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No Greater Love REVIEW

No Greater Love (2009)

Filmmaker Michael Whyte actually lived across the square from the monastery for years without realizing it was still occupied. One day he heard the monastery bell calling the sisters to prayer.

Mardi Gras and movies: Easy riders, anthropomorphic frogs ARTICLE

Mardi Gras and movies: Easy riders, anthropomorphic frogs

New Orleans’ legendary Mardi Gras celebration has been depicted or used as a backdrop in scores of films, though surprisingly few depictions are of any great or enduring note.

Mercy and movies: Lenten viewing for the Year of Mercy ARTICLE

Mercy and movies: Lenten viewing for the Year of Mercy

Six years ago I put together a list of movie recommendations for Lenten viewing, six titles for the six weeks of Lent. This year, for the Year of Mercy, here’s a new list: one that puts particular emphasis on mercy, charity, and active concern for one’s neighbor.

The fairest of them all ARTICLE

The fairest of them all

23 years ago I had the privilege of catching Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in theatrical re-release. At the time I was acutely aware what a privilege it was, because about five years earlier, in a history of animation class at the School of Visual Arts, I had written a research paper about that very film, and in those days there was no easy way for me to actually watch the film I was writing about!

Before <em>Spotlight</em> and <em>Brooklyn</em>: Priests, religious, and the Academy Awards ARTICLE

Before Spotlight and Brooklyn: Priests, religious, and the Academy Awards

Two of this year’s eight best picture Academy Award nominees, Spotlight and Brooklyn, present dramatically different depictions of Catholic clergy — though neither gives a clerical character more than a few minutes of screentime.

Abortion, the sanctity of life, and movies ARTICLE

Abortion, the sanctity of life, and movies

43 years after Roe vs. Wade, Americans remain about as deeply conflicted over abortion as ever… The nation’s divided conscience on this subject is reflected on the screen.

Alan Rickman, Brian Bedford, and their Robin Hood movies ARTICLE

Alan Rickman, Brian Bedford, and their Robin Hood movies

This week the world lost three English performers who were all film actors … Bedford’s best-known film role was in Disney’s animated Robin Hood, in which he voiced the legendary outlaw. Rickman, who died the next day, had played the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner. David Bowie, alas, never made a Robin Hood movie.

2015: The Year in Reviews ARTICLE

2015: The Year in Reviews

The most celebrated films in any given year are often laced with dark or harrowing themes, and 2015 was no exception… There were also films with uplifting themes, though it’s possible they were harder to find than in past years. In part for that very reason, I treasured them more.

Good Denzel, bad Denzel: <em>Malcolm X</em> ARTICLE

Good Denzel, bad Denzel: Malcolm X

Lee has called Malcolm X the movie he was born to make; in some respects it may be the role Washington was born to play.

Stations of the Cross REVIEW

Stations of the Cross (2014)

Stations of the Cross is among the most insightful and devastating cross-examinations of religious fundamentalism that I have ever seen, certainly in a Catholic context. The film is not an attack on faith or religion, but an examination of how faith goes wrong.

The subversive non-subversiveness of &ldquo;Phineas and Ferb&rdquo; ARTICLE

The subversive non-subversiveness of “Phineas and Ferb”

There are at least a half dozen reasons “Phineas and Ferb” never should have existed, and how fortunate for viewers of all ages that it does.

Is <em>Star Wars</em> Gnostic? ARTICLE

Is Star Wars Gnostic?

Is the Star Wars mythos Gnostic? If so, how Gnostic is it? The question is complicated by confusion over exactly what Gnosticism is.

The myth and magic of <em>Star Wars</em>: <br>Is it over? ARTICLE

The myth and magic of Star Wars:
Is it over?

By the most empirical of measures, it doesn’t look like anything can kill Star Wars. From another angle, one could equally ask: At this late date, can anything revive Star Wars?

Star Wars: Episode VII &#8211; The Force Awakens REVIEW

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

I smiled and laughed through much of the film. Why don’t I love it more? Why did The Force Awakens make almost no lasting impression on me?

The Good Dinosaur [video] POST

The Good Dinosaur [video] (2015)

According to Paul Valéry, art is “never finished, only abandoned.” Maybe so, but this is the first Pixar movie that really glaringly illustrates the point.

DreamWorks&#8217; animated Torah ARTICLE

DreamWorks’ animated Torah

During the second week of Advent, as we’re wrapping up Genesis and turning to Exodus, our family viewing often includes DreamWorks’ two animated Pentateuch movies: the Exodus movie The Prince of Egypt and its made-for-TV prequel, Joseph: King of Dreams.

The down-to-earth comic genius of Harold Lloyd ARTICLE

The down-to-earth comic genius of Harold Lloyd

Due to the vagaries of history, Lloyd is less well-known today than Chaplin or Keaton, but his legacy lives on. If you’ve seen Back to the Future (1985), Bringing Up Baby (1938), any of Jackie Chan’s movies, or any incarnation of Superman or Harry Potter, or you’ve experienced Lloyd’s influence.

Thanksgiving leftovers: <em>Pieces of April</em> ARTICLE

Thanksgiving leftovers: Pieces of April

Pieces of April is about the danger, and the necessity, of hoping against hope in a troubled situation, of taking the risk of trying to make it work when there is ample reason to foresee failure.

Can Muslims and Christians coexist? <em>Of Gods and Men</em> ARTICLE

Can Muslims and Christians coexist? Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men is the most extraordinary cinematic depiction of the Christian ideal in at least the last quarter century. It also depicts something of the variety of expressions in the Islamic world.

Spotlight REVIEW

Spotlight (2015)

We cloak the monstrous in euphemisms. We call it “unspeakable” or “unthinkable” — designations that are accurate simply because in using them we make them so. In Catholic circles a dozen years ago, one sometimes heard about “The Crisis”; later it became “The Scandal.” We all knew what these terms referred to, but did we really know?

Zorro: Before Daredevil or Nightcrawler, the first superhero ever was Catholic ARTICLE

Zorro: Before Daredevil or Nightcrawler, the first superhero ever was Catholic

“He has been many different men,” Antonio Banderas tells Catherine Zeta-Jones in the last scene of the rousing 1998 action movie The Mask of Zorro.

Catholic deacon whose drilling company helped rescue <em>The 33</em>: &#8220;God drilled that hole&#8221; ARTICLE

Catholic deacon whose drilling company helped rescue The 33: “God drilled that hole”

Hall doesn’t want credit; as far as he’s concerned, the rescue was God’s work, not his.

The priest, the student, and the swastika ARTICLE

The priest, the student, and the swastika

Both films revolve around a number of tense cat-and-mouse interviews between the believing protagonist and a shrewd Nazi antagonist … The interviews in both films are a clash of worldviews.

The Peanuts Movie REVIEW

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

The Peanuts Movie comes billed as being “From the imagination of Charles Schulz,” and, almost astonishingly, it pretty much is.

You&rsquo;re an institution, Charlie Brown ARTICLE

You’re an institution, Charlie Brown

“Peanuts”’ appeal was universal: It was beloved by young and old, by the intelligentsia as well as the masses; it was the definition of mainstream, yet it was also embraced by the counterculture. It was bitterly pessimistic, yet never succumbed to the despair and nihilism of, say, “Dilbert” or “Pearls Before Swine.”

Vampires, demons and the cross: Catholicism and horror ARTICLE

Vampires, demons and the cross: Catholicism and horror

“When it comes to fighting vampires and performing exorcisms, the Roman Catholic Church has the heavy artillery” is how Roger Ebert opened his review of John Carpenter’s Vampires.

Looking back at <em>Back to the Future</em> ARTICLE

Looking back at Back to the Future

If the early scenes with Marty’s mother suggest that parents sometimes try to hold their children to a standard they never tried to meet themselves, the parking scene suggests that the reverse may also be the case: Children may want their parents to embody a higher standard than they want for themselves.

Witness REVIEW

Witness (1985)

There is not a wasted or unnecessary shot in Peter Weir’s Witness, or a superfluous line of dialogue. Like the great barn-raising scene late in the second act, the film’s construction is both efficient and unhurried, functional and beautiful.

Bending the air: Defying gravity in &#8220;Avatar,&#8221; <em>Star Wars</em>, Miyazaki and more ARTICLE

Bending the air: Defying gravity in “Avatar,” Star Wars, Miyazaki and more

There is a sense in which “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is for my children in part what Star Wars was for my generation: a new and enthralling mythology about a young hero with a mysterious power slowly learning to channel that power to fight against a tyrannical empire.

Aladdin REVIEW

Aladdin (1992)

Disney’s Aladdin does more than give Williams an opportunity to let loose the comic giant inside him: It offers the Disney animators perhaps their greatest creative challenge, and inspiration, in over half a century.