Ruminations Episode III Show Notes

Quo Vadis (1951)
– The opening scene of 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 some imperial 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 summary of 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 face is 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 Christians when 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.

The Young Pope (2016-2017)
– We debated the nature of Lenny Belardo’s flawed-but-holy character, which can be perfectly summed up by this line from Guardians of the Galaxy. For the sake of time (because the entire show can basically be posted here), below are a few clips to get a taste of Pius XIII and the humor of this glorious, insane series:
All Along the Watchtower
Ketchikan, Alaska!
The Pope’s snack
The Pope as Banksy
The kangaroo
Pius XIII enters–nay, is carried into–the Sistine Chapel
The Pope vs. the Prime Minister
The Africa speech and Halo
The Popes offer some advice

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 most famous 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 podcast but 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.

Image credit:
Poster for Quo Vadis, 1951 / Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Ruminations Episode III: Catholic Films Through the Ages

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!

Episode III Show Notes

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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 MovieSnowpiercer, or Life Itself, 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.)

– Flipp