A Year in Movies

What We Thought About What We Watched in 2013
Film Reviews

Commonweal movie reviews from Richard Alleva and Rand Richards Cooper in 2013.

Devices & Desires

Leo Tolstoy hated theater, or at least the more stylized varieties of it. The author of some well-received plays as well as his much more famous novels, the Count despised Shakespeare, ballet, opera, and any art that couldn’t be appreciated by a...

Raw Spaghetti

The director Quentin Tarantino loves genre, the grungier the better. His first three films, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown, are gangster movies—or, rather, gangster mutants, for their creator relaxed conventions for detours into...

Class Photo

Most Americans forty or older will recall the 1989 case of the young woman brutalized by a rampaging mob of teenagers while jogging in Central Park. Coming amid soaring crime rates, the attack spawned a scary neologism, “wilding,” and...


About fifteen minutes into Silver Linings Playbook, its hero, Pat Solitano—played by Bradley Cooper—is out jogging near his Philadelphia neighborhood when a young woman he met at a dinner party the night before runs across his path and greets him....

A Nation of Two

 As part of my annual catching up with Oscar, I overcame my reluctance and saw Michael Haneke’s Amour. Haneke’s preoccupation with cruelty, both physical and psychological, typically makes for heavy going, and inclines one to approach any film of his titled “Amour” in the dread expectation of some appalling irony. He’s one of those European directors (Lars von Trier is another) whose...

Walled In

Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, oversees counterterrorism and intelligence gathering in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It also bears responsibility for protecting politicians, a task it notably failed to discharge in 1995, when...

Roaring Mad

Baz Luhrmann’s 'The Great Gatsby' proves to be a triumph of both faithfulness and daring. It conveys some of the novel’s glories and possesses virtues all its own.

Words & Deeds

'Hannah Arendt' offers an immersion in the world of postwar New York intellectuals; 'A Hijacking' portrays the travails of a cargo ship set upon by Somali pirates.

Fearsome Correctives

John Ponsoldt avoids triteness and makes you care; Cate Blanchett's operatic and annihilating performance makes Woody Allen's newest film a keeper.


As tearjerker banalities and bromides play out, on the visual side 'Gravity' compensates with a display of nearly overwhelming beauty and power.

An Everyday Nightmare

In this film slavery creates a hell in which everyone burns—blacks and whites, men and women, victims and victimizers, the well-intentioned and the malevolent.

All At Sea

'Captain Phillips' is thoughtful and electrifyingly exciting; 'All Is Lost' is Sisyphean hopelessness but also a Sisyphean defiance.
And Everything Else Film-Related

Other articles, essays, and posts on movies that appeared in the pages and on the website of Commonweal in 2013.

A Good Gatsby

In many important senses, Baz Luhrmann has quite literally restored 'The Great Gatsby' to a Catholic setting.

More evidence that Terrence Malick is the best

Terrence Malick's latest film,To the Wonder, still hasn't been released in the United States. I'm a huge Malick fan--see my earlier post on Days of Heaven--so I was already excited to see the new movie, which features Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem.After hearing how Malick asked his actors to prepare, though, I'm even more excited:To the Wonderhad no actual script...

The Trouble with 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Controversy attaches to Oscar nominations as reliably as it does to American actions in combating terrorism (which isnt to equate the type or degree). Rarer is the case when it overlaps.The absence of Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow from the nominee list for best director has some wondering whether something else is afoot, something in fact related to the events Zero Dark Thirty depicts...

Is Roger Ebert in heaven? Is Pope John Paul II?

Deacon Greg Kandra points to the funeral mass held today at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral for film critic and cultural omnivore Roger Ebert, and takes issue with celebrant Fr. Michael Pfleger for suggesting to the mourners that Ebert could be in heaven. It's not that Ebert had a somewhat unconventional view on theology, but Greg says that eulogists should never go there:Maybe Im being picky, but...

Philomena and Notre Dame (Caveat Lector: Spoilers)

I saw the movie Philomena last weekend: It is a movie about an Irish woman who had a baby out of wedlock, and  was coereced into giving up her little son nearly half a century ago by the nuns who took her in. She ends up collaborating with a posh English journalist to find out what happened to him:  As it turns out, he was adopted by a well-to-do American family, grew up to be handsome...

About the Author

Ellen B. Koneck runs Special Projects at Commonweal and teaches in the Catholic Studies department at Sacred Heart University. You can follow her on Twitter.