Log in
    
Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Movie review: 'Darkest Hour'

The spotlight shines brightly on British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour" (Focus), a historical drama about political leadership and backroom intrigue during a pivotal moment of World War II.
 
Churchill (1874-1965) was 65 years old and, it was thought, in the twilight of his political career when he was tapped to lead a wartime coalition government in May 1940. The war was going badly for the Allies, and Nazi Germany was marching into Belgium and France, threatening an invasion of Britain.
 
It was truly the country's darkest hour, and director Joe Wright ("Atonement"), working from a screenplay by Anthony McCarten, offers a thrilling take on Churchill's first three weeks in power.
 
The film is in some respects a companion piece to the 2017 film "Dunkirk," taking place at the same time. While "Dunkirk" neglected politics in favor of personal stories, "Darkest Hour" goes behind the scenes, revealing how Churchill rallied a skeptical cabinet to fight the enemy rather than sue for peace and arranged the miraculous evacuation of nearly 350,000 soldiers stranded on the French beach.
 
Beneath some remarkable facial prosthetics and layers of padding, Gary Oldman disappears into the role of Churchill, capturing the gait, cadence and charisma of the man. This is a warts-and-all portrayal of a decidedly quirky individual who loved his cigars and booze, was often rude and sarcastic but who in private had moments of self-doubt.
 
At his side was his stalwart wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), proud that her husband was finally getting his chance to lead, however late in life.
 
"When youth departs, may wisdom prove enough," Churchill says, as he accepts the offer of King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) to form a government. "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
 
Churchill succeeds the feckless Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), whose policy of appeasement with Nazi Germany has left Britain woefully unprepared for war. But Chamberlain enjoys the king's favor as does the politically ambitious Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane). The trio schemes to disgrace Churchill and put Halifax in power.
 
As Europe is overrun, Churchill is pressured to sue for peace. The idea of bowing to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis is anathema to his lifelong belief in justice and liberty.
 
"You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!" he roars at Halifax.
 
"Darkest Hour" proceeds at a breakneck pace as Churchill gradually convinces his colleagues to fight and rallies the nation. Although some liberties are taken with the facts (including a marvelous moment when Churchill interacts with ordinary people on the subway, which never happened), the film offers an important history lesson for young and old about a time when statesmanship mattered most.
 
Churchill's greatest asset was his voice, which he used to great effect on the radio and in Parliament to inspire the nation. As he composed his stirring speeches, Churchill was aided by his secretary, Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), and his most faithful ally, the secretary of state for war — and future prime minister — Anthony Eden (Samuel West).
 
"We shall never surrender!" Churchill tells his parliamentary colleagues, forcing Halifax to admit, "He just mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
 
And the rest, as they say, is history.
 
The film contains brief scenes of wartime violence and some mature themes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
 
  • Published in Reviews

A friendly Super Bowl wager

A friendly wager between the archbishops of Philadelphia and Boston for Super Bowl LII Feb. 4 in Minneapolis between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots will benefit needy people in both cities.
 
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, both longtime friends and classmates from their seminary days as young Capuchin Franciscans, are wagering $100 donations to aid the poor in their archdioceses.
 
If the Eagles win, Cardinal O'Malley will make the donation to St. John's Hospice, which provides emergency services to homeless men in Philadelphia as well as helping them to achieve a stable residence.
 
If the Patriots win, Archbishop Chaput will donate to Catholic Charities Boston, which provides a broad spectrum of social service care to thousands of needy individuals and families in Massachusetts. For example, $100 would help a family of four to pay their heating bill following the extreme cold snap of last December.
 
The bishops also added local flavor to their friendly bet: Philadelphia cheesesteaks and Boston lobsters.
 
"In the spirit of friendly competition," the cardinal and the archbishop said in a joint statement Jan. 31, "we have issued our wager because we have confidence in our teams and, more importantly, based on our admiration for the commitment of the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots to assist their local communities and respond to the needs of the less fortunate.”
 
"It is a blessing for the people of Philadelphia and Boston," the prelates said, that Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie and Patriots' owner Robert Kraft "have always held service to others as a foundational principle of their personal and professional lives. We pray for a safe and enjoyable Super Bowl for both teams and all spectators and that the gifts of God's love and peace may bring us closer together as a society."
 
The bishops also fearlessly predicted the game's outcome. Archbishop Chaput had the final score as Eagles 24, Patriots 20. Cardinal O'Malley predicted Patriots 34, Eagles 21.
 
  • Published in Nation

'Love your Neighbor' on Valentine's Day

A coalition of Jesuit schools and universities is encouraging those in their network and beyond to celebrate Valentine's Day this year by sending cards to lawmakers, asking them and others to "love your neighbor" and send "migrants welcome" Valentine's Day messages from Feb. 11-18.
 
"On Valentine's Day, show your love to your neighbor. Every neighbor. Including your immigrant, refugee, undocumented, DACAmented neighbor," says the Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network on its website. It provides a template for Valentine's Day cards whose message inside says: "Roses are red, violets are blue. My faith teaches me to love my neighbor, and so should you."
 
The cover features a red heart with the words "Love Your Neighbor" and "Migrants Welcome." They are meant to be sent to members of Congress and it is part of a larger, two-year "campaign for hospitality." The network also is offering stickers with the same message. All materials are free and available at www.ignatiansolidarity.net/campaignforhospitality.
 
The campaign is an effort to promote a "culture of hospitality" toward those who migrate, said the network's executive director, Christopher Kerr.
 
"Our Jesuit/Ignatian partners in Latin America actually coined the idea and then encouraged us to put it into action here in the U.S. (and a little bit in Canada)," Kerr said to Catholic News Service. "This specific mini-campaign is to build off of the popularity of Valentine's Day in the context of Mark's Gospel -- encouraging people promote a culture of care, concern, compassion and welcome toward immigrants and refugees."
 
The campaign also encourages those who want to participate to buy Valentine's Day treats from a fair-trade chocolate company; to send "Love Your Neighbor-Grams" on Valentine's Day; and to encourage those in the Ignatian network to find ways to "share the stories of immigrant and refugee members of their communities in ways that promote a culture of hospitality."
 
  • Published in Nation

Movie review: 'Phantom Thread'

All rustling silk, organza, lace and tulle in the first half and a bizarre portrayal of marriage in the second half, "Phantom Thread" (Focus) is a bumpy trip through high fashion and passive-aggressive sniping in 1950s London.
 
Director-writer Paul Thomas Anderson may be trying to make a statement about necessary sacrifices to make the man-woman dynamic function property, but despite the lush, appealing visuals, he's come up with an ugly denouement straight out of a cheap horror film.
 
Daniel Day-Lewis is Reynolds Woodcock, sort of a Yves St. Laurent-type dressmaker in a five-story townhouse, making gowns -- elegant, structured creations of the Grace Kelly era -- for pampered wealthy ladies and the occasional European royal.
 
His sister, Cyril (Leslie Manville), runs the business, leaving the temperamental Woodcock free to sketch designs and pursue romances -- at least that's what obliquely implied -- with a string of live-in women. He uses the devoted, priggish Cyril to cast them aside when he grows tired of their emotional neediness.
 
One day on a country drive and a stop at a hotel restaurant, Woodcock encounters waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps), a slim young expatriate with a nonspecific European accent. After a bit of flirting, he knows he's found himself his next muse and model.
 
Woodcock is immensely selfish and considers his doting late mother as the lone perfect woman he'd known.
 
He accepts affection, but only on his own terms. His way of showing it, such as he's capable, consists of doing fittings so his designs will be realized. It's not a balanced partnership by any means.
 
Woodcock has a devoted staff of seamstresses and no shortage of clients attending his fashion shows, but muses are difficult to fit into his existence. Affection and sex don't mean as much to him as the power he exerts on others.
 
He shortly finds Alma annoying, particularly for her habit of making too much noise at breakfast and is perpetually on some sort of slow burn over slights real and imagined. Alma, who accepts this soul-deadening arrangement and eventually marries Woodcock, nonetheless develops a long-term plan to keep him for herself in spite of all the snippy abuse.
 
This is where the story takes a disturbing turn. Alma, who likes to cook and prepare drinks, figures out a way to add poisonous mushrooms to her cuisine. Not enough to kill, but enough to inflict severe illness, which creates Woodcock's instant dependency.
 
Does anyone get suspicious in the least? Nope. There's an ineffectual doctor, but anyone waiting for a police inspector to turn up is waiting in vain.
 
Anderson suggests that the solution to a toxic relationship is real toxins. It's a problematic, immoral turn without any indication of justice, restricting the film's audience to adults capable of mature discernment. There are no stitches in time here.
 
The film contains an aberrant view of marriage and frequent rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
 
  • Published in Reviews
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal