Sunday, September 25, 2005

emily rose

As of today, The Exorcism of Emily Rose has grossed (literally!) $57,144,000 at the box office in the US. I guess good exorcisms are like really cold beer... hard to resist.

The reviews have gone in two pretty disparate directions. Some discard it because it is not a horror film in the traditional sense (The Grudge, Saw, The Ring, etc...). As if the only way to approach the subject of exorcism in a movie were to scare people...

Others lavish praise on the movie because it portrays an exorcism 'as it really occurs'.

This humble exorcist found much to praise in Emiy Rose. The acting is credible. Even the six demons avoid over-the-top theatrics when they have poor Emily in the throes of posession. The special effects are minimal and clearly not designed to have sensitive moviegoers hurling their Twizzlers in the aisle. The experience of the posession itself is related through Emily's eyes, what she sees, hears and feels and, ultimately, how she explains it to herself.

Although the faith/science conflict is one of the themes at the fore, neither the Church nor the priest (a suitably pious Tom Wilkinson) are, well, demonized. Laura Linney's character is sufficiently nuanced so as not to be overly predictable.

The framing of the narration of Emily's plight in the courtroom drama that ensued after her death is particularly effective and allows for the priest's case to be made sympathetically. But perhaps best of all, the audience is really the jury and must draw its own conclusions from the trial.

On the downside, there is some gimmickry unbecoming of self-respecting demons: the 3:00 am starting time of their activities, their choice of Halloween as the best day for business, etc. As if the evil ones were on some sort of schedule...

But the only thing I really didn't like was the reason for the posession, as given in Emily's mystical rapture. If I understood this thing correctly, Emily was surrendered to the powers of evil and ultimately lost her life: to prove to the world that the devil exists?

I find that reasoning truly absurd, even in the context of a story that, in itself, overflows the boundries of logic. How could something unverifiable by its very nature possibly be proof of something else? There is no 'proof' of demonic posession, so how could a posession be 'proof' of the devil's existence?

Even supposing that Emily were posessed, what could it prove? Does the vision of the three children of Fatima 'prove' the existence of the Virgin Mary? Does my mother's devotion to her guardian angel legitimate any speculation as to said angel's nature? Subjective (personal) religious experiences are not necessarily 'false' or 'delusionary', but they are never 'proof' of anything.

Anyway, it would seem to me that God has enough trouble convincing people of His existence without worrying about the devil's credibility rating. And I'm sure - if He were concerned about the devil getting enough attention - He could find a more efficient way of making His point than putting Satan in charge of Emily Rose's extreme make-over.

See and enjoy Emily Rose, as I did. Nothing ruins a good movie like trying to tie up all the loose ends.

rubber people

Went to see the Cirque du Soleil (cool website) Friday night. Their current show is called Varekai, which, if their program notes are to be believed, means "wherever" in some exotic gypsy tongue.

I might have named the show 'the epiphany of the rubber people'. It was akin to Gary Larson's rendering of 'the boneless chicken farm'. These people have no skeleton, no rigid osseous structure that keeps their squishy vital organs in order. They bend in the wrong places.

Varekai is two hours of visual overload. Between the costumes, the dance and the acrobatics it's hard to take it all in. Loosely constructed around the story of Icarus' fall to earth and his quest to return to the skies, each scene is an opportunity to put the troop's astounding gymnsatics on stage.

A real artsy escape... if you're willing to cough up the equally extravagant ticket price.

Friday, September 23, 2005


As another storm bears down on the Gulf, we New Englanders have had some of the nicest weather of the past couple of months. Sunny, breezy days and warm, quiet evenings illuminated by a September moon worthy of a Marc Moritsch print.

Here at the parish we just sent our second truckload of donated supplies with the Catholic Charities convoy down to New Orleans. Folks have been generous thus far, but if Rita does great damage I'm afraid their giving spirit may wane...

Still, I too long for the days when the evening news will no longer dedicate 48 of 60 minutes to disheveled reporters telling us breathlessly how strong the wind blows, how wet the rain feels and how much plywood Home Depot has sold in the last half hour. I'm as interested as anyone in helping the people affected by the storm, but surely there must be some other newsworthy topic on a national or international level.

Anyway, I was reading the report published this week by the Philadelphia grand jury that led an investigation into incidents of sexual abuse by clergy. Quite unsavory. The document leaves little to even the most sordid imagination and focuses quite intensely on the abuses of Catholic priests, when the investigation was supposedly conceived in much broader terms.

The hierarchy's response, though true in both its admissions and rebuttals, sounds hoplessly lame and saturated with self-pity. The media, meanwhile, continues to enjoy its trashing of the Catholic Church and there is really nothing - on a public relations level - that the Church can do except keep quiet and pursue its long term internal renewal.

I perceive a bit of confusion - or perhaps intentional misstatement - in some media sources over the visitation process to be initiated next month in USA seminaries and the pending Vatican document on homosexuality and the Catholic priesthood.

In the instrumentum laboris prepared for the visitators only one question in 56 dwells on the topic of homosexuality. The reading of some press reports leaves one with the idea that the visitation is a poorly disguised gay witch hunt.

As for the topic of homosexuality and the priesthood... well, even the Exorcist has second thoughts about opening that can of worms. Certainly ordination to the Catholic priesthood is nobody's right and the Church can enforce whatever selection policy it deems appropriate. Can a homosexual man live virtuously his whole life in an atmosphere where male companionship and cohabitation is not only a fact, but the norm? I assume it is possible. Easy? Desireable? Hmmm... Does the fact that 90% of all incidents of clergy abuse have involved males necessarily mean there's a connection between homosexuality and abuse? Maybe not, but if this were any other topic I don't think we'd feel as obliged to split hairs and look for other types of explanations. Political correctness makes idiots of us all...

I read a piece in an English paper about this today. By the end of the article I was on the verge of writing the Vatican and demanding that homosexuality be a mandatory requisite for entering the priesthood...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

when the levee breaks

This mournful song was originally released on Zep IV, if I'm not mistaken.

I put it on in the U-Haul yesterday as we brought our first load of stuff from the parish (water, batteries and clothes, mostly) to the Armory. From there it will supposedly make its way down to the Gulf Coast.

We sat and listened to the song, running the TV images of the past few days over in our minds... No one had much to say afterwards.

I guess we'll just keep praying and collecting stuff to send down south.

When the Levee Breaks

If it keeps on rainin', levee's going to break.
If it keeps on rainin', levee's going to break.
When the levee breaks, have no place to stay.

Mean old levee, taught me to weep and moan.
Mean old levee, taught me to weep and moan.
It's got what it takes to make a mountain-man leave his home.
Oh well, oh well, oh well...

Don't it make ya feel bad
when you're tryin' to find your way home
and ya don't know which way to go?
If you're goin' down south and they've no work to do
then ya go north to Chicago.

Cryin' won't help ya, prayin' won't do ya no good.
Now, cryin' won't help ya, prayin' won't do ya no good.
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move!

All last night, sat on the levee and moaned.
All last night, sat on the levee and moaned.
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home...

I'm goin' to Chicago, goin' to Chicago
Sorry, but I can't take you
Goin' down, goin' down, now, goin' down, a-goin' down, now...