We're on a cinema high right now having just viewed for the third time Roberto Benigni's masterpiece "Life is Beautiful." We have thus far resisted renting the English dubbed version because the Italian is so moving and sets the tone. Besides by the third time we're relying less and less on subtitles; not that we're proficient in Italian. Mama mia, no! While we're using exclamations we could go into a complete diatribe against that dreadful dog of a movie "dogma" being released this weekend nationwide, but to give it very much ink is only defeating the purpose. While William Donohue had done a laudable job as watchdog of the media in his role as President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, we think he gave too much publicity to this sorry excuse for a movie that not only exploits the depths of Catholic bashing but exposes what psuedo thespians overhyped movie actors Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Salma Hayak, Janine Garafolo and George Carlin are. But then you have in that group disgruntled fallen-away Catholics who are angry and it shows. Their participation makes this vendetta all the more obvious because it is, as one critic says, "a comedy that crucifies itself on planks of rotted wood." The whole premise of this dog is that two fallen angels think they can get back into Heaven through a loophole in Catholic Dogma. There's the first no-no for there are no loopholes in Catholic Dogma and Doctrines of the Church. This film is truly an example of the last ditch efforts of satan who is so desperate that he's influencing men like Kevin Smith the director-writer of this tripe who has been referred to as a "practicing Catholic." Sorry, but how about a "practicing heretic!" We haven't seen the film and have no intention to and strongly advise all others to run from this dog as you would a mangy pitbull. Even the critics are getting in the act of Catholic bashing as one critic, David Elliott of the San Diego Union-Tribune which we refer to as the Onion, says "Dogma, which is nearly unendurable, might have been un-releasable except that the Catholic Church went into one of its periodic movie snits. For months, the Church has been rewarding this lame loser with a fierce campaign of publicity, including pamphlets that feature an image of the Virgin Mary uinder the line 'My children, what have I done to deserve such insults?' " Narrow-minded critics like Elliott just don't get it and misconstrue the whole meaning of why it is offensive. No wonder all they can do is criticize! Remind you of another nasty named Thomas Nast back in the nineteenth century?
Going back even further in the centuries another film is being released this weekend where again the story is totally taken out of context and the result is a crazed Saint Joan of Arc rather than the spiritual soul she was. We're talking about Luc Besson's sorry portrayal of the French saint in "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc." Again even a star-studded cast of Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich, or Faye Dunaway cannot do justice to the story. Possibly Besson's casting of his own ex-wife Milla Jovovich in the starring role added to the malaise for this former model can't act and does nothing to evoke empathy for Joan. Thank God Pope Benedict XV canonized her when he did. Had he seen this script he might have considered her less of a saint and more of a mentally crazed teen.
But that seems to be Hollywood's modus operandi when dealing with Catholic subjects. Not since "The Song of Bernadette" has the film industry truly done justice to the sacredness of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It seems more and more movies are using token priests or nuns as foils to fit their script, much as Hollywood fabricates scripts that mirror society in rejecting the Will of God for man's stubborn, selfish will. Trash like "Priests", "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Dogma" are the extreme, but there is a subliminal danger in many films that compromises the confessional and the sacred institution of Holy Orders. A first run comedy in theatres presently "The Bachelor" features a priest who is willing to marry a couple with no mandatory Cana preparation for the Sacrament of Matrimony. This just isn't done. They don't have priests at the wedding chapels in Las Vegas and Reno! But the short-lived program "Nothing Sacred" helped contribute to the misconceived perception of priests, religious and laity roles and that the Sacred Doctrines, Teachings and Dogmas of the Church - all part of the great Deposit of Faith, were not important when it came to compromise.
Though it is not written by Catholics, the one program most in line with Catholic thinking continues to be the respected and respectful "Touched by an Angel" for it elevates the goodness of God while pointing to the merits of suffering and living the Gospel. Though, possibly in order not to offend Jews or Moslems or Hindus or whatever other religions have arisen in the world, the show's writers are careful not to mention the name Jesus but refer to Him as God, Who He is. Wouldn't it be nice if other writers were more sensitive to Catholic interests and traditions?
In a few weeks another religious thriller will hit the big screen - Arnold Schwarzenegger's "End of Days" that also features a priest and we can only hope with his Catholic roots and some of the producers that they will be faithful to the heroic office of the priesthood and not emphasize superstition as so many do who are either ignorant to the Catholic Faith or purposely out to denigrate it. We need more films that are sensitive to the Faith as many Jewish films that are produced that, while exposing the human side, elevate it to a respect for faith.
Sadly, even those producing Catholic films have missed the mark such as "Gospa" which died such a quick death it never even made it to video. It is a shame for this film about Father Jozo Zovko, OFM and the apparitions at Medjugorje could have been such an eye-opener for non-believers and communicated through the celluloid medium the messages the Blessed Mother of God has been conveying to the world. Here was another example of big name stars laying an egg for this film starred Martin Sheen, Michael York and Morgan Fairchild. Yet everyone of them were miscast and out of their element. The liberal Catholic Sheen, rather than emphasizing the spirituality of the plot, turned it into a political yawner. His portrayal of Father Jozo was the farthest thing from reality we can remember.
This weekend on NBC another religious made-for-TV-movie titled "Mary, the Mother of Jesus" is scheduled to air on NBC during sweeps week. It is touted as "the story of the Messiah through Mary's eyes." We know from Blessed Catherine Emmerich's "City of God" and Maria Valtorta's "The Poem of the Man-God" Our Lady's point of view which was totally submissive to the Divine Will. It will be interesting to see how this latest TV-movie plays out for it is produced by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, supposedly a devout Catholic and her son Bobby Shriver. We can only hope that it will live up to its billing in authenticity and respect for the most important woman in the history of the world - the Blessed Virgin Mary who God the Father selected from all time as His chosen daughter to be the pure tabernacle for the Son of God through the mystical insemination of the Holy Spirit, her Divine Spouse at the Annunciation. We can hope and pray we'll someday see something decent that gives credence and credit to the Roman Catholic Church.
Finally, while we are on movies, we continue to bring you each Friday the Top Ten for the week. But bear in mind, these are not the "Ten Best" but merely the ten that grossed the most. From reading the Bishops' concise reviews each week you can see practically each one is sorely lacking in compliance with morals and values espoused by the Church. Almost every film today condones extramarital sex, even deviant sex not to mention violence, cursing and killing. Other commandments are violated as well on nearly every television show from sitcoms to talk shows to weekly series to even commercials - especially the commercials which are so "in your face and rude" that the Fourth Commandment has become obsolete. No wonder there is so little respect for authority or parents today. And when a court of appeals rules that the Ten Commandments are not educational as they did in a San Francisco court earlier this week, well then it all adds up to signs we are close to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart and the purification of the earth which will usher in a new era - the Reign of the Sacred Heart, the Age of the Eucharistic Presence, the New Pentecost. It will be a blockbuster to break all records and it is coming soon! Watch for it in your heart and soul. The only problem is waiting for it. While we do, let's pray all the harder for the sequel promised by Christ can't come soon enough!