THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (L,
R): Nicholas Garrigan (James
McAvoy) is a Scottish doctor
working in Uganda with Dr. Merrit
(Adam Kotz) and his wife, Sarah (Gillian
When General Idi Amin (Forest
Whitaker) is in a car accident, Nicholas
treats him. Amin, taken with the doctor’s
take-charge attitude, asks him to be
his personal physician. Later, Nicholas
regrets naïvely submitting to the
charm of this charismatic giant of
Nicholas treats Amin’s epileptic
son and has a reckless affair
with the boy’s mother, Kay (Kerry
Washington), who is one of Amin’s
wives. Kay warns Nicholas that
Amin is killing thousands of
people, but the doctor is blinded
by Amin’s flattery. Eventually,
Nicholas is forced to face the truth
about Amin’s regime.
Between 1971 and 1979, it is
believed that Amin killed between
300,000 and 500,000 Ugandans. He
gave himself several titles, including “King of Scotland”: He admired the
way the Scots rebelled against the
British, who had once ruled Uganda.
Amin was ousted in 1979 and died in
exile in Saudi Arabia in 2003.
Forest Whitaker’s stellar embodiment
of the despot chills, convinces
and deserves Oscar consideration. James
McAvoy (Mr. Tumnus, the Faun, in The
Chronicles of Narnia) plays Nicholas
with just the right blend of careless
naïveté and ambition.
The film is based on historical events
described in the novel by Giles Foden.
The screenplay is by Jeremy Brock (Mrs.
Brown). Scottish director Kevin Macdonald
has crafted a masterful tale of
Africa, calling us to pay attention to this
suffering, emerging Third World land.
In 1912, geographer George Kimble
wrote, “The darkest thing about Africa
is our ignorance of it.” The best film I
have seen so far this year in terms of a
strong story, powerful acting and earthy cinematography;
extreme and graphic violence
and torture; crude language.
THE DEPARTED (L, R): Ralph Waldo
Emerson once wrote, “Evermore in this
world is this marvelous balance of
beauty and disgust, magnificence and
rats.” This film is a testament to just
how infested human societies can become
with rats, both large and small,
old and young.
Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is
an Irish-American crime boss in Boston.
He grooms Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon)
to become his man in the Massachusetts
State Police. Billy Costigan
(Leonardo DiCaprio), another young
cadet, is sent to infiltrate Costello’s
mob. Everyone seems to be after
Costello, and trust comes at a very high
price because no one ever knows who
is going to rat you out.
William Monahan’s (Kingdom of
Heaven) script is fast-paced. Between
him and director Martin Scorsese, the
vision of humanity is disgusting, pessimistic
and infested with rodents. Rats
are a gangland metaphor everyone
understands and abhors.
Catholicism is not integrated into
the lives of the Catholic mobsters,
although some go through
the motions. Instead, religion
runs parallel to the Irish gangs so
that God seems very distant as
the characters kill off one another.
And for what?
Scorsese films written by Paul
Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull,
Bringing Out the Dead) deal with
guilt; this one is concerned with
conscience. I wouldn’t be surprised
if The Departed (of which there are
many in the film) doesn’t gain an
Oscar for Scorsese, at last, and
another nod for DiCaprio, who is brilliant
as the conflicted good cop. Crude
language and brutal violence.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL (not rated):
Filmmaker Amy Berg has created a harrowing,
powerful documentary about Father
Oliver O’Grady, described on the film’s
Web site as “the most notorious
pedophile in the history of the Catholic
Church.” (Berg assures me personally that everything in the film is documented.)
This Irish-born priest ministered in
the Diocese of Stockton, California, for
over 20 years before he was finally
arrested for rape, sodomy and child
abuse. After serving seven years of a 14-year sentence, O’Grady returned to Ireland,
where he is free to come and go.
Unbelievably, O’Grady cooperated
freely with Berg, offering creepy and
chilling testimony. His own words and
filmed depositions of Church officials
assert that O’Grady’s behavior was
known and that little was done to prevent
him from continuing his pernicious
and devastating activities.
Father Thomas Doyle is a canon
lawyer who has been working with victims
of clergy sex abuse for many years.
The film shows Doyle with a group of
victims and their families attempting to
deliver a letter to the Vatican about
their pain. We share the pain of these
good, faithful believers who, unknowingly,
allowed a snake into their homes.
The most difficult film I have ever watched.
THE NATIVITY STORY (PG): Unlike
many other films about Christ, this
one begins a year before Jesus’ birth
and concludes with the flight into
Egypt. (See The Nativity Story: The Making of the Movie.)
Although we hear the familiar story
every year, Mike Rich’s (Finding Forrester,
The Rookie, Radio) script reaches inside
the minds and hearts of the characters
and makes them real for us. The Magi
provide some comic relief. The story of
Jesus’ birth is layered with meaning so
that the youngest child to the wisest of
adults can experience Christmas anew.
Both Rich and producer Marty Bowen
credit The Passion of the Christ for making
The Nativity Story a reality.
Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider)
was director Catherine Hardwicke’s
(Thirteen, Lords of Dogstown) first choice
to play Mary. Castle-Hughes does a fine
job, but her work is eclipsed by the
performance of Oscar Isaac (Joseph) in
his first major screen role.
This film is certain to be a classic
for all Christians, even though the
nativity scene (as of the date I’m writing
this) looks as if it was lifted off
a Christmas card. A little more subtlety
would have been my preference,
such as less direct lighting.
When Mary recites words now known
as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), we
know that God has lifted up the lowly
and visited his people. This film invites
us to contemplate anew the wonders
God has done for us. Some mild peril.
ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING (not yet rated,
PG): A young Jewish girl named
Hadassah risks her life to save her people
from extinction because of the
machinations of Haman, the evil royal
assistant. The girl becomes the biblical
Esther, queen of Persia.
The film repeatedly uses an ornate
swastika, which is really of Buddhist
origin, to represent the Persians while
Haman gives brief speeches about
Based on the novel by Mark Andrew
Olsen and Tommy Tenney, the film stars
Omar Sharif and John Rhys-Davies.
Despite favorable reviews from some
quarters, this film made me feel uncomfortable.
I found it overly costumed,
unevenly acted and ideologically flawed.
Confused, contemporary political commentary
disguised as biblical drama.
UGLY BETTY (ABC, Thursdays):
America Ferrera (Real Women
Have Curves, Sisterhood of the
Traveling Pants) stars as Betty Suarez,
fresh out of college and hired as the
executive assistant to the editor of a
fashion magazine in New York.
Based on a wildly popular Colombian
telenovela (soap opera), this sitcom
radiates freshness. Betty’s kind
and practical intelligence and good
character clash with many of the stereotypical
This show is filled with themes about
family, advertising, social justice and
what it takes to be a person of integrity
in a world that values honesty only
when it serves profit or reinforces superficiality.
Parents, preteens and adolescents
will enjoy watching this show
together and talking about Betty’s
dilemmas, the choices she makes and
what makes a person beautiful. I hope
this series will maintain its quality and
keep us watching and talking.