Articles

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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 >

Citizen Kane, André Bazin and the “Holy Moment”

2011-09-16 11:24:49 Everyone knows that Citizen Kane — celebrating its 70th anniversary with this week’s 3-disc Blu-ray debut — enjoys a bulletproof reputation as The Greatest Movie Ever Made … What isn’t so generally known is that the film’s prominent place in so many film classes — and for that matter, the fact that there are film classes in the first place — has a lot to do with the work of a revolutionary Catholic film critic and theorist, André Bazin, whose critical theories were shaped by the same tradition of Christian personalist philosophy that informed the writings of Pope John Paul II. Read More >

September 11 and Hollywood: How Movies Can Help Make Our Past Real — Or Unreal

2011-09-09 08:36:25 “It was just like a movie.” A cliché, yes, but as is often the case, that phrase became a cliché for a reason. The frequency with which those words were repeated in the weeks and months after September 11, 2001 was a striking testament to the role movies have come to play in how we process and interpret reality. Read More >

Superheroes of Summer 2011: What Our Heroes Tell Us About Ourselves

2011-08-12 14:47:57 What do today’s superhero movies tell us about ourselves? For one thing, we’re more skeptical these days about heroes and heroism. In contrast to the stoic confidence of the typical Western hero — or even of Christopher Reeves’ Superman, who as late as 1978 could unabashedly say, “I’m here to fight for truth, justice and the American way” — today’s heroes have feet of clay, and have to grow into their heroic roles. Read More >

The Tree of Life

2011-06-10 12:46:14 Here is a film that not only asks, with unusual insistence, why God allows suffering, but contemplates God’s own answer to that question in the Book of Job, amplified by the sweeping vistas of the natural world available to modern science, the Hubble telescope and Hollywood special effects: God did all this; who are we to think we can judge or question him? It also asks why a stern, bullying father hurts his children. Is God like that father? Read More >

“Opus Dei does not tell people what to think”

2011-04-01 15:21:51 Roland Joffé, director of The Mission and There Be Dragons, calls himself an agnostic, but he seems to be a remarkably God-haunted one. Read More >

How Catholic is Of Gods and Men?

2011-03-18 08:21:12 Has any dramatic feature film ever more powerfully communicated the beauty and attractiveness of lived Christian faith, and of the Christian faith itself, than Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men? Read More >

Academy Crowns The King’s Speech

2011-02-28 13:02:56 The royal historical drama The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth as England’s Prince Albert, later King George VI, was the biggest winner at the 83rd Academy Awards, winning four of its 12 nominations in an evening with few surprises and a poorly staged ceremony whose primary virtue was its comparative shortness. Read More >

2010: The Year in Reviews

2011-01-14 09:08:43 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. Read More >

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