Inception: More meta than you thought…

Films

We’ve all heard a few theories about Inception – the end was just a dream, DiCaprio dreamed that it would get him an Oscar – but here’s one that I think holds a fair bit of weight. It’s a bit of a two-pronged attack, claiming that Inception is both entirely a dream and a metaphor for film-making.

I think the idea that Inception is a film about film-making – but without telling the audience that it’s about film-making – is the coolest aspect of this whole theory. You can find a summarised explanation here, or you can read the original article and further discussion here.

But in case you’re super-lazy, here’s the quote that details the basic argument for Inception being about making a film:

The heist team quite neatly maps to major players in a film production. Cobb is the director while Arthur, the guy who does the research and who sets up the places to sleep, is the producer. Ariadne, the dream architect, is the screenwriter – she creates the world that will be entered. Eames is the actor (this is so obvious that the character sits at an old fashioned mirrored vanity, the type which stage actors would use). Yusuf is the technical guy…

incept

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‘Strong Female Characters’ and the Trinity Syndrome

Films

“Isn’t it great that so many movies these days (especially action and adventure films) have strong, fun female characters,” you may be thinking. But according to Tasha Robinson over at The Dissolve, you’re wrong.

In a brilliant article titled We’re Losing All Our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome, she talks about the gimmicky female characters that are so often inserted into films just so that the companies can say: “Look, we have women in our film!” Tasha suggests that Trinity from the Matrix is the epitome of this; the opening scene has her as a total badass, leaping over buildings and escaping from agents, but by the end of the trilogy (or even the film) she just spouts encouragement and fills in as a romantic interest.

Check out her article here (but be warned – there are spoilers for a number of films, such as Oblivion, How To Train Your Dragon 2, and Edge of Tomorrow). What films can you think of with strong females who are realistic characters in their own rights?

The Apostle of Rome

Faith

Today, May 26th, is the feast day of St Philip Neri. This is the day that we thank God for the blessings he gave Philip during his earthly life, reflect on Philip’s holy life, and ask him to pray for us.

St Philip was born in the early 16th Century in Italy and, by all account, grew up as a pious and loving young boy. When he reached manhood he travelled to Rome and spent a number of years working as a tutor, while also ministering to many of the poor in the city. He was eventually ordained and garnered a reputation as a holy, joyous and unique priest. Two of his major ministries were caring for the impoverished throughout Rome and forming young men in the faith. This latter ministry eventually grew into his order, the Oratorians. Philip – regarded by many as a saint even during his life – died in 1595 and was declared a saint less than 30 years later.

I first encountered St Philip in 2010. In fact, he inspired my first serious thoughts about priesthood. I was at the Catholic Discipleship College and his feast day rolled around. Even though St Philip’s feast isn’t a major one in NZ, our priest decided to preach about his life and ministry in our Mass that day. I was captured; I felt some strange affinity to this man from the 16th Century, and was desperate to know more about him. So I asked our priest if he had any more info on St Philip and I was given an article: St Philip Neri and the Priesthood (which I was blessed enough to find online after losing my copy).

I’ve returned to that article a number of times since I answered the call of God to enter the Seminary. And each time, it fills me with the same… excitement I felt the first time I heard about St Philip. I encourage you to read it, because it’s not just for priests – it shows a joyous Gospel life, and a way to communicate the joy of Christ to others. Here’s a small quote:

An authentic Christian humanism, the humanism of the Gospel, was the foundation of Philip’s ministry of personal relationships. He understood that God effected conversions through the priest’s personal influence as friend, teacher, confessor, father and spiritual guide.

Let’s pray that our priests (and seminarians!) may be given the strength from God to be loving and holy friends, confessors, fathers and spiritual guides. Or rather, let us pray that they will recognise the great love God has for them and desire to share this through authentic relationships.

The Most Powerful Story…

Fiction

I have just finished playing what has been for me the most powerful and thought-provoking game ever. I know, that’s a huge call. But please play it for yourself before pulling out the pitchfork.

save the dateIt’s called Save the Date, and at its gameplay core is nothing more than a visual novel. But this game is so much more than some gameplay with a tacked-on storyline. The gameplay is just… a portal. The story is where the magic happens.
I now desperately want to go deeper and discuss what goes on, but I more desperately want you to experience it for yourself. You can download it here.

What I will say is that, by the end, I felt more connected to Felicia than I have to any other character. And I was disgusted with myself for not listening to her.

 

If you have played the game and want to know what the creator intended, check out this post (and his following comments).

Fiducia

Faith

All over the world today, the gospel story of Lazarus would have been (or is being, or will be) read. It comes around every year on the Fifth Sunday of Lent and is probably one of the better-known miracles of Jesus.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most homilies today were about death. The homily I heard certainly was, and I can’t remember ever hearing someone preach on this gospel and not focus on death. I mean, just look at the readings that go along with it today. The reading from Ezekiel: “I am going to open your graves [and] raise you from your graves… you will live”. The second reading, from the letter to the Romans: “Though your body may be dead it is because of sin… [and] he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies…”
I was surprised, then, to be sitting in Mass today and have a totally different theme leap out at me.

Have you ever experienced a line of Scripture striking your heart like an arrow? It’s as though that line was shouted, while the rest was barely whispered. It doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it does I try to sit up and take notice – it’s usually because the Man Upstairs is trying to get my attention. That’s what happened today, proving once again that “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Psalm 129 is fairly familiar to me – it comes up often in the breviary. So I was surprised when I heard a line with ‘new ears’, as though for the first time.

Let the watchman count on daybreak
     and Israel on the Lord.

That one line was like… a mental explosion. Or at least, the catalyst for a mental explosion. (Let’s now hope I can trace the wreckage in an intelligible way!)

If I went and asked a random pedestrian whether the sun is going to rise tomorrow, they’d look at me like I was crazy. Of course the sun will rise tomorrow, they’d exclaim, There’s no doubt about that! And I would agree with them. But do I have that same trust, that same confidence, in the Lord? His love for us is more dependable, more certain, than the sun rising tomorrow morning. I plan things for tomorrow without even questioning whether dawn will break; yet how often do I question God’s love, or faithfulness, or power, or truth?
The question resounded within me: Do I count on the Lord as surely as I count on daybreak?

 

sunrise

 

This idea of trust formed itself for me as a ‘key’ to the rest of today’s Scriptures.
Death – usually preached as today’s dominant theme – is what Tolkien calls ‘the doom of man’. When someone close to us dies, it doesn’t feel like some normal or natural process. It jars us. It disturbs us. It is one of our biggest fears and preoccupations. Our entire being cries out, This is not right! Because it isn’t right: we were made for life, not for death. Death is a punishment for sin, and sin entered the world through one man (see Romans 5:12, 6:23).
So how can we love God in a world plagued by death? How can we know that He is loving, faithful, powerful, and truthful?

You will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people.

Right there, in the first reading, the Lord is crying out: Trust in me! I can destroy your greatest fear! The second reading reinforces this by telling us exactly how our death is overcome: it is by the Spirit of God living within us! But we, in our weakness and distrust and sin and blindness, reply: What gives you the power to do this? Can we really trust you? And Jesus says:

I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
     Do you believe this?

Do you believe this? Do you trust him? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart… and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)
To finish, I wish to share Charles de Foucald’s Prayer of Abandonment.

 

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

683 minutes

Faith, Films

Earlier this year, I had one of the happiest days of my life.
Three friends and I spent the day watching all three Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films. That’s a total of 683 minutes (11 hours, 23 minutes) of Middle Earth.

It was glorious. And it got me thinking about LOTR again.

See, I’ve been a huge fan of Tolkien’s works since I was about… 13?
I had attempted the books when I was 8 or 9, but struggled through the first five parts and eventually gave up; I’d seen the movies when they came out and enjoyed them, but hadn’t grasped the depth – I just saw them as fun action movies. When I was 13, my grandparents gave me an old copy of LOTR and I decided that the time was ripe for another attempt. I devoured the books. I loved them. I finally got them, understood that there was more than just a story or an event here. I suppose I was beginning to see them in the way Tolkien had hoped for them to be seen: as myths.
Since the books alone weren’t enough, I then purchased Anduril (Aragorn’s sword) and other assorted memorabilia before getting my hands on a copy of the Extended Edition DVDs. I set aside a day and started at 7am, finishing around 8:00pm (I didn’t take many breaks!). That viewing cemented me as a LOTR fan for life. To be honest, I think that the worldview presented in LOTR may have helped my conversion to Catholicism – I’ll have to ask the Lord when I see Him.

Over the eight years since I first watched these Extended Edition films, I’ve watched them at least another ten times each – but I’d never done another 683-minutes-in-one-day viewing. I’d tried with friends over the years, but no one had ever been keen enough. We’d start, get about 3 or 4 hours in, but then call it a day. But now, after years of searching and waiting, it has happened.
Admittedly, it did take us about 14 hours to get from Galadriel’s opening monologue to Sam’s hopeful and settled “Well, I’m back.” But when you factor in toilet stops, people coming and going, two meals, running around outside while screaming and holding a sword (we needed exercise, OK?), and discussing finer points of Middle Earth mythology, I think that’s understandable.

Something that came up very strongly with this viewing of LOTR was the depth of Catholic thought that is within Tolkien’s world. Every time I watch the films or read the books, I’m reminded of this – but I end up forgetting about it! So after watching the films (and discussing these Catholic ideas and themes with my mates), I turned to google to help me find what others were saying about this. I found some awesome stuff. Here’s a collection of my favourites:

  • The best, undoubtedly, is Dr Peter Kreeft’s book The Philosophy of Tolkien, where Dr Kreeft uses the world of Middle Earth (and Tolkien’s other writings) as a springboard to explain and discuss philosophy, reality and virtues. An awesome read.
  • There’s a series of four articles from the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, written by Timothy O’Malley. They were originally given as a single talk but have been broken up into four separate articles for ease of reading. The series is titled The Catholic Imagination in the Lord of the Rings, and the first article can be found here.

This is just a tiny selection of the wealth of info on Tolkien and his Catholic worldview for Middle Earth. But what do you think? I know heaps of LOTR fans who avidly deny that the stories are religious. Of course, to see Tolkien’s writings as allegory is foolish (he explicitly said they’re not), but he also explicitly said that they are Catholic.

So that’s that.

The Crowded Seminary

Faith, Photos

Today I have begun my second official year as a Catholic Seminarian.

It’s funny saying that, because I feel like I’ve been on this journey for all of my life; it feels impossible to split things up into ‘before preparing for priesthood’ and ‘preparing for priesthood’. I suppose this is because the Lord is now using all my experiences, all my joys and hopes, my griefs and anxieties (see Gaudium et Spes 1), to shape me into His priest. Somehow, in His wisdom, the Father is able to take hold of my entire life and use it for His will. Looking back with a heart that now knows Him, I can see His fingerprints and recognise His voice. My sins, weaknesses, failures and mistakes are all still there – sometimes in
So yes, I’m entering my second year. But, in a certain way, I’m also halfway through my 21st year of preparation for Holy Orders.

To begin our year, we have travelled down to the old Seminary which was founded in 1900 and active for nearly a century. Celebrating the Sunday Eucharist in the chapel there was a beautiful experience. As you can see from my photo below, the chapel itself is beautiful – but what was truly special was celebrating Mass in that place where so many seminarians before me have prayed. Fr Alan, our spiritual director, said in his homily that it has a special feel to it because “the walls are filled with the prayers of seminarians who have gone before us.” I thought of all the men who would have sat or knelt in there, pouring their hearts out to the Lord. At different times they would have felt afraid, uncertain, excited, bored, nervous, peaceful. Their prayers would have been fervent, desperate, difficult, honest, hollow, beautiful. In other words, these men – my ancestors in the faith – were like me, and prayed like me.

20140209-170006.jpg

To be one of thirty men in the New Zealand seminary, it’s easy to feel lost among the four-point-something million Kiwis currently living here. And sometimes this feeling of minority can lead to either pride (‘Aren’t I good to be doing this, when so few do?’) or despair (‘Why the heck am I doing this, when do few do?’). But now, recognising the ‘great crowd of witnesses’ who have gone before me, I can see it from a new perspective. I’m no longer one of thirty; there are hundreds and hundreds of NZ men who’ve answered the call.
Suddenly, the journey towards priesthood is a lot more crowded – I like it.

The Hobbit & The Demon

Uncategorized

Some interesting reflections on the latest Hobbit film.

FaithbookNZ

A small film was released late last year: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – you may not have heard of it. It’s basically about a group of short, angry men trying to get their money back from a bully. They get help from an even shorter man, and old man, and Orlando Bloom.

OK, maybe that’s not the best synopsis ever, but I’m going to assume you know the film that I’m talking about.

I attended a midnight screening of Desolation (one of the 9 that were available in my hometown!) and enjoyed it – far more than the first Hobbit film. It had a more coherent and singular style, plus a lot more story development.

Instead of putting up a review, I want to take a look at one of the major themes in the film. Just like LOTR, the book which this film is based on was…

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My own fiction!

Fiction

Wow, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog! A lot has happened in that time. Most excitingly, I’m now an official writer! Well, fan-fiction writer, which is something.

It's a fancy minimalist cover, so you really should check it out.

It’s even got a fancy minimalist cover, so you really should check it out.

I’ve just put up the first chapter of my first Chuck fan-fiction, Chuck vs the Eagle Commander. Check it out here, have a read, and please review! I’d love to know what people think of it. (BTW if you haven’t watched Chuck… why not?! It’s awesome. Plus it’s on Netflix or DVD. So what are you waiting for? Go watch some!)

The idea for this came from two separate questions that were rattling around my brain: What if Chuck had got the Intersect a day late? and What if Chuck didn’t stop the first bomb? I realised that these go together pretty well, and after a bit more thinking I came up with this story. It will follow a very similar timeline to the show, with a lot of the same mission and characters. But don’t worry – I’m going to be shaking things up a bit as well 😉
I’ve got plans for a new major character and other interesting new stuff.

Does anyone else out there write any fanfic? Or have you ever thought of? It’s surprisingly fun to have to try think like the characters which you’ve grown so used to simply observing!