Sunday, September 25, 2005

Dr. Phil, Tuesday, Sept 27 CBS 4:00pm

My sister Sarah will be on Dr. Phil this coming Tuesday about how her son, Gabriel, died playing "the choking game". I have not shared this tragedy with those who read the list before, but I hope you will tune in and watch this show. Dr. Phil said during the taping that almost 500 known cases of this kind of teen death happens each year in the USA - and probably many more. Please feel free to share this information with others and help prevent another tragedy.


Sr Rose


Tuesday, September 27, 2005
CBS - check local listings (4:00pm in Los Angeles)

Shocking Teen Trends

It's a trend many kids call "the choking game" but the
consequence's could be deadly. Sarah's 13-year-old son (Gabe) made headlines when he died palying the game. How can she move past the guilt?

gabrielharrymordecai.jpgGabriel Mordecai, May 6, 2005, R.I.P. is the web site my sister started in memory of Gabriel and to help prevent other senseless deaths.

_ _ _ _


This was a very emotional - and educational -  taping to be
present for. My sister Emilie, my niece Jamie and a friend, my niece Liz (Gabe's sister), Sarah's in-laws Art and Shirley,
sister-in-law Terry, and Jason, Liz's boyfriend, were all
present. We were told to be there at 10:00am - and we were: Paramount Studios in West LA, very near Hollywood, on Melrose. Then we found out the taping didn't begin until 1:00pm! We were not allowed to take anything in with us, not even paper to write on (we could keep our purses but they checked them.) No cameras. Another taping started at 10:00am. Dr Phil does two a day, three or four days a week.

At noon we were taken into a kind of ready room where they had coffee for anyone who wanted it. One of the producers came out and welcomed us - and told us to use the bathroom now(!) because once taping began, no one could leave. He was very nice and warned us about sitting up straight and all.

We finally went into the studio which I would bet doesn't hold more than 100 people. A guy came out to take us through some warm-up exercises for about 15 minutes (I was remined of A KNIGHT'S TALE...); he gave away coupons for Dr Phil mugs and books (I think they could have afforded to give us all one but they went to those who yelled the loudest). On the other hand, everything was fun and dignified; there was nothing rude or crude about the way the show ran things.He also told us to cry if we felt like it, just go with it. (Dr. Phil gave handkerchiefs with his name embroidered on them to guest he interviews if they cry; a box of kleenex was near our seats, too.)

Taping began at 1:00 almost on the dot. Dr Phil came out a few moments ahead of time - it was his birthday. The audience sang "happy birthday' to him, but now I don't recall if it was before or after the taping. Anyway, he set the tone - he's a very sombre kind of guy, but then these are sober topics.

First they interviewed a girl who actually practices the
choking game. They had taped her and her mom before in their home. Now, on camera, the girl was mortified by the way she blew off how serious her behavior is. She and her friends told her mom about what they were doing because they thought she would like to do it too - and mom was horrified. She demanded her daughter stop. But she only stopped letting other kids choke her, she continued choking others til they passed out, twitched and buzzed because it was fun... I hope they leave this interview in the show - it was beyond belief. But this is what kids are doing, alone or with others. My nephew died doing it along, with a thin rope  on May 6, 2005.

Then after 30 minutes or so, maybe 45, they brought Sarah out. As I mentioned before, Dr Phil honed in on her relationship with her son Sam, Gabe's twin. After Gabe's death she was driven to do something about the "game" and spent every available minute online or on the phone...

I initially thought Sarah was not too pleased about this tack,
but she later told me they had told her this was what Dr Phil
was going to do and she was glad he did; she did get to talk
with him ahead of time, too. (Some assistant had been very rude to my sister when she and Sam were waiting for the taping; it was unbelievably rude and insensitive - this is what Sarah had been upset about.)

Anyway, after ten minutes or so of a very sensitive interview
and conversation with my sister (Dr Phil did most of the
talking but I have to say it sounded good to me), they brought Sam out, accompanied by a child psychologist who had met with him for about an hour to assess whether or not he could handle being on air and talking about Gabe. At first, Sarah told us,they had decided not to permit Sam in the studio for the taping because they were going to play the 911 call he made (and it was chilling and heartbreaking and so sad), but in the end, they brought him in after the call was played I think. (Sarah said they were going to leave him alone in the green room and this upset her as well). Then Dr Phil asked Sam some questions.Phil and Sarah went to sit on the edge of the stage so they could look right at Sam, and Phil made Sam tell Sarah what he was feeling. We were all in tears throughout this whole thing. They played photos of Gabe's beautiful face in the background,too, just before pauses for commercial breaks and as intros after the breaks...

After Sarah's interview, they did another segment about a boy who had flunked 8th grade because of his 'addiction' to text messaging, instant messaging, etc.. His mother had taken the phone away for two months when she got the news he flunked. She hid the phone in her pillowcase at night but he would come and get it; then she took the battery and hid that in a drawer. I don't know if this segment will run with Sarah's... it was excellent because it shows how far kids will go with technology.... 

After the taping, Dr Phil came out and took some questions; we had to sign a release form before, so who knows when these might be used, or even if; they were excellent - e.g. can a teen get arrested if someone dies as a result of choking another kid during a game? Phil said yes - it's a felony. My sister, a little cynical, thought the three people who asked questions were plants; but even if they were, I thought they were good questions. He then said that they had made an exception for Gabe's story because it was urgent. Usually if there isa death involved they won't ask a family to come on the show for a year because they don't want to interfere with the grieving process. Sarah was very impressd by this - it was a testament to how hard she has been working to alert parents, teachers, etc.

By the way, they offered Sarah and Sam four days and three
nights at a spa in Arizona so that they could have some time to bond again - I am not sure when they are going. Dr. Phil
offered the kid who flunked 8th grade and his mother therapy sessions as long as they promised to go to them and do what the therapist suggested. The first girl and her mom? He didn't offer anything to them that we heard.

Dr. Phil did acknowledge us but never really looked at us,
Sarah's family, except one tiny sideways glance - we were in
the front right section, facing the stage. This is funny, but
because I was going to be in a religious habit, they decided I should not be in the front in case it might upset someone (one of the producers who called me ahead of time told me that). I was in the second row at the extreme right - they had our names on a chart and we were escorted there before the show began.

Afterwards, we all left; Sarah and Sam got to go into a lunch room and chat briefly with Dr Phil, the psychologist, and a ton of other big shots. They took my sister Emilie, niece Jamie, friend Nora and I back there too, becasue we had to leave right away, just to say good-bye to Sarah and Sam but led us out very quickly.

By the time we got around to the parking lot, Sarah and Sam were coming out of a side door.

By the way, they flew Sarah and Sam to LA, put them up at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood for three nights, with meals. (Emilie and I went to see them the night before the taping - the World Music Awards were being taped that night at the Kodak Theater nearby but there were parties going on and glitterati in the hotel - and traffic was a bear.)

Except for the lady who was rude to Sarah, and the remarks
about wearing a religious habit 'upsetting' people (who knows, it might ...  but would they have said that to a Muslim woman? I suppose it was a hard call for them, but I think they should have done the seat assignments without saying why; the poducer was young and probably inexperienced), I thought it was a good event. Dr Phil
obviously has a well-oiled program and he gives practical, sound, insightful advice.

I almost forgot - I was very impressed by what Dr Phil said
after the taping and just before he walked off the stage. He
said that the reason he agreed to have his own show was to talk about the things in America no one else talks about, the hidden things that effect kids especially. "This, I believe," he said, "is the very best use we can make of television."


Sr Rose

PS If you ever get tickets to any taping of an hour long show, know that it will take the whole day. For us, we were out of the house by 8:00am and on our way home about 3:00pm. Bring a snack in your purse instead of a camera... and water. For Dr. Phil, there's only one ladies room with three stalls. And about 95 out of 100 people there were female. Just letting you know the lines can be long... We also had to wait outside a long time in the sun, though there was a long row of benches. When some of asked to move out of the sun, they let us down to the entrance level and we were able to sit on a row of benches in the shade. Because I need handicapped parking, they let us come
in a side gate and park closer to the stage; others had to park in a garage and take a shuttle bus to the entrance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Greatest Game Ever Played, The

          In the late 1800’s a poor family on the British island of Jersey is evicted from their home to make way for the construction of a golf course for gentlemen. The son, Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane), grows up to be the only six-time winner of the British Open Gold tournament in history. Years later when he is visiting Boston he gives tips to young Francis Ouimet who is fascinated by golf.


           Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) lives next to a golf course Brookline, MA and becomes a caddy. Although his father (Elias Koteas) disapproves, they make a bargain. If Francis loses, he will give up golf and reminds Francis that he should stay in his own social class. Francis signs up for an amateur tournament but he never gets beyond the qualifying round. Francis gets a job in a sports store. 


          In 1913, when Francis is 20 years old, the U.S. Open comes to Boston. Some of the men from the club who believe in Francis’ potential as an amateur convince him to compete against professionals, including Vardon. That tournament became known as the greatest game ever played. The only caddy left for Francis is a ten-year old named Eddie (Josh Flitter) who provides much of the humor and wisdom in the film.


 Vardon and Ouimet meet before the tournament.


       This film got my attention from the beginning. Actor Bill Paxton (A Simple Plan, U-571) directs and the writing by Mark Frost (the script is based on his own book) uses dialogue sparingly so that we focus on the action. It was a big surprise to me that there is plenty of it. 


       The Greatest Game Ever Played is a typical Disney feel-good movie, inspirational and all, but it has much dignity. One of the strongest themes is social status and social class. We learn that Vardon is a Catholic and the British golf association decides to let him in, even though he is not in their class. I am glad the writer used this theme because it highlights that greatness does not come from birth, but from the true character of a man.


 Francis with his fast-talking ten-year old caddy, Eddie


           The film also helped me understand golf a little better. For someone who would rather watch water boil than look at golf, this is a true confession. (I also have a wonderful nephew who is an outstanding player and is going to college on a golf scholarship, so I guess I’d better like it.)J



Saturday, September 17, 2005

Lord of War

Yuri Orlav (Nicolas Cage) immigrated to Little Odessa in Brooklyn when he was a young boy in the early 1980’s. Besides his parents (played by Shake Tukhmanyan and  Jean-Pierre Nshanian) his little brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) came as well. Although the family was Catholic, it was easier to get out of the USSR if you were Jewish, so the family took on that identity and opened a kosher restaurant in Brighton Beach.


One day when Yuri was grown and doing nothing in particular, he entered another restaurant - just as Russian mobsters came in a mowed down some people with automatic rifles. Then their main target stood up and shot the two hit men. It was then that Yuri realized how significant firearms were to people and decided to become an arms dealer. After all, he says in the voice over, there are 550 million firearms in the world; that’s a gun for one out of every twelve people. The question is: how do we get guns to the other eleven?


Yuri takes his brother to a gun show in Berlin and asks an arms dealer, Simeon Weisz (Ian Holm) to consider him as a partner. Weisz turns him down so Yuri proceeds on a small scale. Meanwhile he marries the girl of his dreams, a model named Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan). She suspects that Yuri is into something but never inquires. They have a son, Nicolai (Jack Niccol). When the Red Curtain falls, Yuri contacts a relative in the Ukraine, a military officer, and gets access to millions of dollars worth of armaments and sells them to every country - or group - he can reach that is at war. Meanwhile, Vitaly expresses doubt about gun running and descends into cocaine addiction and goes to rehab.


Interpol has its eye on Yuri and Agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke) catches up with him many times, only to find that the evidence is gone and he cannot hold Yuri on any charges. Then when Yuri discovers what a ripe customer the African continent is, he gets caught in difficult relationships with the dictators of Sierra Leone and Liberia in particular. Although his conscience nudges him, and his brother and wife articulate concern over his activities, Yuri keeps going, ever the optimistic, sophisticated gun runner. He does it because he’s good at it. He keeps on doing it, even when tragedy and loss hit him the hardest.


Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who gave us The Truman Show, Gattaca, Simone, and The Terminal, Lord of War is a chilling expose’ of legal gun running, based on a true story. Niccol’s films, so far, have invited us to reflect on our humanity; Lord of War, a dark comedy, demands that we do so.


There is one one very subtle sign that Yuri and his ilk will one day have to answer to God. Yuri's father, though Not Jewish, lives as one. He especially he loves wearing the hat typical of orthodox Jews. His wife yells at him about it, and he says he likes to wear it because it reminds him that God is above him.


Nicholas Cage plays the amoral Yuri with charm, and Bridget Moynahan as his wife Ava, seems at first to be a minor player. But she is the one who tells Yuri when she discovers what he is doing, “I have been a failure all my life, but I will not be a failure as a human being.”


Lord of War is an engrossing tale about the business and effects of gun running that is not illegal: especially the plight of child soldiers much like the recent film release Innocent Voices. Lord of War tells us that the biggest arms manufacturers in the world are the U.S., the U.K., Russia, France, and China – all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. But it is Yuri who says it best: “Who will inherit the earth? The arms dealers.” Ironically it is Yuri who says, as he tries to rationalize his activities, “It has been said that evil prevails when good men do nothing.” Believers will want to see this film through the filter of Catholic social teaching. Lord of War is not comfortable viewing, but necessary for responsible citizens who care about people we don’t see. And seeing this film may make us ask about the news stories we don't see and question just how it is we can live in freedom the way we do in this age of globalized economics. We might also ask who it is that profits from war.


To tell you the truth, I thought that this film was like a narrative version of Michael Moore's Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine that traced the reality of guns in our culture and the culture of violence this breeds.


I think this film is a must-see.

Unfinished Life, An

Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford) lives on a broken down cattle ranch outside of a small town in a beautiful valley in Wyoming. He is about seventy years old, and cares for his friend of forty years, Mitch (Morgan Freeman), who lives in a cabin near the ranch house. Einar is edgy and crusty; Mitch is partially disabled and in pain. They argue with one another as old friends. Each day Einar milks the one remaining cow and visits his son Griff’s grave on the hillside. His wife left him when he started drinking after his son died. One morning he discovers bear prints. An old foe has returned.


Far away in Iowa a young woman, Jean Gilkyson (Jennifer Lopez) is battered by her boyfriend Gary (Damian Lewis). She finally flees with her eleven year old daughter, Griff (Becca Gardner). Jean decides to take refuge with her father-in-law Einar until she gets on her feet. Griff is astounded to learn she has a grandfather.


When they arrive at the ranch, Einar is less than welcoming but surprised to find he has a granddaughter. Jean tells him she was pregnant at her husband Griff’s funeral.  Einar blames Jean for his son’s death, but begrudgingly gives Jean and his granddaughter a room to stay in.


Einar goes to hunt for the bear, the one that attacked and injured Mitch. As he is about to shoot it, the sheriff (Josh Lucas) arrives with an animal unit and they take the bear to a local zoo.


Over the course of a few weeks, Jean gets a job at the café in town and Griff spends time with her grandfather and Mitch. When Gary shows up, Einar and the sheriff rough him up and kick him out of town. Meanwhile Mitch asks Einar to visit the bear. “Why?” asks the irritable Einar. “Because I asked you to,” answers Mitch. Einar goes to see the bear, filled with hate. A few days later, Mitch asks Einar to take food to the bear. Einar prepares chunks of beef and Griff teaches him that bears like honey, so he covers the meat with the sweet stuff.


Einar likes having Griff around and starts to teach her something about his old truck. He even teaches her how to ride a horse and together they visit her father’s grave.


Meanwhile, Jean seduces the sheriff, and Einar is not impressed. Jean gets angry and makes Griff move with her to the home of the woman who owns the café (Camryn Manheim). But Griff rebels and goes home to be with her grandfather. "Did you walk back here all by yourself?" "Yes." "Why?" "Because I was hungry." Griff responds. There is always another question lingering: hate for whom? Hunger for what? The beauty of this film is that we know the answer and we don't mind.


Einar and Griff begin to hatch a plot to kidnap the bear. Just then Gary returns and events move along to the climax of the film – and that’s all I can tell you.


An Unfinished Life may sound like a low termperature movie, and in some ways it is. Based on the novel by Mark Spragg, it is filmed and directed in the quietly lyrical manner we have come to expect from director Lasse Hallstrom. The natural setting of the film is old, wild, broken down, the landscape craggy and beautiful - like the characters. However, it is not a perfect film. Jennifer Lopez’s character could have been more developed; as it was, she came off as a minor character because we expected stability after such a rough life, but got immaturity instead.


Redford and Freeman exude dignity and their sparring makes us think we are there, and that this isn’t a movie but real life. Their old friendship anchors the story, and the presence of the bear, as threat and symbol of guilt and grief, ties the plot together. The main characters are those played by Redford, Freeman, and a wonderful newcomer, Becca Gardner. When the film is over, these are the ones we remember and characters we would like to know.


I think that Lopez and Lucas are distracting to the story, but this does not make the viewing of this mellow, classic-style Western-flavored Hollywood movie any less enjoyable. It is very moving, and however predictable, and whatever its flaws, An Unfinished Life has the power to move us and to ask, like the characters, why we always want what we cannot have – and then look with gratitude on what comes to us. Alone we cannot stand, but together, as family and community, we are strong.


This is one to see on a Sunday afternoon.

Monday, September 12, 2005

40 Year Old Virgin, The

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell, The Office, Bruce Almighty) works in the back room of an electronics store. He lives quietly at home, alone, collecting collectibles, playing video games, watching Survivor with his neighbors, and riding his bike to work.


One day the guys at the store invite him to a poker game. When the talk and bragging turns to chicks and babes, Andy tries to keep up but cannot because he has no experience. He’s a virgin. So four of the guys decide to help him get laid. Meanwhile, the woman who runs a shop across the street, Trish (Catherine Keener), meets Andy in the store and gives him her phone number.


Rather than funny, The 40 Year Old Virgin is extremely skummy because of the language. I thought My Cousin Vinny (a film I like a lot) held the Olympic record for the f word, but this is it and worse. The thing is, the guys, Andy “friends”, are externalizing their own insecurity and angst about women and sexuality via language. They have no imagination, act like idiots, and are immature. These guys, David (Paul Rudd), Ray (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogen) think they are mature because they have had so much sex, and by the end they realize they don’t have anything. (Which is a good thing to realize...)


I didn't think the film was funny except for when they waxed Andy’s chest. It doesn't really teach kids (who are seeing this even if you think they aren’t; at the very least they are talking about it) to wait until marriage (which Andy and Trish do) but to respect people who do want to wait to have sex after marriage - a choice among choices. In effect, the film is nihilism (that underpins so much of modern American morality) parading as comedy. However, if you can get beyond the foulness, the film does show the downside of not waiting and what it does to relationships. So maybe it has one redeeming quality.


I was disappointed that the filmmakers chose to make the film culturally diverse by using Indian actors (Shelly Malil; Gerry Bednob) in the cast and then portray them as low as everyone else.


You can bet kids are seeing The 40 Year Old Virgin despite the R-rating. Smart parents will find a way to talk about the film in sublte ways because the film's presence is pervasive. Some issues: the benefits of waiting to have sex until after marriage and explain the beauty of chastity - and why chastity is the physically and spiritually healthy choice. (Do your kids even know what the word “chastity” means? I have discovered when talking with teens that many have never even heard of the word.) Use the film as an opportunity to talk about this important subject. The DVD will be out in about twelve weeks, so yes, they will see it at their friend’s house.


I thought the scene at the birth control clinic about other options for sexual pleasure instead of intercourse was poorly done, even though this is where Andy finally admits to Trish's 16 year old daughter - and the group - that he's a virgin. (He has his own immaturity issues.) But of course, if the characters are smoking pot and drinking to fill their spare time, what more would you expect?


The characters talk dirty because they can, not because they have brains. Although Andy is endearing and sweet, it's not
enough to save this picture with its lazy and unimaginative writing. The premise is all about guys - and doesn't seem to respect women. Men who don’t respect women don’t respect themselves, either - and we see this in the film. All of the women have too many hormones, just like the guys. And Trish shows she can get really hysterical - that lovely old Freudian cliche'.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Exorcism of Emily Rose, The

Theological Horror: The Exorcism of Emily Rose


On a bleak, cold, dark November day, a man arrives at an isolated old, sinister-looking Victorian farmhouse situated in the middle of nowhere. The farm and house look abandoned at first, but a priest appears in a second floor window and beckons to the man below. Inside, cats screech, an old clock ticks steadily, statues of saints and a crucifix look down on a woman and her teen children. The man is the medical examiner come to pronounce a nineteen year-old girl, Emily (Jennifer Carpenter), dead. The sheriff is already there and takes the priest into custody. Fr. Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is charged with negligent homicide because it seems that he convinced Emily to stop taking her medication in favor of an exorcism to heal her of her affliction.


 Jennifer Carpenter as Emily


The Catholic archdiocese hires Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), an ambitious and agnostic attorney to defend Fr. Moore on condition that he takes a generous plea agreement. However her boss, Karl Gunderson (Colm Feore), tells her that if he goes to trial and insists on taking the stand, the archdiocese will refuse to pay his bail. Erin tries to convince the priest but he insists on going to trial and taking the stand. He says the only thing that will give Emily’s death meaning is for him to tell her story. The prosecuting attorney is Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a practicing Methodist who believes only in facts.


The trial begins and the tale of demonic possession is told through flashbacks. When Emily gets a full scholarship to a university to become a teacher, her tired mother seems to have a premonition that something ominous is going to happen. Indeed, one dark, stormy night, Emily is alone in her dormitory and is wakened at 3:00am. She smells smoke. When she goes to explore, she is greatly frightened by banging doors and loud sounds and runs back to bed. She is overtaken by a heavy presence that presses on her chest and then invades her. Her face is distorted and her body goes into impossible contortions. When the doctor examines her, he finds an epileptic focus in her brain and prescribes medication.  Even though she takes it, the “seizures” do not stop. She is unable to eat and is losing weight. She is then diagnosed as psychotic as well. Eventually she must return home for care.


Mr. and Mrs. Rose (Andrew Wheeler; Marilyn Norry) call in Father Moore, their parish priest. He asks Emily if she would agree to an exorcism. He requests and receives permission from the archdiocese to carry out the exorcism. Emily agrees and in the presence of a psychiatrist, Dr. Cartwright (Duncan Fraiser), Mr. Rose and a school friend, Jason (Joshua Close), Fr. Moore performs the exorcism. It is All Hallow’s Eve when, the priest later explains, the spirit world is traditionally more agitated. But the exorcism of Emily’s six devils does not work; Emily bursts from the room and flees to the barn where the cats scream and she eats roaches and other insects. The next day, she writes a letter to Fr. Moore asking him to tell her story. She dies with horrible wounds soon after.


The Exorcism of Emily Rose is not a remake of The Exorcist, though like its famed predecessor, now a horror classic, it claims to be based on a true story. In 1976 two priests in Bavaria convinced a 23-year old woman named Annaliese Michele to stop taking her medication and submit to an exorcism. When she later died they were convicted of negligent homicide. 


Theology of Horror


This is Presbyterian director and co-writer (with Paul Harris Boardman) Scott Derrickson’s fourth feature-length foray into the cosmos of demonic horror, beginning with Hellraiser: Inferno in 2001. Emily shows that Derrickson has not moved far from the via negativa approach he has to salvation or spirituality for that matter. These two films in particular try to show that God exists because the devil does. Both films are apologetic in nature, though Emily shows Derrickson’s continuing sophistication as a filmmaker and what a much bigger budget and an A-list cast can do.


St. Augustine defined theology as “faith seeking understanding.” To do this, The Exorcism of Emily Rose juxtaposes several elements or themes to create a dialectic: the faith of a gothic-looking and living rural Catholic family with the citified legal system and courtroom, the agnosticism of one attorney, and the belief in facts of another,  the testimony of a non-Christian anthropologist, Dr. Adani, played by Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) who testifies that primitive and undeveloped cultures believe in evil and the demonic because they experience it with the testimony of a neurologist. Dr. Adani’s testimony underpins defense attorney Bruner’s strategy to prove that the possibility of the devil and possession exists. In interviews, director Scott Derrickson refers to listening to tapes of an exorcism that took place in New York, a technique he uses in the film to great effect to help the jury, and us, experience the demonic presence even if we cannot see it.


H.P. Lovecraft  (1890 - 1937) was a master of weird fiction and among his many works wrote a treatise called Supernatural Horror in Literature in 1927. In it he addresses the nature of fear of the unknown: “uncertainty and danger are always closely allied; thus making any kind of an unknown world a world of peril and evil possibilities.” This fear extends into the unknown world of unexplained supernatural realities, that is, religion. Derrickson’s cosmos relies on the usual visual gothic horror techniques (bleak landscapes, darkness, cats, a full moon, the 3:00A.M. witching hour, an exorcism on Halloween), and on the dualism of metaphysical good vs. evil, expressed through Christian notions of God vs. the devil. God may be in his heaven, but all is not right with the world with Lucifer inhabiting an innocent young girl – and we had better pay attention.


Catholic or Calvinistic?


Certainly the Catholic visuals in the film let us know that we are in a Catholic household, though not a joyful one, even in the flashbacks. Tom Wilkinson as Father Moore is excellent and believable as the parish priest, but the heavy influence of the non-present archdiocese that abandons Fr. Moore doesn’t ring true, though it contributes to the malevolent ambiance of the film as well as a growing sense of loneliness. I have never attended an exorcism, but the ritual in the film that has Fr. Moore demanding to know the devil’s name seemed more important than commanding him to depart. The consent of the local bishop and the person to be exorcized is necessary, and the film respects these requirements very much. (The 1999 revised document De Exorcismus et supplicationibus quibusdamConcerning Exorcisms and Certain Supplications” is only in Latin and has not been published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in either language for the general public.)  I had to laugh when Emily’s knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew - languages she speaks through the presence of the devil - is attributed to her attending “catechism school” where these subjects are not taught. These are, however, details.


It is towards the end of the film, when Fr. Moore finally finishes telling Emily’s story, that a kind of Calvinistic determinism in revealed. Fr. Moore says that Emily died because she had “accepted her fate” to give witness to the existence and activity of the devil. Fr. Moore is resigned to his own fate as well. Moore chooses the epitaph for Emily’s grave marker from Philippians 2:12: “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.”  Given that this is a horror film we don’t expect much light. We accept the gothic darkness, but this kind of theology, “faith seeking understanding”, seems rather manipulative to me. Fear is a medieval way to bring people to God that does not invite a free response to faith, nor hint at God’s loving providence. Erin, the agnostic lawyer, who remembers that her middle name is “Christine”, wears a locket with her initials as a kind of charm to ward off the evil powers at work during the trial. But faith and Christian living are so much more than the sum total of fear of the devil on a dark and rainy night. This more than anything is why The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a horror film.


The Devil or Mental Illness?


In 2001 John L. Allen, Jr., author and Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter wrote in that paper about “knowing when to exorcise and when to refer for psychiatric treatment is a nagging problem for priests.” He quotes Detroit Father J.M. Mahoney who attests, for example, that what may seem like demonic possession may be multiple personality disorder. Mahoney believes that the process must follow the outline in the Roman ritual and that the diagnosis of diabolical possession must be confirmed by the bishop of a diocese before an exorcism can be performed, as is clearly demonstrated in Emily Rose.


      The main debate in The Exorcism of Emily Rose is between those who believe that Emily’s condition was physical andmental and therefore indicated medication and the decision of Emily and Fr. Moore to forego the medication when it failed to stop her convulsions, screaming in Latin, and twisting her body into impossible shapes, especially during the exorcism itself. Fr. Moore is brought to trial over the very issue John  Allen’s article addresses. How the film decides this debate in the final courtroom scene has the potential to evoke conversations between the faith and scientific community. To blame it all on the devil, is perhaps, too facile and even a dangerous solution. To ignore the devil, is to do so at your own peril. There is no doubt about the filmmaker’s ideology.


Dr. William Sessions, author and scholar of English and American literature and friend of Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, did a great service to the consideration of art, the horror genre, and faith when he wrote:


“I think Flannery O’Connor would have agreed with the basic premise of composition of that product of British Catholic schools, the film director Alfred Hitchcock. ‘Ours is not to reason why,’ Hitchcock once said, ‘ours is just to scare the hell out of people.’”


The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a supernatural horror film that gives witness to the existence of the devil - and more than likely it will do for viewers just what Hitchcock declares.


 Jennifer Carpenter as Emily

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Entertainment Industry and Katrina

Posted with permission from; this blog will only accept a certain number of words, so I am posting here the information about what the Entertainment Industry is doing to help in this situation. For web sites and phone numbers of where you cn donate and/or find/contact relatives in the gulf area, please see for the impressive list they have gathered.

Cynopsis - Hurricane Katrina Relief Funds

Good morning.  It's Tuesday, September 6, 2005, and this a Special Edition of Cynopsis dedicated entirely to the relief fund efforts of Hurricane Katrina. This issue is designed to provide you with a wide variety of places accepting donations, both national and local organizations, and what different companies in our industry are doing to reach out.  There is also a list of informational websites to help locate family members and friends across the Gulf Coast states.  I have checked out nearly every link here and belief them all to be bonafide, though that is left to your final discretion.

Efforts from those in our entertainment industry:

  • Cynopsis is working with Good Bears of the World, providing teddy bears to the smallest victims of Hurricane Katrina who are in need of mental aid as well as physical aid.  Cynopsis readers can go to to donate.  Be sure to click on Cynopsis in the drop down menu asking Where Did You Hear About Us?, that way, all monies received from you and me will be logged in a special Cynopsis account.  Each time enough money is raised to buy a case of teddy bears (24 bears, $146 per case), Good Bears of the World will match with an additional case.  This is a greatorganization who has worked during national disasters before including 9/11. They will be sending bears to all the shelters in the affected areas and neighboring states where evacuees are being housed.
  • Friday at 8p, ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The WB, UPN and PBS will join forces to air ?Shelter from the Storm:  A Concert for the Gulf Coast" to raise funds, airing commercial free. Joel Gallen, who produced ?America: A Tribute to Heroes? telethon in September 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, will exec prod.   Means and method for donation, as well as additional information regarding those taking part in the special, will be announced at a later date.
  • All A&E Television Networks are assisting school districts affected by Katrina, by spearheading an educational outreach program.
  • Regional news channel Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay, FL is partnering with Bright House Networks, Infinity Broadcasting and the American Red Cross to raise funds for hurricane disaster relief.
  • Aids Alliance for Children, Youth & Families has established the Katrina AIDS Alliance Emergency Fund to assist those programs throughout southern Louisiana and Mississippi.  Donations can be sent to: AIDS Alliance/Katrina Fund, 1600 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington DC 20006.
  • Belo Corp. & Belo Foundation created the WWL-TV Employee Relief Fund, where 100% of all donations will go to WWL employees affected
  • BET will air a telethon on Friday, September 9, 7:30 - 10 pm ET (taped-delayed to the West Coast, and pledge phone lines will remain open), to be preceded by a special benefit episode of 106 & Park: BET's Top 10 Live.  Telethon partners include the National Urban League, American Red Cross, Hip Hop Summit Action Network Chairman Russell Simmons, Kevin Liles and the Warner Music Group, and Essence Communications.
  • Cable One has set up a crisis team to work on getting basic supplies to Cable One employees and their families in the Gulf Coast, and is looking ahead to providing temporary housing and financial assistance.  All employees are still being paid and will have jobs to return to when it is safe to do so.  The team is keeping a master list of thestatus of associates in the affected region. Cable One will make a major donation to a relief organization to help the entire Gulf Coast community. Parent company The Washington Post Company is establishing a tax-free charitable fund, called the Community Fund, to aid impacted employees.  The company will also match all employee contributions.
  • Comcast Corporation and the Comcast Foundation is coordinating an internal campaign to purchase gift cards from Wal-mart, Target, Home Depot and Lowe's for employees in the affected areas.  Systems have also been sending ice, food and water to affected employees and their communities. 
  • Cox Communications has set up the Cox Employee Disaster Relief Fund, 6205 Peachtree Dunwoody Road., Atlanta, GA 30328, attn: Leigh Ann Launius.
  • DirecTV has launched a dedicated channel (Channel 100) where viewers can email text messages that will be displayed on the channel in an effort to help reunite families and friends. Messages can be sent to or via cellphone to text code 48433. Other information includes road closures, location, and phone numbers of shelters, and shelter-opening notices. The channel will also be distributed to the shelters
  • A fund has been set up for the staffers of the local newspaper, called Friends of the Times-Picayune newspaper, many of whom like other residents of the area, have lost their homes. If you'd like to contribute, please make  checks payable to Sterling Bank, Account #151027625. Mail to Sterling Bank, Bayou Bend Office, 5757 Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas 77007-8000.
  • Insight Communications is reopening the Insight New York Relief Fund for donations to assist those affected by Katrina.  Employee contributions are tax-deductible, and Insight will match all employee contributions.  Employees can contribute by check or payroll deduction, through December 23, 2005.  Insight will distribute the contributions to relief organizations based on how effective the organizations are in minimizing administrative costs and how quickly they can assist those in need.
  • Inspirations Networks has a partnership with Convoy of Hope, a disaster relief organization based in Springfield, MO. Convoy of Hope brings trucks loaded with water, ice, food and other supplies to areas affected by disaster.  Three trucks arrived in Louisiana and Mississippi on Sunday, August 28, with an additional twenty-two scheduled to arrive during this week.  The most immediate need for Convoy of Hope is cash and corporate sponsorship.  It costs $6,000 to fill a relief truck.  Donations can be made corporately and individually, and are tax-deductible.  Credit card donations can be made at  For any company that donates $3,000, INSP will donate the other $3,000 to supply a truck. Inspiration Networks is also airing a Concert of Hope special on all of its networks to raise funds for the INSP/Convoy of Hope effort, and has cross-channel spots that can be run on networks and systems.
  • Motorola is providing equipment and technical support to meet critical communications needs in the affected areas.  Three emergency communications trailers have been delivered, in addition to other technical supplies.
  • MTV, VH1 and CMT will simulcast a multi-artist, multi-genre, multi-platform live performance special, ReAct Now: Music & Relief on Saturday, September 10, which will seek to raise funds for the American Red Cross and similar relief organizations.  MTV2, mtvU, VH1 Classic, and broadband video networks MTV Overdrive and VSpot will also simulcast the special.  Country, pop, rock and hip hop artists will perform from New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Nashville.  Additionally, mtvU will partner with its nearly 7 million college students and collegiate organizations and Urban Outfitters to mobilize clothing drives, donations and volunteer relief efforts; mtvU will air special features from the affected universities and highlight the relief work of students unable to return to their schools.
  • The National Association of Broadcasters is rolling out its $100 million hurricane relief effort with "Broadcast Unity for Katrina Relief", where radio and television stations are asked to dedicate a minimum of 60-seconds at the top of each hour to air a fundraising message, and consider radiothons, telethons and phone banks to generate money for Hurricane Katrina relief. The NAB has designed this Friday, September 9 as Broadcast Unity Day and is working with the American Red Cross with its donations.
  • NATPE's blog Penthouse 10 as a place for information on multiple ways to help and also for comments of support to the folks affected. and also at
  • Nielsen Media in Chicago is working with the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana who are in need of money, feeding thousands of people from New Orleans.  Also need personal hygiene items such as deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, tampons and pads, razors etc. We are also accepting donations of clothing as well.  Checks can be made out to the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana, 2307 Texas Ave, Shreveport, LA 71103
  • The Toy Industry Foundation has launched The Toy Bank to bring toys to charities that serve children in need, and has selected Gifts In Kind International as the link between donor companies and recipient charities. For donation forms and questions, contact Gifts in Kind International at (703) 836-2121 or the Toy Industry Foundation at (212) 675-1141.
  • Tribune created the WGNO/WNOL Emergency Fund for employees, where again 100% of all donations will go to employees affected
  • Urban Gospel Alliance (UGA) has aligned with, who recently established an emergency fund for victims of Hurricane Katrina. is currently assembling care packages for shipment to survivors of the devastated areas. UGA will be hosting a series of benefit concerts and events for the sole purposes of soliciting donations to assist's efforts.
  • WWE is working with Americares, an international relief organizations based in Stamford, Conn. Americares has response teams in Mississippi and is sending in relief shipments of cleaning and hygiene supplies, and other materials.  You can donate to Americares by calling 1-800-486-HELP or going to

Additionally, numerous media outlets are teaming with the American Red Cross
including E!, The Style, The Juliana Theory, NATPE, Univision, A&E Networks, ESPN and ESPN Radio, Fox Cable Networks, Lifetime, MTV Networks, USA Network, Scripps Networks, Turner Broadcasting, The Weather Channel, Cynopsis: In Your Ear daily podcast, Adelphia Communications, Charter Comm., Comcast Corp and Comcast Foundation, Time Warner Cable, US Cable, CommScope, Motorola, NCTA, The Mattel Children?s Foundation, Warner Music Group, Scholastic, EchoStar/DISH Network.  Many of these companies are also providing PSA on-air time to promote donations.

I hope thru the lists above, you'll find some avenue to donate to those down South.

Later -- Cyn
09.06.05  - 10:18am
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Copyright Cynthia Turner 2005

Canticle of New Orleans

This was written by one of our Sisters who is from New Orelans... R

Canticle of New Orleans

By Margaret Charles Kerry, fsp

Waters of the earth, bless your Maker. 
Be kind to the people who need you to quench their thirst.
Hold back your raging destruction of flood and overflowing banks.
Be kind to the city that sings about you in legend,
that travels over you to unknown places.
Unite people - do not disperse them.
Waters of the earth, bless the Lord!

Winds of sky, bless your Maker.
Keep cool breezes flowing over the people of God.
Keep away disease and danger by your healing movement.
Hold back your anger in storm and destructive power in tornado.
Be kind to the city that knows when you caress the land
and keep the heat from overtaking the plants and livestock.
Remind people of God's care.
Winds of the sky, bless the Lord!

City of humanity, bless your Maker.

Keep your people safe who have built you.
Allow them to write music, sing, play and dance
in praise of God-given life.
Keep those in leadership from misusing what is gifted
by the unity of men and women, children and family.
Be kind to the City that brings happiness to so many.
Be kind to her history that tells the human story.
May the city be a city on a hill that shines God's light.
May your music, dance, and food be a foretaste
of the eternal banquet.
City of humanity, bless the Lord!

People of God, bless your Maker.
Keep hope in your hearts in time of distress.
Give hope to those around you 
and know that you are loved
by those who worry about you
in your distress.
Reach out to those who are near.
Reach from afar in times of trouble –
reach in prayer if you can't reach physically.
Let us ask forgiveness when our response to trouble
seems slow and unthoughtful.
Open your hearts to those who are vulnerable.
People of God, bless the Lord!

People of New Orleans, bless your Maker.
Know that you are loved.
Know that the rain, wind and water that bless the city
and surround it as a hug outside of times like this
will return to their banks and sky.
Your hope is our hope. May we share what we have
with you as you share your faith with us.
We reach you in prayer even as we long to reach
you with a helping hand and pluck you from distress.
We share in your distress and hold in our hearts
your pain and sorrow. May God renew you!
People of New Orleans, bless the Lord!

“This poem came from the depths of my own struggle with the tragedy in New Orleans my home city. I too am still looking for lost family friends, friends from Chapelle Highschool (our 30th anniversary was going to be celebrated this September 10th at the Yacht Club), and people with whom I worked in ministry.

“Our history as a people has created a culture of blessing. Music that wafted in our streets was made from the stuff of deep joy and overbearingsorrow. In our joy we bless, in our tears we bless, in our loss we bless. In our lives we now hope to bless one another.

“My parents lost their house of 30 years last year in Hurricane Ivan. They lost the family Bible, and heirlooms handed on to them that they would have handed on to grandchildren, friends and neighbors. The large six-foot statue of the Sacred Heart in our house, left to our family by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in New Orleans, was smashed. But there in the rubble was the heart from that statue. There was the sign of hope that God's love does not abandon us. Their life now centers on people who have suffered more than they have, the people in nursing homes, those who are abandoned and homeless, those without hope. And this faith that has been passed on to me was nourished by the people of New Orleans. The heart that is now enshrined in my parents’ temporary home is a sign that  ‘Deep waters cannot quench love’ (Sg 8:7).  This is the heart that now beats inside of all of us for those who are suffering from Hurricane Katrina.”

Margaret Charles Kerry, FSP, is a native of New Orleans and a Daughter of St. Paul. She can be reached at Website:; BLOG:

Copyright © 2005, Daughters of St. Paul. Reprinted with permission.

Permission is granted for the free reproduction of the Canticle of New Orleans in newspapers, magazines, bulletins, websites, or in photocopied format, provided that the entire Canticle and the author byline and credit is printed with the Canticle.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Constant Gardner, The

A garden-loving, mild-mannered, single British diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) returns to London to give a speech in the place of Sir Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy), the Queen’s ambassador to Kenya. When Justin finishes the boring speech a young woman, Tessa (Rachel Weisz) confronts him and asks piercing questions about the role of the British in the current war in Iraq. The audience, embarrassed by her, departs but when Justin approaches her she apologizes and asks him out for a drink. They end up at her apartment in Chelsea.  As he prepares to return to Nairobi she asks him to take her along in any way he can so they are married.


As Justin goes about his gardening in Kenya he uses a pesticide to kills weeds. One day, the now pregnant Tessa comes home with Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Kounde) in tow. She works with him but Justin does not ask why, nor does she tell him. When she sees the package of weed-killer in Justin hands, she confronts him and he is profoundly mystified by her outrage.


Later, when Tessa returns from a trip upcountry, she asks him to check an incoming email. It is from a friend saying she had seen Tessa and Arnold together at the Hilton and did Justin know? Justin is confused but Tessa herself admits being there and he feels better. On another occasion he overhears her talking to someone about their marriage of convenience. He feels sad but she makes every effort to show how much she does love him though it becomes evident she has been using him from the beginning.


Another diplomat, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston) knows what Tessa is up to, as does the local Scotland Yard chief, Donohue (Donald Sumpter) because at a party one night Tessa very unsubtly and loudly questions them about medical testing practices in the country. Sandy, who seems to be a friend of Justin, is very attracted to Tessa.


Tessa loses the baby. At the hospital the young girl in the next bed dies after giving birth, tended to by a mysterious white doctor, Lorbeer (Pete Postlethwaite). The girl’s 12-year old brother walked 40 kilometers with her to get to the hospital. As Justin and Tessa drive home, they see the boy and a woman carrying the baby. Tessa wants to give them a ride, but Justin refuses saying taht there are thousands of people who need help and he needs to help her get home. Tessa explodes and says that they cannot help everyone but they can help these three people right now. Justin's level social awareness is nowhere near that of Tessa.


Tessa goes upcountry again for a couple of days with Arnold. Sandy comes to see Justin at home in his garden with the bad news that a white woman and a black man have been found dead, burned to death, in their car. Justin goes to identify her. By the time he gets home, the government has confiscated her computer, disks and files, looking especially for a letter that Pelegrin had written to Sandy about a comprehensive report Tessa had sent to the ambassador about native people dying as a result of testing and treatment for TB.


Justin, who realizes from Tessa’s writings that she not only loved him very much but was involved in investigating inhumane practices by a pharmaceutical company endorsed by the British and Kenyan governments, realizes he must find out how she died and why. But he is being watched and warned, and as he returns to London follow the clues to the truth that his wife knew from the very beginning, he is being watched, his passport is confiscated. As the sense of danger is heightened, so is Justin's determination to leave the comfortable safety of his limited existence to face reality.


This outstanding, riveting, gritty, thriller of a film is based on the novel by spy-master John La Carre’. The cross-cutting editing style that takes us backward and forward in time and makes us pay attention is reminiscent of other films such as The English Patient, Cold Mountain, 21 Grams, Crash, etc. But the grainy photography is never lush – except at the very end when the bare beauty of the African desert startles us. The hand-held camera style creates the impression of discomfort which is consistent with the heartbreaking story about the African people we are experiencing.  If Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) wanted to elicit outrage from us by his filmmaking, he succeeds. The film made me cry.


Ralph Fiennes plays against type as the shy low level diplomat, and Rachel Weisz is totally credible as an informed, awake crusader of humanity. 


Although the word globalization is never used, this story is as up-to-date as any we have heard about food practices resulting in starvation in underdeveloped countries, or the copyrighting of food DNA by American universities and companies in order to eventually receive “ royalties” when foreign farmers plant the seeds and harvest the produce, except that the film targets trans-national pharmaceutical companies who test vaccines and medicines on “expendable people that no one misses or cares about anyway.” We are also given a glimpse of existing conditions in the Sudan as well where Dr. Lorbeer exiles himself to make reparation for his part in the growing scandal.


As you may have noticed, examples of how the West treats African people was highlighted earlier this year in Sahara, excruciatingly in Hotel Rwanda, and now, with a poignant, heart-wrenching tale of who the weeds are and where the weeds are really growing, in The Constant Gardner. This is a movie with a message: globalization, whatever its benefits, relies on bottom-line thinking that expends people. The film reminds us that all people have value, and that there are heroes willing to speak - and die - for those who have no voice or are rendered invisible by lack of media coverage in the West or developed nations.


Seeing this during this week when the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina is an on-going human disaster in the American South only makes me think – and pray - about what’s really important and what I can do to raise awareness about injustice and take positive action to aid my brothers and sisters wherever they are. Understanding the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching, based on Scripture and Tradition are worth contemplating. Here is an paper I wrote about Globalization, Hollywood and Catholic Social Teaching you may want to check out: 


I am reading about the Lost Boys of the Sudan. 60 Minutes had a segment on recent troubles in the Sudan last Sunday but they failed to mention that this is a country that has been in a state of crisis, starvation, and child soldiering since about 1985. Millions have starved to death in the last two years. This book is beautifully crafted and written with a cadence that makes it all seem so real.

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng and Benjamin Ajak

Be sure to watch for the release of Innocent Voices in October. It is another strong, moving story about the powerful vs. the weak, that is, gross and grave social injustices endorsed by the West.


PS So far this year, Crash was at the top of my Ten Best Films List. The Constant Gardner just changed that.


1) The Constant Gardner

2) Crash

3) Hotel Rwanda

4) Innocent Voices... and others...

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Brothers Grimm, The


In the late 1700’s in Germany a young boy, Jacob goes to search for medicine for his small sister. When he returns with a handful of beans instead of medicine, his brother Wilhelm browbeats him. After all, Jacob believes what the man told him about the beans, that they are magic and will cure his sister.


By 1796 the two brothers, Will (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) have become a couple of charlatans who travel around French-occupied Germany ridding towns and villages of witches and such. They are summoned to one town, listen to their troubles, write up a price estimate for their services, and carry out a kind of exorcism. They collect their considerable fee, and their two helpers who demand more pay for carrying out their successful ruse – again. 


They are apprehended at their next stop by an Italian soldier Cavaldi (Peter Stormare) who hauls them in front of Napoleon’s general Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce) who sentences them to death for their shenanigans. However, several young girls have disappeared from a village nearby Delatombe promises the men their freedom if they can find the girls.


Being frauds, the two men have to improvise. Jacob writes down the stories they hear in a journal while Will seems to be the brains in the outfit. They must go into the dark woods to find the girls and the only one who knows the forest is a young woman, Angelika (Lena Heady). She draws pictures of her family and though she seems unsympathetic, she mourns the loss of her father and her two younger sisters, the first children to disappear.


From here on out, director Terry Gilliam’s fantastical visual story-telling runs riot using images and characters from the many fairy tales recorded by the Brothers Grimm (Jacob born in 1785 and Wilhelm in1786 in Hanau, Germany, near Frankfurt during their literary and linguistic career from 1806 to about 1859.


The Brothers Grimm is not what I expected, though knowing Gilliam I ought to have known better. I thought it might actually be biographical. The film was anachronistic, funny, far-fetched and ultimately very entertaining because this is Gilliam “imagining” what the Brothers Grimm might have been like in his world. Although not one of the many fairy tales that the Brothers Grimm recorded during their career is told in its entirety, many of them are integrated into this somewhat outlandish pastiche of horror, fantasy, and thriller, and yes, comedy.


One thing Gilliam does is remind us that the original fairy-tales that have given rise to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella were not very pleasant, that happily-ever-after is mostly our wish to come true, and that fear of the unknown or not understanding the reasons for the bad things that happen to us generates superstition (to Gilliam even the parish priest is on board, believing in witches, curses and such) and nightmares to explain the bad things or make some kind of meaning of them.


I think The Brothers Grimm may prove to be a good tool for those who study language and fairy-tales, not to say psychology. And did I mention the art direction, the dead queen with a severe cuticle problem, crunchy roaches and bugs, and the sets? Well done, if you like darkness.


The acting was OK, but the visuals and action rather overwhelmed the performances. I thought casting Heath Ledger as a nerd worked well – he was believable.


(At one point Will taps on a crucifix as he explains their approach to solving a supernatural problem signalling to us that superstition has many forms. Lots of Catholic religious imagery I suppose because of the times the film represented. In the last analysis, there is much to talk about in the film.) Be sure to look up the Brothers Grimm or google them; their contribution to German literature and history is impressive and it continues to Hollywood today.


A friend posted this at the end of an email:


"The movie never changes. It can't change, but every time you see it, it seems different, because you're different. You see different things."

- Terry Gilliam, in 12 Monkeys on the subject of audience theory.

Must Love Dogs

(I saw this film several weeks ago, so this is a little late and brief)


Sarah (Diane Lane), a teacher,  is recently divorced young forty-something whose family, headed by patriarch Bill (Christopher Plummer), is determined to get her back in the dating game. Her sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) lists her on an internet dating service. Meanwhile, Bill is stringing two ladies along. One of them is Dolly (Stockard Channing) who is eccentric and kind.


Sarah meets Jake (John Cusack) online and they date, but not after Sarah makes the mistake of answering her own father’s online ad. (Ha ha).


Sarah and Jake are well suited to one another but back away. Then Sarah meets Bob, (Dermot Mulroney) the father of one of her elementary students and thinks this might be the one.


And so an and so forth, ho and hum. I cannot remember who has the dogs, Sarah, Jake or Bob, so as you can see this is a forgettable film on so many levels. It is based on a novel by Claire Cooke. I thought that maybe its A-list cast of actors might have believed that making this film would be fun. Maybe it was, but I thought the script not up to their talents.


The one shining star was Stockard Channing who played her eclectic and eccentric trailer-park role with élan.


The writing in Must Love Dogs was poor and lazy I thought because it just tacked on clichéd Catholic school references instead of actually integrating what being Catholic and married might have meant to the characters with a little depth. (Some depth in a comedy enriches it I think). The only one who actually made being Catholic credible was Bill when he talked about what being married to his first wife and the mother of his children (now deceased) truly meant.  Then he shows himself to be as superficial as everyone else.


You know, for a film to be credible about its characters being Catholic it has to come from the "inside" of the writer/filmmaker. It always rings a false note when a writer or filmmaker tries to be 'cute" about being Catholic. The characters are superficial because they never grasp the difference that being Catholic means. Of course, we never find out the issues of Sarah's marriage but no matter, it sure is easy for her to hop in the sack with someone else. Sure, Catholics may engage in this kind of behavior, but I don't think they do so without a twinge. Sarah never really thinks twice about what her faith, and what the nuns taught her really means.