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Ruminations Episode VI: Urbs Aeterna

Ruminations is back with its most historical episode yet! In Episode VI, Chris and Steve recount their April trip to Rome, the Eternal City, highlighting the history and splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica, the glory witnessing the Capitoline Wolf and Augustus of Prima Porta statues in person, an unexpected visit to an actual medieval castle, and more. This episode is a bit on the long side, folks–if you make it through the first 45 minutes, you’ll at least be rewarded by two superb anecdotes that practically had the hosts in tears!

Stick around until the end and check out our show notes full of historical tidbits, book recommendations, and lots of pictures!

Episode VI Show Notes

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Ruminations Episode VI Show Notes

Scavi Tour

  • The exclusive Scavi tour must be booked months in advance because it fills up very quickly–only 250 people go through the necropolis under St. Peter’s each day. Some additional tips on how to snare tickets can be found here.
  • The Fisherman’s Tomb: The True Story of the Vatican’s Secret Search (2018) by John O’Neill is a breezy read on the secret excavations that occurred under the Vatican in the 1940s, a project that was entirely financed by a Texas oil baron!
  • A brief overview of the Scavi was featured as the June 2019 cover story of the Knights of Columbus’ Columbia magazine.
  • It appears chief archaeologist (and identifier of Peter’s bones) Margherita Guarducci’s entire 1960 book The Tomb of St. Peter can be found online.
  • St. Peter’s remains were first displayed publicly by Pope Francis in November of 2013.
  • Check out the Society of Saint Pius X and Illume for more information about the tomb and necropolis. These diagrams are helpful in picturing the layout of the necropolis and the placement of Peter’s grave.
  • Jesus without a beard? Here is Christ as Sol Invictus from Mausoleum M, also known as the Tomb of the Julii.

St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel

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Ruminations Episode V Show Notes

Game of Thrones (01:30-26:30): As we mentioned in the episode, the entire world has Game of Thrones Season 8 takes. Below are a few interesting columns, blogs, and podcasts we’ve come across since the finale aired:

  • Entertainment Weekly‘s recap podcast with Darren Franich and James Hibberd. Hibberd visited various sets and interviewed actors during filming so he knew many of the plot points that were to occur, yet he still wasn’t keen on its final product (as conveyed in his own finale recap).
  • Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone‘s equally unimpressed blog specifically focusing on Tyrion’s kingmaking
  • This amazing GLoP podcast in which guests Ross Douthat (New York Times) and Sonny Bunch (Washington Free Beacon Washington Post) join co-hosts John Podhoretz and Jonah Goldberg, and the normally level-headed Ross has a few, er, choice words to say about showrunners Benioff and Weiss.
  • Lastly, this AV Club essay by Myles McNutt takes a contrarian, positive take on the finale, noting its thematic consistencies. Worth a read, as much as we might not agree with his view of the final product.

Aladdin (26:30-39:30):

  • Flashback to Episode I and our ranking of the 57 Disney Animated Classics. Look at Number 1 on all 3 lists!
  • Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the “Speechless” writing team, on their new woke song for Jasmine
  • Cartoon Jafar sings “Prince Ali,” which was left entirely out of the new movie. Speaking of missing Jafar scenes from the 1992 original, wasn’t live action Jafar’s transformation into a giant cobra so cool to see on the big screen? Oh.

Knights of the Old Republic (39:30-42:30):

  • The news. Ugh. Here is the original trailer for the award-winning 2003 RPG. It plays automatically whenever you start up the original Xbox game, and I get chills every time. (The torture scene towards the end, which plays a major role in the plot, is very similar to this scene in The Force Awakens, and the only time my interest was piqued while watching Episode VII.)
  • There’s a new book about the making of the game!
  • This meme:

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (42:30-49:00):

  • Not really much to say about this one. Some news about its box office numbers, as it was more successful than the previous two movies in its opening weekend.

Avengers: Endgame (49:00-51:00):

  • This Half in the Bag review from the always-great Red Letter Media is comprehensive and sensible.
  • We were both annoyed by Fat Thor though we never mentioned it in the podcast. Apparently, Chris Hemsworth fought to keep him in the movie?

Featured Image credit:
Composite image/FLIPP

Ruminations Episode V: Disappointment

Everything is Terrible in Episode V of Ruminations! When writing about our last episode, I quoted T.S. Eliot since cruel, cruel April brought us the ending of two of our favorite franchises. Little did I know how cruel it would actually be! Another Eliot quote is appropriate now (this one the conclusion to The Hollow Men):

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

Whimper to its conclusion Game of Thrones did–and its lackluster finale takes up the full first half of our episode–but it wasn’t alone in its dullness. The live action Aladdin remake and the much-hyped John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum, released in back-to-back weekends, were also quite lame, to put it mildly. To top off this whirlwind of recent mediocrity, a bit of (potentially) soul-crushing Star Wars news also leaked this week. When will the suffering end?

Avenger: Endgame was pop culture’s only saving grace and we gladly left it out of our lamentations (until, ya know, the end of our episode, when we decided to actually talk about it. Oops?)

Listen and complain along with us! And, as always, SPOILERS!

Episode V Show Notes

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Ruminations Episode IV: Endgame of Thrones

For the fourth episode of the Ruminations Podcast, we discuss the long-awaited endings of our beloved Game of Thrones and The Avengers. (“April is the cruelest month,” as Eliot said.) We recorded hours before the premiere of GoT’s 8th season, but we spend more time talking about the past 7 seasons anyway, so it’s not outdated yet! (One of Chris’s predictions has already come true! Psst. It involves dragons.) For both our GoT and MCU discussions, SPOILERS GALORE!

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The maestro speaks: Ennio Morricone on life and music (via OUPblog)

I recently wrote a blog post on the legendary Ennio Morricone for my day job, quoting tidbits from the new book Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words and accompanying each excerpt with clips of some of the composer’s best-known cinematic cues:

Over his esteemed six decade career, Italian composer Ennio Morricone has scored hundreds of movies across numerous genres, most famously the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone. Many of his most iconic musical cues—to name just three, the coyote-like “wah-wah” of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the haunting harmonica from Once Upon a Time in the West, and the distinct oboe of The Mission—have transcended their films to cement their place in popular culture, referenced in cartoons and commercials, played at sporting events, and even performed by metal bands in concert. Additionally, today’s English-speaking audiences may be familiar with some lesser known pieces from Morricone’s early career in Italy due to their inclusion in recent Quentin Tarantino movies.

Please read the whole piece (and listen to the Spotify playlist) on the OUPblog.

(The views expressed on this website are the blogger’s and do not represent the views of his employer.)

    • – FLIPP

Ruminations Episode III Show Notes

Quo Vadis (1951)
– The opening scene of Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) entering Rome is one of the main inspirations for the opening of the Coen brothers’ 1950s Hollywood-set caper, Hail, Caesar!.
– Peter Ustinov’s Nero is one of cinema’s great villains, and one whose “genius” (to use his word) is immensely under-appreciated. As referenced in the podcast, Nero is all about the theatrics, composing while being pampered, “composing while he sings” at a party, and dramatically unveiling his plans for a new palatial complex, one that would replace much of Rome, leading to…
– The Great Fire of Rome (which also involves some imperial singing.)
– Christ speaks to St. Peter (Finlay Currie) on the road outside of Rome, saying through a child that he will be “crucified a second time” in Rome. Realizing what this means, Peter returns to the city to inspire the Christians about to be killed in the arena, ultimately leading to his own condemnation and crucifixion.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005) 
– The Crusades, which occurred over two centuries, can be difficult to follow. Here is a brief summary of all 9 Crusades, plus the “People’s” and “Children’s” Crusades.
– This article breaks down all the differences between the maligned theatrical cut and the 45-minutes-longer director’s cut.
– Harry Gregson-Williams’ incredible score is by far the best part of this movie. Here is all 3 hours of it.
– Godfrey (Liam Neeson) sardonically tells Balian (Orlando Bloom) and the Hospitaller (David Thewlis) that he once fought 2 days with an arrow through his testicle.
– Leprous King Baldwin’s face is finally revealed when Sibylla (Eva Green) mournfully looks on her dead brother’s corpse and removes his mask. The music playing over this scene is “Vide Cor Meum,” an aria composed by Patrick Cassidy for Ridley Scott’s earlier film Hannibal.
This speech by the Hospitaller destroys the aura of the film as it’s chock full of modern convictions about the dangers of zealous religious beliefs.
– After the Muslim army has taken Jerusalem, Saladin shows his respect for the Christians when he sees that a crucifix has been thrown to the floor. He respectfully picks it up and puts it back on a table, an act that had modern Middle Eastern filmgoers rising to their feet.
Game of Thrones‘ Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) appears at the film’s end as Richard the Lionheart. Here, Balian repeats the line “You…continue until they speak something else” regarding the way to the Holy Land.

The Young Pope (2016-2017)
– We debated the nature of Lenny Belardo’s flawed-but-holy character, which can be perfectly summed up by this line from Guardians of the Galaxy. For the sake of time (because the entire show can basically be posted here), below are a few clips to get a taste of Pius XIII and the humor of this glorious, insane series:
All Along the Watchtower
Ketchikan, Alaska!
The Pope’s snack
The Pope as Banksy
The kangaroo
LMFAO
Pius XIII enters–nay, is carried into–the Sistine Chapel
The Pope vs. the Prime Minister
The Africa speech and Halo
The Popes offer some advice

Honorable Mentions
Ben-Hur: We liked, but didn’t love, Ben-Hur, the 1959 Best Picture winner that also won 10 other Oscars including a Best Actor award for Charlton Heston. The rowing scenes are cool (Steve rowed in high school) and its famed chariot race lives up to its reputation–with one major caveat: we’d seen it all before in 1999’s Star War Episode I: The Phantom Menace. (George Lucas blatantly ripped it off for his podrace sequence, but as 7-year-olds, did we really know any better?) And, oh, look, it’s Peter from Quo Vadis, here playing Balthazar, one of the three wise men.
The Passion of the Christ: Mel Gibson’s magnum opus is bloodier than any movie version of Christ’s crucifixion that’s come before it and will probably come after it. Whatever you want to say about Gibson’s personal life, The Passion of the Christ is a profound piece of cinema; Jim Caviezal’s performance is a godsend (pun intended) and the movie was a roaring success despite its ultra-violence. For at least a decade, it was the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever, making over $600 million at the box office. Lastly, more movies should have characters speaking Aramaic and Latin.
The Passion of Joan of Arc: Steve watched the 24fps version of Carl Th. Dreyer’s 1928 masterpiece, which has French subtitles and is accompanied by Richard Einhorn’s 1994 oratorio, “Visions of Light.” Chris, on the other hand, watched the slower 20fps Danish version, which is accompanied by a more low-key piano score by Mie Yanashita that better fits Dreyer’s vision of the movie. This review compares the two versions. (Incredible fact: the long-lost Danish version was discovered in the closet of an abandoned mental hospital in Oslo, Norway in 1981.)
Rome Open City: There aren’t too many clips on YouTube, but here is one of the 1945 film’s most famous scenes, in which a woman is gunned down by Nazi soldiers.
Spotlight: 2015’s Best Picture winner is still (unfortunately) relevant. Trailer here.
Doubt: John Patrick Shanley’s 2008 adaptation of his own play has fantastic performances from 3 Oscar winners and also Amy Adams, all of whom were nominated for Academy Awards. This includes Viola Davis, who only appeared in a single scene (and it’s flippin’ great). Steve reviewed Doubt way, way back when he first started this blog, which can be found here. (Please be kind, it was his first ever review.)

Podcast Mentions
– In his ranting(s) about Pope Francis, Chris mentioned the Taylor Marshall Show, a superb podcast by Dr. Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopalian priest who converted to Catholicism and has 8 children. Dr. Marshall has several informative YouTube videos on the current crisis in the Catholic Church, all definitely worth watching.
– Steve mentioned the exponentially lower-brow SSEU Podcast, which initially started out as a podcast based on another podcast but has now morphed into a bunch of Twitter friends interviewing one another about movies, joking about stool samples, and reading poetry about gas station food. (Full disclosure: Steve appeared on Episode 8, The Cactus and the Giant, which also had some pretty good show notes.) Their last episode was a direct inspiration for this one.

Image credit:
Poster for Quo Vadis, 1951 / Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.