KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — Do you have a favorite movie moment? I sure do. Several. For even though Hollywood has never been a beacon of religious propriety, occasionally movie folk have offered insights that amused or blessed me through the years.
Admittedly my “greatest movie moments” list is subjective, but its entries do, in this humble cinema commentator’s conviction, represent positive influences that redeem a medium now plagued with crudity and profanity. See if you agree with my selections.
Greatest movie opening: “Wall-E”
In this ecologically themed, computer-animated, cosmic comedy, one lone robot is left behind as mankind exits a doomed planet. Wall-E is both original and clever, and although Disney Studios hypocritically uses the story to bemoan the public’s overindulged consumerism, the first 20 minutes or so are perhaps the best introduction of a movie character I’ve ever seen at the movies. Opening with a dark, apocalyptic tableau, it doesn’t take long for us to sense that Wall-E has a tender Tin Man-like heart that yearns for companionship. With a semi-“Twilight Zone” resonance, the sequence reminds us that no man — or robot — is an island. (Released 2008, rated G).
Greatest film ending: “Places in the Heart”
In this compelling period drama, a repentant adulterer is finally forgiven when his wife, moved by the pastor’s sermon taken from 1 Corinthians 13, reaches for her husband’s hand, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ’s love. The scene then concludes with a surrealistic parable of faith. As the communion plate is passed, every major character partakes of the sacrament. Suddenly we see two men, previously murdered, now miraculously alive and sitting among the rest of the parishioners. For me, the allusion represents a spiritual healing, a signal of hope and grace, and a prompting to love and forgive one another. (1984, PG).
Greatest screen performance: “On The Waterfront”
Winner of eight Academy Awards, the film’s story deals with New York’s crime-ridden harbor docks. Both electric and natural, Marlon Brando won the first of his two Oscars for the role of an ex-boxer at odds with the corruption around him. The character is not a religious man, but this compelling character study reminds me of Michelangelo’s representation of man reaching out to God. Brando’s Terry Malloy just doesn’t realize he’s reaching out for a spiritual solution. Many people don’t. (1954, unrated)
Greatest portrayal of a minister: “Stars In My Crown”
The film has Joel McCrea as a 1800s minister dealing with his church members’ problems. Though dated, it’s a gentle tale that reveals how our daily walk can eventually affect the lives of others. McCrea gives us a distinct portrayal of appropriate aspirations of a man of the cloth. (1950, unrated)
Greatest example of God’s love: “The Passion of the Christ”
While the film reenacts the physical horrors Christ endured, there is one illustrative scene that stands out not only technically, but as emotionally impacting. The end of Christ’s journey at Golgotha is suddenly seen from above, the camera pulling back and up, the image becoming blurry, as if we are looking through some moist substance. Then, a drop of water splatters on the earth. It is God’s tear, a symbolic cinematic gesture revealing the Father’s pain. It signifies the Creator’s love for his Son and us. The Passion of the Christ is a true work of art, but beware, it’s rated R for graphic depictions of beatings and execution. The film is unsuitable for children or sensitive viewers. (2004, R).
Are you surprised with my choices? Don’t be. I know there are so many others in contention for best movie moments. These were just a few.
Changing public sensibilities are reflected in today’s movies, and films containing biblical principles are rare. But great movies, like fine paintings, reveal man’s possibilities and compel us to embrace our spiritual nature. They’re out there; you just have to hunt for them.
And the greatest film ever made? Well, when we meet, I’ll give you my choice; you give me yours.