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The 2005 CineRose Film Awards
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

A BOUQUET OF ROSES
FOUR ROSES
THREE ROSES
TWO ROSES
MAY THEY REST IN PEACE
VERONICA MARS
CLOSE TO HOME

A year ago, I commented on nihilism being a strong trend in cinema 2004. I am very pleased with many of the 80 films I saw that were released in 2005 because several of them inspire, entertain and afflict us in our comfort zones.

The theme in many 2005 releases was the extreme toll that war—often the result of globalization without guidance—is exacting at home and abroad. I say “bravo” to Hollywood and others for making movies that matter.

My basic criteria for judging films and then for selecting CineRose winners include: the degree to which the filmmaker tells the story through the creative use of image and sound; how well the main character grows as a person and member of the human family; the promotion of the gospel values of human dignity, family and community, justice, peace and fair representation of cultures, races, genders, ages, religious faiths and spiritualities; and the ability to entertain. Not all the films meet every criterion, hence the number of roses.

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A BOUQUET OF ROSES

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (A-2, PG): Kudos to Walden Media and Disney for this wonderful imaging of the C.S. Lewis classic for children into a film for all ages. The resurrection of the lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) gave me goose bumps. And Lucy (Georgie Henley) was luminous as a child whose imagination runs free.

The Constant Gardener (A-3, R): This powerful story focuses on a low-level British embassy official in Nairobi who uncovers the reasons for the deaths of his wife and thousands of innocent Africans at the hands of Big Medicine.

Crash (L, R): This moving story by Paul Haggis shows Los Angelenos from various cultures colliding into each other. Flawed but redeemable characters make moral choices that often lead them to terrible consequences and, finally, redemption. This example of transcendence in film affirms that the birth of Christ still means something in a city of almost 10 million souls.

Innocent Voices (A-3, R): This true story focuses on Chava and his family during the civil war between the U.S.-backed government and farmers over land rights in El Salvador during the 1980s. Child soldiers exist in over 30 wars raging in the world today. This film challenges us to reflect theologically on our responsibility to the children of war and constructive ways to resolve conflicts. (Spanish with English subtitles)

Mad Hot Ballroom (A-3, PG): I loved this documentary about sixth-graders in a New York City public school who compete in ballroom dancing. It’s an original and fresh look at the arts as a metaphor for life.

March of the Penguins (A-1, G): Who would have thought that the mating, gestation and infancy narrative of monarch penguins would be such a hit? As I watched this miracle of life in a location that Dante likened to hell, I thought of the words of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God....Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

Millions (A-2, PG): A boy copes with his mother’s death and a sack of money that falls into his lap. This film is filled with charm, a mother’s love, the saints and how to follow Jesus’ teaching to help the poor. It shows that, when you are in pain or sorrow, do something for others and you will be transformed.

Munich (not rated, R): Steven Spielberg’s story of the assassination of 11 Israeli Olympic teammates in 1972 by a Palestinian terrorist group evokes tears of genuine mourning for the loss of innocence, if indeed it existed. Violent, provocative, like using a flame to cauterize a wound, this film will not leave a person of goodwill unmoved.

Batman Begins (A-3, PG-13): Christian Bale excels as Bruce Wayne/Batman in this worthy prequel to other films in the Batman franchise. The philosophical discourse about the nature of violence raised it from an action flick to an intelligent comic book into film (never underrate this genre). Can’t wait for the sequel.

Cinderella Man (A-2, PG-13): Ron Howard took what could have been a sports movie and turned it into a profile of a family man who boxed to make a living during the Depression. Russell Crowe gives an excellent performance as Jimmy Braddock. The one to watch, however, is the extraordinary Paul Giamatti (Sideways) as Joe Gould, Braddock’s agent.

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG; A-2): George Clooney co-wrote, directed and acted in this tight drama about famed TV investigative reporter Edward R. Murrow, played to perfection by David Strathairn, who brought down Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, when the politics of fear last ruled the country.

A History of Violence (L, R): Based on a graphic novel, this tale of a hero with a past is violently intense and explicit, but it’s a masterful treatment of the sources of anger and what it takes to be truly free.

Syriana (A-3, R): Producer/actor George Clooney’s complex film puts a human face on the politics of oil and makes us ask just how slippery is our perception of the reality behind the status quo. The film is suggested by C.I.A. operative Robert Baer’s book See No Evil (a compelling read).

Capote (A-3, R): Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Truman Capote, Bennett Miller’s direction and Dan Futterman’s screenplay transcend ordinary cinema biographies in ways that leave a mark on the soul, whether it is about crime and punishment, the death penalty, the victims or what a writer will do for a story.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (A-2, PG-13): This fourth Harry Potter film is the best because of the centrality of the theme of all the Potter books and movies: sacrificial love.

King Kong (A-2, PG-13): If for no other reason than the confidence to recreate one of the most famous and memorable films of all time in a credible way, this version by Peter Jackson deserves praise for creativity and entertainment value.

The New World (A-3, PG-13): Terrence Malick’s fourth film in 30 years is a visual experience (rather than a documentary) of the founding of Jamestown in 1607. It is a new world for the British, the Native Americans and, especially, for Pocahontas (remarkable 15-year-old newcomer Q’orianka Kilcher).

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (A-2, PG): I liked this underappreciated tale of four very different young women and the pair of jeans that fit them all. The jeans are a symbol of grace and friendship that bind the girls together.

Walk the Line (A-3, PG-13): The prize for sheer entertainment goes to Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon for their amazing performances as Johnny and June Carter Cash.

The Squid and the Whale (L, R): This difficult, cautionary tale shows the ravages of divorce: If only men and women would imagine before marriage the consequences of lack of communication, immaturity and adultery, they might better prepare for this sacrament.

The Upside of Anger (L, R): After her husband disappears, Terry Ann (Joan Allen) epitomizes the destructiveness of behavior fueled by anger that eats at her and almost destroys her daughters. This human story is told with insight and, ultimately, empathy.

Personalities who died in 2005 include: Don Adams, Eddie Albert, Anne Bancroft, Barbara Bel Geddes, Johnny Carson, Henry Corden (voice of Fred Flintstone), Tara Correa-McMullen, Ossie Davis, Sandra Dee, Bob Denver, James Doohan, Ralph Edwards, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Shelby Foote, June Haver, Skitch Henderson, Paul Henning, “The Incomparable Hildegarde,” Ruth Hussey, Mary Jackson, Peter Jennings, Pope John Paul II, Barney Martin, Ismail Merchant, Arthur Miller, Sir John Mills, Pat Morita, Louis Nye, Richard Pryor, John Raitt, Rosa Parks, Brock Peters, Vincent Schiavelli, John Spencer, Paul Winchell, Robert Wise and Theresa Wright.

VERONICA MARS (UPN, Wednesdays): Kristen Bell plays a teen detective in a witty and intelligent series in its second season. Not exactly Nancy Drew (unfortunately, Veronica sleeps with her boyfriend), but it handles issues with which kids really have to deal. This series provides stories that teens and parents can discuss. The commercials, aimed at the young-adult audience, deserve parental commentary as well.

CLOSE TO HOME (CBS, Fridays): I didn’t like the premiere episode of this Jerry Bruckheimer legal series. Jennifer Finnigan as Annabeth Chase seemed more like Barbie, the Plucky Prosecutor, than a new mom with a mission to fight crime. But Finnigan is growing into the role and it seems to have staying power. We’ll see.

 


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