Sunday, February 26, 2012


As a young child I sat in a huge movie theatre and watched the epic fantasy movie, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Like most everybody in the audience, young and old, I was stunned by the special visual effects. They were then (and still are) spellbinding. Surrealist artist Hannes Bok called this film "traumatic". He was right. Those cinematic miracles were created by the screen's doyen of special visual effects, Ray Harryhausen. Those effects, combined with the powerful, moody music score by Bernard Herrmann, leading the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the gorgeous cinematography of Wilkie Cooper, caused me to practically crawl out of the theatre on hands and knees.

When the following Spring arrived and the traditional Academy Awards ceremony was upon us I sat down with my family in front of the tube waiting for the special effects Oscar to be awarded. I wanted to watch Ray Harryhausen walk up to the stage and accept his well deserved honor. There was no doubt whatever in my mind that JASON would win the effects Oscar, and probably the music and photography Oscars as well.

The nominated films for Best Special Effects were at last to be announced by some actor (I forget whom). Giving my parents a knowing wink I sat glued to the TV screen. The first nomination was read: Ub Iwerks for THE BIRDS. Interesting. Though I hadn't seen the movie I'd heard good things about it. The second nomination....Emil Kosa for...CLEOPATRA. CLEOPATRA? My surprise and shock were evident. There were no other nominees. What happened to JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS? Could it be that the Academy had not seen the film? I simply couldn't believe my eyes, especially as they showed clips from the two nominated films, the one for CLEOPATRA being for, as I recall, a battle scene. CLEOPATRA got the award.

The photography award went to Leon Shamroy (a first class cameraman) for, of course, CLEOPATRA. Not even a nod for Wilkie Cooper. Then the music Oscar. Bernard Herrmann was not nominated, either. Of all films, TOM JONES received the Best original Score award. TOM JONES?? A pleasant, lightweight score, but nothing to write home about. Even more weirdly, it won over the brilliant Alfred Newman score for HOW THE WEST WAS WON which was nominated.

Even as a child I could then see that something was not quite right with the Academy Awards.

Since those days I have come to learn, from both inside the business and out, that Oscars are awarded on the basis of the lobbying efforts of the major studios. I hate to say that to people who still believe they are awarded for excellence or still believe in Santa Claus, but that is the reality. There is also personal jealousy heavily involved among various communities. I later learned (from the inside) that in those days the Special Effects award committee was headed by a good, solid but somewhat obtuse practitioner of the more mundane type of special effects and although he did generally fine, competent work during his long career, was simply not interested in the amazing achievements of Ray Harryhausen and went out of his way to dissuade other members on the committee from taking Harryhausen's triumph seriously. He also apparently did not understand how Harryhausen accomplished some of his magic and must have decided that what he didn't know wasn't worth knowing.

That is when I stopped taking the Oscars seriously and it has been getting more laughable with each passing year. Of course there are those rare exceptions, such as 1967's A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, which not only deserved to be honored but were in fact actually honored. But glancing over the non-talents and incompetents who are up for Oscars this year I think the best thing I can do on "Oscar night" is to watch a good movie made by people who loved and understood films. It probably won't be a film made in the last forty years, I can assure you.

[Postscript: Thanks to the efforts of a determined California school teacher, Ray Harryhausen was finally honored by the Academy mandarins with a "Gordon Sawyer Achievement Award" in 1992. Though long overdue, and not in time to have done the retired artist any good in his career it was, at least, some tribute to one of the most original, artistic men in motion pictures. Odd, though, that the Academy, which now calls its special effects category "The Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects", never gave the man an award in that category even though the term "special visual effects" was one coined by Ray Harryhausen himself in 1958.]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


If the tyranny that is swiftly emerging from the slime in Washington is to have an effective adversary, that adversary must keep his own house in order. By entering into battle with an enemy, especially one as vicious as the puppet in the White House, without preparing his troops for said battle, is to forge ahead with a blunted sword. The new Cardinal-Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, is walking into a battle without sharpening his weapons first.

Like many this writer was surprised that such a typical "politician" as Dolan has found the courage to apparently stand up to the establishment's contraception "mandate". Surprised, because hitherto no such courage was ever much in evidence in the man. He was, if anything, the perfect "go along to get along" type Churchman, soft-pedaling the hard truths of the Faith so as not to offend non-Catholics, performing the ritual toadying to non-Catholic, even anti-Catholic, interests, etc. It is the tragic reality of today's bleeding Catholic Church that such nauseating obsequiousness is more or less expected in the ranks of the clergy, high and low. But this attitude will not help him in his battle with The Creeps. It is an Achilles Heel. It is his blunted sword.

For at least a century, and most likely more, Catholics have been softened, punched and kneaded by forces both outside and inside the Church into something quite different from the men they once were in the Ages of Faith. An Innocent III would look upon today's Church with shock and horror, at least in the manner in which it is teaching and leading (two things it is most definitely not doing to any great extent). Our typical Catholic today is suffering from Americanism, that heresy so brilliantly defined by Leo XII in his great encyclical on the subject, Testem Benevolentiae.

...For they contend that it is opportune, in order to work in a more attractive way upon the wills of those who are not in accord with us, to pass over certain heads of doctrines, as if of lesser moment, or to so soften them that they may not have the same meaning which the Church has invariably held. Now, Beloved Son, few words are needed to show how reprehensible is the plan that is thus conceived, if we but consider the character and origin of the doctrine which the Church hands down to us.

We can of course go on with quotations from this great document but that short section should drive home the essential point. But to see just how lunatic deviations from that teaching can become, we need look no further than Cardinal Dolan's own diocese where at the church of St Francis Xavier the Archbishop finds nothing amiss with a parish that caters to - indeed celebrates - the unspeakable crime of homosexuality. Archbishop now Cardinal Dolan is perfectly aware of what is going on there (he has been aware of it since he went to New York two years ago) yet has not seen fit to intervene. And by his silence on the matter he is, whether he realizes this or not, giving consent to a toleration of buggery. This has a profound effect upon his efforts to deal with the homosexual problem in the priesthood, which problem has brought shame, misery, financial ruin and unutterable scandal to the Church, the faithful and the world. If His Eminence is serious about putting to an end the homosexual rape of adolescent boys that has been going on here and there in the Church and in his own diocese he is going to have to apply some of that courage he is now belatedly showing and deal with the outrage at St Francis Xavier.

If he does not do this he will be giving the edge to the enemies of the Catholic Church who are now ready to pounce. This will show weakness and accommodation; it will show cowardice. And it will be used by all the forces that are now congealing to turn the Church into government toadies, very much like what the Russian Orthodox became under the Communist rule, or what the so-called "Patriotic Church" in China is right now. If the Cardinal does not get his own house in order before the battle he will be fighting with one arm only. It is, perhaps, too much to ask that Dolan and the other Bishops put aside their Americanism. Breaking a habit two hundred years in the making will not be easy. But it is not too much to ask - is it? - that something as simple and basic as removing sexual perverts from parish churches be done immediately. Your Eminence, hear me: we are talking about sexual miscreants who delight in the molestation of adolescent boys and who are enjoying adulation and praise in a Catholic Church. Is it really too much to ask that you correct such an outrage?

Let us commend those Bishops who are standing up to the floppy-eared tool of International Finance who now rules the roost (or so he thinks) in our nation's capitol. Help them, encourage them, pray for them. Hold their feet to the fire if they show the slightest tendency to waver. And if this growing evil spewing out of Washington begins to help the growth of Episcopal backbones then some good may come of it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

BISHOP LISTECKI...still feeding the snakes?

His Excellency Bishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee walked into a snake pit when he took over the job as Archbishop of Milwaukee. His predecessor, Timothy Dolan, soon to be made Cardinal, was not in Milwaukee long enough to begin shoveling out the manure left in the diocese by his predecessor, Rembert Weakland of unpleasant memory. But Listecki has been Archbishop long enough for there to have been some movement in the right direction. I do not wish to dump on the man but his reign has thus far been nothing to cheer about.

True, he has his hands full (God help him). Just today, the terrible news of 500+ homosexual predation cases have been filed with his diocese, and it has made national headlines (needless to say the word "homosexual" was conspicuous by its absence in the media). He has, to be fair to him, inherited a nightmarish situation that was not begun by the execrable Weakland but was without question made manifestly worse under that tragic prelate’s leadership. Weakland, himself a sodomite, was obviously not going to take any serious steps to correct a problem brought on by an infestation of poofs into the Milwaukee diocese, an infestation he clearly encouraged. But Archbishop Listecki can take some serious steps and we would humbly suggest that he get up off his Episcopal rump and start doing so.

Things didn’t look good some months ago when Marquette University, under the leadership of Catholic phoney and Jesuit, Robert Wild, hired a female living a life of unnatural vice to an important position at the University. Which fact should have surprised no one since Wild has allowed numerous aberrations and flauntings of Catholic teaching to run rampant at his University. Yet here was a golden opportunity for Bishop Listecki to take a firm hand and reign in this Jesuit priest, an opportunity which was not taken. The “lady” in question has since moved on, but the snakes in the snake pit were left pretty much alone. One suspects that the reptiles in the Chancery might still be safely at their posts as well.

Of course I beg correction if any of this has not been the case. Indeed I welcome it.

But in the event that His Excellency might see this I hope he will know that he is being prayed for by many, that many are hoping his backbone grows stronger and that even now with all the troubles he is facing that he forge ahead and clean out the stables. On that note I will link to an excellent article on the Catholic Culture website, which repays reading by any newly-installed Ordinary.

Hang in there, Your Excellency. The army is ready to fight. Just lead the way.
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