Catholic-friendly films on Netflix: September

Therese Bussen

Much of the time spent on Netflix is in the search for something to watch, and the inventory is updated so frequently that it’s hard to keep track of recently added (or have been there for a while!) films worth watching.

Look no further. In no particular order, and by no means comprehensive, are the synopses of some amazing films and a few shows worth mention that you can queue up for your next movie night. Films appropriate for the whole family are marked as such.

For details on the content of each movie, visit IMBD’s website and click the “Parents Guide” section for that movie.

Movies:

Rogue One, PG-13 – A spinoff story of Star Wars, set immediately before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, following a group of rebels on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star.

The Prestige, PG-13 – Rival stage magicians engage in a competitive one-upmanship show with unfortunate results.

Lion, PG-13 – Based on the non-fiction book, A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierly, about a man who finds his way back to India to find his birth family.

Memento, R – A man who suffers from anterograde amnesia pieces together his trauma to find the persons who attacked him and his wife, using a system of polaroid photographs and tattoos to track information he can’t remember.

Schindler’s List, R – An ethnic German businessman saves the lives of more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II.

The Little Prince, PG (Family-friendly) – Based on the novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery about a young girl who befriends and elderly man, who tells her the story of his meeting with the Little Prince in the Saharan desert.

The Sixth Sense, PG-13 – A psychologist helps a young boy who is able to see and talk to dead people.

The Boy in Striped Pajamas, PG-13 – World War II as experienced and told through the eyes of two young boys who befriend each other: A son of a Nazi commandant and a Jewish inmate in a concentration camp.

The Prince of Egypt, PG (Family-friendly) – An animated, musical retelling story of the life of Moses and the events of Exodus that lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

The Giver, PG-13 – A dystopian story following a boy living in a seemingly utopian society where emotion has been eradicated and lacks color, memory, climate or terrain in order to preserve order and equality rather than individuality.

Midnight in Paris, PG-13 – A frustrated writer travels back in time every night at midnight to visit famous artists and writers of earlier decades, exploring themes of nostalgia and modernism.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, PG-13 – A French film based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir of his life after suffering a stroke that left him with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. |

The BFG, PG (Family-friendly) – An orphan girl befriends a friendly giant (“Big Friendly Giant”) who takes her to giant country where they help save man-eating giants from taking over the human world.

How to Steal a Million (Family-friendly) – Starring Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn, about a daughter of a wealthy Frenchman who creates counterfeit art and decides to steal back his forged sculpture in a heist to protect him from exposure.

Hugo, PG (Family-friendly) – A lonely orphaned boy who lives inside a railway station attempts to fix a broken automaton left to him by his late father with the help of a friend and find a place he can call home.

Begin Again, R – A singer-songwriter is discovered by a struggling record label executive, who collaborate together to produce an album recorded all over public places in New York City.

Little Boy, PG-13 (Family-friendly) – A little boy befriends a priest, a Japanese immigrant and a magician who help him bring his father back home from World War II.

Odd Thomas, PG-13 – Based on the novel by Catholic author Dean Koontz, a young man who sees the dead saves his hometown from tragedy.

I Am Sam, PG-13 – The story of a mentally-challenged man raising a young daughter with the help of his friends, until the unconventional family setting comes to the attention of a social worker who wants the girl placed in foster care.

Mary and Martha, PG – Two women who lose their sons to malaria come together to thwart the disease in Africa.

 

TV shows worth a mention:
Daredevil – Although very violent, Netflix’s Marvel superhero series explores many Catholic and moral themes throughout its current two seasons.

Father Brown – A light-hearted mystery series produced by BBC and based on G.K. Chesterton’s “Father Brown” short stories.

Person of Interest – Crime drama starring Jim Caviezel about a man who tracks down would-be terrorists with the help of a computer programmer who developed an artificial intelligence “machine” for the government.

COMING UP: A caveat on the great Tom Wolfe

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When the great Tom Wolfe died on May 14 — he of the white suits, the spats, and the prose style as exuberant as his wardrobe — I, like millions of others, remembered the many moments of pleasure I had gotten from his work.

My Wolfe-addiction began on a cross-country flight in 1979, shortly after The Right Stuff was published. Always an airplane and space nut, I was fascinated by Wolfe’s re-creation of the culture of America’s test pilots and astronauts at the height of the Cold War. And there was that extraordinarily vivid writing. At one point I burst out laughing, scaring the daylights of the elderly lady sitting next to me but not daring to show her the passage — it must have involved Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club, a saloon outside Edwards Air Force Base — that set me off.

After The Right Stuff got me going on Tom Wolfe, it was impossible to stop. The first half of Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers — Wolfe’s scathing account of a reception thrown for the Black Panthers by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein — remains the quintessential smack-down of political correctness among the 1% cultural elites. From Bauhaus to Our House explains why anyone with an aesthetic sense thinks something is seriously wrong with modernist architecture, and does so in a way that makes you laugh rather than cry.

Then there was Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. One of its chapters, “The Masque of the Red Death,” takes its title from Edgar Allan Poe and with mordant humor dissects the vacuity of Manhattanites consumed (and in some cases destroyed) by their grotesque, over-the-top consumerism. I recently re-read that stunning set-piece and the thought occurred, as it had before, that it was a far more effective polemic against materialism than anything ever issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Bonfire was also brilliant in skewering the destructiveness of New York’s race hustlers, the obtuseness of a values-free media, and the fecklessness of too many politicians.

Asked once by monks who run a prestigious prep school what they might do to disabuse parents of the notion that their sons were doomed if they didn’t get into Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and the like, I suggested giving a copy of I Am Charlotte Simmons to the parents of every incoming senior. Wolfe’s fictional tale of life on elite American university campuses in the 21st century is a sometimes-jarring exercise in the social realism practiced (a bit less brutally) by Dickens and Balzac. But Charlotte Simmons, like Wolfe’s other fiction, has a serious moral core and an important cultural message. The young innocent, the brightest girl in town who makes it to an elite university, gets corrupted by stages: and her moral corruption is preceded by intellectual corruption — the class in which she’s taught that there’s really nothing properly called “the truth.”

I do have one post-mortem caveat to register about Tom Wolfe’s oeuvre, which takes me back to The Right Stuff (and while we’re on that subject again, forget the inane movie). The central figure in Wolfe’s tale of aeronautical daring-do is Chuck Yeager, the man who first broke the “sound barrier” in the Bell X-1, and did so with a couple of broken ribs, which he managed in flight with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle. Yeager was an extraordinary figure who never became a national celebrity because of the (absurd) news blackout surrounding the X-1 project, and Wolfe clearly wanted to pay tribute to him as an unsung American hero.

To do so, however, Tom Wolfe seemed to think he needed a foil, and he cast astronaut Gus Grissom in that role: “L’il Gus,” the Hoosier grit lampooned as a bumbler to make Yeager look even better. And that was a grave disservice to the memory of Virgil I. Grissom, who did not mess up the second Mercury space flight (Wolfe’s account notwithstanding), and who gave his life for his country in the launch pad fire that consumed Apollo 1 — which Grissom knew to be a deeply flawed spacecraft and had urged NASA to improve.

So now that Tom Wolfe and Gus Grissom have both crossed what Wolfe once called the Halusian Gulp, I hope these two American patriots are reconciled. Both had the right stuff.