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.
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?
“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.
Hall doesn’t want credit; as far as he’s concerned, the rescue was God’s work, not his.
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 comes billed as being “From the imagination of Charles Schulz,” and, almost astonishingly, it pretty much is.
“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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We aren’t exactly talking The Matrix here, but it’s been awhile since a Hollywood popcorn action movie elicited such a range of theological and philosophical analysis.
Much like Pope Francis himself at times — or even like Jesus himself — Saint Francis of Assisi has often been made into an avatar or mascot of people’s likes (or dislikes) rather than being recognized as the surprising, vibrant figure he really was.
Casino is more than a reboot: It’s also a kind of origin story, based on the first Ian Fleming novel. As such, it’s the story of how James Bond lost his soul, or whatever was left of it, at the very moment when he dared to hope for redemption.
The name of Saint Thomas More has cropped up in recent discussion of current events as never since — well, if not since the English Reformation, at any rate probably since one of my all-time favorite films, A Man for All Seasons, won six Academy Awards at the 1966 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), and Best Actor (Paul Scofield).
Nightmare’s surreal scares go beyond most slasher fare by evoking an irrational world in which normal rational defenses don’t apply.
As technology progresses and the culture and the Gospel continue to draw further apart, transhumanist aspirations flourish, both as a worldview and in the world of popular culture.
All violence is not the same. There are obvious, important differences between realistic war violence, violence in a serious social drama, cartoon violence in an action movie, horrific violence in a crime movie, slapstick violence in a comedy and so forth. Ultimately, though, I think it’s important to give ourselves regular breaks from violence of any kind. Violence is unavoidably part of human nature, but it’s far from the most interesting part.
The Dardennes’ films generally have redemptive arcs of some sort, or at least the hope of redemption — though there are no traditional happy endings, only hopeful new beginnings. Theologians ponder the mystery of evil; the Dardennes are intrigued by the mystery of goodness.
Are manmade things ever worth dying for? How do you weigh the value of art or artifacts against the value of human life? On the one hand, human life is sacred; things are just things. On the other, the cultural heritage of a people is an irreplaceable treasure that belongs not only to the whole community, but to all future generations.
In another movie, a line like “We are not things” could be a platitude, but in the context of vividly imagined atrocities with unnerving echoes of recent headlines, this simple affirmation is fraught with topical power that has only grown in the months since the film’s theatrical debut.
For the Aardman filmmakers, it seems that inspiration and the tactile work of stop-motion go hand in hand.
The negative buzz around the new Fantastic Four is so radioactive you could almost expect to develop superpowers just by reading about it. Ah, but that’s old-fashioned talk. In the 1960s radioactivity was mysterious and eldritch, capable of producing all manner of hulks and spider-men and what have you. In the 1950s you could even get godzillas.
The world of Shaun the Sheep puts a smile on my face before anything even happens.
One much-noted point about the BBC list is how few Academy Award Best Picture winners made the list. Naturally, I’m interested in a different comparison: How does the BBC list compare to the 1995 Vatican film list?
Building on the momentum of its predecessor, McQuarry whips up a similar blend of brilliantly constructed set pieces, spectacular stunts, humor, exotic locations and — well, that’s about it, really. What more do you need?
A haunting scene in Timbuktu depicts two teams of young athletes running back and forth on a field engaged in offensive and defensive patterns familiar the world over: kicking, dribbling, passing, blocking. All that is missing is a ball and goal markers.
The idea of saving the world from alien invaders with classic video-game skills is not without a certain dumb appeal.
I recently rewatched Fruitvale Station (2013), first-time director Ryan Coogler’s shattering Sundance winner, with my oldest son, who has since gotten his driver’s license. Some day he will face that inevitable first traffic stop, and I want him to be aware just how different that encounter will be for him, with his bleached complexion and shining towheaded crown, than for many young men in the minority neighborhoods all around us.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.