Little secret: I joined the Air Force to save up money to go to acting and film school. Never happened. I saved money, but I ended up going through some big changes. I might not have gone to big lengths to be an actor but my love for film and stage has only grown.
Movies and plays have a way of touching us, reminding us of what “human” is and sometimes doing a good job of downright dehumanizing us. Somewhere in that fray is the bottom line, the lesson, the take-away.
These movies exhibit, for me and others, a strong sense of faith. They might not be the Narnia sort where the aim at the Kerygma, but no less teach us about conversion, doing what’s right in daunting circumstances, and the war against evil. Here are three (of many) movies that have done this for me and I’m sure you will enjoy too.
My generation might be less familiar with this classic. When I was a kid I didn’t like watching older movies because they seemed to have slow plots and no action but actually, they better mimic real life than modern movies which gives them a sort of purity. Casablanca is a one-liner masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it, when you do, you will realize this movie is the starter for several famous quotes, many of which we use regularly. Unforgettable mentions:
“We’ve always got [insert memory]”
“I’ve got a job to do”
“This gun is pointed at your heart” “That’s my least vulnerable spot”
“Here’s lookin’ at you kid”
“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”
There are so many more. Where is the “faith-based” part? Here’s the deal: my favorite movies are those that didn’t try to insert themselves into a religious category, and still taught the viewer more about their faith than one that did. That is to say, allegory is king. Casablanca might not be a direct allegory but the means in which the protagonist Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) comes from a regretful, bitter, self indulging, drunk club owner to being willing to give his life for a man who now has his woman, leaves a still frame memory in the mind of any onlooker. That sort of sense of duty rare in our lives and though we will never be pressured with those circumstances, the lessons speak for themselves.
I don’t have any idea how but the NC Register rated this movie in the 40’s of the Top 100 Pro-Catholic movies. To me, that a little too low on their list for a distinctively Catholic movie, scary or not. There are so few that capture a pure and bold Catholic story and setting in completeness. Not simply a movie that makes the exorcising priest look like a saint, but shows the struggle of faith, the conversion of a mother, and the dark reality of spiritual warfare. Not to mention an innocent victim taken by the hand of evil, a modern day Job story.
There is a huge difference in how I watched this as a kid and how I watched it as an adult/Catholic/parent. As a kid or teen I would have watched this movie for the thrill. Nothing better to a 16 year old than to push the envelope and the Exorcist hit the spot. As a parent though, this movie had me weeping. The mother’s relentless courage and unwillingness to take the cruddy answers from the medical and psychological “experts” gave me a new respect for the film. When watching this movie as a teenage I also couldn’t identify with the priest, a Jesuit who is renowned for his expertise who is struggling just to keep some for of faith and keep his vocation. We have all struggled with our faith and though we most likely wont have to perform an exorcism or need one, the reversion of the priest is worth watching all on its own. Lastly, the pure and undiluted portrayal of the reality of spiritual warfare is what his movie was made for – a lesson our desperate and disillusioned generation needs to witness.
A Christmas Carol
Dickens was a genius. A Christmas Carol is one of the few stories where the antagonist is the protagonist and the main character; a true story is conversion. Carol is one of the most complete and yet simple Gospel stories ever told and it is an annual tradition of mine to watch it all the way through with focus for personal reflection. Where a lot of other top faith based titles enhance your appreciation for faith and hope, this story makes me look in the mirror. Some years that mirror has cracked in my guilt, others it beams with my gratefulness for a redeemer. With so many versions on film which one is the best? Though Carey might have been attempting to turn it also into a comedy, I think his recent animated version does justice. The animation brought the depth of the grave into reality, the larger than life Ghost of Christmas Present to fruition, and most distinct to me are the torment that Scrooge bound himself with in the horse chase scene. The 1951 version with Alastair Simas portraying Ebeanezer is classic gold; another masterful production that, to me, captures the gratefulness and gratitude of Scrooge best. I know its old, but you must watch this one. Because I take to the prescription of a child’s look at the Gospel, the Muppet version is honestly my pick. Amongst a robust collection and love for Christmas movies, each year I take to this version like a religion. Michael Caine being an unforgettable actor as it is, does the masterful job of communicating the role of a selfish, bitter, and poisoned antagonistic Scrooge, but with a sense of children’s appeal.
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