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
Top-notch storytelling, acting in ‘The Blind Side,’ ‘Everybody’s Fine’

the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 17, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

After 10 days in theaters, Sandra Bullock’s new film, The Blind Side, has already passed the $100 million mark at the box office. There are so few films that would appeal to older teens and their parents these days it is encouraging to have The Blind Side do so well.

The film is based on the true story of Michael (Quinton Aaron), who is brought in to the Tuohy family of Memphis by the kind deed of Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and eventually becomes a football player in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens.

Leigh Anne is a very assertive home decorator married to a very successful fast food entrepreneur (Tim McGraw). Michael has had a very tough life in the projects of Memphis as a young black man. He is allowed to go to a private Christian School with the help of the coach, who hopes he will be an outstanding football player. One night when Michael has nowhere to sleep, the Tuohys invite them to their lavish home.

The story continues as we learn of Michael’s back-story and Leigh Anne’s determination to give him a leg up on his future.

The Blind Side is a feel-good movie with very good acting. Sandra Bullock couldn’t be better. Her son S.J. (Jae Head) is absolutely delightful as the younger brother who seeks to teach his adopted older brother all about football. Quinton Aaron is very good as the quiet giant who is slow to express his real feelings.

Now, the movie can be seen as somewhat paternalistic, with a wealthy white family that seems pretty perfect saving a black youth from drugs and the suffering present in the projects. But the story does have some connection to what evidently really happened. The football scenes do not seem as well filmed as those on the television series Friday Night Lights.

One of the best scenes in the film is when Leigh Anne bypasses the high school football coach and goes on the practice field to explain to Michael that his players are like family and his job is to protect them, especially the quarterback.

The NCAA conflict at the end seemed a mountain made out of a mole hill. With a running time of more than two hours, the film does seem a little long. All this being said, this is still a very enjoyable film that highlights some very good qualities in the human spirit. And for many a filmgoer, this reality is a welcome gift at Advent-Christmas.

The Blind Side is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. There is some violence and references to drugs and sexuality. The USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film AIII – for adults.

*****

In 1974, one of the pop hits of the year was Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle.” The heart-warming new Robert De Niro film Everybody’s Fine is a story that finds lots of connections to “Cradle.” The film is also connected to a wonderful 1990 Italian film, upon which it is based.

Every now and then, people seem proud to say they haven’t gone to a film since The Sound of Music, or say that “they just don’t make any good movies any more.” Well, Everybody’s Fine is an old-fashioned movie that would be particularly wonderful for parents and their adult children to see together. It is a movie about family, the mistakes we make, and in the midst of it all, the joys we celebrate.

De Niro is a great actor who plays Frank, the wounded, aging, and ill parent. With a movement of eyes or a sagging of his face he tells the story of a man who tried to do the right thing for his children, but in many ways, failed.

All four of his grown children give weak excuses why they are not coming to a special dinner one summer at Frank’s home in Elmira, N.Y. So Frank, against type, decides rather spontaneously to visit each child all across the country by bus and train. His doctor warns him not to fly, and in fact tells him not to leave home.

So Frank seeks to visit a son in New York who is not home, and then a daughter (Kate Beckinsale) in Chicago who is an advertising executive. At each child’s home he leaves a card that he asks his child to open after he is gone. Frank also visits a son in Denver (Sam Rockwell), who is a classical musician and then a daughter (Drew Barrymore), a dancer in Las Vegas.

Because everyone is so busy, Frank begins to realize in all these short visits that there is much he has not been told about. The children always talked with their mother, who has died eight months previous to Frank’s journey across the United States.

What happens toward the end of the film is definitely best not told, but it is emotive, and for some, it will bring tears to the eyes.

The acting in this film is terrific. De Niro knocks his part out of the ball park. The three principal children visited are excellent. The scenes with De Niro and Rockwell are real standouts. The father-son give-and-take are memorable.

Everybody’s Fine is a movie that is worth going out to see, even if it has been a really long, long time since you’ve set foot in a theater.

Everybody’s Fine is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. There are a few words of profanity and adult situations.

Book Review

As a young person growing up, I remember reading what we called comic books that included the religiously oriented publication Treasure Chest and the well-known Classics Illustrated. But to be honest, I have never read a graphic novel, which I understand to be today’s longer, often bound version of an elaborate adventure-type story told in cartoon form.

So when the noted cartoonist R. Crumb’s new work The Book of Genesis: Illustrated arrived I wasn’t jumping at the chance to read all 240 pages of it. But I can report it is a very fine and enjoyable book that makes all 50 chapters of the Book of Genesis come alive like nothing you’ve ever imagined before. This would be a great book for a mature teen or someone in their 20s who reads graphic novels. This is the book that can make someone who doesn’t read the Bible become literate on the important first book of the Jewish Scriptures.

If I correctly remember a movie of several years ago, Crumb has had a tough life and is noted for somewhat dark and satirical cartoons. But in Genesis he plays it straight. He uses the King James version of the Bible together with the new translation by Robert Alter titled Genesis: Translation and Commentary. He follows Genesis in a respectful way, with all of its different traditions and stories that sometimes don’t fit together logically. His commentary at the end of the book on many of the chapters is a very interesting take on the powerful women of the story. He argues, for example, that in the stories we are seeing examples of a powerful matriarchy in Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel being taken over by the patriarchy in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

And to top it off, Crumb gave almost five years of his life to produce this powerful illustration of one of the Bible’s most gut-wrenching books.

Yes, there are strong sexual events and much violence visually portrayed in Crumb’s Genesis. But all he exhibits in his excellent artistic scenes is from the original text. Crumb himself say that his book is not a book for unsupervised children.

In a time when we seek to find ways to make the Bible come together for new generations, The Book of Genesis: Illustrated can well be an important help. I think it would be great to hear that a group of adults used Crumb’s new book as a supplemental text for a Bible study.

The Book of Genesis: Illustrated by R. Crumb is published by W.W. Norton of New York in large-size hardcover for a list price of $24.95.

Media Notes

• The November issue of Vanity Fair had an excellent article on the art of Norman Rockwell. Rockwell has slowly come back into favor in the artistic world. There are two national exhibitions traveling museums across the United States. The Smithsonian is planning an upcoming exhibition.

The VF article, by David Kamp, is titled “Norman Rockwell’s American Dream.” It has lots of wonderful illustrations that explain how Rockwell took pictures of his models in costume and then outlined them on the canvas and then drew what he himself called illustrations.

The author goes into the sometimes darkness of Rockwell’s own life. Older readers will well remember the wonderful covers of The Saturday Evening Post and the later illustrations on topics such as civil rights which appeared in Look magazine.

Anyone with any interest in Rockwell should see this fine article. Check your local library.

• One dramatic program stands out this fall television season: The Good Wife on CBS on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Julianna Margulies, a cast member in the early years of ER who has spent the intervening years on the stage in New York, gives an extraordinary performance as a wife and mother trying to begin a new life as a lawyer. Her husband, played by Chris Noth, has been unfaithful and is in prison for criminal offenses. Each story has a legal case and lots of back-story about this Chicago family. If you like fine acting, The Good Wife is well worth checking out.

(Father Caswell is archivist for the Inland Register and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane.)


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