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Basketball and Civil Rights
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

GLORY ROAD
NANNY McPHEE
END OF THE SPEAR
THE BOOK OF DANIEL
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS

GLORY ROAD

GLORY ROAD (A-2, PG): In the mid-1960s, Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) was hired by Texas Western College to coach the Division I menís basketball team. The school (renamed the University of Texas at El Paso in 1967) had no African-American players until Haskins and his assistant, Moe (Evan Jones), recruited seven young men who had played in inner-city courts.

The team faced tremendous obstacles in the racially charged era when almost all college basketball teams were white. They were spat upon and received death threats. Haskins had to mold his men into a team and make them get passing grades to keep their scholarships.

The Texas Western Miners made it to the NCAA finals in 1966, with 27 wins and one loss. The team was up against the Kentucky Wildcats, also at 27-1, coached by the famous Adolph Rupp (Jon Voight).

The night before the game, perhaps smarting from being disrespected by the legendary Rupp at a press conference and influenced by the civil-rights movement, Haskins made the now historic decision to put only African Americans in the starting lineup. They played the entire game and won.

Glory Road is not your typical feel-good sports movie. It looks back to a real moment in our countryís history, says producer Jerry Bruckheimer, when ďsports did more for civil rights than any march.Ē Within three weeks of the historic win by the Miners, every college and university in the United States with a basketball team began recruiting African-American players.

Some fans of Adolph Rupp feared the film would portray him as a racist, which isnít true. If anything, Rupp was just not impressed by Haskins, who previously coached a girlsí high school basketball team. Both Rupp and Haskins wanted to win.

Glory Road is gritty, like the West Texas terrain surrounding El Paso and the civil unrest of the 1960s. According to the screenwriters, the film is 80-percent factual and 100-percent true. Be sure to stay for the credits to find out what happened to the team; you already know what happened to college and professional basketball. Inspiring film with humor, courage, determination and kindness.

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NANNY McPHEE

NANNY McPHEE (A-2, PG): Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) is a frustrated British widower whose seven mischievous children get rid of every nanny he hires. Led by the eldest, Simon (Thomas Sangster), the children torment the cook, Mrs. Blatherwick (Imelda Staunton), but tolerate the scullery maid, Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald), who loves them.

After Cedric learns from the agency that there are no more nannies, a ragtag woman with warts on her face and a prominent buck tooth appears as if by magic. She is Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson).

Nanny McPhee is no Mary Poppins: She doesnít sing and dance, or wave away all the work. The new nanny announces that she has five rules for the children to learn. (Pay attention to these rules.) She informs them that when they need her but donít want her, she will be there; but when they want her but donít need her, she will be gone.

In addition to the ongoing nanny problem, Cedric has to find a new wife soon or risk losing the financial support of his late wifeís Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury).

This fairy tale is based on the Nurse Matilda childrenís books by Christianna Brand. The screenplay is by Emma Thompson, who has won Academy Awards for acting (Howardís End) and writing (Sense and Sensibility).

This film shows strong women who nurture children. But the story goes beyond the old-fashioned be-good-or-else style to teach other lessons that will serve the children, as well as their father. Fun though predictable film for children and adults who like to indulge their imaginations once in a while.

END OF THE SPEAR (A-3, PG-13): In the 1950s five Protestant families go to Ecuador to be missionaries. One of the men, Nate Saint (Chad Allen, of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman), flies the plane that delivers supplies to the other missionary families. His son, Steve (Chase Ellison), worries about him.

One indigenous tribe called the Waodani is on the brink of destruction because they kill off one another when they have a disagreement; six out of 10 die from homicide. When the Shell Corporation tries to drill for oil on their land, the Waodani attack. Then the government threatens to wipe out the Wao people.

Nate and some of the other men try to convince the Wao to stop the killing in order to save their own lives. Although the encounter goes well at first, these missionaries are speared by some of the Waodani people.

The remarkable thing about this story is the response of the wives of the men who were killed. Eventually, all of the wives stay among the Waodani for some period of time, giving and living forgiveness. The women, with the help of Dayumae (Christina Souza), who fled the tribe as a young girl, tell the story of Jesus in a way the people can understand.

End of the Spear is based on a true story, but it telescopes events that took place over several years. It tries to speak from the perspective of the Wao, even though it focuses on Steve Saint. This feature film should be seen along with the powerful 2005 documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor, which gives voice to the women who forgave the Waodani: This is where the miracle of this whole tale lies.

Even though it doesnít try to, End of the Spear evangelizes the audience. Be sure to stay through the credits for an update. If you are engaged in evangelization, be sure to see this beautifully filmed movie because it offers so much to talk about: development of peoples, religious freedom, evangelizing in other cultures, reconciliation, globalization and more.

THE BOOK OF DANIEL (NBC): Aidan Quinn played Father Daniel Webster, an Episcopalian pastor, in what was supposed to be a comedy series. Daniel was hooked on Vicodin, his wife imbibed, one son was gay, the other slept around and his daughter was busted for selling pot. In addition, Danielís father (James Rebhorn), a bishop, was having an adulterous affair with another bishop (Ellen Burstyn).

This series lasted only a few weeks. It featured dysfunctional people we never cared about because they were boring. In fact, Danielís Jesus was so mild that he didnít make a difference to any of the characters or to us. There was no dramatic conflict. Drama only works when there are contrasting characters who struggle over their values, wants and needs; comedy works when it surprises us.

In this postmodern era, there is no distinction between the person and his or her behavior. The Book of Daniel was a thoroughly postmodern TV show. The producers fabricated a Jesus, a religion and a pastor who accepted people, their lifestyles and their sins without demanding anything from them, such as change, repentance, restitutionóall of which result in joy.

Jesus loves dysfunctional, flawed people; he loves sinners and saints. But he challenges all of us who follow him to try to live by his teaching and example, to change and be transformed into his image and likeness with the help of his grace.

In The Book of Daniel, everything was O.K.; universal acceptance was the only issue. To keep ringing the same bell every week was a death knell that meant the show was going to flat-line.

 

CURIOUS GEORGE (Not rated, G): Inspired by H.A. Reyís popular books for children, this brightly animated film focuses on The Man in the Yellow Hat (voice of Will Ferrell) and the cute, inquisitive monkey he brings back from an African safari. Great soundtrack and simple story line for young children (from four to about eight).

LAST HOLIDAY (A-3, PG-13): Queen Latifah plays a sales assistant who loves to cook. When she discovers she has only a few weeks to live, she goes to a resort in Prague to live life to the fullest and learn from a great chef. A warm, elegant fairy-tale comedy with some valuable lessons.

THE FAMILY STONE (A-3, PG-13): At Christmas, a young man (Dermot Mulroney) brings home his fastidious girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) to meet his family. Although it isnít a perfect film, I liked it.

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

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222, www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm

At www.CatholicMovieReviews.org, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

 


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