Working in Tennessee
Merle Haggard (Vanguard Records, 2011)
Merle Haggard has been a monument of American culture for almost 50 years. His life story is the stuff of myth. He really did grow up dirt poor in a home his father made from an old boxcar. He really did do hard time in San Quentin prison for armed robbery. And he really was in the audience when Johnny Cash played the first of his famous prison concerts.
A Dreamer's Christmas
By John Zorn (Tzadik, 2011)
If Christmas has something to do with wonder and the joy of the unexpected then news of John Zorn making a Christmas album should stir inordinate Christmas spirit. After all, what could be more unexpected than an avant-garde jazz musician known for discordant noise foraying into that most conventional of musical genres, the Christmas album? Would this be an exercise in post-modern irony, a defacing of a popular tradition? Might there be a sentimental tinge of nostalgia lurking behind Zorn’s cutting edge experimentation?
Directed by Emilio Estevez (Arc Entertainment, 2011)
If contemplation, as the mystic and spiritual writer William McNamara once said, is “a long, loving look at the real,” Emilio Estevez’s understated drama of loss, recovery, and reconciliation is a celebration of the ties that make a life worth the journey.
By Paul Turner (Liturgy Training Publications, 2011)
One thing we can pretty much count on: The changes in the liturgy this Advent will be tough. But the process doesn’t have to be all blood, sweat, and tears. The more folks know about what’s ahead and why the changes are being made, the better off we’ll all be. Which makes resources like Father Paul Turner’s book, subtitled A Pastoral and Theological Commentary on the Mass, indispensible.
Directed by Lee Fulkerson (Monica Beach Media, 2011)
Directed by Matt Leonard (A Word on Fire/Picture Show Films Production, 2011)
Father Robert Barron, a Chicago priest who has appeared often in the pages of this magazine, finally brought his years-in-the-making Catholicism Project to public TV this fall. Up to 70 percent of PBS stations aired or will air four episodes; the series of 10 DVDs is for sale at Wordonfire.org with a companion book and a study guide.
A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms
by Lisa M. Hendey
(Ave Maria, 2011)
Lisa Hendey has put together a very inspiring, practical guide to the saints designed especially for Catholic mothers.
Directed by John Madden (Marv Films, 2010)
John Madden’s cagey thriller about three Mossad agents sent to capture a Nazi war criminal hiding out in East Berlin raises ethical questions and goose bumps galore. Young Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain), Stephan Gould (Marton Csokas), and David Peretz (Sam Worthington) must figure out how to kidnap the monstrous “Surgeon of Birkenau” (Jesper Christensen) and sneak the murderous physician over the Berlin Wall and back to Israel for a public trial.
Divine Rebels: American Christian Activists for Social Justice
By Deena Guzder (Lawrence Hill Books, 2011)
In her collection of profiles, Divine Rebels, Deena Guzder seeks to dispel the assumption that religion causes nothing but problems in modern society.
Emmylou Harris (Nonesuch Records, 2011)
Emmylou Harris’ Hard Bargain is the joyous, bittersweet album that a 64-year-old country-rock legend should make. It looks backward to her beginnings (“The Road”) and mourns the dead (“The Ballad of Emmett Till”), but it also looks out on the present with compassion for all living creatures—a homeless man (“Home Sweet Home”), the victims of Katrina (“New Orleans”), and even a “Big Black Dog.”