Monday, June 19, 2023


For several years I worked on a book about films and faith. Soul Food Movies: A Guide to films with a spiritual flavour. After writing well over 100,000 words, I had to set it aside and focus my attention on my theatre company, and that was that.

As I went, I posted the various pieces on this blog.  Here are links to most of those.  I've also added titles of other "soul food" movies I didn't manage to write about then, or that I've discovered since - but because I haven't written about them, they won't have links.  

These aren't necessarily the greatest or most-recommended movies that have some sort of soul food angle. They're just the ones I got to before I had to abandon the project. But there are a lot of my own personal favourites in the mix. I'll boldface those, just so you know.

It only makes sense when you look at it backwards. 
Too bad we got to live it forwards.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, USA, Stanley Kubrick, screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke, from Clarke’s “The Sentinel”)

21 Grams (2003, USA, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
(also here)

3 Godfathers (1948, USA, John Ford)

49 Up (2005, UK, Michael Apted)

49th Parallel (1941, UK, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger screenplay, Ralph Vaughan Williams score)

Let's play “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” 
Who wrote the phrase "No man is an island"? 
John Donne? John Milton? John F. Kennedy? Jon Bon Jovi?

Jon Bon Jovi. Too easy. 

And, if I may say so, a complete load of bollocks. 
In my opinion, all men are islands. I like to think I’m Ibiza.

ABOUT A BOY (2002, UK/USA/France/Germany, Chris & Paul Weitz, Peter Hedges screenplay, Nick Hornby novel)

ABOUT SCHMIDT (2002, USA, Alexander Payne, Louis Begley novel)

Acts of the Apostles ("Atti degli apostoli" 1969, Italy/France/Germany/Spain/Tunisia, Roberto Rossellini)

ADAM'S APPLES (“Adams æbler” 2005, Denmark/Germany, Anders Thomas Jensen)

The Addiction (1995, USA, Abel Ferrara, Nicholas St. John screeplay)

AFTER LIFE (“Wandafuru raifu” 1998, Japan, Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Agnes of God (1985, USA, Norman Jewison, John Pielmeier play and screenplay)

Amadeus (1984, USA, Milos Forman, Peter Shaffer play and screenplay)

Amen. (2002, France/Germany, Costa-Gavras)

That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever. Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it... and my heart is going to cave in.

AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999, USA, Sam Mendes)

Amistad (1997, USA, Steven Spielberg)

...And God Spoke (1993, USA, Arthur Borman)

Angel-A (2005, France, Luc Besson)

Amazing Grace (2006, UK/USA, Michael Apted)

Amelie (“Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain” 2001, France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

Anchoress (1993, Belgium/UK, Chris Newby)

I'll never paint again. Because it's of no use to anyone. That's all. 

ANDREI RUBLEV (“The Passion According To Andrei” 1966, USSR, Andrei Tarkovsky)

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938, USA, Michael Curtiz)

Antkeeper (1966, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

Apocalypto (2006, USA, Mel Gibson)

The Apostle (1997, USA, Robert Duvall)

Around The Bend (2004, USA, Jordan Roberts)

I am very, very sorry 
for the terrible distress that I have caused you.
I am very, very sorry...
Atonement (2007, UK/France, d. Joe Wright)

AU HASARD BALTHAZAR ("Balthazar, By Chance" 1966, France, Robert Bresson)

Auto Focus (2002, USA, Paul Schrader)

Babette's Feast (“Babettes gæstebud” 1987, Denmark, Gabriel Axel, Isak Dinesen story)

BAD LIEUTENANT (1992, USA, Abel Ferrara)

Barabbas (1962, Italy, Richard Fleischer, Christopher Fry screenplay, Par Lagerkvist novel)

BARCELONA (1994, USA, Whit Stillman)

Barabbas (1962, Richard Fleischer, Christopher Fry screenplay from Par Lagerkvist novel)

Becket (1964, UK/USA, Peter Glenville, Jean Anouilh play)

THE BELIEVER (2001, USA, Henry Bean)

Ben-Hur (1959, USA, William Wyler, Karl Tunberg screenplay from Lew Wallace novel)

THE BIG COUNTRY (1958, USA, William Wyler)

The Big Fisherman (1959, USA, Frank Borzage, Lloyd C. Douglas novel)

We talked about Christ.
About Christ! Did you mention what line of industrial lubricant Jesus uses?
THE BIG KAHUNA (1999, USA, John Swanbeck, Roger Rueff screenplay)

BIG NIGHT (1996, USA, Stanley Tucci & Campbell Scott)

The Big Lebowski (1998, USA, Joel and Ethan Coen)
Bill Cunningham New York (2010, USA, Richard Press)

Black Robe (1991, Canada/Australia, Bruce Beresford, Brian Moore screenplay/novel)

Blade Runner (1982, USA, Ridley Scott)

Black Snake Moan (2007, USA, Craig Brewer)

Blood Simple (1984, USA, Joel & Ethan Coen)

I could never get used to that part of the job. The power and the glory. The threat of divine vengeance. 
But I persevered. I was about my Father’s business.
It was the morning of December 31st, 1999 when I returned, at last, 

to judge the living and the dead. 
Though still, and perhaps always, I had my doubts.
Book of Life (1998, France/USA, Hal Hartley)

The Bourne Identity / Supremacy / Ultimatum (2002/2004/2007, USA, Doug Liman / Paul Greengrass)

Breach (2007, USA, Billy Ray)

Breaking The Waves (1996, Denmark, Lars von Trier)
BROADCHURCH: SEASON 1 (2013, UK, Chris Chibnall etc)

Broadway Danny Rose (1984, USA, Woody Allen)

BROOKLYN (2015, UK/etc, John Crowley)

BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON (1972, Italy/England, Franco Zeffirelli, screenplay with Lina Wertmuller)

Bruce Almighty (2003, USA, Tom Shadyac)

Bull Durham (1988, USA, Ron Shelton)

The Camden 28 (2007, USA, Anthony Giacchino)

Cat People (1942, USA, Jacques Tourneur, Val Lewton / DeWitt Bodeen screenplay)
Cat People (1982, USA, Paul Schrader, screenplay w/ Alan Ormsby, DeWitt Bodeen story)

THE CELEBRATION ("Festen" 1998, Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg)

Central Station (“Central do Brasil” 1998, Brazil/France, Walter Salles)

Sometimes God likes to put two guys in a paper bag and just 
let ‘em rip.

CHANGING LANES (2002, USA, Roger Michell)

CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981, UK, Hugh Hudson)

Children of Men (2006, UK/USA, Alfonso Cuaron, P.D. James novel)

Chocolat (2000, USA/UK, Lasse Hallström)

The Chosen (1981, USA, Jeremy Kagan)

Close-Up ("Nema-ye Nazkid" 1990, Iran, Abbas Kiarostami)

I decided I needed a complete make-over, 
except this time I'd make-over my soul.
CLUELESS (1995, USA, Amy Heckerling)

Cold Heaven (1990, USA, Nicolas Roeg, Brian Moore novel)

Le Confessionnal (1995, Canada, Robert Lepage)

Cool and Crazy ("Heftig Og Begeistret" 2001, Norway/Sweden, Knut Erik Jensen)

Cool Hand Luke (1967, USA, Stuart Rosenberg)

Copying Beethoven (2006, USA/Germany/Hungary, Agnieszka Holland)


Cry, The Beloved Country (1995, South Africa / USA, Darrell Roodt, Alan Paton novel)

A Cry In The Dark (1988, Australia, Fred Schepisi)

You could learn a lot from children.
They believe in things in the dark, although we tell them it's not so.
Maybe we've been fooling them.
Curse of the Demon ("Night of the Demon" 1957, UK, Jacques Tourneur)

Dancer in the Dark (2000, Denmark, Lars von Trier)

Day of Wrath (“Vredens dag” 1943, Denmark, Dreyer)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, USA, Robert Wise, screenplay Edmund H. North, story Harry Bates)

DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978, USA, Malick)
DEAD MAN WALKING (1995, USA, Robbins)

Dead Poets Society (1989, USA, Peter Weir)

Dear Wendy (2005, Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg, Lars von Trier screenplay)

The Death of Mr Lazarescu ("Moartea domnului Lazarescu" 2005, Romania, Cristi Puiu)

The Decalogue ("Dekalog" 1989, Poland, Kieslowski)

Le Diable Probablement ("The Devil Probably" 1977, France, Robert Bresson)

Diary of a Country Priest (1950, France, Bresson)

Divided We Fall ("Musime Si Pomohat" 2000, Czech Republic, Jan Hrbejk)

DOGVILLE (2003, Denmark/USA, von Trier)

Doubt (2008, USA, John Patrick Shanley)

THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS (France, 1998, Erick Zonka)

The Elephant Man (1980, USA, David Lynch)
The End Of The Affair (1955, UK, Dmytryk)
The End Of The Affair (1999, USA, Jordan)
Europa 51 (1952, Italy, Rossellini)

Everything Is Illuminated (2005, USA, Liev Schreiber, Jonathan Safran Foer novel)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005, USA, Scott Derrickson)

The Exorcist (1973, USA, William Friedkin)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (USA, 2000, Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato)

Fearless (1993, USA, Peter Wier)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971, USA, Norman Jewison)

FIELD OF DREAMS (1989, USA, Phil Alden Robinson, W.P. Kinsella novel)

Fight Club (1999, USA, David Fincher, Chuck Palahniuk novel)

Flatliners (1990, USA, Joel Schumacher)

The Flowers of St Francis (“Francesco, guillare di Dio” / “Francis, God’s Jester” 1950, Italy, Roberto Rossellini, screenplay with Federico Fellini)

Forgiveness (2004, South Africa, Gabriel)
Francesco (1989, Italy/Germany, Cavani)
Francis of Assisi (1961, USA, Curtiz)
The Fugitive (1947, USA/Mexico, John Ford)
The Funeral (1996, USA, Abel Ferrara)

Gates of Heaven (1980, USA, Errol Morris)

GEORGE WASHINGTON (2000, USA, David Gordon Green)

God Told Me To (“Demon” 1976, USA, Larry Cohen)

GODSPELL (1973, USA, Greene)

The Gospel According to Vic ("Heavenly Pursuits" 1985, UK, Charles Gormley)

The Green Mile (1999, USA, Frank Darabont, from Stephen King novel)

The Green Ray ("Le Rayon verte" "Summer" 1986, France, Rohmer)

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993, USA, Harold Ramis)

Hail, Caesar! (2016, USA, Joel and Ethan Coen)
Hail Mary ("Je Vous Salue, Marie" 1985, France, Godard)

Hardcore (1979, USA, Schrader)

Do you ever visit the people you save?
Are you crazy?
Go visit her. The woman you almost saved. Never stop saving them.

HAWAII, OSLO (2004, Norway, Erik Poppe)

Heaven (2002, Germany, Tom Tykwer, Kieslowski/Pieskowicz screenplay)

Hell House (2001, USA, Ratliff)
A HIDDEN LIFE (2019, USA, Terrence Malick)
The Hiding Place (1975, USA, Collier)
Higher Ground (2011, USA, Vera Farmiga, Carolyn S. Briggs memoir)
THE HOMESMAN (2014, USA, Tommy Lee Jones)

Homicide (1991, USA, David Mamet)

House of Sand and Fog

THE HUNT ("Jagten" 2012, Denmark/Sweden, Thomas Vinterberg)

I Confess (1953, USA, Alfred Hitchcock)

I Walked With a Zombie (1943, USA, Jacques Tourneur, Lewton/Siodmak/Wray screenplay)

Doesn’t it make you furious when they walk all over you this way?
No. I can’t afford to hate people. I haven’t got that kind of time.
IKIRU (1951, Japan, Akira Kurosawa)

In A Better World (2010, Denmark, Susanne Bier)
IN BRUGES (2008, UK/Belgium, McDonagh)
In Your Hands (2004, Denmark, Olesen)
Into Great Silence (2005, France, Gröning)
INTO THE WILD (2007, USA, Penn)

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946, USA, Frank Capra)

Italian For Beginners (2000, Denmark, Scherfig)
Jacob's Ladder (1990, USA, Lyne)
Jesus Christ, Superstar (1973, USA, Jewison)
JESUS OF MONTREAL (1989, Canada, Denys Arcand)
Jesus Of Nazareth (1977, UK/Italy, Zeffirelli)

Do you believe in God?
I believe in myself.
What does that mean?
I have confidence in myself.
I've been doing some soul searching lately, asking myself some pretty tough questions. You know what I found out? I have no interest in myself. I start thinking about myself, I get bored out of my mind.
JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (1990, USA, John Patrick Shanley)

The King (2005, USA/UK, James Marsh, w/ Milo Addica)

LADY BIRD (2017, USA, Greta Gerwig)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007, USA, Gillespie)

The Last Days of Disco (1998, USA, Whit Stillman)


Why didn't you tell me there were mysteries?
David, my whole life has been about a mystery.
No! You stood in that church and explained them away! Dad, I've been taken with some sort of otherness, and I don't know what to do. We've lost our dreams. And they come back, and we don't know what they mean.
The Last Wave (1977, Australia, Peter Wier)

Leon Morin, Priest (1961, France, Melville)
Lilies Of The Field (1963, USA, Nelson)
LOVE & MERCY (2014, USA, Bill Pohlad)
THE MATRIX (1999, USA, Wachowski)

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, USA, Andrew Adamason)

LITTLE CHILDREN (2006, USA, Todd Field, Tom Perrotta novel)

If people think that makes me weak... or mad... so be it. That is the path I am committed to. To love the sinner, but hate the sins. To assume the best in people, and not the worst. To believe that anyone, no matter how evil, can be redeemed... eventually.
LONGFORD (2006, UK/USA, Tom Hooper, Peter Morgan screenplay)

The Lord Of The Rings (2001-2003, New Zealand/USA, Jackson)
Magnolia (1999, USA, P.T. Anderson)

A Man Escaped (1956, France, Robert Bresson)

A Man For All Seasons (1966, USA, Zinnemann)
A Man For All Seasons (1988, USA, Heston)

The Man Who Planted Trees ("L'homme qui plantait des arbes," 1987, Canada, Frederic Back

The Man Without A Past (2002, Finland, Kaurismaki)

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (2004, USA/UK, Michael Radford)

Of course there’s a God! We all basically know there is.
I know no such thing.
Of course you do! When you think to yourself 

— and most of our waking life is taken up thinking to ourself — 
you must have that feeling that your thoughts aren’t entirely wasted, 
that in some sense they are being heard. 
I think it's this sensation of silently being listened to with total comprehension 
that represents our innate belief in a supreme being, an all–comprehending intelligence. 
What it shows is that some kind of belief is innate in all of us. 
At some point most of us lose that, after which it can only be regained by a conscious act of faith.
And you’ve experienced that?
No, I haven’t. I hope to someday.
METROPOLITAN (1990, USA, Whit Stillman)

The Mill And The Cross (2011, Poland, Lech Majewski)
The Miracle Maker (2000, UK/USSR, Hayes/Sokolov)
THE MISSION (1986, UK, Roland Joffé)

LES MISERABLES (1998, UK/Germany/USA, Bille August)

Molokai: The Story Of Father Damien (1999, Belgium/Australia, Paul Cox)
Monsieur Vincent (1947, France, Cloche)
Monsignor Quixote (1987, UK, Bennett)

MOST ("The Bridge" 2003, USA, Bobby Garabedian)

MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S ("Ma Nuit chez Maud" 1969, France, Eric Rohmer)

The Neon Bible (1995, UK, Terence Davies)

NEITHER HEAVEN NOR EARTH (2015, France/Belgium, Clément Cogitore)
The New World (2005, USA, Terrence Malick)
The Night Of The Hunter (1955, USA, Charles Laughton)
The Ninth Day (2004, Germany, Volker Schlondorff)

Not Of This World ("Fuoiri Dal Mondo" 1999, Italy, Giuseppe Piccioni)

O Father, we ask that you deliver this woman from sin. 
Destroy it by the spirit of God.
Heal her through and through, including her heart. 

Make her a new creature in Christ. 

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000, USA, Joel and Ethan Coen)

Of Gods and Men (2010, France, Xavier Beauvois)
On The Waterfront (1954, USA, Kazan)
Open City ("Roma, città aperta" Rome, Open City" 1946, Italy, Rossellini)

Open Your Eyes (“Abre los ojos” 1997, Spain/France/Italy, Alejandro Amenabar)

Ordet (1955, Denmark, Dreyer)
Ostrov ("The Island" 2006, USSR, Pavel Lungin)

The Painted Veil (2006, USA, John Curran, W. Somerset Maugham novel)

Paisan (1946, Italy, Rossellini)

Pale Rider (1985, USA, Clint Eastwood)

PAN'S LABYRINTH (“El Labertinto del fauno,” 2006, Mexico/Spain/USA, Guillermo del Toro)

Parable (1964, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

The Passion Of Joan of Arc (1928, France, Carl Theodor Dreyer)

I don't know what all of this means, but it's got to mean something. Don't you see that?
It makes sense. It's got to be a sign.
Personal Velocity (2002, USA, Rebecca Miller)

Phone Booth (2002, USA, Joel Schumacher)

The Potting Shed (1961, USA, Paul Bogart, Graham Greene play)
Power and the Glory (1959, USA, Carmen Capalbo Graham Greene novel)
Power and the Glory (1961, USA, Marc Daniels, Graham Greene Novel)

The Princess and the Warrior ("Der Krieger und die Kaiserin" 2000, Germany, Tom Tykwer)

La Promesse ("The Promise" 1996, Belgium, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006, Gabriele Muccino, Steve Conrad screenplay)

The Quiet American (1958, USA, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Graham Greene novel)
The Quiet American (2002, USA/Germany/Australia, Phillip Noyce, Graham Greene novel)

The Rapture (1991, USA, Tolkin)

Requiem (2006, Germany, Hans-Christian Schmid)

Revanche (2008, Austria, Götz Spielmann)

A River Runs Through It (1992, USA, Robert Redford, Norman Maclean novella)

Romero (1989, USA, Duigan)

The Rookie (2002, USA, John Lee Hancock)

Rosetta (1999, Belgium, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

What can I do? What can I do? 
Come on. Help me. Please. Just this once.
I'll keep on running, okay? 

I'm waiting... I'm waiting... I'm waiting... I'm waiting...
RUN LOLA RUN ("Lola Rennt" 1998, Germany, Tom Tykwer)

The Sacrifice ("Offret" 1986, Sweden, Tarkovsky)

Saving Grace (1985, USA, Robert M. Young, Celia Gittelson novel)

SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993, USA, Steven Spielberg)

The Sea Inside ("Mar Adentro" 2004, Spain/France/Italy, Alejandro Amenabar, wr Amenabar & Mateo Gil)

A Serious Man (2009, USA, Coen)
The Seventh Seal (1956, Sweden, Bergman)

Shadowlands (1985, UK, Norman Stone, William Nicholson screenplay/stage play)
SHADOWLANDS (1993, UK, Richard Attenborough, William Nicholson screenplay/stage play)

Shane (1953, USA, George Stevens)

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994, USA, Frank Darabont, Stephen King story)

Shotgun Stories (2007, USA, Nichols)

Signs (2002, USA, M. Night Shyamalan)

Silence (1971, Japan, Masahiro Shinoda)
SILENCE (2016, USA/Japan/etc, Martin Scorsese)
Silent Light (2007, Mexico, Reygadas)

THE SON ("Le Fils" 2002, Belgium, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

SON OF MAN (2006, South Africa, Mark Dornford-May)
The Song of Bernadette (1943, USA, King)
Songs From The Second Floor (2000, Sweden, Andersson)
SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS (2005, Germany, Rothemund)

Spartacus (1960, USA, Stanley Kubrick)

The Spitfire Grill (1996, USA, Lee David Zlotoff)

Stalked (1968, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

The Stand (1994, USA, Mick Garris, Stephen King teleplay from his own novel)

There's no writing on here. This ain't no will.
Yes it is. It's the will of God.
Stars in My Crown (1950, USA, Jacques Tourneur)

The Station Agent (2003, USA, Thomas McCarthy)

The Straight Story (1999, USA, David Lynch)

Strange Cargo (1940, Frank Borzage)

Stranger Than Fiction (2006, USA, Marc Forster)

Superman (1978, 1980, 2006)

Take Shelter (2011, USA, Jeff Nichols)

Tears of the Sun (2003, USA, Antoine Fuqua)

Before, praying seemed ridiculous.
I used to say, “You pray to force God to give you things.”
Ten (2002, Iran/France/USA, Abbas Kiarostami)

Ten Commandments (1923, USA, DeMille)
Ten Commandments (1953, USA, DeMille)
TENDER MERCIES (1983, USA, Beresford)
Thérèse (1986, France, Cavalier)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005, USA, Tommy Lee Jones)
The Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red ("Trois Coleurs: Blue, Blanc, Rouge" 1993-1994, Poland/France, Kieslowski)

THE THIRD MIRACLE (1999, USA, Agnieszka Holland, Richard Vetere novel)

Time of the Wolf ("Le Temps du loup" 2003, France/Austria/Germany, Michael Haneke)

To End All Wars (2001, USA, David L. Cunningham, Brian Godawa screenplay)

Tree of Life (2011, USA, Terrence Malick)
The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962, France, Bresson)
The Trip To Bountiful (1985, USA, Masterson)
TRUE GRIT (2010, USA, Joel and Ethan Coen)
The Up Series (1964-present, UK, Michael Apted)

THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998, USA, Peter Weir)

Unforgiven (1992, USA, Eastwood)

USHPIZIN (2004, Israel, Giddi Dar)

Vanilla Sky (2001, USA, Cameron Crowe)

VANYA ON 42ND STREET (1994, USA, Malle/Gregory)
The Verdict (1982, USA, Lumet)
Voyage to Italy ("Viaggio in Italia" 1953, Italy, Rossellini)

WAKING NED DEVINE (1998, Ireland/UK/France/USA, Kirk Jones)

The Way (2010, Spain/USA, Emilio Estevez)

Whistle Down the Wind (1961, UK, Bryan Forbes)

The Wicker Man (1973, UK, Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer screenplay)
The Wicker Man (2006, USA, Neil LaBute)

WILL YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR (2018, USA, Morgan Neville)
WINGS OF DESIRE (1987, Germany, Wenders)

Wise Blood (1979, USA, John Huston, Benedict & Michael Fitzgerald from Flannery O'Connor novel)

Wit (2001, USA, Nichols, Margaret Edson stage play)
Witness (1985, USA, Weir)

THE WRONG MAN (1956, US, Alfred Hitchcock)

What then must we do?

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY (1982, Australia, Peter Weir)

You Can't Take It With You (1938, USA, Frank Capra & 1984, USA, Kirk Browning & Ellis Rabb)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas


John D. MacDonald, The Deep Blue Good-By
Flannery O'Connor, Good Things Out of Nazareth
Matthew Zoller Seitz, The Oliver Stone Experience

Ace Atkins, Someone To Watch Over Me
Bono, Surrender (Allen Desnoyers)
Bob Dylan, the Philosophy of Modern Song
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls 
Margaret Mitchell, The Sleeve Should Be Illegal

Boy A, Jonathan Trigell (Jun 2023)
Sam Wasson, The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood (Jun 2023)
P.D. James, The Children of Men (Mar 2023, reread)
Christopher Dickey, Innocent Blood (Feb 2023)
A.S. Fleischman, Blood Alley (Feb 2023)
Daniel Woodrell, Tomato Red 
Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone
Johann Hari, Stolen Focus (Sep 2022)
Emmanuel Carrére, The Kingdom (Sep 2022)
Stephen King, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (2022)

Roger Bennett, (Re)Born in the USA (2021)
Casey Cep, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee 
Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
Tara Westover, Educated

Orson Scott Card, The Folk of the Fringe (2020)
David Brin, The Postman (2020)
John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids (2020)
John Christopher, The Death of Grass (2020, inc.)
Pat Frank, Alas, Babylon (2020)
Peter Heller, The Dog Stars (2020)
Jim Harrison, Legends of the Fall (2020)
James Shapiro, The Year of Lear (2020)

Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (2018)
Marilyn Robinson, Gilead (Jan 2017)

William Finnegan, Barbarian Days (2016)

Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer 
Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment
Michael Lewis, Moneyball

Bruce Cockburn, Rumours of Glory (2014)
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood (2013, re-read)
Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings (2012)
Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (2012)
C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters, Volume II (2012)

The Hunger Games (Jun 2012)

The Great Movies III (2011)
W.H. Vanstone, The Stature of Waiting
Andrew Vachss, The Getaway Man
Sharp Teeth (May 2008)
The Great Movies II (2006)

John Knowles, A Separate Peace (2005 reread)
J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (2005 partial reread)

Bob Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One (2004)
The Hidden God: Film and Faith (2003/04, MoMA)
Robert Jewett, Saint Paul Returns to the Movies
Roger Ebert, The Great Movies I
Pauline Kael

Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow (2001)
Nick Hornby, How To Be Good (2001)
William Raeper, George MacDonald (2000)
Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)

Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies (1999)
Annie Dillard, For The Time Being (1999)
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief
John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman (1998)
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day 
Richard Carlson, Don't Sweat The Small Stuff (Jan 1997)
Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (1996)
Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life (1996)
Mihaly Csikszentmilahyi, Finding Flow 
Robert Bly, Iron John (1990)

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1993)
Garrison Keillor, The Book of Guys (1993)
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany (1993, Thetis Family Camp)
Douglas Coupland, Life After God (1993)
Norman Maclean, Young Men and Fire (1992)
P.D. James, Children of Men (1992)

Jack Chambers, Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis
Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, Miles: The Autobiography 
Anne Tyler, Saint Maybe

Leonard Maltin's TV Movies and Video Guide, 1989 Edition (1989)
James Dickey, Deliverance
Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs in Heaven
The Floatplane Notebooks (1988)
David Mamet, Writing In Restaurants 
Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions

William Gibson, Count Zero, Neuromancer, Burning Chrome (1988)
Annie Dillard, The Living (1992)
Annie Dillard, An American Childhood (1987)
M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (1987)
Robert B. Parker, the Spenser novels

Roger Angell, The Summer Game
Thomas Boswell, Why Time Begins On Opening Day
Ken Burns, Baseball
David James Duncan, The Brothers K
Charles Einstein, The Baseball Reader
Roger Kahn, Good Enough to Dream
John Thorn, The Armchair Book of Baseball
W.P. Kinsella, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy (1986)
W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe (1986)

William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways
Holy The Firm
Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone To Talk 
Jack Hodgins, The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne
Philip Norman, Shout (1984/85)
Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat
Frederick Buechner, The Book of Bebb (1984)
Frederick Buechner, Telling The Truth (1984)

Stanislaw Lem, The Investigation
Madeleine L'Engle books
Raymond Chandler, The Raymond Chandler Omnibus, etc. (1983)

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Book One (1982)
Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory (1981)
J. Paterson Smyth, A People's Life of Christ
Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy
Charles Williams, Descent Into Hell
Stuart Jackman, The Davidson Affair
G.K. Chesterton, The Innocence of Father Brown (1978)

Richard Adams, Watership Down (1976)
Robert Pirsig, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1976)
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Viktor Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings 
William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist (1973)
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

John Knowles, A Separate Peace
Thomas Tryon, The Other
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes
Alfred Hitchcock, Stories That Scared Even Me
Kenneth Robeson, Doc Savage series

C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
Freddy the Pig
Henry Reed, Inc.
Homer Price
The Thinking Machine
Edgar Allen Poe

Sunday, January 08, 2017

onscreen now | mass is ended, silence, jackie, manchester, l'argent

It's that time of year when there's lots worth seeing in the cinemas. I think of it as the Year End Film Festival - the YEFF.  I keep track of the critics' Top Ten lists - there's a post about that over on my Soul Food Movies blog - and I try to see as many as I can of those top films that catch my interest.

But before we get to some of those that are on Vancouver screens now, let me alert you to an older film with only one screening, this evening at 8:40 at the VIFF/Vancity Theatre. THE MASS IS ENDED is a 1985 film by Italian director Nanni Moretti, whose later film THE SON'S ROOM was a stunner.

"A young priest, Don Giulio, struggles to maintain his faith. Having been a radical college student in the 1960s, Don Giulio has now rejected his long hair and liberal ideals in favor of the church. He has himself transferred to his home parish, only to discover the church empty and the town indifferent. Meanwhile, Don Giulio’s friends from his radical days begin popping up with their lives in serious disarray. Don Giulio seeks solace with his beloved family, but his family too is in chaos." VIFF

Back to the YEFF. The event movie of the year, soul food-wise, is surely SILENCE, which Martin Scorsese has been planning to make and I've been eagerly anticipating for 25 years. In CalArts days or early PT days I read Shusaku Endo's play "The Golden Country," which is something of a prequel to his novel on which the film is based. The play very much affected me, and were the cast size not so large I would have staged it long ago at Pacific Theatre. There was a mutual admiration between Graham Greene and Shusaku Endo, and much in common not only in the priest characters in Greene novels such as The Power and the Glory but also in their view of the Christian faith - which would have much to do with Robert Farrar Capon's insistence that the church consists of the last, the least, the lost, the little and the dead (Parables of the Kingdom). There's a nice summary of the Greene-Endo connection in the essay "Bad Priests and the Valor of Pity" by Christopher A. Link; although that link will only give you the first few paragraphs of his piece unless you've got academic credentials I lack, it's enough to lay out the essentials.

Anyhow, SILENCE opened at the Fifth Avenue Friday at noon, and I was there. It didn't disappoint.

As if that wasn't enough, my buddy and I fulfilled a New Year movie tradition by making it a double feature, returning for the late matinee screening of JACKIE. Which exceeded all expectations. I thought it would be just another of this tiresome procession of mid-century biopics, Hollywood's dreary product-recognition strategy for boomers, the corrollary of superhero retreads for everybody else. But it's something far more aesthetic, rigorous than the run-of-the-mill nostalgia. I should have known; it's #10 on the Metacritic Top Ten Tally for 2017. French director and production crew. And surprising elements of Christian reflection, in the person of a Catholic priest who talks with – and challenges – Jackie. Soul Food in unexpected places.

I'm going to call MANCHESTER BY THE SEA Soul Food, as well, but your mileage may vary. A couple friends found it overwhelmingly sad, or bleak, which surprised me - yes, these are broken lives, but I found great hope in it all. The two obvious Christians are the film's only flat characters, skewered for comic effect - yet even that flatness deepens by the end of their scene as some of our judgment and expectations are reversed, and the conversation that follows it broadens the idea of who and what may be "Christian." Religious faith is a thread that runs through Kenneth Lonergan's work, from the remarkable, unremarked presence of a Lutheran pastor in YOU CAN COUNT ON ME - remarkable because church life is so much a part of the lives of so many of us, and so rarely a part of the lives of movie characters - to the Jewish character in MARGARET.  Lonergan has remarked that he is not a believer, but that he almost wishes he was - that there's something good about having that kind of hope and reassurance.

I think MANCHESTER is his most fully realized film. MARGARET was his most ambitious, and with that reach came flaws I'm more than happy to overlook, but which tripped up most critics and many viewers. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME has the scope and feel of a play - Lonergan has written many - and he nails it. But MANCHESTER reaches farther, I think, and to my sensibility, pretty much perfect.

And coming up soon, another older film, by Soul Food auteur Robert Bresson.  Two screenings only, this Monday and Thursday evening. I'll let the good people at Pacific Cinematheque tell you all about it...

L’Argent (1983, France, Robert Bresson)
Pacific Cinematheque
Mon Jan 9 @ 8:15
Thu Jan 12 @ 6:30

NEW RESTORATION | The awe-inspiring farewell film of Robert Bresson, one of cinema’s immortals, freely adopts a Tolstoy novella (“The Forged Coupon”) and transposes it to contemporary France. L’Argent (“Money”) charts the circulation of a counterfeit 500-franc bill and the contagion of evil it spreads as it passes from hand to hand. When an innocent man unwittingly uses it to pay for a meal, the consequences prove disastrous. As in all Bresson’s major works, the real drama here is internal, spiritual, metaphysical; it derives not from plot or character but emanates from a rigorous austerity and intensity, from a meticulous accumulation of detail. In Bresson, objects and gestures miraculously transform into manifestations of the transcendent! L’Argent is one of Bresson’s best and most beautiful films — and one of his most harrowing indictments of modernity’s spiritual bankruptcy. It shared the Best Director prize at Cannes in 1983 with Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year End Film Festival 2016

Manchester by the Sea

The YEFF has begun! The outbreak of watchable movies that heralds the coming of the new year. Since 1995, somebody or other has compiled a tally of critic Top Ten lists for the preceding year. From 1995-2000, the DIY era of the internet, a guy named Alex Fung did it (all praise and honour to you, Alex, whoever and wherever you are); in 2001 and 2002, I did it on a very limited basis; then Movie City News started in 2003, and as they trailed off the past few years Metacritic took up the torch. The following list comes from them, though I recalculated it to align their scoring system with previous years and so more films would be included. In brackets, the film's score according to the revised point system, followed by the position on the actual Metacritic chart. After the brackets, a place where the film can be viewed by Vancouverites: IV = International Village, 5Ave = Fifth Avenue, SC = SilverCity, VC = VanCity (often one screening only). You could sure make a couple days of it at the VanCity, Dec 29 and Dec 31!

I've boldfaced films that show up on my own 2016 Faves list, which I'll include at the bottom of the post. Silence is highlighted in red, a film I've been looking forward to for literally decades - Martin Scorsese's film treatment of Shusaku Endo's classic novel about Jesuits in 17th century Japan.

Hell or High Water

Metacritic Best of 2016: Film Critic Top Ten Lists
(recalculated Dec 27))

1. Moonlight (1638.5, 1) IV
2. Manchester by the Sea (1146, 3) 5Ave, IV
3. La La Land (1130, 2) Park, SC, Scotiabank
4. Hell or High Water (660, 5) VC Dec 29 8:00, iTunes 5.99
5. Arrival (635.5, 6) Scotiabank
6. Toni Erdmann (594.5, 4) opens Jan 27, no iTunes/Netflix
7. O.J.: Made in America (532, 7) Black Dog? no iTunes/Netflix
8. The Handmaiden (508.5, 8)
9. Paterson (466, 11) opens Feb 3, no iTunes/Netflix
10. Jackie (447.5, 10) 5Ave, Rialto

11. Elle (439.5, 9) gone, no iTunes/Netflix
12. American Honey (280.5, 13) iTunes 5.99
13. The Lobster (274, 12) iTunes 5.99
14. Silence (270, 13) opens Jan 6
15. Cameraperson (241, 15) VC Jan 1 8:20, iTunes pre-order
16. Everyboday Wants Some!! (238.5, 16) VC Dec 29 1:45, iTunes 6.99
17. Love & Friendship (237.5, 21) iTunes 5.99
18. The Witch (235.5, 17) iTunes 5.99
19. I Am Not Your Negro (229.5, 17) no iTunes/Netflix
20. Loving (211.5, 21) opens Dec 30 at Rialto

21. Green Room (208.5) iTunes 0.99
21. Sing Street (209, 20) iTunes 5.99
23. Certain Women (185.5, 21) no iTunes
24. 13th (171.5) no iTunes
25. Fences (171) IV
26. The Fits (168.5, 21) VC Dec 29 4:00, iTunes 5.99
27. Krisha (167) iTunes 5.99
28. Zootopia (157) iTunes 4.99
29. Weiner (149) no iTunes
30. Nocturnal Animals (147.5) 5Ave

31. 20th Century Women (146.5, 17) opens Jan 6, iTunes pre-order
32. Things to Come (145) VC Dec 31 5:00, no iTunes
33. Sully (143.5) iTunes 5.99
34. The Edge of Seventeen (137.5)
35. I, Daniel Blake (127) no iTunes
35. Kubo and the Two Strings (120.5)
37. A Bigger Splash (109.5) iTunes.99
38. Embrace of the Serpent (109) iTunes 5.99
39. Hail, Caesar! (107) iTunes 9.99 buy
40. Aquarius (104.5) VC Dec 30 7:00

41. Midnight Special (103)
42. The Nice Guys (102)
43. Knight of Cups (96)
44. Deadpool (94)
45. Fire at Sea (93.5)
46. Hacksaw Ridge (90) Hollywood 3 Pitt Meadows
47. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (86) VC Dec31 1:00, iTunes 5.99
48. Son of Saul (85.5)
49. Tower (85)
50. Julieta (84)

Neither Heaven Nor Earth

Ron's Favourites (So Far)

1. Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan. His first film, You Can Count On Me, was superb: human scaled, true, and featuring the first performances I'd seen by either Laura Linney or Mark Ruffalo - wow. I also liked the fact that, while it wasn't a film about Christian faith, the church was matter-of-factly just a part of the characters' lives. Kind of like the real world. His troubled second film, Margaret, (Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon) reached further and fell shorter: on my first viewing I considered it a masterpiece, on second viewing I saw why many critics thought it a failure. It's probably neither, but when it's working, it is phenomenal. Manchester by the Sea (Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams) is perfect. A friend called it "a Pacific Theatre movie," which I take to be a) high praise indeed for Pacific Theatre, and b) perfectly accurate.

2. Neither Heaven Nor Earth
Earlier in the fall, the VanCity/VIFF screened this French film about the Afghan war and I was mesmerized, stirred. It evoked in me the fear of God - not a common emotion in our safe North American Christianity, not something we're comfortable considering. God is all grace and reassurance, right? I wonder. Worth noting that a friend despised it, finding it pretentious and nonsensical. Consider yourselves warned.

3. Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater drops us in the middle of another world: college baseball, frosh weekend, 1980. Glorious fun, terrific ensemble acting, sharp portrayals of so many fascinating characters. Somehow I found the end-of-high-school hijinks depressing in Dazed and Confused; why I bought in to the start-of-college shenanigans and had a blast in this film, I couldn't say.

4. Hell or High Water
I love genre pictures where the characters stay human. Here, a bank robbing crime spree pic is also a convincing film about two brothers whose lives have gone different directions - as well as an indictment of a financial system where banks are the ones robbing ordinary citizens. Suggest why gangsters were Depression-era heroes.

5. Hail, Caesar!
Probably a minor entry in the Coen Brothers oeuvre, but I got a huge kick out of it - and saw, beneath the shaggy-dog tale of a mid-century studio producer, something about vocation and calling. Like O Brother Where Art Thou!, this Coen film has Sullivan's Travels as its touchstone.

6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Such imagination, and so much fun!

7. The Confessions
Outstanding Italy/France VIFF entry about a modern Father Brown in the midst of the world's financial and political elite.

The Lobster