Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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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
Ten best movies; stories of ministry, public and private

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 24, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Ten Best Movies of the Year

Choosing the best movies of any year is fairly subjective to say the least and depends on the movies the critic has seen. For example, I have to admit I did not see Toy Story 3, which is on many “Ten Best” lists. So the list for 2010 is based on the films that I saw. Most of the films are for mature older teens and adults unless otherwise stated.

• Starting at Number 10, I place Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter. The film is in the tradition of Crash, where seemingly unconnected story lines come together. The two English twin actors Frankie and George McLaren are excellent as brothers seemingly connected even after one of them dies when hit by a car while running from young men chasing him for money and his mother’s prescription drugs. Matt Damon as the San Francisco psychic is understated. He does not want to use his gift for money or fame. He just wants to be an ordinary person. Cecile de France as the survivor of a tsunami finds her life changed as she searches for meaning. Hereafter is a thoughtful and searching film by a great director.

• Coming in at Number 9 is 127 Hours. James Franco plays the true-life character Aron Ralston, who heads into Canyonlands National Park without telling anyone where he is going. Eventually he is caught with a rock on top of his right forearm. The film centers on his effort to escape as we see events of the past go through his mind. Director Danny Boyle makes the film come alive even though the main sequence takes place in a very claustrophobic, narrow cave. Franco does an extraordinary job of acting.

• The film Inception by Christopher Nolan and staring Leonardo Dicaprio stands at Number 8. Now I have to admit I don’t claim to understand this science-fiction film about dreams. There seem to be dream within dream and the ending seems a bit of a cop-out by not clearing up what we have just seen. But the filming of the many dreams is extraordinary and memorable. Christopher Nolan, who earlier gave us Memento, presents image upon image that entertain.

• Yes, I have trouble with Roman Polanski avoiding justice in the United States, but his film The Ghost Writer is definitely one of my favorites, at Number 7. This film is for anyone who likes a thriller. Ewan McGregor is called in by a former prime minister of England, played by Pierce Brosnan, to help rewrite his autobiography. The events early on supposedly take place at a Cape Cod-type location in the U.S., although the film is actually filmed in Europe. As the film progresses you are pulled into a spider web of deception that leads to a solution in the end that is filled with completion and then darkness. The acting throughout is excellent.

• At Number 6 is David O. Russell’s The Fighter, the story of boxer Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg. It is more of a dysfunctional family drama than a boxing story. Christian Bale as Micky’s half-brother is terrific and Melissa Leo as his mother and manager is unforgettable. Amy Adams as Micky’s girl friend plays a tough cookie ready to stand up to Micky’s super-tough Mom and his seven or eight sisters from the dark side. The Fighter is great ensemble acting.

• At Number 5 we have The Social Network, the fascinating story of the founding of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg and the legal and personal challenges of that endeavor. The writing by Aaron Sorkin is wonderful. Jesse Eisenberg is spot-on as Zuckerberg. From the founder’s point of view this film may not be reality as he sees it. Director David Fincher makes what easily could be a rather dry film into an exciting roller coaster ride.

• When I first heard True Grit was being made into a movie again by the Coen brothers, I wondered why? But after seeing the film all I can say at number four it is one of the best films of the year. Evidently thousands of young actresses tried out to play the role of Mattie Ross. In the end 14- year-old Hailee Steinfeld got the role. This young lady is an extraordinary actress. She is up for best supporting actress at the Academy Awards although she is the main actress of the film. She deserves all the awards she gets. Jeff Bridges plays the original John Wayne role of Rooster Cogburn. And the Coens avoid their traditional quirky style. The old-time religious music in the background is perfect.

• The Number 3 film is a small independent film that was made for just a couple of million dollars, titled Winter Bone. Director Debra Granik takes us to southern Missouri to show us a 17-year-old teen played by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence. She is an incredible actress as we see her playing Ree Dolly, a high-school drop-out trying to take care of a sick mother and raise two kids who are her brother and sister. The story centers on finding her father who has put up the family home for bail. If he doesn’t show up for a court appearance, the family in dire straits will be forced out. There is the tragedy of meth use and violence in this world. This is a tough movie to watch but long remembered.

The King’s Speech comes in at Number 2 on this list, but it is up for the most nominations (12) for the Academy Awards. This is a film people often clap at as the credits appear. It is a wonderful old-fashioned film. The R-rating is from a series of bad words used in speech therapy designed to help the eventual King George VI of England get over his very difficult stuttering problem. Personally I think middle teens would be fine with this movie and it would be a very good film for them to see. Colin Firth is perfect as the shy, introverted royal forced to become king when his brother abdicates the throne. Geoffrey Rush is outstanding as self-learned speech therapist. Helena Bonham Carter is excellent as the eventual queen who cares so deeply for her husband. If you only see one movie this year The King’s Speech should be it.

• My top film of the year is a small film that speaks with humor and grace of sin and redemption. The film, with Robert Duvall in the role of a lifetime, is Get Low. Duvall plays Felix Bush in Depression-era Tennessee. He has pushed everyone away from his home and himself. But he decides to ask a local undertaker, played with humor by Bill Murray, to organize a funeral before he dies. Since Felix is not too popular, a lottery is included to draw people to the outdoor event. People can speak about Felix. In the end it is the powerful speech by Felix that is unforgettable. Sissy Spacek is perfect as an old flame. Director Aaron Schneider has given us a gem that would be excellent for a parish film group.

Book Review

Two United Church of Christ pastors have written a new book titled This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers. The large size paperback is published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. of Grand Rapids for a list price of $16.

The authors are Lillian Daniel, a senior minister of First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and Martin B. Copenhaver, senior pastor at Wellesley Congregational Church in Wellesley, Mass. This book is obviously designed for Protestant ministers but I would see it as helpful for anyone active in Catholic parish ministry, from priests and deacons to staff members and office managers. It is all about the wonderful and at times frustrating world of pastoral ministry.

From “How to Pray” to what happens when the church ladies drop the annual strawberry festival and a Dad steps forward to do it, this book is practical and humorous.

Lillian Daniel has a great chapter on vocation. She tells of a church with 225 members and eight seminarians. She speaks of a Presbyterian church that was well known for producing new ministers. Each of the parish’s seminarians had been approached by the same elderly parishioner, who told each one the same thing: “Young man, I think you have gifts for ministry.” She was the key member of a calling church.

In Martin B. Copenhaver’s chapter on his family life he tells of his marriage to Karen, his beloved whom he hopes will grow into the faith. She stays with the church until their children are teens and then tells them she will not be a part of the parish anymore, and her reasons. Interestingly the children grow up to be active Christians.

But the story of Martin and Karen’s marriage is poignant. Copenhaver writes: “A couple years back, we started a new weekly worship service, in a more open space than our sanctuary is, to allow for more innovation. Chris, one of my pastoral colleagues at the church, aware that Karen has an artistic gift, asked me if she might be willing to make banners to decorate and in some way define the space. Long ago having learned that I dare not speak for Karen, I said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to ask her directly.’ When Karen got off the phone with Chris I asked her how she had responded to the request. She said, ‘Well, you know, I really like Chris and making banners is something I can do. I just said, “You’ve got to promise that there will be no public mention of the fact I made the banners.”’ Almost immediately, Karen began to develop a vision for what those banners should convey and what they would look like. She spent much of the summer making those banners. Rather late into the night the Saturday before the first worship service in the new space, she had her sewing machine at the Church, making last-minute adjustments and helping others hang the banners. Driving home, I thanked her for all the work she had done. ‘Well, I love you, babe,’ is all she said in reply.”

Copenhaver continues: “The next morning she was not in the congregation for the worship service that was so enhanced by her vision and handiwork. In the intervening years, she has never attended one of those worship services and, in fact, I don’t think she ever again entered that space where her banners still hang. When I consider that, as I do on many Sundays as I sit in that space, I find it both remarkable and sad at the same time.”

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)

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