Deliver Us from Evil (2006)
★★★★ / ★★★★
Since the mid-1970s (and most likely years prior), Father Oliver O’Grady had been sexually molesting children that ranged from infants to pre-adolescents. The Catholic Church was well-aware of his sickness but instead of kicking him out of priesthood, the Church simply moved him from one area to another, which allowed him to molest other children when it could have been prevented. As the film went on, we had a chance to learn that O’Grady not only took advantage of hundreds of children but he also had sexual relations with some of their parents. I was raised Catholic so I understood the importance of the feelings the parents and the children, now adults, felt when they discovered that a person from the Church, an institution that they are willing to give their lives to for the sake of their god, committed the ultimate betrayal. I don’t consider myself belonging in a specific religious group, but when I saw the families being interviewed about how O’Grady ruined their lives, I could not help but imagine my own family and relatives in their shoes because it could easily have happened to any of us. The film made a smart decision to take the blame and the shame from O’Grady to the higher figures in the Church. It was a maddening experience because there was plenty of evidence regarding the Church’s attempt to protect the priests guilty of pedophilia. According to the statistics, the Church spent a billion dollars (and counting) to cover-up many families’ search for justice. To know that those people who are considered by the Catholic community to be the prime example of purity, to commit such acts is not only criminal but also immoral. If hell did exist, in my opinion, they are certainly deserving to go there. The higher folks in the hierarchy, indirectly involved as they may be, knew of the disease in their community, they had tools to prevent future crimes from happening, yet they chose the path of indifference with impunity. Written and directed by Amy Berg, “Deliver Us from Evil” was not simply about one religion or faith. It’s about human rights. Imagine if you’ve raped by a member of the police force and the government, designed to protect its people, turns a blind eye to the fact. I make the comparison because the film successfully showed that the Catholic Church functions like a government with its bureaucracies and failure to serve its people even in the most fundamental ways. This is a must-see film because popular culture makes a lot of jokes about priests molesting kids. A lot of people laugh off the issue but what about those who have to live with the experience and had not found some sort of closure? Do we dare laugh in their faces?
Saint Ralph (2004)
★★★ / ★★★★
Written and directed by Michael McGowan, “Saint Ralph” stars Adam Butcher, a boy who believes that if he can perform a miracle by winning the 1954 Boston Marathon, God will take his mother (Shauna MacDonald) out from her coma and everything will be okay again. What I loved about this movie was that it started off pretty funny. Ralph was not exactly the model student: he got into trouble by “accidentally” masturbating in the swimming pool (did I mention he attends a Catholic school?), his peers constantly made fun of him, made forgeries with his best friend (Michael Kanev), and lied about his dead grandparents. But as things started to get serious, the director slowly showed the audiences how Ralph forced himself to be more mature and eventually run the marathon. I liked that he had occassional slip-ups because it showed that he was still a fourteen-year-old and not someone who turned into a saint overnight. I usually don’t like movies that glorify religion because most of them are too preachy. However, although this film was set in a religious school and community, it was really more of an inspirational story about someone who desperately needed an outlet for his negative emotions and channel it into something good. I was touched by his relationship with Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott), the teacher who helped him to get better at running, and was infuriated with Father Fitzpatrick’s (Gordon Pinsent) attempt to put Ralph in an orphanage. I also thought that Jennifer Tilly as Nurse Alice was pretty good; she became more like a mother figure to Ralph and I thought it was a nice that she was playing a different sort of character compared to her other movies. I have to admit that the end of the picture made me tear up in so many ways because I wanted Butcher’s character to succeed so badly. There’s just something about characters in movies who work really hard because they want to achieve something that gets me every single time. I guess I can easily relate because I used to feel like I always had to prove myself to people that I’m good enough. (Which reached its climax in my high school years.) After the movie, I was just overwhelmed with many different emotions and I was really happy that I saw it.
★★★★ / ★★★★
The people who claim that this is another “Borat”-style kind of documentary are the exact same people who believe in god to such an extent that they’re willing to delude themselves that Bill Maher is not asking questions worth answering. I do think that Maher asks valid questions to the religious individuals featured (whose religions range from Christianity, Islam, Mormonism and Scientology) but he is smart enough to not let go of that trademark sense of humor that made him so famous. Even though I was born a Catholic, I do not affiliate myself with any religious group because, to be blunt, I think the whole thing is a crock. Even though my parents are Catholics, they provided me the freedom to choose and think for myself so I’m going to exercise it until the day I die. When I watch documentaries that challenge any religion, excitement comes over me because I love taking apart people’s arguments from both sides and decide which side is weaker. Although Maher did bring up a plethora of excellent points, I can admit that there were times when I wished he went straight for the jugular instead of dancing around the issue and eventually reaching it. However, Maher had enough insight to keep me on my feet and such insights made my arguments that much stronger the next time I get into a debate about religion. Another thing I liked about this film was its fast cuts to random images like Jonah Hill, cartoons aimed for children, older films that tell a story from the Bible, nuclear weapons going off, and even Maher’s childhood videos–all of which serve to provide a sense of humor and to support certain arguments on how ludicrous biblethumpers really are. One downside about this documentary, however, was that it lost a little bit of that great momentum in the final twenty minutes. There were less laughs because the jokes weren’t as sharp even though it’s still making fun of religion and people who build their lives around it. I highly recommend this film especially to agnostics and atheists. I doubt anyone with a strong set of religious beliefs will change their minds. There were a couple of quotes that stood out to me but this quote pretty much embodied the film’s argument: “Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it’s wonderful when someone says, “I’m willing, Lord! I’ll do whatever you want me to do!” Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas.”
★ / ★★★★
I decided to see this film because I was curious about what Filipino gay cinema has to offer. Unfortunately, this one is a big disappointment. It doesn’t really have a focus even though it had a lot of ideas that it tried to get across. It mostly likely has something to do with Crisaldo Pablo’s direction. The story started off with nerdy and naive Ray An Dulay falling for a much older Jet Alcantara. Eventually, Dulay’s innocence was shed and he became someone that he wish he was in the first place. Becoming someone that he wanted to become took a toll on his personality and his relationships with the people he loves most. Out of nowhere, the picture tried to inject new ideas such as loneliness, the hardships of finding the right person in a society where being a homosexual is looked down upon (most Filipinos are Catholic; though one can argue that most Filipinos do accept homosexuality because they’re always on television) and how gays tend to be disgusted with each other. Personally, I found the latter to be the most interesting because I think it’s the most honest. There’s already a plethora of gay love stories and the story here felt all too recycled. On the other hand, I do feel like gays do feel some sort of disgust with each other in real life. So, an exploration of that idea would make an interesting movie. The script didn’t help either because because it felt a bit too soap opera. I didn’t need the subtitles because I can understand Tagalog but even the first-hand experience of hearing the original script wasn’t enough to push through. I felt that whenever it is about to go into that vulnerable place, it hesitates and faces toward a less in-your-face subject. That’s the most frustrating aspect I found in “Bathhouse” and it happened again and again so I lost interest. The actor whose character I wanted to get to know more, however, was John Lapus. Even though he’s your stereotypical gay, there’s a certain anger and vulnerability in him that defies his mannerisms and outer appearance. I think if the movie focused on him instead of Dulay and Alcantara (and their lack of chemistry), this would’ve been a stronger movie. In the end, this is another one of those forgettable foreign gay movies.