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A Man For All Seasons

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Saw this for the first time last night and quite enjoyed it. I didn't have the Divine Encounter Robert Johnston describes he had, but I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed Paul Scoffield and John Hurt. Although I thought everyone else (with the exception of Orson Welles) was WAY over the top. Comically so at times. I couldn't believe I was seeing such rediculous acting amidst such greatness.

Question: What exactly is the role of "Chancellor" as it is depicted in the film? Is there a comparable office in the states?

Edited by DanBuck

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Dan,

This film is one of my all-time favorites. I'm glad you liked it. (My review -- almost four years old, going back to the early days of my work, isn't one of my favorite essays, but I'm still reasonably happy with it.)

Re. performances, Scofield, who originated the role in the stage version, is certainly magnificent, and Hurt is very good, though I think you sell some of the other performances short. I love Wendy Hiller as Alice More -- the scene in the Tower chokes me up every time. And Robert Shaw as Henry, while I can see something thinking him over the top, to me perfectly captures the larger-than-life essence of the character.

There is no office in the US akin to Supreme Chancellor. It's been awhile since I looked into it, but it was the highest non-royal rank in England, basically second only to the king.

Incidentally, a few centuries earlier there was another bold, ambitious king named Henry who had a run-in with a capable, engaging chancellor named Thomas over a matter of conscience, leading to the chancellor's resignation, eventual martyrdom, and canonization as a saint -- after which his life became the subject of a stage play and then a high-minded 1960s film.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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SDG: I love Wendy Hiller as Alice More -- the scene in the Tower chokes me up every time.

I had forgotten her. And you're right. It was the only scene that brought a tear to my eye.

And about BECKET! I don't think I realized these were two distint films. Apologies for my ignorance of British history, but the stories were indeed so similar that when I heard of one, I confused it for another. In fact, Perhaps my reference to Johnston's "Divine Encounter" film was misguided. Thanks for setting me straight.

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I actually rented this film a few years ago on the recommendation of an e-pal ... and then never got around to actually watching it. I had to return the video unseen. One of these days I must rectify that, I know -- especially since playwright Robert Bolt went on to write my favorite film of all time, Lawrence of Arabia. (And I can never THINK of Paul Scofield without remembering the way he pronounced "the bottom of this swamp" in the most recent film version of The Crucible -- mercy, what a voice that man has!)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I actually rented this film a few years ago on the recommendation of an e-pal ... and then never got around to actually watching it.  I had to return the video unseen.  One of these days I must rectify that, I know -- especially since playwright Robert Bolt went on to write my favorite film of all time, Lawrence of Arabia.

Yes, as well as The Mission -- three such different films! (Incidentally, Peter, our exchange some ways back re. Lawrence of Arabia was helpful to me in finally writing up that film.

And I can never THINK of Paul Scofield without remembering the way he pronounced \"the bottom of this swamp\" in the most recent film version of The Crucible -- mercy, what a voice that man has!)

Yes, I have no doubt he was the best thing in that film. I also liked him as the father of Ralph Fiennes' character in Quiz Show. But A Man for All Seasons is, I think, his greatest role and his greatest film.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Here's something I posted over in one of the other areas back in February;

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you can grab a copy of Rick Lyman's Watching Movies, there's a great piece where Kevin Smith talks about A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. Completely changed my (previously vague) impression of the guy: he shows a tremendous humility, great respect and genuine intelligence. Very impressive. Made me want to get to know the guy.

(Full article at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/onfilm/message/3771)

Some excerpts;

"The dialogue in this movie - it pops, you know," Mr Smith said, snapping his fingers. "Back and forth and back and forth. And let's face it, this is a movie that's pretty much all dialogue. ... Actually, that's what I try to do in my movies. That's all I'm good at. I don't even think I try to do it; it's just the only thing I can do. I'm terrible at action, but pretty decent at dialogue. And I always thought that this movie had a lot to do with why I write the way I write. Because this is such a definitive film for me. ..."

... While he stresses that he does not claim to be the e4qual of either Zinnemann or Bolt, he does feel a kind of kinship between their work and his quick-bantering comedies of male immaturity, which reside, as he puts it, in a world of jokes about genitalia and flatuence. ...

"All the flicks I've done, people are always going, 'Wow, he's not a really good visual stylist - his films tend to be about dialogue.' Well, this film is all about dialogue, too, but nobody ever calls Zinnemann on the fact that it's not visually popping because he's so skillful that he's able to tell the story in a way that, despite all the dialogue, it doesn't feel static. I wish I could do that." ...

"I must have seen A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS fifty times, literally," he said. "Probably more than any other movie. When RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK came out, I saw it 25 times in the theaters. I just kept going and going. But this movie I've seen at least twice as many times. This movie is like porn for somebody who loves language."

When he is asked, as he often is by young fans, to name his favorite films, Mr Smith says he always cites the same five: (JAWS, LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, JFK, DO THE RIGHT THING and A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS)."

... Mr Smith's wife, Jennifer Schwalbach, who is also an actress, had trouble understanding More's dilemma. "She's like, 'What an idiot More was, to die for that.'

He partly attributes this attitude to the world's loss of tolerance for the lone, principled stand - especially when it involves an issue of faith. An audience weanded on prime-time fare has little appetite for More's brand of moral rigidity. ...

Mr Smith draws a distinction in his mind between A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS and another film based on a play, Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE. Both are about people who lose their lives over a matter of principle, but it is the issue of religion and fath that sets More's story apart for Mr. Smith.

"My feeling is that there are two kinds of people in the world, MAN FOR ALL SEASONS people and CRUCIBLE people, and the difference is what they are willing to die for. In THE CRUCIBLE, John Proctor gives his life because he doesn't want to stain his name; he doesn't want to be known as a witch, which is just a handle that someone wants to hang on him. So his martyrdom doesn't really impress me. It's never as dramatically interesting as Thomas More, who lays down his life for his soul. It's not about his identity; it's about his soul. Even Norfolk and Meg tell him: 'Just sign the oath, what difference does it make? Say it with your mouh but renounce it in your head.' That's when More gives that great speech about how you are holding your soul in your hands like sand, and if you begin to open your fingers, even just a little bit, it all begins to spill out."

In fact, Mr Smith said, he's not sure that people withouth faith are really able to appreciate A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS as deeply as he does.

"It's such an inaccessible movie, in one sense, for people who don't believe in God," he said. "Because the whole time they're watching it, they're thinking More is an idiot. Just take the oath. Why not. But everything comes back to God with Thomas More. He could easily take the oath, but he won't because he feels it would violate his relationship to his God. His vision of himself is based on that relationship. That's so different from John Proctor. In this day and age, try to make a movie about a guy who stands up for what he believes based on his relationship to God. I'm telling you, very few people will gurn out.

He added, "I speak from experience."

Mr Smith is talking about DOGMA, the comedy he made in 1999 with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as a pair of renegade angels in New Jersey. It was the director's first real attempt to deal with some of the issues of faith that followed him from his Catholic upbringing, and it caused a brief furor when some religious groups criticized it during its production and just before its release. Once those groups saw that he was attempting to be thoughtful about the subject, the furor subsided, Mr Smith said. ...

Also in the interview he makes some very detailed and perceptive observations about how the film is acted, edited and shot. This is a thoughtful guy. It's fascinating how much he admires the director's understatement and subtlety, given Smith's directoral reputation for the opposite.

One of my favourite details: Smith played Cromwell in an eighth grade production of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic school in New Jersey, adapted for Grade Eight performance by his teacher, Sister Theresa. Cool.

Certainly has piqued my curiosity about DOGMA.

By the way, I highly recommend Lyman's book. It's from a series of interviews he did for the NY Times, in which he asked directors and actors to choose a favourite film and watch it with him, talking about the film. My favourites were Denzel Washington on ORDINARY PEOPLE, Ron Howard on THE GRADUATE, Steven Soderbergh on ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, Woody Allen on SHANE (!), Nicole Kidman on THE SHINING.

*

Has anybody seen the other MAN FOR ALL SEASONS film, which is more closely modeled on the original stage play? For example, it includes the Common Man character. I have some theatre friends who rave about it.


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Our church is having a "Summer Nights at the Movies" series and I watched A Man for All Seasons for the first time last night and it was an incredible experience. To be honest I wasn't looking forward to it and wouldn't have gone except I'm helping organizing the series.

It was such a beutiful exposition of intergrity. It made me want to be a better person. I also loved the way the dialouge snapped. I didn't realize how witty and sharp the writing would be.


"It is scandalous for Christians to have an imagination starved for God." - Mark Filiatreau

I write occasionally at Unfamiliar Stars.

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Has anybody seen the other MAN FOR ALL SEASONS film, which is more closely modeled on the original stage play?  For example, it includes the Common Man character.  I have some theatre friends who rave about it.

This is a 1988 made-for-TV version, and yes, it adheres essentially word-for-word to the stage play. A number of characters who are entirely separate figures in the film (More's servant Matthew, the boatman, the jailor) are semi-composited into the figure of the Common Man, who dips in and out of character(s) and breaks the fourth wall. For fans of the play (as I am) it's worth seeing -- though you have to look past the fact that it stars Chuck Heston as Thomas More!

Personally I think Bolt only improved the story when he adapted it for the screen. A number of lines change speakers, and in general I think all characters are improved. There are a few bits from the play missing in the film though, and it's nice to have those in the '88 version.

It was such a beutiful exposition of intergrity.  It made me want to be a better person.  I also loved the way the dialouge snapped.  I didn't realize how witty and sharp the writing would be.

More was a wit and a wonderful stylist, and Bolt freely acknowledges that in writing the play he availed himself of More's own language in his efforts to craft "a bold and beautiful verbal architecture." For the rest, he added, "my concern was to match with these as best I could so that the theft should not be too obvious." In my book, he succeeded.

one of my earliest reviews


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Zinnemann's A Man For All Seasons is absorbing stuff, but it is ultimately let down by being flatly directed. As a filmed document of a play it is fine, but it falls considerably short of being a proper movie. I also find Bolt's script to be somewhat untrustworthy as it portrays Sir Thomas More as a kind and gentle man who would not have hurt a fly, yet the reality is that he was a firm advocate of the burning of heretics and he persecuted many.

Edited by The Invisible Man

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Zinnemann's A Man For All Seasons is absorbing stuff, but it is ultimately let down by being flatly directed. As a filmed document of a play it is fine, but it falls considerably short of being a proper movie.

I'm not sure what assumptions are being made here regarding what constitutes a "proper movie," but I suspect they are too rigid. No art form broad enough to encompass 8 1/2, Before Sunrise, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Duck Soup, 12 Angry Men, Winged Migration, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, etc, etc. can be quite so neatly pinned down, IMO.

I also find Bolt's script to be somewhat untrustworthy as it portrays Sir Thomas More as a kind and gentle man who would not have hurt a fly, yet the reality is that he was a firm advocate of the burning of heretics and he persecuted many.

More WAS a kind and gentle man ("I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability?" wrote Robert Whittinton in 1520 in bequeathing upon More the epithet "a man for all seasons") -- but where on earth do you get the notion from the film that he wouldn't hurt a fly?

The disjunction is entirely your own, and is based entirely on the modern sensibility that no one could be both a kind and gentle man and also uphold the execution of heretics.

As Lord Chancellor, More upheld the law of the land, including the anti-heresy laws. More's career as chancellor, including his persecution of heretics, is not the subject of the film's interest, though it does gesture toward his stern attitude regarding heresy in his response to Roper's Lutheran period. And nowhere does it imply that More would not have upheld the law in this regard.

Yet as vigorously as More upheld the persecution of heretics, from his own day forward even the "heretics" he persecuted recognized his heroic virtue, held him in esteem, and considered his own execution -- which was certainly NOT justified by current law, evidence, and facts -- unjust.

The film's portrayal of More as urbane, humorous, brilliant, engaging, devout, sophisticated, scrupulously fair-minded, devoted to his family, and morally serious about his duty to king and country accords with the More known to his contemporaries.

We may not like to think that a man like that could sentence a man to die for heterodoxy, but the facts are what they are and it's no good muddling the issue to make ourselves more comfortable. (Not that I'm accusing you, IM, of doing so, though there are some who do take this approach.)


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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When I first saw the film I knew absolutely nothing about Sir Thomas More and he came across - to me, at least - as a Gandhi figure (well, kind of). Sufficiently intrigued, I then went and read up on him, and I was disappointed to discover that he himself had blood on his hands. If I had known this beforehand I would have watched the film with different eyes.


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Ha! A Gandhi figure?!! Perish the thought!

Whoa! I must confess that, reading an article so polemical, I tend to pull away. He just hates this film, and - it seems - its central character just as much. I start thinking, "So Gandhi didn't do anything good? Just gave enemas to teenage girls and advocated for Hitler? So how did he get so famous, then?"

Still, a damning corrective to the hagiography of GANDHI. It'll be difficult to enjoy that film now, if I still follow through on my intention to watch it.

But I do have to admit, SDG, that the reminder of More's role in burning heretics also has a somewhat dampening effect on my enthusiasm for his hagiographical film as well. I make a point of trying not to judge people of the past entirely through my own modern sensibilities. Still, for me, burning people to death is burning them to death, and seems to me so horrific that I have a hard time readily saying "Oh well, that's just how they did it in those days." I just believe that Jesus taught us a different way.

I grew up Lutheran, and even once I wasn't really taking part in the Lutheran church, went through a period when I did a graduate level directed study on Luther. Was quite enthused for a long time, but the more I read, the more it took an active effort to avoid reading the nasty bits; his treatment of Melancthon, his role in the pointedly nasty persecution of the Anabaptists, his anti-Semitism. (Anti-Semitism? Yes, I know it's "just the way people were in those days," but... really? Samaritans were similarly loathed in Jesus' day, and lepers in St. Francis's, and Jews in Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Edith Stein's. That didn't keep those folks from refusing to be conformed to the spirit of their day - at least with respect to its willingness to ostracize or torture to death other human beings - whether they were themselves Jews, Catholics or Lutherans.)

All this to say... Citing an article that's quite so vigorous in airing all the considerably-less-than-admirable aspects of Gandhi's life, details that were left out of his film hagiography for whatever reasons, does rather invite one to apply the same exacting standards for off-screen behavior to Mr More: if one were to adopt the tone, attitude and approach of Mr Grenier and apply it to Thomas More, the saint would likely come off better, but the burning at the stake thing would still loom large for most of us. As a Catholic apologist, it doesn't behoove you to dismiss the burnings too glibly, perhaps - particularly in the context of a thread where you also point us to such an enthusiastic demolition of another man who, in his own way, did one or two decent things for the planet. It feels dangerously close to "Catholic good, everybody else bad" - which I know isn't your actual stance.

For example; "Yet as vigorously as More upheld the persecution of heretics, from his own day forward even the "heretics" he persecuted recognized his heroic virtue, held him in esteem, and considered his own execution -- which was certainly NOT justified by current law, evidence, and facts -- unjust." Though presumably not the ones he had already burned to death.

"The film's portrayal of More as urbane, humorous, brilliant, engaging, devout, sophisticated, scrupulously fair-minded, devoted to his family, and morally serious about his duty to king and country accords with the More known to his contemporaries." Such descriptions can also be applied to plenty of Nazi war criminals, down to the last descriptor (especially the last one, actually, swapping "Fuehrer" for "King" and "Fatherland" for "country"). I know it's a cheap rhetorical device to compare someone willy-nilly to the Nazis and assume you've carried the argument, so I'll offer at least a handful of my own counter-arguments: the Nazis immolated millions where More only immolated a relative handful; the Nazis operated out of racist principles while the Catholic English burnt people for religious reasons; the Nazis were guarding against racial contamination, where More was guarding against theological contamination.

I dunno, Steven. Can you nuance this a bit for me?

Ron

P.S. It's hard to convey tone in these posts, so I'll be explicit. I'm really not contemptuous of your perspective here, nor am I trying to bait you into a running argument in defence of Thomas - for whom incidentally, I have a great deal of respect, as I have for Luther and Gandhi for that matter. But I took the time to read your Gandhi link, and find myself with some genuine cognitive dissonance. Over to you, my respected friend!

Edited by Ron

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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What a beautifully nuanced post, Ron.

First of all, let me point to my own fairly glowing review of Attenborough's film as a way of providing some perspective on my citation of that link. As you say, it's a damning corrective to the excesses of Gandhi hagiography. But I don't myself wind up not admiring Gandhi or appreciating the hagiographical film about him.

Having said that, I think it is much easier and more straightforward to honor and admire More in an uncomplicated way than to honor and admire Gandhi in an uncomplicated way, and I think that the film about More is far more truthful than the film about Gandhi.

You make excellent points on both sides about the extent to which we should and should not hold past ages responsible for their native excesses (I particularly like your parallel to first-century anti-Samaritanism). In judging particular cases, of course, it's also important to look at the relationship of the man to his culture.

For example, granted that anti-Semitism was endemic in medieval society, Catholic and Protestant -- and granted that this observation is not a moral excuse -- was Luther's anti-Semitism typical or unusual in one direction or another? To me it seems that in his later disappointment at the "failure" of the Jews to embrace the true Gospel stripped of its Romish accretions, as he had earlier felt confident they would, Luther took anti-Semitism to extremes that were unusual even for his day.

With respect to More's upholding of anti-heresy laws, I see a more complicated situation. I can't say that I think it is morally wrong for any society anywhere to officially embrace or endorse Christianity or Catholic Christianity particularly; nor do I think that laws aimed at resisting or suppressing error must always be regarded as evil. I'm not sure how blameworthy 16th-century and prior Christians should be held for reasoning that a heretic is potentially a greater danger to society than a murderer, for the murderer attacks only the body whereas the heretic attacks the soul.

And, from my perspective, there's a sense in which Protestantism at the dawn of the Reformation was a far more negative thing than Protestantism today. For all that the Church needed (and needs) reformation, and for all that Catholic prelates as well as Reformer rebels bear responsibility for what happened, nevertheless the shattering of Western Christendom was a monumental catastrophe, and, however ultimate blame is to be apportioned, those who early on helped to spread and entrench the revolt, even if they were sincerely following their consciences, did great harm in the world.

I can understand this feeling to you like what you rightly say is NOT my view, "Catholic good, everybody else bad." Let me be very clear that Evangelical Protestantism is a force for much spiritual and natural good in the world, and what we share far outweighs what divides us. This is even more the case with the Eastern Orthodox. I'm all in favor of Evangelicals helping to turn pagans into Christians. But I'm not at all in favor of Reformers helping turn Catholics into Protestants, or helping to turn Catholic countries into Protestant ones.

I have some sympathy for those like More who believed that it was best to resist this and fight the spread of error. But how do you stop the spread of error? Even in prison a man may still speak, still publish. One can perhaps see the plausibility of the case that killing the heretic may be the only effective means of stopping him.

Unquestionably, it was a brutal time, and unquestionably there was hateful evil and cruelty utterly foreign to the spirit of Christ in all of this. But if you ask me where I would essentially differentiate between capital punishment for heresy and the Holocaust against Jews, I would say that the notion and goal of "racial purity" and the eradication of all Jews is inherently monstrously evil, whereas the notion and goal of doctrinal purity and the eradication of all heresy is not.

I take violent exception to your suggestion that that all the adjectives I applied to More could be applied to Nazi war criminals. While certainly allowing that Nazi war criminals could be, say, urbane, humorous, and brilliant, how could, e.g., "scrupulously fair-minded" be reconciled with, e.g., the frantic rush to destroy evidence in the final weeks of the war? Can you imagine More stooping to such a trick even to save his life?

Still less appropriate is the final adjective that you ironically find especially fitting. "Morally serious about their duties" to state and leader is PRECISELY what Nazi war criminals were NOT.

What won More that accolade from me was only partly his willingness to DO his duty to king and country. The other part was his insistence on being clear about where that duty ENDED and where he had to say NO to king and country, even of the point of giving up his life.

This is the very ANTITHESIS of the Nuremberg defendant absolving himself of all personal responsibility under the mantra of "following orders." More knew perfectly well that that was no defense for doing the wrong thing, and was perfectly willing to go against king and country in order to not do the wrong thing. (Frankly, I think you owe More a big apology even for making the comparison. He IS listening, you know. smile.gif )


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Fabulous response, SDG. (Can I call you SD for short?) I daren't spend any more of my day giving your substantial post the attentive reply it deserves, but for now suffice it to say... Great stuff. And even if I do think there's weight in my argument that lots of Nazi participants (and their supporters) could and definitely would apply all of those attributes to them - and not completely indefensibly, though none of those attributes or all of them taken together amounts to a defence of their inhumanity. (Or of Mores?)

BUT your point is exceedingly valid that a key thing that differentiates More from even the nicest of Nazis is "...his insistence on being clear about where that duty ENDED and where he had to say NO to king and country, even of the point of giving up his life." Well said, and well thought: that's the essence of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS and (unless I've derived too much of my history from his hagiography) of the man himself.

That said, still can't get past those burning heretices screaming in agony, though...

Hopefully more on More later. But if time and writerly-nose-to-grindstone conscience don't allow... Good post. Saint Tom is smiling down upon you. (Why did MARY POPPINS just come to mind?...)

Ron


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Recently, a friend and I were talking and I told him, you know why CCM is not going to be as big as it could be, I can't see Christian Contemporary Music producing a likeable person who parodies popular Christian songs. Will CCM produce a Weird Al or Cletus T. Judd? Unlikely.

I am by no means against CCM, and related to this thread, A Man For All Seasons is one of my favorite movies, but read this link (especially Question10), and think, wouldn't it be great to see a parody of the production written by Stephen Colbert?

http://filmforce.ign.com/articles/425/425845p1.html

Edited by Michael Todd

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

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Catholic countries? Protestant countries? Huh?

Surely you aren't arguing for environmental sanctity.

I don't think so. I don't even know what it means.

Steve, you're right about Nazi war criminals--but Ron is (now anyway) saying Nazi participants. Worlds apart, there.

Nowhere near as far apart as either is removed even from More's successors who presided over the executions of More and the other English martyrs -- let alone More himself.

On the one hand we have Christian officials of an officially Christian nation supporting a program aimed at doctrinal orthodoxy with capital punishment for individuals spreading dissenting teaching. On the other, we have participants in a Nazi regime supporting in whatever capacity a program of racial purity and extermination of all Jews. Nothing within a million miles of moral parity can be construed there.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Steve, you're right about Nazi war criminals--but Ron is (now anyway) saying Nazi participants. Worlds apart, there.

Yes, the now anyway is an important distinction. In my first post I wrote "criminals," and that's the one the Sudgemeister was responding to. But I didn't mean only (or even principally) the Klaus Barbis, etc, but rather your rank-and-file holocaust worker. I wrote a play called REFUGE OF LIES about a Nazi collaborator in Holland, and learned much about the tendency for torturers in all eras to leave the work at work and go home to be wonderful neighbours, husbands and fathers, top notch Sunday school teachers, warm and friendly pillars of the community. The sort who "never would." My friend Ron Dart pointed me to Amnesty International films on the topic, featuring torturers both Greek and South American (if I remember right). The same was often true in World War Two, may presently be true at Guatanamo Bay, and Steven's list of character-reference descriptors had the unfortunate effect of suggesting to my contrarian mind the preposterous theory that the same might be true of Thomas More.

Ron


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Recently, a friend and I were talking and I told him, you know why CCM is not going to be as big as it could be, I can't see Christian Contemporary Music producing a likeable person who parodies popular Christian songs.  Will CCM produce a Weird Al or Cletus T. Judd?  Unlikely. 

Umm... I came into this conversation late, and this is slightly off -topic, but surely you've heard of Mark Lowry and the lounge singer John Jonethis? Not that I'm a fan of his, but his parody/video of "Face in this World" is a classic.

--Nick


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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On the one hand we have Christian officials of an officially Christian nation supporting a program aimed at doctrinal orthodoxy with capital punishment for individuals spreading dissenting teaching. ...

I wonder if you're soft-pedaling the nature of the heresy executions with the "capital punishment" rubric, which colors the story with a socially acceptable box of crayons that maybe disregard the torture and whole death by immolation thing. Or am I mistaking More for other state/Catholic Baddies, like the Inquisitors or Joan's firing squad? That's the part of the question I'd love to see you return to, Steven. What was being done to these dissenters, under More? Tidy, fair legal procedings and then a painless "off with your head," or torture and forced confessions and utterly inhuman death by burning? A clear picture of that might help me help Saint Tom off the hook.

Ron

P.S. Because if you're saying he was fine to torture people to death because they deserved it, but his executioners were evil for dealing him a swift and relatively painless death even though he didn't... You've lost me.

(I can still enjoy the movie, though. But I'll have to squint to see him in just the right light of heroism and unsullied moral integrity.)


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Ron: I have the same contrarian tendency myself, and the same healthy appreciation of the damnable ability of men to compartmentalize, to do heinous things at work and then go home and be the sort that "never would" as you put it.

But what answer would they give for themselves, if you asked them about their work? It seems to me that either they would reveal heinous things beneath the friendly surface, or else abdicate responsiblity under the "following orders" rubric.

My brief for More is simply this: He's more complicated than that. You don't have to approve or let him off the hook, but I don't think that what lies beneath his judgments is at all the horror that you would find with the torturers and Nazis you're thinking of, nor the moral cravenneness of the order-followers. He has a fundamental integrity in his whole self that they lack.

I definitely am not saying it was all right to torture and horribly execute people, or even to chop off their heads. I don't know about the cruelty of martyrdoms throughout Europe but I know that the English had a genius for it. More himself was sentenced to death by drawing and quartering, which is so evil that it can hardly be fathomed. (Henry commuted the sentence to decapitation, which I'm sure went some way either to shortening his long, long years in purgatory or else slightly cooling the flames of his perdition, however it may be.)

I honestly don't know how or how many heretics were put to death under More's tenure as Chancellor, or how much he had to do with it one way or the other.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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On the one hand we have Christian officials of an officially Christian nation supporting a program aimed at doctrinal orthodoxy with capital punishment for individuals spreading dissenting teaching.

I don't buy the notion of a "Christian nation", for one thing, but I also don't buy the notion that capital punishment for 'heresy' is itself doctrinally orthodox.

(Oh, man, I didn't actually intend to get hooked on one of these theology threads... How'd this happen??)


"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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I don't buy the notion of a "Christian nation", for one thing, but I also don't buy the notion that capital punishment for 'heresy' is itself doctrinally orthodox.

Good Lord, the Canadians finally speak. And reveal themselves to be... Well, Canadian.

Ron

P.S. Step away from the thread. Step away from the thread....


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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