Native-son filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen left the Academy Awards empty-handed Sunday night, "A Serious Man" having missed out on both of its nominations. But the week wasn't a complete loss for the movie. It made the Arts & Faith Top 100 Films list.
The comedy, featuring a woebegone Jewish protagonist whom many critics compared to Job, finished an impressive No. 22 on the list. It beat out some pretty heady competition, including "It's a Wonderful Life" (No. 45), "Chariots of Fire" (68) and "Becket" (the 1964 Richard Burton/Peter O'Toole version that was nominated for 12 Oscars, No. 76).
The list -- available online at artsandfaith.com/t100 -- was assembled by "Image," a quarterly literary journal based in Seattle. It's not your typical list of religious movies, said Gregory Wolfe, the journal's editor. For starters, it omits most of the movies that are considered Christian filmmaking's heavy-hitters.
"It does not include 'The Ten Commandments,' 'The Passion of the Christ' or 'Facing the Giants,'" he said. "We weren't interested in movies that are preachy or evangelistic. We wanted movies that address the basic human questions: Who are we? Where do we come from? And where are we going?"
The No. 1 movie is "Ordet," a 1955 Danish drama about a farmer with three troublesome sons: One has renounced the family's religion, one is preparing to marry outside their faith and the third is mad and thinks he's Jesus Christ.
Rounding out the top five are: "The Decalogue" (Polish), "Babette's Feast" (Danish), "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (French) and "The Son" (French). Notice a pattern? Other than "Sunrise," a 1927 silent film that finished No. 7, "A Serious Man" is the top American-made movie on the list.
"Once we saw the list, we did worry that it might be a bit too highbrow," Wolfe admitted. "We didn't want to come off as film snobs, but at the same time, we wanted movies that are intellectually challenging."
If you want to argue about it, that's fine, too. Links are being installed in the online list that enable readers to comment on a film or its inclusion on the list.
"So far, we only have links for the top 10, but we're going to keep expanding until we have all 100," he said. "We want discussion to be part of the process."More the merrier?
With plans underway for the launch of a new Lutheran denomination called the North American Lutheran Church, a reporter was grousing that, what with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, soon it was going to be hard to tell the Lutherans apart without a scorecard.
Dennis McGrath, the crack public relations guy for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was quick to point out that anything Lutherans can do, Catholics can overdo.
Worldwide, there are 23 versions of the Catholic church. All of them ultimately report to the Vatican, but each exists as sui juris (under its own laws) entities. Most Catholics in the United States are unaware of these many variations because only one of them -- Roman Catholic -- exists here.
The rest are primarily found in the Eastern Hemisphere and include the likes of the Syrian Catholic Church, the Ethiopian Catholic Church and the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church. If you really want to get confused, go to Greece, where nearly every ethnic group has its own church, among them the Belarusian Greek Catholics, the Hungarian Greek Catholics and the Macedonian Greek Catholics.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392