Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America vs. Harry Potter

This review contains spoilers.
I saw “Captain America” today and loved it. The look and overall style of the film was a great throwback to the classic movie serials of the 1930’s and 40s. Imagine Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers with CGI animation. The Art Deco sets were beautiful. The actors all first rate. I especially liked the character of Peggy Carter. She is not your typical heroine; smart, beautiful and tough. The mild romance between her and Captain America was refreshingly sweet. And the greatest surprise: no sex! In fact, I did not even hear one cuss word through-out the whole film. Another shock.
The movie is loaded with action violence, but it is all of the good guy versus bad guy variety. The one scene that might upset younger viewers is the one in which Captain America’s best friend is killed. There is also another somewhat gruesome scene where one of the Red Skull’s men is thrown into an airplane propeller. I think the film is suitable for teenagers, but for children under 12 (I would leave that to the parent’s discretion.)
At the box-office, I am thrilled that the film is competing well against the last of the loathsome “Harry Potter” series. “Harry Potter” immediately came to mind while I was watching “Captain America,” as our hero was battling the occult obsessed Red Skull. Captain America is the anti-magic hero. His accomplishments are based on faith, strength, and science and not occultism. Captain America is a simple man who repeatedly willingly offers his life for the greater good. His purpose is always the welfare of others, not esoteric knowledge. In this match-up, Captain America crushes the gnostic Harry Potter.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Rise of Casey Anthony and the Fall of Everything Else

As much as I tried, over the last few months I could not completely avoid the Casey Anthony murder trail. The whole affair, I found distasteful. Millions of people being entertained by the sordid story of a party-girl mom and her murdered child. The last time a court drama so gripped the nation was the O.J. Simpson trail. At that time, I was still in college. The trial interested me then because of it’s heavy undertones of race in America. I was in Berkeley on the day of the Rodney King riots. News spread across campus that protestors where marching on Highway 80 and heading for the Bay Bridge. Not wanting to get stuck in town, I headed out, and was one of the last cars to get on the Freeway before is was shut down. When the O.J. verdict was announced a few years later, tension filled the air in Berkeley that day. Would there be a repeat of the Rodney King riots?
Unlike the O.J. trail, the Casey Anthony case at first seemed devoid of any far reaching social ramifications. But like our current fascination with Z-list celebrities and no-talent reality stars, the interest in Casey Anthony revels a Nation that is continually captivated with our increasing mediocrity and appetite for the depraved. The shock at Anthony’s acquittal was bizarre. Over the 3 years since her daughters death, Casey became a star. How can you send a star to the death chamber?
Immediately my thoughts go back to the wonderful 1964 film “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” The movie’s best scene is at the end: a near hysterical Sophia Loren (playing Emperor Commodus’ sister) pushes here way through the crowded Roman forum where the population of the city has gathered to revel and worship their insane monarch. During the scene we can hear the inner dialogue going on in her head. She can not understand why they people refuse to see Commudus for what he is. Amidst the partying, she can sense the Empire’s fall. Everyone is caught up in the merriment, and only she sees the vultures circling.
The Emperor Commudus came to power when the Roman Empire was at it’s near peak. But Rome had become sick with power and wealth. The inept Commudus, the worst ruler the Empire had ever seen, still captivated Romans. He gave the people what they wanted: “bread and circuses.” Is Casey Anthony our circus? As Americans we have become steadily captivated by our own decline. Although we do not see it as such. We have made some of the most repulsive personalities into superstars. On the top of that list must be placed the irksome Kim Kardashian (coincidently her lawyer father was part of O.J. Simpson’s defense team.)
Will Americans continue to raise up the tawdry, the witless, and the corrupt? We have unwittingly sped up our own decline and fall by praising and rewarding that which should be ignored. The historian Dio wrote: during the age of Commudus the Empire went “…from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust.” The untalented singer Kesha, but who is incredibly in tuned to contemporary trash culture, sang that we are in an age of “…dirt and glitter.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

Out on a Limb or Out of Your Mind

During my time of great searching for any sort of meaning, I happened to come across Shirley MacLaine’s autobiographical ode to extra-terrestrials, Out on a Limb. I found much of the book fascinating: especially her travels through the Andes with a guy who claimed to have had a sexual affair a woman from another planet; a few shades of Katy Perry’s “E.T.” here. But most of all, this quotation of MacLaine’s really stuck with me: “You must never worship anyone or anything other than self. For you are God. To love self is to love God.” Here lies the Credo of today. It’s a simple but effective heresy as old as Man himself. All you have to do is look at the first few pages of The Bible. The devil tempted Eve in saying: “…your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.” This is a simple but very effective lie that remains as powerful today as ever. Everywhere you look, from pop-psychology books and high-school counselors to daytime talk shows the mantra chanted across the hallways and airways is “self-esteem.” We must all love ourselves more. Why does a 15-year-old boy take drugs? Because he has low self-esteem. Why does a high school freshman have numerous sexual partners? Because she has low self-esteem. This goes on and on ad-nauseum. Recommending that people who are selfishly self-destructive to love themselves more is like prescribing cigarettes to an emphysema patient. They have become their own gods. They first need to be taught that there is something greater than themselves: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Instead of loving ourselves foremost, we must love the Lord with all our hearts. And then, only by giving love to our neighbors as the Lord has loved us, can we truly come to love ourselves.