Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 July 2022
It has been a long time since I have truly enjoyed a movie in Netflix that seems to me not only in big trouble with its decreasing number of subscribers but mostly to lack of any good offering lately. Not even their documentaries are exceptional anymore. In fact, I have been trying to finish out of charity and old time’s sake since May the new season of “Stranger Things” that has become so strangely uninteresting even with its music selection.
Yesterday was a very exhausting Sunday with so many patients to visit and anoint in our hospital that after a much delayed lunch, I tried treating myself with a good dose of action with its new release “The Gray Man”.
But, I was totally wrong.
It has a great stellar cast led by Ryan Gosling but sad to say, sayang (what a waste in Filipino).
It started great but quickly became so boring. It is like being misled into a new roller coaster in town but it turned out it is just a caterpillar ride that you just tell your self, “what the heck… let us just try to enjoy the stupid ride.” Again, because it is sayang.
Action movies are meant to excite us but “The Gray Man” has a lot of grey areas that are not only confusing but actually distracting and detracting from whatever plot it has which is the usual story of some CIA big shots out to terminate a morally upright agent (Gosling) who had uncovered their dark and evil operations worldwide.
And the main culprit is perhaps is its long duration of two hours, bringing you to different cities around the world that it looked like a travel show. Hence, the problem with its pacing wherein when actions begin exploding, they would abruptly stop and shift somewhere else with new twists. As I have told you, it is like taking a caterpillar ride which you thought was a roller-coaster.
Worst of all, the ending was not good enough to even motivate viewers to make wild guesses on what could have possibly happened to the bad guys. Of course, it left so much room for a sequel but after seeing this initial installment based on Mark Greaney’s novel, it is doubtful if anyone would really care to wait for its sequel.
The microchip everybody wanted to have was simply pulverized — and, oh! how crudely and primitively it was done by the evil CIA official who prides himself in the movie as a graduate of Harvard that you now begin to suspect anyone can easily brag being an alumnus of any Ivy League school or even Oxford like our own president without any bearings at all of a genius or an erudite.
There are, however, two saving factors in “The Gray Man”.
First is the parting line by the Tamil assassin who surrendered the microchip embedded in a pendant to the agent helping Gosling because the CIA bosses were “not honorable people” partly because they hurt women. There are some notable scenes women are highly extolled and for that, the movie is exceptional for me. One of the few instances in Hollywood where women are explicitly mentioned as persons to be respected and cared for.
Secondly, I think Gosling could be another Bruce Willis with his physique and acting abilities if given with better handlers next time.
Sorry for being out for a long time with our Sunday music collection we try to relate with the Sunday gospel. But on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we can’t let it past without coming up with our choice that perfectly matches the parable of the prodigal son – “Alfie” from the 1966 classic film of the same title.
Written by the formidable tandem of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “Alfie” is the main character played by Michael Caine in the film about a young man who played on so many women and almost everyone without any regard for persons and relationships. Alfie is practically like the prodigal son in today’s gospel who also in the end realized the mess and waste of life he had done to himself and others (https://lordmychef.com/2022/03/26/the-joy-of-coming-home-in-the-father/).
I never had the chance to watch the classic film except the 2004 version that starred Jude Law but the song remains so touching and meaningful then and now in our generation. It is also said to be the favorite of Bacharach among his many great songs composed with David.
Learned about the song through the music of Dionne Warwick who had interpreted most of the works of Bacharach and David; but, it was only now that I have learned the original version by Ms. Cilla Black that was released in 1966. Funny that when the movie was released in the US, the producers had the young Cher recorded it too which became the version heard in the film.
The song had been covered by so many other artists with the latest by a Japanese named Fuji Kaze but, regardless of the artist singing Alfie, it is one song everyone of us can claim as ours with its sincerity and truth that come from the heart of someone truly on a Lenten journey of coming home to self, others, and God.
What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie
I know there's something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you've missed, you're nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day, Alfie
*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 February 2022
Welcome back to our weekly music blog featuring songs with themes similar to the message of the Sunday gospel. For this fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we have chosen the 1977 smash hit Night Fever by the Bee Gees that is part of the soundtrack of the movie Saturday Night Fever.
Actually, we have the movie more in our mind than the music which tells the story of a young man Tony Manero played by John Travolta who was searching for meaning and direction in his life, pouring it out on the dance floor of a New York disco. The movie has become a classic as it mirrors so many realities in life during the late 70’s like sex and promiscuity as well as issues on abortion and marriage. Very interesting in the movie too is the brother of Tony who had decided to leave the priesthood, casting some moral aspersions about our practice of faith and religion.
And that is why we have chosen Night Fever as our music this Sunday: the movie and the song both capture the essence of our gospel today which is Jesus Christ coming to us in our daily lives, trying to catch us to give meaning and direction to our lives in him by following him, by leaving everything behind which Tony Manero did at the end of the movie when he apologized to his former girlfriend to start anew at the other side of New York by finding a new job and new direction in life (https://lordmychef.com/2022/02/05/catching-jesus-catching-for-jesus/).
Like Tony and the first four disciples of Jesus – the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John who were sons of Zebedee, the business associate of Simon – we are all searching for meaning and direction in life.
According to biblical scholars, the Simon and company were all financially stable as they owned boats at that time, employing some men in their fishing ventures. Money was not a problem with them, something we also discover in life that more important than material things is fulfillment. Everything is passing that for a while may give us pleasures but never inner peace and contentment in life.
It is the message too of the song Night Fever with its very inviting beat, luring you to the life and action of the night that has become a fever that eventually leaves one empty and lost.
The movie is worth watching again 45 years after its release to rediscover the deeper meanings of its themes and most especially, its music. Night Fever is one of the five tracks by the Bee Gees included in the movie soundtrack that sold over 30 million copies, winning the 1978 Grammy Album of the Year. The soundtrack was the most successful album of all time until Michael Jackson’s Thriller dethroned it in the 1980’s.
*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 September 2021
Instead of being sick with the government’s new experiment that begins today of designating letters and numerals to our quarantine level, stay home if there is nothing really necessary for you to do outside and keep your sanity as you enjoy some series at Netflix that has become our bestest friend since this pandemic began.
Topping our recommendations are Clickbait and Blackspace that tackle relevant issues of our time, reminding us for the need to recover our sense of morals, values and virtues now becoming so rare.
What we like best with both series is its packaging into short installments of eight episodes with each running less than 50 minutes. Each episode is quick-paced, so impactful that you would be forced to finish the series in one whole day, especially if you happen to be in quarantine due to COVID-19.
The term “clickbait” was coined by blogger Jay Geiger in December 2006 by combining the words “click” of the computer mouse and “bait” that literally means to lure the user to something in the internet. Google defines clickbait is an internet content that aims to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.
The term has become notorious in its meaning and usage which the Netflix series Clickbait presents and explores so well that in the process every episode had in fact been a clickbait – luring you to click on the next episode to finish the series.
Clickbait is one series that may be used in computer literacy programs
that reminds us of the Church's teaching at Vatican II that
"Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love" (Communio et Progressio, #11).
Australian Tony Ayres did an excellent job creating the series with its story line that kept us “clickbaiting” too to find out if Nick Brewer really “abused women” and finally, who really killed him.
And that indeed is a good question to ask as the series unfolds with so many twists and turns happening, exactly like in real life when we are so quick to jump into conclusions “whodunnit” just because everything seems to fit with what we think, with what we know, or what we believe.
In the end, we realize like Dustin Hoffman in the 1997 movie Mad City that “we killed” a totally innocent man because of how we have allowed ourselves to fall into bait in abusing and mishandling the great powers of communication.
Clickbait teems with so many instances reminding us to be careful with this gift of communication which is a power God only shared with us humans. Recall how in the creation account that God spoke only with words and everything came into being; such is the power of communication. Hence, another movie, Spiderman reminds us too that with “great powers come great responsibilities”.
The series Clickbait presents so well how our pride and ego come into interplay for our dreams of greatness, of being somebody else who is famous, well-liked by everybody, building our own tower of Babel, only to crash and crumble in death and destruction because of the web of lies we have succumbed to and could no longer be stopped just like those nasty things we find trending and viral in the internet or simple rumors and gossips going out of proportion.
At the same time, Clickbait teaches us with so many values, primarily the importance of family relationships (first and foremost), fidelity, respect to elders and love among siblings, the value of life as against suicide, and most of all, the value of every person – that we in our very selves are good without any need to be famous and be liked by everybody.
It also focuses on the need for more trust among couples and siblings in this age of modern and instant communications that can never fully express who we are and what we feel deep inside us.
Clickbait is one series that may be used in computer literacy programs that reminds us of the Church’s teaching at Vatican II that “Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love” (Communio et Progressio, #11).
Don’t miss this series. See it with your loved ones because Clickbait is one good mirror of who we are these days of the internet and smartphones, of how sincere and honest are we with one another and with our true selves.
Respect for each one’s dignity
One very good thing with Netflix is our being exposed to foreign movies and series we never had the chances before. It is very educating and enriching like this Israeli series Blackspace that is so bold and daring to discuss the dignity of every human person through prevailing issues not only there but in the whole world.
The series begins with a caution to viewers of the violent and disturbing scenes in its first episode that opens with a mass shooting inside a school during a memorial program.
As we have said, the series is bold to present how the Israeli police attempted to twist their investigation by coercing some workers found hiding on the school’s roof deck as primary suspects to the crime just because some were from the West Bank and non-Jewish.
But what is so entertaining and thought-provoking in Blackspace is how the chief investigator Rami Davidi played by Guri Alfi solved the case by proving himself right that it was an inside job by some students who were all victims of bullying – just like him!
It was in fact a homecoming of sorts for Davidi to his old high school still with the same principal who was the assistant principal when he was bullied while a student that cost him his right eye.
Though the series is a bit slow in its pacing, it is still an excellent one where the creators have woven seamlessly various topics into a beautiful tapestry that present to us the many problems we adults and the young people are dealing with without getting into its very roots.
First is the value of respect for every person with equal rights and dignity that begins at home, at how parents treat their children and accept/reject them when their inclinations are different from theirs or when they have homosexual tendencies. It is very surprising how this series is able to weave into its storyline issues about fatherhood and single-parenthood, about suicide and drugs, and yes, the abuse and misuse of the internet and computer technologies!
“Blackspace” is supposed to be a meeting room of the students in the dark internet.
Everything is summarized towards the end like a scene between Pontius Pilate and Jesus (no pun intended) when Davidi finally solved the crime that involved a school official who told him, “There is no truth. Only consequences.”
It is amazing that 85 years ago today, Pope Pius XI wrote “good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart a better knowledge of the history and of the beauties of the Fatherland and of other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create, or at least, to favor understanding among nations, social classes and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue and to contribute positively to the genesis of aa just social order in the world” (Vigilanti Cura, #25).
Clickbait and Blackspace just did what the Holy Father wrote in 1936.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 September 2021
Romantic movies are what I have always avoided since I was a teenager and now that I am a priest: it is so nakaka-iinggit (so tempting)! Mahirap na. That is why I have always gone for action and comedy films and series, as well as documentaries.
But sometimes, the soft side in me prevails that I give into some love story flicks especially in Netflix since this surge in COVID-19 cases.
Two movies I highly recommend catching while still in Netflix are The Upside and The Last Letter From Your Lover; the former is an old remake based on a true story made to look modern while the latter is a modern one set in the past.
What I like most with these two movies is the strong emphasis on the value of respect, something that has become rare these days.
The word respect is from two Latin words “re” (again) and “specere” (to look/see) that literally mean “to look again” or “see again”. From specere came the words spectacular and spectacles or glasses to see and read. When we look at another person again and again especially when we are not actually together, that is when we not only respect them but also become faithful and loving with them because that is when we recognize their dignity as persons. That is one good thing with our wearing of face masks this pandemic when we rediscover the value of looking again closely at the face of the other person we meet – hopefully, not only to recognize who is he/she but to respect most of all!
Going back to The Upside and The Last Letter From Your Lover ….
The Upside is about an ex-con being chosen by a paralyzed billionaire and best-selling author to be his personal nurse despite the long list of better qualified applicants.
It is a third remake of a French movie said to be based on a true story. Though many critics find it short of making a better version than the previous ones, we find it very good.
Because it teems with a lot of respect!
The ex-con turned caregiver is played by Kevin Hart as Deli while Bryan Cranston plays the quadriplegic billionaire Philip Lacasse. It opens with Deli driving Philip around New York City in his Ferrari when they were stopped by cops. They duped the cops into believing they were on a medical emergency but after being escorted to the nearest ER, they sped away and the film switches to the past previous weeks.
Philip had lost his wife in a hang gliding accident in the mountains of New York that left him paralyzed. He had wanted so much to be dead after losing his wife that he kept on reminding his secretary Yvonne played by Nicole Kidman to “don’t resuscitate” him in case of another accident.
Then came Deli who was recently granted with a parole from jail and the exact opposite of Philip: he was desperately trying to pick up his life by reconnecting with his wife and son as he tried his best to find a job to no avail until he tried his luck to apply as Philip’s caregiver after seeing the long queue of people leading to his penthouse in an exclusive section of the Big Apple. He was the exact opposite of Philip but they clicked – because they had respect for each other.
It was their mutual respect for each other as seen in the various scenes in the movie that they both found their self-worth as persons.
Deli found direction in his life after Philip taught him to “just do what you like best” which he did by doing a painting which Philip was able to sell for 50 grand which he gave Deli as his “seed money” for whatever undertaking he was planning. First thing Deli did was find a better apartment for his wife and son with the remaining money he invested in a business manufacturing motorized wheelchairs.
The most beautiful part is how Philip regained his self-worth and confidence – and new love – with a lot of respect given him by Deli, from smoking weeds to going on a date again and returning to the site where he and his wife last went on a vacation.
This is when the movie switched back to the present when they were escorted by the police to a New York City ER but Deli sped away and drove Philip to the mountains to enjoy hang gliding again. They later checked into the same hotel where he and wife last spent their vacation and the following morning at breakfast, Deli led Philip to a table to meet his new love, his “boo”.
The last scene is very short but got a very strong impact, even romantic. Very simple yet lovely. And filled with respect. Find out who that woman is!
Truly a British movie released to Netflix this year, we find most striking with The Last Letter from Your Lover is its use of elegant English language that actually features the love stories of two journalists more than 50 years apart.
It opens with lead star Felicity Jones as Ellie Haworth waking up late in bed with her ex as she rushed to her newspaper office to write a feature article about a deceased editor. After having a hard time in getting access to their archives due to the very formal Roryplayed by Nabhaan Rizwan, Ellie found a mysterious love letter to someone identified as “J” from somebody named “Boot”.
She became friend eventually with Rory who helped her find more love letters between “J” and “Boot” that she soon followed up to become the main story of the film set in 1965 about the socialite Jennifer Stirling as “J” married to a stern industrialist interviewed by business writer Anthony O’Hare who called himself “Boot” or “B” while at the French Riviera. Jennifer’s husband had to hurriedly leave for business that became the occasion for her to get closer with Boot who had recently divorced from his wife.
Though one can readily see the sparks and intense feelings between them in their many informal meetings while awaiting the return of J’s husband at the French Riviera, Boot was very respectful to her. His respect would be put to test when one night J tried to kiss him but he declines – out of respect for her which he explained in one of his letters.
It was upon their return to London that they began writing each other and after some trysts in London, Boot finally asked J to join him to New York where he was being assigned as correspondent. On her way to the train station for their flight to New York, J met an accident and had a partial lost of memory while Boot thought his proposal was rejected.
It was during her hospitalization when J’s husband learned of her affair after discovering a letter from Boot. Meanwhile, Ellie and Rory discovered more love letters between the two lovers of the past while at the same time, they have started to fall for each other too. So funny is how the film writer Jojo Moyes had seamlessly weaved together the two love stories in the past and present, coinciding with each one’s peculiar twists and turns.
Eventually, Rory found out J and Boot were still alive and most of all, very eligible to finally reunite. She convinced Boot to write another letter to J for them to meet anew at their favorite meeting place as lovers. Boot wrote one last letter, meeting up with J finally after more than 50 years. Watching them not far were Ellie and Rory embracing each others also filled with love – and respect – who were instrumental in bringing the two lovers again. The scene is so “kilig” with both couples unknowingly being instrumental in making their loves bloom with a lot of respect.
Jesus told his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you… You are my friends if you do what I command you. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”
John 15:12, 14, 15
Whenever I officiate weddings especially of friends who have turned into lovers, I always choose this beautiful Last Supper scene of Jesus with his apostles discussing his commandment of love.
I tell the couple that one very important letter in the word F-R-I-E-N-D is the letter “R” which when removed changes the word into F-I-E-N-D or “enemy”.
That letter “R” stands for RESPECT. When there is no respect in any relationship especially among friends and lovers, love dies and ties are damaged or even lost.
Both movies teem with many instances of respect for the other person that in the end, love triumphed.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 17 August 2021
We are almost done with the first week of our third lockdown with nine more days before it is either extended or modified depending on what jumbled letter combinations come out from the magic roulette in the Palace. Either way, hail to all couch potatoes for longer weeks in front of that magic screen!
Thanks for the gift of Netflix in keeping our sanity in this pandemic. And more thanks again Netflix in streaming more television shows lately especially coming from the Philippines.
Forget My Amanda that should have been called My Cars or My Abs or My Hair…
One series you should not miss before the end of this Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) is Bagman starring Arjo Atayde.
First released in 2019 as an original series in iWantTFC, Bagman is so unique as a Filipino series because of its fast-paced tempo of less than 30 minutes per episode without the usual Pinoy director’s penchance for intense close up shots on faces of the characters with nothing expected to happen at all.
Everything in the production is superb, especially cinematography and musical scoring as well location sets that are characteristically the hallmarks of every ABS-CBN film undertaking. In fact, Bagman is one perfect reason that ABS-CBN should get back its franchise to operate for helping elevate television and film in the country.
Unlike other socio-political movies where we already know how low and evil is politics in the country, Bagman challenges us for a more personal response in ending this vicious circle of corruption and decadence in our culture and life as a nation.
Kudos to its creators Philip Kind, Lino Cayetano and Shugo Praico who directed the two-season series we hope would still have a final sequel. Their great attention to details with subliminal meanings on the roles and manners of different characters make the viewers “experience” – not just watch – the series done in first-person storytelling with narrations by Atayde himself as a former barber becoming a bagman of the governor. Each episode opens with a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction based on realities we have heard and read.
At its best, Bagman can be described as “totoong-totoo” – very true with its great storyline with characters played out so well by every actor like a thespian, beginning with Atayde and his co-stars that included the resurrected former sex-goddess Ms. Rosanna Roces and former Bagets Ms. Yayo Aguida.
Personally striking for me as a former smoker and police reporter is Atayde puffing his cigarettes clipped between his middle and ring finger.
So classic, tsong!
They must really have a superb study for Atayde and even everyone, like Mr. Joel Saracho who played a supporting role in a few episodes as a former cobbler turned “assistant” of the evil congressman played by Romnick Sarmenta. A writer himself and a veteran to many great productions on stage and the movies, Saracho brought his usual finesse in the few scenes he was included with great impact.
Bagman teems with many scenes focused on marginalized people forced to make that desperate “kapit sa patalim” due to poverty and exploitation by crooks who come from both the rich and poor alike. Here lies the beauty of the series in teaching everyone without pontificating the need to always choose the right path in life, to be careful of getting stuck into a situation one can no longer get out and cost one’s life or loved ones, or both.
One unforgettable scene for me is that episode focused on Atayde’s father-in-law played by Rolando Inocencio as a Political Science professor telling his class the story how three congressmen died and were held at the gates of heaven by St. Peter for interview. The first two were sent to hell for their sins but the third lawmaker made into heaven after “bribing” St. Peter!
The whole class burst into laughter while Inocencio lamented in a very fatherly manner how deeply ingrained is corruption among us Filipinos until the bell rang and his class dismissed. In a later episode, Inocencio would ask their hostage-taker (Karl Medina) claiming to be his former student how did the third congressman get into heaven to check if he was indeed in his class at the university.
Medina would not give any reply at all to Inocencio who would again lament how every student of his would surely know the answer because he tells the same story in every class he handled. For me as a priest, the scenes that followed reverberated with voices, asking us teachers and educators what have we really done in forming the minds of the young in our schools and parishes when corruption is even getting worst?
Bagman is a timely reminder for us in this time of pandemic of rectifying the excesses of our “old normal way of life” that is so unfair and unjust that many clamor to bring back in theface of the “new normal” that is still far from what is just and true.
One downside for me with Bagman is the excessive use of foul language, one of the worst “new normal” introduced to our society four years before COVID-19 came. The series could have been more effective and compelling minus those p*@#&^_!
See it for yourself. Enjoy and reflect the series.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 15 January 2020
Now streaming at Netflix is this excellent original 2019 BBC production, Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame), a Japanese story of two brothers set almost entirely in London seemingly inspired by French existentialist writer Albert Camus with closing scenes set in Paris.
Midway through the series, one notices right away the complexities or, absurdities of life that one cannot simply categorize it between “duty and shame”, or good and evil, right and wrong, black and white.
It is a series that hits our innermost core when we find ourselves in those gray areas of confronting what we believe as right and just versus the value of every human person that Camus beautifully expressed in his 1947 novel “The Plague”:
“A loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one’s work, and of devotion to duty; and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.”
Albert Camus, The Plague
Like most Netflix series, Giri/Haji is rated 18+ for its violence, language, substance, and nudity but everything is done beautifully and artistically.
It is a masterpiece that shows some common threads among us humans regardless of our color and culture, gender and age, belief and language. How the creators were able to perfectly blend these all with the excellent cinematography, music, and fine prints into uncluttered and pure simplicity of Japanese Zen principles are a work of art and film genius.
Simple plot but very personal and universal
The plot is simple: an elder, straight brother is a cop with a younger brother who is a Yakuza member hiding in London after being presumed dead when he got the daughter of his boss pregnant. He staged his revenge in London where he killed a Japanese executive with the knife of his former boss that had sparked a war among Yakuza families in Tokyo that was going out of control. Cop-brother comes to London to bring his gangster brother back to Japan to atone for his sins so that peace is restored among the Yakuzas.
Along the way, the two brothers’ stories converged with the stories of three other main characters that provided the many uneventful twists to be united by the element of deaths in various forms and circumstances.
Giri/Haji honestly confronts our basic issues of love and acceptance so lacking or taken for granted in our own families that lead to a host of so many other problems and situations like drugs and other crimes, infidelity and promiscuity, as well as homosexuality and sexual orientations.
What is so unique with the series is how it was able to take these sensitive issues as subjects to be seen in relation with persons, not as objects to be studied or examined apart from anyone that it becomes more of an experience, not just an entertainment.
Giri/Haji is so personal, you can feel yourself “slashed” so you experience the subjects’ pains and hurts, longings and desires, dreams and aspirations.
Like the samurai blade that can cut through almost anything, the series hits you at almost every turn that you find yourself laughing and weeping without realizing that along with the characters, you have also laid your soul bare for serious self-confrontation and examination about your very self and the people around you in the relationships you keep as well as skipped or taken for granted.
Death and new life
There is no glorification of evil and immoralities but Giri/Haji invites us to see these as realities in our imperfect world that must be seen more with our hearts than with our minds and convictions. The series contrasts the Western frame of mind of morals as codes to be followed to the minutest details that slashes even persons into categories with the Oriental point of view of seeing morality in the totality of the person.
How it is resolved in the end is amazing!
And despite its genre being crime and violence, I would still say Giri/Haji is so lovely, even quaint and as Japanese as it can be especially with the depiction of changing of seasons that peaked at autumn.
Despite the dark and gloomy nature of the topics of death in all of its forms, there is the radiance of hope always that will lead to new life. The series teems with other symbolisms and signs including great music selections that add intensity to its drama and tragedy that make us hope the new season comes soonest.
For the meantime, listen to the beautiful music theme of the Giri/Haji by British singer Tom Odell.
Take my mind And take my pain Like an empty bottle takes the rain And heal, heal, heal, heal
And take my past And take my sense Like an empty sail takes the wind And heal, heal, heal, heal
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 December 2019
As early as Friday night after my second Simbang Gabi Mass at 8:30, I have been wanting to react on social media against Netflix’s “The Two Popes”.
But I tried to control my self because I have only seen its first 30 minutes – and besides, it is a fiction story. So, in the spirit of fairness, I tried to finish the movie in three installments until Saturday afternoon before making any comments.
And I felt sad in having seen it at all.
“The Two Popes” is not entertaining. It is misleading without any strong elements to build on our faith and appreciate our religion. At its worst, despite its claim of being inspired by true events, the movie is unCatholic and unChristian.
UnCatholic and UnChristian
Movies about religions and religious figures and personalities are always controversial by nature. But for as long as they follow the paths of honesty, sincerity, and truth, these movies eventually emerge as true expressions of art that can truly deepen one’s faith.
But “The Two Popes” at its opening scene is already disturbing and objectionable when it portrayed the Cardinals at the 2005 conclave as having animosity and rivalry among themselves in electing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Yes, we priests including bishops and Cardinals are all humans like anybody else but no one among us would ever dare to aspire for the papacy. While it is true there are some priests who are into “careerism” in the diocesan level, everything changes starting with the episcopacy or the office of the bishop.
In fact, part of the problem why we have so many vacant dioceses in the country and the whole world is that many priests refuse to accept their appointment as bishops because of many fears that are so real that come with the immense responsibilities of the position. According to the Vatican, three out of every ten priests offered to become bishops decline the offer personally made by the Pope through his Papal Nuncio in every country.
How much more with the Papacy?!
In the movie, Pope Benedict toured Cardinal Bergoglio inside the Sistine Chapel and showed him the “crying room” where the newly elected Pope may stay and cry – yes – before finally accepting his election as Pope.
That alone is true but not the movie portrayal during the conclave that claim Cardinals aspiring to become the Pope. It is something preposterous and totally untrue.
What is very disturbing in “The Two Popes” is how it presented Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Bergoglio like “lowlife” lawmakers of congress gunning for the top post for prestige and power with their respective bloc members going around in hushed conversations with matching dagger looks at each other.
This is the movie’s weakest point: rather than being seen as something about deepening our faith in God and the institutional Church or any established religion for that matter, it played on “politics” in the guise of showing the flaws and frailties of two popes competing for position and fame.
You might say “it is just a movie” but, not everyone can rightly see whatever good intentions – if it really has – that the movie is trying to present.
Instead of enlightening the viewers in their faith to the Church in general, there was something sinister in the way it presented almost everyone except Cardinal Bergoglio.
Behind the movie’s beautiful cinematography and studio sets are “subliminal messages” as if inciting viewers to dismiss the Catholic Church and other religions because they are all the same – run by egoistic, power hungry people enjoying so many luxuries in life that the common masses could not even imagine to exist.
We priests are sinners and though there are some of us who have sold Jesus like Judas Iscariot for the price of wealth and fame, there are much too many who still work in silence and hiddenness and holiness bringing Christ to the people.
The Catholic Church has continued to exist since Christ’s ascension because the good shepherds like Jesus have always far outnumbered the rotten ones. Hence, those scenes repeated twice or thrice of Pope Benedict worried with his “popularity” are outrageously absurd!
Bias against Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
The movie is supposed to show us how two great men of God, of divergent backgrounds and worlds apart, resolved their many conflicts within themselves and with others regarding their faith and ministry and mission in leading the Catholic Church.
Both actors, especially Anthony Hopkins did superb jobs in playing their roles.
The movie tried to show the triumph of the Divine in mysterious ways we can never explain nor understand using men of limitations and weaknesses.
What makes “The Two Popes” so unkind and unchristian is the fact that it is more about Pope Francis as the vida and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as contravida. It could have been better if the producers just centered on the present Holy Father as basis of their film and called it “The Pope”. Period.
How can it be a film about faith and religion when the plot itself is unfair and grossly biased against the supposed co-star who is also a Pope?
The movie is also unfair to Pope Francis who would surely never allow himself to be praised and exalted at the expense of the Pope Emeritus or any other person, whether in real life or fiction.
This for me is the most unkindest cut of all in this Netflix movie that fans the many wrong impressions fed on by media against Cardinal Josef Ratzinger since his being the Prefect of Sacred Congregation of Doctrine and Faith during the time of St. John Paul II.
Throughout the film, it is very evident at how the Pope Emeritus is put on the bad light as if he never cared at all about actual situations in the Church and in the world, from the sex scandals to issues on celibacy among other things because he is so absorbed in his intellectual pursuits in the world of books and the academe.
We are of Christ
In 1963, the American film “The Cardinal” was released, earning six Academy Awards and very positive reviews for excellently portraying Catholic religion amid issues of interfaith marriage, sex outside marriage, abortion, racism, and dictatorships set during the Second World War.
It was also inspired by true events based on the life of the late Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York.
Its music theme has become a classic piece too that we have all learned by heart while still in high school seminary.
I can still remember the film that showed in a very positive light the main character with all his flaws and shortcomings as a person, as a priest. No need to put other characters down just to underscore his goodness.
The film had a Vatican liaison officer in the person of the young German priest Fr. Dr. Josef Ratzinger who, after that movie, would be attending Vatican II as a periter or consultant to join the efforts in reforming the Church and make it more responsive to modern time.
Yes, the very same Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI portrayed in the Netflix movie as “ignorant” of the Beatles and of tango and of many other things of the modern world.
“The Two Popes” ended positively with the “unlikely friendships” of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio but still with its askewed presentation of the two holy men, of the people in Vatican, and of the Church’s members and leaders.
So unlike the classic “The Cardinal”, “The Two Popes” missed the essence of the papacy and of the Church as an institution and a body of believers – that Christianity is not about categories or labels as conservatives, progressives, or liberals: it is about our being of Jesus Christ alone.
It is deceivingly appealing to the senses but nothing really so profound about faith and Jesus Christ and his Church. With hindsight, though, after seeing the movie, the more I have come to love and admire Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for his love and faith in Jesus and the Church.
And Jesus told his disciples… “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me” (Mt.5:11).