October 15, 2010


What if you were someone’s only hope? What if that someone was your brother? That’s exactly the position Betty Ann Waters (the plucky Hilary Swank) found herself in in 1983, when her brother, Kenny (the amazing Sam Rockwell), was convicted of murder. Wrongly, she believed.
Based on a true story that took place in Ayer, Massachusetts, Betty Ann becomes a lawyer in order to exonerate her brother and works unceasingly for 18 years on his behalf.

This fine little drama (could it be that dramas are returning to the Cineplex?) also stars the exquisite Melissa Leo as Kenny’s arresting officer. Minnie Driver is Betty’s law school friend who gets involved, and Juliette Lewis does a truly patheticomic turn as one of Kenny’s old girlfriends. If the highest compliment you can give an actor is that their performance was a “revelation,” Juliette Lewis was a “revelation.”

Betty Ann and Kenny basically grew up wild and running in the streets, were placed in foster homes, and Kenny always found himself in trouble with the law. When he grew up, he was an easy target to pin the gruesome murder of an elderly woman on. The flashbacks of the pair as little playmate-hoodlums explain why they are “joined at the hip” in adulthood and are so fiercely devoted to each other. The filmmakers plant doubt in our minds about Kenny’s innocence, but Betty Ann never doubts her brother.

The actors pretty much nail the Boston accent, cadence and tough-but-charming attitude and swagger, especially Sam Rockwell.

Like Diane Lane in “The Perfect Storm,” and Uma Thurman in “Motherhood,” Hilary Swank is just a little too classically good-looking and refined of carriage, movement and demeanor to convince that she’s “average.” But her acting is truly in the moment and genuine. She can’t help the looks.

It’s difficult to say more about this film without giving away the ending. Was he innocent or not? Does he get out or not? You’ll have to see for yourself. The sacred trust of all movie-goers must not be broken. Remember how well audiences kept secret the ending of “Sixth Sense” and “Harry Potter” books and movies?

In the vein of “Erin Brockovich,” “A Civil Action,” and “The Hurricane,” “Conviction”’s uniqueness lies in that it is a beautiful love story of a sister and brother, of the true meaning of family, and of laying down one’s life for another.

--Why do I always see Hilary in my mind’s eye in that hideous backwards navy blue clingy dress she wore at the Golden Globes? I need to get over that. And I must go on record to say that I actually loved Bjork’s swan dress at the Oscars (it wasn’t a real swan). Why here? Why now? Because we’re talking about dresses.

--The little kid actors are great (I recognize the little girl from “Letters to God”). It’s scary how good today’s young actors are. Is anyone else scared?

--Kenny’s daughter is played to understated perfection by the always-enthralling Ari Graynor (from Boston!) who looks somewhat like Ke$ha.

--The music is definitely tear-jerking, but not over-the-top: flowing piano and violins.

--Martha Coakley no looka so good in this movie.

--"Massachusetts" was filmed in Michigan. Fooled me.

--Female screenwriter: Pamela Gray. Yay!

--This movie should have been PG-13 (not R)--but for the use of the “f” word. It’s just not fair.

--HD report: Hilary has natural, beautiful facial lines (Minnie Driver? Not so much—perhaps hidden by all those curls?) Could it be that Hollywood is *gasp* allowing women to age gracefully??

OK--you were warned. What if Kenny HADN'T been innocent? Would it have been OK for Betty Ann to keep loving him? I KNEW he would be innocent because we had to have a Hollywood ending and audiences are not allowed to root for murderers (unless they're mafia). Also, in an unrelated(?) matter, it seems, in real life, the murdered woman's children are upset because they weren't consulted for the movie.

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October 13, 2010


Is “The Social Network” all that? Yes it is. At first, I didn’t even want to see it because while it was still in the making, media pundits were poking fun at it, like: “Who cares?” “Who cares about Zuckerberg?” “Is the beginning of Facebook really a story?” But then the buzz and the box office. Evidently there is a story here.

What’s the hook? I think there are four: 1) Facebook has changed the face of the internet and the world. It’s just a phenom too big to ignore. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLd9q88ohUs&feature=related (I always like to say that Facebook is what the internet was missing from the beginning—a kind of soul, personalization, the human touch.) 2) Like “The Revenge of the Nerds,” “The Social Network” chronicles the shift of power to the (now-called) “geeks.” Geeks who are not only off-the-charts brilliant, but understand the potential of technology and how people perceive and use it or CAN perceive and use it. 3) Like Bill Gates (an actor portrays him briefly in “The Social Network”), Zuckerberg seems to be a shrewd and ruthless young businessman who--for all his own social awkwardness--really does understand human nature. This understanding just doesn’t seem to work for him personally. 4) Understanding how people use today’s and tomorrow’s technology IS “the next big thing.” Those who cling to outmoded ways of thinking about technology will be thrown on the radiation-exuding landfills of history. The future is always about NEW IDEAS, not stasis, and the young Turks will supersede not only the old Turks, but one another in winner-take-all battles.

I kind of feel bad for the real Mark Zuckerberg. He has been thoroughly skewered in this movie. How much is true? Clearly the legal proceedings against Zuckerberg did not come out in his favor. Or maybe they did (since they were out-of-court settlements that a character tells Zuckerberg is like “paying for a parking ticket”). Zuckerberg is made to look like an ambitious, self-obsessed, controlling, scheming, misanthropic, arrogant, jealous person. And what’s worse, a double-crossing friend. But not greedy, not really. For him, money is only power, it’s only the symbol of a superior being. In the movie, Zuckerberg also finds himself to be superior due to his computer prowess, and says as much.

“The Social Network” is like a young man’s “Wall Street,” in that enterprise and entrepreneurship and VC and investors and stock holdings and forming new alliances and companies are all a great big game in the end. And it’s like “Wall Street” in the “talkie-ness” of the movie. But this is a good thing! The visuals and acting are just superb (our young actors today are pretty amazing). The music—Trent Reznor!—fittingly starts off as heavy electronica, and then mellows out and disappears into the fabric of the rest of the film.

SPOILER ALERT! But at the end, when he’s sitting on top of the world quite literally, Zuckerberg is left without the one thing he wanted most, or at least wanted as much as sitting on top of the world: Erica. What a perfect closing shot: Zuckerberg using Facebook to slowly send a friend request to her. There is little hope it will be confirmed, but he keeps hitting “refresh” over and over, waiting…. Love is the one thing that the masters and commanders of the world can’t master and command, can’t outsmart everyone else to obtain. One has to put self to the side, die to self to even really see the other person, the beloved, as “other,” not just an extension of self. One wonders if the silver-screen Zuckerberg could ever let go of self enough to develop this capacity.

In the first scene where he’s talking at his girlfriend with rapid-fire Spock-like logic, passive-aggressively accusing, attacking, needing and demeaning her all in the same breath, we wonder if Zuckerberg is a kind of savant who is just maladroit at normal social interaction. But he tips his hand too many times in the conversation, demanding that she “be supportive” and grateful because he is such a great boon to her life.

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY? The seeds are definitely there. The inciting incident (for Zuckerberg to create Facebook) is Erica breaking up with him. His second impetus to expand Facebook is his second rejection by Erica. Sean Parker (Napster) recounts later in the film how he got started himself after being jilted by a girl. As we hear the men in “The Social Network” talk, it seems everything they do is FOR “girls,” albeit mostly to use them sexually, or rather engage in mutual sexual use of each other. But it’s still about the girls.

Erica knows her own worth AND knows that if she hitches her wagon to star Z, she WILL be going places and become incredibly wealthy. But she’d rather have love.

--Zuckerberg created Facebook while drunk. Imagine what he could have done sober!

--Some great, weighty-in-2010-hindsight* quotes: “We’ll just email it to a few people.” “That’s my roommate!” [one girl states this with horror—making it personal--about her friend’s pic being rated for “hotness”]

--The movie is mostly long legal hearings punctuated by flashbacks. But it works.

--The debauchery portrayed is reality on campuses. Run of the mill. Yawn. Just another day/night on campus. Sad. I’d say PG-15.

--Geeks like Asian girls.

--Geek-characters like Strawberry Twizzlers (or are those Red Vines?) like every other type of character in Hollywood.

--Watching smart movies makes me feel smart.

--Erica—the face that launched Facebook. Erica—the face that launched 500,000,000 friends.

--Guys write code and conduct business while girls do shots, do bong hits, dance half naked, play video games, go psycho on their boyfriends, get coke snorted off their midriffs, etc. Where IS Gloria Steinem when you need her?!

--Bill Donaghy (TOBI speaker) pointed out to me the immortal words of VJP2G: "The task of every man is the dignity of every woman." He said this is his new mantra, and I'm convinced that's it is the solution to everything, especially after seeing "The Social Network"--a great movie--but ALL the women in it are bimbos except for Erica, Zuckerberg's "the one." Men have to think of ALL women as special and worthy of dignity, not just "the one" they want to marry (even when women don't act according to their dignity and stoop to be whatever they think men want them to be--a result of original sin: "He will lord it over you, but your desire will be for him."). The divine order is that men lead. Women are whole persons without "a man," and we can affirm ourselves, but we long for men to respect us, appreciate us, tell us we're beautiful, see us as whole persons, love us as whole persons, interact with/relate to us as whole persons. If MEN did this consistently, women would auto-correct their undignified behavior because it wouldn't get them anywhere: the men wouldn't want it, ask for it, or reward it. I'll say it again: IN THE DIVINE ORDER, MEN LEAD. I don't care how politically incorrect it is to say that, it's the truth. MEN, PLEASE LEAD US WITH LOVE, because the sad truth is that many, many women will do absolutely anything for you and your attention.

--Glimmers of hope? In the movie, Zuckerberg says: "You can find 'hot, naked girls' anywhere on the internet. What people want to do is connect with each other, with their friends--it's the whole college experience." And according to the link above ("What the Hell Is Social Media?"), social networking has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the net. (Not sure how they're calculating that.)

--David Fincher sure knows how to make a movie ("Fight Club," "Benjamin Button").

--How long before we have a movie on the beginnings of Google?

--HD shows that twentysomethings have wrinkles and crow’s feet! Much more realistic. But I still like b & w and soft focus. You may say that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
*Hindsight is 20/10?

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So I'm at Mundelein Seminary, Chicago, this past weekend at a wonderful Marian Day arranged by some seminarians (http://www.materfidelium.org/) giving a talk on "The Handmaid of the Lord and the Feminine Genius." There's about 50 women attending the talk and 7 guys.

Ten minutes into my talk, this little old guy, all bent over, shuffles in with his walker (wife behind him). He turns to me and says: "You were waiting for the king." He sits in the front. I began talking about John Paul II and he calls out: "What does he know?" I ask him if he's my private heckler and he pipes down.

Next I say: "Men, why do you hold open doors for women?" Dead silence. A woman chimes in: "I think it's because they want to be chivalr--"

Me: "MEN."

Dead silence.

The ladies are bursting to fill in. Another woman raises her hand and doesn't wait for me to call on her: "I really think it's because--"

Me: "MEN."

Old guy (the king) in front: "To hold myself up." (I lose it and crumple on the podium laughing.)

Another guy in the back: "To get a better look?"

By now the ladies look very discouraged. "Well, maybe these men DON'T hold open the door for women," one offers.

Me: "John Paul II says it's because we women bear the lion's share of sexuality."
A middle-aged lady wrinkles up her nose like she has no idea what that means. Wow. Need I explain??? Yes. We are so in need of Theology of the Body (myself included). It's "Humanity 101."

Me: "Um, we have monthly cycles, we carry babies in our womb for 9 months, go through childbirth, nursing, nurturing....?"

The conclusion of my talk is that "the feminine genius" is...(drum roll)...MOTHERHOOD! (Whether physical or spiritual.) I cannot tell you the look of relief (and joy) on the women's faces. So many came up to me afterward and said: "I really know this and feel this, but it's so un-PC to talk about it!"

When I told a seminarian about "the king" and his "queen" (easily in their 80's) he said: "Oh yeah! I've been driving them around the campus all day on a golf cart. The wife refused to sit down, but insisted on standing up and hanging off the back of the golf cart. I was so scared she was going to bounce off, I was going 2 mph the whole time!"

Old people are the spice of life.

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October 11, 2010


FR. LOYA 10-09-10[Sr. Helena’s superfluous comments in brackets]

p. 24—We are persons. Everything JP2G says is based on this. “Nobody else can want for me.” “I must be independent in my actions.”

PERSONALISM:--We are only persons because God is a Person (we are made in the image of)--a person is always worthy of love, honor, respect, dignity--inalienable--we don’t just have instinct like animals, we can choose--self-determination--the only appropriate response to persons is LOVE. We are made for LOVE—to give and receive love. Anything less than this is dehumanizing, depersonalizing--verb “to use” can be used in different ways: tool, pleasure--The opposite of love is not hate but “use.”

In his marriage prep, marriage counseling, Fr. Loya tries to help couples to examine how they’re relating to each other.

p. 34—JP2G critiques “utilitarianism”“Pleasure must be subordinate to love.” We cannot just “use” someone for our pleasure. Only love can raise pleasure to an interpersonal relationship. Use-pleasure can disguise itself as love.

In vitro fertilization (IVF)—there’s a strain of utilitarianism here that is not readily evident because the desires/objectives are sincere and good in themselves: to have and love a child. But the child is subordinated to a subjective desire of the couple and the MEANS used to create this child are unethical.We are raised in a very utilitarian culture so it’s very hard for people to see this.

Utilitarians believe that the primary good is pleasure and tries to maximize pleasure for the majority. But pleasure is accidental, it’s not the primary aim. It comes about in the process of something else, and if it’s ordered properly, it can be totally legit. We can have pleasure in bad things, too, like revenge!

Pleasure and pain are always connected with a concrete action, so it’s impossible to plan them exactly like the utilitarians want us to do. They are somewhat elusive things.
If I accept utilitarianism, I must see myself as a subject who desires maximum pleasure, and must see myself as an object who must be at the service of the pleasure of others. [It doesn’t acknowledge persons! You can divide all philosophies into those that acknowledge persons and those that don’t. If you don’t, you’re already in trouble.]

A subjective understanding of “the good” leads to egoism. Mutual use, mutual egoism can happen where two agree to use each other (thinking it’s love). But they can’t confront each with anything unpleasant or it all falls apart! “No honor among thieves”—thieves like working together to steal, but when it comes to dividing up the loot….

We can only love God because He first loves us. So even the “need” we have for God comes from him.

Follow the “gift” trail. See what’s twisted and what the real gift is there underneath it.

Q: “Do men ‘use’ more readily than women?”A: “Yes, because they are task-oriented, goal-oriented, and so begin using things as tools to the goal. They also compartmentalize in their brains and can divide a woman’s personhood from her body, for example.” [But this is not what they’re called to be/do or meant to be/do by God. Society often gives men a pass on their “use,” but it shouldn’t.]

[We have to have a sense of OURSELVES as persons first. But people today don’t think they’re that great, that man is that great. There’s a great reductionism, minimalism. So we don’t aspire to anything greater than having some basic needs met, sometimes!]

The world sees things in terms of FUNCTION and POWER.The Church sees things in terms of SIGN and SACRAMENT.
“Empty nest” syndrome—couples didn’t take care of their relationships enough! They—in a utilitarian way—united around running the household and raising the kids.

What kind of gift can you give to another person if you don’t have a sense of yourself as a person? You can’t bring two half-persons together, or expect the other to supply your personhood.

[It has to be this order! 1st—sense of yourself as a person—love thyself 2nd—marriage relationship, person to person—love your spouse3rd—parent/child relationship—love your kids]

Parents feel pressured (by other parents) today to run around and be frantically busy or they’re almost “abusing” their kids! But what does it mean to be a successful human being?

Don’t answer questions for people! Just help people examine the words within the questions!
Why does the Church “go into the bedroom”? Because that’s where God is! AND that’s where all the problems of the world start because it’s so fundamental! It’s the fundamental place of love and life.

Justice—a person’s “due” is always to be treated as an object of love.

Same Sex Attraction (SSA)—is based on need and use because of the intrinsic disorder where the person struggling with SSA is trying first of all to become the complete male or female person that they are, so that they CAN be a gift to “the other.” But it can translate itself into a sexual expression (which goes nowhere). Men DO draw strength from each other’s masculinity (male bonding, etc.) because men are socialized externally, from things outside themselves. [Female SSA operates differently. See book: “The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction” by Hallman]

[Sr. Helena had to take over the techie operations here so there will be a gap in notes.]

Fr. Loya’s parting warning: Prudes and sexual libertarians both deny God’s saving power when it comes to lust. Father says that overbearing Catholic families who control and squelch their children are in danger of creating another [sub]sexual revolution that will rebel against this. He sees kids going hogwild for the first time when away from parents, eloping, etc. In confession, he says that these super-Catholic kids who know their faith inside and out are having huge sexual problems because they are completely unintegrated in their sexuality. [I have heard a lot of these stories, too. Yikes!]
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