After this year I can no longer say emphatically that good movies are not made anymore. I’ve ranted and railed against Hollywood for the past few years about the dearth of great movies. Can you blame me? Endless sequels, comic book movies filled with noise and CGI, or stupid comedies involving mall cops or the Fokkers. The only movies I’ve gone to with any regularity and interest are the Narnia films, the Harry Potter series (which ended this year), or the occasional Pixar film with my younger children (Get Low, released a year ago, was very good). I got so desperate to see something a year ago that I went to my first action movie in ages. Yes…I went to The A-Team. For two hours I had my senses assaulted and tucked my intelligence away, but I admit I had a good time. It was mindless fun and I was familiar with the characters having grown up watching the original television series in the early 80s. But day-umm that movie was LOUD.*
*(I realize that I am beginning to resemble Abe Simpson in my mannerisms. I can assure you I enjoy a movie that’s well done, including action films. Most of the public I suspect goes to the theater to escape the drama of real life. I go to the theater seeking a little more.)
The past year, however, has seen the release of movies that are much, much better.
Sadly, nary a one of them came to a movie theater within 50 miles of me, some coming no nearer than an art house theater in Kansas City. If you missed them, you may want to catch them on DVD/Blu-Ray/Netflix. They are based upon true stories (The 5th Quarter, Of Gods and Men); real people (There Be Dragons, Life In A Day); or upon themes that transcend our every day lives and stretch the philosopher in all of us (The Tree of Life).
Of the following, I have the first two on DVD. So far I’ve only had time to watch Of Gods and Men. It is without a doubt one of the most poignant and beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It is the anti-action film, which is probably why no one saw it. I plan to write more about it soon but I want to watch it at least one more time before I do. I’m very much anticipating the release of The Tree of Life on Oct. 11. Few movies have intrigued me more than this film by Terrence Malick.
Another that caught my eye was Life In A Day, which arrives on DVD on November 8. A unique film put together by Ridley Scott in partnership with YouTube, this film is a representation of what all of “us” were doing on one day, July 24, 2010. Judging from the reactions of those who saw it, especially the naysayers, I will have more to say about this film once I see it.
I await word of the DVD-release date for There Be Dragons, released in May 2011.
This leaves the final release for theaters this year: The Way. This film project is a labor of love between real life father and son Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Tom (Sheen) is an American doctor who goes to France following the death of his adult son (Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, also known as the Way of St. James. Tom’s purpose is initially to retrieve his son’s body. However, in a combination of grief and homage to his son, Tom decides to walk the same ancient spiritual trail where his son died in order to understand his son better. While walking The Camino, Tom meets others from around the world (three in particular), all broken and looking for greater meaning in their lives.
During his travels, Tom discovers the meaning of one of the last things his son said (in a flashback) to his father: that there is a difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.”
Recently both men sat down with Tim Drake of The National Catholic Register for a brief interview and talked about the film and their faith.
Was it difficult to do a movie that looks favorably on God?
Emilio: It wasn’t, for me. For others, it was. When we pitched it to studio representatives, you could see their eyes glaze over. They’d say, “It’s about spirituality.” So we decided to shoot it digitally and independently. I believe this movie plays between Glenwood and Newark. Beverly Hills and New York can take a walk. Hollywood makes a lot of garbage. We know because we’ve been in some of it. There are less and less movies to go to — films without overt sexuality and language that won’t make me blush. We’re all tired of what’s coming out of Hollywood. Word of mouth will help this film make it.
What was the genesis of your reversion to the Catholic faith, Martin?
Martin: It began after my illness in the Philippines while filming Apocalypse Now. I began going to church because I was afraid of dying. Then I stopped going for a long time. My eyes were first reopened when I was in India filming Gandhi. Then, in 1981, while in Paris, I read the book The Brothers Karamazov. I had been given the book by director Terrence Malick. The book kept me up. After reading it, I went to see a priest and told him I wanted to come home. He looked at me with eyes that said, “This is what I do.” He told me to return the next day at 4pm, as he had a wedding at 4:30pm. He told me not to be late. I went to confession with him and wept. I came back to a Church that was very different. I left a Church of fear and returned to a Church of love.
What do you see as the film’s key message?
Emilio: We live in a culture that’s dominated by a media which tells us we need to be richer, thinner and prettier. What I love about this film is that these characters reach land’s end, and they are fine being who they are. They are imperfect and broken, but God loves them exactly as they are.
Martin: The genius of God is to dwell in the deepest recesses of our being. When we realize that we are loved and belong to this community and understand that we are truly loved exactly as we are, then we’ll discover fire the second time — only we’ll own the fire.
I guess I need to amend my original statement. After this year I can no longer say emphatically that good movies are not being made. They just aren’t shown in theaters anymore.