Catholic Community Cinema Society

Shawshank: Hope Lies Within 3

The Catholic Community Cinema Society

Up next, for our second movie in the new and exciting Catholic Community Cinema Society, we picked The Shawshank Redemption!

The Shawshank Redemption is more than a movie – it’s a work of art: man’s ultimate search for meaning is the canvas; hope the medium.

Though I admit I had forgotten about the prevalence of crude language and rough prison scenes (definitely not one to watch with young kids), watching Shawshank again after many years stirred up all the same deep feelings about life, suffering, desperation, hope and redemption – feelings so deep there are hardly any words to fully express how I feel when I watch this movie.

Bear with me while I at least attempt to put some of those deep “wordless” thoughts into something like words.

When I think of this movie, I immediately think of my husband. I remember this was one of his first “favorite things” that he shared with me. I think I had watched it once before but watching it with him again after we started dating gave me a special glimpse into the interior of my husband’s mind and heart. For all the good he saw in Shawshank, I also saw in him and knew he was an honorable man of integrity, respect, and true justice.

Though the Tree of Life has surpassed Shawshank as his #1, Shawshank remains a tight second. When I asked him what makes it one of his favorites, he said,

…It shows how, despite drastic odds, people in prison who seemingly have no chance at a normal life ever again or who have maybe committed the worst of crimes – that they are still human beings.

(How could I not love this man after hearing that? #heartswell!)

He admires how Andy, who knows himself to be innocent but with no chance of release, takes his future into his own hands and breaks rules to unbreak the  injustice that got him in there.  Hence the famous line:

Andy: Get busy living or get busy dying.

If there was one line to describe Andy, I suppose this one might do:

Red: Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.

My husband knows there’s something more to this movie than an innocent man and his inmates stuck in jail, something deeper beyond words.


He knows the underlying meaning is about the power of hope within man – something greater than himself…that theme is played out throughout whole movie, nothing can take that away from a man…if they do, they take your life and there’s nothing left after that. In the midst of all the bad, hope still rises to the top.

Like my wise husband, I too latched onto Hope in this movie. It’s also a movie about finding meaning in suffering (I know that theme keeps popping up with me!). I’m slowly musing my way through Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, a psychological “analysis”, if you will, behind the psychology of the concentration camp victims from his own personal experience and those he observed. I picked up on many parallels between Frankl’s psychological observations of the concentration camp victims and the inmates at Shawshank.

Like Andy, Viktor too discovered the secret of surviving in “captivity”.

The consciousness of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

And this is the same realization Andy came to. He clung to his “inner value” and kept hope nestled safely in the depths of his heart, providing him strength and reason to withstand the harsh living conditions and experience of prison life. And that’s why this is my favorite scene:

Andy rejoins his inmates after spending a month “in the hole” of solitary isolation as a consequence of playing a record of beautiful music over the prison’s speaker system and his inmates wonder how he survived it so well. Andy answers solemnly, as if telling them the secret of life’s meaning,

…there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.

I know this movie isn’t “easy” to watch and can even be disturbing in some parts. But when I think of what a good “Christian” movie should be, Shawshank is one of the greatest examples. It’s harsh, but it’s reality. And, in my opinion, a truly “Christian” or “Catholic” movie is not a theatrical performance of cliché bible verses or righteousness thrown in your face. Like Joel wrote in his review,

The movie is honest. It is not cheesy or censored or saccharine. It has real characters that make real choices and face real consequences.

A really good Catholic Christian movie happens when the vines of goodness, beauty, and truth intertwine with the grinding harshness of suffering, desperation, and injustice – and the good triumphs. 

There are so many good and solid Catholic values and teachings woven into the movie concerning the dignity of life and the right treatment of prisoners.  Though fictional, Shawshank offers a poignant exhibition of that time period’s (1940’s – 1960’s) prevailing attitude towards criminals and “social outcasts”.

Though I’d like to say attitudes and mindsets have improved significantly since that time, I know that would be more than a little naive. Although, one thing I did notice: even though treatment towards the prisoners by the warden and guards may have looked worse than we might see (on paper) nowadays, I was almost wistful for the old-school-boy friendships of Red and Andy and of characters like Brooks. Though I haven’t spent much time in modern prisons (not any actually), I’d be highly shocked to find any type of friendships among inmates like that, unless there was something in it for them when they got out.

The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.  – Brooks

On the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops page for the document of Responsibility, Rehabilitation, And Restoration: A Catholic Perspective On Crime And Criminal Justice, the Bishops take a strong stance in defense of the rights of every human being – including those who have committed crimes, even against their own fellow humans.

It is time for a new national dialogue on crime and corrections, justice and mercy, responsibility and treatment. As Catholics, we need to ask the following: How can we restore our respect for law and life? How can we protect and rebuild communities, confront crime without vengeance, and defend life without taking life? These questions challenge us as pastors and as teachers of the Gospel.

I understand, or at least I can guess, the subject of crime, punishment, and the rights and responsibilities of and toward criminals is a very complicated one that we are very far from grasping the answers to. As St. Pope John Paul II says,

We are still a long way from the time when our conscience can be certain of having done everything possible to prevent crime and to control it effectively so that it no longer does harm and, at the same time, to offer to those who commit crimes a way of redeeming themselves and making a positive return to society. If all those in some way involved in the problem tried to . . . develop this line of thought, perhaps humanity as a whole could take a great step forward in creating a more serene and peaceful society.

Lastly, if you don’t love the movie for all the reasons I’ve tried explaining, love it for the music.

Andy: That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you… Haven’t you ever felt that way about music?

If you’re feeling hopeless and desperate about your life or current situation, let the Shawshank Soundtrack (and other Thomas Newman masterpieces) breathe into your ears and seep into you soul.

My husband’s favorite song: The Stoic Theme and the End Title songs

The Princess Bride and my Shocking Confession (Please don’t hate me!) 4

The Catholic Community Cinema Society


Alrighty folks, our first movie pick for the The Catholic Community Cinema Society is none other than The Princess Bride!

The Princess Bride is one of those late 80’s movies that everyone loved so much then that they still reference today. As the CCCS’s founder, Joel, says in his post, When You Want to Be Inigo Montoya, but You Realize You’re Vizzini, the Princess Bride is “…the most quotable movie of all time…Seriously, what other movie even comes close to its impact on pop culture references? Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail is the only one I could think of.”

I’m an 80’s baby and grew up in the Princess Bride era and probably heard many references to it growing up but it wasn’t until my late teens/early 20’s even that I watched it.


My friends took pity on me when I finally admitted I had no idea what they were talking about and invited me over for a fun movie night.  Once we were there, I realized they loved this movie so much that they knew every.single.word of the movie line by line. I realized this because these two friends (who shall remain nameless but you know who you are!) of mine said every single line of the movie word for word from the beginning to end.

Inconceivable!  (I know, right?)

Needless to say, we spent more time laughing and giggling about their amazing talents rather than watching the movie so I didn’t really get to watch it for myself the whole way through until last fall with my twelve-year-old daughter. That time around, I really got to enjoy it better. My daughter loved it then so I didn’t have to ask her twice if she wanted to watch it again this week so I could carry out my duties as a member of the The Catholic Community Cinema Society.

If you’re in the mood for a fun and easy movie you can easily sit down and watch with your spouse or maybe even your whole family, the Princess Bride wont’ let you down. You’ll find yourself chuckling at all the witty commentary and all the awkward situations the characters find themselves in together are so inconceivable you’ll have to laugh.

As an early 30-something-year-old nostalgic for my 80’s/90’s childhood, the things I love about the movie are traits others probably wouldn’t even notice like the scenes in “Kevin’s” room (Fred will always be the Wonder Years Kevin to me). If you pay attention to other movies made during this time, notice the sets. Whoever did the sets back then knew what a family’s house and boys’ rooms really looked like compared to the modern-day home sets that look like…well like sets of an unrealistic family home.

And check out the moms hair!!

I’m sure my fellow member of the CCCS, Mary Big Hair, would have a few witty things to say about her hair so I’ll just stop there with that one. I loved the relationship between Kevin and his grandpa (Columbo!). Like Joel points out also, the “device” (that’s cinematic nerd speak there) of the bedtime story is pretty ingenious and makes otherwise awkward moments with kids funny instead.

Unlike Joel, I didn’t really read into the movie that much or think about which character I related most with. As far as favorite characters, I’d say Fezzik and Inigo are probably my favorites. With Inigo’s loyal determination and Spaniard courtesy –

I promise I will not kill you until you get to the top.

and Fezzik – the brute that is made to look like a big dumb ox but is really the one with the greatest conscience and big heart.

I just don’t think it’s right, killing an innocent girl.

Just goes to show you should never judge a character by their size, who they socialize with, or their line of work.

Then again, who can’t love Vezzini’s over-the-top villainism at least a wee bit?

Oh, and I also really liked Mrs. Witch Doctor.

This is  how I feel when kids (and grown-ups) lie. (And this is probably how my kids see me when I call them out for it.)

Now, I hesitate to admit who I least like because I’m afraid of what this admission will do to my relationships, not to mention the status of this blog and the CCCS itself. But, alas, a good movie review can’t be all fun and games now can it?

It may surprise you to know that I really dislike Princess Buttercup and Westley.

Don’t throw anything at me!!!

We are all wooed by Farmboy Westley’s smoldering “As you Wish” in the beginning but, when he comes back as the Dread Pirate Roberts, his submissive genteelness is replaced with a somewhat arrogant machoism that I found repelling more than charming.

At this point, Princess Buttercup may be wondering who this man is and what has he done with her dear Farmboy Westely.

Now, Princess Buttercup, irks me simply because she starts off as a somewhat strong female character – bravely jumping out of the ship to escape until she realizes she’s jumped into the eel-infested waters. That scene, and Vezzini’s “I suppose you think you’re so brave” comment lead me to think Buttercup might turn into a heroine later but no.

She plays the classic “damsel in distress” who can’t seem to do anything to save herself, not even reach up and take off her blindfold even though her hands are only tied together at the wrists and can only stand by and idly watch while her “beloved Westley” is attacked and almost eaten alive by the R.O.U.Ss. in the fire swamp.

Her naïve trust in Prince Humperdink’s promises and her suicidal mopiness just about did me in.

But, she redeems herself a little with her brave and graceful jump out the castle window into Fezzik’s big strong arms at the end.

So all in all, the Princess Bride is a fun movie filled with a generous amount of wit that the whole family can sit down and enjoy together.

Even with Princess Buttercups weak female character and Westley’s pirate arrogance, it’s a nice-and-easy love story – even if overly typical – with family-friendly adventure and swordplay to make up for the kissing and medieval romanticism.

Ok, you’re turn! Head on over to Joel’s blog post and share you commentary or link to your own blog post about what you love – or don’t love – about the Princess Bride!


Next up, in The Catholic Community Cinema Society’s movie line up for August is my husband’s all-time favorite, The Shawshank Redemption! I’m looking forward to watching it and this time, I’ll try and watch and blog about our August movie pick in August!

You’re Invited to Join The Catholic Community Cinema Society 6

Do you like watching movies? Do you appreciate genuine and authentic movies that encompass Truth, Beauty, Redemption, LOVE and all that other good stuff? Do you relish a deep, enriching and eclectic conversation with others who also value these same qualities in a good movie?

Well hold onto your popcorn and hold your hopes up high cuz I’ve got an exciting announcement for you!

I’d like to introduce and invite you to a new endeavor unlike anything you’ve ever screened before…

The Catholic Community Cinema Society was proposed and founded by none other than the Most Overly Enthusiastic Cinephile I’ve ever known: My long-time friend, Joel, who writes all about movies, books, culture, family, faith, and other cool life stuff over at I/FWP. (That’s short for Ideas. Folk. Work. Place.)

Basically, those who want to be part of this awesome Catholic Community Cinema Society will all watch the same movie each month and then have fun conversing about that same movie. See Joel’s blog post for the specific details on how it works and how you can participate. 

We’ve already lined up the first three movie picks for July, August, and September:

All these are currently available on Netflix Instant Watch. You can also rent the Princess Bride, Shawshank, and The Hustler on Amazon Prime for $2.99.

If you aren’t sure about joining in, know that Joel used his Overly Enthusiastic picture and brotherly charm to convince not only myself but also the hilarious Mary of Mary Big Hair to join this new Society (said in a stuffy High-Class British accent) so that he wouldn’t be all alone in his overly enthusiastic cinephilia.

Of course we agreed because we didn’t want to make him feel bad er I mean, because we too are overly enthusiastic about movies!!!!!!! (See all those exclamation marks?) See, I’ll even give you my own Overly Enthusiastic expression to make up for using his picture without permission. (Although, he did send me the picture so technically I have full rights to use it how I choose, right?)

Now that we’ve probably scared you away with our overly enthusiastic selves – or at least convinced you to join us for the obvious entertainment factor – head on over to Joel’s blog and stay-tuned for a post later this month all about The Princess Bride!

(Amazon Affiliate links included in this post – Which means when you purchase anything on Amazon after clicking the links, they send me a teeny thank you gift card I’ll probably use for either books or renting more movies.)

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