Saturday, December 22, 2007

Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)

Joyeux Noel is a foreign film (filmed in at least three languages - English, French and German) based on the true story of the Christmas Eve Truce of 1914. This is not a children's movie at all, but I thought I'd share it here as it has some incredibly beautiful scenes which could be shared with your family at Christmas.

World War I was a brutal war and the movie rightly gives some of this context which gives more meaning to the truce. We are introduced to a Scottish priest and two brothers who all serve on the front lines, to a French lieutenant who hasn't heard from his pregnant wife - behind enemy lines - for months, to a German officer and to a German soldier and his Danish wife (who are both opera singers) and other interesting, minor characters on each side who come together, partly through the gifts of song and of faith, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and celebrate and bury their dead together.

The film is beautifully made and very moving, but there are many elements that are inappropriate for children - particularly the violence of battle scenes, a brief bedroom scene and a rather disturbing interaction between an emotionally broken young man and his dead brother.

One of the most beautiful and understated scenes I've ever seen in a movie is contained in the opening scene. After a brief introduction giving a sense of the indoctrination of hatred stirred up in the days leading up to the war (particularly in the schools), we find the news of war traveling all the way to rural areas of Scotland. The scene moves to a Church where a priest is lighting candles and and a young man is working on painting a statue. His older brother storms in to ring the Church bells, ecstatic that "something's finally going to happen around here" because they're going to leave for war. The brothers leave and the wind from the door snuffs out the candles. We're left with only an expression on the priest's face that says everything. (To me, he seems to say: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.")

Lots of great material for discussion here (particularly for teens) including the political reality of the priest's military superior (presumably an Anglican bishop) who, quite naturally, tows the line of his superiors.

From what I've read about the real-life Christmas truce, the filmmakers went to great lengths to portray it accurately (if at times representatively) and I was impressed with how much acknowledgement this non-believing director (from what I've listened to of the commentary so far) is willing to give to the Faith in general and to the priest in particular, who clearly sees all of the men from both sides of the trenches as belonging to his flock.

Although this is a war movie with a great Christmas theme and certainly one with political elements, it points higher to practical and spiritual realities of hope, love, forgiveness and brotherhood.

So, I suggest that you watch this first and then decide what portions of it you might like to share with your children. By the way, when this movie first came out, it was given an "R" rating, but, after huge objections from major critics, was updated to a "PG-13" rating. I can see where it sort of straddles that line.

UPDATE: Silly me. I forgot that it also includes the Latin language (but I don't want to say more as I don't want to spoil some of the very beautiful parts before you see it).

You can view some music and clips online here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Hobbit

Looks like Peter Jackson is going to do it!

Check out The Hobbit: The Official Movie Blog for all the details.

Great Catholic Titles Available at Netflix

Netflix is, somewhat inadvertently, a part of the reason we started this blog. A lot of Catholic families have discovered that, in spite of the problematic stuff you'll find there (I wouldn't let your kids on the site!), there are many, many fine choices available for families and it can be a more reasonable and more flexible (not to mention more parent-driven) option for movie viewing than cable television. Here are a few films that you may be surprised to find there:

Steve Ray's Footprints of God Apologetics Series
G.K. Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense Television Series (from EWTN - with Dale Ahlquist)
Pope John Paul II (Cary Elwes, Jon Voight)
Witness to Hope: The Life of Pope John Paul II
The Song of Bernadette
The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima
Father Brown Television Series

I'm sure there are many others. What goodies have you found on Netflix?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gabriel Axel's Babette's Feast

This is a wonderful film for this time of year...though more suited to Easter. :) I first saw this film in a Christ figures in film class and thought you might prefer my notes to a more general review. My notes aren't anything more than interpretation of what was intended. That said, Gabriel Axel certainly intended to make a religious film, and Babette is definitely a Christ figure. In fact, there's a boatload of imagery I missed. :)


1. We are told at the outset of the film that this particular sect of Protestantism follows Martin Luther. I found that statement a little odd given that it was followed by the assertion that the congregation were to spend all their time on good works. We watch as the sisters serve meals to others, in simple pots, with possibly even simpler contents. Everything about these people is austere. We cannot fail to understand that the goods and pleasures of this life are to be studiously avoided as the focus is on the soul and life eternal. The father keeps his daughters on a very tight leash. Men are discouraged, ever so gently, from seeking their hands in marriage, and both daughters reject suitors that make them “afraid of their joy”. It is as if joy were reflective of excess. Several times we hear little phrases that perpetuate the teaching of the pastor, which at times appears to carry more weight than the teachings of Christ. It is not as though the teachings differ from Christ’s teaching; what is surprising is that we are told to remember what the pastor taught us, rather than what Christ taught us. For example, “Little children, love one another,” and “The only thing we can take into this next life is what we give.” Again, I was confused by the emphasis on works. We do hear that Christ “loved us and cleansed us with His blood,” and services focus on singing and preaching which would be more in keeping with the teachings and practices of Martin Luther. However, you get the sense that through the denial of physical pleasures, as well as the focus on performing good works, the members hope to earn their salvation. This is why they are so disturbed by Babette’s feast; they fear intemperance, and so vow that it will be “as if we had no sense of taste.”

2. A soldier comes to Jutland and falls in love with Martina. When he asks for her hand in marriage the father replies, “My daughters are my right and left hand in serving the Lord. How can you take either my right or left hand from me?” Martina is dutiful, and meekly forgoes this earthly happiness to serve the Lord at her father’s side.
A visiting opera singer is smitten by Philippa. He is struck by her beauty, and delighted by her voice. Sensing that courting this girl might be difficult, he approaches the father and offers to train Philippa’s voice that “she might sing like an angel. That’s important when one sings to God.” Lesson follows upon lesson, and the two are swept up by their feelings when singing together. Philippa is confused by her feelings and obviously uncomfortable, singing “I’m afraid of our joy.” Papin seals his own fate when he assures her that she can be a great diva in Paris. “Emperors and seamstresses will come to hear you sing!” He adds that her voice will bring comfort to the poor, but it is too late; she has seen ambition and runs from it. Her one ambition will be to serve the Lord by her father’s side. She will not be taken in by vanities.
There do seem to be regrets, but I got the sense that these were seen in the light of a good foregone for a much greater good. Again, earthly pleasures distract from the aim, a heavenly Jerusalem. It is no great loss in light of the eternal reward.
3. When we meet Babette, we are told that she was “poor among the poor.” She asks to be allowed to serve the sisters. These are our first clues that Babette is a Christ figure. Shortly after we meet Babette, we watch as she attentively listens to the sisters instructing her in cooking. They prepare a meal which, while nourishing, is neither pleasant to behold nor to eat. This sequence is reminiscent of Christ’s hidden life. Just as Christ, all knowing, allowed himself to be taught, so too, Babette, a gourmet chef, humbly allows herself to be instructed in the “art” of cooking. Christ, the Master, meekly obeyed His parents; Babette, a master cook, meekly obeys the instructions she is given. She adopts the style and customs of the people around her. We begin to see her salvific effect on God’s people in the spirit of joy that buds after her arrival. As she interacts with merchants, there is a kind of friendly haggling. She leaves with her prize goods, and the merchant watches her go, a smile playing about his lips. The next customer is immediately told that she won’t be able to work the same wonders; she is not Babette. The fact that she is a gourmet chef rather than a widow with a knack for cooking helps establish her as a Christ figure. She is a ‘Master’. She has a God-given gift, which she does not “hide under a bushel basket”. And yet, she does not use this gift until the people of God are ready to receive it.
4. When Babette asks to be allowed to prepare a meal for the anniversary of the Founder’s death, she also asks to be allowed some time off in order to prepare. She requires three days. She prepares for the feast in a snow-white apron with a crucifix prominently displayed. This is our signal that Babette’s hidden life is past; she is the Savior preparing for His salvific act. Just as Christ’s sacrifice was not complete until after the Resurrection, a period of three days, so Babette’s sacrificial meal requires three days preparation before its salvific effects can be felt.
That the ‘people of God’ require salvation is clear. Their numbers have dwindled, the members are old, and the spirit of the group is ugly. Grudges formed long ago have festered and deepened with time, and members lash out at each other even as they are supposed to be at prayer. The daughters attempt to lead them, but we see it is futile. Right after the prayer has been spoken, the members are at it again. The community is divided by sin, and the memory of their ‘father’ is distant and dim; they need a savior.
Babette wins the lottery, and it is assumed that she will now return to Paris. She walks along the beach, considering what she will do. We see a white bird fly across the heavens, and at first I thought it might actually be a dove. It was a seagull, but I think it was meant to signify a dove. (A dove on the Jutland coast would have been inappropriate, and a little obvious.) In any case, Babette is inspired. She will serve the community a real meal, a French feast.
The first hint we have that this meal is special is when we hear that the General joining them for the feast will make their number 12, an obvious reference to the Last Supper. That the General, an outsider to the community, is welcome is a nice touch, given that salvation is not for the Chosen People only. Even the coachman and serving boy partake, although not at the table, which is interesting for several reasons. These three represent outsiders; they are not the Chosen People. They are, however, the only ones who appear to appreciate the sacrifice! By contrast, the Chosen People turn away from the gift; they will eat, but they will not enjoy. It will be as if they did not have a sense of taste. Also, Babette does not eat. She does taste various dishes to be certain they are properly seasoned, but she does not eat the meal. She is the savior, and hence, does not require salvation. Lastly, the coachman and serving boy are content with the “scraps that fall from the master’s table”, even though they are in this case, hardly scraps.
That the meal has salvific effects is not immediately apparent. The members are true to their word; they manfully resist the sensual pleasures. One of them asserts that “As at the wedding feast at Cana, the food is of no importance.” Again, I had to chuckle. The film, at times, seemed to poke fun at Fundamentalism. These people are so eager to get it right, meticulous in their adherence to the principles set out by their founder. Somewhere along the line, these principles seem to have gotten muddled. Who, having read the account of the wedding at Cana, could cite that example to support the notion that is served is of no importance? In the end, no one can remain unaffected by the loving sacrifice of Babette. The members slowly begin to appreciate the gift of food, and by the end of the meal are choosing to enjoy wine rather than water. Fingers are licked, that every last morsel might be enjoyed. The food itself transforms these people. Through Babette’s sacrificial meal, God’s grace brings peace, joy, and salvation. The members gather about the fountain, singing and dancing, rejoicing in their new-found Faith, and praising God as they declare “Hallelujah!” That they dance about a fountain is no accident; they have been ‘born again’, and the cleansing waters signify their rebirth. The two sisters come to realize the full extent of Babette’s sacrifice only after the meal has been served. She has sacrificed everything, and the sisters feel the joy of her love. They thank her for the meal and praise it; they have been won over and rejoice in their conversion.
5. This film tells the story of God’s Chosen People. We meet them as they live under the Old Law. In Babette, we experience the Savior. She brings joy and peace, dispels fear and awakens a true spirit of charity. She establishes a New Covenant with the People of God through her great, sacrificial act. It is significant that the reason for feasting is the anniversary of the founder’s death. This grounds us in the Old Law, while at the same time transcending it, giving the members new hope, joy, and peace.
6. The film was beautiful. The director made such effective use of lighting and colors that the warmth and depth of Babette’s love was itself almost palatable. By contrast, the scenes with the sisters and pastor made one want to sit up a little straighter to avoid the disapproving glances that might otherwise be cast your way. Contrary to the intention of the film, I was left feeling sad. The tremendous sacrifice of Babette went so long unappreciated. It was, in fact, actively resisted. If that isn’t more telling of the human condition, I don’t know what is. Christ has given us every means, every aid. How many of us truly take part in the Eucharist? Christ offers Himself to us every day; how often do we embrace Him? We do so very little to dispose ourselves to receive His grace. Christ’s sacrifice, the love of the cross, is daily rejected.
God bless, Maria

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Archbishop Charles Chaput on The Golden Compass

When the first Harry Potter movie arrived in theaters several years ago, many Catholic families had divided views about the film. Some enjoyed it as an innocent and intriguing fantasy. Others avoided it because of its emphasis on magic. But the screen adaptation of Philip Pullman's book, "The Golden Compass," which opened in Denver on Dec. 7, will likely produce far more agreement. No matter how one looks at it, "The Golden Compass" is a bad film. There's just no nicer way to say it.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cinderella Man

This is a movie I had no intention of seeing. Two reasons were because the time period is the Depression and it was a movie about boxing! It wasn't until one of my sisters highly recommended the movie that we finally decided to watch it.

It was such a beautiful story of family...a Catholic family.

This is a story inspired by the true life of boxer James J. Braddock. He was an up and coming boxer during the depression, making a name for himself when he fell on hard times. However, his love of his wife and children always came first. He would do what was necessary to take care of them. Some scenes were hard to watch, especially the way he had to humble himself when he needed to get money.

"That common-man hero was James J. Braddock-a.k.a. the "Cinderella Man"-who was to become one of the most surprising and inspirational sports legends in history. By the early 1930s, the impoverished ex-prizefighter was seemingly as broken-down, beaten-up and out-of-luck as much of the rest of the American populace. Like so many others, Braddock had hit rock bottom. His career appeared to be finished, he was unable to pay the bills, the only thing that really mattered to him-his family-was in danger, and he was even forced to go on Public Relief. But deep inside, Jim Braddock never relinquished his determination. Driven by love, honor and an incredible dose of grit, he willed an impossible dream to come true".
From the James J. Braddock Official Website.

This is one of those movies that makes you feel good after you watched it. It is a family-oriented film but because of the violent nature of boxing, I would not recommend it for children under 14 or even 16.

Personally, I liked that the "Cinderella Man" was a Jersey boy. In fact, my sister the one who recommended the movie, went to see it with her spiritual advisor, Fr. Raymond Beach. Fr. Raymond really looked forward to seeing the movie because in real life, he was the altar boy who served at the wedding of Jim Braddock. Throughout the movie, Fr. Raymond was hoping they would show a little altar boy at the wedding. But unfortunately, that was not a scene in the movie. He really liked it nevertheless.

Click HERE for trailer.

Emmet Otter's Jug-band Christmas

This is one of those great overlooked classics, it was never popular, but should not be missed. Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is based on the book by Russell and Lillian Hoban, authors of the Frances books. The story is classic, very similar in many ways to O Henry's classic Gift of the Magi. The movie rendition is from 1977, and features creations from the imagination of Jim Henson.

The simplicity of the story is the greatest beauty of it, Ma Otter is struggling to give her son Emmet what he wants for Christmas. She makes many sacrifices to raise him well, and give him what he needs. Meanwhile, Emmet is a good son, who does what he can to help his mother, but is sometimes misguided in his efforts. The movies does a great job teaching a few moral lessons without making it obvious or talking down to the intended audience.

The movie is a bit dated, it was made in 1977, and the music reflects that, but that can be easily overlooked due to the quality of the story. With our modren computer animation, the 70's muppets are a bit odd, their strings and wires are very visible, but again, the overall quality prevails.

I loved this book and movie as a kid, but as a mother, I now understand why my mom cried when she read it to us and why she gave the movie to me as a gift. Kids will love the movie, otters are just cute, the antagonists are goofy and loud and the songs are fun. Moms will appreciate the bigger story, and hopefully can use the lessons to discuss the real meaning of Christmas.

I am David

I admit it. I like movies about the indomitable spirit of those unjustly imprisoned, and I like them even more if they are in any way connected to WWII. I hear portions of my grandfather's last letter to his family, written just hours before his execution. I hear my uncle's stories of life in a Nazi labor camp and see again the twinkle in his eye as he recounts the little ways one maintains freedom, dignity and charity despite everything which would incline one towards hate and despair. It's an imitation of the passion, death, aaand resurrection, as well as further proof that imitation of Christ is a beautiful thing despite appearances to the contrary. Every cross has some share in The Cross, and God never forsakes us. This is what gives us hope despite real cause to lose it, and it's what makes "I am David" more than a good story beautifully crafted. It's the story of man's fallen, broken and restless heart remade, which is why it's perfect for Christmastime viewing...though it would be even more suited to Lent and Easter!

The story takes place in the 1950's in communist eastern Europe. David is a 12 year old boy who has been separated from his parents and imprisoned for almost as long as he can remember. The movie chronicles his escape and the wanderings which eventually lead him home. What is not overtly depicted but nevertheless unmistakable is God's providential care in even the details of our lives and the varied surprising means He uses to bring greater good out of evil. David reminds us to never give up, to recognize God working in our lives, and to grow in love and trust along the way.

Some of the prison scenes are intense and depict a level of evil too disturbing for younger children. Watch this one first and then decide who can join you.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Prince Caspian Trailer

H/T to American Papist

It looks like the actors from the first movie are back in this sequel.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Amazing Grace

We recently watched two films, "Amazing Grace" and "I am David", both of which I enthusiastically recommend.

Amazing Grace tells the story of William Wilberforce's (portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd) relentless efforts to abolish the slave trade in England. The film is interesting and inspiring on several levels: one comes away with a better understanding of the historical period and its influences, the English political system and politics in general, the way in which God works in our lives, through our strengths and despite our weaknesses, and the beauty and triumph of lived Christian principles.

Because the film deals with the issue of slavery, some material may be too intense and troubling for young children. There are no graphic images, but former slaves/slavers do describe, in detail, the miserable conditions of life aboard ship.

The relationship between Wilberforce and Barbara Spooner is delightfully the sense of Cicero's "A friend is other self." One does not commonly find romance and friendship so beautifully blended in film. (Unhappily, the styles of the period allow us to see a little more of Barbara than we would like. Happily, Barbara has loads of lovely hair which cascades freely, making some amends for the shortage of fabric.)

The next time I sing, "Amazing Grace" it'll have a level of meaning and a kind of beauty it did not before....though it'll sound just as bad as it ever did. Watching good films does not improve musical ability.

I'll post on, "I am David" next.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Maldonado Miracle (2003)

It's funny how some movies stick with me in surprising ways - they keep coming up in conversation, there's a part that my brain keeps turning over and over on the back burner or they seem to apply to various conversations and areas of our study.

The Maldonado Miracle has been doing that to me lately - particularly when topics relating to the Church's position on Faith and Reason come up (as happened in our teen catechism discussion last night).

I don't think I can go into all the rabbit trails that this movie brought up, I'll just give you a starting point so you can check it our for yourself.

Peter Fonda plays a parish priest in the process of getting a transfer out of a has-been former mining town in California. The people left in town mourn over each family that moves out. Their world changes dramatically when blood is found on the crucifix in the local church and people come from all over to witness the "miracle" for themselves.

One of the most interesting things (which doesn't seem like a stretch within the movie, but still surprises us in some ways) is that it is the good priest who is most reluctant to proclaim a miracle. He pushes for testing first and even locks the doors of the Church at one point. Some non-believing townspeople, however, see this as a benefit for the community and even go so far as to hide information from the priest.

I won't say more about the plot, except that it's wonderfully ironic and true in unexpected, but delightful ways.

We found this to be appropriate viewing for the entire family, though parents might want to preview it for more sensitive children (there is one violent, though not particularly scary scene and there are a fair number of dramatic chase scenes and such).
The behavior of the woman who first proclaims (and practically takes credit for) the miracle provides some good fodder for discussion - particularly in the context of the ending. Don't give up on the movie on her account!

This made for TV movie was directed by Salma Hayek and originally aired on Showtime.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My impressions on Bella

Here are some of my thoughts, as posted to our homeschool group:
  • Bella is essentially a pro-life movie, set all in or near New York City. It's about a young man with a traumatic past who is able to help a girl who is contemplating abortion. They are not romantically related.
  • It is very different from the usual Hollywood fare, be prepared. The camera angle is difficult to watch at times, the pace of the dialog is unusual. There are parts that are not pleasant, and then there are wonderful, funny parts, of gorgeous photography.
  • Personally, I would remove the camera at least about two meters away from the subjects -- the intense close-ups bothered me, but our Number Two, who watched it with us in TX during Thanksgiving holidays, thought they did a good job of bringing up the intimate, personal dimension of the story. She loved it.
  • I loved its pro-life stance, and the fact that the turning point for the young woman was the exposure to his healthy, warm, loving family. We know this conceptually, but it's wonderful to see a film celebrating family life as a redeeming catalyst.
  • Age? I believe the PG 13 rating is appropriate, although the worst is really a painful scene of a child being run-over, and very well done too. I don't remember offensive language and certainly no nudity etc. So, I believe, depending on the child you could take a younger-than-13 child to see it.
  • I *highly* recommend that you watch this 6 minute clip before you go! It's the main actor/producer telling of his own life and pro-life motives. (Besides, he's gorgeous!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Favorite Christmas Movies

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Here are some we've enjoyed:

It's a Wonderful Life (naturally)

White Christmas

Holiday Inn

Come to the Stable

Christmas in Connecticut

Joyeux Noel (just discovered this one this year - some mature content)

A Christmas Carol (various versions)

Miracle on 34th Street

Christmas with the Kranks

and last, but certainly not least...

A Charlie Brown Christmas

DVD Stocking Stuffers

What are your recommendations for movies worth re-watching that would make great Christmas gifts? I'll put Christmas movies in a separate post.

Here are a few of our favorites of all sorts:

Marx Brothers Comedies
Bringing Up Baby
The Philadelphia Story
The Princess Bride
Groundhog Day (older teens and adults)
You Can't Take it With You
Going My Way
Bells of St. Mary's
Pope John Paul II
Pride and Prejudice (BBC/A&E)
Sense and Sensibility (the one with Emma Thompson)
Spanglish (older teens and adults)
The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima
Babette's Feast
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Incredibles
Prince of Egypt
Joseph King of Dreams
Finding Nemo
Ever After

Monday, November 26, 2007

Darwin Catholic Top 100 Films Meme

Saw this on Darwin Catholic...

Go to the AFI Top 100 list and pick:

1) Your favorite five movies that are on the list.
  1. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  2. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  5. The Sound of Music (1965)
2) Five movies on the list you didn't like at all.
  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  3. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  5. Dances with Wolves (1990)
3) Five movies on the list you haven't seen but want to.
  1. Schindler's List (1993)
  2. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  3. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  4. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
4) Five movies on the list you haven't seen and have no interest in seeing.
  1. Taxi Driver (1976)
  2. M*A*S*H (1970)
  3. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  4. Fargo (1996)
  5. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
5) Your favorite five movies that aren't on the list.

I can only think of foreign fare and this is an American list, I believe.

Tagging: readers of the Love2Learn Movies Blog.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Evan Almighty

This is a movie that I wanted to watch. However, I never got around to it when it was in the theaters. The other evening my family and I went to Blockbusters to get some new movies for the long weekend. We each got to choose one movie and I chose this one.

Evan Almighty is a good and relatively clean family movie. Steve Carell plays the lead role of Evan. He is quite popular now starring in the hit TV show The Office and also starring in Dan in Real Life. In this movie he reprises his original role he had in Bruce Almighty, where he played a newscaster.

According to Wikipedia neither Jim Carrey nor Jennifer Aniston wanted to reprise their roles for this sequel to the movie Bruce Almighty. We should be grateful to them for that decision.

Even though Bruce Almighty was a movie about a man's relationship with God, it had many scenes and topics that were quite sinful...crude language, a couple living together without the benefit of marriage, etc. Even though it had a good message, it was hard to watch the movie as a family, because of the inappropriate scenes. This is not the case in the sequel.

Here we have a happily married man, his loving wife and their three children, all boys. Evan is elected a congressman and moves to Virginia. It is there that God chooses him to do His work.

It is a very humorous yet interesting story with an actual modern day twist on an Old Testament tale.

I recommend this movie for all ages. My DH and DS actually thanked me for choosing the movie. They really enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sarah, Plain and Tall

SarahOne of my family's favorite ways of finding affordable movies is to go to our local Blockbuster and buying the used movies. One of the ones we bought on VHS was Sarah, Plain and Tall starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. This is a family made for TV movie, based on a book by Patricia MacLachlan by the same name.

This movie turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. Although, I was not a big fan of either of the two main actors, I thought they did an exceptional job of portraying the main characters. After the movie was over, I really ended up admiring both of them.

Instead of offering another detailed movie review, I direct you to Parents Preview's review

If you haven't had the opportunity to watch this one yet, please so do. BTW, there are a couple more sequels that were made following the success of this 1991 movie.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bride and Prejudice

Another version of Pride and Prejudice!

Wikipedia has a table with equivalent characters.

I watched it the other night. Very well done, in classic Bollywood style. Fun entertainment! Our 12 year old, well versed in P&P by now, watched it also and enjoyed it!

The colors, music and dancing of the production were bright, nicely done and very different to what we are used to!

More about it here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


If you have not been exposed to Bollywood yet-- films made in India-- this will be a very good first choice.

Lagaan has it all: romance, history, music and dancing.

The last part of the film--the cricket match between the unjustly-treated Indian farmers and the pedantic Brits is very, very well done!

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952)

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima is a movie I've loved since I was about ten years old and first saw it at our local Marian shrine. How delightful that it's now available on DVD! In a reverent, and yet engaging way, it tells the story of the apparitions of Our Lady to three children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

The score, by Academy Award winning composer Max Steiner (who also was nominated for an Academy Award for the music in this film) is particularly noteworthy. Beautiful!

The movie is sometimes unfavorably compared with its Academy Award winning predecessor, Song of Bernadette (another family favorite and certainly an excellent film). My feeling is that there's plenty of room for a somewhat lighter-toned, family friendly feature on a similar topic.

A couple of side notes (for those who may be interested in such things):

The story is slightly fictionalized for entertainment purposes. A friendly agnostic was created for comic relief and, as I understand it, Lucia's mother comes out better (more loving and sympathetic) and her father comes out worse (more troubled and inaccessible) than they were in real life. A silly little mistake in the beginning claims the date to be May 15th, but ends up being incidentally corrected a little later in the movie.

For more information on this film:

IMDB Entry

Decent Films Review

1952 New York Times Review

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Spotlight on Actor: Eduardo Verastegui

Mahalo to Barbara of Praying for Grace
The star of Bella tells us in his own words how he became involved in the prolife movement. Very touching video.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Golden Compass: A Concern for Christian Families?

The Catholic League is issuing warnings against this soon-to-be released movie which stars Nicole Kidman. The blogosphere is also alive with warning posts about it. Today Good News Film Reviews posted the following. The trailer of the movie can be seen there.
On December 6th The Golden Compass, based on the first book of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, hits theaters. This has many Christians concerned. Why? The books begin innocently enough, but as the trilogy moves forward the story twists into a venomous attack on Christianity. Will the film follow suit?
Is the Golden Compass a Concern for Christians?

Also see the Snopes page on this movie.


Steve Greydanus' review at Decent Films

News and other info on the controversies surrounding the books and film from Ignatius Insight

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Comparing three film versions of Pride & Prejudice

Many years ago, in Stowe, Vermont, I watched a documentary film about the real Maria Von Trapp. We were visiting Trapp Family Lodge with its Alpine European flavor and Sound of Music history permeating everywhere.

The most surprising to me was Maria's opinion on the film. I had always wondered what she thought about the movie, especially since reading her autobiography. She liked it and said the film kept all of the main important things.

I would venture to say, I am sure to the surprise of many, that Jane Austen would say something quite similar of the newest (2005) version of Pride & Prejudice. Is it perfect? Heavens, no. But I would propose here that it does indeed keep the main elements of this best known of Jane Austen's stories: that intelligent, educated girls are much more sensible than superfluous, silly ones, and that love, true love, has the power of transforming people.

I have recently led a discussion of this age-old favorite in class with 12-14 year olds, and one of the students remarked yesterday that Pride & Prejudice will never seem the same again after our discussion. I, of course, believe that discussing good books is truly rewarding! It brings joy, it challenges the mind, and most of all it brings discoveries that shed light on our reading!

I should add here that it is a known fact that the BBC production under the same title is the most faithful to the novel, of course. It is indeed, and Colin Firth is a very believable Darcy! But, alas, it is made for TV with its obvious limitations.

Pride & Prejudice is a most beloved book for me and I was very pleased with the interest and enthusiasm the kids showed for this classic. Some of them were simply astounded to discover so much in there-- and how it is ultimately a story of how love can transform us and push us toward letting go of our vices and faults and become better Christians.

My favorable opinion on the 2005 Pride & Prejudice version was crystallized recently when I watched the 1940 version with Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson. Oh, my-- if you think the newest one detracted from the book, you'll be mortified with the 1940 one! As if the novel didn't offer enough, the scriptwriter decided on adding more! Darcy teaching Elizabeth to shoot bow and arrows? Lady Catherine De Burgh telling Darcy her interview with Lizzy was a set up to test her a suitable wife for him? Nah, no wonder you had never heard of that version.

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice, as I stated before, is obviously not perfect: I don't like the way they make Mr. Collins' stature something to be laughed at. His affected and self-centered behavior is what Austen ridiculed. And the gratuitous scene in the church is predictable in this anti-religion age, albeit very well done in the movie. Lady Catherine looked like she had just arrived from a tanning salon, and Miss Bingley's dresses were a bit too modern. But Charlotte was perfect, and so was Col. Fitzwilliam. Mrs. Bennett was impeccable, and her human, good side well explored, as when Lizzy is lovingly consoling her when Lydia departs with Wickman. So were the younger Bennetts. And Darcy... I dare to say he is the best Darcy ever.

The newest version brings Jane Austen again with her main elements, and I for one rejoice in being able to watch a movie with girlfriends and teens/kids that portrays appropriate courtship!

The Crusades

The director of this 1935 movie, The Crusades the legendary Cecil B. de Mille, known for his historical epics. It stars Loretta Young and Henry Wilcoxon.

The story takes place during the Third Crusade. We have King Richard the Lion-Hearted setting off to this crusade. He is doing this not so much as for the honorable thing in fighting the good fight, but instead as a way of getting out of an arranged marriage. The king's plans backfire when he is forced to marry another princess, whose father will only provide food for the king's starving men if he agrees to this arranged marriage.

Richard the Lion-Hearted is really so adverse to marriage that he does not even have the decency to attend his own wedding. Instead, the poor princess is forced to be married by proxy to the king's sword.

As the movie continues onward, the couple's feelings will change and much of this change has to do with the quest they are on. The are there to save the Holy Land and Christianity.

It has been awhile since I have seen this old movie. But one that I look forward to watching again soon. It is one that my dad had highly recommended. I think everyone, young and old alike will enjoy the movie as it has something for everyone: humor, romance, adventure, and for Catholic families, it is a testament to the Faith and a noble cause that is worth fighting for.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Confess

This time of year, Hitchcock films seem to be everywhere, but one of the most overlooked is I Confess. Made in 1953, it is a prime example of Hitchcock, the Catholic. Hitchcock attended Mass daily, and lived the devote life. Many of his films show this in subtle ways, I, Confess is not subtle.

What happens when a man confesses murder to a priest in the confessional? What happens when the man, full aware of the fact that a priest is bound to silence, decides to frame him? This is the simple story told in I, Confess. Simple, but all of the situations that surround the murder, the murderer and the priest are what make it so good. I often wonder if Hitchcock was reading Father Brown stories while making this film, there are a few subtle resemblances.

Shot in Montreal, I Confess is stunningly beautiful. The acting is not the best in a Hitchcock film, but the roles are convincing enough. I've read this is not a good Hitchcock film, especially for non-Catholics, But I have to disagree. It is a great film, but Catholics will appreciate its treatment of confession. This is a great movie for teens, there are a few mature situations, but due to it being 1953, they are alluded to rather than explicit. I love this movie on cold fall nights with a nice hot cup of cider.

Monday, October 29, 2007

on Bella

Cottage Blessings has a post today about the new pro-life film Bella. Check it out!

Ignatius Insight Blog has more on the film.

Update 10/31:
First Things has an article on Bella.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Movies Based on Novels and Literature List

If you are anything like me, you love to read and you love the movies. Often times, a movie based on our a book we love will disappoint us.

The following is a list in progress for movies that are recommended for families.

1. Ben-Hur (1959) based on the novel by General Lew Wallace entitled Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ

2. Boy's Town (1938) based on the book written by Fulton Oursler and Will Oursler entitled Father Flanagan of Boys Town.

3. Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) based on the biography of the Gilbreth Family by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank Gilbreth, Jr.

4. Belles on Their Toes (1952) The sequel to the 1950 movie Cheaper by the Dozen. Based on the biography of the same name. Written by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank Gilbreth, Jr.

5. Jane Eyre (1944). Based on the book by Charlotte Bronte.

6. The Last of the Mohicans (1992) based on the book by James Fenimore Cooper.

7. The Egg and I (1947) based on the book by Betty McDonald.

8. The Good Earth (1937) based on the book by Pearl S. Buck

9. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) based on the book by James Hilton.

10. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) based on the book by John Steinbeck.

11. The Song of Bernadette (1943) based on the book by Franz Werfel.

12. Lilies of the Field (1963) based on the book by William E. Barrett.

13. Quo Vadis (1951) based on the book by Henryk K Sienkiewicz.

14. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) based on one of the books in the trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

15. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) based on one of the books in the trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

16. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) based on the last book in the trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

17. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) based on the book by Harper Lee.

18. Frankenstein (1931) based on the book by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

19. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) based on the book by Betty Smith.

20. Rebecca (1940) based on the book by Dauphine du Maurier.

21. The Wizard of Oz (1939) based on the novel by L. Frank Baum.

22. Gone With the Wind (1939) based on the book by Margaret Mitchell.

23. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) based on the book by various sources.

24. I Remember Mama (1948)Based on the book by Kathryn Forbes entitled Mama's Bank Account.

25. Anna and the King of Siam (1946) based on the book by Margaret Landon.

26. Captain's Courageous (1937) based on the book by Rudyard Kipling.

27. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) based on the book by Alexandre Dumas.

28. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) based on the book by T.E. Lawrence.

29. Little Women (1949) based on the book by Louisa May Alcott. Note: The original 1933 movie starring Katherine Hepburn is also highly recommended. The more recent one in 1994 starring Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon is not.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Movie Maker Targets Nation's 2.5 million Homeschoolers

The following article appeared in WorldnetDaily last year. This is for those of you who may have missed it.
One can just about hear a collective "at last" from the parents of the estimated 2.5 million homeschool students in the United States.

Now, on the heels of its wildly successful "The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and just a few weeks after announcing an outreach in support of family-friendly films, Walden Media is confirming plans for a national education outreach initiative with the homeschool community...


Friday, October 26, 2007

Hoodwinked - A "spin" on Little Red Riding Hood

My first post here is not going to be sublime. In fact it isn't even one of my most favorite movies. But it is a really good movie at getting one (huge) point considered. A post about Manalive by Ria on Liber Parma brought it back to my mind.

After your kids are familiar with and finally bored with Little Red Riding Hood they can take this movie in. The cartoon starts with a kind of sappy re-telling of the Little Red Riding Hood story.

Then the police detective gets involved.

He interviews each of the characters one at a time to make sure that the truth comes out. Sure it SEEMS like that big bad wolf did it - easy target! - might as well be "the butler did it". But each interview re-tells the story from a first person perspective. Actions that fit the LRRH storyline may have a context that we didn't see at first. And that context sheds more light on the truth - and more innocence on each of the characters.

THAT is the big point. It is our obligation (and our delight) as rational creatures to seek the truth. That is something that usually requires seeing things from more than one perspective and entertaining things which may not fit our preconceived notions. We NEED to be able to see things from others' perspective. This movie demonstrates the point quite well. And, like any good story, is entertaining at the same time.

Unfortunately, as good as the point is in the movie I would not say it is anything like a classic. The illustration is kind of odd and the characters have modern (i.e. will soon be dated) tendencies and lingo. So I would call it a "see once" movie.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Amazing Grace - The Trailer

Although, I have not seen this movie yet, it is on my To Watch List.

Just a word of caution, be careful if you go directly to the YouTube site to watch the video as the comments are not family friendly.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The David Attenborough Nature films

These are the most loved series of nature films we have ever watched as a family. We started with Life of Mammals episodes and went on the Life in the Undergrowth. We get them from Netflix because our library still does not own them.

It is not only the amazing camera angles, superb photography and fascinating facts... it's Sir David Attenborough himself that is the secret to these films. He is charming, earnest, simply delightful.

Next in our queue is his newest series Planet Earth. We can't wait!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What Can Be Labeled a "Good Catholic Film"?

Check out Michael P. Foley's article Four and a Half Kinds of Catholic Film in Crisis Magazine online.

It is a very interesting article.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Vatican's Best Films List

USCCB's Movie Site

What movies would the Vatican recommend? Check out the above site to find out. How many have you seen?

You know what? We have the Seventh Seal sitting in our closet and we never watched it. We will have to do so soon.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The other pope movie

Karol, A Man Who Became Pope, directed by Giacomo Battiato, produced by Pietro Valsecchi, with Piotr Adamczyk, Malgorzata Bela, 2005 Taodue Film.

My youngest sister in Brazil, a Doctor in History from Navarre, a Major Seminary Professor and a cinematic arts enthusiast, recommends this Polish film as the best movie about our beloved John Paul II.

She says:

Sobretudo mostra mais realisticamente que outras produções a história e a mentalidade polonesas. Belíssima sensibilidade.

(Which means: Above all it portrays, more realistically than other productions, the Polish history and mentality. A film of amazing sensitivity.)

Mother Teresa - The Movie


Last year my family and I watched the movie about Mother Teresa. The following is an excerpt of the review I posted on my blog:
Ms. Hussey does an incredible job of bringing Mother Teresa to life for us. She somehow captured Mother's mannerisms and with a little help of make-up, she looked a little like dear Mother Teresa...but not quite.
The complete review can be found Here

No Price Too High

No Price Too High and A Dinner with Alex Jones with Alex Jones
2001, St. Joseph Communications, DVD 2 hours, 20 minutes

Alex Jones is a former Pentecostal preacher who converted to the Catholic faith, along with his family and his congregation, in 2001. This presentation is a talk he gave a few months before he was formally received into the Church, in which he first publicly told the story of his conversion. It was his study of the Early Church Fathers, in particular, that brought him into the Church. It is followed by a dinner table conversation, including questions from guests - both Catholic and Protestant. Hosted by Steve Ray.

Alex is a powerful and moving (and often funny!) speaker and it's exciting and inspiring to see this larger-than-life character on fire for the Faith. The flip side is that converting to the Faith cost him a great deal - especially among his friends and colleagues. This is a powerful witness, particularly for us cradle Catholics who might have a tendency to take the Faith for granted at times.

My older children (ages 12 and 14) and I really enjoyed his talk. Conversion stories are so exciting and hopeful - a great place to see the hand of God at work in our world today.

Available from Nineveh's Crossing

Thursday, October 18, 2007


We don't watch musicals that often--and admittedly I am not a huge fan of the genre--but we have some favorites. These we watched recently:

Sound of Music: my personal all-time favorite movie. Flawless!

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: we picked it up from the library last weekend. Wow, did the kids enjoy the action! And the girls were singing the songs for days!

Old Romantic Movies List for Moms

The following are for the mom who would like to enjoy a romantic move with her dear husband or by herself. They are some of my favorite romance movies. All prior to 1960:

1. Summertime 1955 Katherine Hepburn and Rosanno Brazzi

2. The Enchanted Cottage 1945 Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire

3. Three Coins in the Fountain 1955 Clifton Webb and Dorothy McGuire

4. Now, Voyager 1942 Bette Davis and Paul Henreid

5. An Affair to Remember 1957 Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr (who died today. May she rest in peace).

6. Sabrina 1954 Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden

7. Rebecca 1940 Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier

8. Jane Eyre 1944 Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles

7. The African Queen 1951 Queen Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn

8. Backstreet 1941 Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan

9. Imitation of Life 1959 Lana Turner and John Gavin

10. Magnificent Obsession 1954 Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson

Top 15 Film Misquotes

Mahalo to Alicia for inviting me to join as a contributor.

I thought you film lovers would enjoy the following list:

Top 15 Film Misquotes

How many of the movies listed have you seen?

Lest You Think We're Only About "Serious" Films

Here are my personal favorite Disney movies (in no particular order):

Darby O'Gill and the Little People
Finding Nemo
The Incredibles
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
101 Dalmatians (1996)
Robin Hood (animated)
Lady and the Tramp
The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Heidi (1993)

What are your favorites? Or do you allow Disney in your house?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

The 1928 French silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc is beautiful: amazing and powerful. Suitable for teens (certainly acceptable for anyone mature enough to watch the Passion of the Christ - though this film is mature mostly because of its intensity).

It might be worthwhile to discuss the historical position of the Church's relationship with Joan of Arc and the intentions of the filmmaker who, focusing on Joan's trial and death, might be viewed as having some degree of an agenda. It would also be fair to consider the controversies surrounding the Passion of the Christ for providing a similar, limited focus.

The DVD (available from Netflix) provides English subtitles and a choice of no audio or a background score.

The commentary was quite interesting and helpful. I love how the Danish film expert refers to her in the familiar French/Danish Jeanne (sounds like Shen) in this English commentary.

The Passion of Joan of Arc was listed on the Vatican list of best films.

Links Up from the Comments Box:

Esther has a post about this film here.

The Road Home

The Road Home, Chinese.

This is another G-rated foreign gem! The photography and the pace of this movie will draw you in for a delightful experience--at least that was was my case. A truly wonderfully told love story, with depth beyond what meets the eye!

Watch the trailer here.

IMDb did not have much information on this title so here is a link to Sony Classics and its official website.


Harold Lloyd

I never thought I'd say this about a silent film, but Harold Lloyd's Safety Last is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. It's available from Netflix on disc 1 of the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection. I saw a documentary on Harold Lloyd quite a few years ago, but it's only with the popularity of DVDs (and Netflix) that so many of these old movies are becoming so readily available. I also appreciate that this is a high-quality tranfer compared to the cheap-o editions of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy I've seen. It does make some sense that the art of physical comedy would have been mastered during the silent era. Ask Father (which is also rolling-on-the-floor funny) only includes a few lines of dialogue.

Please note: Not all of his films (or all of the films on this particular DVD series) are suitable for children.

Terri and Bernie's Favorite "School" Movies

Two of my daughters made this list up for me when they were eight (Terri) and six (Bernie) years old:

David Macaulay Building Big Series

Rick Steves' Best of Europe (the ones they've seen - not by any means all)

Nature (the ones they've seen - I think Bears, Dogs and Horses are particular favorites)

Pope John Paul II (the "new" one with Cary Elwes - i.e. Wesley from The Princess Bride - Bernie says... "I LOVE the Pope movie!")

Jesus of Nazareth (Terri, in particular, loves big epic religious dramas)

Microcosmos (Terri qualifies - "except for some gross parts")

Amazing Caves (IMAX)

This is America Charlie Brown (Bernie is enthusiastic here, but Terri says "sort of")

March of the Penguins

Song of Bernadette

Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pope John Paul II Movie

A movie originally aired on CBS television, December 2005, 180 minutes, DVD

Pope John Paul II - Jon Voight
Karol Wojtyla up to his election as Pope John Paul II - Cary Elwes
Cardinal Adam Sapieha - James Cromwell
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski - Christopher Lee
Stanislaw Dziwisz - Wenanty Nosul
Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (Vatican Secretary of State) - Ben Gazzara

directed by John Kent Harrison

This is a touching, detailed and very intimate portrayal of Pope John Paul II. Though produced for television, it has some very fine acting, and was filmed on location in Poland and Italy.

The pope's early life and work in Poland as a priest, bishop and cardinal are framed as a flashback at the time when the Holy Father was shot in St. Peter's Square (May 13, 1981). There are a few quick glimpses of his childhood before we are transported back to Krakow, Poland in 1939. Karol is a young man, interested in the theater, when the Nazis invade Poland. He and his friends struggle with how to respond to this invasion, which not only threatens their Jewish friends and neighbors (including some in Karol's close circle of friends), but seeks to destroy Poland as a people and a culture in its entirety. While searching for answers to these questions, he finds himself finally drawn to the priesthood.

There are many wonderful events and ideas woven into these scenes from his youth. We see him as a person with great depth, a fine mind, a deep faith and a great sense of humor. In the movie, his views on a number of issues are expressed (such as his philosophical and theological objections to Communism), but we are also able to see where they came from because the movie gives them some context.

Karol Wojtyla is a rather unconventional priest and bishop who leads camping trips with young people into the mountains for the purpose of recreation and formation. He speaks to them openly about sexuality (this scene is very beautifully done - I let my children watch this). He wiggles around the rules of the Communists in order to keep pressure on the anti-religious government and keep the people strong in their faith. One of the highlights of the film, for us, was a scene in which he simply removes the picture of Our Lady from a frame (in order to comply with rules about not displaying religious images in public) while still holding a traditional religious parade through the streets of Krakow with everyone dressed in their full regalia, the frame fully ornamented with flowers and ribbons and everyone singing with all their hearts.

There are so many interesting and delightful elements to the story that I can only touch on a few here. I found the camraderie between the archbishops of Krakow (Sapieha and then Wojtyla) and Warsaw (Wyszynski) particularly interesting. Another beautiful scene is during the papal conclave when Wojtyla realizes that he may be a candidate for the papacy. He seeks guidance from Wyszynski who reminds him of the story of Quo Vadis. It is difficult to explain the beauty of this scene, but it is thoughtfully done and is subtly pivotal to the story.

When Karol Wojtyla is elected pope, Jon Voight takes over in the leading role. The latter half of the film portrays events that are more familiar to the American public. The director personally interviewed Pope John Paul II's longtime secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz and his spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls to uncover many beautiful and touching details about his papacy that were included in the film. The actors playing the Pope's personal secretary and the Vatican Secretary of State are exquisitely cast and wonderfully portrayed.

The movie doesn't attempt to record every event of his 26 year papacy. Rather, it paints a picture of his personality, of his faith and of his challenges and struggles - whether with Communism, materialism or painful injuries and illnesses. Particularly memorable are his visits to his homeland and his strong connection with the youth there.

On the whole, I would consider the movie suitable for family viewing with the exception of some shooting and other violence (when the Holy Father is shot in St. Peter's Square, during the Nazi occupation and, less so, during the Communist rule) that might be unsuitable for younger children. I would estimate that this would have received a PG rating if it had been shown in the theaters. This also would make a fine introduction to the life of this great pope for those who would like to go on to read more detailed biographies, such as Witness to Hope by George Wiegel.

The only down-side is relatively minor, but I believe bears mentioning for movie buffs out there. Though the filmmakers took excellent advantage of beautiful architecture in Rome and Poland, there are just a few crowd scenes, with dubbed-in backgrounds, that came out looking rather fake.

Available from

IMAX: Amazing Caves

This weekend we rented Journey into Amazing Caves (an IMAX film). It's a beautifully filmed documentary that traces a group of scientists' explorations into caves in the Grand Canyon, ice caves in Greenland and underwater caves on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The scientists are searching for "extremophiles" - bacteria and other small creatures that survive extreme conditions and may be useful for medicines.

Just the natural beauty of these remote places is absolutely breathtaking. But watching the "making of" gives you an even greater appreciation as you realize the challenges and dangers of "extreme photography". Wow.

My children saw this before I had a chance to. I heard them from the other room going ... Woah... Woooah.... Wooooooah... as the team kayaked down a beautiful river.

The movie references the website of one of the team members who also works as a teaching assistant and put this website together for her grade school class...Nancy's Expedition Diary (I especially liked the Q & A in the "Ask Nancy" part.)

We love these kinds of documentaries that "work" for a wide age range and help spark an interest in science while providing some real substance. I have to admit that it was quite delightful the next day to see my 8 year old daughter out in our cold, snowy backyard digging into our sandbox and pretending she was a scientist "out exploring."

(originally posted 3/6/06 on the Love2learn Blog)

My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle

My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle (1990)

Here's another choice for introducing one to French films--and these are suitable for the whole family.

My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle are based on the best-selling memoirs of the author of the two films of this post.

The films revolves the adventures of a French family during their summer vacations in southern France.

Favorite Nature Videos

These are appropriate for all ages. David Attenborough narrates and costars (nature being the star...:)):

Life of Mammals (BBC) These are wonderful nature studies. David Attenborough has such a love for nature and the way creation works together, though he does not put it quite like that. He doesn't harp on the evils of man, either.

The Blue Planet (BBC)

Planet Earth (BBC) The photography is spectacular, but the unique aspect of this set of 5 DVD's is the aerial shots. You get a much better sense of how pack animals hunt, for one thing. Be very careful to avoid the version with Sigourney Weaver as narrator. She can act, but she cannot narrate.

The Living Desert (Walt Disney) This is an older documentary which personifies the animals one views. It's both entertaining and informative.

Amazing Animals series (DK Vision) There are 13 (that I know of) in the series: Animal Appetites, Poisonous Animals, Mini-beasts, Nighttime Animals, Animal Babies, Animal Builders, Animal Journeys, Animal Senses, Animal Survivors, Tropical Birds, Animal Weapons, Animal Disguises, Armored Animals. These are geared to ages 3-7, provide lots of interesting details in an entertaining if somewhat silly format. Our 5 year old son, Will, especially likes the silly aspect. Henry the Lizard is often wrong about something and Will likes the way he's very gracious about corrections. It's also fun for a 5 year old to knooooow someone else is wrong even if he's not sure about the complete truth.


Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring

Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring (1986)

If you have never watched a French film... this would make a very nice introductory duo! (Picture shows a two film pack available at stores.)

The renowned Gerard Depardieu stars in this deeply moving study of human greed and the virtues of hope and generosity.

These two films will make a fine teen movie night!

Note: The second film, if I remember correctly, shows a brief scene with nudity. It is devoid of sexual innuendo: the main character bathes in the spring.

Essential Classic Movie Directors

Originally uploaded by mueredecine
These are a few of our favorites (generally appropriate for teens and adults)...

Frank Capra

It Happened One Night
It's a Wonderful Life
Meet John Doe
Mr. Deeds Comes to Town
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
You Can't Take it With You

Michael Curtiz

Adventures of Robin Hood
Angels with Dirty Faces
Yankee Doodle Dandy

John Ford

How Green Was My Valley
The Quiet Man

Alfred Hitchcock

I Confess
North by Northwest
Rear Window
The Wrong Man
To Catch a Thief

George Stevens

Alice Adams
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Greatest Story Ever Told
I Remember Mama
The More the Merrier
Penny Serenade

William Wyler

Ben Hur
Mrs. Miniver
Roman Holiday
Wuthering Heights

There are some others by these directors I should go back and watch again since I don't remember them too well (this pretty much explains the lack of Westerns in the list).