Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: christianity, hinuism, preachings of St Francis of Assisi, religion, St FRancis of Assisi
Our new Pope opted for Frankie’s nom de plume and today at mass our priest – the wise old Western Islander, Fr Tony, gave us an interesting insight into his inspiration.
I was particularly taken by this quote from St Francis that he referenced in his Homily.
“Preach the Gospel at all times (and use words if necessary).”
Wise words indeed, particularly in these times where religion is used as a front for the most heinous of behaviours.
Ghandi made a particularly interesting observation (again my Source is Fr Tony) when he said “The trouble with you Christians is that you have great preachings but don’t live up to them.” (I paraphrase I’m sure). That observation would benefit not just Christians of course.
Filed under: Arts, creativity, humour, liberal, life | Tags: Ben Lewin, catholic guilt, dignity, disability, disability in the movies, disabled sex, Helen Hunt, iron lung, John Hawkes, oscars, polio, quadriplegic, religion, religious barriers, sex before marraige, The Sessions, William H macy
This is a remarkable hidden gem of a movie directed with grace and understatement by Ben Lewin, a 67 year old director whose career has little in the way of highlights or recognition. Until now that is.
His main protagonists, John Hawkes who was Oscar nominated for Winter’s Bone, Helen Hunt (who won one for As Good as it Gets) and William H Macy (Fargo nomination) tell a story as touching as any you will ever see that tries to make sense of whether sex out of wedlock as a (disabled) Catholic can be tolerated by those of great faith.
The good news? It can.
What makes this trio of understated performances so remarkable is that they are all so extreme, yet constrained.
Firstly, John Hawkes (Mark) plays a 38 year old quadriplegic (a consequence of childhood polio), with a fine sense of humour, who lives 21 hours a day in an iron lung and desires nothing more than to have full penetrative sex and yet does not turn the role into a freakshow.
Secondly, Helen Hunt spends much of the movie completely naked (as brave as it gets at 49) teaching Mark how to suck her nipples effectively, perform passable cunnilingus and generally satisfy her and himself – she’s a sex therapist.
And thirdly, William H Macy plays a cool dude Catholic priest that assumes the role of God, granting Mark the dispensation to get his rocks off free from the guilt of mortal sin.
What’s more, the supporting cast all put in excellent and mostly touching shifts that add to the overall quality of the movie.
It’s in places hilarious (although Seth MacFarlane would hardly agree), breathtakingly taboo (without offending anyone – including the four pensioners sat behind us) and moving.
What makes it work so wonderfully is what it doesn’t do or say. Whilst issues surrounding morality must sit full square at the centre of the (based on true) story it’s not hammered home. It makes no judgement and that’s in no small part down to the skill of director Lewin.
Very few people have seen this movie, more’s the pity, and the screening we saw was achingly badly attended. Nonetheless it cost only $1m to make and grossed a modest (but profitable) $5m in the US. I think it’s a sleeper of potentially Sideways proportions that will, over time, make the funders very large returns as its absolute honesty and sincerity wins it advocates like me.
Anne Hathaway is unbettable for Best Supporting actress at this year’s big hooley and she is by a distance the best thing about Les Miserables, but it’s a cameo role. This, on the other hand, is a career defining moment for Hunt who would win every day in my book. And I may indeed have a small wager on her at 25/1.
Filed under: Arts, creativity, movies | Tags: ang lee, bengal tiger, christianity, hindu, is there a god, life of pi, muslim, oscars richard parker, pi, religion
I'd be tempted to give life of Pi this score out of 3 (3.14159265 358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640 6286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582 23172535940812848111745028410270193852110555964462294895493038196 44288109756659334461284756482337867831652712019091456485669234603 48610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920 628292540917153643678925903600113305305488204665213841469519415116 09) but it so annoys me when people talk about giving 110% that I just can't do it. So, instead, I'll just have to settle for an old fashioned 9/10. Now, let's get this straight. Life of Pi has just shown that there is life left in 3D. It may be, on the whole, a gimmick but the exception can still prove the point. Only two movies have made the 3D entrance fee worth the extra IMHO, Avatar and this. It's a tough movie for bibliophiles to even want to see because the book is so magnificent (in my all time top ten probably) and many I've spoken to who love it equally are just downright scared that Ang Lee was going to blow it. The odds were strongly in favour of that happening because it's a pretty full on philosophical workout. So full credit has to go to Fox pictures for shelling out $120 million on the ultimate movie gamble. How Ang manages to retain the existential angst of the book AND make a blockbuster movie that holds the attention from start to finish (yes, including the pretty turgid first 100 pages) is not only anyone's guess but a cinematic achievement of considerable merit. It's the storytelling that wins the day but it's wrapped up in cinematography of the very highest order. So many times one gasps out loud at what's on screen that it's like a day out in a theme park. Surely the Oscar for this is certain to go to Claudio Miranda (Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac, Benjamin Button). The acting is universally good but it's the tiger, Richard Parker, and his four legged companions that really steal the show. CGI has never, ever been this good. This might sound like it's the technology that carries the movie but don't think that. It's an honest, stunning exploration of the true meaning of life, religion and truth and it’s an absolute must see. I would not discount it winning best movie come early March and I certainly wouldn't grudge it. Ang Lee's finest hour.
Filed under: creativity, photography, Scotland | Tags: angels, religion, scottish religion
Originally uploaded by mark gorman.
st giles is a stunning place. the choir is amazing.
Filed under: life, photography | Tags: angels, christianity, Edinburgh, organs, religion, sacred edinburgh, sundays in church]
I played drums, as I most usually do at mass in South Queensferry. I’m not so anal about my religion that I HAVE to be there every Sunday, but I try.
Anyway, some good rhythms.
Then I headed up to St Giles Cathedral, on the Royal Mile, to see a friend of mine sing in the choir. If you know anything about Scottish history you’ll know that that’s not a Catholic worship place but it is very Christian.
I loved it and can recommend Sunday Service there at 11.30.
An extraordinary choir and an amazing location, set off by this stunning angel…
And a great organ…
Filed under: Arts, creativity, movies | Tags: 2001, Brad Pitt, brotherly love, Emmanuel Lubezki, family love, god, grace, Jessica Chastain, religion, Sean Penn, Stanley Kubrick, terence Malick, terence Mallick, The tree of life
Tree of Life is a sensational 90 minute movie wrapped up, to my mind, in a highly flawed 150 minute art installation.
It’s the film Malick clearly wants to become his legacy and I so wish he’d really pulled it off. Apparently the critics at Cannes were booing and laughing at its finale and to a point I can understand why. I’ll bet they were enraptured through the middle section.
Malick’s idea is to create a movie about a man in his 50′s looking back on the inconsequence (but to him monumental importance) of his tiny, but in many ways typical, life set against the greatness of the universe, its creation and God’s role in all this.
So we open with an hour or so of Kubrick’s classic 2001; a space Odyssey mashed up with the Best of David Attenburgh and a tiny little bit of Jurassic Park thrown in. It’s about the birth of the universe and the creation of man.
For some this has been the most stunning (and it is stunning visually) opening to a film ever made. To others it’s pretentious twaddle. I have to say I fell into the latter camp. It’s way too long and self indulgent. Malick describes it as a companion piece to the main movie. If you’ve read the Life of Pi it’s structurally very reminiscent of the first 100 pages which is essentially an essay on the role of religion in life today before the boy and the Tiger set to sea in an unbelievably good yarn.
Incidentally, the Tree of Life ends with a coda recalling the opening hour. Mercifully shorter; it doesn’t grate as much.
And so, we have a movie embedded in and drawn from, thematically at least, this “meaning of life” wrapper.
And it’s quite, quite beautiful; it very roughly follows the lives of a family in 1950′s Texas. Middle class I suppose and pretty much the typical Western family. Dad’s frustrated because he is not an overachiever and at times this has consequences. But really it’s not that important because it’s not a story as such.
The man in his 50′s who we meet in the “creation sequence”, Sean Penn, is reminiscing on this time, at first dewy eyed but later more critically as he follows his childhood and adolescance that culminates in the death of one of his brothers (not a spoiler as it is revealed in the first frames).
This is Malick’s genius because in this he essentially wraps a universal childhood into 90 minutes of relatively sequential vignettes that absolutely draw the breath at times. As a baby plays with bubbles, as a group of kids are ecstatically sprayed (innocently ) with a cloud of DDT from a passing lorry, as brothers bicker, as Mum and dad stroke their childrens’ hair and read them bedtime stories.
And then the plot, I say plot but that’s a very loose term because this is not a plotted narrative, develops as we see that the father is actually a pretty heavy handed patriarch. This section reveals the excellence of Brad Pitt who plays the father movingly and with sufficient restraint to avoid the part lapsing into caricature.
The mother though (a spellbinding performance by Jessica Chastain) is the real heart and soul of the movie because it is her that recites what amounts to a love poem for its first 10 minutes or so; espousing her love of her beautiful sons and her love of god. The scene is set when she says “there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace” she implores her boys to follow the path of grace (of God) and she maintains an air of grace throughout.
Her eldest son, Jack, later to appear as Penn is the main protagonist and also performs bewitchingly; a first movie for Hunter McCracken – it will most certainly not be his last.
What makes this film so wonderful is the way that Malick (and his cinematographer Emannuel Lubezki – phenomenal) capture the universal truths of family life without it at any time feeling like cliche. I felt myself strongly empathising with young Jack, most powerfully as his adolescent rage boils up towards his father and the unfairness of adulthood. “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.” It’s visceral.
The Tree of Life is a central and recurring visual metaphor but is handled with subtlety and conviction.
So, with a far shorter art indulgence section this film would have been a 9/10. With it, it’s a 7.
Filed under: family, life, politics, Rants, Scotland | Tags: Bellahouston Glasgow, Bellahouston Park, Catholic Child Sex abuse, catholic church, catholic faith, child sex abuse scandals, deference, lack of deference, laity, Pope Gregory, Pope Gregory's visit to Scotland, religion, Scottish Catholics, Sex abuse scandals
I was stunned when my mother told me the other day that she would not be going to Bellahouston Park to see Pope Benedict strut his stuff. Her reasoning being that she would not support a pontif who had swept child sex abuse under the carpet.
Now let’s put my astonishment in context here. My mother is a 74 year old, card carrying, lifelong Catholic who practices her religion with devotion several times a week.
For her to ‘disown’ her spiritual leader is, in my book, brave, principled and deeply admirable.
And I am wholly (if you’ll excuse the pun) with her.
I too am a, rather flakier, card holder and I am rather less supportive in general terms of the Catholic church. And, for me, the whole destabilisation of the organisation under Pope Benedict’s custodianship has increasingly looked like a religion losing control.
I strongly agree with this brave writer to The Guardian only last week
If the supreme pontiff wanted to restore the moral credibility of his church, he could do even better than that. He could, as Jesus did, take the sins of his brethren on himself. He could quit, whether personally responsible for the global cover-up that has put Roman Catholicism into an unprecedented crisis or not. That there is no precedent for a papal resignation would make it totally remarkable, even saintly. In secular terms, the holy father would, however, be doing no more than any CEO of an international corporation in a comparably disgraceful situation. He would be forced by his chairman to go. God has abdicated that kind of authority and left even a pope with free will.
There is, as it happens, a recent Protestant precedent. When the Lutheran bishop of Hamburg learned of a serious case of child abuse within her jurisdiction, though not directly responsible, she promptly resigned. Anything less, she said, would not suffice. Perhaps a woman’s moral sensibility is stronger. Were that, per impossibile, to happen at the Vatican, a successor would be set free to embark on the new reformation that would need to centre on vital issues of gender and sexuality.
Brighton, East Sussex
Again, in the Guardian, on Monday, Madeleine Bunting made some interesting observations.
In her article she cited that his clumsiness (to put it mildly) in handling not just child sex abuse, but also female ordination and the church’s relationship with Islam has reignited anti Catholic feeling in the UK. Quite rightly she points to the impact of the child sex abuse scandals in that it strikes at the core of our religion and totally undermines the authority of the clergy over the laity. Deference to the clergy is in freefall. How could it be any other way. “What ye sew, so shall ye reap.”
And yet, and yet, despite collapsing confidence and church attendance all over Europe business is booming.
Africans and Asians are flocking to the church in their droves.
So what? Business is bad in Europe? We can just invest our marketing effort in new markets can’t we?
So what if the old guard lose faith; there plenty more we can get through missionary work.
I don’t want to sound totally cynical, but it’s hard not to. The entire edifice of the Catholic Church is built on faith, blind faith critics argue, and faith is built on trust.
When a 74 year old blind faith follower votes with her feet the whole pack of cards looks in very great danger of falling down.
And it’s so easy to fix.
Zero tolerance needs to be adopted and the church should be utterly cleansed of these men once and for all.
Then, maybe then, Catholicism will find an Indian summer in Europe.
As for Bellahouston Park. I hope it’s half empty.
Filed under: Arts, family, humour, life, politics, Scotland, stories | Tags: aetheism, alcoholism, belief, Edinburgh, gary lewis, god, gregory burke, national theatre of Scotland, paul higgins, religion, Scottish Theatre, scottishness, susan vidler, theatre, traverse theatre
Here’s a one.
I have to declare two interests from the outset.
I am a Catholic.
My cousin (Susan Vidler) is in this play.
So I’m biased.
Paul Higgins, may be the most remarkable new stage-writing talent since Gregory Burke. It really is written brilliantly, flowing along at 100 miles an hour packed with hilarious one liners, and I believe it’s autobiographical. (Actually it’s very unfair of me to heap this comparative praise on Paul Higgins given my lack of comparative insight; but if he isn’t the best then Scottish Theatre is absolutely booming.)
I urge you to see this play before it is too late. (It was pretty much sold out on a dreich Tuesday in late November.)
It’s a fantastic smorgasbord of Scottishness. As the nation of doom we like to dwell on the dark side and this does it magnificently. I honestly have never encountered a script, in film or on stage, that leaps like Bambi on steroids, between bleak nihilism and outrageous humour, line by line, quite as well as this.
It is remarkable.
The main theme centres on belief 9or lack of it). I suppose the key character in the five person cast is the youngest son who has opted out of the seminary (or is that safe haven?) that he has studied at for seven years because he has become atheistic. Is there a God? Is there a Catholic God (OMG)? Is there a point? Why should I coexist with you? Have I a future?
But, at the gleaming, glowing, pulsating, dangerous centre of it all is the horrific patriarch, Gary Lewis. What a performance. The drunk, child-beating, wife-hating (but actually not particularly misogynistic) husband engulfs the stage with his presence.
It is massive.
The audience howled with tears and laughter and, for me, it was another triumphant National Theatre of Scotland performance. I’ve seen three this year in three different theatres.
They all demonstrated our brilliance.
Filed under: Arts, life, work | Tags: architecture, belief, church, engineering, germany, god, religion
I love this story.
A medieval church in Heursford, Germany was to be demolished because a new coalmine was to be opened on its site. It’s obviously a lovely church and the locals must have felt very close to it.
So, they though; we’re not letting a coal mine get in the way of our religion.
We’ll move it.
So they did. They hoiked it up on the back of a lorry…
And moved it down the road to the next town.
God 1 – 0 Coal industry.
Filed under: Arts, football, humour, jokes, life, Rants, Scotland, sports | Tags: religion
This is great, you’ll find it here and there’s a whole load of slagging off of Dida amongst other things.
For me though the religious iconography used in this is what makes it so amazing.