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Religion and rootlessness in 2016 movies ARTICLE

Religion and rootlessness in 2016 movies

The many faces of Jesus at the movies in 2016 were perhaps the most notable trend in a larger pattern of notable religious themes in the year’s films. There were, though, other trends last year worth noting.

The many faces of Jesus at the movies in 2016 ARTICLE

The many faces of Jesus at the movies in 2016

I can’t think of another year quite like 2016. To begin with, Jesus himself was on the big screen in an extraordinary number of screen incarnations.

Manchester by the Sea [video] POST

Manchester by the Sea [video] (2016)

“Some people can’t get over something major that’s happened to them at all,” says filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan says. “Why can’t they have a movie too?”

Moonlight [video] POST

Moonlight [video]

One of the year’s most critically acclaimed films, Moonlight isn’t easy to watch, but is it worth it? I think it is.

Hidden Figures [video] POST

Hidden Figures [video] (2016)

An important story you probably don’t know about, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as NASA “computers” (really!) during the 1960s space race, when NASA’s Langley Research Center was still segregated.

Silence [video] POST

Silence [video]

Martin Scorsese’s Silence is simply one of the year’s most difficult and necessary films.

Passengers [video] POST

Passengers [video]

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in space. How bad could it be?

Loving [video] POST

Loving [video] (2016)

So much better and more satisfying than the courtroom drama it could have been.

Arrival [video] POST

Arrival [video]

I try never to spoil anything, but honestly, just skip this video and go see it. I mean, then come back and watch the video, of course.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them [video] POST

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them [video] (2016)

It’s the Star Wars prequels for Harry Potter. Actually, it made me wish I was watching Doctor Strange again.

John Paul the Great professor defends <em>Rogue One</em> POST

John Paul the Great professor defends Rogue One

Thomas P. Harmon, professor of theology and culture at John Paul the Great Catholic University, has written a thoughtful essay for Catholic World Report responding to my critique of the moral murkiness of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

What we lose when <em>Star Wars</em> goes to the Dark Side ARTICLE

What we lose when Star Wars goes to the Dark Side

Even features come with trade-offs, and the Marvelization of Star Wars is no exception. This might not be as clear in The Force Awakens — about as pure a work of nostalgia and homage as can possibly be contrived short of a shot-for-shot remake — as it is in Rogue One, where the Marvel-style engineering is more obvious.

Passengers REVIEW

Passengers (2016)

If you had to cast two Hollywood actors to watch being all by themselves in a luxury starliner on a doomed 90-year voyage to a planet they will never live to see, you might just pick Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. In a way, that’s the problem with Passengers, or where the problems begin.

Silence REVIEW

Silence (2016)

When 17th-century Japanese authorities in the time of the Tokugawa shogunate found it necessary to send the colonial powers of Europe packing and their European Jesus with them, they didn’t just shatter the missionaries’ bodies. They shattered their narrative.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story REVIEW

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

All this raises a question: When is a Star Wars movie not a Star Wars movie?

Spirited Away REVIEW

Spirited Away (2001)

No film in Miyazaki’s oeuvre haunts me like Spirited Away. One reason is the evocation of a seemingly impenetrable, incalculable world with rhythms and rituals that seem all the more opaque and unnerving because they are routine and transparent to those that are of that world.

We need to talk about cartoon parents ARTICLE

We need to talk about cartoon parents

I don’t expect animated heroes to have uniformly ideal, harmonious family lives. It’s not realistic — and it doesn’t make for good drama, which needs conflict. The ubiquity of the pattern, though, is striking.

Moana REVIEW

Moana (2016)

It would be going too far to say that Moana combines everything I enjoy about contemporary Disney with everything I dislike, but it’s got quite a bit of both.

Arrival REVIEW

Arrival (2016)

In some ways it warrants comparison with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, if only because Arrival achieves much of what I was hoping for from Interstellar.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them REVIEW

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

The fact is, moving from the Harry Potter films to Fantastic Beasts feels a bit like moving from the original Star Wars trilogy to the Star Wars prequels.

<em>Doctor Strange</em> and <em>Hacksaw Ridge</em>: Breaking rules and the greater good ARTICLE

Doctor Strange and Hacksaw Ridge: Breaking rules and the greater good

In each of their latest films, the battle against a threatening power raises questions about which principles the protagonist should or shouldn’t compromise in order to protect his world — questions that aren’t necessarily clearly answered by the end of the film.

<em>Hacksaw Ridge</em>: Mel Gibson and Robert Schenkkan at the Sheen Center ARTICLE

Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson and Robert Schenkkan at the Sheen Center

The director and screenwriter spoke at a screening of the film at the New York Archdiocese’s cultural center, and I chatted with Gibson about the film.

Hacksaw Ridge REVIEW

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Gibson crafts a resolutely traditional exercise in Hollywood mythmaking: a tale of a man who stoically endures accusations of cowardice before being vindicated as the bravest of all, a man of integrity who stands by his unpopular principles regardless of the consequences; a pious man whose sincere faith eventually wins the respect and admiration of his less devout comrades.

Doctor Strange REVIEW

Doctor Strange (2016)

The paradox of contemporary Hollywood blockbusters is that in our time virtually anything conceivable, no matter how wild and out there, can be put on the screen, but it almost never is.

The Birth of a Nation REVIEW

The Birth of a Nation (2016)

The prominent, polyvalent exploration of the uses of religion and especially Scripture, both to condone slavery and to condemn it, to sedate slaves and to inflame them, is one of the most striking and welcome things about the film.

The Greater Freedom: Karol Wojtyla and <em>Our God&rsquo;s Brother</em> ARTICLE

The Greater Freedom: Karol Wojtyla and Our God’s Brother

As a seminarian in the 1940s, the future Pope St. John Paul II wrote a play about a Polish artist turned religious who helped inspire his vocation. In 1997, a film adaptation featuring Christoph Waltz was directed by Krzysztof Zanussi (Life for Life).

&ldquo;You do it for Christ, and forget the rest&rdquo; ARTICLE

“You do it for Christ, and forget the rest”

Krzysztof Zanussi on Our God’s Brother, Adam Chmielowski, Pope John Paul II, and how he discovered Christoph Waltz.

It&#8217;s a Wonderful Life REVIEW

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The truth is that It’s a Wonderful Life is both darker and more subversive than its popular reputation as cheery holiday “Capra-corn” would suggest, and more robustly hopeful than cynics and hipster deconstructionists would have it.

Miss Peregrine&#8217;s Home for Peculiar Children REVIEW

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

1999 was a very good year for film, and how much more peculiar Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children might have been had it come out that year, before the X-Men and Harry Potter franchises were launched in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

Deepwater Horizon REVIEW

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

The film sketches in these characters just enough to hold the story together. What really interests Berg is exploring how the disaster happened, what it was like, and how those 126 people responded, for better and for worse.