Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources
Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast

Discussions of great films from a Catholic perspective, exploring the Vatican film list and beyond. Hosted by Thomas V. Mirus and actor James T. Majewski, with special guests. You will find short highlights from this podcast on our YouTube clip list.

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Most Recent Posts

Church Teaching on Cinema: Pope Pius XI

In 1936, Pope Pius XI published his encyclical on the motion picture, Vigilanti cura. The encyclical deals with the grave moral concerns raised by the cinema, which had by then become a ubiquitous social influence. Vigilanti cura was ghostwritten by the American Jesuit Fr. Daniel Lord, who wrote the original Motion Picture Production Code and helped to found the Legion of Decency. This is the first of three episodes surveying the body of magisterial documents related to cinema.

Wildcat does justice to Flannery O’Connor’s faith (w/ Joshua Hren)

Wildcat is a respectful and nuanced portrayal of Flannery O'Connor, her faith, and her art. The film's portrayal of the relationship between artistic ambition and faith is deeply relevant to Catholic artists. It should inspire them to find creative ways of dealing with the pressures that would subvert their God-given gifts, whether those pressures come from other Catholics, family, or the art world.

Malick’s humble camera: The New World (2005)

Terrence Malick's The New World is an underrated masterpiece about Pocahontas and the founding of Jamestown in 1607. It remarkably combines realism and historical accuracy with poetry and romance, as all three protagonists explore not just one but multiple new worlds, geographical and interior. We discuss Malick's style extensively and make the case for why Catholics studying or making art should not focus only on "themes" to the neglect of form, because style itself conveys a vision of reality.

A study of pastoral prudence: Léon Morin, Priest (1961)

In occupied France, a Communist woman named Barny enters a confessional for the first time since her first Communion - not to confess, but to criticize the Church. To her surprise, Fr. Léon Morin offers a compelling response to each of her points. Barny starts to see Fr. Morin regularly for a mix of intellectual tête-à-tête and spiritual counsel, and is gradually drawn back to the Church – but mixed in with her spiritual attraction to the Church is a romantic attraction to the man.

Studies of ambition: All About Eve, The Bad and the Beautiful

Thomas and James discuss two classic Hollywood films dealing with the moral problems of overweening ambition - specifically in the context of show business. All About Eve (1950), which won six Oscars and features razor-sharp dialogue and an unforgettable performance by Bette Davis, is set in the world of the theater, while The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) is a (perhaps more honest) self-examination of Hollywood itself.

Metaphysical Malick: The Thin Red Line (1998)

The Thin Red Line is arguably Malick's first masterpiece - and his first film focused on metaphysical themes, or as James Majewski says, a "preamble" to the more explicit Christian faith found in his later work, using voiceover extensively to ask questions about the origins of good and evil, the unity of human experience, and most of all, how one can maintain faith in the transcendent in the midst of evil, ugliness and disorder.

Kiarostami: blurring the line between documentary and fiction

There are many ways to make a movie. Only a few of those ways fit within the Hollywood mold. We believe that rather than taking pop culture as their sole model, Catholics and Catholic filmmakers should be open to a wide variety of artistic approaches. Thus, in this episode James and Thomas discuss the early career of the great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who came up with an approach to filmmaking that is not just different from Hollywood, but different from anyone else in world cinema.

Godzilla Minus One, a profound appeal for a culture of life

You may be surprised to hear that one of the more morally profound new movies we’ve seen recently is a Godzilla reboot! Godzilla Minus One confronts the culture of death that dominated WWII-era Japan and its corruption of the idea of self-sacrifice, and shows how our sacrifices in war should be rightly ordered to preserving the value of human life rather than seeking a heroic death for its own sake.

Generational wounds in Tokyo Story (1953)

Tokyo Story should provoke an examination of conscience in viewers of every generation.

Popcorn with the Pope: Word on Fire on the Vatican Film List

Word on Fire has published Popcorn with the Pope: A Guide to the Vatican Film List, with essays on all 45 films by David Paul Baird, Fr. Michael Ward, and Andrew Petiprin. The three authors join the show to compares notes with James and Thomas about their overall evaluations of the list, great religious films made by non-religious directors, what makes a good saint movie, and their personal favorite items on the Vatican Film List.

Introduction to Terrence Malick: Badlands and Days of Heaven

This is the first episode of a series covering the complete filmography of Terrence Malick, who is arguably both the most important Christian filmmaker working today and the most important filmmaker working today, period. What sets Malick apart from a number of other directors whose work deals with a religious search, is that his films are not just about searching indefinitely with no answer, but they come from the perspective of a sincere believer who actually has a positive proposal about life's meaning.

Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

Thomas and James review Martin Scorsese's new film, now in theaters: Killers of the Flower Moon, a tragic retelling of the conspiracy in which many Osage Indian women were murdered in 1920s Oklahoma. What moral insight is Scorsese trying to communicate by telling the tale from the murderers' perspective, does he succeed in this, and does the choice make the film less dramatically compelling?

Wise Blood (1979): John Huston’s film adaptation w/ Katy Carl

Katy Carl, fiction writer and editor-in-chief of Dappled Things, joins the show to discuss the 1979 film adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel Wise Blood, directed by John Huston and starring Brad Dourif.

Catholic India’s ‘Master of Chaos’

Introducing one of India's most prominent young film directors, all of whose stories are set in Indian Catholic or Orthodox communities. Within the Malayalam film industry, Lijo Jose Pellissery is known as the "Master of Chaos", presumably due to the spontaneous feeling of his scenes, often featuring large, rambunctious crowds. His films keep you riveted in a way that is not manipulative, and they are unpredictable without being dependent on contrived twists.

The Age of Innocence (1993)

The Age of Innocence merely depicted the cruelty of social norms and mores stifling forbidden love, it would be of limited interest. Yet as the story develops, it doesn't allow itself to be reduced to a critique of the past. Indeed, though not without ambiguity, it shows the value of strong social rules and institutions - because often, if we follow our passion, we destroy ourselves and others.

Empires of death: Apocalypto (2006)

Gibson's depiction of Mesoamerican peoples is sensitive and sympathetic but not PC. Rather than a triumphalistic depiction of evil, Gibson wanted this film to make us reflect on the decadence of the modern West and in particular the American Empire. The film is about a culture of death not unlike our own.

Asteroid City: delightful, decadent, or despairing?

With the release of Wes Anderson's latest film, Asteroid City, the Criteria hosts look at Anderson's career and try to figure out what he's trying to achieve by making his movies so aggressively, well, Anderson-y.

Caviezel’s Sound of Freedom: a thriller about fighting child trafficking

Jim Caviezel’s latest project, The Sound of Freedom, is a harrowing but thrilling look at the fight against the global sex trafficking of children. Caviezel's intense but nuanced performance plays well into both the serious subject matter and the film's mainstream appeal. The film's spiritual relevance is increased by the choice to include not only protective fathers, but a repentant exploiter among its protagonists. 

We watched the WHOLE Vatican Film List

Since starting Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast in May 2020, we’ve been hosting in-depth discussions of movies from the Vatican’s 1995 list of important films. Now, after three years, we’ve finished discussing all 45 films—and in this episode, together with Catholic filmmaker Nathan Douglas, we’re taking a look back at the list as a whole.

Sacrilege against Mary in the new Padre Pio film

The new film Padre Pio, directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Shia LaBeouf, is ruined by a pornographic and sacrilegious scene involving abuse of a sacred image. James Majewski and Thomas Mirus contend that conscientious Catholics must not see this movie. They explain the difference between portraying an act and committing that act, and how that line can be obliterated on a film set. They discuss the reality behind holy images, and the importance of making reparation for sacrilege.

The last great silent epic: Napoleon (1927)

After three years discussing the Vatican’s 1995 list of 45 important films, Thomas and James have finally reached the final movie! Made in 1927, it’s a five-and-a-half-hour long, epic, technically dazzling silent film about Napoleon.

The Miracle Maker (1999) w/ Timothy Reckart

The Miracle Maker, a little-known animated Gospel film with Ralph Fiennes as the voice of Jesus, deserves a place in any Christian family's Easter viewing. Its beautifully crafted mix of stop-motion and traditional 2D animation engages the imagination without dominating it in a way that live-action cinema can't. It's also a masterful piece of adaptation which somehow retains the compactness of the Gospel accounts, yet feels fleshed out by subtle touches and connections within the existing material.

Rome, Open City (1945) w/ Elizabeth Lev

Filmed in Rome just after its liberation from the Nazis, while the rest of Italy was still at war, Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City documents a unique moment in the history of the Eternal City. With its story of working-class Italians secretly resisting Nazi occupiers, Open City did much to dispose Americans more kindly toward a defeated Italy, and made the cinematic movement of Italian neo-realism internationally famous.

Can a Holocaust film offer hope? Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler's List is generally acclaimed as a masterpiece, yet some call it a Hollywood falsification of its subject matter, either because it does not sufficiently show the brutality of the Holocaust, because the story  is told from the point of view of a German, because it has a somewhat happy ending, or because any fictional portrayal whatsoever of the Holocaust is necessarily a transgression. James and Thomas take these questions seriously, while ultimately vindicating Spielberg's work.

Catholic review of The Chosen, Season 3

It’s time for another lively discussion of the wildly popular Christian TV series The Chosen, following on the release of its third season, which stretches from the sermon on the mount to the feeding of the five thousand. Since the show is written by Evangelical Protestants, Thomas and James make a point of keeping an eye out for any doctrinal errors, and Br. Joshua Vargas joins to share his knowledge of Scripture and ancient Jewish and Christian culture and practices.

Ordet (The Word) (1955)

Ordet can be viewed as a provocative critique of a modern Christianity that no longer believes in miracles. Its astonishing onclusion throws down the gauntlet, forcing us to consider what it really means to have faith. It centers on the Borgen family, land-owning farmers in a small village in Denmark. The patriarch, Morton Borgen, is a religious man, but his oldest son Mikkel has lost his faith, while his second son Johannes has gone mad and believes he is Jesus Christ Himself.

The Leopard (1963)

The Leopard, one of Italy's most beloved novels, was an historical epic about a Sicilian prince who must navigate the social upheaval that came with Italy's unification in the mid-19th century. Written by a real-life Sicilian aristocrat, it was adapted by Luchino Visconti (himself a descendant of Milanese nobles) into a classic film starring Burt Lancaster. It was included on the Vatican film list in 1995.

The Sacrifice (1986)

A middle-aged Swedish man realizes that he must make a sacrifice to God in order to avert the onset of nuclear war. The Sacrifice deals, in director Tarkovsky’s words, with "the theme of harmony which is born only of sacrifice, the twofold dependence of love. It's not a question of mutual love: what nobody seems to understand is that love can only be one-sided, that no other love exists, that in any other form it is not love. If it involves less than total giving, it is not love."

Theology of the body shop—Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Animation director Timothy Reckart (The Star) joins Criteria to discuss his thesis that the greatest action movie of recent years, Mad Max: Fury Road, is best viewed in light of Pope St. John Paul II's theology of the body.

Whisper of the generations: The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)

The Tree of Wooden Clogs, by Catholic director Ermanno Olmi, depicts a year in the life of four peasant families living on a tenant farmhouse in late 19th century Lombardy. The actors are non-professionals, real local peasants speaking their Bergamasque dialect, recreating their normal life on camera (even if in the trappings of a century earlier). The result is a stunning vision of a now-bygone culture that grew out of close contact with the land.

Citizen Kane (1941)

For decades critics said Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane was the greatest film ever made. Unfortunately, that intimidating label sometimes keeps people from sitting down and watching the thing. It needn’t be so. Kane is eminently watchable and entertaining. It also definitely isn’t the greatest film of all time, but it’s one of the most technically impressive, especially considering it was directed, producted, co-written and starred in by a 25-year-old who’d never made a movie before.

Fame kills: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

A discussion of Billy Wilder's acerbic and vastly entertaining critique of Hollywood avarice and vanity, Sunset Boulevard.

Stripping St. Francis: Francesco (1989)

Trying to make sense of the most dubious selection on the Vatican film list: Francesco (1989), starring Mickey Rourke as St. Francis and Helena Bonham-Carter as St. Clare.

The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)

The great Italian director Roberto Rossellini made what is generally regarded as the best movie about St. Francis of Assisi. Its original Italian title is Francesco, giullare di Dio ("Francis, God's jester"), but in English it is known as The Flowers of St. Francis - the film being based on a 14th-century Italian novel with the same title. As the Italian title suggests, Rossellini wanted to focus on the whimsical aspects of the saint's personality.

Two very different Oz movies

The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Return to Oz (1985) offer very different takes on L. Frank Baum's source material and approaches to children's fantasy. Wizard's fantasy is overtly artificial and ultimately illusory, yet attempts to provide a contrived moral to its story. Return's fantasy is more fully realized and darker, but attempts no particular moral lesson.

Why is The Rings of Power Boring?

Thomas Mirus, James Majewski, and Nathan Douglas discuss the new Amazon series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The show thus far is not so much offensive as it is bland in ways similar to much popular film and television today. This discussion attempts to understand why the show generally fails to move, focusing especially on its frequent small-mindedness or arbitrariness in characterization and writing, and on its habit of signalling emotion rather than genuinely conveying it.

Michelangelo movies w/ Elizabeth Lev

Catholic art historian Elizabeth Lev returns to Criteria to discuss two films about Michelangelo: The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) and Sin (2019). Both deal with the tension between artistic/religious integrity and working for patrons who may be commissioning religious works for worldly motives.

Wormtongue in Times Square: Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

A discussion of the classic film noir Sweet Smell of Success. "Success" is one of the great American idols, and the two acid-tongued protagonists of this film entertainingly embody the dark side of success in the seeking and the finding, as desperate publicity man Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) eats dirt instead of gravy from the train of ruthless gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster).

Poverty and trust: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Bicycle Thieves, the most beloved classic of Italian neo-realist cinema, would be too easily explained as depicting the crushing pressures of poverty and societal dysfunction in Rome immediately following World War II. But the film transcends any sociological analysis: it has something spiritual to say about how those in poverty can respond to their situation: about trust, and about how quickly things get worse when we act as though we are in control of our circumstances.

Righteous among the nations: Au Revoir les Enfants (1987)

On the morning of January 15, 1944, Nazis raided a boarding school for boys in Avon, France. The Carmelite monks who ran the school had been hiding some Jewish boys there under false names. As a number of the children and teachers watched, three of their classmates were led away by the Nazis, along with the headmaster, Pere Jacques, who turned back to say only, "Au revoir, les enfants" ("Goodbye, children").

Film noir: Out of the Past (1947)

An introduction to one of the most influential genres of Hollywood's golden age: film noir. Noir's distinctively moody chiaroscuro look, suspense-laden plotting, and clever, "hard-boiled" dialogue deriving from popular crime fiction make it a most entertaining style. But why did a genre exploring the cynical, seedy and criminal side of American life thrive in the optimistic years of the late 1940s?

Men explain Little Women (1933) to you?

James and Thomas discuss George Cukor's 1933 adaptation of Little Women, with Katharine Hepburn playing Jo March. The film was included on the Vatican's 1995 list of important films, in the category of Art.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

A mere eight years after the 1920 canonization of Joan of Arc, and in the midst of her great popularity as a French national hero, Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer made The Passion of Joan of Arc. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, because of the lead actress's transcendent performance and the film's radical visual style.

Hail, Caesar! (2016) w/ T. C. Merrill

A discussion of the Coen brothers' most Catholic film, Hail, Caesar!, which deals with the problem of vocation and the spiritual value of art.

Natural piety: The Burmese Harp (1956)

Kon Ichikawa's 1956 classic The Burmese Harp is, oddly, a World War II film from the Japanese perspective. It's an anti-war film, and a film about piety toward the dead, but it's also about vocation and how it relates to membership in a community.

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936)

Released in 1936, Modern Times is both Chaplin's last silent film and his first talkie - his character, the Little Tramp, is silent and the only time we hear people talking is when their voices are mediated through technology, such as on the radio or through an intercom system. This depersonalized and one-way approach to dialogue on film reflects not only a commentary on modern communications but also Chaplin's personal aversion to the sound era.

Review: Father Stu

The new film Father Stu is based on the true story of Stuart Long, a rough-around-the-edges boxer-turned-priest who died in 2014. Mark Wahlberg plays Fr. Stu in an Oscar-worthy performance, and Mel Gibson makes another entry in long list of broken father roles he has played in recent years. James and Thomas review the film, discussing the pros and cons of the film's gritty humor, and the depiction of Stu's growth in spiritual maturity through suffering. 

The comedies of Preston Sturges w/ Anthony Esolen

Poet, translator and cultural commentator Anthony Esolen joins James and Thomas to discuss two classic comedies by Preston Sturges: Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944). Sturges wrote dialogue that is fast, sharp and snappy, but never flippant or glib. He was virtuosic in navigating dark material with a light touch, and able to switch seamlessly between pathos and humor, ending up in a place of warmth and graciousness without sappy sentimentality.

Directing Man of God—Yelena Popovic

James and Thomas interview Yelena Popovic, writer and director of the new film Man of God, about the Greek Orthodox saint Nektarios of Aegina. Man of God will be in select theaters in the U.S. on March 21 and 28. At 17, Yelena left Belgrade, Yugoslavia to escape civil war. She ended up as a model in New York City, and then in L.A., where she learned the filmmaking arts. Parallel to this artistic journey was a spiritual one, which ultimately led her to make a film about St. Nektarios.

Holy fool: La Strada (1954) w/ James Matthew Wilson

A poor, half-witted girl is sold by her mother to be the assistant of a brutal traveling circus strongman in La Strada ("the road"). Federico Fellini's 1954 masterpiece attests to the seeds that can be planted by selfless love, even in the face of abuse and rejection. Condemned by Marxist critics in 1950s Italy, the film found a better initial reception in the United States, where viewers saw Giulietta Masina's unforgettable protagonist as a "cross between St. Rita and Mickey Mouse".

Review: Man of God

James and Thomas review a new film about the popular Greek Orthodox saint Nektarios, Man of God. Nektarios was slandered and mistreated by his fellow clergy and his patriarch, but bore it all with great meekness. (Mickey Rourke plays a paralytic healed by the saint.)

Anti-clerical cinema: Nazarin (1959)

Nazarin does not seek to discredit the Church by portraying an obviously hypocritical, venal or sensual priest. Rather, protagonist Fr. Nazario is a Quixote figure, unable to make any difference in this miserable world no matter how strictly he follows his religious code. For director Luis Buñuel, whatever moments of human kindness we may encounter along the way cannot change the fact that life is hell.

Screwball comedy and The Awful Truth (1937)

A married couple divorces over mutual suspicion of infidelity - but the two can't seem to leave each other alone, hilariously interfering with one another's attempts to find someone else. Leo McCarey's classic "comedy of remarriage" starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne is notable, among other things, for its joyously frank yet appropriately veiled treatment of marital eros - an artistic triumph spurred by the salutary censorship of Hollywood's Production Code.

On the Waterfront (1954)

Elia Kazan's 1954 film On the Waterfront is included on the Vatican's film list in the Values section. The film broke ground in its gritty, realistic production and acting style, particularly manifested in Marlo Brando's unforgettable performance as low-down dockworker Terry Malloy. It offers a vision of how we can be transformed by attending to the demands of conscience, articulated in fully Christian terms in a classic monologue by one of the greatest movie priests in Hollywood history.

Review: Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth

James improvises an impassioned dramatic monologue about the inadequacies of Joel Coen's new adaptation of The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. Orson Welles's 1948 version, he argues, is aesthetically similar but far superior. Thomas sits and listens.

“Everything is yours”—Dekalog: Ten (1988)

James and Thomas finally conclude their look at Dekalog, the series of short films inspired by the Ten Commandments which Krzysztof Kieslowski made for Polish television in the late 1980s. The series ends on a lighter note, with two sons fighting over their deceased father's stamp collection. The film continues the series' preoccupation with the sins of father, making the rueful observation that we often understand and compassionate our parents only after falling into their same vices.

True and False Conversion: My Night at Maud’s (1969) w/ Matthew Schmitz

Jean-Louis, 34-year-old Catholic engineer, lives a quiet life studying mathematics and reading Pascal. One day, he sees a beautiful girl, Francoise, at Mass and decides he will marry her. But this pursuit is interrupted when he spends the night before Christmas at the apartment of a seductive divorcee, the atheist Maud, who tests his moral code.

The amateur spirit: Chariots of Fire (1981)

Chariots of Fire offers quite a bit to chew on not just in its primary themes of conscience and using one's gifts for God's glory, but also regarding the importance of the amateur spirit, how sport can be properly integrated into education and life as a whole, and how a great civilization must value the achievements of those who came before.

The Seventh Seal (1957)

A knight returning home from the Crusades gets into a chess match with Death. Ingmar Bergman's most famous film, The Seventh Seal, is a searing meditation on death, faith, and the silence of God. But it's far more colorful and entertaining than you might expect from that description.

Love and Sex Separated—Dekalog: Nine (1988)

After being diagnosed with permanent impotence, a husband begins to suspect his wife is having an affair. Dekalog: Nine asks whether love and sex can be separated in marriage - as well as sex and procreation. It suggests that when a married couple chooses not to have children, the door is opened to other kinds of selfishness as well.

Dune: Part One with Fr. Brendon Laroche

Fr. Brendon Laroche joins Thomas to review Denis Villeneuve's film Dune: Part One. Fr. Brendon. who knows the original novel by Frank Herbert well, gives his thoughts on how the film fares as an adaptation, and on what Catholics ought to make of the religious elements of Herbert's novel.

Hollywood’s infamous birth: Birth of a Nation and Intolerance (1915-16)

D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation is a landmark of world cinema said to have established the grammar of cinema. It is also an astonishingly racist film, portraying black people as subhuman and the Ku Klux Klan as civilization-saving heroes. Griffith's next film, Intolerance, included on the Vatican's 1995 list of important films, is less morally objectionable and even more artistically ambitious - but is a thematically incoherent failure.

The Chosen, Season 2: characters and controversies

A discussion of Season 2 of The Chosen. The series continues to set a high imaginative standard in its portrayal of the Twelve Apostles, but also ventures into more problematic theological territory.

Mental Preservation—Dekalog: Eight (1988)

In 1943 Warsaw, a little Jewish girl is brought to the home of a Catholic woman who has offered to provide her a fake baptismal certificate so she could be safely settled with a Catholic family. Upon her arrival, though, the woman turns her away, saying it is against the principles of her religion to lie. Decades later, that little girl, who had escaped to America and survived, returns to Warsaw to confront the woman in order to make sense of what happened to her.

Drama of Holiness: Monsieur Vincent (1947) w/ Steven Greydanus

Film critic and deacon Steven Greydanus joins the show to discuss one of the best movies about a saint ever made, Monsieur Vincent, about St. Vincent de Paul. It is a very rare thing: a compelling drama about a soul already advanced in the spiritual life.

Thérèse (1986), and What Makes a Good Saint Movie?

James and Thomas tackle Alain Cavalier's 1986 film Thérèse. It gives them a chance to ask the question: What makes for a great saint movie? One of the great strengths of the film is actress Catherine Mouchet's amazing physical resemblance to the Little Flower, but also the way in which she seems to inhabit her from the inside, shining forth a visible beatitude unique in cinematic portrayals of saints. She does this without ever falling into the "plaster saint" sentimentality one might fear.

The Mission (1986)

It's remarkable that as recently as 1986, we had a hit movie, with A-list stars (Jeremy Irons, Robert De Niro) and an A-list composer (Ennio Morricone), that takes a nuanced look at a controversial historical subject, European Christian missionary activity. The Mission could not be made today. 

Theft of Motherhood—Dekalog: Seven (1988)

The podcast returns to yet another episode from Dekalog, the series of Polish short films inspired by the Ten Commandments. Part seven, based on the commandment "Thou shalt not steal", is about a young woman who kidnaps her own daughter. It asks the question: can you steal something that belongs to you? But it also asks: what happens when motherhood is stolen from you?

Review: A Quiet Place Part II

A Quiet Place Part II is a more straightforward horror film than its predecessor, with less emotional weight, but it delivers well-executed suspense and action while faithfully carrying forward the first film's themes of themes of family and self-sacrifice.

Interview with Lourdes writer Sixtine Leon-Dufour

James and Thomas interview Sixtine Leon-Dufour, writer of the new Lourdes documentary, one of the best religious films in recent years. She discusses her background caring for the sick at Lourdes, how she convinced the Lourdes authorities to give secular filmmakers unprecedented shooting access to this holy place, how a documentary about a Marian pilgrimage got the support of a large French secular film studio and became a big success, showing the inner life of those who come to Lourdes, and more.

New Lourdes documentary shows a miracle of mercy

A new documentary on Lourdes, originally released in France in 2019, is now in theaters in the US. It is intensely moving and one of the best religious films in recent years. Written by a Catholic who used to care for the sick at Lourdes, it is an inside look at the spiritual but also deeply human needs and aspirations that lead people to this place of miracles.

Patron Saint of Boomers: Gandhi (1982)

There are a few films on the Vatican film list James and Thomas haven't been looking forward to watching. Among them is Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, and our dread was due to the suspicion that this film, certainly negligible in its historical importance as a work of cinema, was included mainly because Vatican bureaucrats of a certain age are apt to confuse Mohandas K. Gandhi with a Catholic saint.

Lust kills art: 8 1/2 (1963) w/ Katy Carl

Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 is widely considered to be the best film ever made about filmmaking, but it's about much more than that. Ingenious cinematography and surreal images convey the experience of a man who is increasingly lost in his own memory and fantasy, and so finds himself unable to have real relationships with the people in his life or to bear fruit as an artist.

Pope John Paul II (2005)

In honor of Pope St. John Paul II's birthday, we discuss the 2005 film about his life starring Cary Elwes as young Karol Wojtyla and Jon Voight as the Pope. One of the strengths of the film, made within a few months of the saint's death, is its portrayal of John Paul II's Polishness and how it influenced him as a world leader. Other aspects of the film are outdated in light of what we know today, such as its sunny portrayal of the Vatican and the Curia.

A Short Film About Love—Dekalog: Six (1988)

The sixth episode of Kieslowski's Dekalog series inspired by the Ten Commandments deals with a characteristically modern form of adultery: voyeurism.

Crucifixion of a Parish Priest: Calvary (2014)

A good priest is threatened with death for the sins of an evil one. He has one week to prepare. That is the simple premise of Martin McDonagh's 2014 film Calvary, starring Brendan Gleeson. This portrait of a heroic but very human priest illuminates the crucifixions, mundane or dramatic, faced by good parish priests everywhere, but especially in post-Catholic cultures such as Ireland, in which the film is set.

Pasolini’s Gospel According to Matthew (1964) w/ Heather King

In 1962, inspired by Pope St. John XXIII's outreach to non-Christian artists, a gay communist picked up the Gospels and ended up making a film about Jesus. This might make you nervous, but one thing with which you can't charge Pier Paolo Pasolini is taking liberties with his source material - the dialogue in The Gospel According to Matthew is drawn entirely from that book of the Bible.

The Chosen, an Education in Meditation

In anticipation of Season 2 of The Chosen, the popular TV series based on the Gospels, Thomas and James take a look back at Season 1 and what made it so remarkable. They are joined by Oratorian Br. Joshua Vargas. The show’s two greatest strengths are its writing, which James calls “an education in meditation on the Gospels”, and Jonathan Roumie’s outstanding, childlike yet masculine performance as Jesus, which Joshua considers “equally as compelling” as Jim Caviezel’s.

Sanctification of an Icon Painter: Andrei Rublev (1966)

"The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good."

Wild Courtesy: Dersu Uzala (1975)

Dersu Uzala is a heartwarming adventure tale about the unlikely friendship between a man of civilization and a man of the wilderness. On a mission to map the Russian Far East, Arseniev encounters Dersu Uzala, a hunter and member of the Goldi people, from whom he learns much about the strange courtesies of life in the wild, based on a respect for all beings. But while this heartfelt friendship is not defeated by profound cultural differences, neither can it fully overcome them.

Ben-Hur (1959) w/ Elizabeth Lev

There is only one American film in the "Religion" section of the Vatican film list: William Wyler's 1959 epic Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Its epic scale and its astonishing set pieces such as the sea battle and the chariot race make the small, understated moments when Jesus enters the story all the more striking. Thomas and James are joined by Catholic art historian and Rome tour guide Elizabeth Lev to discuss the film.

Literalism vs. Reality in The Mandalorian

We enjoy The Mandalorian more than any other recent Star Wars productions. But its second season sometimes doesn’t trust us to suspend our disbelief in certain respects, while elsewhere expecting us to accept, on ideological grounds, things that are unbelievable even in its fantasy setting. This prompts a discussion of the difference between the suspension of disbelief and unreality in a fantasy setting.

A Short Film About KillingDekalog: Five (1988)

This film makes us confront on a visceral level the horror of taking a human life, even the life of someone we might find despicable. It is the fifth installment of Dekalog, the famous Polish TV series inspired by the Ten Commandments.

Mel Gibson’s Santa dispenses justice in Fatman (review)

In Mel Gibson's countercultural Chris Cringle we have a father figure who understands and compassionates the childhood wounds of his adversaries, yet insists that wicked deeds require retribution both for justice's and for the evildoer's own sake.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) w/ Patrick Coffin

James and Thomas discuss Catholic director Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life with popular podcaster and writer Patrick Coffin.

The Machine-Whore of Babylon: Metropolis (1927)

Almost one hundred years ago, the great German director Fritz Lang offered us a beautiful yet nightmarish vision of a world strangely similar to our present. Society is unimaginably prosperous yet produces mass misery. There is a sense of an end coming for Babel.

The Abdication of Fatherhood—Dekalog: Four (1988)

A father is challenged to definitively embrace his paternal role as authority and protector, lest his already ambiguous relationship with daughter be perverted into something truly monstrous.

Fantasia (1940) w/ animator Tim Reckart

James and Thomas discuss an animated classic, Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940), with Oscar-nominated animator and director Timothy Reckart ("Head Over Heels", The Star).

Reverence and the Occult: Nosferatu (1922/1979)

A discussion of horror and treatment of the occult in movies, leading into a discussion of the classic vampire film Nosferatu.

The Life You Save—Dekalog: Three (1988)

Krzysztof Kieślowski's DEKALOG (1988) is a series of 10 short films inspired by the Ten Commandments. With this episode we discuss the third film in the series, which deals with the third commandment: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

Are heist films moral? The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

Alec Guinness stars in this 1951 heist-comedy that stands apart as perhaps the most purely entertaining film included on the Vatican Film List.

Vie et Passion du Christ (1903)

Vie et Passion du Christ (Life and Passion of the Christ) is is one of the earliest feature-length narrative films, produced and released in 1903. The film portrays the events of the Gospels - from the Annunciation to the Ascension - employing only visual language (it is a silent film, with inter-titles used only to introduce the scene titles).

The Illusion of Choice —Dekalog: Two (1988)

James and Thomas discuss Krzysztof Kieślowski's DEKALOG, a series of 10 short-films inspired by the Ten Commandments.

Fatima (2020)

Our first response to the new feature film based on the events surrounding Our Lady of Fatima's appearance in 1917.

A Prison Is For Escaping: La Grande Illusion (1937)

James and Thomas discuss this seminal work by director Jean Renoir, son of the famous French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Wild Strawberries (1957) w/ James Matthew Wilson

James and Thomas discuss Ingmar Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES, one of his greatest and most moving films.

Those Who Make Them Are Like Them —Dekalog: One (1988)

James and Thomas discuss Krzysztof Kieślowski's DEKALOG, a series of 10 short-films inspired by the Ten Commandments.

Gone with the Wind (1939) w/ Stephen M. Klugewicz

James and Thomas take a momentary departure from the Vatican Film List to discuss the classic and controversial film, Gone with the Wind.

Robert Bolt’s Man for All Seasons: Christian saint or “hero of selfhood”?

In this bonus episode of Criteria, Thomas asks Louis Karlin whether Robert Bolt’s play and film A Man for All Seasons accurately depict St. Thomas More’s views on the rights of conscience, and his motives for martyrdom.

From Stage to Screen: A Man for All Seasons (1966)

James and Thomas discuss A Man for All Seasons, the film adaptation of Robert Bolt's award-winning play about St. Thomas More.

Community on the Margins: Stagecoach (1939) w/ Anthony Esolen

James and Thomas discuss Stagecoach, the classic American Western directed by John Ford.

Robots Don’t Matter! 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

James and Thomas discuss 2001: A Space Odyssey, the classic science fiction film directed by Stanley Kubrick.

An Artist Is Never Poor: Babette’s Feast (1987)

James and Thomas discuss Babette's Feast, an Oscar-winning religious classic directed by Gabriel Axel and based on a short story by Karen Blixen.

Introducing Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast

Introducing Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast! This is a show dedicated to exploring films of significant artistic merit and Catholic interest, starting with the Vatican’s 1995 list of "Some Important Films".

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