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Archives for September 2009

Today in Porn, Richard Burton’s Huge, Overwhelming Need Edition

Candy was a Terry Southern-penned parody of Candide that somehow got made into a movie starring Richard Burton, Marlon Brando, and Ringo Starr, the last as a Mexican gardener. (Yay, the ’60!) Also starring: James Coburn, John Huston, Walter Matthau, and Sugar Ray Robinson (!) Anyway, the scene above gives us Burton as Macphisto (hello, Bono!), a drunken Welsh poet (is there any other kind?) who takes a fancy to our heroine.

[Warning: the above clip features feminine undergarments and brutish behavior. The whole thing is so ridiculous that I felt safe putting it up. Still, make your own call on this one.]

Art!

Godsbody Aunt Cheryl writes: “So, my tray is done! Yeah!!!!! To be auctioned off this Saturday along with 24 others (see them at www.artscolumbia.org) at Eat For Art, proceeds going to the Columbia County Council of the Arts. Titled (at least in my head) “I Must Be Crazy Quilt”…because everything including the stitches and the button in the center, is painted! I must be…

"Sure, Every Person Otta Be"

File Under: It really doesn’t take much to make a Dad happy.

A little Mad Men on iTunes, a little Manhattan, a little snack of steak and mushrooms and spinach…

I am the most fortunate of men.

On The Devil at 4:00

The Devil at 4:00 opens with a scene on a cargo plane: Father Perreau (played by Kerwin Matthews) is in the hold with three convicts chained together. Charlie (Bernie Hamilton) and Marcel (Gregoire Aslan) and Harry (Frank Sinatra) are on their way to a prison in Tahiti, while the Father Perreau is on his way to the much smaller (and fictional) island of Talua to replace Father Doonan (Spencer Tracy), the whiskey priest with a cynical heart of gold. Father Doonan has made too many enemies on the island, presumably because of the mendicant glad handing he does on behalf of a charity project that is even less popular with the French residents: a hospital for children lepers he has built half way up the side of a mountain that happens to be an active volcano. One may doubt the wisdom in choosing an active volcano as the site for a children’s hospital, but then Doonan maybe was drunk while making the initial survey.

In any case, the hospital is very much a work-in-progress, and Father Doonan figures that convict labor is the best way to get it done, especially since he, being from Hell’s Kitchen, has become the nemesis as well as a kind of tough-guy friend to Harry, being from Jersey. Here’s the memorable exchange marking the turning point in their … relationship:

DOONAN Where you from, tough guy? I hear echoes.
HARRY I’ve been around… What’s it to ya?
DOONAN You spit your T’s. That’d be Jersey, I guess, maybe Jersey City. Hunh! I came from just across the River – Hell’s Kitchen. We used to eat punks like you.
HARRY Maybe. That’s when you had your teeth.

That’s not the only … relationship formed by Frank – pardon me, I mean Harry, who tries to seduce one of the local gals in the Hospital garden one night before he figures out that she’s blind. Then he falls in love with her.

All this is getting a little complicated, meaning that it’s time for the volcano to start acting up, which it does as if on cue. The govenor of the island (well played by Alexander Scourby, familiar to me as the narrator of the KJV bible on 40 something CDs) orders the evacuation of the island, in due consideration of the fact that lava is begining to stream down the sides of the mountain. What about the hospital, not to mention the children staying there? Well, Tracy – pardon me, Doonan – has a plan, in which he and the three parachute onto the volcano to lead the children and the hospital staff to safety. Governor Scourby – or maybe it was the ship’s capitaine – agrees to wait unitl 4:00 the next day before taking off in a rescue schooner.

I won’t give the rest away – what comes of the children, what comes of the priest and the convicts, and what comes of the budding romance between Ol’ Blue Eyes and the Polynesian Beauty without eyesight – but it’s fairly compelling drama of the disaster film cum Problem of Evil with bare bones theological commentary in dramatic form. I think it’s worth seeing. I’ll also note that, thus far, Tracy has the edge over Guiness when it comes to movie priests. The Gruff Exterior is inherently more dramatic than a Saint or a Genius.

Overall rating: B
Priest factor: B+

[Return to 52 Movies for the Year of the Priest home page.]

Art!

Godsbody uncle Terry Lickona announced the lineup for the 35th season of Austin City Limits recently…

October 3: Dave Matthews Band
October 10: Ben Harper and Relentless7
October 17: Kenny Chesney
October 24: Andrew Bird / St. Vincent
October 31: M. Ward / Okkervil River
November 7: Elvis Costello / Band of Heathens
November 14: Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel
November 21: Pearl Jam
January 9, 2010: Allen Toussaint
January 16, 2010: Mos Def / K’Naan
January 23, 2010: TBD / Heartless Bastards
January 30, 2010: Steve Earle / Kris Kristofferson
February 6, 2010: Them Crooked Vultures
February 13, 2010: Madeleine Peyroux / Esperanza Spaldin

I kinda dig Okkervil River. Never heard of these other clowns, though.

Art!

Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”:

And First Daughter’s version, done from memory after seeing it briefly on the Baby Van Gogh video we were playing for Third Daughter:

Yes, she put the moon on the left instead of the right. She’s young yet. What I like best about it is that it wasn’t part of any sort of assignment. She saw the painting, and decided to copy it, and that was that.

Don’t kill yourself! Not yet, anyway…

Fans of Walker Percy’s Love In The Ruins may remember the “Qualitarian Centers” that helped people ease themselves gently into that good night. As has been the case for the last couple of decades, we in the Northwest are blazing a trail towards dignity at any cost. Rita L. Marker explains:

Like most jurisdictions, Mount Vernon has a team of experienced commissioned law enforcement officers who are highly trained crisis/hostage negotiators. To continually enhance their life-saving skills, they have periodic training sessions. One routine training that took place in early August indicates how assisted-suicide promotion can permeate activities in unexpected ways.

As part of that recent training session, Amber Ford, a social worker from the hospital’s oncology department, presented a comprehensive two-hour discussion about the suicide risk among cancer patients. According to one of the attendees, her presentation was sensitive and informative. But, at the end, a jarring note was introduced. Prefacing her comments by explaining that she was aware of I-1000’s controversial nature, Ford explained that assisted suicide, like hospice care, was among the alternatives available to cancer patients. And, in keeping with providing all options now available in the state, she distributed a brochure from Compassion & Choices (C & C), the assisted-suicide advocacy group (formerly called the Hemlock Society).

The brochure explains: “C & C created the coalition that passed I-1000 into law and now stewards, protects and upholds Washington’s Death with Dignity Act. There is never a fee for any service provided by C & C, and confidentiality is strictly protected.” A toll-free number is provided to make access to assisted suicide only a phone call away. The brochure notes that a C & C volunteer can help patients “locate physicians who support a patient’s choice to use the law” – in other words, to find a doctor willing to prescribe a deadly overdose of drugs.

The irony was not lost on one experienced negotiator in attendance:

“I find it interesting that, as crisis negotiators, we are trying to talk people out of killing themselves. But by the end of the afternoon, we had a social worker from the oncology department of the hospital talking about being able to assist people in killing themselves.”

If, indeed, part of crisis management eventually includes offering suicide assistance, it could lead to a rather bizarre screening process. When a 911 call comes in, will there be an extra step in the screening process? If a person calls, asking for help for a suicidal family member, will the screener ask if the person is terminally ill? If not, crisis negotiators could be dispatched to the scene. But, if the suicidal person is terminally ill, will she be given C & C’s toll free number – so C & C could dispatch assisted-suicide facilitators?

There’s no hilarity quite so hilarious as matters-of-life-and-death hilarity.

Bookmark

“Then she dropped a coin in the box, and with a thunk and a flash the painting flared before her: sacred conversation, Virgin and the saints, the figures so familiar, so dear…The figures gazed away, each one away, not even at each other, yet it seemed to her that something hung between them, a constellation drawn among all those thoughtful eyes. Sacred conversation, silent conversation. Just what are you speaking of? Lucinde wondered. She had always wondered this – in all the sacred conversations, but especially this one, where the conversation seemed so intent. It was not even a conversation, but silent, without words, it seemed more a belief that hovered about the figures, like the invisible music of the angel singing at their feet. What, then, do you believe? What does that angel sing?

Music of the angels, music of the spheres. Lucinde tried to imagine the spheres and their music: abstract and pure, their tone like that of a triangle, clear. She contented herself that the silent conversation was something like this, a music that was pure concord, a concord that was surely love. And so a love that was invisible, a love that was intangible, but a love that was all the same known.”

– Jane Alison, The Marriage of the Sea

Father Brown (1954)

When Christ advised his disciples to be as crafty as serpents and as gentle as doves, he might have had Fr. Ignatius Brown in mind. This amiable priest, though simple and guileless, is a keen observer and an astute student of the human heart. He is — or was, when G.K. Chesterton first conjured him up — a new thing in the annals of detection: a kind of anti-Holmes, who captures crooks not by deductive reasoning from physical evidence, but by understanding the wayward ways of sinners.

The great Alec Guinness plays Fr. Brown, and quite well too. My first impression was that the cinematic Fr. Brown was rather too moon-faced, too naive, too much an apparent bumbler, but then I remembered that Chesterton himself described Fr. Brown as having “a face as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling,” and all, or nearly all, was forgiven. The story is based on the very first of Chesterton’s Fr. Brown tales, “The Blue Cross”, and it goes like this: Fr. Brown is taking a priceless treasure, a cross, to a Eucharistic Congress, and the renowned and flamboyent thief Flambeau intends to unburden him en route. Hilarity ensues. (In the film, the cross is said to have belonged to St. Augustine, and also to be “12 centuries old”, which makes it the once-prized possession of a St. Augustine now lost to historical science.)

The trouble with short stories, insofar as they are considered from the vantage point of screenwriters, is that they are so consistently short. The screenwriter is obliged to have recourse to additional diversions and detours, drawing out the existing characters, introducing new ones, and whatever else belongs to the art of adaptation. The screenwriters here have done just that, but not always with grace, or even reason. At one point we see Fr. Brown, in an attempt to fool Flambeau (who is no fool), try the ol’switcheroo with some packages, apparently with the senseless intent of leaving his precious cross sitting unattended at a sidewalk cafe.

More troubling are some none too subtle touches that tarnish Fr. Brown’s upright character. In the short story he leaves clues to assist the police in apprehending Flambeau; here he actually helps Flambeau to escape, and even deceives detectives into arresting an innocent bystander. True, his intention all along is to save Flambeau’s soul, which is certainly a great good, but there is a distinct sense that he is pitting human justice against divine, and that, as the real Fr. Brown would certainly point out, is bad theology.

Yet Fr. Brown’s priestly dignity is not entirely marred by these maladroit additions to the script. He does try to save Flambeau’s soul, and he speaks seriously and perceptively with him about repentance. He is shown preaching, with considerable grace, and even authority, to his congregation. We are left in little doubt that he is, at heart, a good man. In that, at least, the story is true to its original.

Overall rating: B
Priest factor: B-

[Return to 52 Movies for the Year of the Priest home page.]