Saturday, January 26, 2008

A quality year brings more films than a top-10 list can hold

A recap of the winners and losers of 2007's films, from Catholic News Service.

Though on-screen violence, like sexuality, can often be gratuitous, 2007 saw a surfeit of major films in which it played a strong -- but dramatically essential -- part. Each of them was artistically outstanding and has already been widely honored by many of the awards competitions and in top-10 lists.

These blood-tinged titles include "No Country for Old Men" (A-III, R), "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (L, R), "Eastern Promises" (L, R), "Gone Baby Gone" (L, R), "3:10 to Yuma" (A-III, R), "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (A-III, R), "Michael Clayton" (A-III, R), "There Will Be Blood" (L, R) and "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (L, R).

All of these sometimes difficult-to-watch films were well received by the Office for Film & Broadcasting, as they were morally grounded beyond their aesthetic excellence.

But in selecting a 10-best list, we endeavored to find movies that would perhaps more directly reflect Catholic and/or strongly humane values. Thus, while we acknowledge the qualities of those aforementioned films -- along with others such as "Atonement," "Into the Wild" and "Charlie Wilson's War" -- our final list breaks down as follows, in alphabetical order, followed in parentheses by their USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification and Motion Picture Association of America rating:

"Amazing Grace": Compelling historical biography about William Wilberforce, the great 18th-century British abolitionist who, with the help of the young British Prime Minister William Pitt and other like-minded friends in Parliament and elsewhere, managed -- after tireless and courageous struggle -- to pass an anti-slave-trade bill in Parliament. With its solid performances, accessible script and handsome production design, the film recalls some of the best historical dramas from Hollywood's golden age, and is all the more admirable for its unabashed portrait of a passionate man of God (A-II, (PG).

"Bella"/"Juno": Two films that take different approaches to the same theme vie for this slot, with each beautifully affirming the value of human life. "Bella" is the sweetly sentimental story about an unmarried New York waitress who loses her job after becoming pregnant, and her restaurant's empathetic chef -- an ex-soccer star whose career ended after his car fatally struck a child. He gives the young woman emotional support, takes her to visit his loving family and gently tries to persuade her to keep the baby. The sensitive performances, positive depiction of the chef's warm Latino family, and most of all, its affirmative pro-life message -- along with themes of self-forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption -- should resonate with Catholic viewers (A-II, PG-13). "Juno" is a smart, funny and ultimately moving comedy-drama with an equally strong pro-life message about an unwed teen who decides not to have an abortion, and promises the coming baby to a childless couple who long to adopt. The narrative has just the right moral wrap-up; performances and direction are tops, unfortunately marred by the high expletive level of its appealing but sassy heroine. (A-III, PG-13).

story here.

cross-posted on The World...IMHO

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