The Christian Review 2017

Today We Remember the Millions Who Were Killed for Communism

Deal W. Hudson
November 7, 2017

One hundred years ago today — Nov. 7, 1917 — the Russian Revolution began in Moscow leading to the creation of a communist state in the former empire of Russia. It’s an anniversary worth thinking about not only for its historical significance but also because of the recent poll of millennials, ages 15-35, that found a majority of them would prefer to live in a social, fascist, or communist state.

Even for those who have faced squarely the demise of education at all levels, this is sobering.

The poll itself was commissioned by the Communist Memorial Foundation that tracks public attitude towards the regimes responsible for murdering 94,000,000 persons in the twentieth century. (28,000,000 were killed under fascism.)

Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said the report showed,

“This troubling turn highlights widespread historical illiteracy in American society regarding socialism and the systemic failure of our education system to teach students about the genocide, destruction, and misery caused by communism since the Bolshevik Revolution one hundred years ago.”

“Historical illiteracy” is putting it mildly. This is an ignorance that puts the future of our nation in jeopardy. We have 82,000,000 young people entering college, in college, or the workforce who lack any understanding of how a misplaced sense of compassion has led to militarism, dictatorship, genocide, and the total loss of personal freedom.

It’s natural for young people to feel touched with the idealism of helping other, of relieving suffering and raising the standard of living of those who live in poverty. This was why the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution held such an attraction for several generations of the politically engaged.

Whereas the graphic films of Hitler’s concentration camps quickly doused any lingering admiration for his promise of a Reich, the revelations of the Soviet death camps, the deliberate starvation of millions in Ukraine, and the takeover of Eastern Europe failed to convince many hard-core communist sympathizers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Sir Oswald Mosley.

Communists in England, the Cambridge Five, successfully infiltrated British intelligence (MI16) after WW II, supplying the Soviets with vital information in the early years of the Cold War, while a cadre of French intellectuals led the French Communist Party in capturing enough support for it to be included in the Fourth and Fifth Republics.

In America, the ongoing grip Communism among political elites, rightly challenged by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, was exposed by the testimony of Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist Party member, about Alger Hiss, a senior official of the U.S. State Department who was part of U.S. delegation under to the Yalta Conference where FDR, Churchill, and Stalin decided on postwar division of Europe.

Chamber’s subsequent 1952 memoir, Witness, remains one of the most eloquent refutations of the communist ideology in both theory and practice. (Give your millennial Witness for Christmas!)

What to do? To begin with, Parents should be paying more attention to how their children are being educated, especially regarding history and politics. Oftentimes, it’s not the textbooks that need policing but the offhand comments of teachers who feed their students with vacuous criticisms of our nation, capitalism, and the treatment of minorities.

Parents themselves should have bullet points ready-to-hand when and if their children or grandchildren start criticizing the United States and assert the superiority of other systems of governance.

For example, Did you know that Lenin himself started the Gulag system of forced labor, incarceration, and summary execution the with the decree, “On the Red Terror,” issued September 5, 1918? The Gulag was Lenin’s response to the peasants — yes, the peasants! — who were rebelling against Lenin’s Bolshevik leadership? Lenin’s 1922 New Economic Policy (NFP) initiated Bolshevik control of banking, industry, and transportation, as well as the censorship of all printed materials.

In other words, Lenin’s promise to redistribute wealth, from the landowners to the peasants, to bring economic well being, and better lives to the unprivileged quickly became a brutal dictatorship of the party elite.  Lenin promised compassion and delivered tyranny, servility, and death. Needless to say, Stalin would far surpass Lenin in ruthlessness.

The millennial generation has a lot to learn. Surely much of the fault lies with the parents who never found the time, or recognized the need, to provide their children a roadmap to the atrocities of the 20th century.

Eight Books for Christmas, from Politics and a Thriller to Paris, Moscow, Chartres, New York City, and My Back

Deal W. Hudson
November 18, 2017

Several of these books I read as audiobooks, which in the case of those by Ali Land and Scott Isacoff simply added to their enjoyment. Nowadays, I probably read two audiobooks for every print book I read, the advantage of the former being their availability while driving and getting dressed in the morning. I’ve never caught the bug of e-reading which leaves me rather confused about what I have read and where I left off in the book. Seeing words on a page helps me to remember what I have read, though I am not sure why. And listening to a talented narrator can make a good thriller, such as Good Me Bad Me absolutely riveting. I live surrounded by books, the piles of books and overflowing bookcases have probably pushed the foundation of my house deeper into the ground, which is a metaphor for why books matter so much.

Ali Land’s first novel, Good Me Bad Me, is terrifying in the best possible way, that is, as superb fiction. Land uses her background as a mental health nurse who has worked with traumatized children to create a cast of characters that will leave a permanent mark on your imagination. It begins with the arrival of Milly, the daughter of a serial killer mom, at a foster home where the father is a psychiatrist, the mother outwardly warm but is inwardly fragile, and a daughter, the beautiful Phoebe who immediately sets out to make Milly’s new life as miserable as possible.  The psychological struggle between Phoebe and Milly seems to be stacked in Phoebe’s favor because of her absolute command over the local high school. But Phoebe has her own, shall we say, resources as a result of the years spent in her mother’s home.

Cathryn Jakobson Ramin has given millions of back pain sufferers a precious gift — her Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting On the Road to Recovery exposes the false promises of the back pain industry, especially the dark side of back surgery which is rarely successful and more often causes greater damage. The author has done exhaustive research on the recent history of the back pain “business,” and the results are devastating, especially for the chiropractors. I predict her book will eventually reshape and redefine how back pain is treated by our nation’s medical community, as well as how it is covered by insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid. The bottom line is this: Millions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of out-of-pocket dollars are being needlessly spent on back pain treatments that not only have no benefit but also present serious medicals risks for patients, from induced strokes to partial or total paralysis.

In When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends, Mary McAuliffe probes well beyond the well-known, often-told, stories of Hemingway, Picasso, Stein, Joyce, and Proust. McAuliffe displays an excellent grasp of the revolutionary music of the period — not just Stravinsky and Ravel, but also Satie, Milhaud, Auric, Honegger, Poulenc, and Tailleferre — and its creative collaboration with photography, ballet, painting, and theatre, especially through the mediation of Jean Cocteau. She also manages to connect the pots between the conservative political poetics of Paul Claudel, the monastic escape of Max Jacob, and the rise of Charles Maurras.  The artistic development of Man Ray as a photography is presented in parallel with the Modigliani, Duchamp, and Dada, as well as the modernist trends in architecture, primarily Le Corbusier. The entry into filmmaking of Jean Renoir is also deftly woven into the narrative, which justly underscores how French cinema recovered from the devastation of the war years.

With Trotsky in New York, 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution by Kenneth D. Ackerman has written a hugely interesting narrative about the ten weeks Leon Trotsky spent in New York City in early 1917. What surprises me was the warm welcome that greeted Trotsky and his wife and how all the radical organizations and their leaders were eager to align themselves this emissary from the upcoming Bolshevik Revolution. Within only a few days after his arrival, Trotsky attracted an overflowing hall for his first public speaking appearance. When Trotsky got the news of the Russian uprising and tried to return home, he was taken captive by the British authorities in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Rather than fretting, Trotsky set out, successfully, to convert his fellow captives to Bolshevism.

Scott Isacoff tells a fascinating and important story in When the World Stopped to Listen: Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph and Its Aftermath. Those of my generation will have a memory of Van Cliburn’s remarkable victory at the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. While illuminating the life and achievement of Cliburn, Isacoff shows how Cliburn single-handedly created a revitalized, warmer relationship between the Soviets and America. Part of this was due to his Appolinian talent but just as important was his charismatic presence — tall, boyishly handsome, with a broad Texas accent,  a natural humility, and impeccable manners, Cliburn won over the Russian people, millions of whom listened to his performances on the radio.

Stephen Baskerville’s The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Governmental Power may be the most important book of 2017 — he has written a masterly and authoritative account of how “sexual radicalism” has infected and transformed culture, politics, and the legal system. He reveals the full impact of feminist and homosexual activism on the entire criminal justice system which Baskerville sees as creating an entire network of self-serving agents enforcing laws that ignore the presumption of innocence, due process, and public transparency. Baskerville also shows with jaw-dropping clarity how “no-fault” divorces laws have allowed the intrusion of federal and state government so far into our private lives that “privacy” no longer exists.

Visions of Mary: Art, Devotion, and Beauty at Chartres Cathedral is quite a magnificent book. Jill Geoffrion is not only a superb writer but also an equally talented photographer. But her book is far more than a comprehensive survey of all the images of Our Lady at Chartres Cathedral, rather Visions of Mary is a splendid introduction to the theology and spirituality of Marian devotion. As an ordained American Baptist minister, Jill Geoffrion arrives at Chartres with completely fresh eyes and an open heart. Through this book, she communicates her excitement of discovering why Catholics venerate Mary and how that devotion could enrich her own faith. As she writes, “if God wants to use an American woman minister to introduce others to praying with a Catholic relic in France, who am I to say no?” This book is her resounding “Yes” to the calling she felt to share her experience of Mary at Chartres with persons of all faiths and no faith. This is a book you can give to anyone who asks about Mary or anyone who already knows and loves her as Our Lady. Both will be enriched.

Sharyl Attkinsson has explained the present political climate better than anyone I know: The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote is a tour de force of classical reportage, revealing the Russian “scandal” and the “fake news” accusations for what they are — pure inventions of a political party desperate to remain in power at any cost. It’s remarkable that major news operations continue to talk about Russian interference in the 2016 election and fake news after Attkinson has put all the pieces together and traced these allegations back to their source in a Google-funded think tank. The Smear deserves a lot more attention and traction than it has received, a fate often accorded to authors to publish the truth too soon, before the public is ready to hear it.  Perhaps the time has come?

Eight Recordings for Christmas — From Grand Mahler and Sacred Rachmaninov to Superlative Rozsa and a Requiem for Mothers

Deal W. Hudson
November 19, 2017

In spite of habitually slow sales, in comparison to pop music, recordings of classical music continue to be released by the dozens each month, and some of them equal or supersede the best recordings of the past.  Examples from this list are Brabbins’ performance of Vaughan Williams 2nd Symphony and Thierry Fischer’s 8th Symphony of Gustav Mahler.

There’s new music, too, well worth hearing, such as Stephen Edwards much-lauded “Requiem for My Mother” which will warm the heart of anyone who loves those by Faure and Durufle. Though it’s not strictly new, the American works for piano performed by Laura Downes are deeply satisfying and suggest there must be more from that well to tap.

Beethoven symphonies played on the piano may not appeal to you at first glance, but if you listen to the first few minutes of these Lizst transcriptions you won’t stop. As far as I am concerned there can’t be enough recordings of the film scores of Miklos Rozsa, especially when they sweep the field before them as Nic Raine has done with his recent “Ben-Hur.”

I always come back to Haydn, even before Mozart, but I’m not going to argue the case — I am immediately drawn into his sound world, so full of emotion, of dancing and weeping, and the conductor Giovanni Antonini is afraid of neither. Finally, the All-Night Vigil of Rachmaninov belongs to the pantheon of great sacred music and the recording by Gloriae Dei Cantores catches the sacred in this sacred music.

Stephen Edwards, Requiem for My Mother

Film composer Stephen Edwards has written and recorded a remarkable Requiem for My Mother that will eventually make its way into the repertory of sacred music regularly performed in churches and concert halls. His Requiem is quite beautiful, radiant in many places, majestic and fiercely resolute in others, a remarkable tribute to his mother, Rosalie, as well as to all mothers. The opening Requiem aeternum is masterful, with the statement of a beautiful and memorable main theme which becomes the foundation for the work as a whole. Edwards has written a work that will be performed for many years to come. I predict his “Requiem for My Mother” will catch on quickly among those who know and love sacred music but find a much larger audience.  What Edwards has composed will become contemporary Requiem of choice to those who seek beauty first.

Ralph Vaughan Williams, 2nd Symphony, “London.”

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 2nd Symphony, the “London,” has been recorded many times quite successfully, but Martyn Brabbins new recording of the “1920 Version” has an exceptional emotional force — this disc has the sense of occasion usually missing from even very good performances.  The famed Lento movement has never sounded more expressively tender. This marks the beginning of an entire Vaughan Williams symphony cycle for Brabbins and Hyperion, and if future recordings remain at the level it will challenge all the previous best, such as Previn, Handley, Boult’s EMI version, and Haitnik.

Lara Downes, American Again (American piano works)

Lara Downes pianism in American Again will both melt your heart and make foot start tapping with delight. Downes has collected an unusual assortment of American piano pieces, from arrangements of familiar folk tunes such as “Shenandoah,” “Over the Rainbow,” and “Blue Skies” to lesser-known works by composers such as Morton Gould, Leonard Bernstein, Coleridge-Taylor, Ernst Bloch, Duke Ellington, Roy Harris, Aaron Copland, and Howard Hanson.  There’s not a dud among them. The Coleridge-Taylor arrangement of the spiritual “Deep River” is especially moving.  The sound is state-of-the-art.

Miklos Rozsa, Film Music for Ben-Hur

A great Christmas gift for any music lover: Nic Raine’s new recording of the Miklos Rozsa soundtrack for “Ben-Hur.” This re-recording surpasses any other in both performance and sound quality. Order from Tadlow Music in the UK and your discs will arrive in about a week on your doorstep. I just finished listening and am swept away…..The City of Prague Symphony Orchestra has a wonderful set of players and the soloists are superb. The choir knocks it out of the park.

Beethoven, 6th and 9th Symphonies (transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt)

Yury Martynov has recorded all the Lizst transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies, and all of them are worth hearing — not only are they delightful to hear for themselves but also afford an opportunity to learn more about their structural development. You can start with his recording of the 9th Symphony and you will be surprised by how lively and fulsome the final movement, “Ode to Joy,” comes across in Liszt’s piano version.  His 6th Symphony, the “Pastoral,” is just as irresistible.

Gustav Mahler, 8th Symphony, “Symphony of a Thousand.”

Mahler 8th Symphony, conducted by Thierry Fischer, Utah Symphony, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and soloists, is exceptional, among the best 8ths I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard most of them. The soloists are first class, especially the tenor, Barry Banks, meeting all the challenges of the score. One expects the MTC to be great but here they surpass themselves, helped greatly by the RR engineers. Thierry Fischer has a marvelous feel for Mahler and delivers at every step of the way. The finale is appropriately overwhelming, but few recordings actually pack the kind of punch the composer imagined. Repeated hearings may lead me to say this is the best of all.

Haydn, Symphonies 60, 70 & 12; Cimarosa, Il maestro di cappella

Some recordings of familiar music are just that, familiar, but this one immediately grabs you and won’t go — it gets to the heart of Haydn’s greatness as a symphonic composer, his evidently inexhaustible invention allied with master craftsmanship, and the ability to capture the totality of all human emotions. Giovanni Antonini conducts Il Giardino Armonico in the Haydn, Symphony 60, “Il Distratto” in C major; Symphony 70 in D major; Symph0ny 12 in B major; and Cimarosa, Il maestro di cappella (Orch. M. Brolli).

Rachmaninov, All Night Vigil, Op. 37

The Gloriae Dei Cantores deliver a spectacular new recording of Rachmaninov’s “All Night Vigil” (1915), augmented by two Russian Orthodox choirs and two opera singers from the Kiev Opera. As stated in the 52-page booklet accompanying the CD, the conductor Peter Jermihov was determined to perform the Vigil in order to fully express its Christian intent and meaning. The result is an overwhelmingly beautiful and moving liturgy sung on the Saturday before the Resurrection. Music critics have praised it as “one of the very best recordings this work has received,” and I agree. This is deeply-felt sacred music written when Rachmaninov was in his prime, having already published his 2nd Symphony.

10 Christmas Albums You May Not Know

Deal W. Hudson
December 4, 2017

I chuckle at my use of “albums” given the remarkable comeback of vinyl recordings, though downloading is actually the medium gradually replacing the CD.  Thus, I would advise the reader to check both CD and download formats for the recordings listed below (links to both, where available, are provided). I’ve been something of a Christmas music nerd since my teenage years, due possibly to my sentimental nature but more likely because of a body of music that has stood the “test of time” and, even more, the challenge of repeated hearings.

These tunes are mercilessly pumped through elevators, malls, and, now, gas pumps, making me wonder how they have avoided complete secularization.  But, no, their power remains, and each season our hearts are lifted by hearing them again.

With this in mind, I offer the following recordings as an example not only of the best in traditional presentations but also those whose innovations are firmly guided by the spirit of the Great Mystery they represent. (See note at bottom on buying CDs and downloads.)

A Merry Christmas played by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Available for download on iTunes. (Amazon, too, but charges more.) The CD seems to be out of print.

These orchestral arrangements of 19 well-known carols and songs, which I am listening to while I write this column. The arrangements are lovely, each is a winner as far as I am concerned, and the Shanghai string sections possess a warm, rounded, shimmering sound that pleases the ear greatly. You think you won’t like this, but I guarantee, you will.

A Cabaret Christmas

CD available here and download at iTunes.

Fifteen Christmas songs and carols arranged for the best cabaret and jazz singers around at the time, 1993: Ann Hampton Calloway, Barbara Cook, Billy Stritch, and Andrea Marcovicci. Vocals include “Silent Night” by Barbara Cook, “Winter Wonderland” by Ann Hampton Callaway, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Barbara Loudon.” Delightful!

String Quartet Christmas Vol. 1-3 played by Arturo Delmoni & Friends

CD available here and download at iTunes for only $17.99.

Sixty-eight, yes, that’s 68 carols and songs arranged and played by the string quartet. Don’t nod off! These recordings really have magic and help you listen to the music with fresh ears. I find myself coming back to them every year, and I’m impressed all over again. Great for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

Christmas Music from Sweden played and sung by the Orpheus Singers, conducted by Peter Sund and soloist Christina Högman.

CD available here and download at iTunes.

One of the musical highlights of all Christmas recordings is to hear Högman sing “Quelle Est Cette Odeur Agreable” (When Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing”). This entire recording is one to treasure and makes many English language ensembles sound like amateurs. Add the superb BIS engineering and we have a classic. What they call a “desert island disc”!

Adeste Fideles: Christmas Music from Westminster Cathedral sung by the Westminster Choir conducted by James O’Donnell.

If the English Cathedral style appeals to your ear, then this recording from Hyperion is the best I know. The Westminster Cathedral Choir was at its peak under James O’Donnell, and this recording has not been bested by any choir since, though David Willcocks and the King’s College Choir were the best of his generation.)  I particularly treasure O’Donnell’s recording of “Once In Royal David’s City” and, yes, the title song, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

CD available here and download at iTunes.

Christmas Night: Carols of the Nativity sung by The Cambridge Singers, conducted by John Rutter.

CD available here and download at iTunes.

There are many John Rutter Christmas albums, but he never improved on this early one for his own Collegium label. There is a sparkle and joy in these renderings that are not always matched in later recordings. A youthful Gerald Finley sings “I Wonder As I Wander” with complete authority, while the renderings of “A virgin most pure”(14th century) and “I sing of maiden” (15th century) belie the centuries of their origin.

John Rutter: Music for Christmas sung by Polyphony, conducted by Stephen Layton.

CD available here and download at iTunes.

This is one of the most consistently beautiful Christmas recordings I know. Rutter’s compositions of new carols and new arrangements of traditional ones will be an enduring gift to our celebration of Advent and Christmas. “What Sweeter Music” will be sung for centuries to come, as will “Mary’s Lullaby” and the “Nativity Carol.” You may have heard some of this music but not known its composer, John Rutter. If you don’t know, you will be glad to become acquainted.

Angels’ Glory sung by Kathleen Battle, accompanied on guitar by Christopher Parkening.

CD available here and downloads at iTunes.

Kathleen Battle has a rather embattled career, highlighted by her expulsion from the Metropolitan Opera for 20 years, a ban lifted only recently, but her vocal gift cannot be questioned.  Battle and Parkening combined here to create one of the most satisfying solo Christmas albums in the repertory. Parkening, himself, has been very public about his Christian faith which has provided the match lighting up these 19 selections. Battle’s high pianissimo passages are quite amazing to hear. Listen to “Gesù bambino” and try to resist.

Christmas In Harvard Square sung by The Boys of St. Paul’s Choir School, conducted by John Robinson.

CD available here, downloads at iTunes, and on DVD here.

The Boys of the St. Paul’s Choir School is one of the best-kept secrets in Catholic America.  It’s the only Catholic choir school in the nation, a school where adolescent and teenage boys are trained daily to sing the choral repertoire of the Church and, then, perform it at Masses and other liturgical celebrations. They were discovered, so to speak, by De Monfort Music record label whose co-founder, Monica Fitzgibbons, I interviewed on “Church and Culture.” John Robinson, conductor, and organist is destined to become, in my opinion, the American John Rutter, based upon his arrangements and original compositions such as the lovely “The Infant King.”

Messiah by G.F. Handel performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, with soloists Jon Vickers, Gorgio Tozzi, Monica Sinclair, and Jennifer Vyvyan.

CD available here for $9.99, download at iTunes for $4.99.

If you sample Jon Vickers singing “Comfort Ye, My People” or “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” you will immediately hear one reason why this 1959 recording is so special, Vickers had an extraordinary voice which really could not be compared to anyone else for its sheer power and beauty, every note sounds effortless.  One could call this performance old-fashioned, but such labels are decimated by the joyous beauty that emanates from Beecham’s direction of his own orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, and four soloists who were among the best of their generation. Finally, it’s doubtful that any recording of the “Hallelujah Chorus” will match Beecham’s for its befitting regal grandeur — “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”!

*Note on buying CDs and downloads: I suggested using iTunes for downloading because they are reasonably priced and widely available. However, higher quality downloads of most of this music can be found at www.eclassical.comwww.theclassicalshop.com, www.prestoclassical.uk.co, and www.classicsonline.com. Many often buy CDs from Amazon, but you might also consider supporting vendors such as www.arkivmusic.com.

The 100 Best Catholic Films for Christmas

Deal W. Hudson
December 5, 2017

In offering this list, I am not following any theological guidelines, rather I am concerned with those films that display the highest level of artistry in exploring how the birth of Jesus Christ impacted the world, its history, and all who have lived before and after.

Thus, I hope that you, the reader, put aside concerns about what constitutes an orthodox Catholic film, and discover on this list some films that will bring you enjoyment. In addition, you may find some films to be inspirational or edifying and, as a result, receive a renewed aspiration toward seeking the source of all beauty.

It’s regrettable that Catholic educators have yet to regard cinema as an important artistic tradition, one that should be studied along with literature, painting, theater, and music. The advantage of studying film is its relative youth, having been born only a little over a century ago. The other, more obvious, the advantage is that students will have spent literally hundreds of hours watching films of various kinds, as opposed to their time spent with books, or much less in a museum with the masterworks of painting and sculpture.

Here’s the good news: It’s still not too late for the diligent and perhaps obsessive student, with a few years of study, to gain a satisfactory overview of film history. The “Catholic film” is actually a good place to start on such a journey, since both Catholic filmmakers and Catholic subjects have been a part of film’s history from the beginning of the “silent” era to the present. (Remember, there were very few silent films since musical soundtracks were used in films since 1920. And, to add a curious side note, the capacity for “talking” films had been available for several years prior to the 1927 Jazz Singer but was considered unnecessary to film as a rapidly developing, and primarily visual, art form.)

You will see below my list of 100 Best Catholic Films in chronological order. The only difference between this list and the book list is that I am not insisting that the author be Catholic. My choices are made on the basis of the film alone, not by any reference to the faith of the producer, director, or writer. A work of art should be experienced in itself, apart from the biography or values of its creator. We all are often visited by angels “unawares” in the course of our lives, especially in act of creating.

Thus, I ask the reader not to take me to task if the director of a particular film is a notorious this-or-that, as is definitely the case with a number of the films listed below. And, after all, how do we know under what inspiration, or whose inspiration, an “unbelieving” director brought a film into being.

I have not added links to all my recommendations. The reader can easily search them out on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, or any of the many film vendors on the Internet. If you don’t wish to buy them, you can find out the basic information on any of the films by making use of the International Movie Database at http://www.imdb.comThose in bold are my personal top ten…..

1.Cecil B. DeMille, King of Kings, 1927.

2.Carl Theodore von Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928.

3.Frank Capra, Lady for a Day, 1933.

4.John Ford, The Informer, 1935.

5.Leo McCarey, Make Way for Tomorrow, 1937.

6. Frank Borzage, Strange Cargo, 1940

7.Henry King, The Song of Bernadette, 1943.

8.John M. Stahl, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.

9.Leo McCarey, Going My Way, 1944.

10.Leo McCarey, The Bells of St. Mary’s, 1945.

11.Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946.

12.Michael Powell, Black Narcissus, 1947.

13.John Ford, The Fugitive, 1947.

14.John Ford, Three Godfathers, 1948.

15.Vittorio De Sica, The Bicycle Thieves, 1948.

16.Roberto Rossellini, Stromboli, 1950.

17.Roberto Rossellini, The Flowers of St. Francis, 1950.

18.Gordon Douglas, Come Fill the Cup, 1951.

19.Robert Bresson, The Diary of a Country Priest, 1951.

20.Akira Kurosawa, Ikiru, 1952.

21.Vittorio De Sica, Umberto D, 1952.

22.Alfred Hitchcock, I Confess, 1953.

23.Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront, 1954.

24.Charles Laughton, Night of the Hunter, 1955.

25.Carl Theodore von Dreyer, Ordet, 1955.

26.Alfred Hitchcock, The Wrong Man, 1956.

27.Luis Bunuel, Nazarin, 1959.

28.Fred Zinnemann, The Nun’s Story, 1959.

29.William Wyler, Ben Hur, 1959.

30.Robert Bresson, Pickpocket, 1959.

31.Mervyn LeRoy, The Devil of 4 O’Clock, 1961.

32.Richard Fleischer, Barabbas, 1961.

33.Nicholas Ray, King of Kings, 1961.

34.Otto Preminger, The Cardinal, 1963.

35.Peter Glenville, Becket, 1964.

36.Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1964.

37.Carol Reed, The Agony and the Ecstasy, 1965.

38.Luis Bunuel, Simon of the Desert, 1965.

39.Robert Bresson, Au Hasard Balthasar, 1966.

40.Fred Zinnemann, A Man for All Seasons, 1966.

41.Robert Bresson, Mouchette, 1967.

42.Michael Anderson, The Shoes of the Fisherman, 1968.

43.Franco Zeffirelli, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, 1972.

44.William Friedkin, The Exorcist, 1973.

45.Anthony Harvey, The Abdication, 1974.

46.Joseph Hardy, The Lady’s Not for Burning, 1974.

47.Franco Zeffirelli, Jesus of Nazareth, 1977.

48.Robert Bresson, The Devil Probably, 1977.

49.Ermanno Olmi, Tree of the Wooden Clogs, 1978.

50.Autumn Sonata, Ingmar Bergman, 1978.

51.John Huston, Wise Blood, 1979.

52.Francesco Rosi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, 1979.

53.Hugh Hudson, Chariots of Fire, 1981.

54.Charles Sturridge & Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Brideshead Revisited, 1981.

55.Ulu Grosbard, True Confessions, 1981.

56.Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, Night of the Shooting Stars, 1982.

57.Jerry London, The Scarlet and the Black, 1983.

58.Robert Bresson, L’argent, 1983.

59.Norman Stone, Shadowlands, 1985.

60.Alain Cavalier, Therese, 1986.

61.Roland Jaffe, The Mission, 1986.

62.Wim Wenders, Wings of Desire, 1987.

63.Gabriel Axel, Babette’s Feast, 1987.

64.Rodney Bennett, Monsignor Quixote, 1987.

65.Maurice Pialat, Under the Star of Satan, 1987.

66.John Huston, The Dead, 1987.

67.Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Decalogue, 1988.

68.Krzysztof Kieslowski, A Short Film About Love, 1988.

69.Ermanno Olmi, Legend of the Holy Drinker, 1988.

70.John Duigan, Romero, 1989.

71.Denys Arcand, Jesus of Montreal, 1989.

72.Bruce Beresford, Black Robe, 1991.

73.Stijn Coninx, Daens, 1992.

74.Nancy Savoca, Household Saints, 1993.

75.Mel Gibson, Braveheart, 1995.

76.Liv Ullmann, Kristin Lavransdatter, 1995.

77.Lee David Slotoff, Spitfire Grill, 1996.

78.Marta Meszaros, The Seventh Room, 1996.

79.M. Knight Shyamalan, Wide Awake, 1998.

80.Joe Johnston, October Sky, 1999.

81.David Lynch, The Straight Story, 1999.

82.Agnieszka Holland, The Third Miracle, 1999.

83.Jim Sheridan, In America, 2002.

84.Alexander Payne, About Schmidt, 2002.

85.Bruce Beresford, Evelyn, 2002.

86.Denys Arcand, Barbarian Invasions, 2003.

87.Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ, 2004.

88.Tommy Lee Jones, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 2005.

89.Christian Carion, Joyeux Noel, 2005.

90.Pavel Lungin, The Island, 2006

91.Alejandro Monteverde, Bella, 2006.

92.Jean-Pierre Dardenne, L’Enfant, 2006.

93.Alfonso Cuarón, The Children of Men, 2008.

94.Martin Provost, Seraphine, 2008.

95.Mark Pellington, Henry Poole is Here, 2008.

96.Klaus Haro, Letters to Father Jaakob, 2009.

97.Xavier Beauvois, Of Gods and Men, 2010.

98.Philip Groning, Into the Great Silence, 2007.

99.Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life, 2011.

100.Anne Fontaine, The Innocents, 2016.

Why the Wise Men Followed the Star

Deal W. Hudson
December 23, 2017

Wise men have always looked at the heavens with wonder. For them, the night sky filled with stars represents the luminous, the utterly ineffable, the holy. With this sense of overwhelming awe, comes a question: “What lies behind it all?”

Wise men don’t ignore this question by burying themselves in practical matters, to ignore their own inner prompting – they search. With the first step another question is evoked; it comes as an unexpected whisper — “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

Wise men are thus called because they seek what the ancients called knowledge of “first things,” the foundation of all knowledge, and the source of all. When the Three Wise Men were amazed by the one star outshining all the others in the Eastern sky they saw it as their destination, the goal of their search, a place where all they sought would be revealed.

Thus, from the East, the Wise Men came, from the crucible of civilization, the most ancient of learned cultures, to the court of Herod in Jerusalem. Whether they were deceived by Herod’s flattery we do not know, nor do we know if they sensed his murderous intent in asking them to return and report on the child’s whereabouts. Though wise men, we do not know if these kings were worldly-wise. We do know, however, they believed in the message of their dreams.

They found who they were looking for, the babe with the title “The King of the Jews,” but would come to realize they had found much more, perhaps something else altogether. After all, they must have thought, “Would a king be born like this and to a peasant family?” But this was the place where the star’s light had led them. The Three Kings did not turn back; they knelt in the stable, worshipped the babe, and offered him their royal gifts.

The Wise Men slept deeply that night because they had journeyed far. During their sleep, a dream arose containing a warning not to return to Herod, as they had promised they would. They did not know why — they did not know then that the birth of this child born to peasants had provoked a Roman king to a murderous rage, born of fear and jealousy.

As they rode away, without returning to Jerusalem, the Three Wise Men must have asked each other why a child born in a manger to a carpenter and his young wife would pose any threat to Herod, or the Empire itself. But then, the night had been extraordinary in other ways. They had not been the only ones to pay tribute – they had knelt as kings next to shepherds who reported being summoned by angels.

What they had experienced at the end of their journey was not expected. A poor child in a stable, with some sort of divine protection, was something they had never even imagined. Did this newborn child explain their wonder at the existence of things? Not at all.

But they didn’t accuse the star of leading them to the wrong place or consider their long journey a mistake. For they had received a glimmer of something to come: Their experience with the babe in a manger seemed to announce the beginning of a life that would overturn the order of things and challenge the supremacy of all earthly powers.

“But for what purpose came this child?” they might have asked themselves. Whatever it was, they may have reasoned, it must be universal, a mission to all men. What else could bring kings and shepherds to kneel together, cause the most powerful man in the land to rage, for some divinity to send a dream of warning, and set the night sky itself aglow with the brightest star the world had ever seen.