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:
New book provides discussion starters for movie fans

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 3, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

A small film in the “film noir”/thriller category by the name of The Lookout recently appeared on a limited release basis. The film by writer-director Scott Frank has a fascinating script that draws you into a character study that increases in its intensity as the movie pushes on to its climax. To a great script is added a fine group of actors, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Chris Pratt, the brain-damaged automobile accident survivor; Matthew Goode as the manipulative bank robber Gary Spargo; and Jeff Daniels as Lewis, Chris’s blind roommate. In a smaller but important role, Isla Fisher plays the beautiful young woman Luvlee Lemons, who is part of the set-up in enticing Chris into using his janitor’s job at a suburban bank near Kansas City, Kan., as the key entry to a major bank robbery.

Chris is a popular hockey star who, early in the film, drives three friends on a deserted Kansas highway with the car lights turned off so everyone can see the beautiful fireflies. With a blinding sense of manic power he speeds up as he friends scream for him to turn the lights on. The result is a horrible accident in which two of his friends are killed and he and a girlfriend are handicapped. Chris has memory problems as he goes to a school to learn how to live life anew. He lives with Lewis who has been around the bend several times and knows the ways of the world.

Slowly Chris is conned by Gary and Luvlee into participating in a robbery of the country bank that will be filled with wheat money as December comes to an end. All Chris has to do is open the front door and let the robbers in, and then be a lookout for police or anyone who happens by in the middle of the night.

At this point, the plot takes twists and turns that place you on the edge of your seat. But it is more the wonderful characters that drive this movie. Both Chris and Lewis are struggling with just getting through the day. But they do it. They have dreams. They are just like all of us. Maybe they will teach us something about our living each day to the fullest.

The Lookout is rated R – restricted, by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult. The film has some tough language, some violence and sexual content. The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rates the film L – Limited adult audience; films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

About Books

On Feb. 26 at Gonzaga University, Jesuit Father Richard Leonard, just off the plane from Australia, gave a lively and interesting talk on film and faith. Perhaps because of a Gonzaga basketball game at the same time, the crowd was fairly small.

Since that evening, I have had the pleasure of reading Father Leonard’s new book, titled Movies That Matter: Reading Film through the Lens of Faith. The book is published by Loyola Press in softcover at $14.95.

The good news is that if you missed that February talk, much of it is in the Introduction of the book. I particularly liked the section on the call to make judgments in terms of the media. The Biblical injunction “Do not judge” needs to be translated to “judge, but do not condemn. Condemnation belongs to God alone.”

Movies That Matter is made up of around 50 films, each of which the author discusses for three or four pages. In his own thoughtful style that particularly focuses on religious meaning and ethical dilemmas in the various films, Father Leonard draws you in. He has a skill of almost making the reflections real possibilities for prayer.

This is a practical book that takes films like The Mission, The Shawshank Redemption, and Schindler’s List and shows how to effectively introduce the film for a parish group and lead the discussion afterwards. Each chapter ends with three possible discussion questions. With this resource any adult or youth group leader could lead a monthly movie night that connects right in with the faith dimension.

The book also could be used by an individual or family at home to have a weekly or monthly movie night that goes beyond entertainment to enlightenment.

And finally, I do think it could be used for prayer as you reflect on a familiar film or one you have recently seen.

In Movies That Matter we have a book that is just waiting for our creativity to find new ways for films to be a blessing instead of a disappointment.


James C. Swindal and Harry J. Gensler, S.J. have just come out with The Sheed & Ward Anthology of Catholic Philosophy. The large-size paperback book of 608 pages is published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers at $35.

The book is obviously designed for college philosophy classes, but would be a fine resource-home library book for anyone interested in philosophy and theology. Beginning with the early Church Fathers, including four articles on St. Augustine, the authors move to the Middle Ages, with emphasis on Thomas Aquinas. In the later Renaissance through the 19th Century they include among others Galileo, Descartes, Pascal and John Henry Newman. But it is roughly half the book that is given to Catholic philosophers of the 20th Century and beyond. There are articles on Chesterton, Marcel, Edith Stein, and Sidney Cornelia Callahan, among many others. Just getting the publishing rights to all these authors had to be a feat in itself.

One of the writers, James C. Swindal, has a connection to our part of the world. Jim is the son of Dr. Marc and Rita Swindal of Sacred Heart Parish in Pullman. I can vouch for the fact he was a bright student back in the early ’70s when several of us diocesan priests taught him at the old Mater Cleri Seminary near Colbert. Jim taught for a number of years at John Carroll University in Cleveland with his co-writer, Jesuit Father Harry Gensler. Jim is now Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.


The Fig Tree, Spokane’s ecumenical newspaper, has recently published in book form the editorials Jo Hendricks wrote for the paper from 1984 until 2006. It was at the encouragement of the members of Pax Christi of Spokane that these thoughtful points of view on social justice issues have been published. Editing of the editorials was done by Holy Names Sister Bernadine Casey and Nancy Minard. The final compilation was done by Fig Tree editor Mary Stamp. To order a copy of One Woman’s Words of Wisdom: Commentaries on the Timbre of the Times, please call The Fig Tree at (509) 535-1813.

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

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