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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
films of all time
in a credible way,
this version by
Peter Jackson deserves
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
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.