Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Flood of Disagreement



Maybe the movie Noah is good.  Maybe it's bad.  But it can't be nearly as entertaining as the battle in the Catholic blogosphere that has erupted over it!

First, Steven Greydanus at Catholic World Report says some remarkable things about the movie.  In a serious and well-written review, Greydanus also manages to make some rather profound theological observations ...

This theme of uncertainty exists in tension with Methuselah’s assurance to Noah that God’s will is knowable: “You must trust that he speaks to you in a way you can understand.” Perhaps it’s enough that at every stage Noah has the light he needs to do what is necessary at that moment, even if he doesn’t always fully grasp why or for what ultimate end.
This is a case in point of what seems to me one of the film’s most notable achievements: its sense of a story unfolding in the present tense, with characters who don’t know how it all ends any more than we know how our stories end.
Struggling to understand and interpret the signs of his times in light of his faith and what he understands as God’s will, Noah is not unlike the Twelve in the Gospels, with their faulty conception of what Jesus was getting at regarding the kingdom of God and the Messiah’s mission. Or Francis of Assisi, setting about literally rebuilding the church at San Damiano when Jesus really wanted him to help rebuild the universal Church.
The exact import of events we are living through, whether in light of divine revelation or any other framework of meaning, is often unclear. Ultimate realities seem to loom large and close, peering from behind or even through proximate events. The collapse of any way of life is always a glimpse of the eschaton; the birth of anything new always evokes the inception of new world, the arrival of heavenly Jerusalem.

Deep stuff!  Well written and perceptive - the kind of thing you don't normally see in a movie review.  And whether Greydamus is right or not about perceiving this as a theme of Noah - in other words, even if he simply reads this into the movie and it's not there at all - this observation is a truth about how we live out our relationship with God - a profound truth that is worth reflecting upon.

***

Contrast this with the spirited but shrill review by Barbara Nicolosi at Patheos.  She admits she is not offering a "serious review" of the film.  Instead, she becomes SCTV's Bill Needle on steroids (see below) - and in the process emphatically condemns any critic who disagrees with her assessment of this movie as being a tool of the anti-christian secular mainstream media system of evil.  That's ... a bit harsh.

  • It reminds me of Michael Voris flatly stating that critics of Fr. Corapi's meltdown were "professional Catholics" whose motives were sinister and who were tools of the great international homosexual conspiracy.  This is really what Voris claimed, in so many words.
  • It reminds me of when a Catholic deacon told me that the only reason I was criticizing Christopher West and West's peculiar interpretation of JP2's Theology of the Body was because I was jealous of West and wanted to ruin his career.  My motives were not based upon defending orthodox Church teaching; my motives were anger that West was getting more bookings than Theater of the Word.  And I was using this mighty blog to put an end to that!
  • And of course this is what makes it impossible to discuss "gay marriage" in a rational way.  Those of us who object to it are "bigots".  Our motives are sinister and we are tools of the great international heterosexual conspiracy.  

So this bizarre tendency to use irrational ad hominems against people we disagree with is an old, old story.  

Older than Noah.

Meanwhile, Nicolosi in her Noah review also says a few things that are reminiscent of her review of the Spielberg Lincoln movie.  She called that film talky and boring, and found fault with its screenplay because it was not formulaic - or at least not written according to the formula that she sells, the only formula that she apparently believes makes for good writing.  When I pointed out on this blog that the best screenplays are anything but formulaic, she became a bit shrill with me on Facebook.

But you know this is all rather funny.  And Nicolosi's review, for all its over-the-top anger and bitterness, is a lot of fun to read.  And she trumps Greydamus in having the best line yet.

"[Noah] is bad enough," Nicolosi writes, "to be a Christian movie!"

Meanwhile, here's film critic Bill Needle.  I bet his review of Noah would top even Barbara Nicolosi's!


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