Rightwing Film Geek

Cristian Mungiu Fan Club continues

4monthsmungiu2.jpgNot really. This is just a simple link … to an interview with 4 MONTHS director Cristian Mungiu that took up a whole hour on NPR’s Fresh Air, and I’ve already listened through it twice.¹

Mungiu talks about a score of interesting topics, besides 4 MONTHS specifically and the artistic choices he made (like never mentioning Communism per se). He talked for a long time about the system of funding movies in Romania, which is still state-run to a significant extent. As he also notes though, domestic private funding is basically nil since the Romanian box office has collapsed to 1/10 of what it had been because the country has so few theaters now. A thriving artistic culture, which includes a domestic movie industry, is part of the national common good and thus a legitimate thing for the state to support if private means do not. Mungiu tells of how he had to take 4 MONTHS on something like an old-style traveling road show, from town to town and village to village, for his film to be seen in much of Romania (a film about that will be an extra on the DVD, he promises).

He also notes that he was born in 1968, two years after abortion was made illegal, and part of the “Baby Boom” that took place in Romania in the first several years of abortion’s illegality. He says matter-of-factly that he was “not a planned child,” and this was something many Romanians of his generational cohort knew since this was something “our parents wouldn’t hide from us.” But most importantly, he says, “it’s not that our parents wouldn’t love us or that my parents wouldn’t love me.” Exactly. The very notion that Parenthood is a thing Planned is a lie or a rationalization. And every unplanned child was once an unplanned pregnancy.

I’m curious also about something Mungiu said at about the 3:20 mark. He’s giving the history of illegal abortion in Romania and noting that it had nothing to do with moral or religious reasons, especially since religion was discouraged under Communism. And then Mungiu says, with the emphasis that this is important, that in Romania “we are Orthodox, we are not Catholic.” Well, I at least knew that much. But its relevance went over my head. I had been pretty confident that the Orthodox Church condemns abortion too (less so, contraception; also outlawed by Ceausescu). So … what, if anything definitive,² does Orthodoxy teach about abortion and contraception? Peter? Rod?
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¹ Don’t let the title “Oppression and Abortion” turn you off. That’s the National Pinko Radio headline-writers. Plus there’s no denying by sane people that the Ceausescu regime was (a) oppressive and (b) did not outlaw abortion for good reason.
² I understand very generally that differences in church structures could make this question, or any similar one, a bit more complicated for the East than the West.

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February 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cannes winner controversy?

fonda.jpgHopefully, there won’t be a big stink in conservative circles over the fact that 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS — a movie about a quest for an illegal abortion in Ceaucescu-era Romania — won the top prize at the world’s most prestigious and important film festival.

I fear the worst though, if there’s much knee-jerking or the word about this film gets out the wrong way. Especially given the headlines from the US press — CNN: “Cannes’ top prize goes to film about abortion” (complete with a picture of Jane Fonda granting the top prize and kissing the director; how many buttons could they push if trying); ABC/Associated Press: “Romanian Abortion Film Wins Cannes Prize”; Drudge (from Agence France-Presse): “Top Cannes award for harrowing Romanian abortion film.”

The film has been noted in the Catholic blogosphere — at American Papist, Catholic Fire and Creative Minority Report — and the common ground is sight-unseen suspicion without very good or even much-stated reasons, even of the kind that are justified sight-unseen. I certainly understand the suspicion to a degree, but VERA DRAKE a “rather mediocre” movie? I didn’t think so. Peter Chattaway didn’t. Jeffrey Overstreet didn’t. I asked Mike D’Angelo, who saw 4 MONTHS at Cannes, how he’d guess I’d react to the “abortion film.” Though Mike is, in his words, “a fairly devout atheist,” he knows my tastes and dispositions (including my religious beliefs) fairly well. This was his answer, cited with permission:

I can’t say, but if you don’t like it I doubt it’ll be for political/moral reasons. It’s an “abortion film” the way SAFE is an “environmental illness” film.

4-months.jpgSo I remain very optimistic that 4 MONTHS will be a good film in itself though, and it’s not simply because I had VERA DRAKE in my Top 5. I really liked THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, the last “harrowing” Romanian movie to come garlanded with Cannes prizes, and also dug 12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST when I saw it last year.

There is neutral-to-favorable comment at Lifesite; (some AFP versions of the story even labeled the Cannes prize-winners as “death-obsessed”); nobody from Cannes that I’m aware of was calling 4 MONTHS a great blow for women’s freedom or against the fascist godbag patriarchy or any of the rest of that. And the comments from the director Cristian Mungiu in this Australian ABC article are somewhat encouraging, given the audience and the fact that he was speaking in a language not his own:

Because of the pressure of the regime, women and families were so much concerned about not being caught for making an illegal abortion that they didn’t give one minute of thought about the moral issue … [putting the baby onscreen] makes a point — people should be aware of the consequences of their decisions.

OK, not Father Pavone, but certainly no reason to be suspicious of his movie, which is for most, still sight-unseen. Given the reports the Cannes lineup was unusually strong this year, I am psyched.

May 28, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The more, the better

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

  • A daily dose of from 0.05 to 0.15 mg of levonorgestrel requires a prescription.
  • Requiring that a 1.5 mg dose of levonorgestrel must have a prescription is patriarchal tyranny over women’s bodies, sexphobic anti-scientism and the precursor to a HANDMAID’S TALE-like theocracy.

That’s the unavoidable conclusion of this atrocious and politicized decision (courtesy of blackmail from “the mom in sneakers and the devil in Prada“) to make available Plan-B “emergency contraception” over the counter. From Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America:

Since birth control pills require a prescription and a doctor’s supervision during use, how can the FDA or the drug manufacturer condone providing Plan B (a mega-dose of the same drugs) over-the-counter? Widespread access to Plan B would expose women to the health risks that here-to-fore were acknowledged by doctors who screened women before prescribing birth control pills and then monitored them for the wide variety of contra-indicators for their use.

To be sure, in the first of the above-mentioned dosages, many forms of the Pill also have estrogen or something that mimics its effects. But it’s not as though progestins like Plan-B don’t pose real health risks quite on their own or that progestin-only oral contraceptives don’t also require prescriptions.

Today’s greatest winner — trial lawyers, who will soon receive a bountiful new field of cases, of people without medical training calibrating their use of drugs several times more powerful than what they need a prescription for when the stated purpose is something else (a fact that is chemically and biologically irrelevant). Mark my words — within the decade, Barr Laboratories will either be hiding behind immunity granted by a Democrat Congress, bankrupt/in receivership, or will have sold Plan-B to the government or some group like Planned Parenthood.

Let’s face it. If you’re not far-sighted enough to avoid an unwanted pregnancy (there are two known methods — one infallible; the other immoral but still mostly effective) … are you fit to be self-medicating? Prescriptions, and the health warnings that accompany them, are required for a reason. I mean, if you get aspirin or cough syrup and take three times the required dose because your headache is THIS BIG or whatever … nothing very terrible will happen. But is saying that messing with body chemistry like some female version of Barry Bonds should not be as easy as buying a pack of Marlboros really so awful?

But then, abortion poisons everything it touches. This is an old story, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusions that feminists want every abortion that could occur to occur. For example, whether it’s the killing of an unborn child or not, abortion is still unquestionably a major surgical procedure, especially later in pregnancy.¹ Yet it’s usually treated like an outpatient or on-demand service, done outside a hospital, with little recovery time, and exempt from a score of other state and local regulations. And most scandalously of all, on a minor without a parent’s consent or foreknowledge.²
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¹ As feminists will argue when it suits them — as when they want all OB/GYNs be certified to perform abortions as a licensing requirement. But not when not — as noted next.
² In case I’m not clear, this is not an argument per se against the morality of contraception or abortion. I’m simply noting that if they are mere medical procedures like any other, then the same regulatory regimes should surely be being applied. And this is not so. Which indicates bad faith.

August 24, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lab-coat Killers

This is the kind of news that makes you angry at God for not smiting the people doing this and raining fire on the culture that loves it. Some Korean scientists have cloned human beings and then killed them at the embryo stage for use as spare parts. And this is hailed as a great scientific breakthrough, because these Dr. Frankensteins succeeded for the first time in actually harvesting the cells they wanted, actually getting the gold from the teeth. Though not without some collateral damage: “the Seoul team … succeeded in cloning 30 blastocysts — early-stage embryos containing a mere 100 cells. From those, they harvested just one colony of stem cells.”

This is murder, blessed by a lab coat. Which of course means, in the Culture of Death, that the “objective” media will hail it as a very good thing. And sure enough, they got as weak-kneed as a bobby-soxer within 100 feet of Frank Sinatra. This is the sort of story that tells me that the so-called “objectivity” of the mainstream media is nothing but a sham. Several things worth noting about the first version of the Associated Press story.

We aren’t even finished with the first paragraph before we get told of all the wonderful things cloning does. The third paragraph begins “This is not cloning to make babies” (can you hear the writer emphasize the word NOT, NOT, NOT, DAMMIT?) as though some other purpose makes it something other than cloning. It is reassuring, though, that this “cloning” is not gonna result in something as horrible as babies. Can’t have that, can we, in this overpopulated, messed-up world?

The rest of the paragraph gives us a soothing bit of doublespeak — “embryos … are grown … to supply,” like they were a herd of cattle and with no mention of how this “supplying” is achieved. The herd needs to be culled, though at least the farm industry is honest enough to call them “slaughterhouses.” In fact, you’ll see words like “kill” or “slaughter” more often in stories about mad cow disease than about human embryo and tissue research.

Throughout, the story pays obeisance and hinges around this nonexistent and evil (CQ) distinction, dreamed up by self-justifying researchers and medical “ethicists” (sic), between “therapeutic cloning” and “reproductive cloning.”

Since when have medical or scientific procedures been distinguished according to the use to which identical products from the identical process would be put? It’s like saying there’s some ontological or definitional difference between building “bank-robber getaway cars” and “nursing-home trip cars.” It is pure euphemism designed to hoodwink gullible people and illiterate lawmakers into thinking scientists aren’t “really” cloning human beings, and thus what they are doing is somehow morally acceptable. But cars is cars. Judging from history on partial-birth abortion, you almost expect the next edition of the AP stylebook to make the preferred style “so-called ‘cloning’,” or “the procedure opponents refer to as ‘cloning’.”

Then in the 15th paragraph of the story that we get this little sentence. “Culling stem cells from embryos kills them…” What is so remarkable about this is not just that it uses the world “kills,” but that it considers 14 paragraphs of material somehow more important than this indisputable scientific fact about “culling” — what an unintentionally revealing metaphor, human beings as livestock herd. Imagine, if you can, 14 paragraphs about Jack Kevorkian (or a state executioner, pick according to ideological fancy) “giving chemicals” and “providing injections” and then a casual aside about the fact that people die from these “chemicals” and “injections.” No worry; they were just culled from the herd so to speak. Actually, my 10 years as a daily newspaper wire editor tells me I hardly have to “imagine” such blowsy euphemism in stories about subjects such as abortion, euthanasia or the other Blessed Sacraments.

What’s even more contemptible and disgusting is that later write-thrus of the AP story in question, such as this one, cut that paragraph down, and eliminated the word “kills.” But it keeps this odd locution: “Bush administration policy forbids any federally funded research on stem cells from embryos destroyed after Aug. 9, 2001.” How is “embryos destroyed after …” in any sense different from “embryos killed after …”? Oh, it’s less direct all right and different in connotation. The word even has literal meanings other than “kill”: “The detonation destroyed the building and cleared the way for a new development”; or “Manning destroyed the Chiefs secondary, throwing five TD passes and no interceptions.” Something tells me that was the point.

But journalists are supposed to be the enemies of obfuscation, cant and euphemism. Either “culling” does not mean killing, and hence “destroyed” is inappropriate; or it does, in which case, it’s euphemistic in meaning and the story also buries the most-important detail. Why bury the fact that human embryo research kills the human embryos? To ask the question is to answer it.

February 12, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Oh happy day, Blessed Mother Teresa

Yesterday was not a good day for the Culture of Death, losing on two fronts.

First, the Florida Legislature and governor intervened to stop Michael Schiavo’s bid to kill his brain-damaged wife Terri by removing her feeding and hydration tubes and starving her to death. This in spite of the wishes of her parents and their offer to turn over all of Terri’s assets to her husband, despite the lack of a living will or any other form of contemporaneous evidence about Terri’s wishes other than her husband’s present-day say-so, despite disputes over her precise medical diagnosis (there were doctors testifying both that she could be rehabilitated and that she couldn’t), and despite the fact that by any standard that would be applied if Terri were fully ambulatory, her husband had abandoned her (his live-in girlfriend is expecting their second child).

Last Wednesday, the “husband” had finally prevailed in court and removed Terri’s food and water tubes, but on Monday and Tuesday, the Florida legislature passed and Gov. Jeb Bush signed, a bill essentially giving the governor the power to intervene in this case and order the tubes put back in. At least the husband’s <s>ambulance …</s> er, lawyer George Felos has a sense of humor: “It is simply inhumane and barbaric to interrupt her death process. Just because Terri Schiavo is not conscious doesn’t mean she doesn’t have dignity.” (It would take a heart of stone not to laugh here.) The “husband,” hellbent on killing his wife, launched another court challenge late last night, but lost. Now those of us who’d been praying and calling and e-mailing Florida officials just hope that the five days of forced starvation haven’t wrecked Terri’s organs and made a recovery impossible, thus potentially vindicating the Death Cult through their self-fulfilling prophecy about her prospects.

motherteresa.jpgThis was beautiful news to happen on the same day that Congress again passed a ban on partial-birth abortion but this time was finally able to send it to a president who will sign it. And what a gift to Mother Teresa, who devoted her life to serving the inconvenient and the helpless and who denounced abortion and euthanasia at every opportunity, to have these events happen just two days after her beatification.

It might not be a miracle attributable to Mother Teresa in the fullest sense, but state legislatures just don’t ordinarily do in 1 1/2 days what the Florida lawmakers did. Susan Carr, Terri’s sister, called the vote: “a miracle, an absolute miracle.” Others in the Catholic blogosphere like Mark Shea, Amy Welborn and Father Rob Johansen (see his Sunday homily here) kicked up holy hell for weeks, much more than I did publicly. Other Catholic sites, to which I don’t have permanent links, to do yeoman work were Times Against Humanity and Envoy magazine. Christian talk radio, briefly mentioned in this fine article, and the disability movement also participated in the efforts, both political and spiritual, to save Terri — although I’m more familiar with the first group than the other two. (I was a lowly foot soldier — a half-dozen e-mails, a couple of on-hold calls, and some financial support, but the Florida Legislature’s phones and mail system shut down on the crucial day). But there was Providence too. A reader at Mark’s blog said he saw Columba Bush, the Catholic wife of Jeb, in Rome as part of the U.S. delegation to the 25th anniversary celebration of John Paul II’s papacy, on her knees praying before St. Peter’s bones. “I’m betting Mrs. Jeb got on the phone to her husband and had a frank exchange of views,” the writer said.

Now you might also think, given all this, that the bishop in whose diocese this is occurring would be out there picketing trying to impose his rosaries on her ovaries, or something like that. Uh-uh. This is the diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, you understand, which is led by Bishop Robert Lynch, who outlawed regular Eucharistic exposition and adoration (4th item here). For the first several days of the meltdown period (when it looked like the die had been cast and Terri would be starved, and the first few days of her being starved), he was supposedly out at a staff retreat, maybe doing stuff like this, leaving a phone message and no way for people to even leave a message to tell him that … y’know … one of his daughters was being murdered. Then, after it looked like the “husband” would win the right to starve Terri to death, the “bishop” issued this statement here. The text is as follows:

“With the news that the feeding tube has now been removed from Terri Schiavo, my own prayers and those of thousands of other people go out for Terri and for her family. May the author of all life look kindly on Terri and provide consolation and hope for those who love her.
“I continue to believe that such decisions should not be made in the court system but must be made on a case-by-case basis by families and/or other responsible parties at the clear direction of each one of us well in advance of a crisis.”

Excuse my French, but what the samhell is a bishop for if he’s just gonna issue a tepid press release indistinguishable from something that might have put out by the offices of Olympia Snowe or Blanche Lincoln. I’m not crazy about public showboating and planned arrests and whatnot, but if ever there was a time for fire and brimstone, for Jeremiah, for prophetic judgment, someone being starved to death because she’s handicapped and inconvenient is it. Why would Jesus even trouble Himself to get nailed up to some wood and rise from the dead if *this* is the kind of leadership we get in defense of the least of us from those who represent Him, and therefore them? It’s wishy-washy and bureaucratic in its language; it’s just an after-the-fact “what are you gonna do” acceptance of a fait accompli; and it’s dubious on church teaching to boot (we DON’T have a right to starve the inconvenient “on a case-by-case basis” in the privacy of our own abode, any more than we have the right to kill the unborn or ourselves). It’s the classic case of offering stones and snakes instead of loaves and fishes. Even my own bishop, Paul Loverde of far away Arlington, Va., said something far closer to what needed to be said: “The inherent worth of the life of Theresa Schiavo obligates all concerned to provide her with care and support and to reject any omission of nutrition or hydration intended to cause her death. May God continue to bless you in your work in defense of life.”

Further, a couple of people at Amy’s site surmised (not unreasonably in my view) that “bishop” Lynch had ordered his priests not to be there. Amy said she was “exceedingly puzzled by the absence of any priests beside this Monsignor in this situation.” Did no local priests show up simply from outrage or plain frickin’ curiosity? “I’m beginning to suspect that the word has come down privately from Lynch to priests and religious in his diocese to stay away,” she said. Indeed, many in the Catholic blogosphere had to plead to find a champion in Father Rob at Thrownback, who said he would go down there to Florida from Michigan (yes … Michigan) to be with the Schindlers, to help out the one priest they already had, to minister to the protesters, and to participate in civil disobedience if need be. (The oh-so-loving husband had denied Terri Communion at this point.) He immediately was inundated with offers of financial help from literally across the world. To come down from … Michigan. And to think, I actually once spent some intellectual energy and capital defending this Florida bishop in a private e-mail exchange with Rod Dreher over these blogs of his at National Review.

And consider the relative silence of Lynch and the bishops as a body, when you look at their actions on another “life issue” — capital punishment. Every time some *guilty* killer meets his reward, part of the ritual is the call for clemency from the Pope, the bishops, the local bishop. Don’t get me wrong, I’m opposed to the death penalty too and I know how slow things can go. But wasn’t *something* in order?? A search for the word “Schiavo” on the Bishops Conference Web site as I write produces no hits. About this case, the nation’s Catholic bishops have collectively seen fit to utter not Word One (much less the Word from the One). Terri might have gotten better treatment from the leaders of her Church, my Church, if she’d just shot a few liquor store owners.

But the best comment was made by blogger Peggy Rettle at Amy’s site, to the effect that the Culture of Death is now so far advanced that we seek every justification we can to make the irreversible decision to kill people, rather than giving every presumption to preserving life.

“What I find most evil, however, is the husband’s unwillingness to show mercy on his wife and her family as well as the courts unwillingness to show similar mercy and err on the side of life when there is a family dispute or uncertainty as to the true medical condition … especially one where the motives and actions of one family member are quite questionable. This is what is so frightening for our society, I think.”

October 22, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment