Saturday, August 27, 2016

DIRECTORS COMMENTARY: PULP CATHOLICISM #050

Pulp Catholicism 050

If you've spent any time mulling around the Catholic blogosphere over the past few days, you've probably stumbled across the kerfuffle surrounding two well known Catholic bloggers who recently lost their writing positions at a well known Catholic publication due to various comments they've made online. You won't find any commentary on that particular situation here because that's not what we do at The B-Movie Catechism. What you will find, though, is this old cartoon I whipped up a few years ago which acknowledges the fact that St. Blogs can be a testy place from time to time, and pretty much always has been that way.

You know, the Catechism doesn't directly address blogging or comment sections on websites. It does, however, have a section on the use of social communications media where it notes, "It is necessary that all members of society meet the demands of justice and charity in this domain." So yeah, based on that, it's reasonable to assume that we're expected to watch our virtual tongues when we're interacting online. Anonymity doesn't excuse us from the demands of our faith. Now, of course, you're free to disagree with that conclusion, and if you do, by all means leave a comment below. But, you know, do it nicely.

THE JUKEBOX HERO HYMNAL: Hymn 029: God, Love & Rock N' Roll by Teegarden & Van Winkle


We haven't added a song to the Jukebox Hero Hymnal for a while, but after being reminded recently of the old one-hit wonder, God, Love & Rock N' Roll (on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast! of all places), I knew it had to go in. Originally starting out as The Sunday Servants, the Detroit duo of David Teegarden and Skip Knape (aka Van Winkle) worked steadily throughout the 60s and 70s, even spending some time with Bob Seger, but they only made it onto the charts once with this little jaunt into Jesus Rock. Gospel fans will probably catch on quickly that God, Love & Rock N' Roll borrows liberally from the traditional spiritual Amen, but the results are so catchy that it's hard to get too worked up over it.

Like most Jesus Rock, the lyrics to God, Love & Rock N' Roll are fairly innocuous. Typical of popular music produced at the tip end of the Vietnam War, there are the usual calls to "still the fires" and "give peace a chance." The majority of the tune, however, is a simple invocation to each of us to reaffirm our belief in God and love and... rock n' roll? Obviously that last part is a bit problematic theologically speaking. We're not supposed to put our faith in any earthly thing, especially not a style of music whose name is often preceded by the words "sex and drugs and..."

However, it's unlikely that's the kind of rock music Teegarden & Van Winkle are warbling about here. The Rev. Basil Nortz, O.R.C., not a big fan of rock n' roll, once noted that while "bad music tends to absolutize the passions, making their pleasure or hate a good in itself, such that right reason more and more loses dominion with the result that the individual falls victim to the passions... good music will stimulate the emotions in such a way that these faculties of the soul, under the guidance of reason, are made to more effectively pursue the good of the individual and his neighbor."

Given the context of the song, that second type of music is most likely what Teegarden & Van Winkle are extolling in God, Love & Rock N' Roll. They're professing a belief that a good tune can stimulate our emotions in such a way that we turn away from destructive behaviors and turn towards those things which can have a positive effect on ourselves and the world around us. Sure, Rev. Nortz is correct that there's plenty of songs out there that do just the opposite, but when it comes to God, Love & Rock N' Roll at least, it's hard not to get a big old happy grin when you listen to it.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

SHORT FEATURE: THE BANANA SPLITS - I'M GONNA FIND A CAVE

In celebration of National Banana Split Day (because, why not), let's take a moment to listen to the dulcet tones of... The Banana Splits (bet you saw that coming) singing one of their more popular tunes, I'm Gonna Find A Cave...


"Gonna find a cave where we can hide - Everything we crave will be inside - Oh yeah Me and you and all the goodies there - If I want I can pull you by the hair - Doop doop doop dip dip - I'm gonnna find a cave."
You know, they were making the whole idea of chucking everything and going to find an isolated cave to live in sound pretty good up, at least until they got to the hair-pulling part. I'm not sure what that was all about or what woman would possibly go for it. Still, getting away from it all can sometimes be a good idea. 

One person who certainly thought so was St. Paul of Thebes, a.k.a. Paul The Hermit. Back around the year 250 AD, Paul fled to a cave in the desert to avoid a property-snatching scheme by his anti-Christian brother-in-law. According to legend, he soon discovered cave dwelling to be conducive to his spirituality, so he decided to spend the next 90 years of his life there (which would explain that whole Paul The Hermit nickname thing). It would be another hundred years or so before the cave-craze really caught on, but Paul is generally credited with kick-starting the group known as the Desert Fathers, a loose-knit assemblage of Christian ascetics whose way of life would eventually morph into modern day monasticism. Leave it to God to find a way to turn anti-social tendencies into a social movement that has meant so much to so many.

Monday, August 22, 2016

CUTAWAYS: THE TOOTH FAIRY

Today is National Tooth Fairy Day! Now, like most of you, I am at  a loss to explain why any single person, let alone the whole nation, would want to celebrate one of Dwayne Johnson's worst movies ever. In fact, Tooth Fairy was so bad, The Rock was worried his acting career was headed, well, right down the toilet...


Johnson spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about this phase of his career...
"I was told that I had to conform to a standard in Hollywood that would beget me more work, better roles," he explains. "Which meant I had to stop going to the gym, which meant I couldn't be as big, which meant you had to distance yourself from wrestling. You essentially had to deconstruct yourself." 
For a while, he says, he bought into that, in part because he did not have the high-level industry contacts he could turn to for advice. "Then that started to not feel good to me. It reached a point of, 'I'm not feeling authentic."
"After [2010's] Tooth Fairy," says [manager Dany] Garcia, "we recognized that Dwayne was moving away from his core of who he was."
Judging from recent box-office results, it looks like The Rock course-corrected his career pretty well since his Tooth Fairy days. There's a lesson to be learned in that. While there's nothing overtly spiritual in The Rock's statements, that doesn't mean we can't recognize some deeper truths in the actor's decision to abandon false self-images and return to an authentic vision of himself. Author and speaker Fr. Jacque Philippe notes that we Christians should strive for such epiphanies in our own spiritual journeys... 
“We have tried to construct a personality for ourselves... and yet a part of us is still empty, unsatisfied, perplexed: Who am I really? Does what I have lived through up till now really express what I am?... Everything we may learn about ourselves by human means (experience of life, psychology, human sciences) is not to be despised, obviously. But that provides only a limited and partial knowledge of our being... That deepest part comes to light only in the encounter with God, which strips us of everything artificial in our identity to bring us to what we really are, at the heart of our personhood. Our true identity is not so much a reality to be constructed as a gift to be received. It is not about achieving, but letting ourselves be begotten... We human beings can only know ourselves truly in the light of God. "
So, by being who God wants us to be, we actually become a fuller version of our true self, we... what's that? You say National Tooth Fairy Day is actually about dental hygiene awareness and not at all about The Rock's terrible movie? Oh. Okay. Well, I'm sure God wants us to take care of our teeth too.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

NOW SHOWING AT A BLOG NEAR YOU

Now Showing Marquee 4

It’s time again to check in around the web and see what’s going on with religion and movies. In case you missed it, I’ve got a new gig at SCENES where I discuss horror related offerings such as The Witch and Stranger Things. I’m also still contributing reviews of new releases to Aleteia where recently I’ve taken in Ben-Hur and Pete’s Dragon.

Speaking of Pete’s Dragon, the reboot of the Disney semi-classic  has some folks once again digging up Michael O’Brien’s book, A Landscape with Dragons, in order to make the argument that such creatures should never, ever be portrayed as good characters. Jimmy Akin weighs in to debunk that notion once and for all.

Now, if all this talk about Pete’s Dragon has whetted your appetite for 1970s-era House of Mouse, then be sure to stop by Speculative Faith where Audie Thacker spends some time exploring Disney’s sci-fi gem, The Black Hole. Thacker even mentions the comic book adaptation of the film, which I just so happened to own a copy of back in the day.

Of course, I owned a lot of comics back in the day, so I’m a sucker for a blog like Christ, Coffee, and Comics where Greek Orthodox priest Father Niko does stuff like talk to former Marvel scribe Ann Nocenti about religion, philanthropy, and Daredevil.

Let’s face it, comic-based movies pretty much rule the box office at the moment, so it’s inevitable that a news outlet like the Desert News National should get around to asking the question, “Does God exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?” The answer seems a little fuzzy.

If you really want fuzzy, though, look no further than the films of the Coen Brothers. Over at NonModern, Jason Dietz has been taking a look at the filmmaking duo’s various films and he’s finally gotten around to their first effort,  Blood Simple. The Coen’s take on film noir about “a series of people choosing to do stupid things” is cult movie making at its finest.

And finally, just in case you missed the link I put up recently on Twitter and Facebook (join us, JOIN US), The Independent reports a new study published by the journal Poetics which makes the bold claim that enjoyment of trash films linked to high intelligence.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

SHORT FEATURE: STAR TRACT

Considering the contents of this blog, I am hardly in the position to cast stones at anyone’s efforts at evangelism, especially when they use the trappings of a classic science fiction show...

Must… not… cast… stones!

Anyway, those who have spent some time in evangelical churches like I have should be more than familiar with the practice of handing out tracts to non-believers. Passing along those little pamphlets is done in the hope of planting a small seed in the non-Christian’s mind that will eventually blossom and lead them to Christ. Tracts can range in content from benign bible musings to the notorious ravings of Jack Chick.

For better or worse, tracts aren’t quite as ubiquitous these days as they used to be. A few years back, Christianity Today even asked some prominent Christians if anyone should still be handing the things out at all. Christian Smith, professor of sociology at Notre Dame, was most definitely in the NO column, stating, “Very rarely. Most people become Christians through relationships, not by being handed pieces of paper. The latter usually has more to do with some Christians feeling like they are ‘doing something’ than anything that changes people.”

That being said, tracts are still around, even Catholic ones. Most Catholic bookstores have a few for sale and Catholic Answers has a whole section devoted to them, so if you feel called to pass some out, they’re available. Whether or not you should do so while speaking in a bad Shatner imitation, that’s entirely up to you.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

THE TWILIGHT BINGE #015: I SHOT AN ARROW INTO THE AIR

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S01E15 – I Shot An Arrow Into The Sky

“The world's first manned space mission goes awry, stranding the crew on an apparent asteroid that is desolate and waterless. One man ruthlessly grasps for survival before a peculiar symbol reveals the group's true location.”

One thing The Twilight Zone rarely had a shortage of was ideas. In fact, with the likes of Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, and Charles Beaumont contributing on a regular basis, one would imagine the show’s creative font was constantly running over. At the beginning, though, that wasn’t the case. As detailed in Don Presnell & Marty McGee’s book, A Critical History of Television's The Twilight Zone, Serling and his wife Carol were dining one evening with another couple, John and Madelon Champion, when  Serling brought up how CBS was pressuring him to deliver a large amount of finished teleplays before they would begin production on the show. Off the cuff, Mrs. Champion suggested Serling should do a story about astronauts who think they’ve landed on an asteroid, but who in reality were just walking around outside Las Vegas. Serling wrote her a check for $500 on the spot and I Shot An Arrow Into The Sky was born. Why don’t these kinds of things ever happen to me?

Anyway, the title of the episode is an obvious reference to the opening lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Arrow and the Song. However, since that particular work is generally considered to be a rumination on the long-lasting and often unintended consequences of harsh words, the poem doesn’t actually have much relevance to this episode’s story. I guess Serling could have referenced some other sonnet, but there’s really not that large of a selection dealing with cowardly murderers to choose from.

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When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing how quickly the character of crewman Corey goes from believing he’s stranded on an asteroid to deciding he has to bump off his fellow castaways in order to get their water and prolong his own life. I suppose if he cared enough to do so, Corey could attempt to justify himself under the principle outlined in the old Catholic Encyclopedia “that in extreme necessity every man has a right to appropriate whatever is necessary to preserve his life. The starving man who snatches a meal is not an unjust aggressor.” Based on his ramblings, this does appear to be Corey’s basic rationale for doing what he does.

The problem with Corey using this line of reasoning is threefold. One, he isn’t starving yet, so the theft isn’t necessary. Two, even if Corey was starving, this principle falls under the larger category of self defense which also allows for “a thief [to] be slain in the act of carrying away stolen property provided that it cannot be recovered from him by any other means.” Self defense, it turns out, also applies to defense of property because certain material goods are necessary for life and should be protected. And three, Corey isn’t just stealing to survive, he’s flat out killing his friends to get their stuff. This is a big no-no because in no way are Corey’s fellow crewmen showing the slightest indication that they mean Corey any mortal harm. Sure, they want to punch the guy in the mouth, who wouldn’t, but that kind of thing won’t kill him. Without a mortal threat, Corey really has no justification for his actions. In the end, Corey is just a selfish S.O.B. who puts his own self-preservation before all moral concerns. Fortunately, whether he’s on an asteroid or on Earth, he’s still in the Twilight Zone, so we can be sure he’ll get what’s coming to him.

Twilight Tidbits: A good portion of this episode was filmed in Death Valley National Monument, a location which has been utilized in many a movie, including a little one by the name of Star Wars where it served as the planet Tatooine.