Wednesday Round-Up, Oscars Edition: 5 Great Life & Justice Films

With the Academy Awards just four days away, today’s Round-Up presents five must-see films that can serve as leaven to our life & justice efforts.

While classics like Romero, Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story, and Bella are all worth watching again and again, the hope for this list is for you to find at least one thing you haven’t yet seen!

And please add your favorites in the comments section.

1) The Lives of Others (2006)

Set in East Berlin in 1984, The Lives of Others examines the power beauty and art can wield against oppression. It beat out the fantastic Pan’s Labyrinth for Best Foreign Film at the 2006 Oscars. This post is hardly the first Catholic outlet to rate it highly; check out this essay in First Things.

2) Of Gods and Men (2010)

Sticking with the theme of courage in the midst of oppression, Of Gods and Men tells the story of French Trappists living in harmony with the largely Muslim population of Tibhirine, Algeria. As violent fundamentalism spreads, the monks have to decide whether to evacuate or stay behind with the community that had grown to depend on them for immediate needs. The film is the most poignant depiction of community life I have ever seen. Rev. Jim Martin, SJ, reflected on why it’s his favorite spiritual film for PBS, found here.

3) Urbanized (2011)

I stumbled upon this on Netflix, fortuitously — it’s a fascinating documentary about the way smart urban design development can combat poverty, protect the environment, and create beauty in the world.

4) Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

When the work to protect life and promote justice is tiresome, there’s no better way to find new life than with some rejuvenating art. And not much art rejuvenates (literally “makes young again”) like Wes Anderson’s fanciful, stop-motion treatment of this beloved Roald Dahl novella. While renewing your spirit, it includes some great “Mystical Body of Christ” scenes: to overcome the movie’s central conflict, each protagonist must use his or her gifts for the common good.

5) Friday Night Lights television series (2006-2011)

We’re living in a Golden Age of Television, with groundbreaking dramas coming out every year, it seems: Mad Men, Lost, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, The Wire, Homeland, The West Wing and more. There are far many quality TV shows out now than there are cinematic features. So I’ll make an exception to this Oscars round-up and include Friday Night Lights, which my wife and I are moving through right now. There is no better marriage depiction in mass media than that of football coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami. There is no more compelling look at the sacredness of human life and the role of fathers than in a plotline in seasons 2 and 3. There is no more evocative exploration of how sports can build character in the midst of socioeconomic and racial turmoil. Not to mention the best baptism symbolism I’ve ever seen (Season 2, Episode 5 if you don’t believe me). Really, just watch it.

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