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The Joy of Elder Care
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.


Mid-August Lunch
The Cove
The Last Song
Earth Days
Film Capsules
Catholic Classifications

Mid-August Lunch

MID-AUGUST LUNCH (Pranzo di Ferragosto) (not yet rated): Gianni (Gianni Di Gregorio) is a good-hearted, wine-loving, middle-aged man who lives with his elegant, elderly mother (Valeria De Franciscis) in Rome. He shops for them and adds to his tabs as he goes along. He is way behind in his maintenance payments to his condo association and even further behind on the electric bill.

His superintendent arrives for the accounting and says he will take care of everything if Gianni will look after his own elderly mother (Marina Cacciotti) for the August 15 holiday. Gianni knows a good thing when he sees it. He reluctantly agrees. The superintendent duly arrives with his mother as well as an elderly aunt (Maria Calì) in tow.

Gianni has an attack of angina with the pressure of his mounting debts, no income and now three elderly women to care for. Then the doctor (Marcello Ottolenghi) suggests that he will waive the bill for the house call if Gianni will mind his own mother (Grazia Cesarini Sforza) for the two-day holiday.

The arrival of the fourth old lady is a great setup for an entertaining and gentle 75-minute film. The film stars Gianni Di Gregorio who is also the writer and director. He decided to play the main role himself because he was once asked to take care of someone's mother and he declined. The idea for the film came when he asked himself what might have happened had he said yes.

The four women have never acted before and their performances are endearingly ordinary and earthy. Although one struggles with the limitations of her age, the characters are at home in their own skin.

The film opens with Gianni reading The Three Musketeers to his mother before she goes to sleep. She keeps asking, after each character is introduced, if he is handsome. When Gianni protests that the author doesn't say, his mother comments that he must not be a very important character if it doesn't even say if he's handsome. Mamma may be old, but she's not dead yet!

The month of August in Italy is traditionally when most people take their vacations. It harkens back to pre-Christian times that celebrated Roman gods and the Emperor Augustus. August 15 marked the day when the harvests were in so people could rest. The Catholic Church chose this day to commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven and added more reason to celebrate August 15. Although contemporary Italy is secular enough and the film is not explicitly religious, the observant viewer will note how the filmmaker pays homage to this feast of Mary.

Mid-August Lunch honors and celebrates the wise women in our lives. It is a film about growing up, growing old and doing so with dignity, grace, humor and spice. In Italian with English subtitles. Mature themes and humor.


The Cove

THE COVE (not yet rated, PG-13): In the 1960s, Ric O'Barry was hired to capture and train five dolphins that would feature in the popular television show Flipper that aired from 1964 to 1967. The television show was an adaptation of the popular 1963 film Flipper starring Chuck Connors. O'Barry realized he was dealing with extraordinary animals that were capable of more than cute tricks.

When one of the bottlenose dolphins died in his arms, O'Barry realized that his efforts, for which he was well-paid, had fed a fascination about dolphins that created a market for their capture by marine parks. On April 22, 1970—the first Earth Day—O'Barry founded the first Dolphin Project to release dolphins from captivity.

Not long ago O'Barry was scheduled to speak at a marine conference sponsored by Sea World but it was pulled at the last minute. Louie Psihoyos, a photographer and cofounder of The Oceanic Preservation Society, decided to meet O'Barry and learn more about him and his work.

O'Barry had discovered that fishermen in Taiji, Japan, a town that prospered from this tourism, captured 700 to 2,000 dolphins annually. These were either sold to marine parks or slaughtered for their meat. Psihoyos got a film crew together and documented undercover one of the most horrendous scenes of animal slaughter ever recorded.

The Cove advocates for dolphins on the basis of their high intelligence and in view of ecological balance. While some may question O'Barry's intense conviction that dolphins are self-aware, the film documents the clandestine, inhumane and brutal methods of killing the animals.

Additionally, The Cove exposes the danger to humans from the high mercury content of dolphin meat that was being served in school lunch programs and sold in markets to the public in Japan under a different label.

The Cove wants to inform and spur audiences to take action. If our humanity is reflected in how we treat children by what we feed them and how we treat animals (like our pets), we would do well to pay attention, get involved and do something. Explicit violence toward animals.

THE LAST SONG (not yet rated, PG): Veronica "Ronnie" Miller (Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana: The Movie) is a 17-year-old teen from New York with a chip on her shoulder. Her parents, Steve (Greg Kinnear, Baby Mama) and Kim (Kelly Preston, Old Dogs), are divorced. Kim decides that Ronnie and her little brother, Jonah (Bobby Coleman, Martian Child), should spend the summer with their dad in a small town on the North Carolina shore. Ronnie is not happy and stomps off as soon as they arrive.

Ronnie meets Will (Liam Hemsworth, Knowing), a good-looking young man who plays beach volleyball, is a lifeguard and works at the local aquarium. Ronnie turns a cold shoulder but runs into him everywhere. When one of Will's girlfriends perceives Ronnie as a threat, trouble starts.

Ronnie has a mysterious juvenile record and Will is dealing with guilt over his brother's death. They both have issues, and it is with much effort that the two learn to trust one another and become friends. Ronnie discovers turtle eggs laid on the beach, and caring for them is a metaphor for her learning to care for herself and become free enough to forgive her parents. Then just when things seem to smooth out, tragedy strikes.

Miley Cyrus comports herself quite well in this mature role and barely sings a tune. Bobby Coleman is an intuitive young actor and terrific as a loving son and brother. The film has a gentle spiritual strength to it that emerges through the mystery of who burnt down the local church and who was blamed for it. Fundamentally, the film is about character and family, and I enjoyed it. Mild language and thematic material.

EARTH DAYS (PBS, April 19): This documentary recounts the origins of the first U.S. Earth Day—April 22, 1970. It is a saga of how cultural influences and political events converged as told by the eco-pioneers who made it happen.

Beginning in the 1950s scientists had issued warnings about the long-term consequences of industry on the environment: Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, the world's population was exploding, and by 1970 "breathing air in Los Angeles was equivalent to smoking two cigarettes a day."

By 1972, The Clean Air Act had passed and the Environmental Protection Agency was established. Earth Days is an important historical document, although thoughtful viewers will rightly question the ideology of some of these pioneers and take into consideration the context created by the mores of those times that conflict with Catholic teaching.

There is much work still to accomplish on personal, community, national and global levels so the earth will be able to sustain humanity. In 1980, Pope John Paul II linked the World Day of Prayer for Peace with our need to respect nature and grow in ecological awareness.


THE WOLFMAN (A-3, R): This odd remake/adaptation of the original 1941 film by horror master Curt Siodmak seems like a hodgepodge of midnight terror. A father (Anthony Hopkins) is a Bible-quoting werewolf who murders his family and neighbors in a grisly fashion during the full moon. I found it rather boring, the narrative disconnected and extremely violent. What a waste of talent! Violence and gore.

THE GOOD GUY (not yet rated, R): Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) falls for a young Wall Street broker (Scott Porter), a jerk who cheats on her. He pals around with foul-mouthed, amoral, young, scumbag brokers, except for one, Daniel (Bryan Greenberg), who really is a good guy. The film uses a girls' book club to frame the story and it tries to have a Jane Austen quality. The filmmaker, who worked on Wall Street, says his portrayal is real. If so, we have a lot more than bailouts and bonuses to pray about. The story had potential, but the film is offensive on many levels. Pervasive language and sexual content.

LETTERS TO GOD (not yet rated, PG): A young boy who is dying of cancer writes letters to God that are intercepted by a postman with a drinking problem. Based on a true story and written by Patrick Doughtie about his son, Tyler, the film has a good cast and is inspiring, though rather slow-moving. Mature themes.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

The USCCB's Office for Film and Broadcasting gives these ratings. See

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