Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch:
‘Munich’ is dark and difficult, ‘Narnia’ a ‘very good family film,’ and ‘Glory Road’ a ‘feel-good movie that makes a difference’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 2, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Steven Spielberg’s new film, Munich, begins with a strikingly-portrayed reenactment of the tragic events of the killing of members of the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The famed director’s use of the television accounts of the day, focusing on the reports of ABC’s Jim McKay and Peter Jennings within the context of the dramatic arc, is memorable.

But the movie is mainly about the attempt of vengeance and retribution by a secret group of assassins led by Avner (Eric Bana), a former Mossad agent. The group is secretly funded by the Israeli government under the leadership of Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen). Mrs. Meir says in the film, “Forget peace, for now we have to show them we’re strong.”

Avner heads to Europe, where he meets with four colleagues who begin their violence against those individuals who are thought to have played a part in the Munich massacre. The first killing is in Rome, of a translator of books. The second violent act is in Paris. This bombing involves a child who goes in and out of an apartment to pick up a forgotten item as the bomb is about to be set off. It is an absolutely terrifying sequence in the tradition of Hitchcock who, admittedly, did not show the violence.

My problem with Munich is the violence. By the end of the film, Spielberg seems to be saying that vengeance and violence won’t bring justice to what has taken place. The violence will only expand. The perpetrators of the violence are permanently wounded in their soul and psyche by what they do. But with all the techniques of modern filmmaking, the famed director puts excruciatingly realistic violence to people right in our face time and time again. Do we need to see everything and linger over the dead in almost three-dimensional living color? How are our souls and psyches affected?

Spielberg does try to present the view of the Palestinians in a conversation Avner has with a Palestinian who is eventually killed as part of Avner’s bomb planting activities.

The end of the film, as Avner, with his wife and child, refuses to return to Israel, is indeed poignant.

Munich is a dark and difficult film.

Munich is rated R – restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) because of violence and sexual content. The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) rates the film L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

*****

It was often predicted that the film King Kong would be the new Titanic, a box office juggernaut, when it came to theaters in December. However, along came The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, based on the most famous (and first written) of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books. So far, surprisingly, Narnia seems to be the winner at the box office.

I am one less wise in reference to the Narnia books because I have never read any of the seven volumes. It is reported widely that Aslan, the lion who dies in the story, is a Christ-figure who comes back to new life to save the children and the land of Narnia. The one question I had was: How does Aslan killing a very important figure in the story fit into the notion of a Christ-figure?

Narnia starts with two brothers and two sisters leaving London during the bombing of the city in World War II, bound for the relative safety of an estate run by a very private professor. As they play hide-and-seek, the youngest child, Lucy (Georgie Henley), walks through a wardrobe into the frozen land of Narnia, where animals talk and a White Witch (Tilda Swinton) controls the land.

When the other three children also enter Narnia, the plot gets rolling, as there is a conflict of good versus evil, leading to war between Asian (voiced by Liam Neeson) and the forces of the White Witch. The scene where Asian gives up his life to save one of the children who has succumbed to the temptations of the White Witch is the powerful center of the film.

For those who have not read the books, Narnia is fairly easy to follow.

Georgie Henley, as the nine-year-old Lucy, is a natural actress who stands out among all the children.

Personally, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a much more enjoyable and understandable film than the most recent Harry Potter movie. It is a very good family film.

The film is rated PG (Parental Guidance) by the MPAA. The USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film A-II – for adults and adolescents.

*****

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who gave us the uplifting football film Remember the Titans in autumn of 2000, has just released his new basketball film, Glory Road.

Glory Road is in the tradition of the little guy coming out on top. It is thoroughly entertaining and enlightening at the same time. You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy this excellent film. It is great to have a film that teens and parents can see together and talk about.

At the beginning of film, in the mid-1960s, Coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) is starting his career as a coach of a Texas high school woman’s basketball team. He is recruited by Texas Western in El Paso, where the existing program is pretty sad. The El Paso college puts most of their money into football.

Haskins, his wife (Emily Deschanel) and kids, end up living in the dorm the players live in. Everything in their life centers around basketball – like it or not.

As soon as he understands the situation, Haskins begins recruiting African-American players from the big cities of the north. He wants the best players he can find, even though, at that time in American history, black players were held back by the remains of segregation and racism.

The unwritten rule of the time in much of the country was that a coach could play one Black player at home, two on the road, and three if the team was losing.

Coach Haskins breaks all the rules in the historic 1966 NCAA championship game when he starts his five best players, who are all black, against the all-white team of the University of Kentucky, coached by Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight). The film is the story, told through moments of glory and agony, of the journey to that historic game.

Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) as the point guard Bobby Joe Hill is the stand-out young actor among his Texas Western team members.

Glory Road strikes home in its ability to tell a wonderful story in the context of teaching many younger Americans what their forebearers went through to bring about changes that we all take for granted today.

The end of the film gives us a picture of some of the actual Texas Western players and what happened later in their lives.

Glory Road is the feel-good movie that makes a difference.

The film is rated PG (Parental Guidance) by the MPAA, because of some racist and profane language. The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the USCCB rates the film A-ll for adults and adolescents.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer and archivist for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)


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