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
Wayne-less ‘True Grit’ still ‘a movie you will want to see’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 3, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

When I first heard the Coen Brothers were remaking True Grit, I wondered why? John Wayne won the Best Actor Academy Award for the original 1969 version. Admittedly the award, given near the end of his career, was for his whole body of work. But after seeing the new version of True Grit I am very impressed. The Coen Brothers have stayed away from their normal quirkiness and given us a wonderful tale that is extraordinarily well acted. This is a movie you will want to see.

What I particularly liked was the use of the language of the original novel, which is meant to be of the time period, coupled with the incredible acting of 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Mattie Ross so well.

Mattie’s father has been shot and killed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She travels some distance to find a United States Marshall to bring justice to her family. She finds drunken Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and with all the skill she can muster finally gets him to begin chasing down Chaney. On top of it she sets out with Cogburn into the Indian Territory. She wants Cogburn to catch Chaney before a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) catches Chaney and takes him back to Texas for other crimes.

So begins a “road trip” adventure that allows us to find ourselves in typical Western iconic situations that seem new and seen for the first time. There is some violence, but the influence of this good young girl seeking justice changes people along the way, especially the drunken marshall.

Jeff Bridges gives another wonderful performance and Matt Damon is perfect as the understated Texas Ranger. The photography is beautiful. And many thanks for Joel and Ethan for for writing and directing such a classic mainstream movie.

True Grit is rated by the Motion Picture Association of America PG-13 for violence and some disturbing images. Catholic News Service rates the Film A-Ill-for adults. I would think some older teens would find the role modeling of Mattie very impressive.

Book Reviews
Laura Hillenbrand has just released her new true-life adventure that is certainly worthy of its high standing on the Best Sellers list. Hillenbrand is an incredible researcher and she has fashioned a story that you will not want to put down. The title of her book is Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It is published by Random House of New York for a list price of $27.

Hillenbrand focuses on runner Louis Zamperini of California who runs in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which is fascinating in itself. But she moves rapidly into World War II where Louie is part of a B-24 aircraft team in the Pacific.

Before they begin they their major flights in the Pacific, Louie’s good friend Russell Allen Phillips finds himself in Ephrata, Wash., and deeply in love with his girlfriend Cecy, who he wants to marry. In a letter to her he tells her he can’t invite her to Ephrata, which he describes as a dump.

Between 1943-45 400 Army Air Force crews were lost on the way to their theaters. In World War II 35,173 Army Air Force planes were lost in combat or accidents. More men died in accidents than in combat. A total of 52,173 Army Air Force men were killed in combat.

So Louie and his friends are in a plane that crashes into the Pacific. Several of them survive in small rubber rafts for 44 days – an almost impossible time period. Much of the book recounts what happened in their small rafts against all odds.

In the end they are captured by the Japanese and end up in prisoner of war camps, mainly on the Japanese mainland. Surviving in the camps again is against all odds. In the end of the story we see the struggle Louie and other POWs have when they return from the War. And there is a surprising section on the early evangelical efforts in Los Angeles of Billy Graham.

The title says it all. The author reaches into the depths of men’s souls to tell us the incredible story of their survival, resilience, and redemption.

One tiny point: I don’t think in 1943 a Christmas tree would be called a “holiday tree.”

Unbroken is a book you won’t forget.


Franciscan Father Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico. He is a well-known speaker and best-selling author. He has a new book out on spirituality with special emphasis on mystical prayer, titled The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. It is published in paperback by the Crossroad Publishing Company for a list price of $19.95.

Throughout the book Father Rohr speaks negatively of dualism. I am not always sure how he is using the term in each case. He obviously is reacting to Platonism and prefers an incarnational approach. His prayer helps are designed for a contemplative openness to the divine.

An example of Father Rohr’s approach is: “Each one of us must learn to live with paradox, or we cannot live peacefully or happily even a single day of our lives. In fact, we must learn to love paradox, or we will never be wise, forgiving, or possessing the patience of good relationships ... You cannot see in total light or total darkness. You must have variances of light to see. The ‘shadowlands’ are the only world we live in.”

There is a section toward the end of the book on qualities of good leaders. Father Rohr states: “In short, good leaders must have a certain capacity for non-polarity thinking and full-access knowing (prayer), a tolerance for ambiguity (faith), an ability to hold creative tensions (hope), and an ability to care (love) beyond their own personal advantage.”

With his challenging statements, Father Richard Rohr certainly gets the reader thinking and, perhaps, praying.


Mary Karr’s third memoir, Lit, is now out in Harper Perennial paperback for a list price of $14.99. It has received rave reviews. Anna Nussbaum Keating, who is quite a writer herself, describes Lit as “the best memoir I have ever read.”

I struggled through the long passages on alcohol and drug abuse and family history. I was hoping for more redemption, which there is toward the end of the book.

One of the great parts of the book is when an Alcoholics Anonymous friend of Karr’s finally states in strong words something like “why don’t you get down on your knees and find 10 things you’re grateful for.” And it works as Karr comes back to her Catholic faith.

In response to getting down on her knees, Karr writes powerfully: “But the spiritual lens – even just the nightly gratitude list and going over each day’s actions – is starting to rewrite the story of my life in the present and I begin to feel like somebody snatched out of the fire, salvaged, saved.”

If Lit were a movie it would be rated “R” for language.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist and a frequent contributor to this publication.)

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