For reasons plentious but mysterious, I broke my traditional pattern at the end of 2012 and early this year and saw half a dozen or so films in theaters in the span of a few weeks.
But as I watched such films as "Lincoln," "Anna Karenina," "Les Miserables" and "The Other Son," I was struck by how clearly they had religious and/or moral threads all through them. I have you a link to the last film mentioned because it's more likely that you haven't heard of it than that you haven't heard of the rest.
Sometimes it was obvious, such as Lincoln's push to liberate slaves, at least on paper -- in spite of some twisted faith-based opposition. And sometimes it was more subtle, such as the fact that the movie makers understood that in Leo Tolstoy's great novel, Anna Karenina, which I read for the first time last year, about the only two moral characters anywhere in sight are Levin and Kitty, who eventually becomes Levin's wife.
As I pondered all this, I thought about a piece I wrote years ago for New Letters about what I called "moral fiction," using Gabriel Garcia Marquez' fabulous book Love in the Time of Cholera as a prime example.
There has been considerable (and justified) criticism about the moral aridity of much of our entertainment industry and, indeed, our entire culture. One need only look at the nightly offerings on network TV for examples of such time-gobbling trash. But that doesn't mean there isn't fine art with solid moral character out there -- and I'm not talking about prissy books or movies with sappy and predictable endings and characters afraid to say damn.
A group that agrees with me about that is Allied Faith and Family, which recently published this newsletter listing some of the best recent films with religious themes or overtones. See what you think of that list.
And e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think there's a must-see movie of this type that I, well, must see.
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JUST DON'T OFFEND MY FAITH
When religions seek to get state protection for positions of privilege, nothing good happens. So it's probably a good thing that Russia is thinking of undoing a law that sets jail terms for people who offend religious sensibilities.