Best Films of 2009: More Lists

Friday, February 19, 2010 10:19 AM Comments (0)

Katyn (Andrzej Wajda).

A few weeks ago the National Catholic Register ran my 2009 year-end piece with my lists of “top ten” and runner-up films. (An expanded version of the article appeared at Decent Films.) This week, I’d like to catch up with a few other lists from Christian sources worth noting.

Earlier this week, Christianity Today Movies & TV released the second of its two annual Top 10 lists, the CT Critics Choice Awards. Last week CT released its other list, the 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2009. (Full disclosure/disclaimer: As a regular CT contributor, I voted in these awards, though I didn’t necessarily vote for all the winners, or even see them all.)

In 1-10 order, the 2009 CT Critics Choice winners...READ MORE

Filed under movies, top film lists

Into the Desert: Lent, Fasting and Film

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:31 PM Comments (8)

The traditional forty days of Lent, Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II have reminded us, recall our Lord’s forty days of fasting in the desert. In Lent we are invited to join Christ in the desert, to recapitulate Israel’s forty years of wilderness wandering.

Lent is a penitential season, but also an invitation to a closer intimacy with God. The Pentateuch presents the forty years of wilderness wandering as a punishment for unbelief, but the prophets offer a startling complementary vision of the desert as a privileged time of intimacy between God and Israel, a romantic season in which God wooed Israel as his bride (Jeremiah 2:2, Hosea 2:16).

The two aspects are inseparable; the time of...READ MORE

Filed under fasting, lent, movies

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Friday, February 12, 2010 10:25 AM Comments (2)

Harry Potter meets Clash of the Titans in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, the first installment of Rick Riordan’s fantasy pentalogy, directed by Chris Columbus. The target audience for Percy Jackson & The Olympians has never seen Clash of the Titans, of course. That they have seen Harry Potter goes without saying.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about The Lightning Thief is that Percy is a boy hero who naturally takes the initiative. J. K. Rowling called Harry Potter “The Boy Who Lived,” but too often, as I’ve noted, a more accurate moniker would be “The Boy Things Happen To.” Where Harry often wound up being a passive protagonist in his own adventures, Percy sets off...READ MORE

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Crazy Heart

Tuesday, February 09, 2010 3:59 PM Comments (0)

Crazy Heart, one of my favorite films of 2009, is in theaters.

Bad Blake isn’t striking a pose. His life and his music are all of a piece. To my taste and temperament, most country music sounds cliched, but Bad Blake isn’t so much a cliche as the grizzled, world-weary reality behind the cliches.

Bad isn’t a pampered superstar singing about the hardships and struggles of other people. He’s a faded icon in the shadow of slick Nashville idols like his former protege Tommy Sweet; an aging alcoholic whose world consists largely of a battered old pickup truck that is literally named Bessie, a well-kept guitar that is the one thing he cares for meticulously, and endless miles of dusty roads...READ MORE

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Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood and Hollywood Revisionism

Friday, February 05, 2010 11:35 AM Comments (7)

In a short piece at Variety, Roger Friedman (hat tip: Peter Chattaway) writes about the upcoming Ridley Scott movie Robin Hood:

Now comes Crowe and Scott. I am told they’ve been screening the new Robin Hood for insiders. Everyone likes it. Universal is counting on a big hit leading into Memorial Day.  Certainly the main actors at least have accents to begin with.

But wait: Does the public want a dark, brooding Robin Hood…? Robin Hood movies and TV shows are always fun. The Ridley Scott movie doesn’t sound like fun from what I’ve been told. It’s dead serious. “I don’t know if it will make money,” says a source. “But it will be respected. It’s dark, violent and very Gladiator.”

“Robin...READ MORE

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Academy Award Nominations: Notes

Wednesday, February 03, 2010 11:25 AM Comments (7)

Last year’s Academy Awards were not the least-watched Oscars in history—that was the previous year—but they were widely perceived as contributing to the ongoing apathy of viewers by snubbing popular and critical favorites like The Dark Knight and WALL-E while honoring a roster of films (Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Milk, Doubt) aptly characterized by A. O. Scott’s phrase “hermetically sealed melodrama[s] of received thinking.” (By contrast, Scott called The Dark Knight and WALL-E “contrasting allegories pitched at the anxieties of the moment,” “populist entertainments of summertime” that incited the “interesting movie debates of 2008.”)

It was probably with an eye to...READ MORE

Filed under academy awards, movies

On DVD: 2009 Favorite Bright Star

Monday, February 01, 2010 11:06 AM Comments (0)

Jane Campion’s Bright Star, one of my favorite films of 2009, is now on DVD.

“Shall I give you Miss Brawne?” wrote the Romantic poet John Keats to his brother George in a letter dated Christmas Day, 1818. In the following lines, Keats offered his impression of the teenaged girl next door, subjecting every feature of her appearance and behavior to brutal inspection: Pleasant horse face (“a fine style of countenance of the lengthened sort—she wants sentiment in every feature”); mouth “bad and good”; “manages to make her hair look well”; arms “good” but hands “baddish”; feet “tolerable.” Only her shape and movements were singled out for unmixed praise (“very graceful”).

“She is not...READ MORE

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Vatican List Film "Rome, Open City" and Rossellini's War Trilogy

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 4:49 PM Comments (1)

Recently I experienced Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City for the first time, again.

A Vatican list film, Rossellini’s celebrated 1945 landmark of Italian neorealism is a must-see film for film lovers—and of course I saw it, and reviewed it, years ago. Even at the time, though, I knew I wasn’t really experiencing the film Rossellini made.

Partly this is because previous DVD and VHS versions of Open City were based on a print of the film with such spotty subtitles that they played as if the subtitler often got so absorbed in the story that he simply forgot for minutes at a time to keep up with the dialogue.

As a result, if you didn’t speak Italian, you missed over half of what was...READ MORE

Filed under movies, reviews

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About Steven D. Greydanus

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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.