Several 2006 films continued
the previous year’s exploration
of the impact of war,
globalization, the environment, politics,
history and immigration.
I’m writing this column just after
Christmas, having seen almost 100
movies in 2006. Some additional films
might have made my list if there had
been more time to see them (Dreamgirls,
Children of Men, Miss Potter, The
Good German and Letters from Iwo Jima).
I hope to review them in the future.
My criteria for reviewing all films
and bestowing a CineRose Award include
the following: 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 care for the
earth; and the ability to entertain.
Not all these films meet every criterion,
hence the number of roses.
A BOUQUET OF ROSES
BABEL (L, R): This gritty
film could be called the
Crash of 2006. Its ensemble
cast and butterfly-effect approach
explore blocked communication
BLOOD DIAMOND (A-3, R): This factual
film highlights how the illegal diamond
trade finances revolutions that
use children as soldiers, and use killing,
maiming and rape as weapons.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays a fictional
soldier after Djimon Hounsou’s pink
“blood” diamond is discovered in
Sierra Leone. This film is worthy of
CARS (A-1, G) is my favorite animated
film of the year. This tale about a small
town populated by autos is a road trip
for all ages that headlights what’s really
important in life.
END OF THE SPEAR (A-3, PG-13) is based
on the true story of Christian preachers
who were killed by a homicidal tribe
in Ecuador during the 1950s. This stunning
film recounts how the wives forgave
and lived among the people.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD (A-3, R): This
intense account of the creation of the
C.I.A. is directed by Robert De Niro. It
evokes questions about elitism, Caucasian
male patriotism and religion in
America. The film deserves serious consideration
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (not rated, PG):
My August review of Al Gore’s spiffy
lecture on global warming netted the
most negative mail I have received
since becoming this magazine’s entertainment
columnist in 2003. I am
going to risk the wrath of our readers
again by giving the film top honors: It
provoked much awareness, conversation
and debate about the environment
and our responsibility to care for
THE NATIVITY STORY (A-1, PG): Director
Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter
Mike Rich’s moving, authentic and
inspiring cinematic interpretation of
the infancy narratives of the Gospels of
Matthew and Luke is beautifully crafted.
WATER (A-3, PG-13): This poignant
story focuses on Hindu widows
in India during the 1930s who
must live out their lives in
ashrams, never again to marry—no matter how young they are.
The film parallels India’s journey
to democracy under Gandhi.
AKEELAH AND THE BEE (A-1,
PG): This warmhearted
film is about a young
African-American girl in
South Los Angeles who
competes in the National
Spelling Bee. It celebrates
community, cultural diversity
THE DEPARTED (L, R): Martin Scorsese’s
Irish-American violent crime caper elicits
compelling performances from
Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and
Jack Nicholson. This film may garner
an Oscar for Scorsese at last.
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (A-3, R): Too few
people saw Clint Eastwood’s admirable
film about the true image of U.S. servicemen
raising the U.S. flag on Iwo
Jima in February 1945. The filmmakers
expose how myths and heroes are created
and why we need them.
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (L, R): Forest
Whitaker’s powerful performance
as the cruel, narcissistic, unstable Ugandan
president Idi Amin (1971-1979) should put him in Oscar contention.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (L, R): Shining
performances abound as a dysfunctional
family journeys to California so
the youngest member (Abigail Breslin)
can be in a beauty pageant. Though
Alan Arkin’s crass persona is off-putting,
the film’s truth, beauty and goodness
A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (A-3, PG-13): The late director Robert Altman’s
final film elicits entertaining performances
from a stellar cast in the nostalgic
style of Garrison Keillor’s radio show.
THE QUEEN (A-2, PG-13): Stephen Frears
directed the biography of the year, in
which Helen Mirren is flawless as
Queen Elizabeth II in the days following
Princess Diana’s death.
THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO (not rated,
R): This disturbing and courageous
docudrama by Michael Winterbottom
(codirected by Mat Whitecross) reveals
what happened to three British citizens
of Pakistani parentage when they were
incarcerated as terrorists at Guantanamo
Bay in 2001 until they were released,
without being charged, in 2004.
STRANGER THAN FICTION (A-3, PG-13):
This quirky “dramedy” creates a three-dimensional
universe in which an IRS
office hack (Will Ferrell) discovers he is
living his life the way a novelist (Emma
Thompson) writes it.
WORDPLAY (not rated, PG) is my
favorite for most enjoyable film of the
year. This documentary about an
annual crossword-puzzle tournament
includes the history of these puzzles
in The New York Times.
CHARLOTTE’S WEB (A-1, G):
This charming and amusing
version of E.B. White’s classic
book is filled with the seeds
of gospel virtues and values.
It’s entertaining for young
GLORY ROAD (A-2, PG): When the
African-American Texas Western Miners
college basketball team plays the
Kentucky Wildcats at the NCAA finals
and wins, it changes history. This
inspiring story is based on real events.
ROCKY BALBOA (not rated, PG): An aging
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) seeks solace
after the loss of his wife and wants to
renew his relationship with his son.
WORLD TRADE CENTER (A-2, PG-13):
Oliver Stone’s inspiring and cathartic
story focuses on two Port Authority
police officers who survive the 9/11
attacks in Manhattan.
THE ILLUSIONIST (A-3, PG-13) deserves
attention for an original story and riveting
performances by Edward Norton
and Paul Giamatti; THE DEVIL WEARS
PRADA (A-2, PG-13) for its clear media-literacy
lesson about the image industry;
THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (L, R) for
its ironic truth about the tobacco industry;
GUADALUPE (not rated) for its timely
commemoration of the 475th anniversary
of Our Lady’s apparitions in Mexico
City; THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (A-2, PG-13) for giving audiences an
experience of how easy it is to become
homeless; RV (A-2, PG) for its humor
and for showing that people can
change for the better; and SUPERMAN
RETURNS (A-2, PG-13) for its quality as
a sequel, with stunning special effects
and offering us once again the image of
the superhero as a Christ-figure.
HEROES (NBC, Mondays):
Graphic novels are comic
books, only longer, with more
illustrated narrative. Although I find
graphic novels visually challenging to
read, they are gaining in popularity.
The good ones follow the Comic Book
Code (see www.longbox.com/info/cca.asp).
NBC’s newest smash hit is called
Heroes, a graphic novel come to life even
as it is being designed. The mostly reluctant
heroes who hail from diverse cultures
include a cheerleader whose
wounds heal instantly, a gentle Japanese
office worker who can time-travel, an
artist who draws the characters and scenarios
before they even happen through
the help of narcotics while a friend helps
him detox. As in the film Spider-Man II,
the humans with superhero powers
must grow to accept their calling to lay
down their lives for others.
Heroes is imagination in high gear
with ratings that soar off the charts.
The show appeals to young people, and
its cultural diversity makes the series
salable in many countries.
Parents, pastors and catechists will
want to watch Heroes with students to
look for seeds of the gospel (love, kindness,
integrity, self-sacrifice, etc.) and
talk about what’s really going on in
one of network television’s hottest new
SISTERS OF SELMA: BEARING WITNESS FOR
CHANGE (PBS, check local listings): This
documentary investigates Catholic
nuns who risked their safety by joining
Alabama’s 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery
voting-rights marches. (Read a related
article in our March 2007 issue.)
PICTURING MARY (PBS, check local listings)
is a companion piece to The Face:
Jesus in Art. Produced in association
with the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops and narrated by Jane Seymour,
this stunning pilgrimage of artistic
images of the Blessed Virgin is available
on DVD (Thirteen/WNET: 800-336-1917).
who died in 2006 include Edward
Albert, June Allyson, Robert Altman,
Joseph Barbera, James Brown, Peter
Benchley, Peter Boyle, Ed Bradley, Red
Buttons, Mike Douglas, Glenn Ford,
Tony Franciosa, Betty Friedan, Curt
Gowdy, Arthur Hill, Barnard Hughes,
Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin,
Bruno Kirby, Don Knotts, Al Lewis,
Darren McGavin, Sven Nykvist, Jack
Palance, Gordon Parks, Chris Penn,
Wilson Pickett, Gene Pitney, June
Pointer, Lou Rawls, Dana Reeve, Aaron
Spelling, Mickey Spillane, Maureen Stapleton,
William Styron, Jack Warden,
Wendy Wasserstein, Dennis Weaver,
Shelley Winters and Jane Wyatt.