The Common Good

Blog Posts By Gareth Higgins

Posted by Gareth Higgins 2 years 22 weeks ago
Fifteen-hundred years ago, a Dublin-based shepherd made his mark on history by turning the Chicago River green, staggering inebriated through the city, and inventing the "Kiss Me I’m Irish" hat. Along the way, he wrote Bushmills whiskey drinking songs about the pain of being alive, mixed a cocktail whose name evokes an act of terror, and dyed his hair red.He magically expelled snakes from the island of his birth, wrote a lyrical memoir of his terrible childhood, won the Rose of Tralee beauty contest, mixed lager and Guinness together (presumably out of an excess of self-loathing and bad taste), had a great oul’ Famine, stared meaningfully across the Atlantic, and dreamed of America.But he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.It’s St Patrick’s Day weekend, and despite the fact that millions of people will celebrate something like this vision of what it means to be Irish, pretty much none of the above is true.
Posted by Gareth Higgins 2 years 51 weeks ago
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a surprising addition to the typical summer blockbuster canon -- for one thing, it manages to entertain and challenge, without resorting to gratuitous violence to make its point. But there's a deeper subtext that is even more unexpected -- for this is a story in which we start to lose. It was fashionable in the late 1960s and early '70s for science fiction films to attempt to out-dystopia each other -- see for example the notion in Soylent Green that post-industrial humanity snacks on itself to survive, the suggestion that only robots can be trusted to look after creation in Silent Running, and the climactic revelation in the original Planet of the Apes that a few generations from now, the nuclear arms race will end in mutually assured destruction. All these point to a simple philosophical idea: that humans cannot be trusted to care for ourselves or the planet we steward.
Posted by Gareth Higgins 3 years 1 week ago
It's been a fabulous few weeks for movies -- at theaters and at home. There are images in the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, that are so beautiful they can evoke an aching longing for transcendent experience. This is entirely the point, for the film is about the search for meaning in a God-breathed universe. A man goes to space to investigate a mystery, discovers himself in the face of his loved ones, and ends in an embrace with the divine -- love itself. It's an astonishing work of art that repays multiple viewings, and serves as nothing less than an icon for worship. This summer's The Tree of Life, the fifth film in 40 years from the Christian humanist artist Terrence Malick, becomes something similar, and in the process makes excellent cinematic use of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as avatars of contemporary masculinity. It's the most moving film I've seen this year.
Posted by Gareth Higgins 3 years 7 weeks ago
Ah the joy of watching movies in the summer! Of course, there are a number of summer blockbusters coming out that will woo crowds to the theaters, but with the sky-high prices of theater tickets these days, nobody will fault you for wanting to stay home and kick back with a rental. If you're looking for a film that will entertain and inspire you, consider adding some of these excellent films about social change to your online queue. If you have any other films to add to this list, please contribute your favorites in the comments section below. (To read more of my film reviews, check out my monthly column in Sojourners magazine.)
Posted by Gareth Higgins 4 years 9 weeks ago
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Posted by Gareth Higgins 5 years 2 weeks ago
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Posted by Gareth Higgins 5 years 23 weeks ago
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Posted by Gareth Higgins 5 years 28 weeks ago
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Posted by Gareth Higgins 5 years 34 weeks ago
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Posted by Gareth Higgins 5 years 50 weeks ago
Randy Newman might be surprised to see himself mentioned on a progressive spirituality blog. In his five decades of making music that is alternately brilliantly satirical and elegant (and sometimes both), he hasn't often smiled on religion or religious people. In spite of his skepticism about spirituality, he also has written some of the most beautiful love songs I've ever [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 23 hours ago
In a few weeks, I will make a life-changing journey. After 33 years of living in Northern Ireland, and for very good reasons, I am about to become an immigrant. I'm excited about this move, not least because I believe that doing something new is one of the best ways to grow as a human being. But two questions come to mind as I prepare myself for leaving home. The first is, "What will it feel like to be an immigrant?" Will I be welcomed by the people in my adopted [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 3 weeks ago
The Dark Knight, unlike many summer blockbusters, is actually an astonishing movie -- a stunning fusion of craft and entertainment, which manages to be both gripping in an edge-of-your seat fashion, and philosophically interesting. It's a violent film in which none of the brutality is played for the audience's pleasure, and although it's a comic book story, it takes place in a [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 6 weeks ago
(Spoiler warning--some major plot details are revealed in this article. Stop reading now if you want to see the movie without knowing the outcome. However by the time you've read this article you may not want to see it anyway.) "Hancock" (the current vehicle for the biggest star in the world, Will Smith) is a superhero story that, on the surface, seems to [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 13 weeks ago
President Bush's remarks, made last week in Israel, suggesting that anyone who wishes to talk with a violent enemy is the contemporary equivalent of a Hitler appeaser, are so wide of the mark, patronizing, and simply untrue that they must be challenged. The fact that he used the emotive context of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations as the background for these comments is an abuse of an already misused people. And implying that Sen. Obama wishes to appease terrorism is not [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 18 weeks ago
I've been traveling lately, and in various hotels and friend's guest rooms, have seen more TV than usual. This sojourn away from my usual ignorance of broadcast television has provided the following dubious delights:
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 19 weeks ago
Charlton Heston died this weekend at age 84, following Roy Scheider and Richard Widmark as the latest in a series of powerful cinematic actors to pass away -- although Heston was probably best known to a younger generation as the old guy who walked out of a Michael Moore interview in Bowling for Columbine. His was an ambivalent life
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 26 weeks ago
As I wrote here last week, this year's Oscars, which take place on Sunday night, seem to have caught a cultural mood in cinema that's worthy of reflection
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 27 weeks ago
The Oscars are a little under two weeks from now - with the threat of the writer's strike leading to an unexpected interruption of one of the most surreal nights of the pop culture year now gone. Rich and famous folk slapping each other on the back, handing out gold statuettes for works of art that many of us haven't seen. It has always surprised me how the winning speeches rarely seem to mention the films that have [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 29 weeks ago
Last night I finally saw Juno, Roger Ebert's favorite film of 2007 and recipient of four Oscar nominations, which has as its center the story of an unplanned pregnancy and the people affected by it. The protagonist, Juno MacGuff, played by Ellen Page in one of those so-good-she's-either-brilliant-or-really-like-that-in-real-life performances, is a misfit attracted to her male mirror image. Wiser beyond [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 31 weeks ago
Tim Burton's striking and gruesome film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical 'Sweeney Todd' made me feel alternately impressed by Johnny Depp's singing talent and wince at the violence. The story of a 19th century barber who avenges the loss of his wife and daughter by providing the closest shave ever to a litany of customers including the judge who caused his pain left me preoccupied by [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 32 weeks ago
I would love to live as a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. The Irish writer, priest, and environmental activist, and my beloved friend - John O'Donohue - died unexpectedly and peacefully in the early hours of Friday, Jan. 4, 2008. His witness to peace, his work on the human heart, and his actions [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 36 weeks ago
This will be my final post for the God's Politics blog in 2007, and given that it's the time of year for lists, here's my choice of the films that have struck me the most in the past 12 months. (I should acknowledge that I haven't seen There Will Be Blood as it hasn't been released in my homeland yet
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 37 weeks ago
Here's the good news: The Golden Compass does not promote atheism. It isn't going to steal your children. It does not signal the end of hope for religion in the West. That's the good news. Here's the bad news: it promotes the same, shallow "don't touch my stuff or I'll kill you" message that appears in so much of popular culture. But more than this, in spite of delightful visual imagery, [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 38 weeks ago
When a film ends with the recounting of a dream in which a weather-beaten, life-weary man searches for the fire his father is building to warm them, it's impossible not to think of the love we all yearn for and can hopefully muster. It's also a welcome spiritual respite when that film has seduced its audience on a journey into a hell of the relentless violence that follows a man after he steals [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 39 weeks ago
It's not often that something I write attracts an immediate response from one of the most famous media entities in the world, but surprisingly enough, just after my recent post calling for our popular culture to propose concrete and distinctive opportunities for progressive activism, Rolling Stone magazine published a 40th anniversary issue that includes interviews suggesting just that. [...]
Posted by Gareth Higgins 6 years 47 weeks ago
It's intriguing how many current films address questions of revenge and justice. Like all cinematic epidemics, this is a mixed bag, from Quentin Tarantino's alternately boring and horrifying car-crash fest Death Proof, just released on DVD, to the slasher-style terror of Death Sentence starring Kevin Bacon, to the mature and moving reflection on justice and fatherhood in 3:10 [...]