Friday, December 01, 2006

Spiritual movies

From all I've read about Catherine Hardwicke's "The Nativity Story," it seems she's crafted an earnest, respectful movie that verges on being - gasp! - boring. I'm hoping not, but we'll be finding out Sunday (Saturday has been reserved for Dame Helen Mirren's "The Queen." Huzzah!)

In its honor, here's a list of the "spiritual" (read into that whatever you want to) movies that still move me. Though some of these aren't overtly religious movies, they're all movies that taught me something, and which I return to when I need a lift.

Jesus' Son
The title actually refers to a wayward traveler in modern times, Billy Crudup as a drug addict who manages to find a small measure of redemption in the form of Holly Hunter and an old folks home. Based on the great book by Denis Johnson, it also features a strong performance from Samantha Morton.

The Apostle
This features, in my opinion, Robert Duvall's best performance among many great ones, and makes for a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of evangelicism. Watch for Billy Bob Thornton in a supporting role.

Song of Bernadette
Jennifer Jones plays the young peasant girl who saw the vision of a "beautiful lady" in the city dump in Lourdes. The townspeople, of course, insist it is the virgin Mary, and well, you know the rest. Vincent Price and Lee J. Cobb also star in this 1943 movie you can still find on VHS.

Crimes and Misdemeanors
Easily one of my favorite Woody Allen movies, it's both one of his most religious and funniest flicks. Martin Landau is just a joy to watch as he wrestles with his rather heinous actions.

To Kill a Mockingbird
You can call it hokey, and I'd be hard-pressed to dispute that, but kids can learn most of what they need to know about starting out in life from this Harper Lee classic. I was stunned and happy to find out recently that Ms. Lee is indeed still alive and making occasional public appearances in Alabama.

Bells of St. Mary's
Sure, this one is basically a recruitment film for Catholic priests and nuns, but when you get Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman crossing wits to save a parish school, what's not to like?

The Straight Story
I put off watching this one for a long time because it just looked so boring, but man was I wrong. The late Richard Farnsworth shines in David Lynch's most accessible movie as a man who travels cross country on a lawnmower in search of forgiveness.

Mississippi Masala
With Sarita Choudhury and Denzel Washington, this charmer from Mira Nair is as heavy on eye candy as it is spirituality, but it's still one that leaves you thinking. The great Roshan Seth stands out as an Indian immigrant to the American South, exiled from Idi Amin's Uganda and now struggling with his daughter's desire to live and love American style.

You Can Count on Me
This one turns up on almost any list I make, so I guess you'd just have to call it one of my favorite movies in any category. Kenneth Lonergan gets first-rate performances from Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo as he explores what it means to be "good" and the bonds of family.

Life of Brian
I first saw this movie at an Episcopalian youth group gathering, which at the time struck me as odd. Watching it later, however, I realized that, while it is extremely funny, it's also very insightful in its irreverant take on Jesus.

Well, there you have it. Please feel free to add any that you like, and to check back for looks at "The Queen" and "The Nativity Story" this weekend. Peace out.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

The two movies that are the most spiritual for me certainly wouldn't be counted as religious by most people, but they both never fail to move me even though I've seen them many, many times--that's The Seven Samurai and It's a Wonderful Life.

carrie_lofty said...

Babette's Feast.

Reel Fanatic said...

Those three are all worthy choices ... I deliberately chose the headline spiritual rather than religious because all kinds of movies can be moving to different people in different ways

Lori said...

I'm definitely with you on 'Life of Brian.' That flick is hilarious.

Divinity said...

The Seventh Sign It inspired the 12-year-old me to read the entire Book of Revelations end to end. Where else can you see Demi Moore stab Jesus?

Divinity said...

Oh, and the bf recommends Jesus of Montreal and I just remembered that I loved Dogma
:)

Reel Fanatic said...

Haven't seen The Seventh Sign, Divinity, but I'm definitely with you on Jesus of Montreal ... it's a true oddity, but mostly dead on ... With Dogma, I love it sometimes and get picky with it at others .. however, it always makes me think as I laugh, and that can't be a bad thing!

Divinity said...

Alanis Morisette was the most irreverent "God". Skee-ball and headstands! Of all the Smith movies, I found it the most accessible but, like all the films that I've seen by him, there are always scenes that could have been tightened up just a notch more to match the moments of real genius... Real Genius...nah, that was more a movie of morality rather than spirituality. End babbling.

Anonymous said...

I was going to add Jesus of Montreal, too. Also, I would consider films such as Hotel Rwanda, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, The Pianist, Schindler's List and Touching The Void, not necessarily religious films, to touch upon that nebulous idea - the human spirit. Just a thought.

Reel Fanatic said...

Those are all welcome additions, Vinny .. particularly Hotel Rwanda and The Pianist are two movies that lingered with me long after I saw them

geoffrobinson said...

"Signs" by M. Knight Shamalan.

He made a movie about divine providence and wove it around a story about aliens invading Earth. People I've talked to about the movie didn't get past the sci-fi element and didn't recognize it was story about divine providence.

Reel Fanatic said...

You'll have to count me with the masses on Signs, I'm afraid .... I can see what he was going for, but I don't think he ever got there, and for me, M. Night has only been going downhill since ... Lady in the Water was simply unwatchable for me

Kiyotoe said...

Mississippi Masala has a special place in my heart because when it came out I was in the very same situation as Denzel. In love with a young beautiful indian girl whose family despised me.

Sentimental value.

james higham said...

I've been looking for a good movie review source for a long time and suddenly one appears in my lap, as it were. Thanks - I now have a regular source to visit. Do you look at old movies too? E.g. Manchurian Candidate?

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks James .. I do, from time to time, but usually only in a list of my favorite movies on a certain subject, like this one ... It all depends on what kind of mood I'm in when i wake up though, so you never know

Cecilia said...

Good blog to check movie reviews really..have been on the lookout for one, plus the movies that moved you sound nice tho unfortunately i havent watched any..might pick a couple of cd's on the same! thks:)

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm... A few recent ones that stick in my mind as having moved me to tears (which is nearly impossible!): Finding Neverland, Big Fish, Cinema Paradiso, and from the early '90s, Antonia and Jane, which I admit is getting sort of obscure...

Reel Fanatic said...

Big Fish is definitely a solid choice, Jay ... I've probably seen it 10 times, and it still hits me every time hard

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"Wings of Desire"....."The Seventh Seal"......"Andrei Rublev"...

Anonymous said...

May I recommend a documentary: Soul Masters? It is about two modern day spiritual masters and healers from China who have been recognized by the UN and the government of China for their role in stopping the SARS epidemic. I found it deeply inspiring, spiritual and heartfelt. www.spiritualmastersmovie.com

Ray Aruk said...

Dear anonymous,

you are right...this is a great movie. It is heart touching and healing. Just by watching you can benefit from the divine frequency that is radiating through the hole film. Master Sha and Master Guo are in dead very great masters.
In one point I would like to correct your previous comment; the domain of the movie is:

www.soulmastersmovie.com

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Gerd said...

Hallo Ray,
I appreciate your words.And I only can too recommend the Soul Master Movie.It is the best Documantary i ever have seen.
Gerd

christa said...

Healing Power by Dr. Sha

The soul, mind, body medicine is one of the best healing I ever heard. You learn enormous wisdom. The mission is to transform the consciousness of humanity. And also enlighten them in order to create love, peace and harmony for Mother Earth and all universes. The first step is to heal your soul, than the mind and body will follow. www.drsha.com

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