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: Spring sees new books and Spike Lee’s ‘most commercial Hollywood movie’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the April 27, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

Spike Lee’s new film, Inside Man, is the most commercial Hollywood movie he has ever made. And it is well worth seeing. Lee gives us a rich subtext of the multi-cultural ethnic reality that is New York City and much of our country.

Inside Man has all the appearance of a bank robbery thriller. And yet the rather tricky plot – with, admittedly, a few holes – will make for a lively conversation among friends who have seen the movie. This is a popular movie you will want to talk about.

From the opening scene where the head of the bank robbers, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) speaks to the audience from what appears to be a jail cell, we learn that we are going to see the perfect bank heist. Russell, with four masked confreres, takes over the Manhattan Trust Bank in the Wall Street area. The 50 or so hostages are forced to turn in their cell phones and put on identical baggy outfits and masks. The hostages are continually brutalized and threatened into submission.

Detective Keith Fraizer (Denzel Washington) is called in to run the police operation. With his partner, Detective Mitchell (Chiweterl Ejiofor), Fraizer begins to wait out the robbers. Food is sent in with some hidden microphones. Russell demands buses for the hostages and a jet ready to leave soon. There is a series of cat-and-mouse mind-plays that are intriguing.

Also, Lee makes sure the minor characters of many races and ethnic backgrounds remind us of the bridge building that needs to be done between the races in our country. He sometimes does it with lots of humor. I personally think he does a Sikh released hostage demand for his turban from the police excessively. We get the point!

Interestingly, Lee has his main character, Russell – a bank robber – express concern about an ultra-violent computer game a young African-American hostage is playing.

Crucial to the plot are Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), the head of the bank who is worried about something in a safe deposit box. He hires the fix-it power broker Madeline White (Jodie Foster) to work with the police and the robbers.

Denzel Washington again shows us he is one of the best actors around. For example, Lee even leaves in the film a natural cough that makes Washington’s portrayal even more realistic. Jodie Foster is as cold as ice as she swings her persuasive power around.

If you like a thriller that keeps you always a bit unsure of what is really happening, then Inside Man is the movie for you. And for Spike Lee fans, there is lots of rather low-key discussion of race and religion in America.

Inside Man is rated R – Restricted (under 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian) by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) because of language and violent images. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Inside Man L – Limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

Springtime book releases

• Long-time war journalist Chris Hedges has written an interesting new take on the Ten Commandments in his book Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America (Free Press, $24).

Hedges takes on the false gods of our lives by using true stories from his life or the lives of people he has written about. The section on “bearing false witness against your neighbor” tells the fantastic story of two chess shops in Greenwich Village, New York, where the owners have been at each other’s throats through the years and even when there are new owners.

In “Honor your Father and Mother,” Hedges tells of an anti-war speech he gave for graduation at Rockford College in May of 2003. It was hard-hitting and straight from his pacifist heart. The audience reacted angrily. Many felt their child’s graduation was being ruined. Hedges wouldn’t shorten his strong and incendiary words. He may well have been honoring his father, but he sure had little sensitivity for the genuine concern of others. Maybe it is the dilemma between being a prophet and a pastor.

• The fourth edition of How to be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook, edited by Stuart M. Matlins and Arthur J. Magida, has just been published by SkyLight Paths of Woodstock Vt. ($19.99); (802) 457-4000.

The book is a compendium of information on different Christian churches and major world religions. The idea is here in one place is all the information needed to attend a baptism, wedding or funeral at another place of worship with a certain comfort and understanding. For me, the best part of the book is the one- or two-page informational statement on each of the churches or religions. It is very well done.

• Oregon Catholic Press recently issued a beautiful coffee table soft cover book in honor of the 30th anniversary of the formation of the St. Louis Jesuits. If familiar religious music like “Be Not Afraid,” “Here I Am, Lord” and “City of God” are among your favorites then The St. Louis Jesuits: Thirty Years is the book for you. It is a nostalgic remembrance when these five talented men were young and writing a vast number of songs. Each creative person tells the story of his reflection on the past and brings us up-to-date on his life today. The book is available from Oregon Catholic Press – (800) 548-8749 – for $30.

• St. Anthony Messenger Press has just reissued the book Thomas Merton: An Introduction at $16.95. At around 200 pages, the work, by Merton scholar William H. Shannon, is the right size for a person wanting a fairly quick read on one of the greatest religious figures of the 20th Century. Shannon gives an overview of Merton’s life and tells of the key themes in Merton’s many books. Also he gives suggestions on which of Merton’s books to read first. This book would be especially helpful for those for the first time coming to Merton’s many classics.

• Servant Books’ newest offering on Natural Family Planning (NFP) is written by Buffalo News copy editor Fletcher Doyle. It is titled Natural Family Planning Blessed Our Marriage: Nineteen True Stories. Couples from across the country recount their persona! stories in a heartfelt way. The book would be especially helpful for a couple taking a NFP class at their local hospital or parish. The book, in soft cover, is priced $12.99.

• This is the time of the year when a Catholic may be looking for a readable book of short chapters that give an overview of Catholicism for a new member of the Church. Former President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and present Archbishop of Cincinnati, Daniel E. Pilarczyk, makes a real contribution to this need with his new book Being Catholic: How We Believe, Practice, and Think (St. Anthony Messenger Press, $17.95). A new or old Catholic could easily read a chapter a day in five or 10 minutes for a retreat-like experience over 40 days.

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

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