Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Best: Christmas Movies #8 and #7

I thought I would take these four weeks leading up to Christmas to use the Sunday Best columns to highlight the best Christmas movies around.

This week we will be focusing on very different movies.

#8 - Love Actually.

As I wrote in my article Love, Aquinasly, there are an number of things that this movie gets wrong about love and Christmas.  But there are also many things that it gets right.  This movie expertly interweaves seemingly disparate stories and reminds us that Christmas is about love.  Christmas is a time when love, any kind of love, should be made more manifest.

Men discover that they truly love their friends.  Lovers pour out their hearts to each other.  Parents and children dare to dream for each other.

The movie downplays the role of Christ in Christmas.  But God is there in the movie.  And like our lives He is often there unnoticed.  Particularly, I am convinced that Rowan Atkinson is an angel sent by God to help Alan Rickman's character avoid having an affair and to help little Sam declare his love. Watch the movie again and even look at how he hides his wings at the airport.

Expertly directed, sharply written, and splendidly acted.

#7 - The Fourth Wise Man

Martin Sheen plays Artaban, a magi who was waylaid from joining Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar on their journey to visit the Christ child.  He has three gifts to give of great value: a sapphire, a precious ruby, and a pearl of great price.  Circumstances keep bringing him apart from his quest to find the child and force him to part with his gifts one by one.

Sheen gives a great performance and his slave Orantes is played by a wonderfully cynical Alan Arkin.  The movie does move on from that first Christmas and several years pass over the course of the movie. But the ending is so spiritually powerful as the story connects the giving of the magi's gifts and the message of the Christ's Gospel.

If you can find a copy of this, I would highly recommend it.  Sheen is a serious Catholic and you can tell it in his performance.

I should note that seeing Charlie Sheen play a centurion is more than a little distracting.

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