Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch
Shades of ‘Groundhog Day’ in ‘Source Code’; ‘Lincoln Lawyer’ ruled an ‘enjoyable confection’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the April 28, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

The new film Source Code is a combination thriller, science fiction piece, and Groundhog Day-style film. It is more than a little confusing with an ending that attempts to talk about free will versus fate that I found hard to buy.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Army Capt. Colter Stevens who, when the film begins, is called Sean by a woman who may be his girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan) sitting across from him on a commuter train moving rapidly toward Chicago. (By the way, the opening scenes from the air of metro Chicago are incredibly beautiful.) In eight minutes the train is blown up and we then find Capt. Colter in some kind of what looks like a NASA capsule talking over the internet to fellow soldier Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She tells him he will go back onto the train for another eight minutes numerous times until he finds the person that has set the bomb and tells her who he or she is. The reason is that the same person who needs to be identified is planning to blow up much of Chicago with a dirty atomic bomb and kill two million people.

So we go back and forth to the same eight minutes on the train roughly eight times. Each time the events are portrayed with new information. Colter finds where the bomb is in one time period. In another, using racial profiling, he finds the wrong person. To tell you much more may well wreck the film if you eventually see it.

The actors all do credible jobs. But I do have to admit with all the times the train is blown up I still found the film a little dry and boring for all the supposed excitement.

Source Code is rated PG-13 for violence by the Motion Picture Association of America. The Catholic News Service rates the film A-III – for adults.

*****

If you like mysteries, the new screen adaption of the popular writer Michael Connelly’s thriller The Lincoln Lawyer is a film for you. It is far from perfect but has a plot that won’t stop with twists and turns. Some of the twists you may think about later and wonder if they made logical sense. But it all makes for a very enjoyable confection.

Matthew McConaughey shows he really can act as he goes back to the role of a defense lawyer similar to one of his early roles in John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. McConaughey plays attorney Mick Haller, whose office is pretty much an older model Lincoln Continental. Haller is comfortable in the down-and-out parts of L.A. as he plays a rather slick legal shark.

Mick has a case that is connected to some motorcycle guys and then finds himself defending a very rich playboy named Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) who is accused of beating up a woman he met in a bar. Roulet claims that she was a prostitute out to get a big settlement from him.

The Roulet case looks fairly clear-cut but everything begins to become complicated and dangerous. I must admit several days after seeing the film, I can’t remember all the ins and outs of the story, but they are very enjoyable as you are watching the film.

The minor characters are all strong, including Marisa Tomei as Mick’s ex-wife and William H. Macy as his hippy-type investigator.

The bleached color is not my favorite, but I’m sure is designed to give a certain film noir mood.

The Lincoln Lawyer is rated R-Restricted by the Motion Picture Association of America because of some violence, some sexual content and strong language. The Catholic News Service rates the film L-Limited (adult audience; films with problematic content that many adults would find troubling.)

Book Reviews

I must admit I would not be the first person to jump at the chance to read a book on science, but with a push from some friends I did read the new bestseller non-fiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. First-time author Rebecca Skloot, who spent years researching this book, draws the reader into the fascinating world of medical research. The book is published by Crown for a hardcover list price of $26.

Skloot organizes her book around the life, death and immortality of an African-American woman born in Virginia and living as an adult in the Baltimore area. At Johns Hopkins Hospital a cancerous tumor was taken from Henrietta Lacks as part of her treatment in the early 1950s. Eventually her cells were given a chance to multiply in the laboratory. The name given her cells was HeLa. One scientist estimates that if you could place all of the HeLa cells grown on a scale they would reach the incredible weight of 50 million metric tons. Also if you lay the cells end-to-end they would wrap around the world at least three times, spanning more than 350 million feet.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks vividly tells the story of a very poor family who is not told for many years that their mother’s cells have been taken without their knowledge and used by science. Her hospital did not make money off her cells. They were given away for the use of science. But in practice there were soon companies that made large amounts of money from the sale of HeLa cells.

So the story of Henrietta Lacks raises questions about informing the patient of what is going on, racism, poverty. It raises questions of justice and of how science is pursued. Some would even raise the phrase about what happened as “illegal, immoral and deplorable.” And yet through all of the agony the Lacks family suffered through the years they never brought a lawsuit and never received any money for their mother or wife’s cells.

The book includes long sections interspersed about the interview by the author of the Lacks family. You really get to know them in detail. In fact, toward the end of the book I began to feel I was learning quite a bit more than I needed or wanted to know about the family.

To give you an ideal of the impact of the HeLa cell lines, which is still one of the most commonly used cell lines around the world today, note the following. When the book went to press in 2009 there were more than 60,000 scientific articles published about research on HeLa. The number continues to increase with 300 new papers every month. The HeLa cells have helped fight numerous diseases. At the same time they continue to contaminate other cultures with a resulting damage of several million dollars every year.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating, sad, and thrilling story. It is an impressive achievement.

*****

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland OSB begins his memoir A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church with a confession of sin and an apology to the people of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee back in 2002 as he left his position of archbishop. He states in a penitential service his sin of breaking his vows in a sexual relationship with the adult Paul Marcoux, back in 1979, and the diocesan payout of $450,000, which certainly had the appearance of hush money.

The book was published in hardcover by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company of Grand Rapids, Mich. in 2009 for $35.

A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church is a beautifully written story of a churchman who reaches the heights of power in the Church and suffers disgrace; is a concert pianist; writes movingly of Benedictine spirituality; and gives the reader a personal view of the history of the Catholic Church in the last 65-plus years.

The story begins in the Depression in Pennsylvania with a determined mother who raised her family “on the dole.” Young Rembert goes to St. Vincent’s in Latrobe, Pa. on a scholarship for high school and eventually enters the Benedictine Order. He is given extraordinary opportunities to develop his musical talents through the years by the Benedictines. He rises eventually to abbot of St. Vincent and then becomes in 1967 becomes the fifth abbot primate of the Benedictine Order in Rome.

During his period as abbot primate he travels the world visiting the monasteries and priories of men and women Benedictines. All this takes place in the exciting post-Vatican II period.

Archbishop Weakland’s relationship with Pope Paul VI is rich and filled with fairly frequent opportunities to meet together. The presentation of Paul VI strikes me as idealized because of their friendship. I well realize in a memoir we are getting the author’s view of reality. The later view of Pope John Paul II seems at least early on to see the pope’s weaknesses more prominently than his strengths. From the beginning there is a clash.

On Nov. 8, 1977, Weakland was ordained bishop in Milwaukee and thus begins the story of his life as an archbishop in an exciting and turbulent time. There is the daily life of a bishop in which he feels very alone and misses the community life of the monastery. During his 25 years as archbishop he does much ecumenical and interfaith work. He seeks ways to deal with the clergy shortage of the archdiocese and ways to involve women more in the administration of the church. He also has conflict on such issues as the remodeling of the cathedral, closing parishes and schools, and issues with the curia and pope.

On the national scene he leads the development of the American bishops’ pastoral letter Economic Justice for All, which enriches his life but also leads to conflict.

Of local interest he has an interesting section on Spokane’s own Donna Hanson and her speech to Pope John Paul II in the 1980s in San Francisco. Archbishop Weakland writes that she was honest, frank, and respectful while speaking from the heart.

One interesting reality I never put together is his discussion on the impact of the movement of Hispanics to the North in the United States while at the same time Protestant evangelists from the United States in a sense from the Calvinist tradition had been at the forefront of having a very large impact to the South on Central and South America.

The end of the book is a return to the Marcoux events and final reflections on his life and the life of the Church he experienced.

A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church is a fascinating and impressive memoir that holds your attention throughout. For those that lived through many of the years of which Archbishop Weakland writes, this book is a wonderful history from a point of view that puts events in context. You may well agree or disagree with the Benedictine bishop’s views and conclusions, but no matter what, you will have experienced an incredible story of very talented and very human man.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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