Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

1. Movie Review: The Mighty Macs (opening nationwide Friday, Oct. 21)
The Mighty Macs tells the true story of how Cathy Rush led the women’s basketball team at Immaculata College, an all-female Catholic academy not exactly known for producing winning sports teams, through an unlikely and historic championship 1971-1972 season.  The film stars Carla Gugino as Cathy Rush, David Boreanaz as her NBA referee husband Ed, Marley Shelton as the novice (fictional) nun Sister Sunday and Ellen Burstyn as Mother St. John, the head of the school.

So is it good? Yes it is. Not perfect, but good. And certainly refreshing in an era when movies and TV shows tend to portray young people as little more than bags of hormones and snark and religion as something only for crazy people.

What I liked most about the film was its depiction of the friendship and trust that developed between members of the team, including Trish Sharkey (Katie Hayek), Lizanne Caufield (Kim Blair), Gayle Moore (Bianka Allyon Brunson), Rosemary Keenan (Margaret Anne Florence), Colleen McCann (Kate Nowlin), Jen Galantino (Meghan Sabia) and Mimi Malone (Taylor Steel), an attractive group of young actresses with potentially very bright careers ahead of them.  There aren’t enough depictions of sweet and pure friendship depicted on screen these days — for girls, boys or adults. The supposedly cool characters in our films and TV shows are almost always the ones with the best putdowns.  But these girls really like and respect each other and that’s refreshing.

It’s also nice to see nuns portrayed as human beings. The sisters (from school head Mother St. John to the novice Sister Sunday) are all shown as people who are struggling to serve God and the students at Immaculata. Ellen Buystyn also brings a certain class and quiet dignity to the film as Mother St. John and Marley Shelton has perhaps the best lines in the scene in which Sister Sunday (sans habit) visits a bar and chats with a guy seeking to pick her up.

Carla Gugino is excellent and believable in the lead role of Cathy Rush.  She totally nails the whole strong woman in changing times thing — endowing her character with both the strength and vulnerability required.

As for David Boreanaz as her husband Ed, he’s fine in the role, but he gets less screen time than I would have expected. I have to wonder if his best scene isn’t on the cutting room floor.  One small quibble with the film is how he begins the film as dismissive and unsupportive of Cathy’s work and ends up being her greatest cheerleader. Such a transition is, of course, possible but we need to see it happen.  There is no such scene in the movie.

There is one part of the movie that seems to set up such a transition. It comes when, at Sister Sunday’s urging, Cathy puts together a romantic dinner for Ed to rekindle their romance. But, when Ed calls from the road saying he won’t be able to make it home, that puts the kibosh on both the dinner and the opportunity for a scene which could have provided an explanation for the characters change in attitude.

Another quibble is that I’d like to have learned more about the team members and where they came from. True, with a running time of about 100 minutes, that poses a challenge but it would have added to the depth of the story.  Maybe a Mighty Macs TV series is in order. That would allow for more time to get to know each character. Remember The White Shadow?  How about a female version?

But, overall, I recommend you take the family or a date (the film is appropriate in either case) to see The Mighty Macs. It’s an inspirational story told with humor and heart.

2. Exhibit A: Evidence why we need more entertainment like The Mighty Macs. From TMZ: Girl Scouts of the USA is warning its legions … reality television shows are turning young women into “mean girls.” The Girl Scouts Research Institute conducted a study on reality TV … and concluded, “teen girls who regularly view reality TV accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying in their own lives, and measure their worth primarily by their physical appearance.”
Comment: Don’t think this only applies only to girls or only to kids. Depictions of cruel behavior, especially when presented as cool, coarsens society as a whole. The entertainment industry has the opportunity to present positive examples of people being kind to each other and overcoming obstacles while working together for the good of all. That can be every bit as dramatic (more so) then watching a group of selfish backstabbers fight over stupid things. Movies like The Mighty Macs prove that.  

3. Susan Sarandon and the other “N” word. So the actress twice called Pope Benedict XVI a “Nazi.”  And now the Catholic League and the Anti-Defamation League are displeased with her for both slandering the pontiff (who like other young Germans of his era was forced to join the Hitler Youth) and, in the words of ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, using language that serves to “diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust.” Also weighing in on the matter is Catholic writer Teresa Tomeo, author of the controversial new book Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture, who criticized Sarandon while adding “Sadly, one has to wonder whether there truly will be an outcry beyond the many Catholics who are outraged.”
Comment: It’s really about time we banish a second “N” word from responsible public discourse. Unless you’re talking about actual Nazism (an evil in a class by itself), hurling such epithets at religious leaders, politicians or anyone else we may disagree with on an array of issues is less than helpful when it comes creating a civil society.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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