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:
Books chronicle family relationships, Molokaiís captives

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Sept. 14, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

Good friends from Missoula were visiting me at the same time as the arrests of those alleged to have plotted to bomb 10 upcoming flights from London to the United States. On a Thursday night we saw Oliver Stoneís new film, World Trade Center.

The film is not the classic one would hope for, even five years after that tragic day in September 2001. But World Trade Center is a fine drama that focuses on two Port Authority policeman who were among the 20 persons who survived being trapped under the incredible rubble of the fallen buildings.

Sgt. John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) is a veteran of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He rushes with his confreres to the Center, knowing full well there is no adequate plan to deal with the catastrophe in front of him. A rookie, Will Jimeno (Michael Pena, who was so extraordinary as the locksmith in Crash), is one of the volunteers who plunges into the fray. They run toward the elevator shaft as the building collapses and are pinned under tons of concrete and twisted metal.

The movie centers on their conversations to keep each other alive until someone comes to get them out. At the same time, we go back and forth to both menís families, with special emphasis on their wives looking into the darkness of the day. Maria Bello plays Donna McLoughlin, with three children, and Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the pregnant Allison Jimeno. The script, written by Andrea Berloff, gives a certain equal footing to the women characters. This reality gives some relief to claustrophobic feeling of watching two men talk back and forth under 20 feet of debris.

The chief rescuer turns out to be David Karnes (Michael Shannon), who puts on his Marine uniform and, somehow meeting another Marine walking through the debris, is able to find the two cops and call for an excavation team. In real life, after the movie was released, the unknown rescuer turned out to be an African-American living in Ohio. The producers of the film apologized for not having an African-American play this role, but at the time they did not know the race of the man.

Except for a line on vengeance spoken by the Marine David Karnes, Oliver Stone stays (surprisingly) with the human drama of two ordinary guys versus the wider political ramifications of the event. In fact, it is well to remember that John and Will, deep within the bowels of the World Trade Center, donít know anything about the reason the building has come down.

World Trade Center was a very hard movie to watch, but well worth the effort. At this point in time, a slice of life that centers on two families does honor to the thousands of families who suffered such overwhelming loss on 9/11.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rates World Trade Center PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) because of extreme and upsetting violence. The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rates the film A-II Ė adults and adolescents.

*****

Fall is in the air, and that means all the small, dramatic movies that studios believe canít find an audience in the summer are beginning to hit the theaters.

Little Miss Sunshine leads the way with a delightful ensemble cast who are perfect in skewering the child beauty pageant scene.

At the beginning, I thought this way over-the-top dysfunctional family was just weird. I soon realized that any one of us on a given day could fit right in with this Albuquerque family on a road trip to a junior beauty pageant in California. By the end of the film, I liked every family member who even in all their obvious weaknesses cared about each other. Like Moonstruck, Little Miss Sunshine is all about family. And by the way, this is a movie that, about a third of the way through, you just start laughing out loud, over and over again.

Early on, Toni Collette as Sheryl Hoover, the matriarch of the family, picks up her brother Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) from the hospital where he is recovering from a suicide attempt. As Sheryl fixes an evening meal of fast food chicken and salad from a bag, with Sprite, we meet the family. There is foul-mouthed Grandpa (Alan Arkin) and his adult son Richard (Greg Kinnear) who is painfully trying to become a motivational guru. Sheryl and Richardís son is Dwayne (Paul Dano) who has decided not to ever talk as he reads Nietzche and hopes one day to become a fighter pilot. Dwayneís sister, Olive (Abigail Breslin,) is a seven-year-old ordinary child who somehow, because of another contestantís illness, is called to come to California and compete in the Little Miss Sunshine contest.

The resulting road trip to LA in a VW van that has to be pushed to start is one hilarious crisis after another. By the time you actually reach the beauty pageant, you canít stop laughing. Some of the setups are as old as silent movies. But husband and wife directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris make everything seem fresh and original.

The cast of Little Miss Sunshine is superb. They never miss a beat. Steve Carell as the jilted gay expert on Proust is priceless. Paul Dano as the speechless teen is terrific. Little Abigail Breslin as Olive is an original. She is perfect.

In the scene where her brother wants to be left by the side of the road because he has found out his dream of being a pilot is unreachable, Olive lovingly just puts her arm around him and doesnít say a word. No brother can withstand such care. Yes, they all will go together to the goofy pageant in Redondo Beach.

The audience at Sundance Film Festival last January jumped up in applause as the credits began to roll at the end. This is one time Sundance has got it right. Donít miss this life-affirming film.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates Little Miss Sunshine R (Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) because of some foul language and some sex and drug content. The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not yet rated Little Miss Sunshine.

(Editor's note: After this article was published, the USCCB's Office for Film and Broadcasting rated Little Miss Sunshine L - limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.)

Book Review

It has a convoluted title I canít seem to remember, but Paul Shepherdís novel, More Like Not Running Away, is a thoughtful book that touches the heart.

We see life through the tough and yet poignant relationship between the young narrator, Levi Revel, and his father, Everest.

To his son, Everest is a mountain of a man. He cannot read very well. He has a mysterious past where something of monumental significance happened. In many ways, Everest is a Willy Loman-type character who has wonderful visions of the future that never pan out. He keeps moving the family across this country when things get tough for him. He tries to build a permanent home in Michigan at the insistence of his wife. He loves his son Levi, but he has a very hard time showing it.

More Like Not Running Away is the story of a son who grows up almost against all odds to eventually stand on his own feet. Along the way, he deals as best a young teen can with being an adult figure to his father, who seems on the road to total destruction. Young Levi pays a great price for loving his father.

Following Everest and Levi across the highways and byways of the United States is a roller coaster of a ride. By the end of the ride, there may well be tears in your eyes. Up to the last page I was not sure how this moving story would turn out.

The climatic speech where Levi in frustration stands up against his father in a coffee shop on the way to Seattle to see his mother and sister is unforgettable.

Tough love, sin, and redemption are the themes of a family immersed in turmoil. They are the themes of our lives also. We may not have lived such a stark and dramatic story as the Revel family, but surprisingly we identify all the more.

More Like Not Running Away speaks to us in haunting ways. Here is a short novel for men in particular, and a perfect choice for a parish book club.

More Like Not Running Away by Paul Shepherd is published by Sarabande Books of Louisville, Ky. (2005) in softcover at $14.95.

Short Takes

ē The dramatic story of the Molokai leprosy settlement is told in the new book The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman. The story begins in 1866, when 12 men, a woman and a child are sent to the island prison, and continues down until our own time. Through the years, over 8,000 people were sent to this medical prison.

I read the chapters on Father Damien (Joseph De Veuster). It was challenging to read of his typical 19-hour day of service to his flock. Damien belonged to the five percent of the population that was vulnerable to the disease. Recent studies of DNA show that Hawaiians and certain French bloodlines were more disposed to the disease than other races.

The Colony is published by Scribner (2006) in hardcover at $27.50.

ē Drew Devlin, originally from Pullman and now living in Bozeman, Mont., with other investors has opened a beautiful new 12-plex movie theater north of Spokane, near the Wandermere Golf Course. The theater is formally called Village Centre Cinemas-Wandermere. For people north of Spokane, all the way toward Deer Park, this theater complex provides a new and closer set of movie screens. For more information: www.SpokaneMovies.com.

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


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