The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


November 1999 Books/Movies/TV/Videos

Living Prayer (Tarcher) by Robert Benson charts his experience of Christian devotion through the rhythm of worship, the embrace of his own brokenness, his notice of the changing seasons, his participation in retreats, his delight in sacred reading and his disciplined use of journals as a way of paying attention to his life. In one of the finest chapters, Benson talks about the significance of his prayer rug, which doubles as a picnic rug and a mat for the celebration of the Lord's Supper.

Against the Pollution of the I: Selected Writings (Parabola Books) by Jacques Lusseyran contains six gloriously written essays by this writer, teacher and French resistance activist during World War II. The author (1924-1971), who was blind, writes poetically about his heightened senses of hearing and touch, his belief in the inner light, and his survival of life in a concentration camp.

American Beauty (Dreamworks, R — strong sexuality, language, violence, drug content) is a brilliantly acted and inventive satire only recommended for the most adventuresome filmgoers. It deals with the spiritual transformation of a middle-aged suburbanite (Kevin Spacey in an Academy Award-caliber performance). One of the people who contributes to the radical changes in his life is his 18-year-old neighbor, who is an intense priest of beauty. Those who can stay open to this bizarre film's unsettling truths will be blessed with a fresh understanding of the wonders around us that often go unnoticed and unacknowledged.

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (PBS, Nov. 7 & 8, 8-10 p.m. ET) profiles the lives of the two extraordinary women who gave birth to the women's rights movement during the 19th century. Ken Burns is the filmmaker.

Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End (CBS, Nov. 21, 9-11 p.m. ET) is a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation starring Glenn Close, Christopher Walken and Jack Palance. Frontier settlers Sarah and Jacob Witting have to deal with the return of Jacob's long-lost father, who seeks a reconciliation with his son before he dies.

The Iron Giant (Warner Bros., PG) offers a salutary alternative to the usual animated features for children filled with songs and silly sidekicks. This creative tale explores the friendship between a boy and a giant robot. It praises gentleness and self-sacrifice and proclaims "guns kill."

The Castle (Miramax, R — language) is an outstanding Australian comedy that presents the idea that the greatest wealth of all is living contentedly in the present moment. It revolves around a David vs. Goliath battle between a working class family and a conglomerate that wants to kick them out of their ramshackle house to expand the nearby airport.


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Women and the Reformation: Then & Now