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The 2010 CineRose Awards View Comments
by BY SISTER ROSE PACATTE, F.S.P.


Movies

It is always a pleasure to look back over the year in film and highlight those movies that tell the human story through beauty, truth and goodness. Sometimes this means exploring the meaning of sin and redemption, which some viewers find discomfiting.

The great Catholic American novelist Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) had a nuanced way of assessing fiction that I think applies to cinema as well. She once wrote: “I’m not one to pit myself against St. Paul, but when he said, ‘Let it not so much be named among you,’ I presume he was talking about society and what goes on there and not about art. Art is not anything that goes on ‘among’ people, not the art of the novel anyway.

“It is something that one experiences alone and for the purpose of realizing in a fresh way, through the senses, the mystery of existence. Part of the mystery of existence is sin. When we think about the Crucifixion, we miss the point of it if we don’t think about sin” (1956; The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor).

Nevertheless, 2010 was not a banner year for films that embraced human dignity. In fact, many of the films fell apart as stories because human dignity was not considered very much, such as in Love and Other Drugs. Yet the 100 that I saw among the 341 films in theatrical release in the United States last year did include many outstanding documentaries and some feature films that deserve recognition.

A Bouquet of Roses

The King’s Speech (not yet rated, R)
My favorite film of the year. In his victory over fear, King George VI found his own voice, and we are given the ultimate film about learning one’s own worth and dignity. The performances of Colin Firth, as the king, and Geoffrey Rush, as a speech therapist, are among the best of the year.

Waiting for Superman (not yet rated, PG)
This is my favorite documentary of the year because it is an important exposé on the host of problems that undermine the public education system in this country. In addition to covering teacher unions, charter schools and increased spending on prisons with decreased spending on education, the film offers ideas for purposeful action and involvement in our public schools.

127 Hours (not yet rated, R)
James Franco plays Aron Ralston, a 27-year-old hiker who must cut off his own arm to survive when a boulder pins it to a canyon wall. The theme of this true story is that none of us can go it alone. We all need help sometimes.

Conviction (L, R)
This quiet film, based on a true story, has a loud roar. A man is convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murder in Massachusetts, based on false evidence and police collusion. His sister gets her GED, bachelor’s and master’s in education and a law degree so she can work to free him, which she does 18 years later. The film inspires us to question the death penalty.

How to Train Your Dragon (A-2, PG)
This animated tale is a course in peacemaking. While the young Viking Hiccup learns to hunt dragons, he decides to try to understand them and “walk in their shoes.” This is a brilliant story of empathy and character-building.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (A-2, PG)
Lucy and Edmund Pevensie return to Narnia to help Caspian find the seven lords of Narnia. A thrilling and visually stunning catechism of the seven deadly sins, virtue and character. It’s the best Narnia film yet.

Countdown to Zero (not yet rated, PG)
This informative, sensible documentary about the continuing threat of nuclear waste and the lack of oversight and regulation is enough to give those of us who grew up during the Cuban Missile Crisis recurring nightmares—and with good cause. It also offers several practical things that global citizens can do to make peace and secure the world from the nuclear holocaust that few want to acknowledge is more than possible.

Four Roses

The Social Network (A-3, PG-13)
This film may very well sweep the Oscars because it tells so well the story of a vibrant aspect of contemporary life: social networking. It is great entertainment, exploring the necessity of good character (that is, doing the right thing especially when no one is looking) in this virtual, dynamic universe of social networking where once you say or show something, you can never take it back.

True Grit (A-3, PG-13)
Hats off to the Coen brothers for remaking this classic and quirky Western based on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. They stayed true to the story by keeping a young girl as the heroine. Excellent performances by 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross and, of course, Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, the role that earned John Wayne an Oscar. Matt Damon, as the freelancing Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (“La Beef”), is very good, too. A lot more could be said about Portis’s Bible-quoting characters who hold revenge as an American virtue.

Get Low (not yet rated, PG-13)
Robert Duvall is superb as a recluse living in obscurity who suddenly wants to plan his own funeral party because he knows he needs the forgiveness of the community. The story is sound, and Duvall has never been better.

Toy Story 3 (A-1, G)
The toy gang faces change and abandonment with their usual teamwork approach to problem-solving. I loved the Spanish version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (“Tienes un amigo en mí”), because it involves the bilingual reality of the audience, teaching Spanish to the English-speaking and English to the Spanish-speaking.

Secretariat (A-2, PG)
I enjoyed this small-scale, based-on-a-true-story film about the red horse that won the Triple Crown in 1973. Gorgeous cinematography, solid writing by Mike Rich (The Nativity Story) and direction by Randall Wallace (who wrote Braveheart), both of whom are Christians. Many critics think it is a better film than 2003’s Seabiscuit. I don’t think the films are comparable, but Secretariat is exciting and great viewing. The film opens with a marvelous quote from the Book of Job 39:19.

Three Roses

Letters to Juliet (A-2, PG)
An engaged young woman visits Juliet’s house in Verona, Italy, and joins a group of ladies who answer letters that women leave in the garden wall. This throwback to Hollywood’s feel-good romantic comedy era is at once original and predictable. It is possible to make a nice film without cluttering it up with meaningless content that can offend some sensibilities. The film won’t win any awards, and has no other message than true love, but for an enjoyable winter Saturday afternoon armchair matinee, it’s just the ticket.

Winter’s Bone (not yet rated, R)
A small film about the consequences of drug use and trafficking on an Ozark family. Their eldest daughter makes every sacrifice for her family, looking for a father who is never coming home. Poignant and extremely well-acted.

Television

The Lost Valentine (January 30, CBS, check local listings)
Betty White and Jennifer Love Hewitt co-star in this made-for-television movie about a TV reporter, Susan (Hewitt), assigned to cover the story of a World War II Navy widow. Caroline (White) makes a yearly pilgrimage to the train station on February 14 where she last said good-bye to her husband, Neil, in 1942. He was soon listed MIA and never found. At first, Susan dismisses the assignment but, after meeting Caroline and her grandson, she is drawn into the story and the mystery of Neil’s disappearance.

This is a gentle Valentine’s story of the first order, and a Hallmark weeper, co-produced with Paulist Productions and based on the 1996 novel by James Michael Pratt. Betty White is a treat, and there is good chemistry among the cast. Family viewing from young adolescents to adults.

CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS
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.

Thank you for your comments. Editors will review all posts before they are visible on the website.

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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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