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Catholic gilt


One thing you’ve gotta love about Catholics is the seriousness with which they dish out ritual. All that pomp and ceremony, all the majesty of Vatican City, all that gorgeous art and those golden treasures — it’s a visual and dramatic feast. Movie directors especially love the Catholic theme. Can you imagine if Ron Howard had been forced to set his “Angels & Demons” at the national headquarters of the Assemblies of God, say, or in the world’s biggest Presbyterian social hall? Just think of Tom Hanks running from one bland building to another doused in fluorescent lights, trotting past 3rd grade bulletin-board depictions of burning bushes, bumping into storage racks filled with folding metal chairs, pausing every now and then in slightly musty linoleum-lined hallways adorned with fliers begging people to join the choir. Instead of the Illuminati, the shadowy evil group in the narrative would have to be the 7 p.m. Wednesday meeting of Weight Watchers.

Still, as much as I thrill to some good, old-fashioned Catholic-ritual storyboarding, I reached my limit about half an hour into the silly “Angels & Demons.” (You can read my less-than-appreciative Bee review here.) Even all those gorgeous shots of the big group of blood-red-robed cardinals, set against the murky Vatican backdrops like exotic game birds, got tiring after a while. Yes, Catholic iconography often adds a powerful punch to a movie — from the crisp, retro repression of a “Doubt” to the head-spinning fright of an “Exorcist” — but in “Angels” it just sort of floods over you until you’re gasping for air.

Anyway, “Angels & Demons” managed to confess to $48 million at the box office to land the No. 1 spot. (It was not as good as the $77.1 million opening weekend for its parent film, “The Da Vinci Code,” however.) Did you see the movie? What do Catholic — AND non-Catholic — viewers think?

Responses to "Catholic gilt"

Conlan says:

I wonder who’ll be the first to claim the title of this post is a typo. I didn’t see the movie, but I like Catholic imagery. I’m not surprised to hear it was overdone.

Gregg Schroeder says:

Har. Set in a church social hall. I love it. Or perhaps at the Simpsons’ undenominated-but-very-Protestant church in Springfield with the tastfully-meaningless abstract stained-glass window.

blake says:

Your description of the American “WASP” church was pretty funny and accurate—but heck, them potluck dinners rule.

If we could only get back to those catacomb days—I could see caves and incense in the Tower. Or maybe Granite Park will open a theme-church with reproduction bones and things encased in the walls.

Donald Munro says:

@Blake: Yep, can’t forget the potluck dinners. Here’s what my friend MaryAnne wrote when I sent her the blog post:

“There could be a really cool chase scene through a church potluck — evading ground-beef casseroles, Jell-O molds and mayonnaise-based salads. Oh no! Sheet cake!”