Articles

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How Christian is Disney's Frozen? (Not very.) Part 1

2014-02-28 13:03:02 I’ve been surprised at the popularity of efforts to interpret major story elements in Frozen as a Christian parable. I’m not talking about merely commenting on the climactic act of self-sacrifice as reflecting Christlike love, etc. That, I don’t object to. I mean interpreting the film’s structure and themes as, in effect, an allegory of the Gospel — one rivaling or even surpassing C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Read More >

2013: The Year in Reviews

2014-01-17 12:17:59 2013 was a year of cinematic trauma and stress, full of harrowing, at times also exhilarating, survival stories, many on the abyss of the sea or even the void of space. Read More >

Exorcism in the Movies

2013-12-20 23:48:52 In a way, The Exorcist is a pivotal film — the indispensable link between the Catholic-inflected piety of Golden Age Hollywood and the demonic world of latter-day horror. Read More >

The Virgin Mary at the Movies

2013-12-09 15:35:47 Mary of Nazareth, now touring North America in isolated screenings hosted by Ignatius Press, is the latest in a number of Gospel films over the last couple of decades focusing in a special way on the role of the Blessed Virgin in the Gospel story. Read More >

The Untold Story of Slavery? Why 12 Years a Slave is Essential

2013-10-17 17:10:33 The award-winning film 12 Years a Slave, now in theaters, isn’t just an astonishing film about an important subject. It’s also a rare and valuable film of a kind I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. Read More >

Over the Rainbow: The Wizard of Oz Turns 75

2013-09-20 13:29:35 So many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side? What was Kermit talking about? There’s only one song like that … and one movie that embodies the childhood magic Jim Henson wanted to evoke. Read More >

The Summer’s Best-Kept Secret: From Up on Poppy Hill

2013-08-30 13:16:45 Co-written by Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyzaki and directed by his son Goro Miyazaki (Tales From Earthsea), From Up on Poppy Hill is a gently naturalistic departure from the high-flying fantasy for which the studio is best known. Read More >

So Long! Farewell!

2013-08-30 01:22:32 I enjoyed reviewing movies this summer far more than I enjoyed the movies themselves — and perhaps my readers enjoyed the reviews more than the movies as well. Read More >

Big Brother on the Big Screen: Hollywood, Surveillance and the NSA

2013-08-05 17:41:29 Have Hollywood movies been softening us up for NSA-style surveillance? Read More >

SDG’s Very, Very Little Movie Glossary

2013-07-06 23:21:47 This little essay is barely a footnote to Ebert’s book. Still, in the dozen or so years that I’ve been writing movie reviews, I’d like to think I’ve come up with a few witty, possibly even useful terms — Everything Movie, Medieval Grunge and Mythology-Bound among them — that might contribute to movie discussion. Read More >

Top 10 Movie Dads

2013-05-31 10:59:34 Picking the top 10 movie dads was both easier and harder than picking the top 10 movie moms. Easier, because there were more candidates to choose from — and harder for the same reason! Read More >

Top 10 Movie Moms

2013-05-07 18:00:26 When I set out to make a list of great movie moms in honor of Mother’s Day, I knew it wouldn’t be easy — but I soon found it even harder than I thought. Let’s face it: Great mothers are in short supply in the movies. Read More >

How I Believe in Roger Ebert

2013-04-06 17:26:11 Just over a month before his death on Easter Thursday, Roger Ebert wrote a blog post titled “How I Am a Roman Catholic” — a follow-up of sorts to a 2009 post called “How I Believe in God.” Read More >

Overlooked Family Fare: Top 10 Family Films Most Kids Haven’t Heard Of (And Lots More)

2013-03-15 07:22:49 It’s spring break, or summer vacation, and the grandkids are visiting. Or you’re looking for a DVD for a birthday present. You want three things: a) something worthwhile (not junk); b) something they’ll enjoy (not just high-minded or educational fare); and, crucially, c) something they haven’t already seen to death. Read More >

Religious Vision: Les Misérables and Anna Karenina

2013-02-01 12:07:45 Have today’s movies lost religion? Not necessarily — but sometimes it helps to know where to look. For instance, mainstream films are more likely to include sympathetic depictions of religious faith in period pieces than in stories set in the present day.

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2012: The Year in Reviews

2013-01-23 07:54:12 A masterpiece on the importance of fatherhood, from filmmakers honored by the Vatican, is among the year’s best films. Read More >

Against Capra’s Critics: In Defense of It’s a Wonderful Life

2013-01-10 09:51:34 Perhaps the most beloved of Christmas movies, Frank Capra’s sleeper classic It’s a Wonderful Life has inevitably become a target of seasonal, iconoclastic culture-warmongering. Read More >

In Praise of Pixar Short Films

2012-11-13 12:19:56 One of the more striking marks of Pixar’s innovative stature and impact on the world of Hollywood animation has been their pioneering revival of the long-neglected animated short film prior to the feature (at least prior to animated features) as an industry staple. Read More >

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on Blu-ray

2012-09-18 05:04:38 The greatest action-adventure movie of all time is now available on Blu-ray. For now, of course, you can’t just buy Raiders of the Lost Ark; you have to get the 5-disc boxed set “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures.” Read More >

Ghosts of the Abyss: The Other James Cameron Titanic Film

2012-09-18 03:48:07 If you see only one James Cameron-directed movie about the Titanicand you should — see the one that doesn’t star Kate and Leo. Read More >

Mirror Mirror and Fairy-tale Revisionism

2012-07-05 12:12:28 I do take issue, though, with Hollywood’s current obsession with “dark,” “gritty,” “edgy” fare threatening to crush any sense of wonder and fantasy. What a joy, then, that Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror offers a gorgeous, fantastic fairy-tale world bursting with extravagant imagination and splendor. Read More >

Fortnight of Films: 14 Films for the Fortnight for Freedom

2012-06-21 15:16:56 In support of the Fortnight for Freedom, the National Catholic Register and Decent Films are pleased to present a selection of 14 films, chosen by me, all in some way engaging themes of religious liberty, moral conscience and commitment faith in the face of pressure and persecution have been reflected in cinema. Read More >

The Secret World of Studio Ghibli

2012-05-24 07:51:39 It’s still one of the better-kept secrets of family entertainment that the most imaginatively daring and influential animation house in the world isn’t Pixar, but Japan’s Studio Ghibli, best known for co-founder and animation virtuoso Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is revered in animation circles, but Ghibli films haven’t yet become the phenomenon in the States that they are in Japan and around the globe. Read More >

Jane Goodall on Chimpanzees, Language and the Soul

2012-04-20 21:18:20 Disneynature’s Chimpanzee, the latest family-friendly nature documentary from Earth directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, depicts a surprising twist in the early life of a young chimpanzee nicknamed “Oscar” living in the Taï Forest in the Ivory Coast. Dr. Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost expert in chimpanzees, has seen the film, and discussed it with me via phone a couple of days ago. Read More >

The 2012 Academy Award Nominees

2012-02-21 12:51:25 I like lists better than awards, so I look forward to the Academy Award nominations more than the Oscars ceremony itself. The process of whittling down countless contenders to a handful of nominees is more interesting than the process of picking one nominee as the winner — and this year is no exception. Read More >

2011: The Year in Reviews

2012-01-18 12:49:57 2011 was a good year for film, and particularly for depictions of faith in film — but not in the Hollywood mainstream on either count. Read More >

Looney Tunes: An Appreciation

2011-12-02 14:50:11 It’s hard to believe that many American children venturing into the theaters to see Happy Feet Two will have their first experience of Sylvester and Tweety Bird on the big screen in a new computer-animated short, “I Tawt I Taw a Putty Tat.” Hard to believe, first, that Sylvester and Tweety are back on the big screen—and, second, that these iconic animated characters that defined Saturday morning for decades and were beloved big-screen icons before that have become pretty much strangers to many of the current generation of kids. How did that happen? Read More >

A House Divided: Broken Homes, Flying Houses, Divorce, and Death in Family Fantasy Films

2011-10-26 07:18:27 Like Dorothy’s house, uprooted in fairy-tale response to her running away, physical domiciles in one family film after another are displaced, torn asunder, and undergo fantastic, traumatic crises and transformations in visionary mirroring of the upheaval in the characters’ lives. Among the more striking examples of this poetic linking of house and household are Jon Favreau’s intriguing 2005 fantasy Zathura, Gil Kenan’s 2006 Halloween tale Monster House, Mark Waters’s smart, scary 2008 thriller The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Pete Docter’s 2009 Pixar fantasy Up. Read More >

Machine Gun Preacher: Sam Childers Talks About His Biopic, His Life and His Work in Sudan

2011-09-22 13:05:23 In 1998, a former gang biker named Sam Childers joined a church mission trip to the Sudan to help repair huts damaged in the Second Sudanese Civil War. Most of the people on that trip finished their charitable labors and left Africa behind, but Sam didn’t — not completely. Read More >

Hollywood Adjustment? Are religious themes and influences becoming more prominent in recent films?

2011-09-22 13:05:20 The Adjustment Bureau and Hereafter are among a remarkable number of recent and upcoming Hollywood films in some way invoking themes of spirituality, religion or belief. 2010 was particularly rife with such Hollywood religiosity, quantitatively if not necessarily qualitatively. Read More >

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