Movies & Gratitude

[I’m writing this before the Indiana primary results are published; so this post has nothing to do with that. Sorry for any disappointment.]

During a recent vacation, I watched two movies. This is unremarkable as I watched movies at other times, too. But this time I watched films I’m not embarrassed to having enjoyed (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay). Both movies were well done and both, uniquely, made me grateful. Misery loves company, so hopefully thankfulness does, too. 

First up was Bridge of Spies, a mostly-true movie about the cold war. James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) is a lawyer assigned with the unenviable task of defending Russian spy Rudolf Abel, whose real name was William Fisher. Donovan had previously participated in the Nuremberg trials which brought some justice to the mass murderers of the Nazi party. The tension in the film wasn’t centered on Abel’s guilt, which was fairly apparent, but on the question of justice: why provide a trial by peers of an international spy? Not only did Donovan take the case – reluctantly at first – he defended Fisher to the best of his ability, even working for an appeal of the first guilty verdict. Refusing to go through the motions, though he was encouraged to do so, he honored our justice system deeply.

I found myself grateful for careful justice, for our system of laws which refuses to allow trial by public opinion. I’m grateful for those who labor within this system where everyone gets a defender and no one can be presumed guilty. I’m grateful to be reminded, even as demagoguery rises in America, there is much honor and true justice, and many honorable and truly just people, even in our imperfect system.

(You might appreciate reading Steven Garber’s thoughts on the film here.)

The second night I watched Spotlight, the Oscar-winning account of the Boston Globe’s work in the early 2000’s to uncover the sexual abuse scandals rife within the Roman Catholic church. The movie itself was well-done, though its subject matter makes it understandably difficult to watch at times. Refusing to bow to the pressures of the church or to publish stories that didn’t expose the problem that went to the top, the Spotlight team of the newspaper heralded a concern for truth and justice much higher than is often seen.

Watching Spotlight, I again found myself grateful. I’m grateful for true reporters who labor hard for the sake of the truth, triple-checking facts and silencing their own biases as much as possible. In this age where everyone is (sort of) a reporter, there are still those who spend their lives to find and uncover truth.

I also found myself grateful to be in a presbyterian church. As the film makes abundantly clear, both the structures and policies of the Roman Catholic Church made (and continues to make) such abuses both likely and easy to hide. While it’s no secret that the protestant church has enough of our own abuse scandals, there are structures and policies in place in good churches to counter these. In good churches, men are encouraged to marry rather than to burn with lust. In good churches, no one is at the top of a pyramid of authority, but we are led by the collective group of our leaders.

Have you seen any good movies lately?


One Comment

  1. Hau Tzeng May 4, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    A review I wrote for myself recently:
    Just watched this 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave, with the wife. Its captivating plot is based on an auto-biography (true story is too subjective) of Solomon Northup, an African-American who was betrayed, abducted and sold into slavery. The acting, on the most part, was very well done. The directing was also thoughtful, with many still scenes that play with the usual audience impatience to touch our consciences there. How about a lifetime of this?

    I would not usually recommend anything with nudity, and there is plenty in this one. But unlike most movies, here the nudity is not meant to make one look, but to make one blush and look away at first, and then really angry as the movie goes along. It will make you “check your privilege” when you next put a spoon to your mouth at your own leisure and when you spend $100 on your next pair of jeans. It will remind you how desperately wicked we are, how blind to our own sins, and how we who profess to be Christians are too ready to use the Lord’s name to excuse the injustices of our generation. And hopefully, it will convince you not to squander your liberty by enslaving yourself to sin, but instead to fight for the cause of life and freedom.

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