still a bit wet in western mich

My two little organ pieces went pretty accurately yesterday. I have found that rehearsing even pieces I can basically play pays off. I had two parishioners come up to me and caution me to think twice before I schedule so many hymns with references to water (“Come thou fount,” “I’ve got peace like a river,” and “Eternal Father strong to save” The last hymn is also known as the navy hymn and the first three stanzas end with the phrase: “O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea.”). This is a reference to the flooding we have been experiencing in western Michigan.

I came home and rested. My wife, Eileen, had worn herself out removing wet carpet and stuff from our flooded basement. After my rest I did the same. Wow. Wet carpet is heavy. There’s still more to be done today.

I had a phone call from Elizabeth and a skype chat with Sarah. Ostensibly for Father’s Day.

Both of these people realize that I think Father’s and Mother’s day are pretty bogus diluted hallmark moments. But it’s nice to chat with them anyway. Sarah’s skype was working because her partner, Matthew, had managed to finally get it working on her laptop. Skype is pretty important when you live in the U.K. Elizabeth called me from an airport in St. Louis as she and her partner, Jeremy, were waiting to fly home to NYC after attending (actually Jeremy officiated, heh, but that’s another story) a friend’s wedding. It sounded like they had fun catching up with their friends in St. Louis where they lived for a while.

Eileen and I settled down and watched the DVD, “Doubt.”

I checked on Wikipedia this morning and confirmed my suspicion that this movie was adapted from a stage play. The movie was not quite successful in its attempt to illustrate the nature of trust, doubt and certainty. The script seemed pretty strong. It made a couple of errors that the astute Roman Catholic person might pick up. Like having the priest step out of the pulpit in 1964. Twice. The second time, the choir sang the Taize piece, Ubi Caritas.  If one did not remember that this piece was not being used at the time, all it took was a quick google search this morning to find out it was copyrighted (in the U.S.) fifteen years later in 1979.

But these were not the glaring weaknesses of the movie. It seems the director could not decide if Meryl Streep’s character, Sister Aloysius, was two or three dimensional. Occasionally a real human character peeked out of Streep’s performance. When this happened a strong foil to Hoffmann’s performance as a typical dopey priest from the time was hinted at.

The story I got out of this movie was one of doubt and certainty. The simple plot of sexual overtones in the relationship between Fr. Flynn (Hoffmann) and the altar boy, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster) may have increased the box office of this flick but it seemed to me to be not so important.

In the opening scene, Fr. Flynn’s sermon on doubt draws the viewer’s attention to the idea of doubt. At the same time, Sr. Aloysius prowls the student filled pews poking and prodding children into proper attitudes at Mass. The movie seems to have both of these characters moving from their intial stances of doubt (Fr. Flynn) and certainty (Sr. Aloysius) to understanding if not embracing the polar opposite emotion.

This is what interested me.

The directorial flaws are the costumes of the nuns (unrecognizable but possibly authentic weird habits that look more Amish than Catholic)

and the moments in the film when Sr. Aloysius seems more like the Wicked Witch of the West. As a director, John Shanley does not resist having wind and rain assail his characters in ways that made them more cartoonish than real. Especially the moment when Sr. Aloysius is caught in the wind and leaves. Very Wizard of Oz. Very dopey.

Also the author of the script, Shanley makes a different kind of mistake. After the movie I reflected on my own experience of how the Bishops of the church handle parishioner and nun complaints about priests. I have only seen them support priests. Thus the idea that Sr. Aloysius can initiate events that cause Fr. Flynn to be transferred is a thin plot development. Shanley seems to be aware of this and does not show us much of how Flynn is actually transferred. Aloysius sees it as a triumph, but also alludes to the fact that Flynn’s boss, the Monseigneur,  doesn’t believe her accusations.

My impression is that even though Shanley did both the play and the movie, that this might have worked better on the stage than in the cinema.

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