What Would Jesus Rent?

Jesus is watching something, all rightI’m working on a piece on classic father-son movies for Sympatico/MSN, and it’s been kicking my ass, so I trawled the tubes for inspiration and found William Park’s amazing 1997 essay, The Fifty Best Catholic Movies of All Time.

Now, I’m not saying one cannot find common ground between religion and art — it worked pretty well in the Sistine Chapel — but some of Park’s ideological contortions are quite impressive.

To wit:


Directed by John Ford: This work by Ford is not as admired as it should be, perhaps because it is so obviously a Christmas story. In it Ford already pays homage to the whole history of the western, as he tells the story of two desperados who, joined by John Wayne, try to keep a baby alive as they cross the desert pursued by a posse, led by a non-killing sheriff (Ward Bond). Sophisticates may sneer, but it made me cry.


VERTIGO (1958)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock: The best of all film noir, Vertigo acts more as a warning than as an example. Though Hitchcock has been accused of being a misogynist, in this film he deconstructs an all-too-familiar male obsession with women and reveals it for the destructive, hideous, and narcissistic thing it is. It’s an exposé of that sort of false romantic love that seeks the ideal in a woman, then goes berserk when the object of love turns out to be a flesh-and-blood human being. Hitchcock perceived the dark side of Stewart and brought it out in this, their greatest collaboration.

And my personal favorite:


Directed by Harold Ramis: Groundhog Day reverses the proposition of Ikiru. Instead of being informed that he will soon die, the protagonist, Bill Murray, a nerdy, narcissistic, condescending Pittsburgh TV weatherman, discovers that he cannot die, that he is trapped, seemingly forever, in February 2nd, Groundhog Day, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the site of the National Groundhog Festival. Murray, sent to cover this event, must continually relive it until such immortality as this provides him teaches him how to be mortal. Like the hero of Ikiru, Murray tries out, in a comical manner, the worldly pleasures of indulgence, sex, and money, and when they do not work, he turns to despair. But after hundreds if not thousands of attempts either to live a fun day or annihilate himself, he begins to sanctify the time. Whereas Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life discovers what Bedford Falls would have been like had he never lived, Bill Murray discovers how Punxatawney can be turned into a better place. I do not know the religious affiliation of Danny Rubin, the writer of this film, but I do know that his picture embodies the message taught and lived by many saints.

“I do not know the religious affiliation of Danny Rubin …”

If anyone has suggestions on great father-son pictures, the comments are wide open. I’ve already got “The Champ”, “Shane”, “The Godfather”, “Kramer vs. Kramer”, “Field of Dreams”, “Frequency” … and “Target” and “True Lies”, of course.

6 thoughts on “What Would Jesus Rent?”

  1. In that Shane key, there are a bunch, like Mario Bava’s Knives of the Avenger. (Many of my favourites, in fact, are really about that surrogate father-son dynamic, like A Perfect World.) What about Indiana Jones and Last Crusade, or on the darker side of the spectrum, Hud? The Lone Wolf and Cub series? The Royal Tenenbaums? Big Fish? Batman Begins? Return of the Jedi? Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? Ordinary People? I shut up now.

  2. If you’re going to include a Schwarzenneger movie (and if we’re counting surrogate father-son relationships), “Terminator 2” should warrant consideration over “True Lies”.

    For straight up father-son movies that haven’t already been mentioned, I would go with “Nobody’s Fool”, or even “Life As A House”…assuming neither of those wanted to make you vomit.

    Oooh…I forgot about “Lonestar”…

  3. How about Indiana Jones (Sean Connery & Harrison Ford) and Austin Powers (Michael Caine & Mike Meyers)?

  4. Norm didn’t like “Life is Beautiful”, and seems to despise Roberto Benigni, so I don’t think it will make the cut.

  5. I don’t understand why ‘True Lies’ is a father-son movie. A father-daughter movie, maybe.

    There’s good father-son stuff in ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Love Actually’.

    I suppose there’s ‘Big Jake’.

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