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Hey, DC / Arlington area! POST

Hey, DC / Arlington area!

Local to the Washington metropolitan area? This Friday, May 13th, I’ll be at the FORUM Arlington talking about cinema and Catholic faith — at least, if the title of my talk, “A Ray of God: Movies and Catholic Teaching” is any indication.

Captain America: Civil War REVIEW

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Civil War also demonstrates that the right way to do a “versus” movie pitting heroes against one another is by building relationships — and tensions — over time, then allowing characters to fall out over meaningful practical and personal issues.

Violence and virtue: How Christian is <em>The Revenant</em>? ARTICLE

Violence and virtue: How Christian is The Revenant?

Whether one sees The Revenant as a spiritually rich, profound meditation on good and evil or an overwrought attempt to transmogrify atrocity into transcendence, Christians should recognize that when it comes to media depictions of violence, there are two potential dangers, not just one.

Make Mine Marvel ARTICLE

Make Mine Marvel

The modern era of superhero movies was arguably inaugurated by two films: Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men and Jon Favreau’s 2008 Iron Man.

Whit Stillman and the discreet charm of the Urban Haute Bourgeoisie ARTICLE

Whit Stillman and the discreet charm of the Urban Haute Bourgeoisie

He’s been called “the WASP Woody Allen,” but I prefer my friend Ron Reed’s moniker for Whit Stillman: “the Jane Austen of indie film.”

Is <em>The Jungle Book</em> blasphemous? POST

Is The Jungle Book blasphemous?

A reader writes: “‘The elephants created the jungle’ is not ‘semi-religious’ as you say. It is, in fact, blasphemous. You say such ideas are not ‘often found in a Hollywood family film.’ I disagree. Blasphemy is typical in most Hollywood films.”

The Jungle Book REVIEW

The Jungle Book (2016)

Like Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella last year, The Jungle Book offers a lavish new reimagining of a beloved story, blending elements from the original literary source material with the classic animated Disney version.

Bicycle Thieves (The Bicycle Thief) REVIEW

Bicycle Thieves (The Bicycle Thief) (1948)

Relate the plot of Bicycle Thieves in a few sentences, and a person who had never seen the film might be forever haunted by it.

&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a crucifixion!&rdquo; ARTICLE

“That’s a crucifixion!”

But the Crucifixion was not only on Calvary, and if Christ is on the waterfront, he can also be found in a medieval prison cell, a cheap, penny-ante building and loan in a crummy little town, a Russian shtetl (a small Jewish town in Eastern Europe), a Belgian trailer park, or the slaves’ quarters of a 19th-century Louisiana plantation.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice REVIEW

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman v Superman is even more charged with theological language and iconography than Avengers: Age of Ultron. Even the Good Friday opening may not be an accident.

Brooklyn REVIEW

Brooklyn (2015)

Brooklyn is what seems like an increasingly rare gift: a film about the drama and discovery of an ordinary human life: about love and loss, sorrow and self-discovery, in a story that for once is not overshadowed by some deep injustice or extraordinary human conflict.

&#8220;A person&#8217;s a person&#8221;: Animation and the cultures of life and death ARTICLE

“A person’s a person”: Animation and the cultures of life and death

Clearly Horton can be called a “pro-life” hero in a broad sense, and even in a sense that resonates in some striking ways with the pro-life cause. And his isn’t the only animated adventure with pro-life resonances.

The Young Messiah REVIEW

The Young Messiah (2016)

The Young Messiah is an impressive achievement of Christian imagination, a work that does one of the noblest things a Bible movie, or any literary adaptation, can do: It brings persuasive emotional and psychological depth to characters and situations that were either hidden or else so familiar we may have trouble seeing them at all.

What did Jesus know and when did he know it? POST

What did Jesus know and when did he know it?

There are many things I love about The Young Messiah, as my review elaborates, but the way it depicts Jesus’ consciousness at the age of seven is one of my favorite things about it.

What&#8217;s Catholic response to <em>Spotlight</em> been like? Mostly positive, actually. ARTICLE

What’s Catholic response to Spotlight been like? Mostly positive, actually.

Why has Catholic response to Spotlight been so positive? One key reason is the film’s shrewd choice of point of view.

Silent rage against the machine: <em>Metropolis</em> and <em>Modern Times</em> ARTICLE

Silent rage against the machine: Metropolis and Modern Times

Metropolis is an operatic, dystopian science-fiction parable with roots in various sources including biblical and medieval Christian imagery, while Modern Times is a satiric comedy at times recalling Dickens and anticipating “Dilbert.” Yet the two films converge around political, economic, social, and technological themes.

Jesus movies and antisemitism: <em>Jesus of Nazareth</em> and <em>The Passion of the Christ</em> ARTICLE

Jesus movies and antisemitism: Jesus of Nazareth and The Passion of the Christ

While concerns around “Jesus of Nazareth” were short-lived, The Passion of the Christ remains controversial, beloved by many and condemned by many others.

Interview: <em>The Young Messiah</em> filmmaker Cyrus Nowrasteh ARTICLE

Interview: The Young Messiah filmmaker Cyrus Nowrasteh

The director of my favorite movie this spring about Jesus and a Roman soldier talks about working with Sean Bean, Jesus’ human consciousness, and bringing the biblical world to life.

Best films of 2015: More lists POST

Best films of 2015: More lists

This year my circle of Christian cinephiles converged on the year’s best films more closely than usual.

Alfred Hitchcock&#8217;s two most Catholic films ARTICLE

Alfred Hitchcock’s two most Catholic films

Intriguingly, although I Confess was made first and The Wrong Man closely follows its true story, there are a number of notable convergences between the two films.

Risen REVIEW

Risen (2016)

Risen might be the only Jesus film in which we first encounter Jesus on the cross, already dead or nearly so.

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.