Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch
‘Gravity’ offers ‘hopeful meditation on life and death,’ while Jess Walter’s latest will ‘take you to places you’ve never been with people you may never have known’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the November 21, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

by Father Tom Caswell for the Inland Register Movie Reviews Way back in 1990 I remember seeing Tom Hanks in Joe Versus the Volcano at the Audian Theater in Pullman. And his performance and the whole movie were quite a disappointment.

Just recently, Hanks’s new movie, Captain Phillips, was released. It is an edge-of-your-seat movie with a prize-winning job of acting by Tom Hanks. The acting of everyman by Hanks is in the tradition of the acting of Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart.

Captain Phillips of the container ship Maersk Alabama lives in Vermont with his wife (Catherine Keener). As the film begins Phillips is leaving home for a port in the Middle East where he is to pick up his ship and new crew. They are to bring the ship to port in Africa after traveling through dangerous pirate waters near the broken country of Somalia.

As the crew begins drills in case of attack by pirates, two small ships are seen on radar moving rapidly toward the large vessel Alabama. The excitement continues unabated until the end of the film when you see Hanks do an especially difficult and powerful piece of acting.

Four Somalis initially climb up a ladder onto the ship. They are led by Muse (Barkhard Abdi), who proclaims he is now the captain of the ship. The second half of the film centers on the Somali pirates and Captain Phillips in a giant orange lifeboat that is totally enclosed. American service ships, helicopters, and Navy Seals arrive and surround the lifeboat. One of the service personnel begins to negotiate with the Somalis, which eventually leads to a dramatic conclusion.

Tom Hanks could not be better as the all-American Captain. The four Somali armed men are all first-time actors from the Minneapolis area of Minnesota. Barkhard Abdi stands out as able to be equal to Hanks in his key role as the Somali Captain. He is a powerful new actor.

The direction by Paul Greengrass is impeccable in giving us a thriller based on historic events of just a few years ago. It is so fast paced and interesting that you are captured into the film even if you remember what happened in real time.

Captain Phillips is certainly one of the best films of the year. Don’t miss it.

The film is rated PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned) by the Motion Picture Association of America. The Catholic News Service rating for Captain Phillips is A-III-for adults. There is gun violence, bloody action and adult language.


Early reviews hail Gravity as a film classic. They also urge if possible to see the film in 3-D.

The 91-minute film tells the story of a veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) floating in space. In the beginning of the story they are tethered to a spacecraft, but later are out in space all alone. Their spacecraft is hit by large amounts of space junk that results in a series of exciting attempts to reach safety.

The film is extraordinary for its vision of what it is like to be alone in space. This is one time all the computer generated images are necessary to provide a powerful vision of creation.

George Clooney is perfect playing a typical George Clooney part of a wise-cracking storyteller who helps Sandra Bullock keep a sense of relative coolness in the midst of almost insurmountable odds. Bullock is terrific as the newbie in space with a backstory of human suffering and loss. She will certainly be up for Best Actress at the Academy Awards.

But the key person in this epic adventure is the famed Mexican Director Alfonso Cuaron, whose vision and tenacity in making this picture a reality is visible throughout the film. Gravity is a film of both the brokenness and triumph of the human spirit. The vastness of God’s creation is combined with the smallness of the human body. Human beings are shown to be able to do amazing things built on the continuing growth of scientific knowledge.

Gravity is a hopeful meditation on life and death.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned). Catholic News Service rates the film A-III – for adults.

Book Review

After a best-seller success with the impressive novel Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter has his first collection of short fiction available under the title We Live in Water.

In 13 short stories he brings into focus people often forgotten, from the homeless to the alcoholic father to the child endangered by adults living with meth.

Most of the stories take place in and around Spokane, with some overlay to Seattle and Portland. Some of the stories have humor plus heart-rending emotion and lots of the ambiguity of life.

In “Anything Helps,” a homeless Dad who stays at the “Jesus Beds” in the midst of his alcoholism seeks to buy the latest Harry Potter book at Aunties Bookstore for his son who he is not allowed to see.

“Can a Corn” tells of an adult son who picks up his father at Pine Lodge Correctional Facility to take him to dialysis, but the father chooses to go fishing.

“The New Frontier” is the story of a guy’s trip with his friend Bobby Rausch to Las Vegas. The journey is said to be to find a stepsister and save her from prostitution.

In “The Wolf and the Wild” an ex-con is in an experimental program, helping kids to learn to read. One of his students brings the same book to read each time. Complications ensue.

My favorite story is probably more non-fiction. It is called “Statistical Abstract For My Hometown of Spokane, Washington.” There are 50 “power points.” The first one is: “The population of Spokane, Washington is 203,268. It is the 104th biggest city in the United States.” The second one centers on the 36,000 people in Spokane who live below the poverty line. From then on the points become more autobiographical and more emotive.

These stories first appeared in such publications as Harpers, McSweeney’s and Willow Springs.

Jess Walter has the ability to take you to places you’ve never been with people you may never have known. We Live in Water is a journey well worth taking.

Recently Received

Alyssa Bormes of Minnesota has written a personal book using the sport of hockey as a metaphor for the presentation of a traditional catechism. The title of her book is The Catechism of Hockey. The publisher is ACS Books, an imprint of The American Chesterton Society. The list price is $ 14.95.

The Catechism of Hockey certainly has a Midwestern flavor, with the Fish Fry and pancake breakfasts and of course knowledge of hockey. It also tells the story of Mary Jo Copeland who is well known in the Twin Cities for her shelters for the homeless and the 5,000 meals her associates prepare each week.

The book is written for parents in particular and includes numerous stories from the author’s life and a personal conversion story. Being educated in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, she tells stories from Rome such as her experience of being present at the time of the death of Pope John Paul II.

The Catechism of Hockey is supported by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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

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