Since posting our episode on Halloween, I have finished The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio. I can’t recommend it enough for anyone looking for an accessible and informative overview of angels, demons, demonic infestation/oppression/possession, and the various ways in which exorcists go about exorcising demons in the 21st century. More on book’s main focus, Fr. Gary Thomas, below in our section on the movie version of The Rite.
Here is an abbreviated form of theRite of Exorcismfrom the Roman Ritual. It was admittedly harder to find online than one might think, but Chris found it. If you would like to purchase the full ritual, you can buy itherewith the full Latin and English texts, side by side.
Here is Fr. Vincent Lampert, Exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, being interviewed on EWTN’sWorld Overprogram with Raymond Arroyo. As mentioned in the episode, Chris saw Fr. Lampert speak at Montclair State University twice (in 2010 as a student and then with me in 2016, post-college); here is video of his lecture at Seton Hall University in 2017. Lastly, Fr. Lampert also appeared in The Making of a Modern Exorcist as an exorcist-in-training with Fr. Thomas.
The career of Rome’s foremost exorcist, the lateFr. Gabriel Amorth, is discussed on EWTN’s World Over program with Raymond Arroyo and The Exorcist director William Friedkin. Fr. Amorth was the author of numerous books on exorcisms–his most famous book available in English is An Exorcist Tells His Story–and was the subject of Friedkin’s 2017 documentary, The Devil and Fr. Amorth.
Christ mentioned how priests partake in a “black fast” before beginning the exorcist ritual. We couldn’t find an exact source for this but Matt Baglio did make a point about fasting beforehand in The Making of a Modern Exorcist.
Chris and I talked about thisvideo from VICEwhere a reporter attended a voodoo ceremony in a basement in a Haitian neighborhood in Brooklyn. It is freaky and bizarre and also completely fascinating.
For our Halloween-themed episode, the Ruminations team talks about the Catholic Rite of Exorcism and the movies that have made it famous. Learn the differences between demonic infestation, oppression, and possession, what it’s like to talk to a 90-year-old exorcist IRL, and why even modern Hollywood can sometimes treat Catholicism respectfully!
(In order to get Episode VIII out in time for, you know, Halloween, our show notes will be posted at a later date. Stay tuned!)
Thisvideoexplains some of the behind the scenes history of the making of The Curse of the Black Pearl, especially the comical short sightedness of Disney’s former CEO, Michael Eisner.
Johnny Depp received an Oscar nomination for his role of Jack Sparrow, ultimately losing to Sean Penn for Mystic River. In 2018, Depp received the exact opposite honor when he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for his (final?) performance of Jack in Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Wikipedia has a good breakdown of how Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt split the work for the score of the first Pirates film. Long story short: Zimmer couldn’t focus on the score because he was busy composing for The Last Samurai, so he passed the work onto Badelt. However, he still managed to compose most of the main cues with Badelt. Because the schedule was so rushed, seven other composers had to contribute orchestrations and cues, including Game of Thrones’ Ramin Djawadi and Arrow/The Flash‘s Blake Neely. The most famous track, “He’s a Pirate,” sounds like it was lifted verbatim from Zimmer’s Gladiator track, “The Battle.”
The exclusive Scavi tour must be booked months in advance because it fills up very quickly–only 250 people go through the necropolis under St. Peter’s each day. Some additional tips on how to snare tickets can be found here.
Ruminations is back with its most historical episode yet! In Episode VI, Chris and Steve recount their April trip to Rome, the Eternal City, highlighting the history and splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica, the glory witnessing the Capitoline Wolf and Augustus of Prima Porta statues in person, an unexpected visit to an actual medieval castle, and more. This episode is a bit on the long side, folks–if you make it through the first 45 minutes, you’ll at least be rewarded by two superb anecdotes that practically had the hosts in tears!
Stick around until the end and check out our show notes full of historical tidbits, book recommendations, and lots of pictures!
Quo Vadis (1951) – The opening sceneof Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) entering Rome is one of the main inspirations for the opening of the Coen brothers’ 1950s Hollywood-set caper, Hail, Caesar!. – Peter Ustinov’s Nero is one of cinema’s great villains, and one whose “genius” (to use his word) is immensely under-appreciated. As referenced in the podcast, Nero is all about the theatrics, composing while being pampered, “composing while he sings” at a party, and dramatically unveiling his plans for a new palatial complex, one that would replace much of Rome, leading to… – The Great Fire of Rome (which also involves someimperial singing.) – Christ speaks to St. Peter (Finlay Currie) on the road outside of Rome, saying through a child that he will be “crucified a second time” in Rome. Realizing what this means, Peter returns to the city to inspire the Christians about to be killed in the arena, ultimately leading to his own condemnation and crucifixion.
Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – The Crusades, which occurred over two centuries, can be difficult to follow. Here is a brief summaryof all 9 Crusades, plus the “People’s” and “Children’s” Crusades. – This article breaks down all the differences between the maligned theatrical cut and the 45-minutes-longer director’s cut. – Harry Gregson-Williams’ incredible score is by far the best part of this movie. Here is all 3 hours of it. – Godfrey (Liam Neeson) sardonically tells Balian (Orlando Bloom) and the Hospitaller (David Thewlis) that he once fought 2 days with an arrow through his testicle. – Leprous King Baldwin’s faceis finally revealed when Sibylla (Eva Green) mournfully looks on her dead brother’s corpse and removes his mask. The music playing over this scene is “Vide Cor Meum,” an aria composed by Patrick Cassidy for Ridley Scott’s earlier film Hannibal. – This speech by the Hospitaller destroys the aura of the film as it’s chock full of modern convictions about the dangers of zealous religious beliefs. – After the Muslim army has taken Jerusalem, Saladin shows his respect for the Christianswhen he sees that a crucifix has been thrown to the floor. He respectfully picks it up and puts it back on a table, an act that had modern Middle Eastern filmgoers rising to their feet. – Game of Thrones‘ Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) appears at the film’s end as Richard the Lionheart. Here, Balian repeats the line “You…continue until they speak something else” regarding the way to the Holy Land.
Honorable Mentions – Ben-Hur: We liked, but didn’t love, Ben-Hur, the 1959 Best Picture winner that also won 10 other Oscars including a Best Actor award for Charlton Heston. The rowing scenes are cool (Steve rowed in high school) and its famed chariot race lives up to its reputation–with one major caveat: we’d seen it all before in 1999’s Star War Episode I: The Phantom Menace. (George Lucas blatantly ripped it off for his podrace sequence, but as 7-year-olds, did we really know any better?) And, oh, look, it’s Peter from Quo Vadis, here playing Balthazar, one of the three wise men. – The Passion of the Christ: Mel Gibson’s magnum opus is bloodier than any movie version of Christ’s crucifixion that’s come before it and will probably come after it. Whatever you want to say about Gibson’s personal life, The Passion of the Christ is a profound piece of cinema; Jim Caviezal’s performance is a godsend (pun intended) and the movie was a roaring success despite its ultra-violence. For at least a decade, it was the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever, making over $600 million at the box office. Lastly, more movies should have characters speaking Aramaic and Latin. – The Passion of Joan of Arc: Steve watched the 24fps version of Carl Th. Dreyer’s 1928 masterpiece, which has French subtitles and is accompanied by Richard Einhorn’s 1994 oratorio, “Visions of Light.” Chris, on the other hand, watched the slower 20fps Danish version, which is accompanied by a more low-key piano score by Mie Yanashita that better fits Dreyer’s vision of the movie. This review compares the two versions. (Incredible fact: the long-lost Danish version was discovered in the closet of an abandoned mental hospital in Oslo, Norway in 1981.) – Rome Open City: There aren’t too many clips on YouTube, but here is one of the 1945 film’s mostfamous scenes, in which a woman is gunned down by Nazi soldiers. – Spotlight: 2015’s Best Picture winner is still (unfortunately) relevant. Trailer here. – Doubt: John Patrick Shanley’s 2008 adaptation of his own play has fantastic performances from 3 Oscar winners and also Amy Adams, all of whom were nominated for Academy Awards. This includes Viola Davis, who only appeared in a single scene (and it’s flippin’ great). Steve reviewed Doubt way, way back when he first started this blog, which can be found here. (Please be kind, it was his first ever review.)
Podcast Mentions – In his ranting(s) about Pope Francis, Chris mentioned the Taylor Marshall Show, a superb podcast by Dr. Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopalian priest who converted to Catholicism and has 8 children. Dr. Marshall has several informative YouTube videos on the current crisis in the Catholic Church, all definitely worth watching. – Steve mentioned the exponentially lower-brow SSEU Podcast, which initially started out as a podcast based on another podcastbut has now morphed into a bunch of Twitter friends interviewing one another about movies, joking about stool samples, and reading poetry about gas station food. (Full disclosure: Steve appeared on Episode 8, The Cactus and the Giant, which also had some pretty good show notes.) Their last episode was a direct inspiration for this one.
In honor of Lent, we are back to discuss three Catholic themed movies for our third episode. (Well, not all of them are movies, and not all of them are Catholic, but we explain what we mean by that in the podcast.) We tried to think outside the box on this one, focusing our discussion on three ages of Catholicism: antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times.
Below are show notes with a bunch of clips, and they’re all worth checking out. Seriously. We hope you enjoy!
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in 2008’s Doubt
I’ve been debating what my first ACTUAL movie review for this blog should be: I could follow up my Disney Challenge Intro with my promised review of the Disney “Classical Era” films, or I could hold off on that for a little while longer and write about one of this year’s movies, such as Boyhood, The Lego Movie, Snowpiercer, or LifeItself, all of which I’ve seen over the last month.
Instead, I shall do neither.
Instead, I am going to write about a 6-year-old movie that I just saw for the first time last week.
2008’s Doubt, self-adapted from John Patrick Shanley’s 2004 play of the same name, combines two things near and dear to me: great acting and Catholicism. Surprisingly, the Catholic nature of Doubt is treated objectively and respectfully, even amid its heavy subject matter, which is quite rare in a mainstream Hollywood movie. As an added bonus, Doubt features the late, great, and sorely-missed Philip Seymour Hoffman in a supporting role just morally ambiguous enough to leave the audience’s sympathies conflicted, resulting in a very tense and powerful movie experience.
Set at a Bronx Catholic church and school in 1964, Doubt tells the story of an alleged case of sexual abuse, although this serves as a plot point rather than the underlying theme of the film. Crotchety, strict Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) warns her younger, more liberal nuns to watch out for any misdoings around the parish or school after warm-hearted Father Brendan Flynn (Hoffman) gives a particularly striking sermon on the nature of doubt. Young, naive Sister James (Amy Adams) notices Father Flynn’s distinct attachment to new student Donald Miller, the only black boy in the school. After catching the boy with alcohol on his breath after a private meeting with the priest, she goes to her superior, who then makes it her “though-I-be-damned-to-hell” mission to find out the truth behind Father Flynn’s relationship with the boy. The battle of wills that ensues between Streep and Hoffman yields results and changes at the church, but not necessarily those one would expect. It also brings into question the film’s main theme, clearly outlined in the film’s opening minutes (oh, yes, and by its title), doubt, as well as the consequences of being resilient to the point of intolerance.
The four main leads, Streep, Hoffman, Adams, and Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller, the alleged victim’s mother, are outstanding, and all deservedly received Oscar nominations at the 2009 Academy Awards. Amy Adams exudes an innocence that struggles with the strictness of her surroundings, especially the overbearing, miserable presence of Sister Aloysius. She loves her students and is optimistic to the point where she cannot believe that Father Flynn would be a pedophile, let alone lie about it, even though she subconsciously must have had misgivings as she brought Flynn’s suspicious activity to the attention of Streep’s character. When she finally breaks under the pressure of the events encircling her and lashes out at a talkative, but innocent, student in her class, we can see the pain in her eyes as she realizes that she has gone too far. She is not ready for a cynical world where pain and suffering are very real.
Viola Davis, in a single 11-minute scene (her only other appearance is a single, silent shot of her face near the film’s end) is devastating as a mother caught between a rock and a hard place, suffering in a marriage to a violent husband who disapproves of his son while holding onto the hope that graduating from a good Catholic school will lead to better high school placement for Donald and a chance at college after that. Streep’s look of incredulousness at Davis’s tear-stained refusal of help is haunting. Streep, in what was her 15th Oscar nominated-role, is formidable, bitter, and stern, but after Adams’ revelation about the possibility of abuse, we as the audience begin to see her human side, and – without spoiling anything – by the film’s end, she is very human. Her quest for the truth is insatiable after this point, and she drives the remainder of the movie as she moves to take down Father Flynn.
Hoffman, especially now, 6 months after his untimely and unfortunate death, is a sight to be seen, even in the subdued, mostly-background role of Father Flynn. The seemingly-boisterous and friendly Father Flynn remains a mystery for most of the movie, only taking the forefront early on in the film in a few brief scenes revolving around his cryptic homilies at Mass; the only instances we gleam of him elsewhere are through the eyes of the two suspicious sisters, and his (admittedly suspicious) actions, such as showing the boys’ basketball team his long fingernails during a practice that he is coaching, or giving Donald a hug of reassurance in the hallway after a bully knocks his books out of his hands, can be construed to be entirely innocent or subtly malevolent. It is during the climactic confrontational scene in which he goes head to head with Streep that Hoffman finally has enough to do and say to warrant his Oscar nomination. His incredulity at Sister Aloysius’ allegations and her refusal to believe in his innocence, contrasted with his look of terror when she claims to have unearthed information regarding his last assignment at another parish, solidifies Father Flynn’s ambiguous nature, and ultimately leads to the fulfillment of the film’s treatise on the idea of doubt.
Is Father Flynn guilty? Does Sister Aloysius have proof of past misconduct? Is it enough to force Father Flynn out of his church? Or is she committing a witch hunt based on personal misgivings for change, the Church’s patriarchy, and Frosty the Snowman? Again, I don’t want to spoil Doubt’s ending because I highly recommend it to anyone who respects a fine Meryl Streep performance, misses Philip Seymour Hoffman, enjoys seeing Amy Adams in a wimple, or has a knack for old-school Catholicism like me. It is definitely worth the watch.
(And thank you, Google, for informing me that wimple is the correct term for “nun hat.” You learn something new every day.)