Welcome to Yankee Gospel Girl! You can call me Esther O’Reilly. I’m a freelance writer, video editor and old soul with many interests, and these are a few of my favorite things: great art (including music, film and literature), conservative politics, and stuff that’s been around since before I was born. If you’re a first-time visitor, thanks for reading! Check out my “About” page, and follow me on Youtube, FaceBook or Twitter. You can also survey my work at conservative daily The Stream here, and at the group film blog More Than One Lesson here. Or if you care to stick around this space a while, feel free to browse around in the filing cabinet for my musings on all genres of music, movies, faith and culture, and old stuff. I hope you like what you find! God bless.
In which we discuss the inter-locking timelines, emotional investment, casting, Nolan worship, Christian humanism, and the awesomeness that is the name Hoyte van Hoytema.
I know. It’s been a while. Okay, it’s been all summer. We missed Wonder-Woman because to be honest Little Sis is a bit more invested in guy superheroes, and we missed Spiderman Homecoming because to be honest I got home and realized I didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. So now, for something completely different… our thoughts on Dunkirk. Her first viewing, my second. She has never seen a Christopher Nolan movie before. All her thoughts are her own. We hope you enjoy.
[Update: Read Part 2 here.]
The Two Sisters are baaaaaack! We saw Guardians: Volume 2, and we’re here to tell you exactly what we thought about it. In the spirit of Drax, we will hold absolutely nothing back as we answer all your questions (Is it as good as Volume 1? Is it weirder than Volume 1? Who is Peter Quill’s dad anyway? Who’s the best new character, and why is it Baby Groot? Is there anything important parents should know about?) and contemplate related topics, including but not limited to: the gift of mortality, the redemption of scuzz-balls, the power of musical nostalgia, and how Marvel patiently continues to lay the groundwork for the Infinity War finale.
If you’re new to this series, be advised that this is really less of a proper “review” and more of a stream-of-consciousness deep dive, hence insert spoiler warning here. Proceed at your own peril.
Once upon a time, I gave you my top five underrated love songs (at the time). Once upon another time, I gave you my top five love songs (at the time). Notice a pattern? Like most “top 5/10/20 things” lists, my list of love songs is a many-splendoured, ever-changing thing. Certainly, I would keep some things, but not all, and others I would now add without a second thought.
Herewith, my top ten love songs. A few ground rules: no breakup songs. No Bryan Adams. No Air Supply. No Richard Marx (Dad, can you forgive me?) No Bette Midler. No Kenny Rogers. And no Lionel Richie. Absolutely no. Decidedly no. Uh-uh. Also, my mom will kill me if I put “Just the Way You Are” on here even though I kinda like that one. (Don’t tell anyone, I prefer we keep this between us.)
All right, now that we’ve got that out of the way, herewith, My Top Ten Love Songs As Of Right Now, c. Midnight on Valentine’s Day, 2017.
Many have commented that 2016 was thicker than usual in celebrity deaths. But some of those deaths have felt crueler and more poignant than others. (I for one couldn’t care less whether Prince lived or died. Sue me.) The comparatively young death of Carrie Fisher has come as a particularly sad shock to cap the year off. Tributes from various friends and associates have poured in, all emphasizing her sharp wit, humor, and honesty. It’s struck me that Fisher’s distinct un-sappiness as a person has rendered this outpouring less syrupy than the usual “dead celebrity tributes” fare. She was a complicated personality with lots of hard edges and dark corners, and she spoke about those hard, dark parts of herself with disarming candor.
Some fans are just now learning that Carrie Fisher was married: once only, to rock legend Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel fame. Their stormy, whirlwind romance gets extensive treatment in Peter Ames Carlin’s new Simon bio Homeward Bound, from which some pertinent excerpts are provided here. It’s painfully sad reading. Carlin paints a vivid picture of two people who had extraordinary sympatico, yet were so deeply dysfunctional that neither one could handle the other’s pain. They shared a fierce intelligence and a melancholy bent that inevitably drew them together. There are stories of titanic fights between them that would dissolve all of a sudden because they began to laugh helplessly at each other and themselves.
However, there’s no denying that their marriage was spectacularly ill-advised. Fisher’s bipolar disorder and drug abuse weren’t things that could be pushed under the rug. They were an ever-present ball and chain. Coupled with Simon’s own ongoing depression, and topped off by a tragic miscarriage, they inexorably dragged the marriage down to its doom, a mere year later. Interestingly, it was Fisher, not Simon, who made the final decision to cut it short, no doubt believing it was best for both of them.
As is typical with such things, this wasn’t the end of the story. Simon and Fisher maintained an on-again, off-again relationship for a number of years thereafter, before Fisher once again decided to break it off for good.
Musically, some of Simon’s best work came out of this relationship, most famously the song “Graceland.” Fisher is the “she” who “comes back to tell me she’s gone, as if I didn’t know that, as if I didn’t know my own bed.” However, Simon wrote another song about their relationship that slipped through the cracks at the time: the title track for a flop project called Hearts and Bones, which has been revived as something of a cult classic in recent years. While the stature of “Graceland” is undeniable, and the track understandably more ear-catching, “Hearts and Bones” is, for my money, the deeper and more poignant lyric of the two. It traces “the arc of a love affair” between “one and one half wandering Jews” (Fisher was half-Jewish), from marriage to divorce. One might mistakenly think it was written in the wake of their separation, but eerily, it was actually written on the cusp of their marriage.
This year, one of my all-time favorite films turned 70. It’s a Wonderful Life has rightly earned its place as an American classic and one of Jimmy Stewart’s best roles. It gives the lie to anyone who tries to paint old Hollywood in broad, simplistic strokes, by presenting us with a likable hero who catches one bad break after another and eventually has to be pulled from the brink of suicide.
Over at The Stream, I paid tribute to the film by dusting off a film project I’ve featured here before, which combines the movie with Andrew Peterson’s song “World Traveler.” George’s story has so many layers of meaning, so many resonances, chief among them the resonance of home. In this article, I weave George’s story and the story Andrew tells in his song with some personal reflections of my own. I hope it cheers somebody this Christmas Eve. A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Is Rogue One really the first Star Wars movie to realize it’s about war? Why is Darth Vader suddenly making bad puns? What’s CGI [SPOILERS] doing in here? Can we talk about Jyssio for just a minute? And the 64k question: Did we NEED Rogue One? Welcome to Part 2 of our deep dive! And, as with Part I, SPOILER WARNING. If you have not yet seen the movie, bookmark this and come back when you have!
Well em gee… December sure flew by! As a reminder, for blog-only subscribers, you can follow me on Facebook (and now, on Twitter!) to keep up with my various writings. Despite appearances, I haven’t been wholly inactive this month. You can read my two latest articles for The Stream from my author’s page here. Both of them tie film together with life issues such as abortion and assisted suicide.
Today, we’re back with something lighter: another blockbuster deep dive in two parts with Little Sister, thus expanding the series which I’ve chosen to christen “Two Sisters Review.” WARNING: Thar be SPOILERS! Proceed at your own risk.
Today, we cover stand-out new characters, likes and dislikes about character arcs, plot holes, and how we feel about the shades of grey it introduces into Star Wars morality. Tomorrow, we’ll cover Darth Vader (force-chokes! bad puns!), the new villain, more plot holes, Rogue One As War Movie, CGI… characters, and oh yes, shipping. Read on, and stay tuned!
Little Sis and I pick up where we left off. We begin by discussing the film’s implicit pacifism, then really go at it over Marvel’s morality of magic and healing. We tackle the question of whether parallels can be drawn from Marvel world to our world, or to the world C. S. Lewis creates in Narnia. Finally, I wrap it up with a little discussion of new Harry Potter universe blockbuster Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, whose sympathetic portrayal of persecuted witches has been explicitly criticized by Catholic critic Steven Greydanus.
Enjoy! (And, as before, apologies for all the places where we say “Mordu” instead of “Mordo.” We forgot, okay?)
Courtesy of Thanksgiving Break, Little Sis and I bring you our SPOILERIFIC deep dive into Dr. Strange. We discuss favorite moments and funny bits, as well as how the film handles mind/body dualism, death, and (of course!) magic. It got a little long, as LS observed towards the end, so I’ve broken it up into two parts. In Part II, we will discuss the film’s philosophy of suffering and hash out some differences of opinion on the last Easter Egg and whether we agree with its perspective on magical healing, while expanding on some compare and contrast with C. S. Lewis’s Magician’s Nephew. For now, enjoy Part I, and stay tuned! (Note: I apologize in advance for our erroneous and repeated reference to the character of Mordo as “Mordu.” As you might be able to tell, we’re not exactly die-hard comic book fans, we just watch the movies!)