Sunday Matinee #7 Sicario
Plus a poll about Robert De Niro and the Oscars.
Welcome to R-Rated Movie Club, and thanks for being a subscriber! I can’t thank you enough for being here. Like other polls, today’s is open for one week and then we’ll look at results in two weeks. Please be sure to take it ASAP and be part of the discussion. Thanks, and here it is…
Audience Reaction Poll
The next Feature Presentation is on Ronin, a great Robert De Niro film. Thing is, there are lots of great Robert De Niro films. They aren’t all rated R, but many are, and our poll this hour is about them, y’ar. Okay, that’s more than enough R sounds.
Robert De Niro has been nominated for an acting Oscar 7 times and won twice (he was also nominated for an Oscar as one of the producers of 2019’s The Irishman). He won Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sup) for playing a young Vito Corleone in 1974’s The Godfather Part II and then Best Actor in a Leading Role (Lead) for playing boxer Jake La Motta 1980’s Raging Bull.
Here are the other five movies when De Niro was nominated for an acting Oscar. They aren’t all rated R, but they’re all really good. The year the movie came out and the type of role are in parenthesis, followed by who did win and for what movie:
Taxi Driver (1976, Best Lead Actor) / Peter Finch (Network)
The Deer Hunter (1978, Best Lead Actor) / Jon Voight (Coming Home)
Awakenings (1990, Best Lead Actor) / Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune)
Cape Fear (1991, Best Lead Actor) / Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs)
Silver Linings Playbook (2013, Best Supporting Actor) / Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Taking De Niro’s performances into consideration, and taking into account who won those five occasions, let’s see if we would award De Niro one more Oscar. Dear Reader…
The poll closes in one week, so vote today! We’ll talk about the poll results right here in two weeks, and thank you.
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Quotes With Notes
Full Text: Matthew 4:1-11 (Revised Common Lectionary)
1st Sunday in Lent (February 26, 2023)
Sign up for a free course at EnterTheBible.org to learn more.
Context: In the previous chapter, Jesus was baptized and he has one thing to do before he begins his mission. He goes out into the desert, confronts temptation, and emerges with his mission statement: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil.
Sicario (2015) | Lionsgate, Black Label Media, Thunder Road Pictures
Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya, Victor Garber
Written by Taylor Sheridan | Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Context: FBI Special Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) has been assigned to a joint task force to take down a drug cartel. The team is led by a CIA operative, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and has a deadly and mysterious agent on the team, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro). While Special Agent Macer is a by-the-book law operative, Graver and Gillick have their own ways. During an illegal gun battle at the US/Mexico border with many deaths, Macer confronts Graver about what just happened, culminating in this moment. (38:00-39:20)
Kate Macer: What am I doing here?!
Matt Graver: What you're doing here is you're giving us the opportunity to shake the tree and create chaos. That's what this is! In the meantime, just sponge everything up you see. Learn! That's why you're here.
We do better with mystery on some things than others. Anticipating what might be inside that wrapping paper or in store for you on the last page of the book, that can be a healthy mystery and worth waiting for without peeking at all. But some mysteries can be more painstaking. Hitting refresh for an email to finally come through, taking a seat in the physician’s office to receive a diagnosis. And some mystery is simply part of life, a long-term mystery that keeps unfolding. What personality will this child grow up to have, where will I end up living in twenty years? Depending on the item, the person, and even how the person feels about the item on that particular day, we can sit with mystery with calm or with chaos.
Jesus appears quite calm as he’s tempted by the mysteries of what would happen if he gave in to them. He has scriptural retorts at the ready, as though he’d been preparing a lifetime for this moment. He knows what he’s doing there and what to do about it. We don’t see his thought process or any signs of inner turmoil, which I think interesting given that we witness him pray and wonder out loud if this cup might be passed from his lips before he is arrested. Here, he’s steady, even as he’s famished. I don’t think this scripture is compelling us to be calm in the face of all mystery; that seems a pipe dream. Perhaps it does speak something to endurance, to what a combination of study and fortitude can do for us in those challenging moments when mystery’s truths are revealed.
I’ve tried to prepare for these sorts of moments in my life to varying effect. Sometimes, it goes as I thought it would, other times it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s within my control, more often it’s not, and even that which is within my control is only a fraction of the situation unfolding around me. A raft of calm in a sea of chaos can be enough hope to cling to, a deep breath before diving in. This scene takes place after Jesus is baptized, emerging from the waters clean and renewed and prepared. That can make all the difference.
Sicario is not an easy watch. The first time I saw it was on a long flight and I’m glad the person sitting next to me went from napping to reading with headphones because it’s pretty gruesome (I was prepared to shut it off, if necessary). Much of the film, we either learn information right alongside Special Agent Kate Macer or we take her place while she’s off screen, captive to the chaos unfolding around us (I’m thinking of the dinner table scene here, where we as viewers likely feel much as Kate would if she were present in this scene).
Kate wants to do things the right way. She learns quickly her new partners in law enforcement do things their way (Graver even says, “This is the future!”). She wasn’t prepare for any of this. She was led to the joint task force under what she suspects more and more were false pretenses and her pull to do things legally and well are at odds with the chaos around her. Nothing about Special Agent Macer’s work is calm, but doing things the right way has led her through the desert more than once. As the film goes on and as the task force digs deeper with more questionable tactics, Kate resists the temptation to become one of them. It’s as if her life now has a single question, “What am I doing here?”! and she has to constantly remind herself of the kind of person she is. The situations she’s put in don’t make it easy to resist that pull, and that tension is at the heart of the film.
What temptations are you prepared to resist? Which are harder for you, and why? What mysteries do you believe you can face with calm? What mysteries will be hard no matter how “ready” you are for them? May God be with you when temptation rears its ugly head, and may you be filled with the Holy Spirit in the mysterious desert where life and comes at us in ways that leave us with more questions than answers.
A Word of Encouragement
That does it for this week, Dear Reader, we’ll see you next time. May you be open to the wonder that is around you and may it inspire you to live with generosity and kindness. And to today’s preachers, may gathering for worship with your community encourage you in your own personal faith journey. See you at the movies.
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