May 30, 2006
Blessed Arbuthnot the Destitute: Rated PG13
He was born in either 1115 or 1410 in a small village or possibly a large city east or west of the Loire River if not the Rhine. His father, Arbuth, was a coppersmith who was imprisoned for working in tin. While in prison, he wrote a 200-page treatise on vocations entitled I Want to Be Pretty.
Ten months into Arbuth’s internment, his wife, Drusilla, bore him a son, named Arbuthnot. Drusilla would bring Arbuthnot to a small garden outside the prison every morning so that Arbuth could catch a glimpse of him. Arbuth was only able to see out the window in his cell by forming a human pyramid with the other prisoners, with Arbuth as the pinnacle. One day, three prisoners were released, making the pyramid impossible. When someone suggested forming a small strip mall instead, Arbuth decided to forget the whole thing. He accused his wife of adultery, his child of being a bastard, and France of being overrun with the French, a situation if left unchecked could result in no good.
Arbuthnot was a sickly child, whose younger years were composed of coughing, wheezing, vomiting, trembling, crying, whining, farting, and marketing gabardine vests at reasonable prices. This early business experience served him well when his subsequent enterprise, marzipan action figures, resulted in bankruptcy. Forced to take to the streets to beg for food, Arbuthnot mastered the art of emotional manipulation and bombastic rhetorical appeals. Elected finance minister for Luxembourg, he was soon embroiled in an embezzlement scandal, which resulted in personal bankruptcy once more.
It was at this point in his life, at age 32, that Arbuthnot resolved to become either a priest or a competitive cyclist. When he learned that cycling entailed endless advertising for Cinzano, a beverage that made him go poopy, he joined the priesthood, entering the Order of St. Barbara.
As a Barbarian, Arbuthnot prayed 22 hours a day, often for the same thing, a decent night’s sleep. One day, while experiencing a grand mal seizure, he envisioned a cure for epilepsy that consisted mainly of not seizing. It was during this time that a brother monk in an adjoining cell began feeding him Hussite tracts, which Arbuthnot consumed with a white wine sauce, the Barbarian Order not known for its cuisine.
On fire for reform, Arbuthnot laid aside his cowl and picked up someone else’s. Accused of pilfery, Arbuthnot was expelled from the Order of St. Barbara, which would be dissolved just a year later in the aftermath of a Stratego scandal.
Wandering aimlessly through the streets of London or Madrid, Arbuthnot would often perform amusing skits for food, drink, or bearer bonds, coupons attached. He died in either 1175 or 1470, surrounded by a small band of disciples who believed he had the power to heal the already well. His last words were reported to be in a Czech dialect and so remain lost to history.
I see as Arbuth the acclaimed Capt Kirk Deux, Patrick Stewart; Vanessa Redgrave as Drusilla; Anson Williams as the prior of St. Barbara; and Jon Lovitz as Blessed Arbuthnot the Destitute. I am open to suggestions as to directors, but I have a preference for Mary Harron, who brought us I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho, and The Notorious Bettie Page. I think she would "get" him.
May 29, 2006
Martin Luther Presents 'This Day in Some History'
This day in history 1988: Ronald Reagan visits Moscow for a fourth summit with Mikhail Gorbachev. Better to remember this day in 1502, when my cousin Wolfgang Luder fell into an open hole and stayed there. I HATED MY COUSIN WOLFGANG! The most annoying man in the Holy Roman Empire! Every July he would visit my family and endlessely recite verses from The Iliad, ending every line with “yeah now.”
Sing Goddess the anger of Peleus’s son Achilles yeah now / and it’s devastation that put pains thousandfold on the Achaians yeah now / hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls yeah now / and they had fun fun fun till Hektor took Patroklos awa-ay-ay …Who could listen to that every summer and not open a vein with a lobster claw?!
On this day in history in 1977: AJ Foyt becomes the first man to win a fourth Indianapolis 500. In this day in 1540, Czech reformer Stephan Porchik becomes the first man to be convicted of heresy four times for the same offense. In his book The Bishop Wears Prada, Porchik asserted that ecclesiastical authority should be based solely on an ideal height/weight ratio, which would become the basis for the modern BMI. The first bishop elected according to this standard was deposed within 48 hours when it was learned that he wore lifts to compensate for his tendency to retain water.
About nine days before this day in history in 1899, Jacob German becomes the first man in history to be arrested for speeding. He was clocked at 12 mph on Lexington Ave. in New York City. When the taxi driver was asked where the fire was, he replied, "You talkin' to me?" Office Murphy then proceeded to beat German to death. This incident would later form the basis of a major motion picture entitled Gidget Goes Hawaiian.
On this day in 1848, Wisconsin enters the Union. On this day in 1864, Union troops reach Totopotomoy Creek, Virginia. In 1871, Western Union inaugurates its Money Transfer system. In 1903, the first western movie, The Great Train Robbery, is released. In 1966, the Great Gazoo makes his debut in The Flintstones animated TV series—SOMEBODY STOP ME, PLEASE!
I am grateful to the historychannel.com, which provided the reference resources that allowed me to make so much of this up.
May 28, 2006
Sermon for Sunday, May 28: Sketches of Frank Gehry
You have probably witnessed some of Gehry’s work, either in person or on the pages of overpriced glossy magazines: The Guggenheim Museum, Bilboa, Spain. The Vitra Design Museum, Weil-am-Rhein, Germany. The Walt Disney Concert House in Los Angeles. At first glance, they look like aircraft fuselages burrowing into the ground and warped by the sun. Or Martian wads of aluminum foil. Or corrugated tin sheds with rickets. In short, at first glance it is easy to mock these designs as the laughable flapdoodlings of yet another emperor sans Tommy Hilfigers.
But Gehry’s work will not be so easily dismissed. Whatever your final verdict on his aesthetic vision, the pleasure of this motion picture—which I recommend you see should you find a catacomb currently playing it—is in following the architect’s creative process. From ink drawings to cardboard models held together with Scotch tape to more extensive and complex paper designs to 3D-ish computer models. Gehry’s champions are agog that he has consistently defied two constants: the innate conservatism of his trade, and the law of physics.
How or whether certain materials will bend, or stand once they’re bent, are afterthoughts for Gehry. He does now allow preconceived notions of what a museum or a hockey rink or a concert hall or a simple home should look like inhibit his imagination. Why can’t the walls curve like this—or that? Why can’t the ceiling undulate? Why can’t the stairwells snake and slither? Why can’t the crevices between components force the light to splay thus?
The curator of the Gehry-designed Bilboa museum comments on how the structure looks like an alien invasion from the previous century. In other words, it looks like nothing else in the entire city, yet if it were suddenly to disappear, it would devastate Bilbao’s sense of itself.
A radical coziness and a prefabricated traditionalism—is this the paradox and appeal of Gehry? Don't ask me: I was too busy trying to get some jackanapes to stop text-messaging his gorilla of a girlfriend so I could concentrate! And how does he get a signal so close to the earth's core? I can't make a local phone call on my miserable contraption unless I am standing in the lobby of the wireless provider!
Sketches of Frank Gehry is a departure for Pollack, whose films range from the quite enjoyable—The Way We Were. Three Days of the Condor, Tootsie—to those that should be liquefied and repackaged as emetics—Bobby Deerfield, Havana, Random Hearts. He is a commercial filmmaker who usually tells accessible stories. Here he admits to being out of his depth—he knows nothing about making documentaries and nothing about architecture, even though Gehry is a friend. Yet he was Gehry’s choice for the project—and a wise one at that. Although Pollack can be seen filming his subject with a handheld camera and asking him rather basic questions, he is never intrusive or obnoxious. He is merely trying to understand just a little bit more about how the architect thinks up these strangenesses then convinces apparently non-psychotic clients to pay for them.
Gehry considers himself a modernist. He defines modernism as design without decoration, a radical rejection of the neo-classical, the gothic, the baroque. If this is so, I thought to myself when I wasn't mentally strangling those sitting in my immediate proximity, then his precursors are not the Bauhaus school and Frank Lloyd Wright but the Shakers. Modernism is, ironically, retrograde. As one commentator revealed: The seeming chaos of a Gehry design finally finds its own order.
I was immediately put in mind of all revolutionary movements, whether in the political or the artistic realm. First there is an explosion, an iconoclastic rampage that effaces, terrifies, and uproots what has come before. Then the dust settles and order is reestablished so ground is not lost, often resulting in a conformity and moralism much more constrictive than what was supplanted.
From the outside, a Gehry creation is a jaw-dropping wonder to behold. But the few glimpses we have of experiencing it from the inside tells another story. The innovation, the severe confusion caused by the intimidating and foreign design, the stairwells and ceilings that look as if they may collapse at any moment, and the retaining structures that intrude and impede your movement appear to me to be oppressive and disorienting. I would not want to live in a Gehry house. I would be confounded by its idiosyncracies and would grow weary of trying to negotiate its crenellations and detours.
So goes all revolutions. They are enticing and seductive from the outside. Then one gets inside them, and instead of ennobling the soul, they impoverish it with ruthless, insatiable demands.
I am often denounced as a revolutionary, as someone who destroyed a settled Christendom, who had nothing but contempt for what had come before—a Protestant pope, a tyrant ten times worse than the emperor and the Roman pope combined.
That is, when I am not being denounced for failing to have finished the job of “reform,” of leaving too much of the old church and the old ways.
I am vilified for calling for brute force in putting down the Peasant’s rebellion—yet allowed to run its course, the grievances would have been unending, and Munzer and his maniacs would have set all Europe on fire.
I am vilified for uprooting the old devotions and withholding the comfort that prayers to the saints provided, when I am not being denounced for refusing to see church art destroyed willy-nilly and thereby countenancing “images.”
I was not an iconoclast. I wanted visual works to be reinterpreted so as not to be objects of idolatry, but I did not want to efface the human form—and thereby implicitly deny the Incarnation—as the Calvinists and Zwinglians did. Their descendants aren’t the Unitarians but the cubists, the dadaists, and the distortions of a Picasso, in which the human physiognomy is disfigured, deformed, or eliminated from sight altogether.
I have no use for revolutions. Reform, however, is a perennial duty of fallen man. The church needs reform—it does not need a revolution. A radical rips up a tree by its roots, thereby severing it from its source and denying its nature. A reformer prunes and waters. A reformer seeks to bring it back in alignment with its source so it can be true to its nature and grow healthily.
A reformer of the church need not burn its liturgies, its music, its altar rails, its stained glass, its crosses and images of Our Lord. He waters it with the Word. He prunes with the confessions.
Only then will Christians be able to live in it as Christ intended, and not merely thrill at innovations.
May 25, 2006
The final episode of House seems to have been written by the same lame-brain who wrote the “Patrick Duffy takes the longest shower in human history” episode of Dallas. Yes, there seems to be a redemptive moment slyly tucked away in his psychotic episode, but enough with the deconstructions of the good doctor’s personality defects, please! They are all quite obvious—and would you want a kinder, gentler House? What would be the point? I want to see him humiliating the elderly and beating the crippled! I want to see him so addicted to morphine that you could drive a stake through his heart before breakfast and the only reaction you would get is a muffled cough! I want to see him ruin the careers of his underlings, I want to see Cuddy hauled out of the hospital in handcuffs for glossing over his unorthodox practices—I want to see House cure a small child of cancer only to push him down a flight of stairs because he won’t share his Slurpee! Now that’s entertainment!
I will not see X-Men III because the very thought of Ian McKellen and his blasphemies make me want to sell my transverse colon on eBay. Plus, the X-Men ARE freaks! Hello! What else are you supposed to do with these medical experiments but banish or destroy them? Do you want them buying the ranch house next to yours? Do you want a giant wolfman driving your kids to school? Do you want Storm coming to your picnic?! Get real, people!
I have just read that Wisconsin has mandated that abstinence be taught as the preferred behavior for teenagers. What nonsense is this? The preferred behavior for teenagers is to abstain from speaking as they are shipped to the mines of West Virginia until puberty is over!
I must nap.
May 24, 2006
Lies My Gramophone Told Me
And another thing: What is it with you miserable malcontents in the 21st century? Why do you rush hither and thither from one technology to another, from one format to another. This is technological adultery!
First there were albums; though they endured, they too evolved from 78s to 331/3s and 45s. Then came 8-track tapes, which lasted about as long as Zwingli’s engagement to Anna Reinhardt. (This joke is so inside, you would need a resection of your colon to get it.) After that, CDs. Now MP3s. Next, the music will be drilled directly into your fillings at the dentist’s so that every time you bite into something cold, "I Made It Through the Rain" will come vomiting out of your pie hole.
As for video, reel-to-reel tape was supplanted by Betamax, then VHS, then laser discs, and now DVDs—but wait. What is this I see? PSP. Now it is primarily for games, but movies are also being released in this format. How long before music is as well. They’re smaller than conventional DVDs. Soon you will have a disc the size of a silver dollar that will hold a movie, a video game, 65,000 songs, your birth certificate, three cantelopes, a spoon, a 1965 Buick LeSabre, and freckle cream.
Listen to me, my Lutherans! You must put a stop to this endless planned obsolescence! Do you think this is all an accident? Every major home entertainment manufacturer knows what the new formats will be 16 iterations in advance, and exactly when to bring each one onto the market, forcing you to buy yet another copy of So I Married an Axe Murderer—this time in 3D with audio commentary from the crafts services supervisor!
Year after year you go broke trying to keep up with the latest and greatest and fastest and clearest and loudest and smallest and shiniest and who knows whatest. In 1495, you could amuse yourself all day with a twig, half a chestnut, and a dead dog. Try leaving that under the Christmas tree! Ach—the howls!
Spoiled—that’s what you are! Miserable, rotten, spoiled—AND IF I DON’T GET A DECENT DVD COPY OF WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE WITHIN THE NEXT SIX HOURS I WILL GO ON A PROLONGED AND PAINFUL HUNGER STRIKE! That’s right! The minute I feel hunger, I will strike! And it will be extremely painful, I assure you, you cringing good-for-nothing factotum!
And now … lunch.
May 23, 2006
Do you think I would profane the memory of Our Lord by impugning His Holiness or insinuating personal sin? If you theological illiterates understood the concept of imputation, you wouldn't be having this discussion! You'd be home making babies for the kingdom of God!
Ach! Only the Aardvark understands!
But you have to love that Mollie Ziegler ... a good Lutheran girl ...
On Hurricanes and Bacon Grease
Given how far this nation of yours has strayed from the truth of the Gospel, I predict that one of the Category 6 hurricanes expected in 2006 will, in fact, hit Virginia Beach, Virginia, specifically the broadcasting facilities of a particular talk show host who bears a striking resemblance to one of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.
The hurricane will bring his empire to wrack and ruin, silencing this man now and forever. His program will be replaced by alternating infomercials for Urine Gone and The Swivel Sweeper.
In a related item, the NOAA has announced the names it intends to give storms in the year 2006: Alberto, Leslie, Beryl, Michael, Chris, Nadine, Debby, Oscar, Ernesto, Patty, Florence, Rafael, Gordon. Sandy, Helene, Tony, Isaac, Valerie, Joyce, William, and Kirk.
You give hurricanes normal human names but prefer to name your children Apple, Moon Unit, Nevaeh, and Shaquille. Ach, why didn’t I stay dead…
Given that you Americans wish to develop a level of intimacy with your natural disasters, I have decided to help you by giving names to other phenomena in your day-to-day lives so that you may—what is the term?—ah, yes, “bond” with them more quickly.
The greasy gook that gathers at the edges of the pan upon cooking a slab of bacon: Karl Frederick.
The sound my knees make when climbing stairs: Kevin.
The smell of a new car: Alejandro.
The rollercoaster effect produced by a bad haircut: Earl.
The unique sensation of a colonoscopy probe: Mistress Griselda.
That fungal infection you develop after walking barefoot with open wounds in a men's shelter: Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
I can do no more.
May 22, 2006
Yes, it is true, they were devotees of that pagan superstition astrology. I had more than my share of arguments with my beloved Philip about putting his trust in that nonsense rather than relying solely on the Providence of Our Lord. (At least Herr Schaff had the decency to quote me correctly!) And I would have hoped my student Chemnitz would have heard me on this as well. (At least he heard me when it came to the church and doctrine, as his brilliant deconstruction of the so-called "Council" of Trent proves.)
But as my amanuensis has already rightly—for once—commented on the aforementioned miserable blog, with the popes for models of conduct, WHAT COULD YOU EXPECT! Be happy they didn't have catamites and prostitutes roaming the halls of Wittenberg! Both that theological miscreant Leo X and at least one of his brain-damaged successors, Paul III, had astrologer-magicians like Lucas Gauricus (left) brought to Rome in order to help them when their prayers to Satan for the extirpation of Luther had failed!
My generation was mired in superstition, bad doctrine, and worse morals, thanks to the sterling examples of our bishops and "holy fathers." "Missouri Synod" is correct—although where he finds the time to post on OTHER PEOPLE'S WEB SITES when he should be finding me a decent meal that does not consist of pencil shavings and acidophilus bacteria, I have no idea!—we were as much shaped by our era as shapers of it.
O to have had two lifetimes with which to fight the enemies of the faith ...
May 21, 2006
Sermon for Sunday, May 21: Our Inside Man
Lee calls his films "joints." I have asked my miserable assistant to explain this to me. It seems that "joint" may have more than one meaning: It can mean prison, as in I've done time in the joint. It can refer to simply any indoor space: I was casing the joint. It is a part of the human anatomy on which limbs hinge. And it can be a marijuana cigarette. None of this was helpful to me in the least.
All you need to know is that Inside Man is a deft, compelling caper movie with yet another star-turn performance by the inimitable Denzel Washington.
Inside Man is always conscious of its being a caper movie, in the vein of Dog Day Afternoon, which is literally referred to by Washington's character, a detective eager to close the books on some missing money he may or may not have made off with so as to move up the pay scale to detective first grade. Clive Owen, our bank robber du jour, is his chance to make everyone forget the business with the missing money. All Washington has to do is catch the bad guys and make sure that none of some 50 hostages is killed in process.
But as Washington exclaims in the trailer to the movie, "This ain't no bank robbery." Ah yes, Mr. Owen has something else up his sleeve, so intricately plotted that I guarantee that even the most prolific filmgoer will not prefigure every twist and turn.
The film starts at what we believe is the end. It seems that Mr. Owen has been caught and is now explaining how both the robbery and his capture were pulled off. But nothing is as it seems. For example, the chairman of the board of directors of the bank being robbed—played rather matter-of-factly by Christopher Plummer—is very keen on making sure his personal safe deposit box is not touched. He's even willing to pay both a "fixer," played by Jodie Foster, and the robber himself huge sums of money to make sure that is the case. What is in the box that is so valuable? That's only one of several mysteries. The other is whether Mr. Washington is, in fact, guilty of the charge against him, of making off with the cash from a case involving a check-cashing establishment. Yet another is the connection between the master thief and the CEO—and founder—of the Wall Street bank that is the setting for the crime. Oh, and for good measure, how does this all-too-clever hoodlum intend to just walk out the front door of the bank and get away with his crime?
There is a reason why Lee and Washington work so well together: At their best they take an audience's attention hostage and lead it wherever they wish it to go. Washington was awarded the Best Actor Oscar for his role as a corrupt police officer in Training Days. Some murmured that it was a mere politically correct payoff. I defy anyone with that opinion to name another actor who could so masterfully metamorphose within the confines of one character, leading us to believe he is one thing one minute and something altogether different the next. Washington grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags you hither and none—up, down, right, left. He is always in control, no more so than when he seems out of it. Suddenly, he will pull back, smile that smile, and you know you have been played for a fool. You will even thank him for it.
Lee plays with this genre, ratcheting up the tension in a very conventional manner, only to shut it down by cutting to interviews with the already rescued hostages. First we fear for their lives, then they're sitting across from the detectives annoyed at being interrogated as if they were the criminals themselves. We're in the middle of the boiling cauldron, then we're being dried off with some cool towels—then dropped back into the pot again.
Which brings me to one theme of this film: the victim as criminal. When there is no logical explanation for a crime, everyone is a suspect. References to racial profiling in light of 9/11 are bemoaned by one hostage who is released suspiciously early in the hold-up. The man is a Sikh whose turban is ripped off by an over-excited and fearful police officer. The Sikh man's complaint about his civil rights being violated is countered by Washington's laconic, "But I bet you can still get a cab." Washington knows that sometimes, there is good reason to be rough with the "victims."
There are some barely credible turns in the plot; I dare not mention them here for fear of giving away too much. I also wish they had rethought the vulgarity. It was excessive and unnecessary, even for a movie filled with thoroughly disreputable characters. And as for how the Clive Owen's devilish criminal does or does not escape: I will reference only a very amusing ABC TV movie of the week from the 1970s called Bad Ronald and leave the rest for you to figure out.
Attention Jodie Foster fans: She sleepwalks through her limited role with a condescending "Oh, what fools these mortals be" smirk on her face. Part of this is due to her character's beyond-good-and-evil profile; the other part is that Foster knows the Academy will not award her a third Oscar, so why not take it easy and nap between takes ... or even during takes.
You're probably saying to yourself right now, "All right, we get it, Herr Luther—Inside Man is an entertaining Saturday afternoon cops-and-robbers film with some dirty words. But what makes it worth a Sunday sermon?" I will tell you, Mr. and Mrs. Smart-face: the price of redemption.
Plummer's character, the founder and chairman of the bank under assault, has spent his life doing good deeds in reparation for some terrible thing in his past, something related to what is in that safe deposit box. The question is, can such reparation, such life-long penance, truly undo the effects of a crime? Can you ever finally erase the stain of sin once it has been committed?
Nein! Confess, confess, and confess your sins again. Make amends, be harsh with yourself, resolve never to concede to temptation!
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment, whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, "You fool!" shall be liable to the hell of fire." (Matt. 5:22)Listen to me, you fools: If such a little thing will have you dangling by the top of your hair over the flames of hell, how do you expect to make "amends" for your sins? What penance will you perform, what suffering in Purgatory will you endure that can undo even the temporal consequences of one errant thought! In the Hindu and Buddhist religions they speak of multiple existences—the living of many lives—and the necessity of burning one's "karma" to undo the effects of "wrong living" in a previous existence. To them I say there are not enough holy lives to be lived in 10 billion years of eternal recurrences capable of purging one sin from a fallen soul.
For that we need an inside man. For that we need someone who has been inside our flesh and inside the Godhead. For that we need a redeemer who knows truth from the inside because He is truth, who knows sin and its effects because He was made sin for us, who takes our guilt upon Himself and credits us with His own righteousness. That is the only exchange that can make matters right for you and for me. Not an exchange of favors between powerful friends, be they holy men, priests, pastors, or saints in heaven. Not the selling of indulgences, nor the giving of tithes or the feeding of the hungry and the clothing of the naked. These are exchanges of like for like, leaving you in the same state as before.
Seek the mercy of God's own Inside Man, the God-man Jesus Christ.
May 20, 2006
Five Greatest Films About Sports That Do Not Exist or Should Not Exist
The James Caan original, not the raucous sequel that actually dignified the game of roller derby. More than just a bunch of knuckleheads on rollerskates, Rollerball describes a dystopia fueled by bread and circuses, with a startlingly restrained performance by James Caan that serves to reinforce the effects of a repressive corporatist-totalitarian society that manipulates lives to suit its board of directors’ needs.
Slap Shot (hockey—exists, unfortunately)
Why do people watch this inane circus performance? You can’t even see the stupid piece of plastic they hit less often than they hit each other. Back and forth, back and forth, and for what? A championship cup in which several of the winners’ names are misspelled and ratings lower than the IQs of Dan Brown's readers. To quote that world-class weightloser Susan Powter: Stop the madness!
Caddyshack (golf—exists if you can stay awake long enough)
Golf. Once more: golf. The only sport where you can weigh 500 kilos and still be considered a great athlete. Golf. Had it been around in my day, we would have used the clubs to beat the French about the face and neck—now there’s a sport!
Pumping Iron (bodybuilding—doesn’t exist)
A Roman spectacle called bodybuilding exists, in which grown men dress up in Speedos and mineral oil in order to expose their latissimus dorsi to drug-addled adolescents and prisoners. But a sport? If it weren’t for human growth hormone, every one of these walking fireplugs would be selling cheap sports jackets from the back of Buicks (the current governor of California notwithstanding).
Best in Show (walking your doggie—exists, to my utter amazement)
Grown men and women drag little Fee-fee and Fou-frou around Madison Square Garden to an audience of nonagenarians and social climbers. How do you judge the best dog? First, you refrain from taking your Lithium for a period of two weeks. Then you repeatedly run head first into a plasterboard wall until you emerge on the other side, to the delight or horror of your next-door neighbor. Finally you rate on a scale of 1-10 how close the animal comes to pooping in concentric circles. It’s more of an art than a science really…
My contemptible assistant suggested BASEketball—starring the juvenile delinquents who bring you South Park and other excreta—as a close No. 6 in the “doesn’t exist” category. But that would be to credit this with being a motion picture and not industrial waste.
May 19, 2006
MI:3: Capote vs. Maverick
I HATE WHEN I RHYME! WHY DO YOU LET ME RHYME, YOU DOG-FACED ENABLER OF DOGGEREL?!
Let me begin my review by saying that the critics must have let their contempt for Mr. Cruise color their judgment. Listen to me, my Lutherans: THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST OF THE THREE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE FILMS! I was stunned by the intensity of the story, the passion of Mr. Cruise's performance, the surprising humor, and the ability of the director (J.J. Abrams, of Alias fame) to surprise with stunts that can still take a cynical cinema goer's breath away!
But before I continue, let me say: STOP ASKING ME IF I WANT THE MEDIUM POPCORN FOR JUST 25 CENTS MORE! If I wanted the medium popcorn for just 25 cents more, I would have asked for the medium popcorn for 25 cents more—or the large for $25 more! Why is this so difficult? I asked for a small—REPEAT—a small popcorn, a box of Raisinettes, a box of Sno-Caps, a box of chocolate-covered almonds, a box of Goobers, a bag of M&Ms, two frankfurters, nachos with cheese, a frozen ice cream cone, and a diet Coke. Does it look like I would want a medium popcorn?! Go get a G.E.D. and move on to meaningful work, like ticket tearer!
Back to the movie: It begins in media res. For those of you who attended a New York City public school during the 1980s, that means it begins in the middle of the action! Actually, it's more like the end of the action. Or close to the end. So it would be more like in conclusio res. Ach! I'm losing my Latin. I can barely keep my German, what with having to communicate in American English day and night. What kind of a language allows you to pronounce ough 18 different ways! THROUGH, BOUGH, THOROUGH, OUGHT! MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!
WHY DO YOU LET ME GO OFF ON TANGENTS! I HATE WHEN I GO OFF ON TANGENTS! TIME IS AT A PREMIUM, YOU MORONIC MENIAL!
Ethan Hunt gets married—something his colleague in impossible missions, Luther (my favorite character), warns him is a mistake, given "what we do and the lifestyle we lead." Hunt is not convinced. His wife brings back memories of life "before all this." Perhaps this is a little of Cruise's own personal history intruding on the story line. In any event, it definitely gives your enemies someone else to target, as we soon learn. (Thank goodness I had not yet wed when I was locked away in the Wartburg—who knows what might have transpired!)
The mission this time is to find and kidnap a black-market weapons dealer, Owen Davian, played with a disdainful world-weariness by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who this year was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor for playing none other than Truman Capote, who is about as menacing as a bunion. While some might think Hoffman is merely slumming in this genre, he had to get a kick out of kicking the living doo-doo out of Tom Cruise. One serving of gravitas, coming up!
By starting the motion picture at the end, we know that early schemes by the IMF troupe to nab Davian will fail. The question is how, when, and what will Hunt have to endure to put things right. The film actually picks up pace as it proceeds, unusual for action films, notorious for sagging after the first 45 minutes.
There is much fun to be had once Hunt et al. hit Rome. A particularly amusing moment occurs as Cruise and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, seen most recently in Woody Allen's Match Point, bring Rome's midday traffic to a halt via a screaming match in quite passable Italian! (At least quite passable from a dead ESL German's perspective.) Hunt proceeds to use the diversion to scale the 60-foot wall that encloses Vatican City and make his way into a by-invitation-only gathering of glitterati.
It is here, in the capital of theological duplicity, that Ethan Hunt will switch identities with Davian (an IMF trademark and a highly technical process to which we finally become privy) and apparently gain the upper hand as our hero prepares to deposit the villain on the doorstep of American intelligence. But things are never that simple—especially where American intelligence is concerned.
Is an American government official complict in Davian's arms deals? Can we trust our own government when it comes to meddling in international affairs? (Now what brought THAT up?) For that matter, can Hunt's new bride (Michelle Monaghan) trust him—someone who purports to study traffic patterns for a living when in fact he's the most important secret agent since James Bond?
"You have to kill me so I can live," Hunt tells his wife at the film's climax. A decidedly spiritual insight. As if that were not enough, one of Hunt's team, the almost absurdly beautiful Zhen (Maggie Q), begins to pray for Ethan's safety. To top this off, Meyers asks her to TEACH HIM THE PRAYER! I half expected Bing Crosby in a Roman collar to come flying into the frame like in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. God be praised! There's hope for Hollywood yet!
So if you have not yet seen this entertaining tidbit, by all means, go this weekend. Laurence Fishburne's wickedly witty turn as a dubious intelligence honcho is all by itself worth the $72 of my assistant's money that I spent on refreshments.
And don't let Mr. Cruise's errant belief system deter you. You may think him a fool for putting his trust in a dead-as-dust second-rate sci-fi scribbler. But how many think we are fools for our belief in the living Lord of Heaven and Earth?
If this film has a theme it is this: Sometimes the truth is staring us right in the face and still we don't believe.
Pray that Mr. Cruise comes to know the truth and be as zealous an advocate of the Gospel as he is of Scientology.
But without the whole jumping on the couch thing...
Another Clown Bites the Dust
And so when it was announced that Clarabell, of that stupid Howdy Doo Doo Show, had dropped dead on Wednesday, May 17, I partied like it was 1499!
But we must not become complacent, my Lutherans, just because one bicycle horn has been silenced! The single most fecund source for these half-human, half-baked-ziti monstrosities is the infamous State Circus Maximus at Plattsburgh—yes, a clown college! And its curriculum is appalling!
Selzer Squirting 101—what is that?
Midgets Emerging from Volkwagen—Advanced Seminars
Human Cannonballs & Multiculturalism
Knife Throwing in the Thirty Years’ War
Contortionism & Women’s Studies: The "Right to Bend"
Stilt Walking and the Vertically Challenged—radical garbage!
Moreover, the menu in their cafeteria consists of nothing but swords, fire, and Yoo-Hoo. Their Music Department has two CDs: Clyde Beatty Sings Vic Damone and The Fat Lady Sings—Period. Their varsity sport is some nut riding a motorcycle on a high wire while his girlfriend stands on his shoulders playing a ukelele. And yet it's accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools!
Before another generation is lost to this criminal enterprise, I implore you, close the State Circus Maximus at Plattsburgh! Perform your Christian duty and open the doors of Concordia Colleges nationwide. Take in these miserable souls who only want a form of employment that doesn't require spinning plates on a stick. (So journalism is out.)
Is that so much to ask?
May 18, 2006
Sermon for Thursday, May 18, 2006
I want you, in order to honor this great man (yes, even though a papist), to go to your video stores and rent the following motion picture: Meet John Doe. If you have seen it, watch it again! What else do you have to do with your wretched lives!
Why this picture? Because although Capra is often dismissed as a sentimental manipulator or a mere jingoist by no-nothings, Communists, and other academics, his films exhibit a highly sophisticated understanding of the power of the word—written and spoken. (State of the Union and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are other examples of this theme.)
Words can be used to create community, to foster hope, to broadcast truth, and to reconcile. Or they can be used to generate fear, broadcast lies, disseminate propaganda, and fracture communities into rage-filled mobs.
The potency of the word lies in the Word, who spoke and worlds were made from nothing, who spoke and children were healed in their sick beds, who spoke and sins were forgiven and Pharisees shaken. Who died and with the words "It is finished" granted all who believe eternal life.
Generations of literary theorists have attempted to rob the word of its power in order to render human experience meaningless. They have failed. They will fail. The Word lives and reigns.
A New Motion Picture Ratings System
I think it is time to reconsider the effect this medium has on its audience and perform this public service from the perspective of a Christian sensibility. So here are my suggestions for a new ratings key and a mere smattering of examples that exemplify each rating.
For “NOT AGAIN!” A short list of sequels on their way to a recycle bin near you: Rocky VI, Star Trek 11, Hostel 2 (did anyone see Hostel 1?), Rush Hour III, Beverly Hills Cop IV, Alien vs. Predator 2, Rambo IV (a 61-year-old Rambo moves to Paris and is enlisted in an attempt to re-fight the Franco-Prussian War).
For “Idiot Man Child.” This is for films in which grown men are reduced to a childlike state, or a child is placed into a man’s body, so they can be better controlled by the women in their lives—and make a nice living while they’re at it! Examples of IMC films: Big and Regarding Henry.
For “Why?” As in Staying Alive, Bewitched (2005), The Honeymooners (2005), The Stepford Wives (2004), Be Cool, Billy Jack Goes to Washington.
For “Cheat on Spouse, Become Enlightened.” A mere handful of COSBE films: American Beauty, Box of Moonlight, Being John Malkovich, Brokeback Mountain.
For “Dehumanizing Experience,” in which you exit the theater wishing you were a gecko or a hedgehog or something, anything but a member of the same species as those associated with such abominations as Hannibal, Closer, Terminator 2 (that pounding “score” and relentless determination to kill on everyone’s part gave me 32 headaches and revived my piles!), Happiness, Eraserhead, Natural Born Killers, Sin City, Old Yeller. (All right, just kidding about Terminator 2…)
For “Ruined Good Book”: Bonfire of the Vanities, any adaptation of Evelyn Waugh.
For “Good as Book”: Lord of the Rings Trilogy, A Merry War (from Orwell’s Keep the Apidistra Flying), Remains of the Day.
For “Better Than Book”: The Godfather, Adaptation (from Susan Orleans The Orchid Thief), Planet of the Apes.
For “Bad as Book”: Breakfast of Champions, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.
For “Lethal.” It will carry this warning: “Contains scenes of nudity, sexual perversion, blasphemy, necrophilia, sado-masochism, just masochism, some sadism with a little self-pinching, gore, horror, crude humor, pedophilia, cannibalism, Garry Shandling, vile language including 770 instances of the F word, and six communicable diseases.” Think the films of Todd Solondz, John Waters (pre-Hairspray), Kevin Smith, Peter Greenaway, and Michael Moore.
I have spoken.
May 17, 2006
Did You Hear That?
It's The Da Vinci Code BOMBING! The critics have weighed in after the film's debut at Cannes. The verdict:
"[A] stodgy, grimy thing" (Variety)
"Nothing really works" (Boston Globe)
"[I]t kept going and going and going, and not in a good way"
(CBS 5, San Francisco)
"[A]n unwieldy, bloated melodrama" (Hollywood Reporter)
"[R]elentless, ridiculous exposition and condescending explanations of the past 2,000 years of ecclesiastical history that would make a GCSE history teacher blush with embarrassment ... only an idiot would swallow any of Brown's hysterical, magpie approach to history" (Time Out London)
"A code that takes longer to watch than to read" (headline for NY Times review)
And how was Mr. Gump?
"A zombie" (Boston Globe)
Reports are that audience members left before the two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza was finished, that there were laughs in the "wrong" places, and finally boos and hisses, without the smattering of applause usually reserved even for lousy films at this festival. Let's face it: If even the French think it's crap, you may as well flush it now and be done with it!
Now if this monstrosity opens at a weak No. 1 or — better — No. 2 this Friday, then it is fair to say that this attempt to profane the name of the Lord has been thwarted.
But remember what the Scripture says: "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it, and be displeased and turn away his anger from him" (Prov. 24: 17-18)
So hear me, you Lutherans! Do not rejoice! Laugh, sing, jump up and down — mock the miserable sinners! But do not rejoice!
POST SCRIPTUM: It seems that a rough cut of Rocky VI — also known as Rocky Balboa — has also been screened here in this country. My miserable assistant already knows the "surprise" ending, having read the original screenplay while working with Mr. Stallone. I will not go into details as to the circumstances, as I prefer he retain his invisibility. After all, this blog is ABOUT ME! But let's just say, Rocky VI may make Rocky V look like ... well ... Rocky.