Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch
Be sure to keep your tissues handy during ‘St. Vincent’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the December 18, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

Sure, it is the crotchety-old-man theme with lots of redemption and sentiment. But the new Bill Murray film St. Vincent is a gem that for most people is a delight.

Bill Murray is great as he plays Vincent McKenna, who drinks too much, gives his friends a rough time, and seems to lose his money time and time again on the horses at Belmont. He also occasionally sees a “lady of the night” played by Naomi Watts with a Russian accent.

Into his Brooklyn neighborhood moves a single woman named Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) with 12-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). She is in the midst of divorce proceedings with a husband who wants custody of Oliver.

Because of work at a nearby clinic that causes her to get home late at night, Maggie asks her new neighbor, Vincent, to babysit Oliver. Vincent asks for $12 an hour and Maggie, without options, agrees.

Vincent teaches Oliver to defend himself when he is picked on at school. He takes him to Belmont for the races and Oliver even helps Vincent make a major win. The two guys develop a rapport.

There are many more complications, but Oliver, who is Jewish in background, is asked in his class at a Catholic School to tell the story of a saint living today. The Religious Brother teaching the class is played by Chris O’Dowd, who played a major role in the recent film Calvary (“Media Watch,” IR 9/18/14). The ending of the film is terrific. Bring a tissue or two for your eyes.

The film is written and directed by Theodore Melfi, and he has done a wonderful job. The film can be criticized for similarity to movies we’ve seen before about misanthropic old geezers who have a heart of gold. But it is so enjoyable to see Bill Murray play his character as if he were born to do it. It is great to see Melissa McCarthy play a straight role instead of her usual over-the-top gross-out-comedy film characters. And the young Jaeden Lieberher is the find of the year. He does a great job.

The word-of-mouth on this film is widespread. A coworker at the food bank Our Place put me on to the film.

St. Vincent is an enjoyable movie that has a foundation built on love and care.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film PG-13. There is profanity, sexual content and use of alcohol and tobacco. Catholic New Service rates the film L-limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

*****

Several friends told me that the new Brad Pitt movie, Fury, was very good. I had been slow to see it because of the violence, but as one said, “It is a war movie.” Well, am glad I saw the film, written and directed by David Ayer, because it is a memorable film.

We meet the Sherman tank crew led by Sergeant Don Collier (Pitt) in April of 1945, just several weeks before the end of the War. They are in Germany and often find that the enemy consists of children. Yet there are still some S.S troops around and the fast but vulnerable Sherman tanks can be destroyed by the heavily armor-plated Tiger II German tanks.

Sergeant Collier has just lost one of his men. The three remaining men have been through countless battles in Africa, Italy, and now Germany. He has pledged to keep them safe.

The new replacement is Private Norman Ellison (Logan Leman). He is new to the war and was to be a typist at headquarters. Ellison is pressed into learning how to fire a gun for the first time. The blood of the man he replaced is on the tank, and he throws up as he cleans it off the vehicle.

The other members of Collier’s tank group are Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Grady Travis (John Bernthal) and Trini Garcia (Michael Peña).

Early on, Ellison fails to shoot at a young enemy soldier and an American tank commander dies horribly. Later, in a village, Collier forces Ellison to shoot a German who is said to have killed children. It is a chilling scene.

There are many scenes of violence as Collier’s tank crew, against all odds, time and time again, keep moving into Germany. But the most moving scene in the film is when Collier takes Ellison into an upstairs apartment where Collier brings rare eggs and asks two German women (Anamaria Marinca and Alicia von Rittberg) to prepare breakfast.

The women at first are terrified of what the U.S. Army members might do to them. When the rest of the crew gets to the room, Grady Travis really acts threateningly toward the women and heavy-duty drama ensues.

Yes, the movie is extremely violent, but it is filled with fine acting. Brad Pitt at age 50 is a standout as the tank company leader. Logan Leman is excellent as the anti-war newbie. Shia LaBeouf, as the tough fighter who can quote the Bible again and again, is very good.

The afternoon I saw the film, the small audience of 10 or so were all men, although the young female ticket taker said she had seen the film and liked it very much.

Today’s Second World War films are much more visibly violent than those filmed during the War itself 70 years ago. So the viewer is to be warned. But Fury has a straight line plot that is easy to follow and acting that is well worth seeing.

Catholic News Service rates Fury L-limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film R-restricted. Under 17 requires parent or adult guardian. There is extensive violence and swearing.

*****

For me, seeing the new film Walking the Camino was as good as going on a short retreat. Portland director Lydia B. Smith personally walked the Camino de Santiago Compostela across northern Spain in 2008. She was so affected by the experience she decided to film a documentary of the story of six individuals walking the 500-mile route to the Church where the relics of St. James are believed to be preserved.

Smith tells the story of a cross-section of pilgrims and walkers from the age of 3 to 73 from several nations. Among others, she includes Tomás from Portugal; Jack, a widower from Canada; and Tatana, from Spain, with her three-year-old son. They each tell their stories as they begin at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France in the Pyrenees Mountains.

They cross Spain with its royal beauty present in sun and rain and mist. But among the beautiful vistas they face blisters, the snorers in the hostels at night, backpacks that are too heavy, bathroom issues, and tendonitis. They also face their inner demons and angels as they sort out who they are. Some walk for strong religious motives, others walk for the fun times, and some to break the depression they are going through.

Throughout the movie, several priests and hosts for the pilgrims speak of the experience they see happening before them. One point that hits the viewer is the issue of the inner camino, within the pilgrims, which does transfer to us. We can see our daily life as a pilgrimage and ask ourselves some of the same questions the walkers ask. And we may find some similar answers.

Personally, I found this documentary better than the fictional film starring Martin Sheen titled The Way. The ending scene with the huge incenser is better in The Way. But Walking the Camino lets you into the lives of the participants featured in a more complete and realistic way. The two films go together as companions for any viewer interested in the Camino and its Significance. A pilgrimage that began 1,200 years ago somehow touches us today and can change and have an impact on our lives.

The film at the time of this review has not been rated by either the Motion Picture Association of America or the Catholic News Service. It would appear appropriate for older children and above.

Book Review

I was impressed with the friendliness of Jehovah’s Witness neighbors who once lived next door to me. Their kindness was an example for all. Also I’ve been deeply impressed by learning of the hundreds, if not several thousand, Jehovah’s Witnesses who in Hitler’s Germany were sent to concentration camps for refusing to salute the Nazi flag and the Nazi leaders.

Ian McEwan’s new, short (221-page) novel, The Children Act, centers on the ethical conflict of a young man three months from his 18th birthday. The book is published by Doubleday for a list price of $25.

As Jehovah’s Witnesses, Adam Henry and his parents have chosen that the young man not receive blood transfusions which, with drugs, would help save his life as he suffers from leukemia. The decision is religious, based on their beliefs.

Fiona Maye, in her late 50s, is Adam’s judge in the family division of High Court. In her own life, her marriage seems to be crashing as her husband, a professor in ancient history, tells Fiona he is going off with a younger woman.

Before she makes a decision in Adam’s case, she goes to visit him in the hospital. He is convinced he should not have the transfusion. Yet he appears so alive with his poetry and musical ability. Fiona is greatly impressed by Adam.

Fiona renders her decision, which has far-reaching effects on Adam, his family, and her own life and its relationships.

Ian McEwan is very public as an atheist. If I am reading the novel correctly, the author seems fair in presenting the religious side of the ethical dilemma facing Fiona and the young man, Adam. There are lots of twists and turns as the story comes to a conclusion.

But my strong impression is that the author is at least raising questions: that when faith falls apart, non-belief – at least for some people – fails to provide a strong foundation for living one’s life fully.

The novel is not as great as the author’s Atonement and not as poor as his recent Sweet Tooth. McEwan writes well and tells a story that will hold your interest.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


Inland Register Index | Home


© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved

WEB CONTACT