Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Stop the Presses: Vatican Gives Positive Review to Angels and Demons

Well, sort of. If you read past the title of this Huffington Post piece on the subject, the review (from L’Osservatore Romano) doesn’t sound all that positive (I guess calling it “harmless” is kind of positive).

My understanding is that in Brown’s previous book, the Catholic Church was accused of murdering millions of women and of perpetrating the greatest conspiracy of all time in furtherance of its anti-women agenda. Whereas in Angels and Demons, the Church is the victim of a giant conspiracy, and is accused of having killed a few thousand people in furtherance of its anti-science agenda. So I suppose that’s progress. Continue reading

May 8, 2009 Posted by | Catholicism, Film | 1 Comment

The End of the Affair: Review

This is an awful movie based on a fabulous book. Don’t see it. Continue reading

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Film, Literature | Leave a comment


Valkyrie tells the story of the 20 July plot to kill Hitler carried out by German officers in the summer of 1944. Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the central figure in both the organization and execution of the plot.

I thought the film was executed well. It manages to maintain suspense despite the fact that for most of the movie not that much is actually happening, and while I can’t call the film especially insightful or moving, the compelling nature of the subject matter does a lot to carry the film forward.

Watching the film did raise two issues , neither of which (for understandable reasons) were explored in the film, but which may warrant further reflection.

The first has to do with the nature of oaths. After Hitler came to power in 1933, he required all German officers to swear an oath of loyalty to him personally. In many cases, it appears that one of the things holding a given officer back from joining one of the many anti-Hitler plots was the knowledge that this would require violating their oath. The oath is alluded to several times in the film, but the moral issues involved are never really explored, presumably because having characters agonize over whether it was right to kill Hitler would not have worked dramatically. Still, the matter does raise some interesting questions. St. Thomas More, for example, was canonized largely based on his firm position on the moral sacredness of oath taking, and while I have little doubt that one can reconcile treating both More and Stauffenberg as heroes, exactly how one goes about doing so could have profound moral implications.

The other issue has to do with speculation on what would have happened had the coup gone off successfully (I trust I won’t be spoiling the ending for anyone if I reveal that the plot is unsuccessful). After seeing the movie, a friend opined that perhaps it was a good thing the 20 July plotters were not able to kill Hitler. His reasoning was that if the plotters had succeed and ended the war just after the Normandy invasion, this would have left them vulnerable to the charge that Germany had once again been “stabbed in the back” and the whole cycle would have repeated itself again.

Maybe. I’m inclined to think, though, that a phenomenon like Hitler was not likely to recur again. Ending the war in 1944 would have saved Europe from a great deal of death and destruction, and would likely have prevented Eastern Europe from falling under Soviet domination for the next 40 years. Avoiding these certain evils seems worth the uncertain risk of other evils down the road.

January 14, 2009 Posted by | Film, History, War and Peace | 1 Comment

The Camera Lies

According to a widely followed dictum enunciated by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, “[i]f in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.” As a principle of drama this is, of course, quite sensible. But it leads to the odd effect that, unless you have had personal experience with firearms, chances are you have never seen a gun without soon seeing it used to shoot someone. And even taking into account the fictional nature of most of these “shootings,” it is not surprising that a person who knew about guns only through film and television might have an exaggerated sense of the dangerousness of firearms, or of their association with murder and violence.

Many people are rightly wary of negative depictions of members of various minority groups, on the grounds that they may serve to re-enforce stereotypes about those groups, particularly among those whose main experience of those groups is from film and television. In each case the basic principle is the same. When you lack much personal experience of a group, object, or environment, and encounter fictional depictions of it, you are liable to accept those depictions as accurate, even if they are not a true reflection of reality. Continue reading

November 24, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Culture, Family, Film, Guns, Literature, Media | Leave a comment

The Corporation

I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this movie. Not because it was any good, mind you. At times the film seemed little more than a collection of every half-baked criticism of corporations ever uttered by man. So much so that the film often seemed to lapse into self-parody, which is what, for me, provided the bulk of the entertainment. Continue reading

May 30, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Film | Leave a comment


I wasn’t there, but from everything I’ve heard, the years after the Second Vatican Council were, for many in the West, a time of confusion and chaos. Changes from the Council (such as the abandonment of the Latin mass and the prohibition on eating meat on Friday) were seen as marking a decisive break with the past. Everything was up for grabs. Priests abandoned their cassocks and occasionally their orders, mass became a time for spiritual experimentation (much of it silly, given the nature of the age), and a small group of activists and academics began to cite the “spirit of Vatican II” as justification for making even more radical changes to Church doctrine and belief.

Catholics, a.k.a.The Conflict, posits a world in which these radicals won. The film is set in what was then the near future but is now would be the recent past. Rome is now part of an ecumenical organization a la the World Council of Churches. Distinctive Catholic practices like private confession and Lourdes have been suppressed, and the Church hierarchy seems more interested in Buddhist dialogue and fomenting revolution in the Third World than with the salvation of souls.

There is only one problem. Continue reading

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Film | Leave a comment

No Country For Old Men

This is a film that, as the cliche goes, works on several different levels. Continue reading

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Film | Leave a comment


Something weird is going on in Hollywood. Continue reading

January 10, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Film | 1 Comment