- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2010

Film criticism

“In spite of all the hype, critical praise for Avatar has been tempered by acknowledgments of its weaknesses, including its derivative storyline, cardboard characters and lame dialogue. One critic spoke for many (including me) when he wrote, ‘Is it a great movie? Maybe not. But it is a great step forward in moviemaking.’

“Curiously, similar sentiments recently expressed in L’Osservatore Romano and on Vatican Radio have attracted rather prickly mainstream media coverage.

“‘Unlike much of the world, the Vatican is not awed by the film “Avatar,”’ was the lede on a recent AP story that went on to note that the film received ‘lukewarm reviews by both the Vatican newspaper and its radio station, which say the movie is simplistic in its plot [and] is superficial in its eco-message, despite groundbreaking visual effects.’ Owen Gleiberman wrote more or less the same thing in Entertainment Weekly, but never mind.”

— Steven D. Greydanus, writing on “Avatar, the Golden Globes … and the Vatican” on Jan. 19 at his eponymous National Catholic Register blog


“The surprising news surfaced yesterday in a newly published book that Pope John Paul II regularly flogged himself with a leather belt. It struck me that for some people this would change their perception of the late Pope from admiration and respect to confusion or even repulsion. For others it will be evidence of even greater sanctity — putting him in the company of many saints from the past who practised such corporal mortifications.

“There are a number of issues involved in a discussion about this. Firstly, most religious orders prior to the 1960s had such practices in their Rule; and Pope John Paul was a Secular Carmelite with a great devotion to St. John of the Cross, so it could be said that he followed in a noble tradition. He had suffered much more than a few strokes of a leather belt in his war-time experiences, and he does seem to have been a well-adjusted, warm human being — making and keeping friends across many religious and political divides. There were no obvious signs of the neurotic or masochistic in what we or his friends saw of him.”

Stephen Hough, writing on “Pope John Paul II whipped himself. Does that change the way you think about him?” on Jan. 27 at his eponymous Daily Telegraph blog


“… Oakland A’s prospect Grant Desme is ending his baseball career to enter the priesthood — at a time when his fortunes seemed to be rising fast. He batted .288 with 31 home runs and 89 RBIs in 131 games last year. Then he starred in the Arizona Fall League, where some of the game’s top prospects compete. He likely would have started this season at Class AA.

“‘Here’s a kid that’s on the brink,’ [Rob] Fai said over the phone from Vancouver, B.C., where he works as the assistant general manager for the Oakland affiliate there. …

“‘I’m doing well in baseball,’ Desme told reporters on Friday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘But I had to get down to the bottom of things, to what was good in my life, what I wanted to do with my life. Baseball is a good thing, but that felt selfish of me when I felt that God was calling me more.’ …

“Fai wondered if current events — the earthquake in Haiti, perhaps? — compelled Desme to make the decision now, reasoning that ‘wearing a different uniform’ would enable him to address more pressing issues in the world. If that is indeed one of the reasons, it would fit with Desme’s thoughtful nature.

“‘He might have been the quietest high-end draft pick I’ve ever seen,’ Fai said. ‘He is probably the one guy I’d let my daughter date.’ Fai laughed, not realizing the irony in his remark until after he said it. Desme may never play in the major leagues, but he certainly knows what it feels like to get The Call.”

Jon Paul Morosi, writing on “A’s prospect leaving baseball for priesthood” on Jan. 22 at Fox Sports Web site

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