Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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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
Time to catch up: our reporterís 10 best films of 2014

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the February 19, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

It is 50 years ago this March since the three marches Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. The new movie Selma, directed by Ava Duvernay, portrays the doubt, the division among black leaders, and the conflict with President Johnson with a slow and deliberate style of filmmaking.

By narrowing in on one part of Dr. Kingís life, it enables the filmmaker to tell us a great deal about him within the month of March in 1965 that tells much of the story of his whole life.

The film starts with the Nobel Peace Prize, and then goes into detail on the Selma Bridge story.

David Oyelowo, the British actor, does a superb job as Dr. King. We see his organizational skills, his speaking skills, and his own fallibility in his relationship with his wife, Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo). The scenes with husband and wife are moving as they try to hold their marriage together.

Some claim President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) is portrayed unfairly and made to be the enemy in a way in which he wasnít in history. I donít know.

The three marches across the Selma Bridge are powerfully filmed. The first one is all blacks, who are beaten down with ferocious violence. The second march includes one third of the crowd as white. King drops to his knees and does not proceed forward. After the televised violence and President Johnsonís meeting with Governor Wallace (Tim Roth), the third march crosses the bridge and travels the 50 miles to Montgomery, where Dr. King gives a memorable speech.

Yes, some movies are good for you and do help us to remember or to discover the past. Selma is that kind of movie. It deserves the widest possible audience.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates Selma PG-13. Catholic News Service rates the film A-III Ė for adults.

Book Review

In early October I was visiting Walla Walla to celebrate the weekend Mass at Assumption Parish there. I walked through the beautiful Whitman College campus to our old home several blocks up from the campus on University Street.

Back on the campus I stopped at the student bookstore and browsed through the textbooks being used in classes. I found the 1996 edition in large size paperback of the great director Sidney Lumetís book Making Movies. It is published by Vintage Books for a list price of $15.95.

For anyone interested in the fascinating but complicated way movies are made, Making Movies is a wonderful book.

Lumet explains his way of making movies. He has strong statements on the studio system. He particularly dislikes the side of making movies based on information from polling and marketing companies.

The best job in the world, Mr. Lumet states in the first chapter, is the directorís. For Lumet, the way to become a director is to learn from others. He explains from his point of view the reasons a director chooses to go a certain way.

Then he goes on to the importance of the writer. In detail he uses examples from David Mametís script for The Verdict, which starred Paul Newman in one of his best roles. Lumet gives insights into Paddy Chayefskyís prophetic vision of television in his script for the movie Network.

The making of a film is a group effort as we learn of the work of the cinematographer, the actor, and the look of the film done, by the art director. And of course there are chapters on financing a film, actually shooting a film, and editing a film.

You can rightly say that you do not need to know any of the above to enjoy a film. But personally, I think all the knowledge given does help. In fact, Lumet does argue that no single thing, such as the music, should stand out. Everything is done for a seamless telling of a story that reaches people.

Sidney Lumet writes in a gripping fashion, and you come away with a new understanding and appreciation of the community effort needed to make a film.

Ten Best Movies of the Year

I have not seen many of the movies that came out in November and December because of family issues and moving. So my list of the best 10 movies is limited, with only those movies I did see through the year.

10. Birdman, by the great Mexican director Alejandro Inamta, is a unique film for its apparent one-take filming throughout. There seems to be no editing as we follow the actors around the St. James Theater in New York and out on to Times Square. Michael Keaton plays a former super-hero from the films now trying a serious Raymond Chandler theater piece on Broadway. I donít totally understand the film, but it has something to do with the superhero versus wounded human beings. Edward Norton is great as the method actor monopolizing the play, and Emma Stone is excellent as the daughter of the superhero.

9. My Old Lady is a very enjoyable small film in which a New Yorker, played by Kevin Kline, finds out he has inherited a very valuable apartment in Paris. He is broke and plans to sell it for millions, until he finds out that under French law, a woman (played by Maggie Smith) has the right to live in the apartment until she dies and he has to pay her 2,400 euros a month, which is lots of money, especially when you are broke. There is lots of humor and a love story between Kline and the beautiful Kristin Scott Thomas. A fun movie.

8. Eddie Redmayne, who sang so well in the film Les Miserables, gives the performance of a lifetime in The Theory of Everything. He plays Stephen Hawking, the famed British scientist, with humor, determination, and woundedness. The film shows the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.

7. The Imitation Game is the absorbing story of the British mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the German Enigma code. It was held secret for roughly 50 years after World War II. Benedict Cumberbatch is superb as the brilliant scientist with few human personal skills. There is a strong subplot having to do with the harsh laws in England against gays in the 1950s. An ensemble cast makes this a very enjoyable film.

6. Wes Anderson, who has a perfectionist and quirky side, has made a madcap, enjoyable film of the Nazi and Communist periods in a central European country, titled Grand Budapest Hotel. No need to think too hard. Just enjoy lots of stars having a wonderful time making a funny film within the context of the sad events of the 20th Century.

5. Boyhood, by Richard Linklater, is considered by many the best film of the year, if not a classic for all time. The filming took 12 years as the director followed a young Texas boy to his college years. The cast ages with the young man. I found the story rather ordinary and wonder if Boyhood would be held up as a great film if it were not for the 12 years taken to make it possible.

4. The British actor David Oyelowo makes Martin Luther King come alive as a great man, flawed in one way or another (like all the rest of us), in the new film Selma. The filming of the three crossings of the bridge in Selma are beautifully and powerfully filmed. It is a film you should see for knowledge or remembrance.

3. Bill Murray makes St. Vincent funny, sad and meaningful. The ending is a pulling out of all stops as we see a crotchety old man held up as a saint. Enjoyable and thought-provoking.

2. Calvary is admittedly a dark film in many ways. But it is so wonderful to see the great Irish actor Brendan Gleeson play a heroic priest in a church divided in modern Ireland. He continually reaches out to his belligerent parishioners on the West Coast of that island nation. Do not miss.

1. The Polish government has submitted Ida as its nomination for the best foreign film at the Academy Awards. This a beautiful story, told in stark black-and-white in 80 minutes, about the choices we make in life and why. Does a young nun make her first vows when she finds out that she was baptized and placed in the convent to save her life because she was Jewish? A powerful film you will not forget.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivisit, and a regular contributor to this publication.)

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