Calvary & Christmas Movies


CALVARY is not a Christmas movie although it is has a Christian theme.

Brendan Gleeson plays Father James, a Catholic priest, in an abusive, hostile, post sexual abusive scandal, small town in Ireland. These people are not only jerks, they are a motley mess of vices and malice. The vice and malice is directed at him.

I’ll give only the opening scene. Father James is sitting in the confessional reading while awaiting a penitent. One arrives and starts telling the priest about violent sexual assaults he suffered at the hands of a priest while he was growing up. The abusive priest is now dead. The person says this (quoting from memory) “Father, I am going to kill you. Killing an evil priest is nothing, but to kill a good one, ah, that is making a statement. I’m going to kill you next Sunday.”

The rest is up to you. I thought it an excellent, disturbing film. Note the title of the movie.

The only problem I had was in the write up of the film. On iTunes it was touted as a “wickedly funny black comedy”.

Whoever wrote that either did not see the film, or is rather sick in the head. When the first thing the man tells the priest is the first time he tasted semen was when he was seven years old (relating to his abuse) did this person laugh? There were a few light exchanges to be found in the film, a humorous quip here and there as one would find in any other drama. But that film was not a comedy, not by any non-nihilistic person.

That line is from a review of the movie from Time Out. The writer warns the reader that Calvary is not as filled with “big guffaws” as the director’s previous movie “The Guard”. And that the humor is dark enough to be an acquired taste that some may not be able to take.

Quite true if it were a comedy.  If it was they missed entirely and made a very moving drama instead. Was I supposed to laugh when the millionaire took down one of his expensive paintings and proceeded to piss on it in front of the priest? When the philanderer flicked the butt of his cigarette against the priest’s chest? When the porn addicted pervert said he’d burned out on internet porn after he got bored with “chicks with dicks”? When the parish was torched? When they made jokes to him about it? Was anything this poor priest had to endure funny to someone? Was the joke the offense the priest suffered at his rebellious, malevolent, and nihilistic flock? He was a good man. The movie strove to show this character (played brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson) as a good man, an honest man, a struggling man under enormous pressure.

I didn’t take any of that as funny. Even if Catholics, and more so Catholic priests, are not on your favorites list, good men should be.

On to happier pastures.

Did the mandatory three this year. TRADING PLACES, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, and, one of my all-time favorite movies (even though I only saw it for the first time last year) IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE  was one of those films that, as an Objectivist, were considered bad. Because George Bailey stayed behind for the family business, because he bent over backwards to help people, that he was considerate. That the bad guy in the movie was a rich man (as if there are no bad rich men). One of the egregious points of the film, from an Objectivist standpoint, is the view of Bailey’s influence in the life of others. Not that he was meddling in other people’s lives (which would generally be bad) but that the film asked the character to consider what the other people’s lives would have been like if he had not been there. One shouldn’t give a damn about that. The only thing to consider when Bailey is granted his wish of having never been born – the only consideration to an Objectivist – is that you have never been born – to hell with the rest. The completely autonomous individual with no tie to kin or friend.

To the Objectivist Ebenezer Scrooge is the sympathetic character in the opening of the film. Tiny Tim can go rot if that is what nature has deemed for him by not deciding to make him “fit for survival”. As Leonard Peikoff notes (and I referred to in a previous post)

America’s tragedy is that its intellectual leaders have typically tried to replace happiness with guilt by insisting that the spiritual meaning of Christmas is religion and self-sacrifice for Tiny Tim or his equivalent.

To which he has the handy antidote:

But the spiritual must start with recognizing reality. Life requires reason, selfishness, capitalism; that is what Christmas should celebrate…

Now, one doesn’t have to mean about it. One doesn’t have malice for Tiny Tim because the Objectivist would see that as malevolent (someday I will write about Objectivists concept stealing benevolence from Christianity and smuggling it as its own). But one is fully welcome to not give a single tin shit about Tiny Tim and to step over his dying body in the street while whistling a happy tune. It has to be a happy tune, if not, in Objectivist land, you have just stepped over a body (not a bad thing) while whistling something that belongs to the “malevolent universe premise”. You can be that caricature of the lazy Mexican custodian “Izz not my problem.”

It is perfectly acceptable for him to go kick off (and not upset your day in any way preferably) and for you not to have a care about it at all. In fact, if Cratchit were to tell Scrooge that Tiny Tim had passed away the night before, Scrooge would be entirely within the bounds of normalcy to reply “why tell it to me, you’re wasting my time, get back to work.”

Would he have the right? Well, as a legality, yes. Nobody can make you care. But it doesn’t make it alright not to.


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