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By Michael S. Goldberger
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WESTFIELD – MRNJOpen MRI of Westfield will sponsor its Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in front of their office on the corner of South and Central Avenues on Thursday, December 2, at 6: 30 p. m.
Carols will be performed by the Children’s and Adult Choir of Holy Trinity Roman
Catholic Church. Billy Ard, former New York Giants Super Bowl Hero and Senior Vice President of Paine Webber of Westfield, will light the tree in front of the building.
Monsignor Joseph Masiello, pastor of Holy Trinity, will provide the invocation. The musical director will be Rives Cassel.
The outdoor program will include Santa Claus and his gifts and light refreshments.
Westfield Mayor Thomas C. Jardim, the Town Council, members of the Rotary Club of Westfield and the Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce have been invited to attend. All members of the community are invited.
Mr. Ard graduated from Watchung High School and Wake Forest College before playing for the New York Giants. He was drafted in 1981 by the Giants and enjoyed an eightyear stint with the team, including the Super Bowl win in 1986.
Continuing his career with the Green Bay Packers for three years before retiring from football in 1992, Mr. Ard is currently a Senior Vice President for Paine Webber in Westfield.
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NEWARK – The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) and the NJSO Community Chorus will present A Gospel Christmas on Friday, December 3, at 8 p. m. at the War Memorial in Trenton and Sunday, December 5, at 7: 30 p. m.
in Prudential Hall at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark.
The NJSO, under the baton of conductor William Henry Curry, and Chorus, prepared by choral conductor J. Donald Dumpson, will perform “How Majestic Thy Name,” “Center of My Joy,” “Total Praise,” “Silent Night,” and “Joyful Night.”
The program will also include the “Hallelujah Chorus” from the Soulful Messiah. Soprano Priscilla Baskerville will be the featured soloist.
Tickets to these performances are $38, $32, $24, $15 and $10. For ticket information, please call the NJSO Ticket Office at (800) ALLEGRO or (800) 2553476 from 11 a. m. to 5 p. m., Monday to Saturday.
Cheri Rogosky for The Westfield Leader and The Times
JAMMIN’ WITH THE BISHOP... Bob Miller of Westfield recently jammed with the “Bishop of Jazz,” pianist Rio Clemente. During the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Miller has collaborated and freelanced with Mr. Clemente, guitarist Joe Verrusio and The David Aaron and George Newell big bands, among others. Mr. Miller has been a professional musician for over 44 years.
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WESTFIELD — Santa Claus will arrive in Westfield and the annual tree lighting will be held on Sunday, November 28, at 5 p. m., at the North Avenue Train Station.
The Westfield Community Band will perform holiday tunes. The Girl Scouts will collect new mittens, gloves, hats, scarves and socks for the needy as part of their “Mitten Tree Project.”
The United Methodist Youth Fellowship will serve hot cocoa and collect nonperishable foods and canned goods for the needy.
Mayor Thomas C. Jardim will welcome the attendees and officially light the tree with Santa to
mark the beginning of the holiday season.
Santa will arrive on a Westfield fire truck, greet each of the children and give them candy canes, courtesy of Drug Fair. The community is invited to attend this event, which is cosponsored by the Westfield
Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Westfield Corporation and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, with the cooperation of the Westfield Public Works, Fire and Police Departments.
Dogma Original As Sin
Emerging from Dogma, writerdirector Kevin Smith’s religious fantasy about two fallen angels who seek to reenter Heaven via an obscure loophole, you feel like you deserve at least a bachelor’s degree in Catholic doctrine, albeit earned at a university with a very aberrant view of that denomination.
The outrageous and often sidesplitting catechism contained in Smith’s filmic temple of learning is anything but that old time religion. Yet to label this imaginative exercise in hypothetical theology as heresy would be to completely miss the point — to overlook the zany filmmaker’s surprisingly firm commitment to the notion of a deity.
So let’s just say the director is exercising free will to conjure a belief system which tickles his fancy more than the orthodox fire and brimstone of his youth. It’s God with a sense of humor. Post Hippie, designer label, politically correct Catholicism. And it all stays comically inventive until about the threequarter mark, when Mr. Smith’s outlandish revampings get bogged in more liturgy than Dogma’s
general level of intelligence can handle. Happily, a fine cast almost always manages to pull the film past its more languid moments.
Playing the wily immortals in question are Ben Affleck as the easygoing Bartleby and Matt Damon as Loki, the former angel of death who nostalgically recalls his legendary reigns of terror. Alas, that was before he fell from grace. But, per the chief wrinkle of
Dogma’s plot, hope springs eternal, in a matter of speaking.
It all revolves around a planned rededication of a cathedral in Red Bank, by the entrepreneurial Cardinal Glick (George Carlin). Meant to symbolize the Catholic Church’s revitalized direction (for one thing, the martyred Jesus is being replaced with an upbeat “Buddy Christ”), the much touted event will set the stage for the aforementioned loophole to be exploited.
Bartleby and Loki need only pass under the church arches at the right moment.
Problem is — now follow this as the premise devilishly turns itself inside out — if the fallen angels can return to paradise, then it means that the God that banished them in the first place is fallible. What kind of God would that be? Thus it would follow that the whole idea of creation must come undone. Kaput. Finis. In other words, the apocalypse.
Well, the deity isn’t very happy with the prospect of that happening.
Nope, She (uh huh, She, envisioned with whimsically ethereal presence by Alanis Morissette) doesn’t like it a bit. Hence Metatron, the voice of God excellently portrayed by a tartly droll Alan Rickman, is dispatched Earthward to head the scheming seraphim off at the pass. He in turn solicits the service of mere mortal Bethany (Linda Fiorentino), herself a sort of fallen angel.
Divorced and working in an abortion clinic, the pretty gal was rendered barren some years ago by an undiagnosed illness. She has since honed cynicism to a fine art, and is understandably hesitant to take Metatron’s assignment.
“I think God is dead,” opines Bethany. “The sign of a true Catholic,” replies Metatron. But wait. The Heavensent news is that she is the last descendant of Christ. Anyway, it’s just the revelation spiritually starved Bethany needs to finally accept the universesaving commission. The question is, how will she know what to do?
Have no fear. In the best tradition of motion picture fantasy, Bethany will be guided by two prophets. And a stranger pair of diviners you have never met. Kevin Smith fans will be gratified. Harking back to the tradition of nittygritty losers he so lovingly fashioned in his earlier works (Clerks,
Chasing Amy), the Jerseybred director summons the perpetually propositioning Jay (Jason Mewes) and the stoically enigmatic Silent Bob (Smith again playing his alter ego) to portray the unwitting seers.
Lewd to the point of utter absurdity, Jay’s Gatling gun verbalizations of his basest desires play a comical counterpoint to the story’s more serious doings. The consummate jointtoking slacker, foulmouthed Jay assures the film its Rrating. Trying to figure out the deal on Silent Bob, Smith’s Jersey shore version of Harpo, is an entertainment unto itself.
Allying with this dubious duo after they save her from a band of hockey stickwielding ruffians (quite fortuitously, the prophets were just hanging out in front of the abortion clinic, figuring it was a good place to pick up girls), the pilgrimage to save humanity begins.
Along the way, they acquire a fourth crusader when Chris Rock as Rufus, the unknown 13th apostle, literally plummets from the sky.
Explaining his heretofore unacknowledged status, exclamatory Rufus informs that being black has kept him from his deserved prominence. Also figuring in the glory brigade is sexy Salma Hayek as Serendipity, a muse now making her living as a gogo girl in a dingy gin mill, and the aforementioned Metatron who pops in and out as the need for divine inspiration dictates.
A nefarious cast of assorted demons and demigods conjoin to see that
Bethany and company are unsuccessful in their mission, proving that even in the afterlife you can’t get away from office politics. And after much pontificating by all parties concerned and several lightning bolt reminders that special effects have their actual origins in the Bible, everything eventually culminates in a showdown outside the church; humankind’s survival hangs in the balance.
Mixing and matching his favorite notions from Western religious philosophy with a dollop of Eastern concepts, Mr. Smith seizes this opportunity to play creator, designing his very own pantheon of deities and ecclesiastical rules the way a child lords it over a shoe box full of toy soldiers.
But while thus satirizing Catholicism and organized religion in general, yet assuring us that he is quite pious on his own terms, he can’t help but divulge his awe of the very doctrines he takes to task. And although the director uses
Dogma to assert his iconoclastic reinterpretations, he seems anxious to wow us with the vast amount of knowledge he is hereby rejecting.
The entire exercise is impressive — to a point. The writerdirector’s comparison of beliefs and ideas (beliefs are rigid; ideas allow for change) is truly inspired. But Smith humorously reminds of the very bright student who tries to vaunt his intelligence by using one too many big words.
And though his particular brand of intelligent irreverence is the best to grace the silver screen since the late 1960s, it would be wise to spread the heavier notions across several films. Here, the competing theological theories begin to resemble a football pileup.
Working in realms reminiscent of the offbeat speculations one might otherwise see in a Mel Brooks film or a Monty Python project, Mr. Smith’s work is best when it espouses his own trademarked lunacy. And save for the braggadocio religioso, Dogma hilariously keeps the faith.
* * * * *
Dogma, rated R, is a Lions Gate Films release directed by Kevin Smith and stars Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Linda Fiorentino. Running time: 130 minutes.
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WESTFIELD — First Night Westfield 2000, sponsored by the Westfield Y, the Westfield Foundation and the Town of Westfield, will ring in the new century with a
festive array of New Year’s Eve activities on
Friday, December 31. The event is a drugand alcoholfree celebration which
p r o v i d e s entertainment for people of all ages. Interested individuals are invited to purchase a special First Night Westfield 2000 button, which will serve as admission to all events.
Participants will be able to choose from among a variety of entertainment venues around the town.
The planned itinerary includes acts such as the Vidbell Circus, a fullscale circus for the whole family; the Madcap Mutts, a dog act; the Peter Spink Group, a folk rock ensemble; the Westfield Symphony Orchestra and the Happy Medium Barbershop Quartet. The evening will culminate with a special finale planned for the millennium.
Country and square dancing with the Fiddlestix Dancers will also be available, along with karaoke at the Westfield Fire House, mural painting and a singalong.
Participants will also have the opportunity to contribute to a First
Night 2000 scrapbook that will commemorate the evening.
First Night Westfield will provide heated trolley service all evening to the various venues around town. The route will be marked on the evening’s program.
Volunteers are sought to man the various sites around town where First Night activities will take place. Individuals who wish to work twoto threehour slots between 6: 45 and 11: 45 p. m. may call the First Night hotline at (908) 5182983. Assignments will be made by the First Night volunteer committee.
All volunteers will receive a First Night Westfield Tshirt, which will entitle them to entry into all
other venues when they are
not working. Ve n u e
choices are limited, so
interested individuals are urged to c o n t a c t the committee as soon as possible. Buttons will become available for purchase on Wednesday, December 1. The price is $10 per button through Thursday, December 30, and $12 per button on New Year’s Eve.
For more information, please call the First Night Westfield hotline after Tuesday, November 30, for convenient locations to purchase buttons.
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Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)