The life and work of J. Edgar Hoover offers grist for a dozen different movies or more, and Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar wants to be all of them at once. It’s the sort of staidly respectable, competently directed biopic that gives a bad name to competently directed biopics, and possibly to respectability.
The fact is, Jackie’s appeal is hard to sum up in a single sentence. Ask five different Jackie Chan fans what they like about him, and you may get five different answers.
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.
The world has changed since 2007, and not only in the ways the filmmakers are self-consciously trying to engage: concerns about cyber-security, online privacy, government spying and the pressure on tech companies to give the government whatever information or access it wants.
Steven Spielberg’s breakout hit is a perfect storm of primal fears (man-eating predators, the unseen, the ocean), shrewd, emotionally riveting direction combined with sympathetic lead performances, and that classic two-note theme from John Williams’ edgy score.
Blaise Pascal was a great critic of Jesuit casuistry, and coined the pejorative adjective “Jesuitical,” meaning “crafty; practicing equivocation or overly subtle rationalization.” That may not have been fair to the Jesuits of Pascal’s day, but the image of the sly, deceptive Jesuit stuck.
While concerns around “Jesus of Nazareth” were short-lived, The Passion of the Christ remains controversial, beloved by many and condemned by many others.
Viewed as a whole, “Jesus of Nazareth” may or may not be the best life of Jesus film ever made, but it remains in some ways the standard by which other Jesus films are judged. Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew and Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ may be better films, but no other Jesus film offers an interpretation of the gospel story as comprehensive and definitive as “Jesus of Nazareth”.
My esteemed colleague Pat Archbold’s lively and engaging post on big-screen Jesuses has obliged me to add a few notes of my own (with apologies for the post title joke—I don’t really think Pat “forgot” anything, since his list wasn’t meant to be exhaustive in the first place, and certainly mine isn’t either).
The story is propelled by ordinary (though sometimes philosophically elevated) dialogue, and a mysterious character in the play, Adam, becomes a simple priest — a rather Wojtyla-like priest, actually, who takes the young people of his parish on nature hikes in the mountains.
“One is Christian or Jewish, not both.” So says the chief rabbi of Paris in The Jewish Cardinal (2013), Israeli-born filmmaker Ilan Duran Cohen’s biopic about Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (Laurent Lucas) — a Jewish convert to Catholicism who insisted on religious dual citizenship, embracing Catholicism without rejecting Judaism.
But then, added to all that, Jimmy also learns moral lessons about parents, family, obedience, consequences, and so on that callow Calvin would never have glommed to in a million years.
Burroughs didn’t invent science fiction, but he perhaps created a genre of serial sci-fi fantasy adventure, with an idealized action hero going from one extraterrestrial adventure to another. Carter’s closest literary ancestor may be Sinbad from One Thousand and One Nights, which is saying something. Buck Rogers, James Kirk and Luke Skywalker are all his descendants, and Jake Sully — the hero of Avatar, which really is a patchwork borrowing from everything Burroughs inspired — is perhaps more indebted to John Carter than any other character in history.
John Carter in 60 seconds: My “Reel Faith” video review.
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.
John Q, which is sort of the moviegoing equivalent of being taken hostage, was directed by Nick Cassavetes (She’s So Lovely). Cassavetes — like the film’s hero, John Q. Archibald (Washington) — has a child in need of a life-saving organ transplant. I feel for the director, and for his hero. I cannot condone the actions of either.
(Review by Mark Shea) I know. It sounds uninspiring on paper, if you haven’t seen them. But — you gotta trust me on this — these guys are really funny, a sort of strange brew mixing Monty Python, MTV, your third grade Sunday School teacher and a tiny bit of Robin Williams — all with a G rating.
I don’t often discover a new angle on a biblical text from a Bible movie, but Joseph of Nazareth suggests an attractive approach I had never before considered to a deceptively knotty passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel, namely, the passage in Matthew 1 in which Mary has been found to be with child by the Holy Spirit, and Joseph resolves to “divorce her quietly.”
Joseph’s own dreams — the two biblical ones plus an extra one — are the best; I caught my breath at the first glimpse of these dreams, which look like living, flowing Van Goghs. The dream-sky swirls like Starry Night, and the grass ripples under the dream-Joseph’s feet like ripples in a pond. The dreamlike quality of these sequences is undeniable and memorable.
Scrooge’s conversion, like many conversions, is just such a dramatic revelation out of crisis, "as sudden as the conversion of a man at a Salvation Army meeting," says Chesterton, adding slyly, "It is true that the man at the Salvation Army meeting would probably be converted from the punch bowl; whereas Scrooge was converted to it. That only means that Scrooge and Dickens represented a higher and more historic Christianity" ("Christmas Books").
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.