Sister Rose’s blog reaches 500,000 hits today

Since I moved my blog to WordPress on October 5, 2008 I never dreamed of 500.000 hits or page views. In this day of YouTube videos getting a million hits in a day or an hour, this half million in three years eight months, an average of 300 hits a day with 2,900 in one day in 2010, does not seem like much in the virtual scheme of things. Yet it provides me with a motive of thanksgiving for the Internet and the gift of communication between God’s people the world over and who knows? Maybe the universe. (We don’t know who might be listening, do we?)

WordPress sent me an analysis of that best day: March 9, 2010

Thank you for your visit, your time, your interest. Be assured of my prayers.

 

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  

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.

 

New movie review site at RCL Benziger for Catechesis & Religious Education

 

Click here to access site http://sisterrosemovies.com

Have a Little Faith to air Sunday, November 27 (Hallmark Hall of Fame)

Have a Little Faith (Sunday, November 27, ABC, 9/8) is Mitch Albom‘s fourth book into a made-for-TV movie and the Hallmark Hall of Fame latest holiday offering.

The movie will seem familiar territory for Albom fans at first, then it moves beyond the interview with a beloved mentor, to living the lessons learned. Based on a series of interviews, like “Tuesdays with Morrie”, Albom (Bradley Whitford) visits Rabbi Lewis (Martin Landau) who asks Mitch to write and deliver his eulogy. Mitch accepts but only if he can interview the rabbi, since it has been a long time since they were in touch.

What Mitch learns from Rabbi Lewis opens his eyes to people and stories of faith around him. He learns about the Reverend Covington (Laurence Fishburn), an ex-con and recovering addict, who runs an inner-city Detroit church, with a badly leaking roof, for those in need of help.

As with Albom’s stories, he takes us on a life-changing journey with him. The acting in “Have a Little Faith” is believable, and Martin Landau especially adds other-worldly humanity and humor to the story. Albom makes us ask: who are the people who have made a difference in our lives, who have helped make us who we are today?

 

 

Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire and The Blind Side reviews

Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire – The newly emerging screen actress Gabourey Sidibe plays the teen girl Claireece “Precious” Jones in a film about courage, hope, physical and emotional child abuse, rape, incest, determination, tempered with a tiny touch of humor and humanity. Precious lives in Harlem with her no account mother, Mary (Mo’Nique). She already has a Down syndrome child by her father (her grandmother takes care of him) and now she is expecting another. She leaves high school to attend a special school for teens and young women trying to earn their GED’s. She is befriended by a teacher, Miss Rain (Paula Patton) and a social worker, Miss Weiss (Mariah Carey) but her mother’s irrational rages are beyond belief. She accuses Precious of stealing her partner away from her and violently punishes her on any pretext. The film follows several months in Precious’ life. We see that there are people in a limited broken system that do care. Yet it is Precious’ own courage and dignity that transcend her horrible existence, even when she finds out that her father has died of AIDS and that she is HIV positive (but her baby is not). Mo’Nique is terrifyingly good as the wounded mother and will get Oscar notice, as will Gabourey Sidibe. I liked Mariah Carey; she was believable though I could hardly recognize her. This is very much a woman’s film, though better and more nuanced that typical Lifetime channel fare. The only positive male character is that of Lenny Kravitz as a nurse’s aide who shows that men can be kind and caring. “Precious” is an indictment of American society. The message is that young women in poor areas are on their own, but they are strong and they can make it against the most devastating adversity. The question is: how long will children continue to take it? Precious says, “Some folks has a lot of things around them that shines for other peoples. I think that maybe some of them was in tunnels. And in that tunnel, the only light they had was inside of them. And then long after they escape that tunnel, they still be shining for everybody else.”

The Blind Side – Sandra Bullock is Leigh Ann Touhy in what may be her “Erin Brockovich” role that wins her an Oscar. She becomes a crusader for a homeless African American boy, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) gives him a home, and she and her family (husband Sean is played by Tim McGraw, son S.J. is played by Jae Head and daughter Collins by Lily Collins) shepherd him to university and a pro-football career. This is the ultimate holiday film guaranteed to put a smile on your face and holly in your heart. It is based on a true story and the best-selling book my Michael Lewis. Director John Lee Hancock, who made “The Rookie” (2002), takes on another sports film with élan and joy. The performances are entertaining and Jae Head steals the show, one scene after another. There is a Christian flavor to the story but it is one of possibility rather than a moralistic stereotype. This is a film from the dream factory about a dream that came true. Hurray for Hollywood!

An Education, Me and Orson Welles reviews

Me and Orson Welles – This story, based on the novel by Robert Kaplow, is from one of my favorite “hip” directors, Richard Linklatter (Waking Life). It is set in 1937, when Welles was a known radio actor and before he took the world by storm both on the radio and in movies.  “Me and Orson Welles” features a teenager (Zac Ephron; High School Musical) who is in love with the theater, acting, and writing, everything about it. He manages to get hired for no pay by Orson Welles’ company that intends to produce Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in a week’s time.  The film is a kind of sideways examination of the real Orson Welles, played here by a relative newcomer from the UK, Christopher Mackay. He really nails the voice and “the look” of Welles. Orson Welles is depicted as a brilliant life force that uses people, misuses them, and discards them with a flourish and without a backwards glance. If I hadn’t been familiar with “Citizen Kane” (1941), “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942), and “The War of the Worlds” (broadcast October 30, 1938), I would have missed many of the inter-textual references.  In fact, you may find some that eluded me. As a friend said, this is Zac Ephron’s transitional picture from pop to serious drama but he barely makes it. He sings a song with his “High School Musical” voice during one of the rehearsals; someone should have caught that.  Still, I found the film interesting, classy, and am glad I saw it.

An Education – Nick Hornby is a very entertaining novelist who can turn his books into enjoyable screenplays. Recall “About a Boy” (2002) and “Fever Pitch” (2005). But here the mostly male perspective changes as Hornby adapts a coming-of-age memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber into a script that understands the character with empathy. The film is smart with a touch of pathos.  Jenny (Carey Mulligan; Bleak House) is about to turn sixteen in the mid-1960’s. She is as bright as her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) are dull and boring. Her tedious father has her on track for Oxford so she can get a job after and support herself. One rainy day, she accepts a ride home from an older man, David (Peter Saarsgaard.) They meet again and he asks her out. Jenny’s father is reluctant, but ever so carefully David seduces Jenny and her parents. David makes them trust him. When Jenny discovers that the sophisticated David and his high class friend Danny are running business scams, she is shocked and threatens to walk away. But she likes the excitement and hates the boredom of her life at home and school. She gives her virginity to David on a weekend trip her parents allow her to take because David’s “aunt” (Danny’s girlfriend) will be the chaperone.  David proposes to her when he thinks Danny is about to make a move on her. Then when Jenny discovers the real truth about David, she must humbly ask for mercy from her parents, teachers whom she had confronted and humiliated when she quit school to be married. I imagine there are many Jenny’s out there who learn life’s lessons the hard way; the thing is, Jenny is a fast learner and amazingly has not burned all her bridges.  She has one lifeline left, a teacher. This film is as much about youth, and growing up as it is about the educational establishment, and both sides score points. This is a well-acted story with warmth, hope and insight. You can feel the cold English rain falling, falling.

Fantastic Mr Fox, Brothers, The Road, 2010 reviews

The Fantastic Mr. Fox – Based on a story by Roald Dahl (1916-1990), director Wes Anderson (The Darjeerling Limited) tells a wonderful and quirky stop-action animated tale about a wily fox (voiced by George Clooney who could get an Oscar nod just for this; Meryl Streep voices Mrs. Fox) who takes on three mean farmers by stealing cider, turkeys, chickens, and ducks from them. Well, he tries to outwit them as foxes are by nature wont to do.  All the farmers get for their trouble is Mr. Fox’s tail and a lot of work and damage and then we are back where we started with the tale. There is no swearing in the film; any possible expletive is smoothly replaced with “cuss”. Very funny.  I chuckled all the way through and I am still not sure what it was about, exactly. Family, maybe. Letting nature be natural. A little existentialism perhaps. Or maybe nothing. Perhaps just a little cuss fun.

Brothers – Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father; In America) seems to anchor his films in the idea of family. Here he shows us two sets of brothers, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) a ne’er- do-well and the other, Sam (Tobey Maguire) a military officer about to leave for Afghanistan again. Sam has his military brothers, as well.  He and his unit are shot down and the military thinks all are dead, but Sam and another soldier are captured. Sam’s wife, Grace (Natalie Portman, New York, I Love You), her two young daughters and Tommy become close. Something terrible happens in Afghanistan to Sam and then he is rescued. He returns home, a shadow of his former self, tormented, suspicious, tightly-wound, and violent. Although his brother, wife, children and parents try to embrace him, he cracks. At first, before he leaves for that deployment, Sam seems robotic and tightly-wound yet loving in a stiff sort of way. Even toward his wayward brother when he picks him up when he is released from prison. Sam kindly asks Tommy if he is going to ask forgiveness of the woman he robbed, the act that sent him to prison.  Sam implies that there are consequences that require reconciliation and even restitution. Perhaps, we think, this is who Sam is. Yet, he is already a product of his military training rather than an extension of his athletic high school football successes, the jock who dated the cheerleader – and married her. Did he go from being one cliché to another? Though Sam seems a one-dimensional repressed character, Sheridan shows his directorial acumen by letting the audience finish creating this character.  “Brothers” is a heart-breaking anti-war film, a heartfelt look at the effects of war on soldiers now and those still suffering from Vietnam: the collateral damage, the consequences. The film seems to ask: who, exactly, is this war protecting?  Who will reconcile and make restitution? Excellent acting all around showcasing the heroism of gentleness and love in the face of the unspeakable – that must be spoken.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy’s bleak novel interpreted bleakly, but artfully, for the screen. A priest friend close to the film industry wondered why anyone would release such a miserable film before Christmas. Other than the obvious need to release the film in New York and Los Angeles before the end of the year to make the cut for Oscar nominations, the film is actually more about Christmas than one would think during the first horrific ninety minutes or so. A starving man (Viggo Moretnsen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travel a world blighted by nuclear winter, trying to reach the ocean. There are flashbacks to when the boy was born, when the man and his wife (Charlize Theron) realize they have brought life into a world of death. She walks into the night and is gone. The man and the boy find people who have committed suicide and others who cannibalize anyone they can capture.  The boy learns distinctions between bad people (cannibals) and good people (anyone who will not hurt them) and suffers when his father doesn’t trust the good people, when he won’t share the food they discover. Then the man begins to talk about the “fire” and it takes on a mystical meaning about humanity and hope. Only one character has a name in this film, Eli (Robert Duval). He is like a prophet, a link to something beyond. Intentional or not, the boy seems a “Christ-figure”, the one who is the light in the valley of the shadow of death and darkness. But, oh, it is a tough film to watch. The theater usher told me the film follows the book, which I had not read, almost to the word. “The Road” employs excellent parallel structure both visually and through sound; it is very literary but not wordy. It ought to get Oscar nods for best adapted screenplay and cinematography.  The film deserves a theological analysis, much like the 2006 film “The Children of Men.”

2012 – Roland Emmerich, the director who gives us really big apocalyptic-themed films such as “Independence Day” (1996) and “The Day after Tomorrow” (2004), does it again in “2012”. Supposedly based on a prediction of the Mayan calendar, 2012 is to usher in the end of the world (again.) The film gives short-shift to the prophecy in its over-blown special f/x fest, but nevertheless it asks an important question: in bad times is it possible for people to lay down their lives for others? The film switches to Biblical allusions, most notably Noah’s Ark and John the Baptist. The filmed seemed to suggest a natural explanation for the flood that set Noah afloat and that if it happens again it may also have a natural explanation rather than a devastating “Left Behind” interpretation. Yet, only 400,000 can be saved on the arks the world’s governments build in China to save themselves.  So “2012” is a rather extravagant mess of a film but if disaster movies are your cup of tea, go for it. (When the air craft carrier John F. Kennedy crushes the White House, and salvation comes from China, was that a political statement?) Hmm. By the way, Mimi Leder’s 1989 “Deep Impact” did this theme better.

Movie Reviews Food, Inc., My Sister’s Keeper, Harry Potter & Half-Blood Prince, etc.

foodinc

My reviews for St. Anthony Messenger, September 2009 are online now.

After the road trip my sister and I took these last couple of days from Half Moon Bay to Marin County, CA, organic takes on a whole new “feel”. In case you haven’t been to Marin County lately, it’s one big celebration of organic edibles. The film Food, Inc. will make you evaluate the source of everything you put into your mouth, and the consequences of not questioning and speaking up about corn-fed and syrup-ed processed and genetically manipulated food and what it means for people. The health care reform debate in the US has to start with food: corn and sugar. How different is the relationship of corn and sugar in all our processed food (and supposedly hot off the hoof meats)  and nicotine and cigarettes? If we are addicted to sugar, from cane or corn, any health care reform that does not start with food reform, is going to be severely challenged. Then let’s talk about the relationship between processed fast food and urban geography, education, employment, and health/health care. PBS ran a highly informative series on this topic earlier this year. Check out http://www.pbs.org for information.

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