Cinepub


Murder Week: Salvation Boulevard (2011) by Jamie

Quite by accident, I ended up watching a number of films that all seemed to revolve around the worst crime a human being can commit that doesn’t involve touching children in inappropriate ways. So I’ve decided that, hell, I might as well review ’em and make a theme week out of it. So yeah, murder. It’s something that humans are pretty good at. There are those out there that would say that humans are especially evil being the only species that kill their own kind. To that I’d say that Black Widow Spiders and Praying Mantises would have a number of arms to raise in objection to that. Hell, we’re not even the only species to go to war.

Still, there’s something which fascinates us about this darker side of human nature. The fascination with death is probably only second in the human psyche to our fascination with sex. It probably comes with being, as far as we know, the only species that is fully aware of our mortality. It’s why we created myths to ease the fear of death. The fact that we could comprehend that we were alive made it hard to accept that one day everything we were would come to an end, hence we came up with the idea of the afterlife. This idea was then taken by the ruling classes of several different societies and cultures in order to keep the peasants in line. Just work hard and do as you’re told in this life, and you’ll get rewarded in the next. Its Marx’s opiate of the masses, if you will. And so it is that we come to today’s film, Salivation Boulevard, a comedy-thriller-religious satire from 2011. Yeah, that’s right. All that build up was for the review of a little known comedy film. I’ll admit, the opening got away from me a bit there.

The most notable thing about this film is probably the cast. Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marissa Tomei, Ed Harris, Jim Gaffigan, Ciarán Hinds. Hell, that’s a fairly impressive list of pretty solid people. So how was it that this thing slipped through the cracks and ended up with a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes?

Well, to be fair, it’s just not that great of a film. To be fair I don’t think it’s really 21% bad but it could have done so much more with the premise. The basic set-up is that Pierce Brosnan plays Pastor Dan Day, the head of a Mega Church in a small town in Western America. He’s beloved by the community, in particular former Deadhead turned Christian Carl Vandermeer (Kinnear) and his wife Gwen (Connelly). The Mega Church that every obedient follower of the Lord could want, including a daycare centre with colouring books featuring Pastor Dan’s smiling face. Yes, the people of the town pretty much worship Dan as much as they do a 2000 year old Jewish Carpenter Zombie and the film isn’t particularly subtle about it, at least at first.

After Dan engages in a spirited debate with atheist Dr Paul Blaylock (Harris), he and Carl head back to the professor’s office for a night cap. One thing leads to another and the Pastor accidentally shoots Blaylock in the head. Fearing that the shooting will put his plans for a new Christian community that he plans to build in jeopardy, he tries to pass off the shooting as an attempted suicide whilst also trying to silence Carl. “Hilarity” ensues and all manner of madcap mix-ups and misunderstandings occur.

The main problem with the film is that it never quite balances its genres. It feels like it could have been a decent enough comedy about a man wrongly accused of a crime or a decent religious satire but in trying to combine the two, the final product is a bit of an unsatisfying mess. It’s the religious satire aspect, in particular, that really seems to suffer. It just never seems to go beyond the fairly obvious. Also I was a little disappointed that Pastor Dan actually seems to believe in the product he’s selling. Yes, he’s using that belief to gain and profit for himself but it’s pretty clear that he’s a believer himself and he suffers a great deal of guilt over what he’s done. Not enough to come clean but still, it tortures his religious soul. Personally, I feel it would have been better from a satirical viewpoint to have Dan simply pay lip service to Christianity in order to get what he wants. Sure, that might have been obvious too but it could have been a little more biting.

Perhaps the oddest thing in the whole film is Pierce Brosnan’s accent. It starts of as one thing and ends up something like an Australian accent and I honestly have no idea why. Honestly, it’s just bizarre. Why not just have him using his normal, British accent if he’s not going to play an American anyway? It’s possible it’s inspired by Australian Ken Hamm, director of the Creation Museum and a man whose choice of facial hair leaves him looking far more like a product of an evolutionary process he insists didn’t happen.

This man certainly didn’t evolve from apes…

So yeah, I kinda had high hopes for this film. The subject matter put it firmly in my wheel house and I thought that maybe it might be a nice little treasure that I could appreciate even if the critics didn’t but sadly I was disappointed. There were a few moments where I did laugh out loud and Kinnear puts in a great, believable performance as poor put-upon Carl but as a whole the movie just leaves you wishing it had been so much more. Two pints out of five. Laterz.

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Documental: Waiting For Armageddon by Jamie

Ah, religion. Religion, religion, religion. Yep. That’s a thing that happens. I’m sorry but as I know all too well, writing anything about religion on the internet can provoke some fairly extreme reactions from people on all sides of the argument. So it’s once again that I throw myself into this quagmire with a review of ‘Waiting For Armageddon’, a documentary which focuses primarily on fundamentalist evangelical Christians and their views on the coming apocalypse which they see as being imminent.

Now, I’m fairly sure that ever since humans came to understand the passage of life and it’s eventual end, there have been those who have expected to see the end of days in their lifetime and from my point of view, these people are no different. It’s just that, as this movie shows, there are a shit ton of them and they aren’t entirely without political sway. No, it should be said that I think this film was made during the Bush administration when the religious right certainly did have quite a large amount of sway in Washington and I’m not sure what the climate is like now but either way, these are a loud and, to my mind, scary group of people.

That being said, the film doesn’t seem to really take a side though it’s kind of similar to Jesus Camp in that it interviews the people about their beliefs and shows them participating in various activities and largely leaves what the viewer thinks of the issue up to said viewer. Whereas I came away from this disagreeing with most people and their apocalyptic beliefs and the destruction and devastation they’re willing, almost happy, to see take place in order for those beliefs to come true, I’m sure there will be others who already agree with these views to come away seeing it as a documentary which does nothing more than espouse those views. That also being said, much like Jesus Camp, the context of the clips does seem to lean a little more towards my side of the argument. Then again, I could just be seeing it that way because that’s the side of it that I fall on. In other words, I’m confused.

So for anyone who isn’t familiar with the book of revelations, it’s sort of explained in this film. The basic gist is that Jesus is gonna come back and fight the forces of the Antichrist in one major world-ending, pay-per-view event. Jesus is going to be carrying a flaming sword or something and he shall mete out righteous justice and then hit the reset button on all creation, abolishing evil forever. Before this all the righteous Christians will be called up to Heaven so they won’t have to endure the terrible tribulations that will proceed this awesome Holy War which we sinners will have to. The final fight itself shall take place in Jerusalem because if there’s one thing that place needs it’s a massive Holy War. Some Jews will finally accept Jesus as the messiah and the rest will be obliterated and all the rest of us that don’t will suffer a similar fate. I’m not sure whether Hell get’s destroyed with the giant universal reset or not so I’m not sure if I’m due for an eternity of torture or an eternity of oblivion which is what I’m expecting anyway. I suppose that’s kind of beside the point at this juncture. So that’s basically the end of the world according to the various accounts from the people in this movie. In other words Revelations is Jesus’ gritty reboot which, according to the fundamentalists, is long overdue.

Of course, there are a few things that have to take place before this occurs, paramount of which is the destruction of the Dome Of The Rock and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. The destruction of the Dome is joked about quite often during a conference at the end of the film ass is, rather disturbingly, God’s “failure” to stop 9/11, the joke being that God didn’t fail to do anything because by definition God cannot fail and so all things occur according to his whim. This means that anything bad that happens, especially with regards to the Middle East or anything even slightly related to it, can be seen as a sign of the apocalyptic prophecies coming true because it’s God’s will.

I couldn’t help but laugh at one particular speaker during this conference. Something about the way he talked about post-modernism and us troublesome atheists just reminded me of the speaker at the police conference in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. You know, the one who talks about reefer addicts. Yeah, guy reminds me of him and it tickled me pink.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the documentary is when a group of evangelicals head of to Jerusalem on a visit and it’s interesting to see their interactions with the Israelis. There’s a sort of grudging politeness. I say grudging because at their heart each one of these people simply cannot respect ‘the other persons point of view. The Christians believe that the only way to get right with God is through Jesus and the Jews just don’t see things this way. The Christians have to be polite and support the Jewish people because if they don’t then they don’t get to see all the sites they consider holy plus they don’t get their Armageddon they’ve so been looking forward too. The Israelis have to be polite and put up with what I’m sure is a lot of evangelising, because these are evangelicals after all, because as one Rabbi puts it ‘We have a phrase called the golden rule. The one with all the gold makes all the rules.’ The same rabbi also claims that if Jesus did exist he was a womanizing sorcerer and has the best line in the film ‘So they believe that Jesus is coming back. We don’t think he’s going to make it a second time.’ Hilarious. Just something about the way he phrases it makes it seem like a threat.

Anyway, this film was pretty good despite it’s rather scary subject matter, it didn’t make me as angry as ‘Jesus Camp’ and there is some fairly interesting stuff in there besides the whacky prophecy stuff. The main thing it highlighted for me was that I just don’t understand religious belief. Maybe it is something genetic or something to do with brain chemistry that makes someone more susceptible to religious thinking (I’m not saying it’s the only reason just something that could make something like that more likely in certain people) but I’ve never believed, even when I was a child being taught all this stuff in primary school. I just don’t have the capacity for it and so it’s one of those aspects of human nature that will always remain a mystery to me. I don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs, they’re just not for me. So yeah, the film gets four pints out of five.



The Depress-A-Thon: Deliver Us From Evil by Jamie

The sad fact is that lately I have just been too damn happy. Things have been going relatively well and life is generally quite good. This, of course, cannot stand. I need to create some kind of balance and so to that end I have decided to embark on a special project, The Depress-A-Thon. I will watch some of the most depressing films that I know about, review them here and see just how watching as many as I can affects me. It’s kind of a science experiment if science experiments were conducted in hugely unscientific ways.

Now there is a small problem in that some of the films that will be included in The Depress-A-Thon have already been reviewed on this site. I’m not sure yet whether I will re-review them in the context of the marathon or simply post up the old reviews. I guess it’ll all depend on how I feel.

So let’s start with a little film called ‘Deliver Us From Evil’, a documentary from 2006 directed by Amy J. Berg. It mainly revolves around Oliver O’Grady, a grandfatherly old Irish man with a twinkle in his eye. He also happens to be a despicable monster. No, that’s not right. I generally dislike it when people call others who commit horrendous acts monsters. I feel it’s a bit of a cop-out, as if their trying to remove their actions from within the parameters of humanity. So no, O’Grady is not a despicable monster, he’s a despicable human being.

You see, it turns out that O’Grady was a catholic priest who, from the period of the late 70s to the early 90s, abused, molested and raped at least twenty-five children, the youngest being only nine months old. The first half or so of the film mainly deals with O’Grady and how he was moved from parish to parish as his crimes were revealed until he was finally arrested and convicted of his crimes. The second half of the film deals with the larger issue of child abuse within the Catholic Church and the Church’s attempt to keep it covered up.

The film features various interviews with the families involved in the sexual abuse, lawyers, law enforcement and O’Grady himself. The interviews with the victims are, for obvious reasons, the most moving, in particular those involving the Jyono family who are the main family portrayed throughout the family. Bob Jyono in particular becomes very emotional when talking about O’Grady and it’s easy to understand why. He trusted this man so much that he used to let him stay at his house to get away from the stress of the church. Little did he know at the time that whilst the priest was staying there he was raping his five year old daughter, Ann.

The most interesting interviews, however, are those with O’Grady himself. It’s incredible to watch because the man seemingly has no concept of just how reprehensible the things he has done are. He talks about raping children almost as if it he’d committed a minor transgression against these families, perhaps something akin to accidentally over feeding a pet goldfish or something. It’s a bizarre thing to see. The man has clearly managed to disassociate himself completely from the severity of his crimes. There’s a moment where he is writing letters to his victims, sitting in his Irish home after being deported from America and living on an annuity from the church, who he honestly thinks might want to see him again, discuss the events and hopefully shake his hand. The most remorse you hear from him are the words “It should not have happened,” but even this statement lacks any kind of sincerity.

As stated before the second half of the film deals more with the problem of abuse of children by priests within the Catholic Church as a whole and presents an organisation which is very much about saving face and money. It is shown that they actively move shamed priests from one parish to another without informing the local community or local law enforcement of their pasts. They also ignore the cries of the victims themselves for as long as they can before moving the priest, lying to them and telling them that they won’t be allowed access to children ever again.

There is discussion about reasons that child abuse seems to be such a problem within the Church. One suggested reason is that it’s because Catholic priests are forced to remain celibate. Combined with the fact that many of them begin training for the priest hood right around the time they enter puberty means that they never get to mature psychosexually in the way that a normal person would. Obviously this doesn’t cause all priests to become paedophiles but it could explain why there seem to be such a higher number of cases within the Catholic Church compared with the population at large. It is also suggested that it is this stunting of their sexual growth that causes them to be attracted to children, people who they perceive as mental equals when it comes to matters of a sexual nature. It’s an interesting theory and one that I can see making sense although I’m just as inclined to believe that they abuse children simply because they are the most vulnerable members of their flock.

The film is a stark, shocking look at the problem of child abuse within the Catholic Church today and the Church’s response to it. It certainly feels a bit one sided but then again it would be very difficult for it to be any other way especially considering the Catholic Church refused to be interviewed for the documentary as well as refusing to speak to some of O’Grady’s victims after they had flown to the Vatican hoping for some kind of closure. It’s a film that is actually more likely to make you angry then depressed, though it certainly isn’t very uplifting.

Overall I give this film five pints out of five and I highly recommend it, if you can stomach the subject matter. Tomorrow The Depress-A-Thon continues with ToddSolondz’s ‘Happiness’




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