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
‘Norman’ is ‘a small film that packs a wallop’; ‘The Way’ is ‘a gift from the Sheen family to all of us’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the November 17, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

The new G-rated film The Mighty Macs is an enjoyable and entertaining film for the whole family. It is the typical Rocky or Hoosiers-type sports film that helps us all learn how far women’s sports have come on the college level in the last 30-plus years.

There are some stereotypes of Religious Sisters and a priest in the story, which is based on the national championship run of small Immaculata College in the early 1970s. But the story of Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) as the new coach against all odds is impressive and hopeful.

Ellen Burstyn is a very tough Mother Superior. The constant walls placed before Cathy and her team seem at times insurmountable. But the wonderful end you know is coming is terrific. Do stay for the pictures of the real players at the credit time and see how much these young women affected women’s basketball down to our own time.

The Mighty Macs is rated G-General audience by the Motion Picture Association of America. Catholic News Service rates the film A-I – for all audiences.


Spokane as a place where movies are filmed by North by Northwest Productions has a critical hit on its hands with the well-acted and -directed new film Norman. Director Jonathan Segal has taken the typical high school drama and made it come alive.

Spokane is meant to be Everytown, U.S.A where Norman Long (Dan Byrd of TV’s Cougar Town) is facing the death by cancer of his father, who is a doctor (Richard Jenkins). His mother had previously died in a car accident.

In coping with all that is happening to his dad, he tells a friend that he is suffering from cancer. Soon the whole of North Central School finds out and complications begin.

Norman finds himself falling in love with a new classmate, Emily (Emily VanCamp of TV’s Brothers and Sisters and Revenge). One of his teachers (Adam Goldberg) who sees lots of promise in Norman pushes Norman into giving a talk at a school assembly.

The standout part of the film is the wonderful relationship between father and son as both are going through very challenging times.

Emily VanCamp is very good as the new teen who sees Norman’s best side. But she appears a little old for the part and she sure is dressed more high fashion than the typical high schooler – but I do admit a film needs a little leeway.

Dan Byrd is superb as the young teen and he carries the film. He is a much better actor than you might gather from his TV show.

Richard Jenkins gives a prize-winning performance as usual.

If only Norman would find an audience, and Byrd and Jenkins receive some nominations for their fine acting.

Director Jonathan Segal should be proud of a small film that packs a wallop.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates Norman R- Restricted because of a few bad words heard in the typical high school. Catholic New Service has not rated the film.


The wonderful new movie written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen, recently arrived in the area. For those who read Msgr. Kevin Codd’s impressive book To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela (“Media Watch,” IR 5/22/08) the film will bring home that inspiring book in a new medium. And I don’t claim to know how accurate the film will appear to actual pilgrims of the 800-kilometer walk across northern Spain. But as an entertaining film with both tragedy and humor and maybe a few tears, it is as good as a retreat.

Martin Sheen plays a father, Tom, in his late 60s, who travels to Southern France to identify his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) who has died in the Pyrenees in a storm as he attempted to begin his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela where, tradition says, St. James the Apostle was buried. Tom eventually decides to make the Way in honor of his son bringing the son’s ashes with him.

Tom more or less wants to be on his own but as the story develops he meets a heavy-set Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen) who says he is making the Camino to lose weight for an upcoming wedding. Also there is a rather out-spoken and challenging Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) who gives Tom a verbal tongue-lashing even before she really knows him. She says she is doing the Camino to stop smoking. James Nesbitt, from Irish and English television, plays a Irish travel writer with great literary hopes who eventually joins the three very different pilgrims. The writer hopes the Way will help him overcome writer’s block.

There are moments of backpacks falling in a river or being stolen by a teen. We get some idea of the crowded nights in the many beds of the places of refuge on the Way. There is not as much about the physical pain of feet and legs as we have in Msgr. Codd’s personal account.

There are back stories to all the principals’ real reasons for making the journey across northern Spain. There are moments of anger, revelation, forgiveness as our four disparate pilgrims bond and begin to understand and appreciate each other.

The ending in Compostela and at the sea is a real gift for those who have not had the opportunity of making this famous pilgrimage.

When people say to see the incense pot go high into the sky of the Cathedral is an incredible experience, they are right. Even on film it is unforgettable.

The Way is a gift from the Sheen family to all of us. They fought to have it made in a world where the odds of it getting made were very slight. For Catholics in particular this is a film that uplifts the spirit and you do not want to miss it.

The Way is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. Catholic News Service rates it A-III – for adults. Personally I think most older teens would get a lot out of the film.

Book Review

The haunting memoir by Tony Judt titled The Memory Chalet is available in paperback from Penquin at a list price of $15.

Tony Judt died a year ago this summer. Born in England of Jewish descent, he came to the United States where for years he was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of European Studies at New York University. He frequently wrote for the New York Review of Books.

The Memory Chalet is a reflection on the importance of memory and the issues one faces at the time of a debilitating illness. In 2008 Judt came down with ALS, or as commonly called, Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was in his early 60s, with a young family. Before he lost his ability to speak he was able to communicate his thoughts based on the memories he reflected on each night as he lay awake, unable to move.

The nightly reflections in which he tried to remain sane are centered on a small chalet in the village of Chesieres in French-speaking Switzerland. Judt began going to that village in 1957 or ’58 and the rooms connect to the times of his life.

The short essays that result begin in England with an immigrant family, the school years, the London buses and trains. But then they move to his life as an academic and the major events that Judt was a part of in the turbulent ’60s and beyond.

For the first time Judt helped me to understand why Pope Benedict XVI as a professor was so affected by the student-led riots of 1968. Judt doesn’t do it directly but by his memory and critique the reader is able to put two and two together.

Politically, Judt is on the liberal side. But as a professor critiquing the academic world he is on the conservative side. And as he reflects backwards his comments have, whether you agree with them or not, a certain wisdom of a thoughtful man who went through the movements of the 1960s and on until he died.

For me, the most powerful sections are on Judt’s descriptions of a person passing through the stages of ALS and facing death. His nightly memories are placed within the context of a spare yet rich use of words and a wonderful literary style.

The Memory Chalet is a gift to all who read it. It is a great book.

Books Received

For those families who would like a little more variety with meal prayers that tie in with the seasons of the Church year ACTA Publications has a helpful book titled These Thy Gifts: A Collection of Simple Meal Prayers. It is written by Mark G. Boyer and has a list price of $12.95.

The book is designed to be kept close by the dinner table. One person is invited to be the leader who prays the prayer for the group.

The prayers for Advent, for example, focus on two aspects of the season: the second coming of Christ in glory, and his birth in history. The prayers are based on the Psalms and Biblical canticles.

The author is a priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri and is a part-time member of the Religious Studies Department of Missouri State University.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)

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