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Econocracy
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

WALL•E
WAR, INC.
SEX AND THE CITY
SWINGTOWN
FLASHPOINT
CHASING CHURCHILL: IN SEARCH OF MY GRANDFATHER
MONSIEUR VINCENT
THE RETURN OF THE EXORCISTS
INSPECTOR MOM
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



Two summer films address consumerism in diverse ways: Both of these films explore the idea of an “econocracy,” which can be defined as a consumer lifestyle and/or form of government that masks as democracy. WALL•E is an animated, slightly subversive treat from Disney/Pixar. War, Inc. is a sharp satire from actor John Cusack’s company, New Crime Productions.

Both films take place in worlds framed by what happens to people when the consequences of consumerism on the environment are imagined in the extreme, and when economics and technology replace democracy.

WALL•E (A-1, G): “Too much garbage in your face? There’s plenty of room in space.” Thus begins a song from the global econocracy, “Buy and Large,” to entice people to take a space cruise vacation in a distant galaxy while robots clean up the devastating human-created debris on the earth.

WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, voiced by Ben Burtt) is the only robot who has survived the 700 years since the cleanup began. Watched by a friendly cockroach, he collects mementos from the dump heap that is New York City. He watches a video of Hello, Dolly! over and over. One day WALL•E finds a green vine.

In a scene reminiscent of a nuclear blast, a spaceship from the cruise vessel drops off a sleek new robot named EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, voiced by Elissa Knight). She is programmed to detect a sign that the earth can produce food and sustain life. The lonely WALL•E falls for EVE and then follows her when she grabs the plant and returns to the mother ship to report her findings.

After generations of waiting for life to reemerge on earth, the people on the cruise ship are morbidly obese: They never exercise and exist in a kind of consumerism-induced coma. The discovery of the green plant wakes people up and they begin to question their idyllic, mechanical, programmed existence. It also sparks a struggle between the robots and humans.

WALL•E is a clever piece of science fiction that has elements of Star Wars, E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial, I, Robot and I Am Legend. At first it seems that Oscar-winning director/writer Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) has brought together incompatible story lines. Kids will find the film entertaining, but thoughtful teens and adults will realize that Stanton has created an edgy, satirical film that is dark and enlightened.

WALL•E explores the causes and consequences of consumer pollution on the world’s future, both material and spiritual. It focuses on the United States as the main garbage-producing country in the world, with each person producing about 4.5 pounds daily. According to the film, the solution to this problem is that someone is going to have to make a sacrifice. A great conversation piece for families and classrooms about the essential link between human dignity and the environment.

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WAR, INC.

WAR, INC. (not rated, R): The imaginary war-torn Middle Eastern country of Turaqistan is occupied by an American corporation whose CEO is a former U.S. vice president (Dan Aykroyd).

He brings in Brand Hauser (John Cusack), a burned-out hit man who poses as producer of a fabricated trade show to get close to his prey. Hauser’s assistant, Marsha (Joan Cusack), organizes entertainment for the event by a rather confused pop star named Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff). Meanwhile, reporter Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei) becomes suspicious and investigates.

This film is a biting, darkly funny satire about the business of war and the effects of military-commercial colonization. Directed by Joshua Seftel and co-written by John Cusack, the end product is thought-provoking and the performances are well-integrated. Joan Cusack is hilarious.

This smart, independent film won’t appeal to everyone, but its extreme perspective is not without merit. Problem language, violence and sexual themes.

SEX AND THE CITY (O, R): The film based on the popular HBO series follows the fantasy lives of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon). Relationship problems develop with some of these characters: Only one seems to have found her bliss.

Samantha, the actress, has left New York and is living with her boyfriend in Malibu. Charlotte has become Jewish and is happily married with an adopted daughter from China. Miranda is a workaholic who spends little time with her husband and son. Carrie, ever the writer, and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) decide to get married for the wrong reasons.

I never watched HBO’s Emmy-Award-winning “sexplicit” television series until this film was announced. The edited version of the series seemed superficial, occasionally funny and sometimes insightful.

The film continues the fantasy. It takes existential retail angst and friendship as its point of departure. The nude and sex scenes seem deliberately placed so they can be edited out for airplane and network viewing. Such scenes cheapen a film which shows that the women are capable of moving from a hedonistic search for love to achieve a more mature level of human development. They can move from narcissism to a place where they might be ready to consider transcendence as an element of their lifestyle.

The women come to realize what Margaret Atwood writes about in The Handmaid’s Tale: You won’t die from lack of sex but you can die from lack of love. Learning the difference is the main lesson.

The film also emphasizes that forgiveness, love and friendship are the only things that endure. Meaningless sex, material things and retail therapy are empty promises that do not resolve the deepest longings of the human heart and yield no lasting happiness. If you see this film, keep an eye on the bejeweled, blue, high-end retail shoe. Explicit sex and language.

SWINGTOWN (CBS, Thursdays) is a disappointing prime-time celebration of sex, drugs and partying as the Chicago middle class moves to the suburbs in the mid-1970s. That ’70s Show (1998-2006 and now in eternal reruns) explored many of the same themes, but more honestly.

FLASHPOINT (CBS, Fridays): Toronto’s Strategic Response Unit (SRU) is the focus of this new series that includes police action, and insight into the moral dilemmas and lives of the characters. Written and created by the Canadian team of Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, the show stars Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars) and Hugh Dillon (Degrassi: The Next Generation).

CHASING CHURCHILL: IN SEARCH OF MY GRANDFATHER (PBS, check local listings): Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, Celia Sandys, takes viewers with her on a fascinating journey to find out more about her grandfather. She searches Churchill’s genealogy, family, education, travels, speeches, writings, and military and political career in this three-part series. It includes impressive historical footage. Available on DVD from www.pbs.org.

MONSIEUR VINCENT: Lionsgate is re-releasing one of the 45 films chosen by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications for its list of “Vatican Best Films” (www.usccb.org/fb/vaticanfilms.htm). This stunning 1947 classic film tells of the life and work of St. Vincent de Paul. It received an Honorary Academy Award in 1949. (French, with English subtitles.)

THE RETURN OF THE EXORCISTS documents the phenomenal rise of requests for the rite of exorcism in Italy and the criteria for an authentic exorcism. Footage includes an actual exorcism. The key expert is a Harvard-educated theology professor, Father Francis Tiso. It’s intriguing, informative and intense. (Mostly in Italian, with English subtitles. www.floodedcellar.com)

INSPECTOR MOM: This Lifetime television series (2006-2007) with the Murder, She Wrote feel has migrated to the Internet (http://inspectormom.lmn.tv). These four-minute Webisodes follow Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years), a regular mom turned sleuth.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (A-2, PG-13): After almost 20 years, Harrison Ford returns to the role of Indiana Jones. This installment takes place during the 1950s Cold War, with Indy teaching anthropology only to be drawn into a quest for crystal skulls that the Russians want for their supernatural powers. Energetic and entertaining, intense action violence, some problem language.

MONGOL (not rated, R): This lush cinematic narrative by the accomplished Russian director Sergei Bodrov was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007. Based on facts and legends, it profiles Genghis Khan, who united many Asiatic nomadic tribes and dynasties to become the ruler of the Mongol empire. (Mongolian, with English subtitles.) Fascinating but graphic battle scenes.

THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI (not rated, R): George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a young British adventurer/journalist in war-torn China during the 1930s who marches several hundred miles with 60 young orphans to save their lives. Assisting this rescue effort are an Australian nurse (Radha Mitchell) and a Communist partisan leader (Chow Yun-Fat). This inspiring tale is based on a true story. Disturbing images and intense war violence.

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

The USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcasting gives these ratings. See www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm.

Find reviews by Sister Rose and others at www.CatholicMovieReviews.org.

 


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