Video Clips

Blog December 2008

Was looking through the CD section in Tesco last night and noticed with amusement that The Priests had beaten The Killers to the top of the album charts. There's a message in there somewhere! The Priests are all over the media this Christmas (see TV and Radio previews) and the Chant album (see below) seems to be doing well also.

Have been doing the section on the Junior Cert Course about conflicts in the life of Jesus - the students were able to suggest quite a few without prompting. To follow up I used clips from various films to illustrate these events - the scene where Jesus chases the sellers out of the temple from The Gospel According to St Matthew, the trial of Jesus from Jesus of Nazareth, and Peter having a minor dispute with Jesus over the washing of feet from BBC's The Passion.

During the week I gave the Transition Year students their RE Christmas Exam - As we had been looking at the history of Jesus films I showed a clip from the Gospel of John and asked the students to evaluate it - Jesus is played by Henry Ian Cusick who plays Desmond in the TV series Lost, so there was a useful recognition factor. Actually I've just got this DVD recently and Cusick's performance is excellent. In the clip I showed he's having a right go at the Pharisees. After I've seen more of this version I'll comment some more, but so far so good as far as performances go, though as with other entries in the Visual Bible series it's a word for word enactment of the gospel, including the narration, so some scenes not given much dialogue in scripture seem rather stilted. I also tried to give some of the questions a Christmas theme - e.g. I played Come Darkness Come Light, the title track of Mary Chapin Carpenter's new Christmas CD (see review here), asking students to write about the themes and how they were conveyed. Also I used Christmas at Denny's by Randy Stonehill and asked about the use of traditional Christmas imagery in a contemporary setting.

Last Saturday night's film on RTE 2 was also very violent, sometimes excessively so, and there was plenty of profanity and more than a few clichés, but there was still more than a touch of humanity in Proof of Life, a kidnap drama set in South America. It helped that the leads were played by Russell Crowe as the rescuer/negotiator and Meg Ryan as the wife of the victim. When religion surfaced it was indirect but respectful for the most part There was a positive priest character - a wily Frenchman who was formerly in the foreign legion and was also a kidnap victim - who showed compassion and courage when trying to help the husband. Married love was seen as valuable - though they had conflicts, the Ryan character remained devoted to her husband, despite her growing attraction to Crowe.

A recent episode of The Simpsons on RTE 2 was of particular interest to Catholics. In this episode Bart was expelled and had to find an alternative school, which turned out to be a Catholic school. There was a sort of a compliment to Catholic education ("the most affordable private schools") followed by a huge dose of Catholic (and Irish) stereotypes. For starters the teacher was a ruler-wielding tyrant nun with an Irish accent - at one stage Bart moved back his desk to avoid getting a thump of her yardstick, but due to his poor grasp of measurement moved back only 33 inches and got a whack anyway! However, inspired by a friendly priest (voiced by Liam Neeson) and comic book lives of the saints Bart eventually decided to become a Catholic, and later, inspired by the pancakes at a church event, Homer joined him. Protestant Marge was not pleased ("Catholics are a peculiar bunch"), nor was neighbour Flanders and Rev Lovejoy - ecumenism isn't strong in Springfield. There were sly references to clerical child abuse and mutterings about "no birth control" (Marge said she didn't want another 12 kids).
Protestants were sent up as well - efforts to reconvert Bart included a tacky Christian youth festival (with aging rockers Pious Riot who had turned to God), until he was finally turned by a Christian paintball event! His final message of Christian tolerance ("The little stupid differences are nothing next to the big stupid similarities!") got everybody all friendly again, though Flanders planned to get his hand re-blessed after shaking hands with the priest. A flash-forward of 1,000 years shows the later devotees of Bart's message falling out violently over some sliver of difference.
I thought some of it was mean spirited, and some of it crude, but it certainly was hilarious, mostly sending up the foibles of believers rather than their faith per se, though some distinctively Catholic teachings got a lash, and yet Homer spoke of the Catholic Church's "time-tested values". It was hard to know whether anti-Catholic prejudice was being practised or satirised - probably both, in the show's typically scattershot style.
In religion class I'd use clips from this with caution - e.g. there's a very funny depiction of Heaven - Protestant Heaven is very sedate and refined, while in Catholic Heaven there's great fun, including Riverdance (!) and Jesus having fun on a trampoline.

Still in fiction territory I've been enthusiastic before about Prison Break (see article) due to the interesting characterisations and tight plotting, but mainly because of the distinctive moral concerns of the main character, Michael Scofield (an intense Wentworth Miller). But the fourth season, currently on RTE 2, is very disappointing. There are tell tale signs of deterioration - the plot is breeding red herrings at a fierce rate, a character we thought was dead suddenly reappears (we had seen, or thought we had seen, her head in a box!), the main character develops a potentially fatal illness, but what is most objectionable is the brutality and sadism that has crept in. It was always rough, but now even some of the likeable characters resort to excessive violence - most repulsive of all was when one character viciously tortured another in an extended sequence - OK they're both murderers, but the torturer had shown signs of softening, even redemption. His violence wasn't unmotivated, as the victim had murdered his child, but the programme just wallowed in the scene, going way beyond what was necessary to make the point, and some sympathetic characters, especially the female doctor (she of the head) turned their backs. Nothing yet in this series I could see myself using in RE class.


Trying to get my act together for Advent! Had a prayer service with my 2nd Year class today and this year I hope to have one for each of the Mondays of Advent so we can light the appropriate candles - must dig out some more Advent prayers. There will be no shortage of music though - today I used O Come O Come Emmanuel by Kim Hill from her Real Christmas album - it's a contemporary version that seemed to go down well, and Prepare Ye The Way by John Michael Talbot from his New Earth album. I used prayers from the old Time to Live textbook.

Have uploaded an article I wrote for An Tobar magazine about Arts Resources for Christmas and Advent, so I hope teachers will find some of the material useful.