"Taken" Some Life Lessons

Saturday, July 18, AD 2009

I saw the movie with Liam Neeson entitled “Taken”, the other night. It is the ultimate ‘Dads protecting daughters’ fantasy. It plays on a whole lot of primal emotions- particularly the temptation to give oneself over to extreme violence to protect the lives and sanctity of one’s children. Every father wants to imagine himself capable of defending his beloved children from any and all threats- and the father in “Taken” was that ultimate fatherly force. He represented more of a divine Angelic father who slays spiritually evil forces, than a realistic earthly dad- and as such I was able to excuse the incredible violence as something of a parable of ultimate accountability for those humans who perpetrate the evils of human trafficking and slavery.

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3 Responses to "Taken" Some Life Lessons

  • I think you make a key point here about how deeply pornography is connected with the breakdown of the family and the exploitation of women in our society.

  • Can you tell me what definition of “consumerism” you’re applying to the sex-slavery industry which is thousands of years old?

    It seems a stretch to me, but I’m interested to hear.


    Clementine Hall
    Saturday, 13 June 2009

    “Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
    Distinguished and Dear Friends,

    Thank you for your visit which fits into the context of your annual meeting. I greet you all with affection and am grateful to you for all that you do, with proven generosity, at the service of the Church. I greet and thank your President, Count Lorenzo Rossi di Montelera, who has expressed your sentiments with fine sensitivity, giving an overview of the Foundation’s work. I also thank those who, in various languages, have wished to express your common devotion. Our meeting today acquires special meaning and value in the light of the situation that humanity as a whole is experiencing at this time.

    Indeed, the financial and economic crisis which has hit the industrialized, the emerging and the developing countries, shows clearly that certain economic and financial paradigms which prevailed in recent years must be rethought. Therefore, at the international congress which took place yesterday your Foundation did well to address the topic of the search for, and identification of, the values and rules which the economic world should abide by in order to evolve a new model of development that is more attentive to the requirements of solidarity and more respectful of human dignity.

    I am pleased to learn that you examined in particular the interdependence between institutions, society and the market, in accordance with my venerable Predecessor John Paul II’s Encyclical, Centesimus annus. The Encyclical states that the market economy, understood as: “an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector” (n. 42), may be recognized as a path to economic and civil progress only if it is oriented to the common good (cf. n. 43). However, this vision must also be accompanied by another reflection which says that freedom in the economic sector must be circumscribed “by a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality”, a responsible freedom, “the core of which is ethical and religious” (n. 42). The above-mentioned Encyclical appropriately states: “just as the person fully realizes himself in the free gift of self, so too ownership morally justifies itself in the creation, at the proper time and in the proper way, of opportunities for work and human growth for all” (n. 43).

    I hope that by drawing inspiration from the eternal principles of the Gospel it will be possible, with the research inherent in your work, to elaborate a vision of the modern economy that is respectful of the needs and rights of the weak. My Encyclical dedicated to the vast topic of the economy and work is, as you know, due to be published shortly. It will highlight what for Christians are the objectives to pursue and the values to promote and to defend tirelessly, if we are to achieve a truly free and supportive human coexistence.”

    Consumerism, as I use it, is not the positive business economy that is supported by Catholic social doctrine, but the destructive misuse of business models that overemphasize the commerce angle at the expense of the human beings who are on the giving and receiving end of some business transaction. It is the inadequate juridical framework that allows for such things as pornography and adult entertainment businesses to flourish under a false idealism associated with “Free Speech” and corporations being legally defined as “persons” with rights we normally associate with actual human beings. These modern-day abuses of what true freedom is really all about, help foster the modern situation of sex-slavery/human trafficking. The legal pornography helps to fuel the destructive fires of lust in boys and men of all ages, the freedom of advertisers to use sexual appeals to the lowest common denominator in human- particularly male human nature- also makes the pursuit of sex seem to be an overriding concern in everyday life. The rise of female entrepreneurs in the adult video industry and prostitution lends to the notion that women are getting good money for lending their bodies to men for illicit sexual purposes- so there is no victim in the process, when in actuality everyone involved and women in general and humanity at-large is harmed by the social sins associated with the weakening of public morals, and the encouragement of promiscuity with all the physical and spiritual damage that that entails.

    One could say that “consumerism” is that approach to economics and business that tries to separate the Christian Humanism of which the Pope speaks, with the freedom of individuals to pursue many kinds of “businesses” which contribute to the market demand for young girls and boys to be available for sexual exploitation- which is what drives the sex-slavery “market”. I found this to be the case when I attended local city council meetings where the topic was responding to the demands of adult entertainment business owners to have certain areas of town zoned for adult entertainment lest they take the city to the higher courts, where the findings have been in favor of the adult businesses via the “free speech” rationalization. The small cities must come up with ample sites for adult entertainment or else they risk heavy legal fees to challenge something that right now favors the purveyors of porn in the higher courts. Even though the numbers of speakers from the community who were outraged and against such businesses was very substantial- the juridical framework isn’t developed to address the morality questions in these areas. If we have the human person as our primary consideration in determining how to regulate businesses and their affairs, then this would be something more or less easy to fix. But our system is not set up with the common good/natural law as the guiding light for legal renderings- which is what is lacking in the juridical frameworks so often called for by the Magisterium.

Top Ten Movies For the Fourth

Thursday, July 2, AD 2009

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.  The Devil’s Disciple (1959)- I am not a big fan of the plays of George Bernard Shaw, but this film has its moments.  Set during the Saratoga campaign of 1777, Laurence Olivier was an inspired choice as General “Gentleman Johnnie” Burgoyne, and Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as the two American protagonists have their usual fine chemistry together on film.  Not a classic but certainly an overlooked gem.

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18 Responses to Top Ten Movies For the Fourth

  • Jay, there are some things too horrible for the human mind to completely comprehend, and Revolution (1985) with Pacino is one of them!

  • Here are some films that should be honorable mentions:

    America (D.W. Griffith)

    Sons of Liberty (Claude Raines)

    The Howards of Virginia (Cary Grant)

    The Time of Their Lives (Bud Abbott & Lou Costello – not really an American Revolution movie, per se, but close enough and fun to watch)

    There are also several fine documentary miniseries that I would recommend (actually, I recommend skipping the Hollywood versions of history altogether and watching the documentaries instead). Don, perhaps you can post a review of some of these in the next day or two (given your love of history, I’m guessing you’ve seen them):

    The American Revolution (A&E / History Channel)
    (this is my personal favorite)

    Liberty – The American Revolution (PBS)

    The History Channel Presents The Revolution

    Rebels & Redcoats – How Britain Lost America (PBS)

    Founding Fathers (History Channel)

    Founding Brothers

    The History Channel Presents Washington the Warrior

  • I agree, Don. HORRIBLE movie.

  • I’ve always disliked The Patriot for the same reason I really dislike Braveheart. Mel assumes the audience can’t understand simple concepts like “freedom” and “liberty”, and in both cases a serious historical cause is made into a revenge fantasy.

    As for movies about American wars, my favorite is Ride With the Devil, a splendid and usually overlooked film by Ang Lee. It gives a fascinating perspective on the Civil War, showing the trajectory of the son of a German immigrant who joins the Confederates under Quantrill after Jayhawkers kill the mother and father of his best friend. It doesn’t shy away from the worst aspects of both sides in the war, but it also shows the heroism and ideals that went into the causes of the war. Plus, the dialogue–based on the way people actually spoke at the time according to letters and transcripts–is great. My favorite bit is the night after a skirmish when the protagonist, Jake, is talking with his friend Jack Bull about his finger being shot off:

    Jack Bull: My father’s under the dirt to stay. Like that’s gone to stay, too.

    Jake: My finger?

    Jack Bull: Mmm-hmm.

    Jake: Well, so it is. And it makes me notable by the loss.

    Jack Bull: You sound pleased… as if that finger’d been pesterin’ you for rings.

    Jake: No. It was a fine finger and I’d rather have it still, but… it was took from me and it’s been et by chickens for sure. And I say, what is the good side to this amputation? And there is one.

    Jack Bull: Name it, Jake.

    Jake: Well, you say one day some Federals catch up to me in a thicket. They would riddle me and hang me and no Southern man would find me for weeks or months and when they did I’d be bad meat pretty well rotted to a glob.

    Jack Bull: That’s scientifically accurate, I’m afraid. I’ve seen it.

    Jake: I’d be a mysterious gob of rot. And people would say, “Who was that?” Then surely someone would look up and say, “Why it’s nubbin fingered Jake Roedel.” Then you could go and tell my father that I was clearly murdered and he wouldn’t be tortured by uncertain wonders.

    Jack Bull: And that’s the good of it?

    Jake: Yes sir, that’s the good.

  • 1776 is easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

    I guess you limited it to only movies on the founding, but really any July 4th list without Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is seriously lacking.

  • Denton, what’s wrong with you?

    1776 is a great movie. William Daniels (with that Boston Brahmin accent) will ALWAYS be John Adams to me (Giamatti’s outstanding effort notwithstanding). Daniels even voiced the role in the A&E/History Channel documentary I cite above.

    And I must say that I’m much less enamoured by Mr. Smith Goes to Washington than I once was. I suppose being involved in government/politics will do that to a person.

  • Michael, I like Mr. Smith goes to Washington, although more for the performance of Claude Rains, always a favorite with me, than for any other reason. Jimmy Stewart, usually a favorite of mine, gave what I thought was a fairly one note performance, although I understand that I am in a minority in regard to that opinion.

    In regard to 1776, tastes will vary. I love it, and I will use this as an excuse to post another sequence from the film:

  • What?

    No honorable mention for Cagney’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy”?


  • Denton, what’s wrong with you?

    Funny, my fiance asks that question too. With alarming frequency, actually 😉

    I just could not stand it. Went too long, too absurd, hated the music, was over-dramatic, etc etc.

    I like Mr. Smith b/c it recognizes that politics are corrupt, but it offers a message of hope among the disillusion. I think it’s the greatest movie ever made, but I’m probably one of the few who do.

  • Oh, I still like Mr. Smith, but it’s just not one of my favorite movies of all time like it used to be back when I was young and idealistic. Just like I’m less enamoured with Mr. Jefferson than I used to be (Paul Z. will be glad to hear that, I’m sure).


    By the way, here’s how Mr. Smith would play out if it happened in real life:


  • Jay:

    You have depressed me. Now I will utterly unable to eat a hot dog on Saturday. Curse you! 😉

    I am still young and idealistic, so it remains a favorite of mine. I will say though that juxtaposing Mr. Smith with Jimmy Stewart’s later movie with John Wayne “The man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is fascinating

  • Jay Anderson: I and the other girls in my high school history class became enamored of Mr. Jefferson when our teacher showed us “1776” in class. In fact, that’s really the only thing I can recall about that film – that the actor who played Jefferson was a looker.

    (Let us hope that historically ignorant schoolgirls today do not develop fond feelings toward Henry VIII just because Jonathan Rhys-Meyers looks quite dashing in period costume. Any young woman who has the impression Henry looked like Rhys-Meyers is bound to be disappointed by Holbein’s portrait.:-))

  • april morning is available on dvd at movieshour.com

  • After seeing John Adams I really wanted a Thomas Jefferson movie staring the same cast, just from Jefferson’s POV.

  • You and I both Anthony!

  • Re Jay’s comment on “Ride With The Devil”: I am currently reading “April 1865: The Month that Saved America” by Jay Winik, and finding it very fascinating.

    Especially striking to me is the author’s central thesis: that the United States could easily have descended into a spiral of never-ending bloodshed and guerilla warfare (a la Bosnia, Chechnya, Sudan, Northern Ireland, etc.) but for the restraint of Generals Lee and Grant and Lincoln’s desire that the Confederate states be fully welcomed back into the Union.

    Winik believes that Lee and other Confederate generals could easily have chosen to continue fighting as guerillas, but chose not to because they were aware of the horrific consequences of the guerilla fighting that had taken place in Missouri and Kansas. Missouri in the 1860s sounds an awful lot like Vietnam in the 1960s — little if any distinction between civilians and combatants, Union and Confederate guerillas impersonating each other, entire towns and counties destroyed in order to “save” them, people living in constant fear of betrayal by family, friends and neighbors. (Could this be the real reason Missouri became known as the “Show Me State” ? )

    Had the Confederates gone guerrilla, had Grant been harsher toward the defeated Rebel soldiers and civilians, or had public sentiment after Lincoln’s assassination turned more toward revenge against the South, things might be a lot different today.

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Pity and Fear

Tuesday, June 23, AD 2009

Aristotle taught that the purpose of tragedy is to inspire pity and fear in the audience, thence causing catharsis, a purging of emotion. I’ve always found his explanation of tragedy compelling, but as I get older (queue laughter at the thirty-year-old getting “older”) I find that I want to achieve catharsis much less than I used to. Not that my life is layered in tragedy or anything, indeed, far from it. But somehow, one just doesn’t feel as much like seeking out pity and fear at thirty as at twenty.

This has been running through my head as I’ve been reading about The Stoning of Soraya M.

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