Shutter Island

I saw this film yesterday and it haunts me still, not because it is a psychological thriller but because of how it questions the essence of what it is to be human and who has the power to define humanity and the human condition.

A friend suggested that I look at it through the lens of Flannery O’Connor. I am still pondering this but after seeing the film, I think it is a valid and rich approach. Watch this space.

Bl. James Alberione, founder of the Daughters of St. Paul, on cinema

Bl. James Alberione (1884-1971) believed in the power of the media to communicate God's Word and a culture of peace

“We need to put down the scissors of censorship and pick up the camera” because “the power of the cinema surpasses that of the school, the pulpit, and the press and always produces greater results.”

These are the words of Blessed James Alberione, who initiated his apostolate of the cinema and film activity on March 18, 1938.

Sr. Rose’s Oscar Picks 2010

Director Kathryn Bigelow

The Oscars 2010: Movies that Connect Us

Forty-two feature films have been nominated in a variety of categories for the  82nd Academy Awards  that will take place at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on March 7.  In a throw back to the 1930’s and 1940’s, when anywhere between eight and twelve films were nominated for Best Picture, the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) decided in 2009 to expand the category to ten feature films so that additional deserving films might be considered.  For a film journalist this provides a banquet of stories to explore but makes it nearly impossible to predict a winner.

Human connection, and therefore human dignity and justice, is a theme that runs through many of the films nominated.  Using this as a lens, here are my views on some of the films that I have seen of the twenty-nine nominated as worthy of an Oscar. I would pray to the patron saint of cinema that those films that tell the truth about humanity and promote human dignity through beauty, truth, and goodness, will win, but, alas, although there are patron saints of television (St. Clare of Assisi) and telecommunications (St. Gabriel the Archangel) the press (St. Paul and St. Francis de Sales), and even actors (St. Genesius) there is no patron saint of the movies. Yet.

Performance by actor in a leading role

This is a tough call. Jeff Bridges as the boozy country singer who has seen better days in Crazy Heart, is the sentimental favorite.  I would be happy if he wins, though he should have been nominated and won several times before this (Seabiscuit; The Big Lebowski). George Clooney is so believable in Up in the Air, Colin Firth and Morgan Freeman are both excellent. But my vote goes to Jeremy Renner for his strong, nuanced performance as the adrenalin soaked leader of a courageous Army team that disposes of roadside bombs in The Hurt Locker. Each of these films embody some aspect of human experience that promotes empathy, the basic building block of a man’s character.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

I think that Christoph Waltz as the nefarious and evil Nazi officer from Inglorious Basterds will win but Christopher Plummer as the Tolstoy, caught in a conflict between marriage and family and his ideals about Christian discipleship, performs brilliantly in The Last Station. I didn’t see The Messenger and Matt Damon’s part in Invictus was too slight (he should have been nominated for Best Actor for his role in The Informant instead.) I didn’t care for the film version of The Lovely Bones so despite Stanley Tucci’s believable creepy character, he doesn’t get my vote.

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Each of the films for which these actresses have been nominated is about being truly human. I have heard some film critics say that Sandra Bullock should not have been nominated for her role as the crusading mom who took in a homeless young man in the box office delight The Blind Side. I disagree. Sandra Bullock is a great actress and gave a crowd-pleasing performance. She made us want to stand up and cheer (and hopefully do some good works, too.) Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia is extremely entertaining and gives a flawless impersonation of the famed television chef. Then just when I think Meryl Streep is the best actress of this generation, here comes Helen Mirren again. She plays Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station, puts everyone on notice that marriage is sacred and no one can interfere – and you believe her.  Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire could win easily in her tragic yet hopeful role as an abused teen. I would be surprised if Carey Mulligan in As Education wins because I don’t think enough people saw her excellent performance. Each of the actresses in this category deserves to win. My vote goes to Gabourey Sidibe in Precious, but I think this is Sandra Bullock’s year and I can live with that.

Performance by an Actress in a supporting role

I like Penelope Cruz but I don’t think she should have gotten an Oscar last year for Vicky Christina Barcelona and I don’t think she should get one for her role in Nine.  Marion Cotillard as the trophy wife was sadly overlooked. Mo’Nique, as the cruel and emotionally shipwrecked mother in Precious was scary and gave a riveting, if not repelling, performance. The thing about cinema is that it lets us experience for a couple of hours what it might be like to be someone else. What does a Christian, a person of good will, do after experiencing a film like Precious? Someone (Mother Teresa? A newspaper man?) once said that it was her job to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. This is the role of films like Precious.

Best animated film of the year

I love the quirky humor of The Fantastic Mr. Fox and the depth of feeling in Up, but in such a worthy category, on principle I would be happy to see The Princess and the Frog or Coraline win because the films are good and protagonists are girls.  There are so few heroines in animation that I like to celebrate them when I can.  All of the stories in these films are about being connected in the family (or animal version of it) or the community. (I didn’t see The Secret of Kells.)

Achievement in directing

Any of these five directors: James Cameron (Avatar), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds), Lee Daniels (Precious) and Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) could walk away with the Oscar. My vote goes to Kathryn Bigelow for her intelligence, heart, and artistic restraint that she brought to The Hurt Locker.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Out of the ten films nominated, I think this may come down to The Hurt Locker or Avatar. In the interest of full disclosure I admit that I have been a fan of The Hurt Locker since September 2008 when I was president of the Catholic Jury at the Venice Film Festival and we gave it the SIGNIS Award.  It was the best film in competition at Venice that year.  My vote goes to The Hurt Locker, but anything can happen.

Avatar is a brilliant technological over-achievement that tells a story about humanity and morality; an imaginary landscape on which Cameron has painted an epic. The Hurt Locker gazes intently into the reality of a few good men who do what they do to save others; it is a newsreel about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, grittier than anything the evening news can deliver. It is up close and personal and we realize, we know what is going on in our name.  The irony here would be if one of the other eight films in this category wins. Regardless, each of these ten films is a picture of the human story worthy of critical analysis as well as contemplation.

Up in the Air resonates with so many people who have lost their jobs and as the George Clooney character learns empathy for the people he fires, so do we.  He doesn’t change a lot, but he learns something about his own humanity.

A Serious Man is the story of the Old Testament Job, and about just as enjoyable. It is an interesting nomination but I doubt it will win, despite being made by two of the best filmmakers out there, Joel and Ethan Coen.

Inglorious Basterds is a clever, if not brilliant, example of expressionist filmmaking from Quentin Tarantino. He takes what is old and makes something new. He is the master of violence as an art form because he distorts to great effect.

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire is a contender in this category, and I would be content if it wins. But what makes it such a memorable film may be what keeps it from winning: the darkness of the humanity portrayed may overcome the light that wins in the end.

Up has so many dimensions that recommend it as a winning film because it is filled with universal human themes. I think you can find almost every Beatitude expressed in this animated picture.  The art direction and the understanding of the power of image (the silent sequence is amazing) exhibit a profound grasp of cinema as art.

District 9 surprised me. This science fiction drama that achieved so much with so little deserves the “shoe string” award.  Science fiction always asks us to reflect on what it means to be truly human, and District 9, recalling the history of South Africa and other global situations where racism divides, does just that.

The Blind Side –  If the Oscars had an audience award, this film would win.

Best documentary feature

It’s easy. This year there should be a tie between Food, Inc. and The Cove. Food, Inc. because the lives of the human race will depend on what audiences do with the information in this film. It is immoral to patent life, yet that is what a U.S Supreme Court decision has allowed and a multinational corporation has done it. The Cove is about the capture of dolphins for entertainment and the inhumane slaughter of dolphins for mercury-tainted food. Neither of these films is easy on the digestive track, but they are a call to action because they are about the common good of the human race over profit.

Best Original Screenplay

Inglorious Basterds is richly scripted and a very strong contender but has an over-done quality too it. Once again my vote is for the sparse and direct writing of The Hurt Locker (and I think it will win for sound editing, too).  Up’s heartfelt story of a curmudgeon and a young boy who wants “to help” might win and uplift us all.

Check Sr. Rose’s blog at for more Oscar commentary.

CIMA Awards Press Release

The CIMA statue Yugoslav born artist VASA

For immediate release, please

Press Contacts:  Jennifer Mulhall / 323.575.3494

Frank Tobin / 323.661.3720

Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) 17th Annual Awards

honor Fox Television’s “Glee” and The Hurt Locker”

Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP receives

CIMA Board of Directors Award

Golden Globe Award-winner Samantha Eggar hosts

Beverly Hills Hotel event

(Los Angeles, CA, February 28, 2010 –  The Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) 17th Annual Mass and Awards Brunch on Sunday, February 28 honored the Fox Television series “Glee” and the feature film “The Hurt Locker” with film reviewer and veteran Venice Film Festival Catholic jury member Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP receiving the CIMA 2010 Board of Directors Award.  The celebration, which returned for a second year to the Crystal Ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA, began with a Mass at 10 AM, presided over by His Eminence, Cardinal Roger Mahony with a brunch and awards ceremony afterwards, according to CIMA President Jane Abbott. Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe and Cannes’ Palm d’Or-winning actress Samantha Eggar (“The Collector”) was special guest host.  Patricia Boren and John Kelly served as producer and co-chairs of the event.  John and Gloria Gebbia served as honorary co-chairs.

The CIMA Awards were created in 1992 by former DGA President Jack Shea and other prominent Catholics in the entertainment industry. Their purpose is “To promote and applaud individuals, films and TV programs that uplift the spirit and help us better understand what it is to be part of the human family.”

The CIMA 2010 Film Award was presented to “The Hurt Locker” directed by 2010 Oscar nominee and DGA/PGA/BAFTA Award-winner Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal (2010 Oscar and WGA nominee), who was embedded with an actual EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) bomb squad. One of the most critically-acclaimed films of 2009, “The Hurt Locker,” filmed in Jordan, follows the tour of a U.S. Army EOD team (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and …

Brian Geraghty) as they defuse bombs, deal with the threat of insurgency and the growing tensions which develop among their unit. Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight,” “The Nativity”) presented the 2010 CIMA Film Award to “Hurt Locker” editors Bob Murawski and Chris Innis who represented Ms. Bigelow, who was indisposed, and who read her acceptance speech:

“I am brokenhearted that I am not able to be there in person today to accept this phenomenal award from Catholics in the Media Associates (CIMA).  This community holds a truly special place in my heart as the very first award ‘The Hurt Locker’ received was the Signis Award at the Venice Film Festival in 2008.   It was via the Signis Award that I met the remarkable Sr. Rose Pacatte.  Sr. Rose recognized the humanity in the film and the message of the futility of war and value of life. I am delighted with the recognition the film has been able to bring to such a difficult situation and to the men and women who put their lives at risk every day so that others can be safe. Thank you to Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) for your recognition and support.  It means so much to me.  Also my sincerest congratulations to Sr. Rose for her award today!  Her tenacity, vitality and joy of life make her a national treasure.  Congratulations, Sr. Rose.”

According to CIMA 2010 Awards co-chairs Patricia Boren and John Kelly, “CIMA chose to honor ‘The Hurt Locker’ because of its uncompromising approach to the Iraq war and its consequences seen through the experience of the bomb diffusion specialists for whom war becomes an addiction rather than a cause. The film depoliticizes the heroic work of the EOD specialists and lets the audience experience the human toll war takes on people and the intense psychological struggle of the soldiers to find meaning in life beyond the dangerous work they do.”

Past CIMA Award feature films include: “Doubt;” “In the Valley of Elah;” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe;” “Hotel Rwanda;” “The Passion of the Christ;” “Seabiscuit;” “Dead Man Walking;” “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan,” among many others.

The 2010 CIMA Television Award was presented to the Fox Television series “Glee,” which recently was honored as “Favorite New TV Comedy” at the 36th Annual People’s Choice Awards and as “Best TV Series – Musical or Comedy” by the 2010 Golden Globe Awards.  Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, “Glee” focuses on a high school Spanish teacher who becomes director of a glee club at a fictional Midwest high school and who hopes to restore it to its former glory.  “Glee” cast member Iqbal Theba (“Glee’s “Principal Figgins”) made the 2010 CIMA TV Award presentation to Mr. Brennan and “Glee” Producer Alexis Martin.

CIMA selected “Glee” because of its beautiful and kind heart,” said long-time CIMA member and screenwriter Brian Oppenheimer. “These talented actors play students who reflect the diversity of our schools today and the many challenges facing young people. The show demonstrates how the arts integrate life and learning in a joyful way, tinged with humor and sometimes pathos, as kids and teachers try to figure out the best choices to make in life.”

Past CIMA Television Award recipients include: “Without A Trace;” “Ugly Betty;” “Cold Case;” “Medium;” “Joan of Arcadia;” “The West Wing;” Judging Amy;” “Homicide – Life on the Streets;” “The Practice” and “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” among many others.

The 2010 CIMA Board of Directors Award was presented to Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, MEd Media Studies, Director, Pauline Center for Media Studies (PCMS) and media literacy education specialist, film and television journalist and author. Sr. Rose has been involved in media since she entered the Daughters of St. Paul more than 40 years ago, from publishing to filmmaking. She has served on ecumenical and Catholic juries at the Venice, Locarno, and Berlin Film Festivals. In 2008 she was the president of the SIGNIS (Catholic) jury at Venice. She also served on the jury for short films at the Newport Beach Film Festival in 2006. Since 2000, Sr. Rose has been co-director of the National Film Retreat and has taught film and spirituality courses at LMU, Saddleback College, and the University of Dayton.

CIMA President Jane Abbott notes: “The CIMA Board of Directors honors Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP for her leadership role in the world of media literacy and for her passionate advocacy of media projects which illuminate the complexities and challenges of the human condition. CIMA also cites Sr. Rose’s significant contributions as an author, columnist, film reviewer and presenter and her tireless efforts as a Catholic panelist on some of the world’s most prestigious film festival juries, including Toronto, Venice and Berlin.”

Presenting the CIMA Board of Directors Award to Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP is Producer/Director Tom Shadyac (“Bruce Almighty,” “Patch Adams,” Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and the television series “8 Simple Rules.” Past CIMA Board of Directors Award recipients include the late Fr. Ellwood “Bud” Kieser, CSP and the television series “7th Heaven.”

Academy Award nominee, Golden Globe Award and Cannes’ Palm d’Or winner Samantha Eggar hosted the 2010 CIMA Award ceremonies. Following her stage debut opposite Albert Finney in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Eggar was cast in a host of British films before being handpicked by director William Wyler for “The Collector,” which won her an Oscar nomination, international acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival with the Palm d’Or Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.  Eggar starred opposite Cary Grant in “Walk Don’t Run,” opposite Rex Harrison and Anthony Newley in “Dr. Doolittle” and opposite Sean Connery and Richard Harris in “The Molly Maguires,” among many other memorable film and television appearances.


CIMA was formed in 1992 by working professionals in the entertainment industry to help them relate their faith to their professional lives.  Through the annual awards, CIMA recognizes films, television programs and other entertainment forms that lift the spirit and help us better understand what it is to be part of the human family.  Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) is a California non-profit public benefit corporation.

Director Catherine Hardwicke presented the CIMA award for The Hurt Locker to editors Bob Murawski and Chris Innis

Alexis Martin Woodall and Ian Brennan are presented with the CIMA Award for GLEE by (the principal!) Iqbad Theba.

Oscar nominee Samantha Eggar was the host for the event; here she is with Cardinal Mahony who celebrated the Mass

The meaning of the CIMA statue

Each CIMA Award is an original, signed abstract expressionist work in laminated acrylic by the Yugoslav born artist, Vasa Mihich. Naturalized an American citizen in 1967, Vasa is a Professor of Art at the University of California at Los Angeles and is internationally recognized for his work. His artwork“affirmatively confronts the spiritual and physical surroundings from which it arises, and is seeking its place.”

This piece was chosen to symbolize the ideals of CIMA because its obliquely ascending, three-sided, luminous prism represents our human and imperfect reach to capture the Light of the Trinity in illuminating our work. In containing the same elements of beauty of this sculptural piece, we honor our colleagues’ works as “vehicles of light” and express our gratitude to them for presenting the complex colors of the human condition.

CIMA Awards: Board of Directors Award – Sr. Rose’s remarks

I am so very grateful for this award. I was at the movies when Jane Abbott, the president of CIMA called me, twice, and I let it go to message because, well, I was at the movies, and when one is at the movies, one should be there. I called her back from Barnes and Noble’s after. Jane told me about the Board of Directors Award and I was very moved to be considered – and momentarily rendered speechless.  You really managed to surprise me.

Before I thank several people who brought me to this day, I would like to tell you that when we have Mass in our chapel in Culver City, at the prayer of the faithful I almost always pray out loud for all those who work in the entertainment and information communications media industries, that they may promote the dignity of the human person in all the stories they tell.

By honoring human dignity all of us can contribute to making the world a better place because stories touch the heart. I believe that film and television can reveal God who makes us understand and accept our humanity and the community, the connectedness, of humankind through the grace of art that transcends the darkness. The light from the screen, any media screen, lets us see the faces of our brothers and sisters and connect to them and respond as authentic human beings and disciples. In one another, we find God.

I would like to thank my sister Emilie and brother-in-law Paul for being here, happy birthday to both of you! Who represent my very large family. I would like to thank my religious community of the Daughters of St. Paul of the last 43 years, keeping it real, who keep me real, my provincial Sr Margaret Sato is here from Boston.

I want to acknowledge two nuns who are present here who have been generous mentors to me over the last 20 years, Sr Elizabeth Thoman who introduced me to media literacy education and Sr Gretchen Hailer who wrote about it with me (and taught me how to begin each writing day with some new forms of computer Solitaire.)

Thank you, to Cardinal Mahony, who offers me and my community the opportunity to serve the people of God in this absolutely “splendid” archdiocese of Los Angeles through not only our book and media center but the Pauline Center for Media Studies – bringing media literacy education to catechesis and mission!

Thank you to Tom Shadyac, my friends, Marjiana of the International Press Academy, and terrific colleagues at CIMA who invited me to join them on this great adventure, the City of Angels Film Festival, Open Call, Catholic Communicators of Southern California, The Tidings…. And everyone in this large circle of friends, present and those present in spirit.