Posts Tagged ‘Peter Jackson’

We are now officially in the second week of the Lenten season (for a real short video presentation on Lent, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm3JK7JYAKs&feature=player_embedded).

For those of you who observe Lent and for those of you who don’t, but would like to try and “get at” what we are observing during this season, here are some movies that you may want to check out between now and Easter Sunday.

The Way (2010)

Emilio Estevez’ remarkable mini-epic “The Way” follows the journey of California optometrist Tom Avery (Martin Sheen), whose son, Daniel (Estevez), died while walking the historic “Way of St. James” in the Pyrenees.  Not a particularly religious man, Avery nevertheless chooses to take the journey in his son’s place, carrying his ashes with him as he does so.

The film is a beautiful, emotional, and deeply personal exploration of a physical and spiritual journey that I think anyone can appreciate.

The Tree of Life (2011)

From the Big Bang to babies, from happiness to suffering, from family to faith, from sibling rivalry to death, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” is without a doubt (in my humble opinion, anyway) the most moving film of the last half-decade.  The film communicates a sort of sacramental view of creation and human life.  Through a highly poetic visual and cinematic style, Malick suggests — through a world of the ordinary and everyday — a creation that is haunted by a mysterious and holy presence.

I have to say, there are few films that move me immediately to prayer, and this is one of them.  If you want a movie that stirs up the sense of being personally loved by a God who invites you to love Him, see “Tree of Life.”

The Mission (1986)

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Roland Joffé’s 1986 period piece “The Mission” is a great look at the work of Jesuit priests fighting for the rights of natives in 18th century South America.  Fr. Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) is an especially shining example of selfless Christian love and resistance to oppression through nonviolence.

Of Gods and Men (2010)

Based on the true story of Trappist monks facing death at the hands of militant rebels in 1990s Algeria, “Of Gods and Men” is a deep and profoundly affective story of fidelity, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

Jesus of Nazareth (1977)


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If you have some time on your hands, see if you can get a hold of Franco Zeffirelli’s epic miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Well-directed, well-written, and featuring very good performances, “Jesus of Nazareth” really accentuates the mercy of Jesus and His healing mission in the world.  I would especially recommend this film to people who struggle with scrupulosity and negative images of God.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)


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And of course, if you’re up to it, try to check out Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”  Yes, it’s visceral.  Yes, it can be very disturbing.  But for Christians, it is an excellent source of meditation on how much it cost God to redeem us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8).

And last, but perhaps not least…

The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy)


Yes, Peter Jackson’s unparalleled films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy trilogy are wonderful Lenten fare.  Why?  Because they deal with such themes as self-sacrificing love, the value of suffering, and heroic virtue.  They can inspire people to change their lives, if they let them.

For those of you who are interested, here is a link to the first of two videos featuring Fr. Robert Barron’s commentary on “LOTR”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pio5pf-Eoi8.

There you have it.  Until next time, take care, and God bless.

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Hello everyone,

I’ve been battling a nasty head cold for the past few days, so this week will be a little “lighter” in terms of content.  For today, I thought I’d share this video from online-inquirer, which features an in-depth interview with filmmaker Peter Jackson.  Hope you enjoy!

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Hobbits are not saints — that is, they are not saints merely for being hobbits.  Their simple and unobtrusive lifestyles notwithstanding, they do have the tendency to be self-centered “creatures of comfort” (to borrow a phrase from Joseph Pearce, author of the new book “Bilbo’s Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning in ‘The Hobbit'”).


In fact, that’s part of what Bilbo Baggins’ journey to Erebor is all about.  Along the way, he learns through suffering and adversity to put others before himself.

One thing we can say about Bilbo without being sentimental, though, is that his small stature is matched by the humble — in other words, realistic — understanding he has of himself.  He does not believe himself to be a hero capable of fantastic deeds.  In fact, he more or less says this explicitly at the end of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”


So we might be forgiven for joining the Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) in asking Gandalf, “Why the Halfling?”

Indeed, why should Gandalf have chosen Bilbo to be the fourteenth companion of the dwarves on such a dangerous quest — especially when, as Gandalf insists, this quest could have a far-reaching effect on the fate of Middle Earth?

Unlike Saruman, the head of Gandalf’s Order, who believes that only great power can make a difference against evil, Gandalf believes that it is the small things that matter.  It is of just these small but innately powerful acts of kindness and love that he thinks Bilbo Baggins capable, and it is on account of these that he chose him for the quest.

As I was listening to Gandalf’s testimony to Bilbo’s worth, I was immediately reminded of the great tradition of “Little Way” spirituality.


The most famous adherent of this mode of spirituality was arguably Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who famously said this:

We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.

And look how she changed the world.

St. Therese of Lisieux

Blessed Teresa was very much influenced by St. Thérése of Lisieux, who became affectionately known as “the Little Flower.”  Thérése entered the Carmelite Order over 120 years ago with the desire to live out as fully as possible her love for God.  What she discovered in the process was that she was only a small creature and not, of herself, capable of great things.

Far from becoming discouraged, she came to realize that it was in the small things that she must strive to serve God.  Little things done with great love became her priority, not great things done with a view toward self-perfection.


Nor is it only in Catholic spirituality that people will find such wisdom.  At this time of the year, many of us become reacquainted with George Bailey, the chief character in Frank Capra’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Although George never gets to travel the world and accomplish the great things he dreamed of in his youth, although he is stuck in the “crummy little town” of Bedford Falls, although he is working at the “measly one-horse institution” called the Building & Loan, he comes to realize in the end that his simple life had farther-reaching consequences than he could have imagined.

Arguably, that’s what endears people to this timeless story — the fact that George Bailey makes such a difference precisely in the “littleness” of his life.

Let’s take a quick look at how Bilbo’s extraordinary littleness (and I think we can see now that this is not a contradiction) manifests itself.


At one point in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” Gandalf advises Bilbo that true courage consists not in knowing when to take a life, but in knowing when to spare one.

Beneath the Misty Mountains, Bilbo has the perfect chance to kill the creature Gollum, whom he has just beaten in a game of riddles that, if he had lost, would have cost him his life.  Filled with pity for this poor creature, Bilbo spares Gollum’s life and leaves him be.

Notice that Bilbo is not exerting any power here.  He could do so precisely by killing his opponent, but instead he chooses the way of mercy.  In just such a humble and seemingly insignificant act of kindness, Bilbo Baggins shows his true greatness.

Why am I spending so much time talking about Bilbo’s humility?  Didn’t I conclude my last post on this movie by stating that I would explore how the extra story material that Peter Jackson has included might affect the telling of Bilbo’s story?

Yes, and the hobbit’s humility has everything to do with this.

The capacity of “little lives” to make a big difference necessitates and presupposes that these lives are integral parts of something much greater than themselves.  Avalanches often begin with small stones, but it is because these small stones are part of the mountain that they can cause something so powerful.

This is where I think the extra material Jackson has included in the telling of Bilbo’s story will come in handy.  We already know that in sparing Gollum’s life, Bilbo contributed to the chain of events that would bring about victory for Middle Earth at the end of “The Lord of the Rings.”  But I imagine that as we follow this tale to its conclusion, we will discover in what other ways Bilbo’s quest fits into the great puzzle of Middle Earth’s story.

And I, for one, look forward to it.

All “Hobbit” images obtained through a Google image search; the rest are from Wikipedia.

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On December 15, I went into the movie theater prepared to be disappointed.

Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” has been criticized by some for essentially fitting Bilbo Baggins description of himself at the beginning of “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”:

I feel … like butter scraped over too much bread.

Jackson, while remaining faithful to the story of Bilbo’s journey as depicted in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” has supplemented it with material from the appendices of “The Lord of the Rings” and from some of Tolkien’s other works.  The extra storylines deal with events that:

1) Are connected to Gandalf the Wizard’s involvement in Bilbo’s quest; and
2) Will lead up to the events of the “Rings” trilogy.

In consequence, what was a pretty lightweight book intended mainly for children is being brought to audiences in three films, the first of which is not far short of three hours long.

The question is whether this was a mistake on Jackson’s part.  Connecting with the title character is somewhat harder, to be sure, when his story gets swallowed up in the midst of all this other material.


But I would still defend Jackson’s choice.  I said I was prepared to be disappointed when I went to see the movie; happily, I was not.  Except for the sense of abruptness with which the ending struck me (which was probably unavoidable), I thoroughly enjoyed it.

For whatever flaws he has as a filmmaker (and all filmmakers have them), Jackson is a master storyteller.  As in the “Rings” films, I found that I was never let down by the narrative movements of “An Unexpected Journey.”  Like a grand symphony, the movie hits the “key notes” not in a bland progression from point to point, but in a way that calls attention to each “note” in a unique and exciting way.

As for the extra material, I would say that what it does for the story of Bilbo’s journey is place it within the context of a meaningful meta-narrative.

The notion of the meta-narrative is all-important in human life.  Many people in this age of isolation and groundlessness yearn for the reality of being part of something much bigger than themselves, sometimes without realizing it.  I think even the weird conspiracy theories we find here and there are driven by this innate hunger to give one’s life some sort of meaningful context.

This is another area in which the Catholic Faith can satisfy the hunger of the human heart.  We see everything — all of history, the story of each nation and unit of society, the life story of each person, all struggles momentary and enduring, and even the minutiae of our everyday individual lives — as part of the great Christian Meta-Narrative, which reaches both back and forward into eternity.

It is my opinion, then, that the theme of the meta-narrative has a broadly evangelical character.


In the case of “The Hobbit,” we have the scoop on how Bilbo’s journey fits into the whole scheme of events that will give rise to Sauron’s War on Middle Earth, the journey of the Fellowship, etc.

True, Tolkien never intended to introduce folks to Bilbo Baggins or Middle Earth in that way.  In fact, he wrote “The Hobbit” before “Rings” was even a twinkle in his eye.

In terms of the cinematic representation of these works, however, audiences already have been introduced to Tolkien’s world.  How people might have perceived the “Rings” trilogy if they had seen “The Hobbit” first, told in the simple style of Tolkien’s book (which I have heard is what Jackson and his team wanted, but were unable, to do at the outset), is something we will never know.

But I think that, having been immersed in Middle Earth with the “Rings” movies and having gotten to know its principle characters and races, audiences are probably ready for another romp through this amazing world and its history, regardless of the method of storytelling.

That said, I think it would be worthwhile to take a look at exactly what this meta-narrative means for Bilbo’s story.  He is the title character, after all.  I will return with thoughts on that within the next few days (no spoilers).

All images obtained through a Google image search.

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