“Welcome Yet Nonessential”

06/08/2010 Comments (19)

Those three words from Peter Debruge’s Variety review of next weekend’s Toy Story 3, called out by Peter Chattaway in blogging the review, perfectly encapsulate what I’ve thought had to be the case about this film since I first heard of it. More broadly, as Peter suggests, it seems a harbinger of things to come from this “third phase” in Pixar history that this film is ushering in.

Nonessential. It seems virtually impossible for Toy Story 3 to be anything else, simply because 1999’s Toy Story 2 is so definitive, so authoritative and final in its delineation of these characters, of their purpose and destiny, that nothing more needs to be said. The first Toy Story established that toys...READ MORE

Filed under movies, pixar

Off With My Head!

06/04/2010 Comments (43)

Out of a few topics I was considering blogging about today, none captured my attention quite like this impassioned email from a young reader who strongly disagrees with my review of Alice in Wonderland, and the issues suggested by the email, at least in my mind.

Dear Mr. Greydanus,

I am 15 years old and my family receives the National Catholic Register every week, and we are a very avid film-watching family! We’d like to comment on one of your reviews.

That review being Alice in Wonderland. We highly doubt you saw it or that you were even paying attention to what was actually on screen. In fact, your scathing review made us want to see the movie more!

You mentioned that Alice was...READ MORE

Filed under movies

Moviegoers to Hollywood: *YAWN*

06/01/2010 Comments (31)

The long Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of the American summer movie season, so for Hollywood studios this past weekend’s the dismal ticket sales are clear cause for concern. Dollarwise, it was the worst Memorial Day weekend at the box office in nine years; in terms of actual bodies in seats, it was the worst in fifteen years. (Analysis: Box Office Mojo, Box Office Guru.)

Hollywood’s two-punch strategy, targeting male audiences with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and female viewers with Sex and the City 2, failed on both fronts as neither demographic showed much interest. By default, the weekend went to the week-old Shrek Forever After, though the DreamWorks...READ MORE

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Agora: An Atheist Sets the Record Straight

05/28/2010 Comments (18)

Rachel Weisz as Hypatia and Oscar Isaac as Orestes in Alejandro Amenábar's Agora.

Alejandro Amenábar’s film Agora, starring Rachel Weisz as the celebrated pagan mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, has occasioned a number of online reality checks regarding the tensions and outright contradictions between the Enlightenment myth of Hypatia’s story and what is historically known. Many of these are from Christian writers, but the most complete and helpful online treatment I’ve found so far belongs to a self-styled “Irish-Australian atheist b-st-rd” with an academic background in medieval literature and ancient and medieval history, blogger Tim O’Neill of Armarium Magnum (hat tip).

O’Neill’s year-old post “Agora” and Hypatia - Hollywood Strikes Again takes...READ MORE

Filed under anti-catholic, movies

Don’t Have a Cow, Man!

05/25/2010 Comments (30)

Babies' Bayar with cows.

A reader raises interesting questions relating to chastity, modesty and raising children in a note about the movie Babies, now in theaters:

We went to see “Babies” with another family from our church ... everyone loved it. This is the best movie now playing (as far as I know ... not that I’ve seen everything in theatres, but from what I’ve read I’m not aware of anything now playing likely to displace “Babies” in my personal estimation).

One question about your review. You say that you “see no real reason” children shouldn’t see “Babies,” in spite of the “cultural and maternal nudity.” I don’t necessarily disagree, but I suspect that the bare-breasted Himba mothers [in Africa] may make...READ MORE

Filed under chastity, movies, parenting

What Are “Real Movies”?

05/22/2010 Comments (12)

Edith Stein, Saint Teresa Benedict of the Cross, wrote her doctoral dissertation and other treatises on empathy.

Borrowing a page from the UK’s Campaign for Real Ale, Roger Ebert blogs from Cannes on the need for a Campaign For Real Movies.

The implicit complaint is the same: In a marketplace glutted with mass-produced product that’s all fizz and no substance, it’s hard to find a hand-crafted product of distinction and local flavor, the kind of product that surprises and challenges you, that engenders real enthusiasm and loyalty. Real Ale is not carbonated or carefully crafted to taste just like every other mass-market brew. Ebert writes:

[Real Movies] also would not be carbonated by CGI or 3D. They would be carefully created by artists, from original recipes, i.e., screenplays. Each movie would be...READ MORE

Filed under movies

What Cannot Be Seen

05/18/2010 Comments (16)

Goro Miyazaki's Tales From Earthsea (opening August 13)

Beauty, loss, longing, mystery: Fans of Tolkien might reach for such language in describing the power of Middle-earth. They are not words that many Americans naturally associate with animation. American animation typically means humor, slapstick, sentiment, and perhaps a positive message about family or believing in yourself.

Only Pixar rises significantly above that level. The Incredibles and Up are among the most emotionally affecting movies I’ve ever seen. But there’s something that myth does that we don’t find even there. Perhaps WALL-E comes close to “ripping open the inconsolable secret,” as C. S. Lewis put it in “The Weight of Glory”—to awakening us to awe and spiritual hunger for...READ MORE

Filed under movies, spirituality

"No Movies Please, We’re Catholic"

05/14/2010 Comments (83)

I would like to think that the time and energy I’ve devoted over the last ten years to Catholic film criticism—work I’ve always seen as an apostolate to families and individual moviegoers, especially Catholics but also non-Catholics and non-Christians—has contributed in a small way to the kingdom of God. I’m still a little taken aback at how some Catholics seem to feel in effect that the whole endeavor is basically pointless, since movies are such a complete wasteland that there is little or no value in trying to discern good from bad and it would be better simply to wash our hands of the whole business.

Here’s a comment from a combox awhile back on a post mentioning, among other films,...READ MORE

Filed under movies, spirituality

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About Steven D. Greydanus

SDG
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Steven D. Greydanus is film critic for the National Catholic Register and Decent Films, the online home for his film writing. He writes regularly for Christianity Today, Catholic World Report and other venues, and is a regular guest on several radio shows. Steven has contributed several entries to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, including “The Church and Film” and a number of filmmaker biographies. He has also written about film for the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy. He has a BFA in Media Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and an MA in Religious Studies from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, PA. He is pursuing diaconal studies in the Archdiocese of Newark. Steven and Suzanne have seven children.