BRAVE and nine more reviews at “Sister Rose Goes to the Movies”

For reviews of BRAVE, Madagascar 3, MEN IN BLACK 3, The Avengers, CHIMPANZEE, Dark Shadows, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, Battleship, and THE LUCKY ONE click on Sister Rose Goes to the Movies.

Along the Way & The Golden Voice book reviews – on time for Fathers Day

By Sr. Rose Pacatte

A Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation
By Ted Williams (with Brett Witter)
Penguin, New York
$26 hard cover

Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and a Son
By Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez (with Hope Edelman)
Free Press, New York
$27 hard cover

Two books were released in May about what it means to be a man: a father, a son and a grandfather, too. Both are apologias more than memoirs and both have a strong faith dimension and links to Catholicism and Ohio — and addiction. The men in both books became fathers at a very young age. Their stories are extremely honest and reveal details that will surprise and inspire you, and some that may shock you as well. Both books have dual voices and are easy, swift reads that ask us to admit our humanity. They invite us to walk with these fellow travelers to discover humility and the action of grace in people’s lives that will astonish you

I read Ted William’s story first, the “theater of the mind” man with a voice born for radio. Ted was born in New York in 1957 and adopted by a woman, Julia, who always wanted a child, and her husband, Al, who worked his entire career in the same job for an airline at JFK International Airport. His parents were steady, but Ted was a “pleaser” who wanted to be liked and accepted. He was raised Protestant but began going to the Jehovah Witness Kingdom hall in his teens. He went to Catholic school in Brooklyn for a while, too. From the age of 14, he wanted to become a radio announcer. He and his father never saw eye to eye.

 Continue reading at the National Catholic Reporter  

Jesus at the Movies

 

 

 

Movies featuring the life of Jesus have been around almost since the beginning of cinema. The first narrative film about his life was a series of shorts edited by Lucien Nonguet. Historian Charles Keil described these early attempts as a “series of tableaux, autonomous units.” It was up to the viewer to knit the narrative together in his or her imagination.

In his book Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ Figures in Film (1997), Lloyd Baugh makes a distinction between films that depict the life of Jesus and those that include Jesus as a character. Christ-figures are those characters who do as Jesus did, laying down their lives for others or exhibiting traits that reflect Christ.

Baugh divides Jesus films into categories: classic (King of Kings), musical (Jesus Christ Superstar), scandal (The Last Temptation of Christ) and Pasolini’s masterpiece The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

Lent provides the spiritual environment and opportunity to contemplate images of Jesus in cinema. We may be inspired by the filmmaker’s imagining of Christ or challenged about our knowledge of the Jesus of the Gospels.

Most of the following films are available on DVD and may be appearing on television for Holy Week and Easter.

To continue reading Sr. Rose’s column in the April 2012 issue St. Anthony messenger click here

 

We Have a Pope – REEL TALK with Stephen Farber special screening and panel April 2 Landmark, Westwood (Los Angeles)


Monday, April 2 at 7pm: WE HAVE A POPE. This wry comic drama from Italian director Nanni Moretti takes us inside the Vatican as the College of Cardinals struggle to elect a new Pope. Unfortunately, the man selected for the post—played by veteran French actor Michel Piccoli—is not at all certain that he wants the job. Guest speakers: Aine O’Healy, professor of Italian and director of the Humanities Program at Loyola Marymount University; Maria Elena de las Carreras, professor of film at UCLA, Cal State Northridge, and the New York Film Academy; Sister Rose Pacatte, Pauline Center for Media Studies; and Scott Young, executive director, University Religious Conference at UCLA.

http://www.landmarktheatres.com/ReelTalk/ReelTalk_Spring2012.htm

Undefeated – best sports film of the year

The nation, indeed the world, is enthralled by Jeremy Lin, the undrafted humble Harvard underdog who has stunned the NBA and the New York Knicks with his performances on the basketball court these last couple of weeks.

But hidden in the deep South, somewhere around the decrepit environs of North Memphis, Tenn., a high school football team struggles to succeed just as it did in 2010 when The Tigers, the school’s football team, for the first time in the school’s 110 year history, made it to the playoffs.

“Undefeated” is an Oscar-nominated feature-length documentary about that team that enthralls from the first two minutes. I admit, I was not enthusiastic about reviewing another sports film, let alone football.

Now I can say that I understand why people see football as a religion — in a good way. Why? Because over the six years that the chubby white volunteer coach Bill Courtney guided this team, they prayed, fought, asked forgiveness, and lived genuine “agape” as a community.

Continue reading here …

Hallmark hits a home run with ‘A Smile as Big as the Moon’

My review in the National Catholic Reporter: Hallmark hits a home run with ‘A Smile as Big as the Moon’.

Tree of Life screening in 35mm + panel Jan. 14, 2012, UCLA

War Horse review

Among the many themes that emerge or converge in the films of director, producer, writer Steven Spielberg are lonely children and war, specifically World War II. From the kids in “E.T”: the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) to the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List” (1993),  a black and white film but viewers may remember the little Jewish girl in a red coat, waiting for transport to the Nazi death camps. And from “The Color Purple” (1985) for which he deserved an Oscar, to one of my personal favorite’s, this year’s “Super 8”, Spielberg captures lonely children, or children estranged from, or in tension with, their fathers, as none other.

Saving Private Ryan” (1998), and the TV miniseries “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “Pacific” (2010) and back to cinema with “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006), Spielberg draws the heartbreak of war with the pen of cinematic art as few others, perhaps none other. But I think with “War Horse”, opening in theaters on Christmas Day, is Spielberg’s take on the Academy Award winning 2009 film “The Hurtlocker”, his chance to show how war shreds humanity through the desperate courage and pain of a war horse.

“War Horse” is based on based on a 1982 children’s novel by Michael Marpurgo and has been made into a stage play in 2007 that friends have told me is extremely moving. It is estimated that millions of horses died in World War I from all the armies involved.

A few months before England declared war on Germany in 1914, a horse is born in Devon. Albert Narracott (Jeremy Divine), the only son and of  tenant farmers Ted (Peter Mullan) and Rose (Emily Watson). Ted goes to market to buy a workhorse, presumably a Clydesdale, but is enthralled with the strength and beauty of Joey. He spends money he does not have and takes the horse home, to the derision and disapproval of all except Albert.

Joey proves his worth by plowing an impossibly rocky field but the crop is lost in a rainstorm. When war is declared, soldiers come to the village to buy horses, and an officer promises Albert he will bring Joey home safe if he can.

Joey heads into war with the British soldiers, is lost to the Germans, taken in by a French farmer and his granddaughter but eventually ends up working the German transport lines with Topthorn, a black stallion also captured from the British army.

As the longest, most deadly war in history nears the end, Joey escapes from his cruel masters (though some wranglers were good to the horses) and in a heartbreaking sequence, wrapped in barbed wire, cut and bleeding, makes a run for it through no-mans-land. This is the films’ finest, most poignant, terrifying scene, that culminates with Germans and British units recognizing the transcendent strength of this noble steed, and changing them all, just for a moment.

There are elements of the film that won’t pass muster to the careful viewer. The crop that gets ruined is on a slope; my sister, who has a large garden, said the rain would have run off, not drowned the vegetables.  The crookedly plowed field turns into the perfectly furrowed plot from one scene to another. Albert, who eventually is old enough to go to war, is blinded by gas and then all of a sudden he can see but the audience does not get to see that moment. I wanted to see this because the characters were not well developed; the one with the most interesting potential was Rose, played by Emily Watson.

The film has been nominated for many awards for cinematography, that magical craft of bringing light and camera together, by Janusz Kaminski. Kaminski has worked on many Spielberg movies, winning Oscars for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”.  But I found the digital color “filming” to be over saturated making the characters seem almost as if they were motion-capture animation. Some of the staging of the scenes seemed to have been lifted right out of “Gone with the Wind” and “The Searchers”.

I think the dissonance I am feeling about the film is the extravagant production quality in 3D vis-à-vis a story that was more simple (as in less complex) than the huge production called for.

In the end, “War Horse” is about war and it is about the ways that animals can teach us to be more human. It’s too long, but it is inspiring. The horses, several were used for both Joey and Topthorn, will astonish you.

Everything in the film is true, and some of it did happen.

 

The Mighty Macs

The St. Anthony Messenger November 2011 issue has a feature about the story that inspired the film. Check it out! 

Here’s my review:

THE MIGHTY MACS (not yet rated): It is the early 1970s, at the dawn of the women’s movement and just before Title IX programs for athletics were extended to women. The president and mother superior (Ellen BurstynW.) of the small Catholic all-girls Immaculata College, northwest of Philadelphia, hires a new basketball coach, Cathy Rush (Carla GuginoRace to Witch Mountain).

Rush, who is non-Catholic and newly married to Ed (David Boreanaz, Bones), discovers that the team has no uniforms or a gym to practice in and that the school itself may soon be sold. But she takes on these challenges with sheer determination. Ed thinks that she is just trying to find a way to spend her time, but becomes confused by her dedication and their marriage suffers.

Sister Sunday (Marley SheltonW.) is questioning her vocation and wants to request a leave of absence from the community. But Rush notices her interest in basketball and invites her to be the assistant coach. They become friends, and the young nun grows in her understanding of her own calling.

With the energy and talent of the team, coaches and nuns, the Mighty Macs power their way to the first AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) national championship in 1972. They would subsequently win in 1973 and 1974, as well.

The Mighty Macs is based on a true story, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters were consulted on the film. The story was developed for the screen by first-time writer/director Tim Chambers and producer Pat Croce.

Themes of hard work, faith, character and heart permeate the film. Coach Cathy tells the girls before a game: “’Do you know that in a race all the runners compete? But only one receives the prize. So run, that you may obtain it’—Corinthians. You’ve earned the right to run the race tonight and it’s O.K. to want the prize. Do you know why teams get to championships?”

A player answers, “Trust.”

Rush continues, “That’s why they get to the championships. But do you know why they win championships? I want all of you to point to yourselves. That’s right. Look where you are all pointing [to their hearts]. This is why championships are won. One team, one beat, one heart.”

Though the film gives off a low-budget vibe, the feel is authentic and consistent with the story. The acting is frank, open and moving. Cathy Rush, a breast-cancer survivor, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 with Pat Riley and Dick Vitale, and the little college is now Immaculata University.Mature themes.

From St. Anthony Messenger May, 2010

The Cinema of Adoption

 

To go along with National Adoption Month in the US, here is a link to my column On Faith and Media in St. Anthony Messenger magazine.

Some of the movies I talk about are Secrets and Lies, Juno, Heaven on Earth, Daughter of Danang, Superman, etc.

 

 

 

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