Sunday, April 20, 2014

America Needs Philomena

I was asked to write a report about Philomena which I saw a couple days ago, so here goes.  You know, just when the Catholic Church could use some good news... well, I guess the new Pope's doing okay, but still.  It wasn't so long ago that the more observant and brave stand-up comedians amongst us would observe that the Catholic Church was a big player in the real estate market.  Okay, George Carlin.  And then came the child molestations, which happened to catch the attention of far more stand-up comedians than the real estate angle.  Now we've got the true story of Philomena Lee, which I must say was executed flawlessly by auteur Stephen Frears... damn!  I should've made the headline "Tears for Frears"!  Oh well.
Allow me to take a second to complain about the music.  I suppose all movie music has to be monotonous to a degree, repeating their same choruses over and over, and all the composer can hope is that it sticks in the mind in a good way.  In this case, it's almost as Oscar-worthy as the Lawrence of Arabia theme.  Philomena was up for four Oscars.  Unfortunately, it didn't win any, but I seem to remember the music perfectly from the ceremony, and it just seemed like it won something.  Oh well.  As someone once said, every generation throws a new movie composer up the pop charts.  It will always be John Williams, of course, but then there was Danny Elfman, and then Carter Burwell and all his imitators... and now it's apparently this Desplat guy.  I don't understand it, and I don't like it, because I'm a grumpy old man, but progress is progress.  Besides, we need something other than the constant throbbing that is any Hans Zimmer soundtrack these days.  And just remember, Steve Coogan, you're closer to Oscar's neighborhood than Ricky Gervais ever will be!
Okay, now the fun part.  And even though the majority of the atrocities took place in Ireland, I must warn you that I'm about to launch an attack on good old fashioned American family values.  Spoiler alerts ahead.  First of all, I must be getting older and more negative in outlook because the church says they lost a bunch of paperwork in the "big fire."  Fortunately, they had a contract they gave to Philomena saying that she signed away all her rights to contact her orphaned child.  The Steve Coogan character soon wondered aloud about that irony.  To back up slightly, Philomena had a baby out of wedlock, so in addition to her crime of being poor in Ireland, there's that.  Her punishment is of course depending on the Catholic Church for help.  As you might be aware, the Catholic Church doesn't take kindly to sinners, especially poor ones, but they will gladly use slave labor to take care of all of life's menial chores that come with large, venerated institutions.  Mo power, mo problems, right?
For those worried about plot, Philomena's odyssey has enough twists and turns and meta-commentary vis-a-vis the reporter angle to keep everyone satisfied, me thinks.  There's also the rather satisfying moment when the reporter barges into the older nun's private quarters.  Frankly, the Catholic Church could use more of that... maybe some Baptists too, who knows.  I know some people are struggling with the threat of atheism right now, but seeing how vindictive and unyielding in their doctrine some of those old nuns can be, maybe atheism's a viable alternative at this point.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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