I Saw Hacksaw

imgNot many directors have my full trust in their story telling; besides Christopher Nolan, there is only Mel Gibson. After a decade of recovering and rehabilitation from his downfall, Gibson’s first film since Apocalypto and The Passion of the ChristHacksaw Ridge (based on a true story)—is very telling, even if I did not like it as much as I thought I would.

—SPOILER ALERT—

——1) Heroes are not spotless, they have pasts and histories, and Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a fine example. His youth is peppered with violent, even homicidal episodes, and he exemplifies this famed quote well: Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. And most importantly, a saint is someone who starts on the path of sainthood again and again, never staying down, never giving up. If you apply this to Gibson, or to St. Paul, or to St. Peter, St. Mary Magdalene, then you see what I mean. And if you apply this to yourself, then you have found the path to Heaven.

——2) Of all the things she could give Desmond before he ships off to war, his beloved Dorothy gives him her tattered Bible. They share their faith with one another, and in this love for God, their own mutual love grows. If couples do not ground the roots of their love in the infinite Love, into infinite Life, then how can they hope their love will survive? If you do not believe in something greater than yourself, then you will never have anything greater than yourself. And if you do not anchor your love first in eternal love, then your love does not get any greater: it will not survive when you die (and we all eventually die).327

——3) Speaking of death, we see also the jarring juxtaposition of two cultures with clashing values: one that tries to preserve and save life at the risk of one’s own (the devout Christian West), the other disregarding life and glorifying death through suicidal kamikaze tactics and seppuku  (the Japanese). In today’s culture we see a similar struggle: one that strives to honor all human life from conception to natural death, the other advocating that life is only valuable if we want it to be. In other words, the Christian rooted cultures know each life to be of infinite worth and not to be given up on lightly, whereas certain cultures see human life as expendable as if it were a mere resource. Most importantly, if human life is only a resource, only valuable if we decide so, then who is the judge for whether another life should be ended? Who is so “enlightened” and “fair” that they can decide who lives or dies? And who says that judge has to be yourself? It can easily be someone else… in fact, if it is not God, then it very well might be someone else much less loving and merciful.maxresdefault

——4) Love for enemies is never easy, but here in the film we see Doss even extend mercy toward the enemy soldiers. He treats them as his own, only hesitating because of fear they would attack him, not because he hates them. In fact, we do not see Doss express any malice toward the Japanese troops! For a war film, it was strange to see such little animosity from the protagonist against the foe. But there we see the point of the story: the primary foe is not the Japanese military: the foe is Desmond Doss himself.

——5) The foe is Doss himself because we are waiting to see if he will drop his promise. We are watching to see how committed he is to non-violence, how long he will go before picking up a rifle and shooting the Japanese. We expect to see him cornered, desperate, and succumb to breaking his vows. We wonder how much will it take before he snaps. Yet, he does not. His resolved conscience is so solid that we are forced to think whether we ourselves are that resolved on anything!

——6) It is there the film reaches out to us, Doss reaches out to us, to challenge us whether we have the courage to keep our promises, to stay faithful, to try over and over, praying God helps us one more time, and always one more time, no matter what came before, which reminds me of a prized quote from St. Paul (so prized I made a meme for it):

 

Malice and Maleficence

MALEF_001A_G_ENG-SG_70x100.inddRecently, a dear friend of mine requested I should view and review one of her favorite films. At first I was reluctant, because I had heard negative reviews about Maleficent, and I also secretly dislike Angelina Jolie as an actress (yes, she bores me). But after giving the film a look, here are the really powerful moments of the tale:

—SPOILER ALERT—

—–1) The reviews I tend to read before considering an unknown film saw Maleficent as a poor remake of the original Sleeping Beauty. Now I am not a fan of the original, so this gave me even more reason not to see the remake. However, seeing Maleficent as a standalone (isolated and without memory of the original) film is the perspective I am sharing from, and from this point of view, let me continue…

—–2) “Don’t curse in the first place! You will spend your lifetime regretting it.” In the film, we see Maleficent take revenge on the selfish Stefan by cursing Stefan’s most loved one: his daughter Aurora. As the film progresses, we see that Maleficent seeks to undo the curse, but it is impossible.

This reminds me of some advice from St. Philip Neri about gossip (and other sins we commit). The story goes: Once a woman came to confess her sins, and the priest gave her a penance to help her make better choices in the future. He told her, “Take a pillow filled with feathers, and climb to the highest point in the city. From there, shed all the feathers from the pillow and let the wind catch and scatter them across town. Afterwards, climb down to the ground and collect every feather, stuff them back into the empty pillowcase. This is to show you that when you sin, even when merely gossiping, your sins and malicious words spread out and cause evil everywhere. And you can never undo and unsay everything.”maleficent536acd244e2df

—–3) From this tragic and irrevocable curse, we see that it is never right to punish a child for the sins of the parent! NEVER. So what Maleficent does is unacceptable, is evil, and malicious (hence, her name). This may seem obvious, but there are many people who indeed even murder their children in order to escape the responsibilities and consequences of their actions. I wrote about this just a few weeks back, so please check it out here: Children of Crime.

—–4) Once the curse takes hold and sends Aurora into indefinite sleep, we see the metaphor: her perpetual sleep is a death, with only a glimmer of hope that is more like hopelessness. Desperate to raise the girl from sleep (think of Luke 8:40-56 when Jesus woke Jairus’ dead daughter!) but unable to because the Prince has no real love for Aurora, Maleficent (who at this point has become like a mother to the girl) kisses Aurora’s brow, saying goodnight and goodbye.

It is here where we see that true love is not necessarily romantic or sexual! In this world, so many people confuse sex and romance for love, when actually the greatest love does not depend on those things. When parents love their children, when friends love one another, when children love their parents, when God loves us and tells us to even love our enemies, none of these loves should ever be sexual or romantic, and they are all powerful examples of love, true and chaste.

Of course, the love between a husband and wife have romance and sexual aspects, but the point is that their love is not based on those aspects, that even when their is no sex or romance, their love is still true because they choose to be faithful, loyal, selfless, and generous. Love is based on how we help get each other to Heaven, not on how much we can get from each other.maleficent-kiss-aurora

—–5) Lastly, we see that despite the evil Maleficent did, forgiveness is always possible if there is love, and only if there is love. Her many sins are forgiven, for she loved much, and love makes forgiveness always possible! Evil does not win unless we let it. For a great post about this, please see: Forgiveness is For Giving.

—–End) All in all, though not a film I think everyone must see, if you do see it, it wouldn’t be a waste!

Will You Also Leave?

Even when Jesus walked this earth, even when people saw His miracles, even when some followed Him, many more left Him when they did not like hearing what He taught.

They abandoned Jesus because His words were too difficult, too harsh, too extreme, too loving and honest (think of his teachings on divorce, marriage, lust, and the Eucharist).

They left because they never believed in Him in the first place.

Today, people who once walked with Jesus are now deserting Jesus, again. It’s called a great apostasy. And this time, the difficult, harsh, and [one of] the extreme issues is this: choose life for every child, do not murder children anywhere, including in the womb. And there really is no acceptable excuse, despite what fakeful Catholyks may say (e.g., Tim Kaine, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, etc.).

If you knowingly vote for pro-abortion politicians, then you automatically vote against Christ. Then you are no Christian. You have become a hypocrite.

If you are voting pro-abortion politicians, here is why I cannot do the same (please watch this video and listen carefully, for your own awareness and informed conscience):

(Find the video transcript here)

Is that too hard for you to accept? Will you leave Christ and His Church over this difficulty? Is it really that tough to want babies to have birthdays?

Is it really that confusing which presidential candidate you must not vote for, because they are against Christ and His Church?

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Hillary and Donald Are Just Like Me

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Yes, I watched the debate.

No, I don’t know much about either candidate.

But I do know that they are just like me. This is how:

When I make promises and do not keep them. When I cheat and steal. When I objectify and lust. When I hoard things and am greedy with money. When I deceive and hide the truth. When I pretend to know what I am doing, and what I am talking about. When I refuse to pray for others and only pray for myself. When I think I am a god and everyone else is deplorable. When I claim to be Catholic Christian, but live like a pagan and heathen. When I say I care, but don’t do anything about it. When I claim to be pro-life but ignore families who need help with their children. When I say we need to help the poor but I live like royalty. When I talk about their flaws but ignore my own. When I call them hypocrites but am just like them.

And that is also why we have the presidential candidates that we do. They reflect who we are as citizens: what we think of, what we do, what we love, what we worship. We will only have better leaders if we ourselves become better, virtuous citizens.

Now that would be a miracle… virtuous citizens…

I Saw The Light Between Oceans

140672CM01B_Trp_Email_LR.pdfAn actress who has become a fast fave of mine is Alicia Vikander. When I saw she was in “The Light Between Oceans,” I knew I should see it. Coupled with Michael Fassbender, and it became something I had been looking forward to for a few months now. And so thankful am I to have not been disappointed. Here are the shining moments of the film:




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) As a man, it is difficult for me to relate to the experience of miscarriage. Yet, my heart was pierced and my gut was gutted when I saw the trauma in Isabelle’s (Vikander) two losses. The helplessness of both mother and father as the child comes stillborn, the vulnerability of life, the hopes suddenly spilling, all of it was so cruel and devastating. It helped me think of times my own friends endured such loss, and while I only heard the news after the fact, seeing it portrayed as it happens is terrifying.

Yet, the scene here also shows the irony of intentionally and deliberately terminating unborn children in the womb, aka: abortion. We have couples who are desperate to save their unborn children from miscarriage but are helpless and at the mercy of their infertility, yet then we also have merciless couples desperate to destroy their unborn children. And the only difference between the two kinds of couples is that one truly loves their children, and the other is inconvenienced by them.

the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-rachel-weisz-002159-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx—–2) On the note of parenthood, Isabelle shares that (paraphrasing): “When a wife loses her husband, she becomes a widow, but when a mother loses her child, she remains a mother always, even if she has no children left. I wonder if I am still a sister, since I have lost my brothers.”

This is such a profound insight that reflects the “till death do you part” vow in true Christian marriage, when spouses vow their fidelity with such determination and faithfulness that only their death might end it. Hence, a surviving wife becomes a widow, or a surviving husband becomes a widower. However, this film demonstrates the permanence of motherhood and fatherhood on many levels.

One level is that Isabelle and Tom (Fassbender) are parents, even with their loss of two stillborn children. Parents are always parents, even if all their children have gone to judgment before them (by whatever means). Parents who loved their lost children must realize however, that the children are not lost, but are waiting for them in the hereafter. Parents should then live so as to strive to be with their children again, to pray for them and ask them for prayers.

Another level is Hannah (Weisz) remains a mother too, despite her thinking her daughter is dead. And we also see that she remains a loving and devoted wife to her lost husband, revealing that though she is a widow, she remains his.

And powerfully foiling Hannah, we see that Isabelle struggles to remain Tom’s. She disowns him for surrendering to justice, and she does not allow herself to love him again until it is almost too late. Eventually, she finds forgiveness and also surrenders to the truth. I was so grateful to see this story go this way, the way of fighting to keep a marriage, to keep a love beating at the moment it has bled out.Alicia-Vikander-in-The-Light-Between-Oceans

—–3) And we see in this story (unlike in Kubo and the Two Strings) that the truth must always and will always have its day. Nothing good, not even a seemingly happy family, can be built on a lie and deception. Tom’s character, so morally formed and conscientious, cannot live with the lie, with keeping a child hidden from her true and loving mother. Tom knows the deception and must right it. Even in the end, Isabelle realizes her love, however honest it is, is flawed when founded on a lie.

In fact, the lie ages and wears down Tom and Isabelle and leaves them childless in the end. Even Isabelle yearns and hopes Hannah could forgive her for the evil she did. This film is dripping with the characters wrestling with the truth and finding out that the truth is alive and far more subtle and cunning than their greatest deceits. Lies die, and then Truth rises up alive.

Most beautifully done, however, is that we see after the truth is respected, the relationships bloom on a sure future. When truth becomes the foundation of love and relations, then it becomes easy and beautiful. The catharsis we see when Lucy-Grace (as a grown woman and mother herself) visits an aged Tom is something that could only have happened with the support of the truth.the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-rachel-weisz-349486-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx

—–4) Finally, great acts of forgiveness abound in the story; acts so great that even the police question why anyone (in this case, Hannah) would forgive the couple who is suspected of murdering her husband and kidnapping her daughter. But we see that this is how a happy and fulfilled life should be lived. Hannah remembers wise words from her husband (paraphrasing): “It’s too hard to resent, you have to think about it and remember it all the time. It’s tiring. It’s better to forgive so you can live.”

We also see, as mentioned earlier, how Isabelle forgives Tom, and thereby allows them to live a better marriage into old age. However, we must also note that Tom has forgiven Isabelle: for originally insisting they keep the baby and hide the body of Hannah’s husband, for refusing to admit the truth, and for finally revealing the truth even when it meant her conviction and imprisonment. We see here how Tom’s love led him to forgive her all these times, every time.

And that’s exactly it: only love makes it possible to forgive, and if not your own limited love, then for God’s infinite love.

—–BONUS) Two mothers fighting to keep/regain a child… sure reminds me of the case King Solomon once heard (1 Kings 3:16-28). Yet, in “The Light Between Oceans,” we see both women willing to part with the girl when they realized she was better off with the other. How beautiful a twist to put on the renowned Biblical story.

—–Note: I also appreciated the sound baptism and Christian marriage being celebrated, and the chastity portrayed in the couple’s relationship. But religiously, what caught me most was the solemn chanting of prayer in the score when Tom first encountered his daughter’s true mother, and the truth staring him down and demanding him make things right. In the background, a minister’s words about sin, and our mission to oppose it and refuse it, also adds to the theme of the story: A lasting love and family must be built on truth.

Kubo and the Two Stings

kubo-and-the-two-strings-kubo-legenda-samuraizeIt is very easy for me to critique and focus on negatives, so on Holy Smack I try my best to be positive, but sometimes exceptions must be made. This is one of those times. See what I mean here:




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) is a movie I really wanted to not only like, but downright love. From the trailer I could tell the artistry of the film was epic. They even had animated origami, which has been a dream for me to see realized on film ever since I wrote scenes of it in Little Miss Lucifer.

But alas, despite how beautiful Kubo is visually (and it really is stunning), the film falls short of a beautiful story. The tale is generic, and lacking catharsis (a smacking-good ending that truly satisfies deep down). When the show ended, I actually could not wait to leave the theater because I was so let down (sting #1).

This taught me that a story must be as compelling and dramatic as the visual effects and cinematography, otherwise it doesn’t have a lasting effect: like a stunning sunrise on busy commuters. As gorgeous as the scene is, people just walk by and get to work as if it was nothing more than a glare off the mirror. They live the rest of the day, and repeat the next morning, with not a care at all about the sunrise, because there was no compelling story accompanying it.torontohenge-sunrise-april-2016

Imagine instead however, if the sunrise coincided with the reunion of long lost lovers, lovers who traversed all night to reunite… if that dawn meant the revival of past love, restarted after decades apart and years of loss: now that’s catharsis. Now that’s a story I want in on.

—–2) What I really liked was the dynamic between mother, father and child. In the film, we saw easily how both the mother and father are essential to Kubo, yet we also see how each contributes in different ways to raising their child. In today’s world, this uniquity of fatherhood and motherhood is being smothered with people who actually think fathers are not necessary, or mothers aren’t special. In reality, every child deserves to have a father and a mother, specifically the very mom and dad who gave them their biological being. Yet, even if this is not the case, a substitute mom and dad should be found for the child. Yes, BOTH an adoptive mom and dad should be sought, since both are vital and can offer things only a mother and a father can.19919315-mmmain

—–3) Lastly, the big lie at the end of the movie is unacceptable (table-flipping unacceptable). We see the entire village dupe Kubo’s amnesiac grandfather into thinking he is a saint, when actually he was a murderer and monster. The reason this does not work is because forgiveness and love will never last when built on a lie. Nothing lasts when it is founded on a lie! It might be nice to lie at first, but in the end, when the truth comes out (it always does), the wound gets even worse because all that friendship and love was a fraud.

This film, by ending this way, seems to be incredibly misleading. It may even think that the only way to forgive someone is to lie to their face and say that the bully, criminal, rapist or murderer is actually a great person! First, this lying does not let the evildoer learn from his mistakes, and also does not let him repent and seek forgiveness and make amends. The lie is only a soggy bandage on a festering sore.

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Photo credit: Favim.com

A common line is “Forgive and Forget,” but this is actually inadequate. Imagine: it is easy to forgive someone if you completely forgot they maimed you and thought it was a falling rock instead of them smashing you with a hammer. It is easy to forgive if you forgot your friend backstabbed you with a secret that you confided in them, but instead thought that you had posted the secret online yourself. It is easy because to forget is not real forgiveness (sting #2).

Real forgiveness: you remember exactly what happened, the betrayal, the evil, but you decide to love them enough to forgive them and help them, you love them enough to give your friendship another shot, to let lost trust a chance to heal. And do I wish Kubo had that kind of ending…

—–4) For more thorough and thoughtful reviews on Kubo, please see here and here.

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Scary Jesus

jcjudgeenhMost of us are familiar with merciful, loving and forgiving Jesus…

But there is a side of Christ we often overlook, a side that is justice, holiness, judgment, and power. And it is scary, especially for us who love the Lord and do not want to sin.

Here are two things that Jesus says that frightens me (really smack me with holy fear and trembling), because I never want to hear Him say these to me or to those I love:

—–1)

“Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.‘ (Matthew 7: 21-23, RSV)

Can you tell which part scares me? Yes, the part I italicized and bolded: “I never knew you…”
Think about it: for God Himself to say that He never knew you, you who He created, you who He knew from even before He made the universe, and suddenly He “never knew you.” What does that even mean?

It means that God made us and does know us through and through, better than we know ourselves. But, He made us to be a certain way: He made us to be good, true, beautiful, loving, and holy. But when we choose to live in sin, when we choose to be evil, to be liars, to be disfigured, hateful and wicked, we become unrecognizable to God. He did not make us to be cheaters and murderers and demons. He made us to be His beloved children.

And so, our sins alter who we were destined to be, our sins deprive us of our destiny, and we choose (through our lives of sin) to become disfigured and unfamiliar to God, because we ourselves have become unfamiliar with God and no longer know Him either.

If God, almighty maker Himself does not know us, then who can? I am truly lost if He never knew me. I am truly gone if He tells me to depart. I am truly evil if He calls me that.

—–2)

“But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29, RSV)

As for the scary part here: if God Himself says that I am wrong… then I am wrong absolutely. Think about it: the Creator says you are wrong! The sculptor of stars, seas and summits has declared you to be wrong. The omniscient, all-knowing, and infinite mind! I cannot be any more in error if Truth Himself says I err, and since I want to know the truth, to live in the truth, and to be truthful, being so wrong terrifies me.

For me, those are the two most horrific things that Jesus says in Sacred Scripture. I have many favorite, non-scary, lines from the Bible, but those are for another post. For now, just know that we must read God’s Word seriously. When He Himself who made time speaks, His words are forever. When Truth Himself speaks, His words are THE truth.

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Judgment Day Jesus