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Internet Infidels Video Store - Drama

At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991)At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991)

First-time missionaries Martin and Hazel Quarrier travel to a small town in the middle of the Brazilian jungle in order to convert the natives. They meet Leslie and Andy Huben, a more experienced missionary couple, and half-breed Cheyenne Indian Lewis Moon and his assistant Wolf, who have been employed by the Brazilian government to destroy the rainforest and drive the Indians off their land. Through their contact with the native people and their growing appreciation for the unspoiled environment, Quarrier and Moon find themselves questioning long-held beliefs and their assignments.

Black Robe (1991)Black Robe (1991)

In the 17th century a Jesuit missionary travels from France to northern Quebec in order to convert the native population, whom the Church regards as savage infidels, to the ways of Catholicism. He undergoes a long and arduous journey, frought with danger, but eventually arrives at the remote outpost. Once there, however, he is confronted by the bleak circumstances of the settlement, where the indigenous population is succumbing, one by one, to the white man's diseases.

Blade Runner (1982)Blade Runner (1982)

Though not a movie we might normally regard as having anything to do with religion or secularism, it has a mythical undercurrent that is relevant to secular and religious values concerning just what rights a God would have with regard to his creation. Though religion never comes up in the film, the theme is there: artificial men are denied a lifespan sufficient to experience and learn about life, simply to control them, and they decide to go after their creator to force him to extend their lifespan. When he cannot, they kill him (a metaphor for man's progress toward secular enlightenment). This is another example of "what if" that makes one think about just what sort of fellow God would have to be to have created us, since our situation is not that different from the artificial men in the film, especially within the context of Christian theology where death was God's attempt to punish us for daring to acquire knowledge. The antagonist (Rutger Hauer in his finest role) begins a villain but you grow to understand him and actually reconsider his status by the end of the film. What is remarkable is that he converts to heroism at the last moment of his life not because of hopes of reward in heaven--he states overtly his certainty that he is about to cease to exist--but because he realizes his own ethical ideals in himself: all life is valuable precisely because it will soon cease forever, a decidedly secular revelation. Contrary to everyone's praise, in my opinion the Director's Cut may annoy or confuse those who have not read the book (Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), and despite the behind-the-scenes story surrounding it, Harrison Ford's hastily-added narration in the original release actually improved the film--the fact that it departed from the novel's surprise ending is irrelevant since Scott still didn't include that ending even in his beloved director's cut. In a sad travesty, the studio has apparently pandered to pseudo-artsiness and the original release is no longer available. But the cult following the film has generated is enormous in literary critical sources, resulting in a collection of interesting high-brow essays in Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' and Philip K. Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'.

Bob Roberts (1992)Bob Roberts (1992)

Scary yet poignant mockumentary about how a religious conservative (Tim Robbins) exploits popular culture to gain political office, all the while funded by faceless and nameless international big money. This is more about politics than religion or secularism, but the message is certainly relevant to secularists interested in preventing a right-wing coup by a charismatic deceiver. Also starring Alan Rickman, with numerous cameos by names like John Cusak and James Spader.

The Crucible (1957)The Crucible (1957)

Jean-Paul Sartre's fascinating French adaptation of Arthur Miller's American play "The Crucible" which uses the 1692 witch hunts in Salem, Massachusetts as an allegory for McCarthyism. When a middle-aged man ends his affair with a younger woman, the vengeful mistress accuses her ex-lover's wife of witchcraft. Soon mass hysteria has broken out among the Puritans of the village, and both he and his wife are put on trial. If they are convicted, they will burn at the stake. The story, based on actual incidents that took place in colonial New England, parallels the anti-communist panic that swept through America in the 1950s, where hysteria once again destroyed the lives of many innocent people.

The Crucible (1996)The Crucible (1996)

Modern American remake of the 1957 original, receiving generally good critical reviews, which is surprising given the usual tendency of American cinema to destroy all the merit of a foreign film by replacing its depth and art with trash and flash.

Dead Poets Society (1989)Dead Poets Society (1989)

Inspiring film featuring Robin Williams as a nonconforming English teacher who teaches his students to think for themselves and to carpe diem. Tom Keogh writes for Robin Williams stars as an English teacher who doesn't fit into the conservative prep school where he teaches, but whose charisma and love of poetry inspires several boys to revive a secret society with a bohemian bent. The script is well meaning but a little trite, though director Peter Weir (The Truman Show) adds layers of emotional depth in scenes of conflict between the kids and adults. (A subplot involving one father's terrible pressure on his son--played by Robert Sean Leonard--to drop his interest in theater reaches heartbreaking proportions.) Williams is given plenty of latitude to work in his brand of improvisational humor, though it is all well-woven into his character's style of instruction.

Elmer Gantry (1960)Elmer Gantry (1960) (Sean Axmaker): Brothers and sisters, can we get a witness for this woeful tale of saints and sinners? Burt Lancaster earned his only Oscar as the wide-smiling, glad-handing, soul-saving charlatan Elmer Gantry, a salesman who turns his gift for preaching into a career at the pulpit. Climbing on board the barnstorming evangelical tour of revivalist Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons), a true believer in the Aimee Semple McPherson mold, Gantry declaims, invokes, and sermonizes his way to the top until a former flame-turned-prostitute (Shirley Jones in an Oscar-winning performance) threatens to reveal his dark past as a womanizer and con man. Lancaster harnesses all his physical vigor and natural charisma for this role, literally throwing himself into his preaching with the vigor of an acrobat and the sing-song delivery of a gospel singer--he even brays like a hound to show the Holy Spirit within him. Gantry is a showman, pure and simple, and while he doesn't fool true-believer Sister Sharon, he gives her a few object lessons in playing the crowd. Director Richard Brooks, who also took home an Oscar for his screenplay (adapted from the Sinclair Lewis novel), creates a rousing drama both on and off the pulpit, and provides fine roles for an excellent supporting cast, including Arthur Kennedy, Dean Jagger, John McIntire, and singer Patti Page.

The Eye of God (1997)The Eye of God (1997)

A woman (Martha Plimpton) unwisely marries a man she writes to in prison (Kevin Anderson) and becomes his prisoner, while a sheriff (Hal Holbrook) seeks to discover what happened to a stunned and mute teen (Nick Stahl) found wandering at night. In the process of unfolding these two stories, the characters come to question God's existence, or compassion, and must find a way to deal with a godless universe.

Fearless (1993)Fearless (1993)

The main character in this film, a plane crash victim played by Jeff Bridges, is, and remains, an atheist, yet goes through a spiritual awakening that is both secular and moving. He saves a devoted Catholic (Rosie Perez) whose son was killed in the crash not by seeking to restore her faith in God, but by restoring her faith in herself and teaching her to see and enjoy life as it is--and, incidentally, freeing her from religious guilt by a rather incredible use of empirical demonstration that has to be seen to be believed. This movie has the merit of being one of the few movies that actually make me cry, a man whom my wife likens to Mr. Spock, and it is in my opinion the best movie ever made. The cinematography, acting, music, and direction is superbly powerful. But you might not want to watch this before flying. Also stars Isabella Rosellini (The Imposters), Benecio Del Torro (Traffic), Tom Hulce (Amadeus), and John Turturro (Oh Brother Where Art Thou).

The Fountainhead (1949)The Fountainhead (1949)

An architectural genius battles the cultural status quo to defend his designs, even as the woman he loves would rather destroy him than see his vision compromised by the world's mediocrity. Based on Ayn Rand's passionate 1943 novel, and essentially a narrative manifesto for Objectivism, her philosophy of godless capitalism, the film features an exceptional cast and a striking message, though Gary Cooper admitted his performance was slightly off-key as the iron-willed Howard Roark.

The Handmaid's Tale (1990The Handmaid's Tale (1990

Natasha Richardson stars in the film version of Margaret Atwood's now classic novel. It is a futuristic look of what a theocracy could look like in America in a century or two. Pollution has rendered 99% of women sterile, and the few that aren't sterile are handmaids and forced to bear all the children in society. Richardon's character escapes and joins the resistance.

The Hawks and the Sparrows (1964)The Hawks and the Sparrows (1964)

A fanciful, philosophical fable about a father and son whose encounter with a talking crow catapults them along a satirical journey of knowledge about the two pillars of modern Italian life--the Church and Marxism.

Inherit the Wind (1960)Inherit the Wind (1960)

Though not completely historically accurate, and not portraying H. L. Mencken accurately, Inherit the Wind is a wonderful adaptation of a play based on the Scopes Monkey trial in which the teaching of evolution was put on trial. An updated TV movie version featuring Jason Robarbs and Kirk Douglas is also well worth watching. Robert Horton wrote for Two of the juiciest roles in the American theater fall at the feet of Spencer Tracy and Fredric March, and both men make a meal of it. Inherit the Wind, based on the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, is a slightly fictionalized account of the Scopes Monkey Trial, that galvanizing legal drama of the 1920s. When a young Tennessee teacher is prosecuted for teaching the theory of evolution in a public school, he receives unwanted public attention as well as the legal advice of a giant. Tracy plays the role based on Clarence Darrow, the eloquent defense attorney, and March storms his way through a part based on Williams Jennings Bryan, the failed presidential candidate (and famed orator) who prosecuted the case. Gene Kelly plays a character based on the acid-penned H.L. Mencken, reporting on the trial and caustically commenting on the absurdity of the human animal. Stanley Kramer's direction is not especially subtle, but the verbal fireworks unleashed during the trial sequences are still stirring. Even the different styles of the actors are intriguing: March is all mannerism and false padding around the belly, while Tracy does his patented naturalistic grumbling. It would be nice if this story were a quaint period piece, but its issues and arguments keep reemerging in the headlines with each new generation.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

No miracles? No resurrection? Judas a good guy? Only a humanist could have written this musical account of the last days of Jesus. The chorus to the main score, "Jesus Christ, Superstar, do you think you are who they say you are?" is the skeptical but human theme of the entire production, originally written for the stage, but here cleverly filmed in the Israeli countryside, with set and costuming that cleverly blends ancient and modern without apology. The score and lyrics are brilliant, and Judas (played by Carl Anderson in what must be the greatest musical supporting role in movie history) has all the best songs, full of humanist questions and concerns, turning the enigmatic and bitter treatment of the man in the Gospels into a sympathetic one, questioning the divinity of Jesus, accusing him of wrongly becoming "more important than the things you say." Beware of the year 2000 remake, which is substantially inferior to the original. Indeed, that video is even worse than its stage version, which was actually quite good--largely because the understudies outperformed the stars, reminding us that stardom does not equal talent. In contrast, there is plenty of outstanding talent in the original, and it remains unrivalled.

The Last Supper (1976)The Last Supper (1976)

A dark parody set in 18th century Cuba about what happens when one man carries out his idea of the Christian ideal in the very non-Christian context of slavery. When a wealthy plantation owner decides to follow Christ's example by washing the feet of twelve of his slaves, the angry "apostles", who share neither the boss's wealth nor his religion, rebel. They set fire to the crops and flee, and soon the owner, furious at the destruction of both his land and his little drama, orders the slaves found and killed... One of the masterpieces of revolutionary Cuban cinema.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Martin Scorese's controversial, yet thought-provoking, parable of Jesus' final days, heavily informed by Gnostic interpretations of Christ. Though hated by those who never saw it, most movie critics hailed it as among the best movies of 1988.

The Other Side of Sunday (1998)The Other Side of Sunday (1998)

Norwegian story about a small town preacher's daughter and her attempt to liberate herself from her family's repressive religion. See review.

The Name of the Rose (1986)The Name of the Rose (1986)

Set in the mountains of 13th century abbey in Italy, the Name of the Rose weaves a complicated tale of faith, science and murder in a way that will keep audiences guessing. Sean Connery's portrayal of a learned monk (William of Baskerville) who uses the tools of science and logic to solve a series of murders, which are cleverly set to mimic the biblical book of Revelation, is one of his best. And audience members will find themselves thinking about the issues this picture brings to light, long after the movie is over.

Osama (2003)Osama (2003)

Inspired by a true story, Osama is the first movie produced by Afghanistan filmmakers after the fall of the Taliban. Osama is a searing portrait of life under the oppressive fundamentalist regime. Because women are not allowed to work, a widow disguises her young daughter (Marina Golbahari) as a boy so they won't starve to death. Simply walking the streets is frightening enough, but when the disguised girl is rounded up with all the boys in the town for religious training, her peril becomes absolutely harrowing. Golbahari's face--beautiful but taut with terror--is riveting. The movie captures both her plight and the miseries of daily life in spare, vivid images. At one point, her mother is nearly killed for exposing her feet while riding on the back of a bicycle; for the entire scene, the camera shows only her feet, with the spokes of the wheel radiating out behind as she lowers her burka over them.

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

In addition to a subtle antifundamentalist undercurrent, includes a noteworthy court scene in which the lead character refuses to swear on a Bible because he is an atheist (he is allowed to affirm). Jim Emerson writes for Leave it to Czech director Milos Forman (One Flew Over to Cuckoo's Nest) to make the most entertaining and offbeat celebration of the American Constitution that the movies have ever given us. You think the First Amendment was designed to protect you from offensive speech? Think again. The real glory of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights--as brought to life in this splendidly quirky and alternately reverent and irreverent comedy--is that it ensures everyone's freedom by protecting a whole range of expression, from the banal to the outrageous. Scripted by the writers of Ed Wood (another affectionately twisted biography of a disreputably eccentric entertainment figure), The People vs. Larry Flynt applies a similar sort of exaggerated and telescoped editorial-cartoon sensibility to the wild life and times of Hustler skin-magazine publisher Larry Flynt. It's the great (and fictionalized-but-true) American story of how smut-peddler Flynt--the poor man's redneck Hugh Hefner--ended up appealing a libel case (brought by televangelist Jerry Falwell) to the Supreme Court and winning a major legal victory that affects us all. Terrific performances by Woody Harrelson as Flynt, grunge-star-turned-glamour-puss Courtney Love as his wife Althea, and Edward Norton as their lawyer (a composite character).

The Plague (1992)The Plague (1992)

Film adaptation of Albert Camus' existential novel featuring William Hurt, Robert Duvall, and Raul Julia.

Priest (1995)Priest (1995) (Dave McCoy): Despite its title, forget about finding this controversial drama on the Vatican's screening list. The film explores a provocative checklist of religious taboos--celibacy, incest, sexual abuse, homosexuality, the debatable secrecy of the confessional--as director Antonia Bird delivers a bold condemnation of what she views as the outdated politics and harmful nature of Catholic doctrine. The story concerns the ideologically strained relationship between two clergymen, the misleading conservative Father Greg (Linus Roache) and his older and more practical colleague, Father Matthew (Tom Wilkinson). Upon arriving at his new Liverpool parish, Greg is shocked to learn that Matthew ignores celibacy and openly sleeps with his black housekeeper. Greg chooses to satisfy his earthly desires in a more secretive way. Sometimes, he likes to lose the cloth, grab a leather jacket, and pick up guys at the local gay pub. He's got other problems as well. While torturing himself with his own moral dilemma, he's hit with another, as during confession a young girl confides that her father is sexually abusing her at home. While this drags out the old "bound by secrecy" clichè of many religious melodramas, Bird uses it to bolster her theme of unwarranted secrecy in the face of faith and social scorn. Ultimately, both the priest and the girl are victims of their own fear, and must find courage to destroy it. Thankfully, Bird's wicked sense of humor keeps the film's tone from slipping into saccharine sentimentality, while Roache's intense performance and a honest, shattering finale rescue the film from swerving too far into shallow TV movie-of-the-week sensationalism.

The Rapture (1991)The Rapture (1991)

The title alone may scare atheists away, but writer/director Michael Tolkin poses a question we frequently discuss: even if a god exists powerful enough to destroy the world, does it deserve worship, even if it destroys human feelings, and sends good atheists to hell and faithful murderers to heaven? Mimi Rogers and David Duchovny are group-sex fans who become religious fanatics. Any more description would give the whole thing away. Don't miss the orgy featuring one participant with the Apocalypse tattooed on her back.

A Room With a View (1986)A Room With a View (1986)

To celebrate the humanism inherent in atheism, this excellent movie is especially worth seeing for the example set by the heroes of the film, a father and his son, who are passionate freethinkers. Jeff Shannon writes for The prestigious filmmaking trio of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala had made other critically acclaimed films before A Room with a View was released in 1985, but it was this popular film that made them art-house superstars. Splendidly adapted from the novel by E.M. Forster, it's a comedy of the heart, a passionate romance and a study of repression within the British class system of manners and mores. It's that system of rigid behavior that prevents young Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) from accepting the loving advances of a free-spirited suitor (Julian Sands), who fears that she will follow through with her engagement to a priggish intellectual (Daniel Day-Lewis) whose capacity for passion is virtually nonexistent. During and after a trip to Italy with her protective companion (Maggie Smith), Lucy gradually gets in touch with her true emotions. The fun of watching A Room with a View comes from seeing how Lucy's thoughts and feelings finally arrive at the same romantic conclusion. Through an abundance of humor both subtle and overt, this crowd-pleasing "art movie" rose to an unexpected level of popular appeal. The Merchant-Ivory team received eight Academy Award nominations for their efforts, and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, and Costume Design.

Schindler's List (1993)Schindler's List (1993)

Masterful performance by Ralph Fiennes as the psychopathic leader of a Nazi concentration camp, and human portrayal of a flawed hero by Liam Neeson, make this an excellent study of the true nature of good and evil, where ordinary compassion (or the lack thereof) is decisive, rather than esoteric appeals to God or the Bible. Jeff Shannon writes for Adapted from the best-selling book by Thomas Keneally and filmed in Poland with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, Spielberg's masterpiece ranks among the greatest films ever made about the Holocaust during World War II. It's a film about heroism with an unlikely hero at its center--Catholic war profiteer Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who risked his life and went bankrupt to save more than 1,000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps.

Sirens (1994)Sirens (1994)

Sirens features Hugh Grant as an Anglican priest sent to convince an Australian artist (Sam Neill) not to exhibit his blasphemously erotic art. While a visitor at the artists' house, Grant and his wife, played by Tara Fitzgerald, learn a lot about themselves and their own sexuality. An enchanting freethought movie featuring beautiful cinematography (and not because Elle MacPherson is in it).

Wise Blood (1979)Wise Blood (1979)

A scathing satire of crooked ministers based on the irreverent Flannery O'connor tale. While attempting to live a life filled with sin, a soldier returning home is mistaken for a preacher by a fanatically religious town, and, true to form, he founds a new religious order, a "Church Without Christ."

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