October 20, 2018

Two of them are good. One of them is not good! …Plus bonus Pope Emeritus at the end. When I learned that Netflix had made a series about a 14th-century Spanish serf who takes part in the building of a Barcelona church, I was all about that. When I learned there was a book, I grabbed that book with a swiftness. Cathedral of the Sea, by Ildefonso Falcones, was a bestseller in Spain; and oh how I wanted it to… Read more

October 20, 2018

In 2008, University of Edinburgh theology professor Oliver O’Donovan published a series of essays online, which were intended to clarify the issues at stake in the controversy over gay marriage and gay people within the Anglican Communion. Several people whose opinions I greatly respect urged me to read this book, Church in Crisis (and boy, the bitter laugh with which I have to greet that title should caution me against any triumphalism in what I’m about to say…), and I… Read more

October 18, 2018

In which St Francis de Sales watches season 5 of the depressed-horse show and exclaims, “If only we could have your abjection without, you know, strangling a lady!” So on purely technical grounds, season five is BoJack’s weakest. But it also might be the show’s bravest. BoJack has always left disaster in his wake. His own self-loathing has damaged countless lives—mostly, though not only, women’s lives, even now that he’s trying to do better, to get off the treadmill of… Read more

October 12, 2018

for America magazine: And so begins a haunting stop-motion animation film, like a fairy tale told by cruel parents, in which the real history of an abusive and politically influential cult is cross-pollinated with “The Three Little Pigs,” “Snow White” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” The sets and characters are made mostly of masking tape; the film began as a series of installations in art galleries. Instead of giving the movie a homey, arts-and-crafts feel, however, the constantly unraveling, crumpling… Read more

October 10, 2018

for America magazine: The pony-photos story encapsulates several of the qualities that made Weegee the king of crime photography and one of the godfathers of noir. Weegee knew photographic technology intimately. He could command the camera and push its limits. In the days when each picture required the photographer to load a fresh glass plate into the boxy camera body, Weegee would spend hours practicing his moves until he had the dexterity to shoot faster than his rivals. He knew… Read more

October 10, 2018

A woman who’s just in the very first stages of recovery from an awful early life finds a note hidden inside a hurdy-gurdy. The note tells of another woman’s desperate struggle–and about the “faceless ones” who pressured her into signing something which is about to cost her her life. The note cuts off before she can explain her situation, but our heroine, Amelia Jones, feels a strange kinship to her. She knows that by now the woman who wrote the… Read more

October 10, 2018

I’m saving the best film I saw at the fest for a full review, in case you’re wondering why all of these are so ambivalent. In the order I saw them: The Ranger: ’80s-set (I think) slasher homage about a deranged park ranger (Jeremy Holm) murdering his way through a gang of horrible punks because of his obsession with their least self-absorbed member (Chloe Levine). This is mostly very fun, silly but satisfying. Levine gives depth to our heroine; the… Read more

October 10, 2018

Three actual young people who know things because they’re (excellent) reporters or they actually work in youth ministry, plus also me, emoting about Adoration. BTW, I was in the middle of Sigrid Undset’s terrific Catherine of Siena and if you are looking for something relevant to read, you may find in it a defense against hopelessness. This is a time of crisis for the Catholic Church. The horrific Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse and revelations about Cardinal… Read more

October 8, 2018

C.H.U.D.: In Glorious Trash-O-Vision! This 1984 classic of urban abandonment, about “Cannibalistic Human Underground Dwellers,” is as seamy and strange as its reputation promises. I loved this weird, sad film about a photographer who uncovers a spate of deaths among the homeless people who have formed a secret community in the city’s sewage and subway tunnels. There’s an unexpected subplot about an unplanned pregnancy, which gets startling symbolic weight (I think there’s literally no explanation for the shower blood scene… Read more

September 13, 2018

and discover a poignant fear inside the shell of what is, imo, a pretty mediocre movie: This is the movie’s true monster—the possibility that self-surrender in the monastery and possession by a demon are basically the same thing. “The Nun” is about fear of submission; fear of betrayal, of being abandoned and destroyed by God and the church who promised to save you; fear of giving yourself, body and soul, in the hope that this plunge into God will strengthen… Read more

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