Sunday Matinee #14 A Few Good Men
A Few Good Men and Pentecost handle the truth.
Hello, Dear Reader, and thank you for subscribing to R-Rated Movie Club. Whether you’ve been here since the beginning or you’re reading this in the archives, I’m glad you’re here. Your support keeps this project going for me as a creative outlet and I hope you enjoy today’s post. Let’s get to this month’s Coming Attractions.
Coming Attractions: Feature Presentation Preview
I’m writing later this month about the recent Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Everything Everywhere All at Once. There’s so much in this movie that I doubt I can begin to capture everything in one article, but in the meantime I encourage you to watch it soon if you haven’t already. We have Paramount+ with Showtime and that’s how I watched it. Otherwise, I notice it’s still playing in theaters here and there to celebrate it’s amazing Oscar wins. Here’s a brief excerpt from the next Feature Presentation:
There is something in the air, lately, with art and the multiverse. Many movies are exploring “what if…?” scenarios with beloved franchise characters. Novels are offering alternative takes on history or wondering what if life as we know it now was slightly different. This isn’t necessarily new. The so-called “butterfly effect” is fun amateur philosophy (I’ve heard it called “sliding doors” before, too), in that even the slightest action can have the greatest changes. That’s been around for a while.
And you know tons of bros walked out of The Matrix saying to their friends, “Guys… what if?!” It was hard to look “deep” wearing a backwards visor in 1999, but hey, many guys tried.
But it’s not just the movies and artistic culture. I know so many people who wonder aloud how we got to this point as a country, as the world, as humankind. Why are things the way they are? Can anything ever change? I have one friend who is obsessed with joking, “We are in the ‘darkest timeline.’” We have to watch out so cynicism doesn’t rule our hearts, yes? And still, when we witness atrocities or hear we may be too far gone for true climate change, I don’t blame anyone for asking, does it have to be this way?
Everything Everywhere All at Once takes this and runs with it. Evelyn gets a chance to see so many ways that life could go. Some look very tempting, some look much, much better than what she has now. But they all come at a cost: what she has now. Every time she could have this or that, she gives up something else. Fame and fortune? Great, but no Waymond, and no Joy (and no joy). As a young person, I had a very brief flirting with potentially living in Japan. I didn’t go, though I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I had. But I wouldn’t have what I have now: my family. I still wonder, and I think that’s healthy. EEAaO looks at what happens when that wondering isn’t healthy.
And the multiverse is almost destroyed because of it.
Read the full newsletter issue later this month. Paid subscribers will receive early access podcast audio of the essay and a bonus essay.
R-Rated Movie Club is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Quotes with Notes
Full Text: Acts 2:14a, 22-32 (Revised Common Lectionary)
2nd Sunday of Easter (April 16, 2023)
Sign up for a free course at EnterTheBible.org to learn more.
Context: In a powerful event in the Christian New Testament that a gathered crowd can’t explain, the disciple Simon Peter steps up. He calls for them to be open to what God is doing and in this speech he reminds them that God has been at work before, invoking writings from the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 132:11 and Psalm 110:1.
25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
A Few Good Men (1992) | Columbia Pictures, Castle Rock Entertainment, David Brown Pictures
Starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, J.A. Preston, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland
Written by Aaron Sorkin | Directed by Rob Reiner
Context: Colonel Jessup has taken the stand in a trial of two US Marines accused of murdering one of their own. Lt. Kaffee is pressing him, trying to catch him in a snare about the truth of the matter and what he knows.
Jessup: Santiago was a substandard marine. He was being transferred...
Kaffee: That's not what you said. You said he was being transferred, because he was in grave danger.
Jessup: That's correct.
Kaffee: You said he was in danger. I said "grave danger"? You said...
Jessup: I recall what I said.
Kaffee: I could have the court reporter read back to you...
Jessup: I know what I said! I don't have to have it read back to me, like I'm...
Kaffee: Then why the two orders? Colonel?
Can you explain everything that happens in your life? Try as we might, we can’t always decipher the “why” of the world. In this second chapter of Acts of the Apostles, the writing of the Christian New Testament that comes right after the four gospels, we witness a special incident. Pentecost is often called “the birth of the church,” and this pivotal chapter will take us through the next few weeks of Quotes with Notes. Right before this passage, everyone in the room feels something special is happening and they can’t explain it. They ask one of Jesus’s disciples, Simon Peter, and he says the Holy Spirit is at work.
He quotes writings from the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 132:11 and Psalm 110:1. In this same proclamation, he lifts up words from the prophet Joel. On one hand, Simon Peter is giving his bona fides. He’s showing them he knows the writings, the teachings, the words passed down. It’s more than that, though. He’s reminding them of what they know. They know these writings, these teachings, these words passed down to them. He reminds them of what these words of strength and comfort have meant in uncertain times before.
This is a prophecy fulfilled. Now, in a pivotal moment of change and experiencing God in a new way, Simon Peter says remember.
A Few Good Men is a memorable movie full of figuring out who remembers what. Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is working over Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) to get to the bottom of what really happened. Two Marines are accused of killing another Marine, but Kaffee is certain Jessup knows more than he’s letting on, that he may even ultimately be responsible for issuing the order that led to this unfortunate death. Jessup stonewalls him. The only way Kaffee will get to the truth is to get under Jessup’s skin.
So he does. Using his own words against him, Kaffee gets Jessup worked up. In this part of his testimony, you can see him start to lose his cool. Kaffee remembers what he said and has found a crack in the wall. He’s reminding him of what he said, something with contradiction, and this is the turning point in the trial. While the scene obviously goes on, when Kaffee asks, “Then why the two orders? …Colonel?!” we see Jessup at a loss for words for the first time.
These are prophetic words coming back to haunt him. In a pivotal moment of change, Kaffee says remember.
This scene from Acts has much more quotable sections, as does A Few Good Men. For Acts, these quotations from the Older Testament or Hebrew Bible are often skipped over in a worship service in favor of the parts before or after it. Likewise for A Few Good Men, it’s the quote-worthy moment almost immediately after this that is the most-memorable part of the film (“I want the truth!” “You can’t handle the truth!”). But both scenes are enhanced by these respective moments. You don’t get the whole picture without them. So don’t skip them, but remember them.
When have you seen the past inform the present in your life? When did something you said before turn out to be true later? Or, did the words come back to haunt you? When you reflect back on your most-vivid memories, what are the parts that get skipped and can you remember them?
A Word of Encouragement
Thanks, everyone, and I hope you have a wonderful day. May you find holy wisdom anywhere you look, whether in the scriptures or even at the movies. And to today’s preachers, may worship bring you closer to the holy as you do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in the name of God. God’s peace and good movies to you!