An exquisite art-house film about a beatified martyr. The triumphant arrival of a belated documentary of a celebrated gospel concert. A fact-based drama about an alliance of devout and unbelieving survivors of clerical sex abuse calling for justice. These are just a few of an unusually large crop of notable films that tackled religious and spiritual themes in 2019.
2018 was a remarkable movie year — for family films, films with religious themes, and documentaries — but it was also a year of family men who weren’t there for their families.
American moviegoers aren’t necessarily the most demanding viewers in the world, but it seems we have our limits, if dire movie-ticket sales for 2017 are any indication.
In a sense every year is a good film year, but some years you have to go further afield than others.
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.
The quest for justice and harmony echoed through the best films of 2014, playing out in various arenas: social, domestic and spiritual.
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.
A masterpiece on the importance of fatherhood, from filmmakers honored by the Vatican, is among the year’s best films.
2011 was a good year for film, and particularly for depictions of faith in film — but not in the Hollywood mainstream on either count.
Was 2010 “The Worst Movie Year Ever,” as Joe Queenan argued at WSJ.com a while back? Or at least, bracketing art-house and world cinema fare, was it Hollywood’s worst year ever? For most of the year, it sure looked plausible.
It was a year of quirky, darkly mature childhood fantasy adaptations. Neil Gaiman’s juvenile horror-thriller Coraline, Maurice Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are and Roald Dahl’s young reader Fantastic Mr. Fox were each made into unique, challenging films in radically different styles by directors Henry Selick, Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson, respectively.
Jeffrey Overstreet called the movie year 2006 “the year of the nightmare.” I’m starting to think we haven’t woken up yet.
There were ultrasounds. Disturbing images of post-abortion fetuses. Mention of fetal heartbeat and ability to feel pain. One way or another, over half a dozen 2007 films found themselves reckoning with the reality of life in the womb. It’s fair to call 2007 the cinematic year of the unborn child.
It was a grim year at the movies — literally. War, death, dystopia, and other dark and downbeat subjects filled theater screens in 2006. Jeffrey Overstreet (Looking Closer) called it “the year of the nightmare.”
Like a lot of moviegoers, I spent a fair bit of time this year wringing my hands over the quality of the movies. Looking back, though, it seems to me that the family-film pattern mirrors the overall year: a dearth of A-level films, perhaps, but a bumper crop of B-pluses.
Did anything worth caring about come to cineplex screens? Anything anyone will be talking about or revisiting five or ten years from now?
It was a rough year at the movies for the Catholic Church.
But there were positive trends too. For instance, it was a better year for families at the movies than in quite some time. Despite some disappointments and failures (Spy Kids 2, Big Fat Liar, Hey Arnold!, Scooby-Doo), there were solid successes (The Rookie, Stuart Little 2, Lilo & Stitch) and a sizable number of decent efforts (Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, Powerpuff Girls, Return to Never Land, Tuck Everlasting, Treasure Planet, Wild Thornberrys).
By all accounts, the year 2000 was one of the most dismal movie years in recent memory. Was 2001 any better? By some measures, yes.
Movies this year were so bad that theater attendance was at an almost ten-year low; yet, paradoxically, box office revenues hit record highs — thanks largely to increased ticket prices. Never before have so few paid so much to see so little.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.