Quick Hits: Catholicism in the movies
I’ve long appreciated the movies of Joel and Ethan Coen, and finally got around to viewing their most recent, Hail, Caesar! The film is already among my favorites by the brothers—it’s one of their most warmhearted, a humorous portrayal of a Hollywood studio in the 1950s. I recommend it to our readers especially because its protagonist, Capitol Pictures producer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), is a practicing Catholic who frequents the confessional.
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Mannix’s faith is depicted in a lighthearted but respectful and even affectionate manner, as he tries to discharge his somewhat overwhelming duties with integrity and grace—duties which, as a movie producer in the 50s, include keeping the moral image of his stars squeaky-clean and meeting with the Catholic Legion of Decency. Particularly interesting is the plotline involving the production of a film about a Roman centurion who encounters Christ, as Mannix must meet with representatives of various religious denominations to assure them that the Lord will be depicted reverently. Worth renting, worth buying.
Speaking of Catholicism in the movies, I recently switched from Netflix to Filmstruck, a new streaming site run by the Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies. Filmstruck focuses on classic films, foreign and art-house fare, and sets itself further apart by including the audio commentaries and behind-the-scenes features one would find on DVDs but not on other streaming services. It includes many high-cinema religious classics such as Babette’s Feast, The Mission, Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, and Rossellini’s The Flowers of St. Francis. I recommend giving Filmstruck a shot, even if you keep some other streaming service for when you feel like watching something a bit more brain-numbing.
Edward Feser is not only a very clear-headed Thomist philosopher, he also has excellent taste in music and movies. His recent appraisal of David Mamet’s classic film Glengarry Glen Ross in light of Aquinas’s three criteria of beauty is surprising and delightful.
Astoundingly, Boston’s Odyssey Opera is devoting its entire 2017-2018 season to five(!) different operas about St. Joan of Arc: by Tchaikovsky, Donizetti, Dello Joio, Honegger, and Verdi.
Leaving the arts for a moment, at The Catholic Thing, R.J. Snell (author of an excellent book on acedia) points out that in order to obey Jesus’ command to love our enemies, we must have enemies to love.
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