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
‘Up’ a ‘wonderful family film ... you don’t want to miss’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the July 2, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, asked the former head of the Dominican Order, Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe, to write a book to be used for discussion during this Lent in Anglican Churches worldwide. The result is Why Go to Church?: The Drama of the Eucharist. It is available in large size paperback from Continuum Books at $16.95. Father Radcliffe took on the assignment using the Roman Catholic Mass as his focal point.

The result is a thought-provoking book using numerous quotations from an incredible number of sources. Father Radcliffe must have a tremendous research assistant to pull this off. So the book becomes a rich source for prayer, reflection and spiritual reading. For those who prepare homilies or reflections the book is a treasure trove of ideas and quotations.

Father Radcliffe divides the Eucharist into three parts for his rich discussion of themes. The first part of Mass with Scripture, Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful he overlays with a reflection on Faith. The Preface through Eucharistic Prayer centers heavily on the theme of Christ’s sacrifice and the meal we celebrate in Hope. The Our Father, through Communion and the Going Forth at the end of the Mass is the call to live a life of love for others.

Particularly helpful on the idea of the Sacrifice of Christ is his chapter titled “Death Outside the Camp.” On page 115 he writes: “It belongs to our common priesthood in Christ that we reach out to embrace all those who are considered unclean, who are cast out of the community, and gather them into the kingdom. In the new Jerusalem, nothing is accursed. It belongs to our home that we claim as our brothers and sisters in Christ those whom the world rubbishes. During the genocide in Rwanda, the walls were covered with graffiti urging people to kill ‘the cockroaches,’ the other tribe. The Nazis call the Jews vermin, chattels, rats, rags, dolls.”

At the end of his section on hope, he presents my favorite short story from Flannery O’Connor. In “Revelation,” O’Connor gives one of the most powerful scenes of redemption as her main character, Mrs. Turpin, has a vision of all the people entering heaven. The people she judged to be inferior and below her are now preceding ahead of her more proper class of people, singing hymns with wonderful joy. And then O’Connor writes: “And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and her husband Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burnt away.”

Why Go to Church? is a book to ponder, enjoy, and be changed by.

Movie Review

On a weekday afternoon I attempted to see the new Disney-Pixar film Up in 3-D at a local Spokane theater. But the projector broke and after a short wait I was able to see the film in old fashioned 2-D.

I am happy to report that Up is an extraordinary film that is fitting for all audiences. What a gift to have such a wonderful film that entire families can see together!

Up is the beautifully told story of Carl (voiced by Ed Asner), a 70-plus-year-old widower who lives alone in an old home that commercial interests are trying to purchase as large towers are being built all around it. Carl had been married to Ellie, who had always wanted to visit a large Angel-like falls in South America. But it never came to be.

The story of the life of Carl and Ellie is told in a stunning montage with visuals that tell their life story in a relatively short time with little or no words. It is an incredible piece of film making.

Carl decides to use his skill as a balloon salesman to affix thousands of balloons to his home before he is taken away to the assisted living center he seeks to avoid. With the helium gas in place the home rises to the sky and heads toward the falls in Venezuela.

A young Scout named Russell (Jordan Nagai) has been trying to get his “Help a Senior Citizen” merit badge. Carl has refused Russell’s efforts, but suddenly finds the boy out on the porch of the high-flying house. Russell gets in the door and thus begins a moving story of the relationship between the cranky Carl, who was unable to have children, and the young Scout whose father is too busy to be a part of his life.

The two protagonists need each other as they maneuver the floating house through fierce storms to their goal in a distant country. When they finally reach the region of the beloved falls the story includes a giant bird and a very likeable dog who become part of the team of old and young. A long-lost explorer who is very quirky becomes the eventual enemy with his pack of vicious dogs. How this all comes to a fitting and emotional conclusion is exciting and powerfully executed.

The music throughout the film is like a movie from the 1940s. It fits well and does not overwhelm the story. The animation is Pixar at its best.

Up is like a medieval morality play that works in today’s world. It is old-fashioned in many ways as it teaches simple truths to children and adults. See the world in front of you, especially the people in your life, and realize the goodness that is all around you. Anthony de Mello would have found Up a story that expresses the spirituality he sought to teach.

Up is a movie you don’t want to miss.

Up is rated PG-(parental guidance suggested) by the Motion Picture Association of America. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film A-I – general patronage.

DVD Review

Some months back, America magazine published a column in which one of its editors wrote enthusiastically about the Mexican film, Silent Light, which had won the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Later on the internet I found a way to purchase the DVD.

Silent Light, by the director Carlos Reygadas, is a poignant film about a German Mennonite community in Northern Mexico. The catch on the film is that much of the film is very slow going. It is the opposite of today’s fast-moving Hollywood films. As one priest who saw the film on the recent Priests’ Retreat commented, “The story could have been told in 20 minutes.” The film is 2 hours and 22 minutes in length. With the slow takes of the events you sometimes feel like you are watching grass grow.

The story is about Johan, a married father who has what appears to be a wonderful wife and six or seven beautiful children. But he has fallen in love with another member of the Mennonite community and is committing adultery. There are attempts to stop the illicit love affair. Johan’s wife and his father do know of the affair, which deeply affects them.

In the midst of this moral crisis there are incredibly beautiful scenes of northern Mexico: sunrises and sunsets, swimming in idyllic natural pools of water, and stark weather of snow and rain.

Toward the end of film there is a shift from realism to a sense of magic realism or fable.

Silent Light is a beautiful film that takes some effort to watch but also is a powerful story of redemption that could be out of the New Testament.

As far as I know, the film has not been rated, but it does have a mature theme and some nudity.

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

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