Release Date: 1999
Nationality and Language: USA/UK/Germany, English
Running time: 130 minutes
Distributor and Production Company: Lions Gate
Director; Writer: Kevin Smith (direction, writing)
Cast: Matt Damon, Ben
Affleck, , George Carlin,
Technical: Panavision 2.3
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Movie reviews of "Dogma"”
Dogma, distributed by Lions Gate Pictures, starring Matt Damon, Ben
Affleck, George Carlin, Selma Hayek, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith,
Chris Rock; written by Kevin Smith.
Well, this big-looking black comedy, satire and "road movie" works for me. It’s pretty long and ambitious for a “comedy.” And what gets poked fun at, is not just Catholic "dogma" but the whole notion of social propriety. Definitely not for kids.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck play angels Loki and Bartleby. Our "rooting interest" in this male couple is that they make it through the doors of a certain straight, mainstream Catholic church and return to Heaven (from Wisconsin, perhaps around the Sparta tunnels), while keeping their full free will and personhood. Well, if they could get away with this, they would contradict, through mathematical proof reducto ad absurdum, the existence of the Universe. By the way, his gets us to the question that some mathematicians and philosophers resist proof by contradiction. So much for my aborted Ph.D. in math (I never went beyond my Masters).
Along their journey they meet a whole host of energetic, rebellious young people, complete with body art, bad language and motion. Nobody stays calm. For example, take the hockey triplets who bully little old ladies while razor-sharp digital music plays in the background.
Loki and Bartleby seem like the perfect "male couple." There is a real psychological bond between them, stronger than a lot of conventional marriages. There is a conversation (leading to a fight, of course) on an Amtrak train (not the Orient Express) dining car, where they are asked about "their relationship" (over centuries, since the creation of Genesis -- sort of like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in David Geffen's 1992 film Interview with a Vampire, and then some) and whether they met in the military. With proper deference to the rules of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Bartleby (Affleck) announces, "No, I'm not gay." Sure, he rebuts the presumption and avoids administrative discharge. (Can angels or other non-humans serve "openly" in the military? Well, dolphins do!) Maybe, to him, the word "gay" means what it means to Nietzche (The Gay Science).
Loki (Damon -- "the masculine one") is the livelier and more
charismatic of the two (just as in Good Will Hunting).
("Beautiful Ben" Affleck is such a pretty boy that he needs to fly
and get his wings -- extra feathery limbs -- shot off). He does play the
Exterminating Angel who destroyed
And there's other stuff. Like the golem monster, made of feces that erupt
from a toilet like one in Trainspotting. Or the eunuchoid Cardinal…
well, he shows his private parts on camera, and he's got absolutely nothing,
not even any hair. (Hence, NC-17) Maybe he played in
The other major religious movie around at the end of 1999 (besides End
of Days) is The Omega Code, a PG-13 adventure (a more restrictive
rating than the Christian producers wanted) released by
Some of the script is pretty predictable and wooden. Michael York, as
Stone Alexander, who starts out as prime minister of the European Union and
gradually conquers "Gaia" -- the world -- with his peacemaking
efforts (including once again safeguarding the oil supply from political
shutoff) until he turns out to be the Anti-Christ, is no Ross Perot at all;
he's a bit foppish and stereotyped, to the point that he wouldn't fit in a
James Bond 007 movie. But the hero, a young
Fortunately, he sees Alexander's scheme in time to really get to save the world for Heaven, well, sort of. In the last scene of the film, he gets up in his condo in Heaven, alone, ready for a life of leisure, condo board meetings, and working out. He'll remain a young man forever. What a fantasy!!
There was a sequel to this film,
Review moved to http://www.doaskdotell.com/movies/mlatter.htm
Still another important church film is Bonhoeffer, from the German
Bonhoeffer’s ideas are interesting, particularly when he talks about socialization. He believe that a person’s time alone is important, but that a person’s actions or cultural intent, when he is not accountable, can be extremely damaging to other persons in a Christian body, without the person’s influence even becoming detectable.
There is a documentary: (2003, Journey.Firstrun, dir. Martin Doblemeier,
91 min). An abridged version of 60 min was aired on Maryland Public
of British filmmakers’ interest in USA regionalia is the little documentary Wisconsin
Death Trip (1999, 76 min.) from Arena films, directed and written by
James Marsh, produced by Maureen Ryan, narrated by Ian Holm. (“Death Trap”
would have made more sense as a title.)
Well, Damon and Affleck do not make a cameo appearance as permanent
residents of the mitten state. This
RAPTURE (1991, New Line, dir. Michael
Tolkin) presents a young woman Sharon (Mimi Rogers) with a boring job and
propensity to cruise the singles dance bars. Gradually she learns that a
conspiracy to bring about the end of the known world may exist. David
Duchovny (The “X Files”) plays Randy. At the end, The Rapture (I might have
called this “The Rapture of the Believers) really happens, with jail walls
crumbling at the sound of a trumpet.
When I moved to
Another religious picture (2000) from the Canadian Studio Cloud 10 (Cloud Ten) portrays the Rapture, with Kirk Cameron and Chelsea Noble (married in real life), based on the suddenly popular novel by fundamentalists Tim La Haye and Jerry Jenkins. The 1991 film “The Rapture” with David Duchovny (reviewed above) might be a better film with the critics, but what was interesting here was the Buck Williams character, played by Cameron, a charismatic, energetic young reporter (“GNN”) seeking the “truth” who, amazingly, has never heard enough Sunday school to realize that the sudden evaporation of 150 million people around the globe (leaving their clothes intact, as one amusing conversation on the airplane that starts it) could have a Biblical explanation. The AntiChrist shows up, all right, and presents Buck (hardly the Buck from Chuck and Buck) the inevitable problem of knowing good and evil—and knowing (after a shoot-em-up scene in a “board room” that reminds one of Dogma) that he wasn’t “saved” despite his wholesomeness.
JOSHUA (2002, Artisan/Crusader, dir. Jon Purdy,
based on the novel by Joseph Girzone, screenplay adaptation my Brad Mirman,
G, 91 min) presents the idea of a minimalist second coming. A gentle young
man Joshua (Tony Goldwyn—the real-life actor was born in 1960 but looks fit
indeed) visits a small town of
Anyone traveling to
MILLENNIUM (1989, 20th Century
Echoes of Innocence (2004, New World Pictures, dir. N. Todd Sims, PG-13, 115 min) is an effective hybrid of teen drama, thriller with a touch of the supernatural. But what is remarkable when one watches the credits is that this film has Evangelical Christian origins. (The film seems to intermix Catholicism with evangelical Protestantism in a few places, but not in a way to preach at the audience.) Okay, the story at the very end embraces “abstinence until marriage” but the characters are genuinely compelling and charismatic, which in many intimate scenes maintain an erotic tension and buildup although for the most part the characters remain dressed and have relatively little physical contact. This is one of those mystery-like movies where you feel a bit manipulated as the storytellers want you to think what this is really all about as the characters slowly grow on you. The film has an andante like pace resembling a late romantic symphonic slow movement—I thought I caught a quote of Richard Strauss’s Metamorphesen in the soundtrack, but I didn’t see that in the credits; the orchestral music is a but schmaltzy and Viennese at times, mixing effectively with Teen People like music to produce a kind of “slice of life” Mahlerian effect.
Simmonds) is a budding high school student in a
I think that this is a good film to show in high school classes (say, AP English). The ideas, rather complex indeed, will be controversial, but they are handled in such a way as to put them on the table for critical thinking rather than for simplistic persuasion.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005, Screen Gems, dir. Scott Derickson, 115 min, PG-13) has a amply detailed title whose pentameter somehow invokes the name of an obscure Shostakovich cantata, “The Execution of Stefan Rosan”. This is good courtroom drama. A Catholic archdiocese hires trial lawyer Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) to defend a priest Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) against negligent homicide charges after the death of 19-year-old Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) following a failed exorcism. Critical to the story is Father Moore’s insistence that he testify, because he wants a soap box to convince the public world that demons and angels really exist. That’s pretty interesting to me in my own writing, particularly the idea that demons could be angels who enjoyed themselves and their immortality or supposed invulnerability too much. The medical explanation is epileptic psychosis, or psychomotor epilepsy, which, in the parlance of earlier times, is much more than a disease of the mind. The exorcism supposedly failed because she was on meds. When I was a patient at NIH in 1962, there was at least one female patient who exhibited catatonic behavior that seemed to recede when she was given attention. That behavior resembled Emily’s in the early stages.
This film will, of course, bring up
our memories of The Exorcist
(1973, Warner Bros., dir. William Friedken, 122 min, R) which would become a
“franchise” with inadequate sequels. The first movie, based on William Peter
Blattey’s famous novel, takes place in
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