Summer Culture Highlights from the Irish Rover staff
With the factory leaking jobs and winters growing worse, everything rides on the Bears of Beartown and the promise of a new hockey academy, if they can just win the junior championships in this novel from best-selling author Fredrik Backman (A Man Called Ove). Imagine Friday Nights Lights taking the ice as Beartown’s players, coaches, and families lace up their skates. Backman doesn’t shy away from scandal and brokenness: teenage mistakes, long-dead dreams, and the social pressures of the Bears’ brotherhood fill the chapters. But as Backman crafts his community, he weaves in beautiful reflections on the nature of parenthood, adolescent transformation, and claiming one’s identity. It’s not beach reading, but Beartown will welcome you into the local bar, the well-worn ice rink, and the frozen streets of this town, all while speaking to the human experience like few else can.
The Lion King (2019)
I’ll come right out and say it— I cried. The waterworks were open for business when (spoiler alert) Mufasa died. This movie was a trip down memory lane. The Lion King was a really formative part of my young life. I can remember sitting down with my mom, dad, and brother and opening our well-worn VCR case to find the tape inside; it was like opening a treasure chest each and every time. There was no treasure to be found in the 2019 version. Nostalgia can do a lot of things; it can bring back old tears and old smiles. The 2019 Lion King had not a single new smile or tear. Might be because it was a shot-for-shot remake of the original? Or, could it be because the emotions you can express in an animated lion are just not emotions you can paint on the “live-action” faces of Nala and Simba as they sing “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” I’m not sure, but one thing’s for certain. Can I recommend this remake? No, Nala: I cannot.
While driving on vacation with my family, I asked my dad to play something he listened to growing up that he wishes would still be popular today. He took a second to think about it, adjusted the stereo volume, and played Siembra, the 1978 salsa album featuring Rubén Blades and Willie Colón. A seminal work in the salsa genre, Siembra is a fusion of Cuban and African rhythms with American jazz born out of the vibrant Puerto Rican culture in New York City. The syncopated rhythms and chromatic melodies make for a groove which is impossible not to move to, and the storytelling paints a problem-ridden yet ambitious Latin American society. The album addresses everything from senseless crime and materialism to light-hearted love pursuits and finding purpose in work. Siembra took me back to family get-togethers in Caracas, and is a reminder that Latin music need not be characterized by the hyper-sexualized and individualistic undertones which dominate it today.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
On July 26, Quentin Tarantino’s newest film hit the screens in the United States. Critically acclaimed as his “love letter to ‘60s L.A.,” this nostalgic thriller follows “has-been” actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). As he and Dalton venture through 1969, Booth crosses paths with members of the Manson family, creating an eeriness that culminates in the dramatic finale. The suspense, sentimentality, and aesthetic render Once Upon a Time in Hollywood an instant classic. While it runs just under three hours, enthralling screenplay and toyed-with historicity compensate for any slowness. As Bishop Barron writes, the movie presents “a morally upright person at work” amidst the squalor present in 1969 Hollywood. With this film, Tarantino has produced another film worth watching.
“Remember You Young”; Center Point Road
Thomas Rhett’s Center Point Road was released on May 31, but my favorite song from the album, “Remember You Young,” came out around Easter. The song’s upbeat accompaniment fades to let Rhett’s voice punctuate near the closing line: “I hope when we get to heaven, He looks at us all like we’re kids: shameless and painless and perfect and ageless, forgives all the wrong that we did.” Heaven is a mystery, of course, but that’s part of its beauty. Rhett points us to this beauty, and his words remind us of the invitation God gives us to come to Him as a child comes to a father, and to depend on Him as a child depends upon a father.
I chose to read The Cardinal this summer since it had been recommended to me by a priest and dear friend. Thought it is a work of fiction from the mid-twentieth century, my friend argued that the story could speak to any young man discerning the priesthood or even priests themselves. He himself has read the book and analyzed his life through its lens every summer since he entered the seminary. It is a story of a young American and his journey to becoming a Prince of the Church, and though it may seem as though it is a book for ambitious priests, it proves to be the opposite. This book helps the reader learn where he ought place his ambitions and how to use those ambitions for the glory of God, drawing readers into a deeper consideration of their vocation and spiritual life. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it brought me closer to God, not because it is a spiritual classic written by a great saint, but because it is the story of a sinner pursuing sainthood and the call to holiness of a normal, everyday Catholic.
The film Yesterday, directed by Danny Boyle, was released on June 28, 2019 to theatres full of life-long Beatles fans and younger, new-wave music lovers. The movie follows the career of Englishman Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) as he tries to navigate his shockingly quick rise to fame after discovering that he is suddenly the only person who knows who the Beatles are. Malik faces immense pressure as the joys of popularity battle against his own guilt of stealing the Beatles’ songs. Beautiful renditions of old Beatles classics and newer hits from artist Ed Sheeren center the movie as it brings to light the quality of honesty and its importance in inner peace.
The Soul of the Apostolate
I first picked up The Soul of the Apostolate in the winter of my senior year of high school at the heed of my friend Kyle, now Fr. Sladek (ND ‘13, ordained just last year for the Diocese of Green Bay). As we perused the used bookstore in the beautiful Feehan Memorial Library at Mundelein Seminary, he told me how it greatly influenced his vocational discernment during his time in high school. Nearly three years later, I finally finished reading this illuminating book penned by the French Trappist Abbot, Dom Chautard. The interior life must be built up, he stresses, as it serves as the grounding for all apostolic work. Through contemplation, we become closer to Our Lord. Without Christ at the center of all we do, truly, we can do nothing.
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