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Favorite films watched in 2007

Here’s a list of 10 watched-for-the-first-time films I enjoyed the most last year. Most on this list came out earlier than 2007, but with our move from the South to the D.C. area and subsequent loss of babysitter(s), that’s what our current viewing habits allow. Also, we have two kids, which (like last year) influenced our fare as well. So, here you go, in alphabetical order:

An Unfinished Life (2005, PG-13). While a somewhat uneven film, I found it a moving story of the healing of people’s wounded-ness and an affirmation of life in spite of the horrible things that can happen to us. And I appreciate a story like that because it reminds me that much of how we approach and operate in life is a matter of perspective. See more of my thoughts here.

Catch & Release (2007, PG-13). I never said these were the best films I watched, only the ones I enjoyed the most, heh--and sometimes the ones I enjoy the most don't garner a lot of critical acclaim (much to the dismay of some of my more discriminating movie-loving friends). And while this film is admittedly a flawed chick-flick, it’s also a charming tale that made me laugh and cry and left me wistful and smiling—kind of like the people in it: a flawed group who face painful truths and choose to overcome instead of succumb. And that leaves them with smiles, though some are more wistful than others. See more of my thoughts here.

Children of Men (2006, R). Like Pan’s Labyrinth (another film on this list), this is a story that deals with the power of life in a dark, dark world. In particular, (as critic Jeffery Overstreet points out) this film “conveys more powerfully than anything on film the darkness, damage, and despair of the world into which the Christ child was born.” We can forget how broken and dark the world really was (and still is)—and we can forget the power of the Light Jesus’ birth ignited. Watch this film, and you’ll remember. See more of my thoughts here.

Evan Almighty (2007, PG). This updated Noah’s Ark story was a delight for our whole family. It’s definitely not a masterpiece but we found it a gentle, funny and worth watching story with an abundance of thoughtful God-talk. See more of my thoughts here.

Happy Feet (2006, PG). This film about singing and dancing penguins might not seem like a God-talking film, but I found it a pleasant surprise. It does have some elements that I wish weren’t in a kid’s film (sexual innuendo topping that list), but most of them zipped above my kids’ awareness levels. However, I found one of the film’s final scenes incredibly poignant and a moving image of an ongoing salvation and powerful transformation of a community. In particular, it is one of the more powerful images I’ve seen that articulates the transformation I long for among God’s people. Sometimes, the transforming experience of following Jesus—on both us and the world around us—can be lost when tradition is elevated above that relationship (and, in some cases, becomes a religion all its own). Please hear me on this: I don’t think tradition is a bad thing—in fact, the wisdom and practices of those who have come before us is are an invaluable and much needed help as we walk with Jesus together today—but we mustn’t allow it to become sacred or elevated above Jesus, our Master. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m rethinking how we do church (live together and express God’s kingdom here-and-now) and what it looks like to live in the Kingdom. I long for God’s people to know the freedom and power of being loved by God and expressing that love in the world around us, and imagine it would look a lot like the joy, beauty and unity of God’s children dancing to the music of his unfathomable love and freedom. And that could change the world—just like an artic plain of dancing penguins changes theirs.

Lady in the Water (2006, PG-13). I liked this fable-like film because I found it a refreshingly different way to tell a good story—and it was made up of moments that moved me: The freeing of speech. The exploding empowerment of discovering and releasing gifts. The power of confession. The beauty—and transforming nature—of community. How hope saturates and “life will out.” The authority and make-right-ness of truth. See more of my thoughts here.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, R). Probably the best film I saw this year, this “fairy tale for grown-ups” is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. It haunted me for weeks afterwards. While there are various interpretations of the film’s story, I found it full of redemption and hope in a world where selfishness, evil and death seek to drown life itself. It is, for me, a strong tale that reaffirms that "life will out." It is not for everyone, and definitely not for children, but it is definitely worth seeing. See more of my thoughts here.

The Queen (2006, PG-13). Besides being a spectacular film all on its own (Helen Mirren is fantastic), this film reminded me just how powerful it is to find out someone’s story—especially when you think you’ve already got them figured out. Often times, knowing a person’s story helps us understand and see them as they are: struggling, wounded and broken. And that often touches our own woundedness and brokenness, which gives us a context in which to relate to them. See more of my thoughts here.

Ratatouille (2007, G). This is one of the only films I saw in the theater this year—and I really enjoyed it. And so did my kids (enough that it is now among our DVD collection). While my kids might pick other reasons that they like the film, I really appreciated the themes running through this film (transformation, embracing gifts, trust, working out relationships, and the effect of using gifts on those around us). And the moment Anton Ego takes his first bite of Remy’s Ratatouille still moves me. See more of my thoughts here.

Rocky Balboa (2006, PG). I didn’t like (or even see) most of the Rocky movies, but this one I really like. I appreciate how Rocky (and Sylvester Stallone) has matured in this film. In particular, I appreciated how Rocky’s become more other-focused rather than self-focused, even in the midst of his own pain and suffering. He’s become the kind of person who pays attention to and cares for others—something we who follow Jesus should challenged by. See more of my thoughts here.

In addition to these films, this year I also enjoyed watching for the first time Hellboy (stop rolling your eyes, Lauren), Napoleon Dynamite, Bridge to Terabithia, Arthur and the Invisibles, Jane Eyre, Night at the Museum and Little Miss Sunshine. The worst films I saw were ones I really, really wanted to like: Spiderman 3 (talk about hammering the message to the point of ruining the story, sheesh), Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (I actually got bored) and Transformers (got bored here, too—though, in honor of my friends in the US Air Force, “Go Air Power!”). I saw lots more (some of which are on my sidebar), but these are the ones that stand out, for better or worse.

Note: Some of these films contain violence, sexual content and offensive language and situations. As always, If you’re unsure about a film, it’s this blog’s suggestion that you read reviews from those you trust before you see it.