As a (mostly) unashamed lover of romantic comedies and teen movies, I have a particular affection for the frothy stories of the genre. When I watched the teen tearjerker Life in a Year (2020) late last year, I was actually quite stunned by what it had to say about love. Certainly, the movie has plenty of poorly-developed melodrama and contrived dialogue, and it celebrates several immoral behaviors as liberating exercises in truly “living,” but it also proffers what may well be some of the best images of love that I’ve ever seen in a teen movie. As the protagonist Daryn’s girlfriend Isabelle grows weaker and weaker from her cancer, Daryn puts aside his grand plans to secure acceptance into Harvard in order to be present to her in her final months. He shows a real tenderness as well as a remarkable maturity and a selfless commitment in his care for Isabelle. Conversely, albeit predictably, Isabelle, too, learns to give of herself by allowing herself to be loved.
I was recently invited to be a guest on Church Life Today, the McGrath Institute’s radio program and podcast, where I chatted with my colleague and show host Lenny DeLorenzo about Advent music and Christmas movies. Here is my personal list (emphasis on personal!) of 25 films that I watch nearly every holiday season. For the most part, I’ve ranked them in an order that contains a sort of ‘progressive solemnity’—moving from vaguely holiday-adjacent movies toward those that delve deeply into ‘the meaning of Christmas.’
Thirty years ago, we stood with Ray Kinsella in an Iowa cornfield, where we heard a voice say for the first time, “If you build it, he will come.” Hailed by sports and cinema enthusiasts alike as one of the greatest baseball movies of all time, Field of Dreams has consistently moved audiences precisely because it’s about so much more than baseball. It’s about hearing, accepting, and sharing a call. It’s about perseverance in uncertainty and adversity. But more than anything, it’s about reconciliation.
The trailers for the Netflix Original, Reversing Roe, suggest that the documentary casts new light on the contentious legal battle over one of the Supreme Court’s most controversial rulings. Instead, it travels a familiar path and ignores whatever lies outside its predetermined narrative framework. The film details much of the legal history since the Court’s 1973 sister decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton; however, over the course of the 99-minute documentary, neither decision is ever actually articulated in its entirety. The film also doesn’t deal with the heart of the legal battle, which is whether or not the preborn fetus is a human being and what society’s responsibilities are to both the preborn and the mother.