to surrender.  The final battle of the film is based on the battle of Cowpens where General Daniel Morgan decisively defeated Tarleton.

6.  Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)-A John Ford classic starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert.  Through the eyes of a young newlywed couple, Fonda and Colbert, the American Revolution on the frontier is depicted in the strategic Mohawk Valley.  Full of the usual Ford touches of heroism, humor and ordinary life.

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Report From the Aleutians

Thursday, June 13, AD 2013

If there is a forgotten theater where American troops fought in World War II, it is most definitely the Aleutians.  The Japanese took Attu and Kiska, islands in the Aleutian chain,  in June of 1942, to forestall the Aleutians being used as a base for a move on the Japanese Home Islands from the Aleutians.  Due to the rugged weather conditions, the US had never seriously entertained using the Aleutians as a staging area for future offensives.  However, Attu and Kiska were American territory, and national pride, as well as alarm from the Alaskan territorial government, made inevitable an American campaign to take back the strategically worthless islands.

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2 Responses to Report From the Aleutians

  • The film mentions that Attu and Kiska were uninhabited. This is incorrect.

    Technically Kiska was, for the only people there were the members of a U.S. Navy meteorological station. Attu, on the other hand, had about 880 residents. The Alaskan government had imposed a mandatory evacuation before the Japanese arrived, but 47 residents were still present on the day of the invasion, and 42 survived the summary executions that day. These 42 were taken to a camp in Japan, and only 26 survived to the end of the war.

    It is a real shame that we forget the suffering of these Americans, and that of the U.S. citizens of Guam. These were the two places where Americans directly faced the enemy in World War Two in their homes. Other atrocities happened in the massacre of the U.S. contractors and Marines on Wake and of course in the Philippines. We should always remember.

  • My wife’s late grandfather, Elmer Pulaski, was in the Navy during WWII and was in the Aleutians. Didn’t like talking about it.

Screen Pilates: Stephen Russell

Thursday, March 28, AD 2013

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas and Frank Thring may be read here, here, here, here  here and here.

Stephen Russell portrays Pilate in The Gospel of John (2003) which is a straight forward no frills presentation of the Gospel of John.  As in the Gospel of John Pilate is shown in the film as first curious about Jesus and then sympathetic to Jesus.  He attempts to save Jesus by giving the mob a choice between Jesus and the bandit Barabbas.  When that fails he presents Jesus after He has been beaten and utters the phrase Ecce Homo, Behold the Man.

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5 Responses to Screen Pilates: Stephen Russell

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  • I would like to place a challenge to you — analyse the portrayal of the Procurator in the TV adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita.” It’s quite different from the Gospel standard, but well known to Russians, as it’s arguably the greatest Russian-language novel of the 20th Century. The Pilate in Vladimir Bortko’s Rossiya TV version was Kirill Lavrov, a top Russian actor (the entire cast was “A-list” of Russian TV and movie actors) A complete playlist of the TV version starts at this link, and Pilate’s first appearance in this version is at this link. It has English subtitles, and the text of those titles was cribbed from one of the leading English translations of the work.

    Anyway, it’s a unique portrayal of Pilate. Take a look at it. What do you think?

  • I read the novel the Master and Margarita when it was first translated into English. Magical Realism Russian style! A beautiful satire on Stalinist Russia, a la a combination of Faust, The Grand Inquisitor with some Thirties Slapstick tossed in. I hadn’t seen the film version before and the interplay between Christ and Pilate is interesting although it has nothing to do with the Gospels. Pilate plays the role of the Grand Inquisitor in an homage to that great section from The Brothers Karamazov. The world weariness and the cynicism I suspect is probably an accurate reflection of the historical Pilate. Mr. Lavrov did a fine job, and it is a pity that I haven’t had the time to explore Russian cinema much beyond the forties.

  • Stephen Russell’s Pilate shows reasonable wonder, and fear, accurate to the gospel account. (Now where’d the evangelists get inside info? Hard to believe a Roman governor wearing his emotions on his tunic sleeve.) This Pilate does feel very much like “us,” more so, imo, than the sneering, haughty, noxious versions. Thankfully most of “us” don’t have to worry about our families being slaughtered if we tick off our employer.

  • Thanks for sharing this information and video too.

Red Badge of Courage

Wednesday, March 20, AD 2013

He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man.

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

I recently was watching The Red Badge of Courage, (1951) and I was struck yet again by what a forgotten masterpiece it is.  Filmed in stark black and white, the film has almost a documentary feel to it, as if a World War II era newsreel camera had magically transplanted itself to the Civil War.  The combat scenes are highly realistic depictions of Civil War combat, and the actors speak and act like Civil War soldiers and not like 1951 actors dressed up in Civil War costumes.

As one critic said at the time, watching the film is like watching a Matthew Brady photograph of the Civil War come to life.

It was a stroke of genius for director John Huston to have as star of his film Audie Murphy, as the youth who, in Stephen Crane’s unforgettable novel, has his first taste of combat in the Civil War.  Murphy looked like a typical Hollywood “pretty boy” but he was anything but.  From a family of 12 in Texas, Murphy had dropped out of school in the fifth grade to support his family after his father ran off.    His mother died in 1941.  In 1942 he enlisted in the Army at 16, lying about his birthday, partially to support his family and partially because he dreamed of a military career.  By the end of the war, before his 19th birthday, he was a second lieutenant and had earned in hellish combat a Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit, a French Legion of Honor, a French Croix de Guerre, a Belgian Croix de Guerre, two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.  He was the most decorated soldier of the US Army in World War 2.

Murphy’s co-star in the film was also an Army combat veteran, Bill Mauldin, the famed cartoonist who drew the Willie and Joe cartoons in Stars and Stripes, the Army newspaper, during World War II.

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Films While Waiting for the White Smoke

Sunday, March 3, AD 2013

This is a joint post with commenter Dr. Peter Dans.  Pete has written a fine book which I will be reviewing, Christians in the Movies, A Century of Saints and Sinners, and he has given suggestions about films to watch while we are waiting to shout Habemus Papam.  Here are the films in Chronological order of the Pope depicted:

1.  Quo Vadis (1951)-The historical spectacle film to end historical spectacle films, it brings to the screen the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz of the persecution of Christians under Nero.  The film is a great work of Art with inspired performances by Peter Ustinov as Nero, Robert Taylor as the tough Roman legate Marcus Vinicius who finds himself, very much against his will, becoming a Christian from his love of the Christian Lygia, portrayed by Deborah Kerr, and Leo Genn, as Petronius, the uncle of Vinicius and Nero’s “arbiter of taste”, who wounds Nero to the core with the following suicide note:

To Nero, Emperor of Rome, Master of the World, Divine Pontiff. I know that my death will be a disappointment to you, since you wished to render me this service yourself. To be born in your reign is a miscalculation; but to die in it is a joy. I can forgive you for murdering your wife and your mother, for burning our beloved Rome, for befouling our fair country with the stench of your crimes. But one thing I cannot forgive – the boredom of having to listen to your verses, your second-rate songs, your mediocre performances. Adhere to your special gifts, Nero – murder and arson, betrayal and terror. Mutilate your subjects if you must; but with my last breath I beg you – do not mutilate the arts. Fare well, but compose no more music. Brutalize the people, but do not bore them, as you have bored to death your friend, the late Gaius Petronius.

Peter in the movie is portrayed by Finlay Currie.  Here is the classic scene from the film that depicts Peter informed by Christ that He is going to Rome to be crucified a second time:

In the film he goes to the arena where the Christians are being murdered for the amusement of the crowds and cries out, “Here where Nero rules today, Christ shall rule forever!”  The film movingly depicts Peter’s martyrdom, crucified upside down since he had stated that he was not worthy to have the same death as Christ.

2.  Sign of the Pagan (1954) -Jack Palance, a great actor who was consistently underrated throughout his career, portrays Attila the Hun. Here we have depicted the meeting between Attila and Pope Leo the Great, portrayed by Leo Moroni, which convinces Attila to spare Rome.

3.  Becket (1964)-A masterful, albeit heavily fictionalized retelling of the life of the “holy, blessed, martyr”.  Here we have Archbishop Becket, Richard Burton,  in exile having an interview with Pope Alexander III, Paolo Stoppa:

4.  Francis of Assisi (1961)-A film biography of Saint Francis, ably acted by Bradford Dillman.  Go here to see the depiction of the interview between Saint Francis and Pope Innocent III,  the role assayed by Finlay Currie who was Peter in Quo Vadis.   Dolores Hart had the role of Saint Clare in the film.  She went on to become a nun.  Pete has some information in regard to that:

It has the extra added attraction of an interesting  backstory involving Dolores Hart, the actress who played Clare and  later became a nun.  She is now the Prioress of Regina Laudis Abbey  which itself has an interesting backstory connecting back to the 1949  film Come to the Stable.

By the way, I sent her a copy of the book and she sent me a  delightful note in 2009 saying that the documentation of the abbey’s  founding and her journey was “absolutely on target” and that it made her  want to read the whole book. Then she added “Said like a real actress.”  I  was especially touched when she said that she would keep me in her “heart and  prayers.”  I’m sure that has been a big help to me along the  way.

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7 Responses to Films While Waiting for the White Smoke

  • Thanks for finding that Leo and Attila scene; I didn’t know anything about it!

    May I commend you, also, for including Anno Domini in your dates; but will you forgive me if I suggest you put Anno Domini first? If you think about it in English, “In the year of our Lord 2013” makes more sense than “2013 in the year of our Lord.”

    Best wishes!

  • The amusing bit is that Msgr. O’Flaherty is basically “that Resistance guy that all the other Resistance guys were afraid to let in their group,” because he was so flamboyant. So the total for his group was pretty good, but the main smuggling groups (pretty much every parish and convent, coordinated by the Pope and select members of the Curia) smuggled out and hid tons more. O’Flaherty ended up being cover for everybody else, because everything got blamed on him!

    But it’s actually a good idea for not all Resistance groups to be coordinated, because if somebody important gets captured, not all the groups will be set in disarray or rolled up by the enemy.

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  • Wow! This is a very good list. Thank you for sharing this. My personal favorite is “Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II”. It was very inspiring and I also picked up a lot of life lessons in it.

  • Another goo portrayal of John XXIII is The Good Pope:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_inqIAnUGdk

    It has a much different (and more accurate?) version of the rescue of Jewish children in Turkey from the one in A Man Whose Name Was John.

  • “A Man for all Seasons”. I don’t think it depicts a Pope, but the story of St. Thomas More is relevant now. Just any excuse to tell people to watch “AMfaS”.

  • It would be in the top five of my favorite movies Claire, and if it had an appearance by a pope it would have made this list a round ten. My favorite scene:

    http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/279160/Man-For-All-Seasons-A-Movie-Clip-Pray-By-All-Means-.html

Theme From Lawrence of Arabia

Saturday, February 16, AD 2013

Something for the weekend.  In the middle of winter it is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that I have chosen for our musical selection the theme song from Lawrence of Arabia (1962).  One of the last great historical epics, the film tells the tale of Colonel T.E. Lawrence’s involvement in the Arab uprising.  It is largely historically inaccurate, although a magnificent story.  One reason for the historical inaccuracy, other than the usual transmogrification of history in the hands of filmmakers, is that it relied too heavily on Lawrence’s war memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  Lawrence was a brilliant writer and a talented leader of guerrilla forces, but he never let a little thing like truth stand in the way of a good yarn. 

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18 Responses to Theme From Lawrence of Arabia

  • Colonel T. E. Lawrence died in a car crash when his brakes failed two years after his return to England.

  • He died in 1935 when he was riding a motorcyle and swerved to avoid two boys riding bicycles. He lost control, crashed and died six days later from his injuries.

  • When (May 1935) he died, he was serving, under an assumed name (T. E. Shaw), as an aircraftman (enlisted man) in the RAF.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/1935/may/19/fromthearchive

  • He had actually left the RAF two months prior to his death.

  • Ah, the Arab Revolt and the subsequent screw-job. But no, all Arabs/Muslims hate the West because they hate freedom.

  • Meh, that was off-topic and deliberately provocative (not necessarily “compelling” but liable to provoke something). Delete it if you’d like.

  • Arab nationalism, such as it is, has never had much to do with Democracy. The dynasty founded by Faisal ended with his grandson Faisal II being murdered in the July 14, 1958 rebellion in Iraq. The House of Saud of course ousted the Hashemites from what became known as Saudi Arabia. The Hashemites, miraculously, still rule in Jordan. The brief period of Western rule that some parts of the Arab world experienced, after centuries of domination by the Turks, is routinely used in the Arab world as an excuse for Arab cultural pathologies and the inability of the Arabs to produce stable democratic regimes. It has as much historical validity as Hitler blaming the problems of Germany on the Jews.

  • Donald,

    I think Arabs/Muslims are wary of democracy as it is articulated in the modern West because it has become, unfortunately, conflated with liberalism of the Enlightenment variety. Muslims, much like the Church, are skeptical of modernity, and I think they have good reason to be. Rejecting democracy is (mistakenly) perceived as necessary in the rejection of liberalism and modernity, forces that will invariably lead to the destruction of traditional values and cultural norms, as they most certainly have in our country and in the West (world?) at large. The Arab would is hampered by the belief that accepting democracy means becoming like America– but indeed, they can hardly be blamed. The conflation of these terms is pretty pervasive. I think the world would be wise to remember that the originators of democracy were anything but liberals and anything but modern.

    I don’t necessarily think Sykes-Picot, the TPAJAX Project, and ongoing Western economic and cultural penetration are necessarily legitimate reasons as to why democracy hasn’t worked in the Middle East, but they are certainly are a basis for understanding why many in the Arab world have much resentment for the West. It’s obvious that Qutb was an extremist and a radical, and his prescriptions are certainly detestable, but it’s also clear that his critique of American culture was in many ways legitimate, as was his fear of the exportation of such values.

  • and I realize Iran=/=Arab. Arabs still frequently cite the Mossadeq coup as an example of Western meddling in the Middle East.

  • “I think Arabs/Muslims are wary of democracy as it is articulated in the modern West because it has become, unfortunately, conflated with liberalism of the Enlightenment variety.”

    I doubt if that argument has any currency outside of a small group of Arab intellectuals, considering the popularity of variants of fascism, communism, socialism and other authoritarian isms throughout the Arab world. Arab nationalism itself is a hot house import from the Enlightenment. I rather suspect that Arab antipathy to democracy has far more to do with the Arab world having almost no experience with the concept of a loyal opposition. As was said about the Tsars could be said about most Arab polities throughout history: despotism tempered by assassination. As for resentment of the West, it is as I indicated a handy excuse, and we are of course infidels in their eyes. The Arabs have dealt poorly with modernity, and seem to specialize in copying our vices and ignoring our virtues. Crashing demographics throughout the Arab world will give the Arabs yet another challenge they are ill-adapted to deal with.

  • Hi Donald,

    “As for resentment of the West, it is as I indicated a handy excuse, and we are of course infidels in their eyes.”

    I am not sure what you’re saying here. Are you literally saying that Western engagements in the ME, be they economic, military, cultural, or political, and the negative consequences they have induced have played NO role in the radicalization of Islam over the past century, and are simply “excuses?”

    Most Muslims consider us infidels in the same way that Catholics consider Protestants to be heretics–with indifference.

    “The Arabs have dealt poorly with modernity,”

    As certainly have we, but in a different way and, perhaps, to a worse extent. Let’s not forget what country murders 1.2 of its most innocent civilians a year, is on the brink of eliminating religion from the public square, and is the pornography capital of the world.

  • “I am not sure what you’re saying here. Are you literally saying that Western engagements in the ME, be they economic, military, cultural, or political, and the negative consequences they have induced have played NO role in the radicalization of Islam over the past century, and are simply “excuses?””

    The Arabs have hated the West since the time of Mohammed. They would hate the West if there had been no involvement by the West in the Middle East. A good example of what I am talking about is the Crusades, something that now bulks large in the Arab grievance list, but was largely forgotten in the Arab world until it became a handy stick to raise against Westerners. Bernard Lewis in his many tomes is quite convincing on the use by Arab leaders of the West as a convenient scapegoat for failures of the states they run. The Arabs only need to look in the mirror to find the cause of most of their problems, but such an examination is far harder than blaming the West and the Jews.

    “Most Muslims consider us infidels in the same way that Catholics consider Protestants to be heretics–with indifference.”

    If that were only true, or perhaps I have missed Catholic mobs howling for the blood of Protestants?

    “As certainly have we, but in a different way and, perhaps, to a worse extent. Let’s not forget what country murders 1.2 of its most innocent civilians a year, is on the brink of eliminating religion from the public square, and is the pornography capital of the world.”

    One will never confuse the West with Utopia, although we possess the freedom to critique our societies and to take political action to correct evils. Would that one could say the same about the despotisms that largely make up the Arab world. In regard to modernity one has only to examine the grinding poverty of most Arab states, along with their backwardness in regard to science and industry, not to mention their appalling records on human rights, and the fact that they almost always have hostile relations with any non-Arab states luckless enough to share a border with them, to see that the Arab world and modernity are not even on speaking terms.

  • “The Arabs have hated the West since the time of Mohammed. They would hate the West if there had been no involvement by the West in the Middle East.”

    You are either ignoring my question or I did not ask it properly. Hating someone in a detached and abstract way is one thing, but devoting your life to killing someone you hate is something entirely different. Do you deny that Western meddling in the Middle East has played a more than insignificant role in the radicalization and mobilization of Islamic terrorists? If you do, then how do you explain the fact that these types of groups (completely and utterly distinct from imperialistic or militaristic ventures) were practically non-existent prior to the past century?

    “If that were only true, or perhaps I have missed Catholic mobs howling for the blood of Protestants?”

    Oh, we’ve certainly had our fair share of that over the years. If anything, the fact that we don’t in a world of fallen men is perhaps a testament to the fact that religion isn’t taken seriously in most Western countries. Certainly not something worth fighting over.

    And by saying “if that were only true,” are you actually challenging my assertion that most Muslims don’t hate the West in a way that manifests itself meaningfully? How many Muslims do you know, Donald? How many Muslim countries have you been to?

    “One will never confuse the West with Utopia, although we possess the freedom to critique our societies and to take political action to correct evils. Would that one could say the same about the despotisms that largely make up the Arab world. In regard to modernity one has only to examine the grinding poverty of most Arab states, along with their backwardness in regard to science and industry, not to mention their appalling records on human rights, and the fact that they almost always have hostile relations with any non-Arab states luckless enough to share a border with them, to see that the Arab world and modernity are not even on speaking terms.”

    I do not condone any number of Muslim customs and practices that I find oppressive and unjust. However, there’s something to be said for resisting the temptations of pleasure and wealth that modernity offers for the sake of preserving the integrity of tradition and religious observance. If only the West had had a similar approach to modernity.

  • Donald McClarey: I read or saw what I posted. After seeing Lawrence of Arabia a half century ago, I have carried this with me and am glad to be relieved of my misinformation. T. E. Lawrence was truly a greater man than I believed him to be, in avoiding the injury to other human beings.

  • “Do you deny that Western meddling in the Middle East has played a more than insignificant role in the radicalization and mobilization of Islamic terrorists? If you do, then how do you explain the fact that these types of groups (completely and utterly distinct from imperialistic or militaristic ventures) were practically non-existent prior to the past century?”

    Yes I do think Western involvement in the Middle East is fairly insignificant in regard to Arab hatred of Westerners. In the nineteenth century the Arabs were a subject people ruled mostly by the Turks, except for the Brits in Egypt. Scapegoating of the West, and the manipulation of traditional Arab hatred of the West, became useful to Arab elites once they were jockeying for political power. The Arab elites did learn from the West the utility of grievance politics, and they have become masters of it, not only with their populations but with gullible Westerners.

    “Oh, we’ve certainly had our fair share of that over the years.”

    Please try not to be deliberately obtuse. There is nothing in Catholic and Protestant relations today to come within shouting distance of the visceral hatred of Christians and Jews that is so easily mobilized throughout the Arab world.

    “are you actually challenging my assertion that most Muslims don’t hate the West in a way that manifests itself meaningfully?”
    Public opinion polls in those nations normally reveal a fairly broad animosity to the West. Political groups manifesting a hostility to the West normally do quite well in what passes for elections in that part of the world.

    “How many Muslims do you know, Donald? How many Muslim countries have you been to?”

    Five personal acquaintances and zero countries traveled to, although I keep pretty close tabs on developments throughout the Arab world and I have read a great deal of the history of the groups that make up the Arab states today.

    “However, there’s something to be said for resisting the temptations of pleasure and wealth that modernity offers for the sake of preserving the integrity of tradition and religious observance.”

    If that was what was going on in the Arab world you might have a point. However, the Arab world for generations has been the home of a particularly virulent and degrading form of pornography, pederasty has traditionally been common throughout the Middle East, the Islamic prohibition against alcohol is routinely violated, and where the Arabs have money they seem to be eager to copy the vices of the West.

  • “Yes I do think Western involvement in the Middle East is fairly insignificant in regard to Arab hatred of Westerners.”

    Donald, that wasn’t the question, and now I am honestly beginning to believe that you are avoiding it on purpose. I am not asking about the source of “hate,” I am specifically limiting this discussion to the emergence of such groups as Al-Qaeda, such figures as Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden, and such tactics as terrorism and suicide bombings. I repeat: Do you deny that Western meddling in the Middle East has played a more than insignificant role in the radicalization and mobilization of Islamic terrorists? If you do, then how do you explain the fact that these types of groups (completely and utterly distinct from imperialistic or militaristic ventures) were practically non-existent prior to the past century?”

    “The Arab elites did learn from the West the utility of grievance politics, and they have become masters of it, not only with their populations but with gullible Westerners.”

    What a truly bizarre conflation you make! How have you gone from terrorist groups to Arab elites, as if they’re the same thing? I’m not even sure how to address this…

    “Please try not to be deliberately obtuse. There is nothing in Catholic and Protestant relations today to come within shouting distance of the visceral hatred of Christians and Jews that is so easily mobilized throughout the Arab world.”

    I said over the years, Donald. That implies over the course of time. You know, centuries of religious wars, the Troubles, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, etc.

    “Public opinion polls in those nations normally reveal a fairly broad animosity to the West. Political groups manifesting a hostility to the West normally do quite well in what passes for elections in that part of the world.”

    If you flipped those same questions and asked them of Americans about the Middle East you’d probably get similar percentages. I guess that means most Americans hate Middle Easterners. And last time I watched a GOP primary debate, mentioning your plans to drop bombs on any number of countries in that part of the world earned you a pretty raucous applause.

    Your last line was the best, considering several of the ME’s most ruthless dictators and suppressors of the political process were propped up unabashedly by the US, Mubarak in particular.

    “Five personal acquaintances and zero countries traveled to, although I keep pretty close tabs on developments throughout the Arab world and I have read a great deal of the history of the groups that make up the Arab states today.”

    I’m not holding it against you, but that’s a small sample size. Anecdotal evidence is somewhat overrated, but I will share mine. I have lived and traveled extensively in the Middle East. I never encountered any manifestation of hate, at least not the kind that would cause someone to lay down his life and blow me up (the most heated exchange occurred at a McDonalds when some Egyptian teens were egging me and my friends on as the US lost to Ghana in the 2010 World Cup). Aside from the tourist trap merchants that resort to all types of deception, my experience with Arabs was that they are a hospitable and kind bunch. In fact, the Syrians of Aleppo stuck out in my mind as particularly open and inviting.

    Donald, the fact is that people are people. I imagine that many Middle Easterners do talk hatefully of the West in their coffee shops and at their dinner tables, much as Americans do of the Muslim world and many of the comboxers of this site do about our president. However, I can also say that it is patently absurd to suggest that anything but a tiny fraction of these people are motivated by this animosity to do something like throw away their lives and crash a plane into a building.

    “If that was what was going on in the Arab world you might have a point. However, the Arab world for generations has been the home of a particularly virulent and degrading form of pornography, pederasty has traditionally been common throughout the Middle East, the Islamic prohibition against alcohol is routinely violated, and where the Arabs have money they seem to be eager to copy the vices of the West.”

    No, I think it accurately conveys exactly why the Middle East is doing its strange and sloppy two-step with modernity.

  • Much of the resentment of the Arabs as a civilisation is driven by their realisation that they cannot match the material achievements of the West. Other civilisations which encountered the West, the Indians, the Chinese do not harbour the same levels of resentment as they like the Japanese have been able to climb the ladder of material progress. It has little to do with the alledged spirituality of the East. Pacific Islanders do not care to challenge the West in the domain of material progress and may therefore lead a bucolic life, but for the Arab ideologues of the measure has always been military strength which requires a technical base, in which they’ve had no success for hundreds of years now. The Arabs should spend some time to reflect that had it not been for the advances in health and agriculture pioneered in the West and brought to them by the same empire buiilders and adventurers, with the best of intentions, perhaps half of us alive today would not be around. Having said this I have to say that Arabs I knew were invariably hospitable and courteous.

    Just like the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Travels in Arabia Deserta by Charles Doughty is a rousing read and is supposed to be a model for its writing.

  • “Much of the resentment of the Arabs as a civilisation is driven by their realisation that they cannot match the material achievements of the West. ”

    This is an interesting theory, but, again, it fails to address what I have been asking. Namely if Arabs have resented the West since the time of the Crusades, why have we only seen the type of radicalism by non-state actors, embodied by a group like AQ, over the past century? Continuing to rely on the simplistic slogan that they simply “hate us” is really disconnected from a pretty evident relationship of causes and effects.

    Furthermore, although I don’t know if you were attempting to apply your theory to the explanation of the motives of Islamist terrorists, the case is actually the opposite. These factions hate the west not because of any jealousy of our material might, but because they are resentful that Western materialism has been forced upon them. Sayyid Qutb is considered by many to be the inspiration of AQ and his thoughts are a clear indication of this. In particular, an extended trip to the US in the 50’s shaped his views on the decadence of Western culture, and gave rise to the notion that Islamists should not only attack “the near enemy” (faux-Islamic governments in the ME), but the “far enemy” as well.

    “Should I travel to America, and become flimsy, and ordinary, like those who are satisfied with idle talk and sleep. Or should I distinguish myself with values and spirit. Is there other than Islam that I should be steadfast to in its character and hold on to its instructions, in this life amidst deviant chaos, and the endless means of satisfying animalistic desires, pleasures, and awful sins? I wanted to be the latter man.”

    “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs—and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

    “Qutb concluded that major aspects of American life were primitive and “shocking”, a people who were “numb to faith in religion, faith in art, and faith in spiritual values altogether”. His experience in the U.S. is believed to have formed in part the impetus for his rejection of Western values and his move towards Islamism upon returning to Egypt.”

    I don’t understand why people who claim to be interested in history and have a desire to understand the motives of historical actors don’t just bother to look up the books that these people write or the statements that they issue. The cause of the rise of radical Islamist terrorism directed at the West is pretty clearly articulated.

Film and Faith

Sunday, January 13, AD 2013

Film, at its best, can convey a hint of the overwhelming impact of religious faith on those who believe.  For me, the best example of this is Jesus of Nazareth (1977), as amply demonstrated I think in the video clip above.  When we read about Jesus in the Gospels it requires a leap of imagination to conjure up the scenes depicted.  Some people are better at doing this than others.  A good film can provide us with the emotional impact of the Gospels without the necessity of our providing the imagination to bring the event alive for us.  The Church has long understood this.  Hymn singing can also accomplish this, as do Passion Plays, as does the Rosary.   God appeals to our souls, our hearts and our minds, and we make a mistake if we ever forget this.

The History Channel in March will have a miniseries that dramatizes portions of the Bible.  Below is a trailer.

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16 Responses to Film and Faith

  • I watched “Jesus of Nazareth” shortly after I first came to belief. You hit the nail on the head. Nothing can be compared to this movie, although “The Passion of the Christ” certainly did, some 30 years later. Beautifully filmed, excellent acting, orthodox Christianity.

    I’m a fan of the older biblical movies but “Jesus of Nazareth” is certainly unlike all of them. What’s astonishing to me is that I can still watch it today and there’s barely a hint of ‘datedness’ to it like many movies from decades ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this since my first time ~ always during Lent every year.

    Thanks for the clip!

  • It’s ordained. You will reflect His light in dark places. Believe.
    God is with us.
    Your movie is in production.
    Make it count.
    Souls are depending on your faith, your virtues and your love.

  • The History channel has been known to take liberty with religious truth on occasion. We shall see. I support the Douay-Rheims Bible.

  • The Douay-Rheims is a translation of a translation. And that translation is the Latin Vulgate which has itself been revised and updated under Pope JP II as the Nova Vulgata:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/nova_vulgata/documents/nova-vulgata_index_lt.html

    Late last year I ordered my hardcopy from Paxbooks (it was my Christmas gift to me – selfish, I suppose). But of course the most accurate is the original Koine Greek New Testament and the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament. I can’t do the right to left script of Semitic languages, and can manage Greek only fitfully with lots of internet help and Strong’s Concordance. Personally, for English Editions, I prefer in the following order:

    Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
    New American Bible Revised Edition
    English Standard Version with Apocrypha
    King James Version with Apocrypha

    But I do have a hardcopy of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate / Clementine Douay-Rheims side by side, and I do use Father George Haydock’s Douay-Rheims Catholic Study Bible of the 19th century in my apologetics classes.

    I guess we all have preferences. For prayer devotional I like the Nova Vulgata and for study the RSV CE, and I don’t so much like the Douay-Rheims because of its inaccuracies.

  • I’m liking the King James w/Apocrypha these days. After that I like the Douay Reims.

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  • For New Testament study, I like the Catholic Comparative New Testament, which provides, in a side-by-side format, the text of the Douay-Rheims, RSV-CE, New American Bible, NRSV Catholic Bible, Jerusalem Bible, Good News Translation, New Jerusalem Bible, and Christian Community Bible.

  • The Douay is solid, but I’ll quibble with Paul’s “translation of a translation”: in the most commonly available format, it’s a translation of a translation of a translation.

    The brilliant Bishop Richard Challoner revised the Douay in the 1700s, and he was not afraid to borrow from the King James Version.

    I think every Catholic family with English as a native tongue ought to have a Douay to hand as a reminder of what English-speaking Catholics once went through.

  • Thanks for providing the link to the Catholic Comparative New Testament, Paul. I should have done so in my comment. I think it should become clear to anyone who uses it that the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition ought to be the preferred modern translation for Catholics.

  • @Jay: That’s a matter of taste, don’t you think? Personally, I don’t care for the RSV. It’s certainly a far cry better than the New American for instance, but I find it bland. Comparing various passages, the KJV’s beautiful language far surpasses the RSV, let alone that in some random passages I’ve checked, the meaning seems to be quite different. Off the top of my head, here’s a good example:

    KJV: (Genesis 11:1) “And the whole earth was of one language, and
    of ONE SPEECH.”

    RSV: (Genesis 11:1) “… one language and few words.”

    That seems striking, doesn’t it? There’s more examples I could give but this is an example.

  • Key words in my comment: “modern”. I actually prefer the older translations.

  • Elizabeth,

    Please go here for Genesis 11:1: http://interlinearbible.org/genesis/11.htm

    Verse 1 actually says: “and the same words same language earth now the whole used.”

    Sounds weird, right? We moderns certainly don’t speak that way. Even Latin that came 2000 years afterwards has odd word order and no articles. Traslating the Vulgate like this would sound equally weird. However, to get precise word for word meaning regardless of how jarring it is, go to an interlinear OT / NT: http://interlinearbible.org/.

    For approximate word-for-word meaning, the RSV CE is great and so is the ESV with Apocrypha. So are the Protestant NASB and NKJV, but they lack the Deuterocanonicals. For sense of meaning, go to the NIV (which again lacks the Deuterocanonicals) or NAB RE. Every single translation has problems. None are perfect. Only the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek are “inspired.” But the Church does authorize translations because God gave the Church such authority, a lesson Wycliffe failed to understand, much to his doom. 🙁 That said, the Protestants have done wonderful translations as well.

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  • My thoughts on Jesus of Nazareth mirror yours. Did you ever get a chance to read my book Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners which looks at the treament of Christians in about 200 films from 1905 to 2008? It sold out its hardback at $49.95 and is now in paperback at $24.95. I know you are a film aficianado. If you haven’t seen it, I’d be happy to send you a copy.as payback for your many intersting posts. Just let me know where to send it.

  • E-Mail sent to you Pete, and I thank you!

Thaddeus Stevens: Film Portrayals

Monday, December 10, AD 2012

 “I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude, but finding other cemeteries limited as to race, by charter rules, I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the principles which I advocated through a long life, equality of man before his Creator.

Inscription on the Tombstone of Thaddeus Stevens

As regular readers of this blog know, I greatly enjoyed the film Lincoln and praised it for its overall historical accuracy.  Go here to read my review.  One of the many aspects of the film that I appreciated was Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens (R.Pa.), a radical Republican who rose from poverty to become the leader of the abolitionists in the House, and one of the most powerful men in the country from 1861 to his death in 1868.  There haven’t been many screen portrayals of Stevens, but they illustrate how perceptions of Stevens have shifted based upon perceptions of Reconstruction and civil rights for blacks.

The above is an excellent video on the subject.

The 1915 film Birth of a Nation, has a barely concealed portrayal of Stevens under the name of Congressman Austin Stoneman, the white mentor of mulatto Silas Lynch, the villain of the film, who makes himself virtual dictator of South Carolina until he is toppled by heroic Klansmen.  The film was in line with the Lost Cause mythology that portrayed Reconstruction as a tragic crime that imposed governments made up of ignorant blacks and scheming Yankee carpetbaggers upon the South.  This was the predominant view of scholarly opinion at the time.  The film was attacked by both the NAACP and the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization, as being untrue to history, a glorification of mob violence and racist.

By 1942 when the film Tennessee Johnson was made, we see a substantial shift in the portrayal of Stevens.  Played by veteran actor Lionel Barrymore, best know today for his portrayal of Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, Stevens is portrayed as a fanatic out to punish the South and fearful that the too lenient, in his view, treatment of the South in Reconstruction will lead to a new Civil War.  This leads up to the climax of the film, the trial in the Senate of Johnson, with Stevens as the leader of the House delegation prosecuting Johnson, with Johnson staying in office by one vote.  The portrayal of Stevens is not one-dimensional.  Stevens is shown as basically a good, if curmudgeonly, man, consumed by fears of a new Civil War and wishing to help the newly emancipated slaves, albeit wrong in his desire to punish the South.  Like Birth of a Nation, Tennessee Johnson reflected the scholarly consensus of the day which still painted Reconstruction in a negative light, although not as negative as in  1915.  Additionally,  the issue of contemporary civil rights for blacks was beginning to emerge outside of the black community as an issue, and Stevens in the film is not attacked on his insistence for civil rights for blacks.

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6 Responses to Thaddeus Stevens: Film Portrayals

  • I saw “Lincoln” with my liberal in-laws.

    This thought kept running through my alleged mind every time Stevens was on screen, “Alinsky’s Rule 5: ridicule.”

    The movie didn’t change my opinion of Lincoln, one way or the other. I was impressed that I could sit through the whole of it: not much bang-bang, bloodshed or walking trees, etc.

  • It is one of the best films for showing the nuts and bolts of political horestrading that I have ever seen T.Shaw, and I, of course, found it fascinating for beginning to end. I have seen it twice now, something I have never done with any film while it was still in theaters.

  • T. Shaw I imagine you appreciate this line voiced by Stevens in the movie:

    “The modern travesty of Thomas Jefferson’s political organization to which you have attached yourself like a barnacle has the effrontery to call itself “Democratic”. You are a Dem-o-crat! What’s the matter with you? Are you wicked?”

  • Mac,

    That depends on how you define the word, “appreciate.”

    I think the seed of that “barnacle” was attached by Jackson. Politics and rhetoric are not my areas of expertise. I have a talent for flinging massive strings of four-letter words.

  • Historians often unconsciously reveal more about their own times than the periods they describe, Gibbon and Macaulay, being obvious examples.

  • PLOT SPOILER ALERT: I thought the bedroom scene with Stevens and his mistress/housekeeper was manipulatively gratuitous. His intimate relationship with his housekeeper was based on rumor. It would not be surprising if there was a romance going on, but rumors of one sort or another would of course fly anyway, given that he was single. What bothered me was that, by introducing this love interest, Stevens went from a man who opposed slavery on principle to one who may have been acting under the emotional influence of someone in his household.

Lincoln, a Review

Sunday, November 18, AD 2012

Well, on Saturday I went with my family to see Lincoln. Considering that the screenplay was written by Tony Kushner and the film directed by Steven Spielberg, I wasn’t expecting much. I wouldn’t have been totally surprised to see something along the lines of “Gay Illinois Lincoln and the Confederacy of Doom!’.  Instead I was pleasantly surprised by the film. It is a great film and perhaps a minor masterpiece. It is definitely one of the finest screen representations I have ever seen of Lincoln, and it is a worthy tribute to the Great Emancipator. Read below for the rest of my review, and the usual caveat regarding spoilers is in full force.

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15 Responses to Lincoln, a Review

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  • Why wasn’t the Vice President in the story? Wasn’t he involved in the process?

  • I don’t think either Hannibal Hamlin or Andrew Johnson, who was not yet sworn in as Veep, had much to do with the passage of the 13th Amendment in Congress.

  • Good point, Beth. No doubt Biden feels strongly about his contribution and will soon make note of this embarrassing shortcoming. Only question is whether he can beat Al Gore to the punch.

  • I fully agree. It’s a superb film. I lost track of time and was disappointed when it started to wrap up. May be the best acting I’ve ever seen at a movie. Daniel Day-Lewis = Abraham Lincoln. So many good authentic performances…

  • I enjoyed the film just as much.

    One minor detail, when Lincoln is chastising Seward towards the end of the film in a dark room or when he is talking with Alex on the riverboat (can’t remember which one), he refers to the Constitution as holding “unforeseen rights that we can’t imagine today”. Or something along those lines.

    If they could have not take a partisan shot (and I think Lincoln didn’t say that, sure that Donald will correct me if he did), the film would be ‘complete’ for me as one worthy of adding to my movie collection.

  • As memory serves Tito Lincoln was indicating in the film to Stephens that ending the right to slavery might open up rights unforeseen today. That was a truism as far as it went. We only have a fairly vague idea of what was said at the conference as no stenographic record was made and the participants differed in their accounts.

  • Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the finest actors around. I enjoyed the movie There Will Be Blood and especially in Gangs of New York.

    James Spader, it’s nice to seem him make a minor comeback in film, him, Johnny Depp, and Robert Downey Jr. have been my favorite actors since the 80s. It’s good to see them age very well in their acting careers.

  • Very excited to see this film now — thank you Don for ‘the historian’s review’. I couldn’t think of any other actor other than Daniel Day-Lewis who who would be capable of this kind of challenge. Reportedly he spent a year, and read over 100 books on Lincoln, in preparation for the role.

  • He was at the top of his game Chris and obviously looked upon this as the role of his lifetime.

  • Very happy to see this review as I had many of the same reservations as Don. Looking forward to getting to watch the movie sometime after it comes out on DVD. (What, you think me and the Mrs. actually get to go to movies anymore?)

  • Paul, when my wife and I had infants and toddlers I can count on one hand the number of movies we saw in a theater during those years!

  • I’m weighing in a little late here because DH, DD and I just went to see “Lincoln” this afternoon. In a nutshell: liked most (but not all) of the acting, but was kind of disappointed in the movie itself. For one thing, I thought the opening scene with Lincoln and the soldiers in the train station was WAY too contrived. There were also a few too many obvious efforts to generate extra drama and remind everyone that this is a Spielbergian Epic With A Capital E where I don’t think it was necessary (e.g., long, dramatic pauses during the 13th Amendment vote). And while the movie bills itself as based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” the events depicted in the movie make up just a small fraction of the book — probably because it would have taken an epic-length TV miniseries to do justice to the entire book!

    That said, I thought Daniel Day-Lewis made an excellent Lincoln and was especially good at portraying the fact that Lincoln was a skilled political player. I also like the way it showed the “horse trading” and compromising that is often a necessary (though sometimes distasteful) part of accomplishing lofty goals such as abolishing slavery. The scene in which Lincoln tells Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) that a compass can point the way to true north but doesn’t necessarily help you navigate through all the swamps and other obstacles you will run into on the way, is one I think we ought to remember when we debate issues like abortion, gay marriage, immigration, etc.

    Sally Field seemed a bit old to be playing Mary Todd Lincoln — Field is past 60 while Mrs. Lincoln was only in her 40s when she was First Lady. But she did a good job of going beyond the typical caricature of Mrs. Lincoln as a crazy harridan who made her husband’s life a living hell. She was at her best in the scenes where she expresses her entirely understandable terror of losing yet another son if Robert Lincoln were allowed to pursue his desire to enlist in the military.

    Finally, a supporting role of particular interest to us was that of Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair Sr. We recently saw Holbrook’s live “Mark Twain Tonight!” show in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Mo., and were impressed at the way Holbrook, at 87, still keeps his Twain presentation sharp, witty and relevant. In “Lincoln” Holbrook plays an elder statesman who attempts to broker a peace agreement between North and South, even though it might imperil Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment. His role is brief but worth watching.

    I think Day-Lewis, Field and possibly Jones deserve recognition at Oscar time but I would NOT be prepared to award the movie Best Picture overall.

  • “Finally, a supporting role of particular interest to us was that of Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair Sr. We recently saw Holbrook’s live “Mark Twain Tonight!” show in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Mo., and were impressed at the way Holbrook, at 87, still keeps his Twain presentation sharp, witty and relevant. In “Lincoln” Holbrook plays an elder statesman who attempts to broker a peace agreement between North and South, even though it might imperil Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment. His role is brief but worth watching. ”

    Holbrook played Lincoln in 1974 miniseries Elaine that I highly recommend and which is out on DVD:

    http://www.amazon.com/Sandburgs-Lincoln-Hal-Holbrook/dp/B004Z2ECX0

  • Thanks for the tip Don!

Let There Be Light

Sunday, September 16, AD 2012

to care for him who shall have borne the battle

Abraham Lincoln

During World War II director John Huston produced three films for the US government.  Let There Be Light was shot for the Army Signal Corps.  It covers the treatment of 75 US soldiers traumatized by their combat experiences in World War II.  The film is narrated by Walter Huston, the academy award-winning actor father of John Huston.  The Army brass did not like the finished product, thinking that its focus on men who suffered psychological damage from their service could be demoralizing to the troops, and banned the film on the grounds that it invaded the privacy of the soldiers featured in the film and that the releases they signed had been lost.  (This reason was pretextual, but as a matter of law I would not place any reliance on a release signed by someone undergoing mental treatment standing up for an instant in court.)

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4 Responses to Let There Be Light

  • Let there be light to know, to love, and to serve the Lord, the Lord, Who made all persons and keeps them in existence.

    The men, even in their most disarranged mental condition, never committed a crime, never broke the law. The men stayed honest and decent. Giving these men a job would never be a risk, but an appreciative thank you for their service and their suffering.

    At 35, there is an hypnosis of a young man. Be aware that this kind of viewing can cause some of the audience to be hypnotized, or so I have heard, and may be part of the reason that the film was not immediately released. I am not any kind of doctor, and I knew the doctor would bring the patient into the present and the doctor did, all the better for it.

    Audie Murphy wrote a book: TO HELL AND BACK about his WWII experience.

    An after thought. Soldiers are known as Government Issue, G.I.s. The government commandeers the soldiers’ time and energy but the government cannot own the soldiers’ sovereignty, the soldiers’ personhood. Government can commandeer the soldiers’ time and energy in the pursuit of Justice and Freedom, but does not own the soldiers’ conscience. This film explains this and is timely when Obama is imposing martial law on the civilians, as though he owns us.

  • Mary.
    I think you will find that G I stands for General Infantry – the Ground Troops – the foot sloggers- the Grunts, as they are called in the US Army, I believe.
    Down our way, during WW II and since, our infantry were known amongst the troops as the PBI – the Poor Bloody Infantry , because of all the difficult and dangerous work they had to do on the ground.

  • I have always liked the term Poor Bloody Infantry Don, as it perfectly describes both the gripe and the pride of the average dogface.

  • Actually, its interesting that you do this post on WW II at this time. I am presently typing up for our family, my father’s diary that he kept spasmodically during his time in Italy during WW II. He was in the 27th.Machine gun Battallion, attached to the NZ Maori Battallion, and on the 6th.Sept. 1944, they had moved near to a village called Mondolfa (his writing is difficult to read after nearly 70 years.) near the Adriatic coast. At this time, they are preparing for the Battle of Rimini.

    “15th.Sept.1944. Our bombers and fighters are passing overhead constantly, have seen numbers of formations of approx. 50 bombers at a time. Went for a swim. Only 10 mins. walk from the beach. Swimming around, decided to have a spell, and came to rest on a bloody mine. Did I get moving. (I remember Dad telling us of this when I was a kid – reckoned he made a huge bow wave to the shore 🙂 )”

    “Sat. 16th.Sept. Moved up through the Gothic Line today. The towms and bridges are well bashed about. Bivvie (bivouac – pitch shelter) within 10 miles of the front line. Could see the shells landing on enemy territory. One long range enemy shell landed in the village 1/2 a mile away. Climbed some high ground after tea and watched artillery duels – could see strikes on the enemy held ridge overlooking Rimini – an attack was going in and was an unusual sight.”

    Its fascinating reading and typing what my Dad was doing this day 66 years ago and stating it in his usual understating style, and a bit emotional. Dad died on the 11th. December 2005 – the same day my youngest grand-daughter was baptised – aged 93 years. A few months after this diary entry, Dad suffered a back injury from lifting heavy ammunition cases, and was later re-patriated, and had an experimental spinal operation which left him having to take pain relief for the rest of his life.
    (This comment got a bit out of control, didn’t it. 🙂 )
    Rest in the Love of God, Arthur Hamilton Beckett.

Father Barron Reviews For Greater Glory

Monday, September 10, AD 2012

The Blu Ray and DVD releases of For Greater Glory are coming out on September 11, 2012For Greater Glory tells the story of the Cristeros who bravely fought for religious freedom and the Church in the 1920s in Mexico.  I heartily recommend this film.  The above video is Father Robert Barron’s insightful review of the film.   (I believe he is too sanguine as to the effectiveness of purely non-violent movements in the face of regimes who don’t care how many people they kill, but that is a debate for another day.)   The below video has additional remarks by Father Barron on the film.  Go here for my review of the film.

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12 Responses to Father Barron Reviews For Greater Glory

  • Thank you, Donald! I watched Fr. Barron’s first video above, but it’s now time to shower to go to “Neutrons ‘R Us” and be productive. But I just wanted to say that while I am among the first to advocate that our Second Amendment protests the First, maybe there is something to Jesus’ rebuke against the sons of thunder for wanting to call down an air strike against those unrepentant villages of yore. True – not the same situation as the Cristeros, but victory is through the Cross and always has been. I will still, however, keep my mini-14 in good working order lest, Heaven forbid, we ourselves in America face our own Plutarco Elias Calles. God bless!

  • Opps – protects, NOT protests! Darn fat fingers on iPad keyboard!

  • Christ was never interested in politics Paul, or any of the more mundane matters that must concern us. The truth is that Christianity has been effectively exterminated by force in many regions of the planet throughout history. The examples cited by Father Barron, Gandhi and King, would have been completely useless in the face of totalitarian regimes. One can imagine the short shrift that Gandhi would have received if the Nazis had ultimately conquered the British Empire for example. Traditionally the Church has understood both the need for priests and soldiers and I stand by that traditional wisdom.

    “And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,

    And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.”

  • “One can imagine the short shrift that Gandhi would have received if the Nazis had ultimately conquered the British Empire for example.”

    Sounds like you may have read Harry Turtledove’s “The Last Article.”

    One of the grimmer short stories from his oeuvre.

  • Thought so. 🙂

    Great, insightful alternate history that rings wholly true.

    Sure, the tyrant can repent in the face of non-violence, but he has to accept the legitimacy of that tactic in the first place. He has to have a conscience, and it has to be a lot like yours.

    Speaking of grim Turtledove ruminations, I just re-read “Ready for the Fatherland” last night–my wife found it in storage. A helpful reminder that one of the greatest assets to the Allied cause in wartime was Hitler’s armchair generalship.

  • Gandhi’s advice to the Jews in Germany prior to World War 2:

    “Can the Jews resist this organized and shameless persecution? Is there a way to preserve their self-respect, and not to feel helpless, neglected and forlorn? I submit there is. No person who has faith in a living God need feel helpless or forlorn. Jehovah of the Jews is a God more personal than the God of the Christians, the Musalmans or the Hindus, though, as a matter of fact in essence, He is common to all the one without a second and beyond description. But as the Jews attribute personality to God and believe that He rules every action of theirs, they ought not to feel helpless. If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment . And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can. Indeed, even if Britain, France and America were to declare hostilities against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength. The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the god fearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep.”

    Gandhi’s belief in non-violence admitted no failure, even if all the people attempting it were massacred. I assume the Jews found this letter cold comfort indeed, as the more perceptive among them no doubt realized that a massacre on an unbelievable scale was where the Nazi anti-Semitic policies were heading.

  • Toleration, passive aggressive-resistance and non-violent resistance.

    Being sued and penalized for practicing my freedom of religion is not toleration. Government is the servant of the sovereign person. Toleration of freedom by the government is the enslavement of the sovereign person. Freedom comes from God, our “Creator”.

    Government is constituted by its constituents to celebrate the freedom of its constituents, to protect, to guard and to do combat for the freedom of its constituents. Toleration of the freedom of religion by the individuals who constitute government is totalitarianism. Non-violent resistance is labeled “passive aggressive resistance” by a government that is no longer government, but dictatorship. The dictatorship says: “I will let you…have some of your rational, immortal soul”. The dictatorship says: “You did not build that”.

    Government says: “God built that”.

    Paul W. Primavera: May your “fat fingers” continue to comment.

    Donald McClarey: “Traditionally the Church has understood both the need for priests and soldiers and I stand by that traditional wisdom.” “You shall not stand idly by while your neighbor’s life is in jeopardy.”

  • I think Fr. Barron’s priase of those who didn’t directluy participate in the fighting and writing off the combatants as merely “well intentioned” rather silly when you consider the fat that the young boy who has since been beatified was a comabatant and those who didn’t directly participate did what they did in support of the Crsteros combatants.

  • The Crusades were ordered by the reining Pope. The Crusades were not a non violent response to the Muslims. The Church gave the world the just war concept. So much for non violence.

  • In non-violence, the purpose of which is to instruct people with the reality of the human being’s immortal soul, Ghandi said: the scripture: “an eye for an eye”, will make the whole world blind. The law was written to save some of the eyes in the world. When Jesus told Peter to put down the sword, Peter was already an ordained priest, since the Last Supper, just as Father Barron is an ordained priest, who belongs to the church, first and to the people second. Lay people serve as armed forces and may, God forbid, die by the sword. Non-violence does not repudiate armed force. Armed force repudiates violence.

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

Thursday, August 2, AD 2012

 

One of my least favorite trial dramas is Twelve Angry Men (1957).  As a defense attorney with thirty years experience I find it hilarious as Henry Fonda convinces his fellow jurors that the Defendant is not really guilty.  Why do I find it hilarious?  It is such a stacked deck!  Just like a Socratic “Dialogue” the argument is tailored to make the case for the Defendant, and no contrary arguments are allowed to stand as Fonda steamrolls all opposition and saves the day for truth, justice and the American way! Or did he?  Mike D’Angelo at AV Club has a brilliant analysis of why Fonda and his fellow jurors likely let a murderer off the hook:

Here’s what has to be true in order for The Kid to be innocent of the murder:

  • He coincidentally yelled “I’m gonna kill you!” at his father a few hours before someone else killed him. How many times in your life have you screamed that at your own father? Is it a regular thing?

AND

  • The elderly man down the hall, as suggested by Juror No. 9 (Joseph Sweeney), didn’t actually see The Kid, but claimed he had, or perhaps convinced himself he had, out of a desire to feel important.

AND

  • The woman across the street saw only a blur without her glasses, yet positively identified The Kid, again, either deliberately lying or confabulating.

AND

  • The Kid really did go to the movies, but was so upset by the death of his father and his arrest that all memory of what he saw vanished from his head. (Let’s say you go see Magic Mike tomorrow, then come home to find a parent murdered. However traumatized you are, do you consider it credible that you would be able to offer no description whatsoever of the movie? Not even “male strippers”?)

AND

  • Somebody else killed The Kid’s father, for reasons completely unknown, but left behind no trace of his presence whatsoever.

AND

  • The actual murderer coincidentally used the same knife that The Kid owns.

AND

  • The Kid coincidentally happened to lose his knife within hours of his father being stabbed to death with an identical knife.

The last one alone convicts him, frankly. That’s a million-to-one shot, conservatively. In the movie, Fonda dramatically produces a duplicate switchblade that he’d bought in The Kid’s neighborhood (which, by the way, would get him disqualified if the judge learned about it, as jurors aren’t allowed to conduct their own private investigations during a trial), by way of demonstrating that it’s hardly unique. But come on. I don’t own a switchblade, but I do own a wallet, which I think I bought at Target or Ross or some similar chain—I’m sure there are thousands of other guys walking around with the same wallet. But the odds that one of those people will happen to kill my father are minute, to put it mildly. And the odds that I’ll also happen to lose my wallet the same day that a stranger leaves his own, identical wallet behind at the scene of my father’s murder (emptied of all identification, I guess, for this analogy to work; cut me some slack, you get the idea) are essentially zero. Coincidences that wild do happen—there’s a recorded case of two brothers who were killed a year apart on the same street, each at age 17, each while riding the same bike, each run over by the same cab driver, carrying the same passenger—but they don’t happen frequently enough for us to seriously consider them as exculpatory evidence. If something that insanely freakish implicates you, you’re just screwed, really.

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21 Responses to Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

  • You may have heard of Sir Patrick Hastings. He was one of the greatest lawyers in Britain in the twentieth century, and especially famous as a cross-examiner. In his memoirs, he tells the following story: Once, a client came to him and started by saying, you are not going to believe a word I say. And he proceeded to tell a tale of misfortune and villainy (by his former business partner and plaintiff in the case) so incredible that Hastings, indeed, could not believe it. But he went to court and did his best for his client anyway. And so it happened that, cross-questioning the plaintiff, he noticed a tiny, tiny contradiction. He became interested. He started hammering at it. Bit by bit the truth was forced out of the unwilling plaintiff. Hastings’ unbelievable client had told him the exact truth.

  • Donald R McClarey wrote

    “although there is, and should be, a vast difference between actual guilt, and what the State has to prove at trial to obtain a conviction”

    My favourite example of this is a case we had here in Scotland, namely Creasey v Creasey [1931 S.C. 9.]

    This was, in fact, a civil action. Mr Creasey raised an action for divorce against his wife, on the grounds of her adultery with a co-defender, against whom he concluded for expenses. At that time, the criminal standard of proof obtained in consistorial cases, proof beyond reasonable doubt and on corroborated evidence.

    At the proof, the evidence led against the defender consisted of certain extra-judicial admissions, corroborated by evidence of clandestine association. On this, the Lord Ordinary found that the defender had committed adultery with the co-defender. However, there was no evidence that the co-defender had authorised or adopted the defender’s admissions: as against him, they were mere hearsay. Moreover, the evidence of clandestine association was uncorroborated and, in any event, insufficient, on its own, to prove adultery. Accordingly, the Lord Ordinary could not be satisfied that the co-defender had committed adultery with the defender and he assoilzied him from the action and decerned for his expenses against the pursuer.

    On appeal, the Inner House adhered.

  • I had a similar case Fabio. Unfortunately in that case the Judge accepted the testimony of the witness who perjured himself. The case did not involve serious consequences for my client, but it rankled. Years later I represented the witness in another matter and he told me that he had lied. Although there was nothing that could be done about it at that late date, I did advise the Judge off the record, not mentioning the names of the parties. He said that he truly wished that along with a black robe they gave new judges mind reading ability or the charism of peering into the souls of men!

  • Another reason I stay away from legal dramas, whther TV or film. It’s just so unrealistic how often key evidence falls into place, the right witness shows up at thelast second, not to mention the total shenanigans that lawyers get away with in court that in the real court would land you in the clink before you could say hearsay. Besides, after dealing with the law world all day, the last thing I want to do is come home and watch it on TV.

    I’ve often wondered if medical professionals/law enforcement feel the same way about medical /law enforcement dramas.

  • c matt: Regarding realism, my husband is a fireman, and he won’t even watch movies on that subject because they are so unrealistic. “Backdraft”, to firefighters, is best viewed as a comedy, not a drama.

    I think it’s interesting that Henry Fonda appeared in Angry Men AND Grapes of Wrath–another “drama” that purported to tell a “larger truth about the system,” but which was just propaganda.

    Which makes it not at all surprising that Jane’s political views were so far left.

  • Seeing this film again many years after its release, it struck me as another sanctimonious and pretentious Henry Fonda performance. Sadly, it is used in many schools to teach “justice’. We are close to the point where it is hard to find someone guilty because of either obfuscation (the OJ defense) or pleading mitigating circumstances. This doesn’t even cover instances where prosecutors drop the case deciding that the evidence, though overwhelming, is not sufficient to gain a conviction. I saw this on my stint on the State medical board. It was demonstrated most outrageously in the Black Panther case. It also doesn’t cover where the adjudication of the obviously guilty is inexplicably delayed and drops off the radar as in the Fort Hood case.
    One legal drama that I cover in my book Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners is the profane , violent, and manipulative “Primal Fear” which makes a travesty of the legal system and trashes the Catholic Church to boot.

  • “it struck me as another sanctimonious and pretentious Henry Fonda performance. ”

    Fonda did tend to lean towards those roles, especially as he got older. Two of my favorite Henry Fonda films were from his early career, Young Mr. Lincoln and Drums Along the Mohawk.

  • My favorite movie (sadly NOT included in the recent “greatest movies” list) is Once Upon a Time in the West, the only time I know of that Fonda played a bad guy.

    As for 12 Angry Men — where was The Kid’s defense counsel? He should have made all the points Fonda did.

    To D’Angelo, I’d say, why ruin a perfectly good movie? Besides, a lot of Fonda’s points are valid. We can throw out the neighbor and the guy down the hall and especially the woman across the street. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable but juries put more stock in them than almost any other evidence.
    No alibi? No naming the movie? Meh, bad but not enough to convict.
    The knife. When I was a kid we all had jackknives or folding Buck knives. So if switchblades we standard gear in The Kids neighborhood, not conclusive.

    Of course, nowadays the DA might offer The Kid life with possibility of parole (or even manslaughter) if he’d plead — unless he could offer “truthful testimony” wink, wink against somebody else he wants to nail.
    Maybe you can explain how offering something of value (a shorter sentence or no sentence at all) =/= subornation.

  • I have not seen the above movie. So, herewith are my thoughts on it: “beyond a reasonable doubt”. God knows who committed the murder. The murderer knows who committed the murder. Before I go any further, let me say that crimes of passion are not considered capital one murder, deserving the death penalty. Passion is the wrong word as hatred, jealousy, anger, and the like is not a passion but a vice and addiction to the vice precludes aforethought. Capital one homicide consist in planning, (afore thought), plotting and executing the crime in cold blood. Everything else may be murder I or II or even manslaughter. Two witnesses establish a judicial fact. A preponderance of credible evidence is only admissible in a civil trial, where one’s life is not in the balance. Nevermind that the witness had eyeglass marks on her nose, the fact that the witness needed eyeglasses was an indictment of her ability to see and witness. There were no witnesses to the deed and also in the Simpson trial, and two witnesses are required to indict a capital one murderer to the death penalty. “beyond a reasonable doubt” was not established. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is not established in the capital one death penalty of 54 million unborn constitutional posterity.

  • Juries are quite unfathomable. I recall a case once, where a jeweller was accused of resetting a large number of items of jewellery, part of the proceeds of a number of thefts.

    After some three hours of deliberation, the jury announced a verdict (by a majority) of guilty of resetting “some of the items libelled” Naturally, the judge asked them to specify which items. It then transpired that five of them thought he had resetted the proceeds of one theft, four that he had restted the proceeds of another and so on. There was no single item on which eight of the fifteen were agreed that he had resetted it, but at least eight of them thought he had resetted at least one of them. That is how they had arrived at their majority.

    After more directions and a further hour’s deliberation, they ended up acquitting him.

  • Opps Murder I is capital punisment

  • “Maybe you can explain how offering something of value (a shorter sentence or no sentence at all) =/= subornation.”

    Because they are almost always guilty as sin. They are merely admitting a crime they have in fact committed. No judge will accept a plea bargain if the Defendant continues to assert his innocence, and I have seen plea bargains rejected because the Defendant makes an assertion of his innocence at the last moment. ( And no, in the case I recall the Defendant was not in fact innocent of the offense, his assertion to the contrary notwithstanding.)

    Some Defendants are innocent. I recently convinced the State’s Attorney in my county to nolle prosse a prosecution against a client who I established was not guilty of the offense charged. However such a case is rare enough that each one stands out among the hundreds of criminal defenses I have been involved in.

  • Basic law question for you, Don, from somebody who has never talked with a lawyer except at parish men’s club meetings: Does nolle prosse invoke double jeopardy?

  • Mary de Voe

    The maxim of the Civil Law is “Testis unus testis nullus” – One witness is no witness.

    So, if a man confesses to theft, that is not sufficient to convict; but if he says where he hid the goods and they are found there, then the confession and the finding are two independent sources of evidence and that makes a sufficient proof, even if only one witness hears the confession and only one finds the goods.

    I remember, before we had divorce by consent, we had “hotel cases,” where husband would spend the night in an hotel with a “woman to the pursuer unknown.” The chambermaid would testify that she brought the guilty pair their early morning tea. She would be shown a photo of the defender and would identify him as the man. The wife (who always wore deep mourning, with a hat and gloves), would then stand up and lift her veil and the witness would swear she was not the woman. She would then be corroborated by the receptionist, who had signed them in. He would produce the register and he, too, would be shown the defender’s photo, testifying that this was the man and the wife was not the woman. It was still thought prudent to produce the cheque, with which the husband had paid for the room. The marriage, by the by, was deemed sufficiently proved by the wife’s oath and her production of her marriage lines.

    For some reason, Gleneagles – a five star hotel in Perthshire, with an excellent golf course, was the preferred locus for these little pantomimes. I remember four such cases calling in a morning at the Court of Session and the same receptionist was a witness in three of them. I wonder if they had an arrangement with the listing office to have the cases heard together in batches, to avoid disrupting their staff schedule.

  • “Because they are almost always guilty as sin. They are merely admitting a crime they have in fact committed. No judge will accept a plea bargain if the Defendant continues to assert his innocence”

    I don’t doubt it.
    I was referring to defendants who get shorter sentences in return for testimony against others.

  • “I was referring to defendants who get shorter sentences in return for testimony against others.”

    Ah, the classic Jail House Snitch. I, and many of my brethren and sistren of the defense bar, do tend to think that often involves perjury. There have been prosecutions of prosecutors when they have clearly crossed the line but probably not enough. I like one local judge who will tell juries that they may believe a Jail House Snitch if they wish, but that invariably those individuals have a strong motivation to testify favorably for the prosecution and that jurors should consider that when determining the credence to give their testimony.

  • “Does nolle prosse invoke double jeopardy?”

    No, it is merely a statement to the court that the prosecutor has decided not to move forward with a prosecution at this time and wishes to dismiss it. No jeopardy attaches.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    The maxim of the Civil Law is “Testis unus testis nullus” – One witness is no witness.
    Thank you Michael Paterson-Seymour. My knowledge of the law comes from Moses in Sacred Scripture. Jesus too, had much to say about Justice.

  • Mary de Voe

    There is a fascinating work, the Collatio legum mosaicarum et romanarum [Comparison of the Mosaic and Roman laws] written some time between 294 and 313 AD, at Rome, almost certainly by a Jewish author.

    It draws out the similarities between the two codes, not only in their general principles, but in detail.

    There is really only one area in which the author stresses the superiority of the Mosaic law – God has not only given the poor the power to gather grapes in the vineyards and to glean in the fields and to take away whole sheaves but has also granted to every passer-by without distinction the freedom to enter as often as he likes the vineyard of another person and to eat as many grapes as he wants, in spite of the owner of the vineyard. This “preference for the poor” has led some scholars, such as Girard and Raabello to suggest Christian authorship, or, perhaps, interpolation.

  • “If you ever have an opportunity, sit in on a criminal jury trial.”

    I’ve done that twice, both in the course of journalistic duties. One was a murder trial involving a man who had stabbed his ex girlfriend to death during an argument; the other involved a local public official accused of embezzling public funds (via credit card) to patronize a local gambling boat. Both cases ended with guilty verdicts; the murderer got 45 years in prison with no parole and the official got 30 months probation. Neither case was anywhere near as dramatic as what you see on TV or in the movies; they were just depressing, really.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    There is a fascinating work, the collatio legum mosaicarum et romanarum [Comparison of the Mosaic and Roman laws] written some time between 294 and 313 AD, at Rome, almost certainly by a Jewish author.

    This sounds very interesting and I will try to find the work. I am also fascinated by the comparison of the prophet Isaiah and our U.S. Constitution, sometimes using different words and saying the same thing. Most fascinating. Thank you for your kindness, Michael Paterson-Seymour.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Review

Thursday, July 5, AD 2012

The reviews of the film had been dismal, but I felt duty bound to watch it, and give the film a review.  On  July 3, having closed my law office for the afternoon, my family and I went to the movies.  While the rest of my family, not sharing my duty to report on the film, joined the folks seeing Spider-man III, I strolled over to see the Great Emancipator dispatch vampires.  The viewing was rather like a private showing.  The audience in the vast theater consisted of me and one individual in the back.  I found this aspect of the film quite pleasant.  Alas that is the first and last positive aspect of this film that I can report.  Intrepid souls who wish to can follow me into the bowels of ALVH below, the usual spoiler  caveat being in force.

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8 Responses to Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Review

  • Thanks, Don, for saving me $10. No, make that $11, because now I won’t even get it from Red Box when it lands there sometime next week.

  • Very disappointing to hear. What a ridiculous choice to play it as a straight-up drama.

  • Thanks for the heads-up. Cancel this for a boys-night-out activity with the Msgr and the guys from church.

  • It’s interesting that they should choose such a noble and prominent historical figure to play the role of a vampire hunter. I didn’t see the film but it certainly seems like a worn-out angle on the vampire theme: it takes a heroically good person to overcome evil.

  • Prometheus is another one that should be canned. Burdened by a mishmash of themes, and held together with a predictable plot, that of the search for our roots and the answers to the existential questions, it is a film that barely comes to life when Elizabeth Shaw was giving birth to the Alien monster. It is rather tedious the X th time one sees computer generated terrain or horrible octopus-like creatures sucking the lifeblood out of sundry beings, when the movie itself lacks dramatic tension. Ridley Scott apparently felt that he could get by the two hours, by inducing some identikit memory of movies past, for which reveries the audience would be grateful. The wife was scathing after the show.

  • I think the director was Timur Bekmambetov, rather than Tim Burton (although he hasn’t been that great lately either).

    My oldest daughter (7) upon seeing the title on Rotten Tomatoes said “That sounds like a really weird, silly movie.” While I am sure there is room for a good entertaining story with the vampire/historical figure premise, it definitely raises the level of difficulty. Thanks for reviewing and removing the temptation to rent it!

  • True John Henry. He and Burton were the co-producers with the directing credit (sic) to Bekmambetov. Judging from interviews he has given though, it does appear as if this was Burton’s pet project

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Just Seen It Reviews For Greater Glory

Tuesday, June 12, AD 2012

The hard working film mavens of Just Seen It give For Greater Glory an enthusiatic review in the video above.  It is one of the more perceptive reviews of the film that I have seen.  The two reviewers come at the film from a purely secular viewpoint and had little if any knowledge of the Cristero War prior to viewing it.  The message of religious freedom that the film conveys is obviously the most important part of the film, but even leaving that aside the movie is a masterpiece of the filmmaker’s craft.

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9 Responses to Just Seen It Reviews For Greater Glory

  • I saw the film and enjoyed it. The scene where Jose made his own via dolorosa brought to mind scenes from The Passion of the Christ for me. Overall this review is favorable but I’m missing her point about the last 10 minute. Any help?

  • She is a non-Catholic Michael, and perhaps not overly sympathetic to the Church judging from that remark. That of course makes her fairly enthusiastic endorsement of the movie as a film notable.

  • Her concern was that it “developed a religious agenda.”

    Good thing secular movies are agenda free.

  • “developed a religious agenda.”

    I heard what she said but I’m having a hard time relating her opinion to what I saw. Apparently her co-review did as well. But I’m looking at things with Catholic filters so I wondered if anyone might have a better sense of what she was getting at. Sorry, don’t mean to beat a dead horse.

    @ Donald – Agree that her non-Catholic POV does add power to her endorsement.

    My non-Catholic mother-in-law saw the film before we mentioned anything about it. I found her take on the General’s character interesting. Her view, as an Evangelical, was that General Gorostieta was a believer but didn’t like “all of the rules” of the Catholic Church. I must have gone to the bathroom during that scene.

  • SPOILER ALERT! – Re: the “agenda” in the last 10 minutes, just a guess, but there was the dream sequence with the flashbacks to several key lines and Enrique awakes and realizes they are about to be attacked, yet he first wants Fr. Vega to hear his confession instead of leaping into action… Maybe that’s the Catholic agenda? As to the “all the rules” observation, there was the earlier related scene where Fr. Vega is distributing Communion and Gen. Gorostieta is in line, and the priest says, “You need to confess,” and Enrique says, “Doesn’t He already know?”

  • “Fr. Vega is distributing Communion and Gen. Gorostieta is in line, and the priest says, “You need to confess,” and Enrique says, “Doesn’t He already know?”” Yes, He already knows and Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Confession to make sure that we know.

  • “Good thing secular movies are agenda free.” You are kidding? Right?

  • The reviewers did not say anything about Calles or the communist agenda or being surprised by the speed/ force of the crackdown on people of faith– that crackkdown was stunning, and it stuns me that the reviewers don’t even express anything about it.
    They also didn’t say anything about the ambassador or the offer of planes, or interest in oil rights– in fact, they seemed pretty unfazed by some history presented in the movie.
    Even if the lady isn’t catholic, just as a PERSON I think she would have been a bit fazed about human atrocity instead of bristling about Catholic political incorrectness (apparently thinking the movie was promoting the Faith at the end of the movie)/ She comes off as too shallow to review a movie so deep.

  • Of course this secular reviewer would not say anything about what the Communists did. ‘”Bad people” doing bad things’ is the film industry’s bread and butter. It’s pretty normal for people to be abused badly during the course of a film. People facing it with blatant faith, as well as great ingenuity and bravery is almost unheard of.

    Secondly, this disruption of her comfort level is the footprints of the Holy Spirit through an unformed conscience. It is no wonder that she’s not clear about her discomfort. Sin is inured to sin, and greatly disturbed by holiness. God willing, these images of faith will stay with her, whereas the endlessly repeating horrors and engineered shock value will fade away into nothing.