Welcome to my Quest for Good Movies!

Many of us have grown increasingly weary of having our intelligences insulted, our values assaulted, or our sensibilities offended by the typical Hollywood fare.

Is it possible to find movies that meet the standard of the 13th Article of Faith, being "of good report or praiseworthy"?

Happily, fine films can be found. My intent with this blog is to share with you some worthy examples.


Friday, October 15, 2010

"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"

The Catholic Church movie reviews included “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” in its “honorable mentions” list for 2008—meaning that it didn’t quite make it onto their “Top Ten” list because there were so many good movies that year. Other movies that did merit being included in the Catholic “Top Ten” lists for that year were “Wall-E,” for general audiences, and “The City of Ember,” for family-viewing. Contrariwise, The New York Times panned “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” as a dreadful piece of film-making.

As I read several different reviews of the film, I discovered this interesting dichotomy—it seemed that people either hated it or thought it was an exceptional film—no one in between. Some critics thought it trivialized the Holocaust, while others thought it was an excellent vehicle to keep remembrance of the Holocaust alive. It was no “Schindler’s List,” a rated R Academy Award winner that some people view as the epitome in Holocaust films. It was, however, a movie that would have appeal with adolescents, and should spark discussions about prejudice. It was refreshingly devoid of offensive elements (vulgar language, sex, nudity, graphic violence, and immorality portrayed as normal behavior) typically found in movies these days. In my view, the movie deserves being listed as one that is “of good report and praiseworthy.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Standards from "For the Strength of Youth"

The search for current movies that are "of good report" and "praiseworthy" is often a frustrating task. Many movies have "just one objectionable part" or one "uncomfortable" scene or one "bad word." But if we are to follow the standards found in "For the Strength of Youth," even one objectionable part is enough to disqualify it from being "of good report or praiseworthy."

From the LDS Church's "For the Strength of Youth" booklet, under the category, "Entertainment and the Media," (p.17) we read:

"Whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Therefore, choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices. It will allow you to enjoy yourself without losing the Spirit of the Lord.

"While much entertainment is good, some of it can lead you away from righteous living. ... Satan uses such entertainment to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal and exciting. It can mislead you into thinking that everyone is doing things that are wrong.

"Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.

"Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior’s message of love for one another.

"Have the courage to walk out of a movie or video party ... if what is being presented does not meet Heavenly Father’s standards. Do these things even if others do not. Let your friends and family know that you are committed to keeping God’s standards. You have the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will give you strength and help you make good choices."

There are a couple of websites that can help you pre-determine which movies you should avoid if you want to maintain your standards. They specifically list the content which people of faith and high moral standards might find objectionable. The Catholic Church maintains one website: http://www.usccb.org/. Focus on the Family maintains the other website: http://www.pluggedinonline.com/movies/.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"I Am David"

Since I am a mother of two sons, I watched the movie, “I Am David,” from the perspective of a mother of a young boy. Twelve-year-old David had spent most of his life as a prisoner in a Communist concentration camp in Bulgaria following the end of World War II. The only memory he had of his life before the camp was of his mother. In his recurring memory, she looks at him with loving eyes, and says, “I love you David.” He also remembers the last time he saw her. She was screaming as she was forcefully dragged away from him. And, as he watched the gates of the camp slam closed behind her, she disappeared from his life forever.

During his years living in the camp, David is befriended by Johannes, played by Jim Caviezel. One of the most moving scenes in the movie is when David’s mentor and substitute father-figure, Johannes, takes the blame for stealing a bar of soap which was actually stolen by David. The thief is to be shot. The guard (“the man”) sees Johannes slip the bar of soap from David’s hand into his own. As the guard’s eyes meet Johannes’ eyes, there is a slight nod as both seem to acknowledge that someone must die. In spite of knowing that David really stole the soap, the guard shoots Johannes who voluntarily gave his life to save the boy’s life. Later in the movie, David and the “grandmother-figure,” Sophie, pause by a mountain cemetery in the Alps and then David enters a church where a choir is practicing singing a Requiem. During these experiences, David remembers and thinks about his friend and mentor who died for him.

The movie is based on a 1963 novel written by Anne Holm. The movie, of course, takes liberties with the original story line. I am grateful that the boy’s journey as depicted in the movie was not nearly so long and treacherous as was depicted in the novel. And, while it was known from the beginning in the book, in the surprise ending of the movie, we learn that it was the guard who had shot Johannes who actually helped David escape from the camp, so that he could journey to Denmark to find his mother.

The most praiseworthy elements of the movie depicted the selfless sacrifice of his life by Johannes, and the grandmotherly loving kindness and gentleness of Sophie. David’s journey of discovery of himself and the world at large is less well depicted. But, the deep soul-scarred pain of this young boy is convincingly portrayed, and the beginning of healing of those scars through the kindness of strangers is touching. Helping David escape, was an act of “repentance” by the guard; in my eyes, he partially redeemed himself. The depiction of the strangers who were suspicious of him and cruel or heartless, caused me to reflect on my own suspicions—am I cruel or heartless to those unlike me? I would hope that I would be kind and gentle like Sophie, rather than fear someone I don’t understand.

At the back of my mind as I watched the movie, I had my doubts about a 12-year-old successfully traveling from Bulgaria, through Greece, to Italy and then on to Switzerland. However, I easily attributed his improbable success to the hand of God in his life. On one occasion, he “prays” to St. Elizabeth for safety. Later, at the mountain church, he seems to feel the Spirit as the choir sings, and then immediately afterward, he miraculously ‘finds’ his mother pictured on the cover of a book. This leads directly to his reunion with his mother.

The movie was released in 2003. I obtained a copy of the DVD from my local public library.