Tag Archives: movies

Should You See “For Greater Glory”?

If you haven’t heard of the film, For Greater Glory, it depicts the true story of the Mexican “Cristero War” in the 1920s:

“It’s history that is not even that well known to many Mexicans…The Mexican government set up its own church, deported all foreign priests, and made the sacraments unavailable. Even after the war ended in 1929, each local governor continued to enforce the constitutional anti-clerical laws in different ways. It took a long time for this to change. Officially, priests couldn’t wear religious vestments in public until 1998.”

Producer Pablo Jose Barroso from an interview with the National Catholic Register

Before I get into my review of For Greater Glory, you need to understand something about me.  I went to a Catholic university that focuses on bringing Christ to the culture through business and media.  As a result, many of my close friends are incredibly passionate filmmakers who also happen to be faithful Catholics.  (Me?  I started out on the film track and moved into the Theology-meets-media side of things.  Hence the blog).

I tell you this because after three years of sitting in classes with these people, having many conversations with them both in and out of the classroom about what good art is (and what it is not), I must admit that they have rubbed off on me.  These are both truly devout Catholics and dedicated filmmakers.  When a movie or television show combines these peoples’ two greatest loves—their Christian faith and film, as the film For Greater Glory does—you have what we call a sensitive area.

In discussions about good art, my friends often come back to the theme of what Blessed John Paul II says in his Letter to Artists: “beauty will save the world.”  If it’s not beautiful, then it’s not the Gospel, no matter what the subject matter of the art claims to be.  Their point: A bad film does not glorify God just because its subject matter happens to be faith-based.

So when I see a movie that attempts the audacious (yet so very needed) task of portraying the glory, truth, splendor, and/or truth of the Christian faith on the screen— even though I don’t consider myself to be anything of a filmmaker— I still tend to hear my friends’ voices in my head.

Now that you know all of this: What did I think of the film, For Greater Glory?

As a moviegoer, I was entertained.  As a Catholic, I was moved.  As an American living in 2012, with the HHS mandate threatening our basic right to religious liberty, I was sobered.

I truly do believe that we need more films that tell the great stories of our faith as For Greater Glory does.  We have so many of these stories, ranging from stories in Scripture that have stood the test of time to the incredible stories of the lives of the Saints and martyrs.  These stories need to be told, and they need to be told well.

It’s easy for me to say that as someone who is not a filmmaker, and I can understand that for a Christian person in the film industry, this is a scary task.  Knowing that these stories deserve nothing less than excellence means that if the film is not received well by an audience, it’s not the fault of the story itself but of the people who made it.  That’s a heavy burden.

So praise God for the people that realize the importance of telling these stories, and who believe in the power of them, as the makers of For Greater Glory do.  I sincerely recommend that all young Catholics go see this movie (not too young, though.  It is rated R for its depictions of violence).

And please pray for Christians in the film industry.  They’re hard at work for the Church; I promise you 🙂

Mature Eyes Only

I have a confession to make.

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law and I rented the movie Bridesmaids.

I know, I know.  What kind of role model am I for the young Catholics of the world if I can willingly subject myself to such a film?  And why even tell you this at all?

Well, besides the fact that I want to be straightforward with my readers about where and who I actually am, I tell you this because I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you have seen, or will at some point in the future see, a film on par with Bridesmaids.  And I’d like to share a little secret with you.

Actual running time of Bridesmaids: 125 minutes. 

Time my sister-in-law and I spent watching Bridesmaids: about 100 minutes (and no, we didn’t press the Stop button before the final credits rolled).

Friends, allow me to re-acquaint you with the beauty of the fast-forward button (yes, it’s for more than just skipping over commercials during your pre-recorded TV shows).

Remember when you were younger, and you happened to be in the room with your parents when an inappropriate part of a TV show or movie came on?  If your family was anything like mine, one of three things happened:

  1. Your parents told you to cover your eyes (or did it for you)
  2. Your parents fast-forwarded until the part was over
  3. Your parents changed the channel or turned off the TV altogether

They did this for the same reason they did most things: to protect us.  They loved us and wanted to safeguard the innocence of our minds and hearts.

And then we grew up.

Our parents may have loosened up the leash a little bit, not because they no longer cared, but because we were now old enough to know right from wrong, and they couldn’t oversee every decision we made throughout the day.  It became our own responsibility to protect our own innocence.

Unfortunately, a lot of us misunderstood this.  We noticed that the world often frames inappropriate content as being for “mature” eyes only.  Subtext being: If you can’t subject yourself to watch what can hardly be labeled as anything other than soft porn (or worse), then you’re an immature little kid who still needs to grow up.

Well, I’m 21.  When I’m in a movie theater and stuff starts happening on the screen that, frankly, should not be happening on a movie screen, my eyes shift sharply downward (and I’m also not above covering the eyes of those around me—just ask any of my guy friends who have ever seen a movie with me 😛 ). If it gets really terrible, I walk out of the theater and ask for my money back (which, for the record, I’m certain I would have done if I saw Bridesmaids in theaters).  If I’m at home watching a movie, those parts get fast-forwarded over.

To a lot of the world, this may mean that I’m immature, awkward, or worse.  But I know myself.  I’m human.  And yes, I’m weak.  The things I allow myself to see, hear, or do have an impact on me whether I want them to or not.  And as far as I know, there’s no magical age that humans outgrow that completely.

I’m not saying that you should all go out and rent the worst movies you can find just as long as you fast-forward through the bad parts.  Just remember that if you ever find yourself in a situation where any kind of evil is placed in front of you, you always have the option to turn away from it.  I think that recognizing your weaknesses and guarding against them takes a lot more maturity than staring helplessly at whatever is put on the screen in front of you.


More Than Cheesy

Since the dawn of time (or at least for the past several years), women everywhere have been dragging their dutiful boyfriends and husbands to their fair (or perhaps unfair) share of romantic comedies.  And as long as this has been going on, there have always been men who, 2 ½ minutes into the film, proudly proclaim that they have figured out the ending to the film: the guy and girl who, at present, hate each other will end up falling madly in love and will go onto live happily ever after.

Case closed.  Can we go see Captain America now?

Seasoned boyfriends and husbands eventually figure out that women typically do not go to the movies to figure out the ending of a story.  Of course the guy gets the girl in the end.  Frankly, we wouldn’t be watching the movie if we expected it to end in any other way.  We want Happily-Ever-Afters.  More importantly, though, we want to see just how the story plays out.  How will the characters find their Happily-Ever-After?  This is what keeps us coming back (and bringing you) to the same kinds of movies over and over again.

You may laugh at this, but I’d like to propose that this is not all that different from how a Catholic ought to view life and the world around him or her.

If you think about it, we know the ending to this story.  Good wins out; evil loses.  The problem is that, in life, things rarely happen according to when and how we think they ought to, and unlike a movie, we don’t have the luxury of assuming this drama will tie up neatly at the end of two hours.   So we end up getting so caught up in the story that we forget we already know the end.  And when we have forgotten this, we have forgotten God.

Of course this is not to say that we are to abandon all responsibilities and just say, “God is taking care of it”.  No, we are still characters in this story and we have important roles to play.  And unlike the cheesy and predictable romantic comedy, our story is meant to be a great one (God doesn’t do mediocre).  We just have to trust that the writer knows what He is doing.