Sweet Home, Moonlight Mile

[Our Sunday Visitor, October 27, 2002] Sweet Home Alabama “Sweet Home Alabama” is one of two movies this month titled after songs from the early 1970’s. While “Moonlight Mile” is actually set around that time, “Sweet Home Alabama” plants one foot in modern-day Manhattan (where, in a Halloween touch, Candice Bergen is mayor) and another in an imaginary deep south that has barely taken up indoor plumbing. There people set explosives under anvils, serve guests “baloney cake”, and linger by moonlight in the coon dog cemetery. I’m still hoping I heard “baloney cake” wrong.

Four Feathers, Barbershop

[Our Sunday Visitor, September 29, 2002] The Four Feathers Toward the beginning of “The Four Feathers,” news arrives at an opulent Victorian military ball that “an army of Mohammedan fanatics” has attacked a British fort in the Sudan. A clergyman reminds the soldiers and their ladies that “the Lord has endowed the British race with a world-wide empire,” and the soldiers will soon achieve “victories over the heathen.”

Signs, Spy Kids 2

[Our Sunday Visitor, August 25, 2002] Signs The Baltimore theatre was packed the day “Signs” opened. At one point, lead character Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) explains that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe that someone is looking out for us, and those who don't. He states his own conclusion: “There is no one watching out for us. We are all on our own.” All over the theater viewers pulled in their breath, and a few blurted “aw!” in sad surprise. It seemed like the loneliest thing a person could say.

Men in Black II, Minority Report

[Our Sunday Visitor, July 21, 2001] Men in Black II One thing the makers of “Men in Black II” want you to know: this movie does not take place in the future. It's happening right now, today; a title at the beginning of the film announces “July 2002” and any viewers who checked their watches right then would feel pleasantly punctual. Of course that title will soon make the film feel dated, but that didn't dissuade the filmmakers. In a sea of movies set in the nebulous near future, they wanted to stress the presence of unseen realities, right here, right now.

Ya Ya Secrets, Bourne Identity, Frequency

[Our Sunday Visitor, June 30, 2002] The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood A French proverb goes, “To understand all is to forgive all.” If we only understood how miserable his childhood was, we’d forgive the ax murderer. If we only knew how strong his lust was, we’d look kindly on the adulterer. There’s a bit of self-protection in this saying: if people only understood me, they’d never blame me for anything; instead, they’d sympathize.

Holywood Ending, Star Wars Episode II, About a Boy

[Our Sunday Visitor, June 6, 2002] Hollywood Ending  There’s a scene early in “Hollywood Ending” when Woody Allen, playing a neurotic and narcissistic movie director, fumbles through an important meeting saying all the wrong things. The people he desperately needs to impress looked pained, look away, and try to pretend he’s not the disaster that he is. For the audience, the whole movie is like that.


[Beliefnet, March 19, 2001] I’ve got an idea for a movie script guaranteed to win an Oscar. We’ll call it “Sizzle.” See, there’s a village in India where all the people think there’s something bad about eating beef. It’s part of their religion, which says they should repress their desires and hate pleasure. Then this sexy young cowboy comes to town and opens up a grill. All day long it’s thick steaks frying, or maybe some tender filets, and sometimes he dishes up a few racks of barbecued ribs.

Legion of Decency Pledge

[Beliefnet, December 15, 2000] The Legion of Decency pledge. That was what the priest called it, and then he asked us to stand up and recite it all together. It didn't seem like the kind of thing we usually did in church; it seemed more like school assembly, when we said the Pledge of Allegiance. But I stood between my dad and my younger sisters,

Why I Won’t See “The Exorcist”

[Beliefnet, September 25, 2000] With the re-release of the movie “The Exorcist,” talk of scary things like demonic possession and spinning heads is in the air again. Though none of us could avoid having seen some of the film's images over the years, there are a few of us who have never sat through the film, and never intend to.

Dark Side of the Moon

[Beliefnet, January 10, 2000] Some people say that art—make that Art—has become the secular substitute for religion. It sure acts like a religion: it's produced by high priests revered as conduits of a mystical power—in this case, creativity; it's tended and interpreted by initiates trained in its hidden wisdom; and it's mostly incomprehensible to folks on the outside. I've been a big fan of visual arts ever since I was an eight-year-old with my parents' big book of Salvador Dali on my lap. But the fact is, more people don't get Art in our generation than in any one before. Art responds to this by ridiculing them.