catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 1 :: 2004.01.02 — 2004.01.15


Film 2003

What movie gave you the most joy this year and why?

*cino staff pick: Finding Nemo:The colors, the digital animation—we’ve never seen anything like it before in the movies. And the Jonah-esque, Moby Dick-ish moment when Nemo is trapped in the belly of a whale certainly tugs at our heart strings as Bible believers. Finding Nemo has a playful, creative spirit while dealing with serious subject matter. How could you not be left with a big smile on your face after watching this little fish set out on a long journey and, with the help of unlikely friends, reach his destination against all odds?

The shorter answers:

T.C.: Love Actually—it’s about love!

P.F.: Lord of the Rings—it brought to life one of my favorite books.

K.V.: Holes—I got to enjoy a good movie with my kids.

M.A.: Love Actually—maybe because I just saw it, or maybe because it’s good.

W.D.: Elf—It’s hilariously funny, although completely void of any sort of spiritual message.

S.C.: Mostly Martha—I found this film this year and with it a delight of mouth watering proportions. It made me laugh, cry, and rejoice at life. Also, Pirates of the Caribbean. Every once in a while I love a good adventure. And this was fun! Johnny Depp was incredible—what a change from Once Upon a Time in Mexico!

D.D.: LotR 3—because it was such a wonderfully crafted movie after a wonderfully crafted book.

And the longer answers:

H.B.: I saw Stephen Soderberg’s Traffic for the first time last summer. I know it wasn’t released this year, but this movie, Benicio Del Toro’s character specifically, embodies the essence of what Jean Vanier means when he says, “Joyful persons do not necessarily make jokes, laugh, or even smile. They are not people with an optimistic outlook on life who always revitalize the seriousness of a moment or an event. No, joyful persons see with open eyes the hard reality of human existence and at the same time are not imprisoned by it.” I like Soderberg’s work more and more. Not to mention Del Toro! His portrayal of Javier Rodriguez is riveting. I love the last scene where Rodriguez is sitting in the ball park he brought to Tijuana, watching the kids play. Romantic and beautiful and perfect. I cried.

Also, Punch-Drunk Love. P.T. Anderson is another great director with a “joyful” vision. Much less ambitious than Magnolia, but honest, funny, and delightful nonetheless. Adam Sandler can sort-of act. Who knew?

Lost in Translation—Sofia Coppolla’s gentle exploration of the friendship between a lonely, jaded actor and a young woman in Tokyo is compassionate and insightful. Bill Murray’s basset hound looks have rarely been put to better use. Scarlett Johansson also shows that she has real chops, not that Ghost World gave her any opportunity to use them.

Return of the King—Duh. But we shouldn’t take for granted the enormity of what Peter Jackson has accomplished here. This trilogy will be the Star Wars of this generation, only better. And I’m a big Star Wars fan. (Potentially) interesting aside: my wife and I watched The Dark Crystal again recently. I love Jim Henson, but this film makes for a powerful contrast with LotR in terms of exactly how far a great story will get you, and a weak story with great special effects won’t. Henson and company worked on that film for five years and spent gazillions on building sets and designing cool puppets. Couldn’t they have scraped up a little bit of money somewhere for a scriptwriter? What a waste.

V.K.: First two Lord of the Rings (I waited for the video). Real meat there. Great drama with incredible depth. Sometimes, in the middle of the second movie (while watching the different life forms bicker—men, elves, dwarves, etc. ), I thought I was reliving a bit of pre-World War II history with bickering and mistrust amongst the Allied nations, as free people are usually too busy with their own lives to worry about threats that seem far away. And then—the slow as molasses Ents, who oh-so-slowly, got into the fray. If you know anything about pre-WWII history, a certain large, powerful nation closely parallels the mighty, but slow Ents.

G.S.: Most of the movies that gave me joy this year were old or really old movies that I saw for the first time, or that I saw again with delight. Some of what seem to be of the best movies of the year I have yet to see: critics are awed by Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster, for instance, or Sean Penn’s in Mystic River. (Having read Mystic River, the novel, and having read about Monster, I doubt I will be able to say that they give me “joy” once I see them, though.) And there are several more: of the new movies that I did see already, the ones that I most appreciated were Master and Commander, Whale Rider, Gods and Generals, and The Man on the Train.

What gave me joy in Master and Commander was the portrayal of men who are highly skilled at arms and in music. In our culture’s continuing reconsideration of masculinity, and in the formative portrayal of masculinity in pop culture, this is a grace note. The novels on which the film is based are much more complex in their portrayal of especially the two main characters, Jack Aubrey (a disaster on land when it comes to money and women) and Stephen Maturin (a true Enlightenment man and drug addict), and I am not suggesting that either the film or the novels provide us with paradigms of masculinity worthy of emulation. But in this limited aspect—that a soldier can also play chamber music—adds something positive to our cultural portfolio of masculinities.

Whale Rider provided a sad but winsome portrayal of lives lived within the tension field between modernity and an autochthonous paganism. Keisha Castle-Hughes’s acting was the true joy of the movie: she found just the right touch, and in an actress that young it was astounding.

Gods and Generals gave me joy because it allowed us a glimpse of authentic faith in the service of conflicting causes. It is rare for a movie to be able to offer a political judgment without slipping into ideological propaganda, and at the same time to offer a generous portrayal of those on both sides of a significant moral disagreement.

The Man on the Train was a smaller film that I appreciated for its quiet, fanciful, and poignant portrayal of the yearning for a different, a better, life.

J.V.: Cheaper By The Dozen—The premise of the film is that family is really all that matters. If your dreams come to find themselves at odds with your heart, then your dreams are not worth pursuing. Watching this fictitious family navigate through success and hardship in the same breath, and seeing them come to the conclusion that the bonds of family are more important than anything, made it a true joy to watch.

S.L.: Andy Goldsworthy, the subject of the documentary Rivers & Tides spends most every day outdoors, trying to understand the natural world. He doesn’t simply admire it or observe it, and never tries to master it or tame it—instead he participates with it, making temporary artworks that allow him to explore the hidden patterns, tensions, and colors present in soil, leaves, ice, rock, and wood. The film inspired me to try such experiments for myself (in attempting similar artworks on the rocky coast of Maine this summer), but more than that it pushed me to want to get my hands dirty, to try things out for myself (such as taking a yoga class). Both on the seashore and in my body, I found a resonant statement of how much God loves his creation.

What film helped you to see God’s wonderful world in a new light? How do you see things differently because of this film?

*cino staff pick: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King—In our own current context of world conflict, broken peace, injustice, and despair (frequently depicted in the media), the Lord of the Rings series is a sight for sore eyes. Gandalf’s light and words of hope in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations resonate deeply. Tolkien’s apocalyptic myth shines on the big screen and, like much of Scripture, helps us see our current situation in the light of hope, in the light of the ultimate victory of goodness and self-sacrificial love over selfish greed and hunger for power.

V.K.: LotR 1 & 2—Despite modern rhetoric about “no moral absolutes,” LOTR demonstrates, “Yes Virginia, there is evil in the world.” Do we look at the wars our parents/grandparents/great grandparents faced and fought in the 20th century and DARE to claim there were (are) no Saruman or Sauron wannabees?

M.A.: Dogville—that there are no absolutes.

W.D.: Bruce Almighty—the relationship between man and God isn’t so cut and dry. He has a pretty hard role to play in the lives of his creatures, and he does it so perfectly.

S.C.: Nowhere in Africa—This film made me see the depth of relationships displayed in a manner and form I’ve not experienced in film. It allowed me to see people struggle in the midst of difficult circumstances—fail, forgive, and get back up.

D.D.: X2—I saw faith, in the form of Night Crawler. Not all that nice to look at, but full of beauty in the inside. Full of faith.

T.C.: The Pianist—it reminded me that my life isn’t so bad and that I’m so blessed.

P.F.: Lord of the Rings—for its clear-eyed vision of good and evil, something that is not easily seen in today’s world and that seems in my mind to resonate with the war on terror.

J.V.: Whale Rider—Seeing how the “ancient ways” were preserved in the hearts of the old New Zealanders and the struggles that the young had with their own cultural background made this a fascinating watch. The outcome of finding a leader where you least expect one (not to mention far from where cultural heritage would dictate) made this a film that causes one to reflect on our own Christian heritage, as our Savior was not the mighty warrior which was greatly anticipated by people of the day but the loving Son who brought freedom from the chains of sin, which prove stronger than the Roman empire ever was.

What was the biggest waste of money on film this year?

*cino staff pick: Gigli—Fortunately, the critical reviews warning people to avoid this film preceded its release and prevented any of us from spending our hard-earned money on this movie. It’s too bad Revolution Studios and Sony Pictures didn’t have such an advanced warning. It would have saved them $30 million.

M.A.: Dirty Pretty Things—17 euros, walked out.

D.D..: The cut sequences in the game Enter The Matrix. What a useless mess of a game. And to waste all that high-priced actor talent on it was just another smack

G.S.: Don’t tell anyone: Bulletproof Monk. In search for a popcorn movie, I imagined that this movie might be a martial arts ballet along the lines of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Ergh. Not.

T.C.: Freaky Friday.

H.B.: It probably wasn’t the BIGGEST waste of money, but I was particularly frustrated by Adaptation. Is anyone in film doing less with more talent than Spike Jonze?

C.N.: Renting Charlie’s Angels.

J.V.: Dumb & Dumberer. Need more be said beyond the title?

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