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FIRST-PERSON: The best movies of 2005

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Rather than focus on the artistic merits of possible Oscar contenders such as “Capote,” “Walk the Line” and “Pride and Prejudice,” I have selected films that uplifted me spiritually in my list of best movies of 2005.

Now, beware, some of these choices contain language, violence or other objectionable material. I listed these films because I was entertained and moved by the spirituality they reflected. They are in no particular order.

— “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Where the recent Harry Potter was dark, muddled and stale, Narnia is vibrant, clear and fresh. And while adventures, not sermons, take center stage, most churchgoers will find that the story serves to open a rewarding dialogue between parent and child concerning the Christ-like symbolism found in the pivotal Aslan. The children learn life lessons, the film is pro-family and the spiritual insights are distinctly biblical.

Rated PG (Though the filmmakers avoid excessive brutality, this good vs. evil tale does include violence and a few jolting scenes; parents should attend with little ones in order to reassure).

— “Cinderella Man.”

Russell Crowe stars in this inspiring take on the life of legendary athlete Jim Braddock. Ron Howard’s direction avoids a phony or maudlin execution. Rather, the involving and well-paced narrative evidences the director’s skill. Along with Howard’s desire to tell a great sports movie that spotlights a tenderness for family and marriage, his writers give this generation an insightful look at the tribulations people faced during the Great Depression.

Rated PG-13 (profanity and obscenity spring up throughout, but I caught no misuse of God’s name by the lead, although other characters do use God’s name in vain several times; intense boxing violence; the subject material of trials faced by Americans during the Great Depression may not be suitable for little ones).

— “The Great Raid.”

Director John Dahl recreates the gritty reality-based exploit that liberated more than 500 U.S. prisoners of war on the Philippines in 1945. Yes, the brutality is difficult to watch, but so many gave up so much in order to end a cancer that threatened to destroy the soul of mankind. Their sacrifice should be depicted and therefore, remembered.

Rated R (three profanities, eight or so obscenities and a few minor expletives, but for a war film, the language is very mild; what’s more, there is a great deal of thoughtful dialogue and several moments that reveal men of faith and a reverence for God).

— “Mad Hot Ballroom.”

This is a light-hearted documentary concerning likeable New York 5th graders who are given a free course in dance as part of their school curriculum.

Funny, insightful and completely engaging, these kids gain direction and confidence as they learn the merengue, tango and swing dance steps. There’s an innocent wisdom that generates from many of these kids. We also experience the pain of those who learn for the first time about disappointment (“But we did everything they told us to do”).

Rated PG (a couple of conversations concern children having to be vigilant of sexual predators).

— “March of the Penguins.”

This is a fascinating documentary about penguins, raw nature and survival. It’s full of impressive, almost unworldly locations and amazing cinematography, and most importantly, it sends a powerful message concerning the importance of life. In a time when audiences are subjected to pro messages concerning euthanasia (“Million Dollar Baby,” “The Sea Inside”), the need for abortion (“Vera Drake”), and desensitizing images of violence toward our fellow man (most films), here is a movie that reveals creatures in the wild sacrificing all in order to preserve life.

Rated G.

— “Smile.”

The story concerns a self-centered teen struggling with adolescent issues. Katie (Mika Boorem) is beginning to sense that there is more to life than what’s offered by her preferential world. When a favorite teacher presents an opportunity to get involved with a charitable group, she hastily agrees to travel to China as a volunteer, not realizing that this trip will change her life.

Rated PG-13 (A mother discusses sexual matters with her teen daughter and supports her decision to get birth control pills. There is a make-out scene, but the girl realizes that she is not ready for sex and puts an end to it. Though some may be concerned with this brief sexuality, the filmmakers felt the issue needed to be addressed and did it with discretion.)
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective. For other reviews, visit his website at www.moviereporter.com.

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  • Phil Boatwright