Tennant’s Fogg travels to find himself anew

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

‘Around the World in 80 Days’ offers an ode to taking chances. A century and a half ago, Jules Verne wrote Around the World in Eighty Days, and readers began to imagine that the world might be shrinking a wee bit. The new Masterpiece series on PBS, starring the transcendent David Tennant, reimagines and recasts the central characters and chunks of the narrative in a modern retelling of Verne’s adventure story—which has already been retold many times, including in the classic Academy Award–winning 1956 film. A sedentary British bachelor, Phileas Fogg (Tennant) rarely leaves home except for a daily walk to his men’s club, where he eats the same meal each day and eschews anything out of the ordinary. Reading a … Read More

How Molly Burhans is helping the church fight climate change

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

A young cartographer is helping the church catalog its land holdings so it might address the environment, human migration, and sustainable land stewardship. At first, Molly Burhans thought she’d be a ballet dancer. It had been her dream through middle school, her focus in high school, and her major in college—until a foot injury caused her to drop out and move back home to Buffalo, New York. Although that seemed like a setback, it placed her on a path to becoming possibly the most awarded and well-known Catholic environmentalist in the world at this moment. She is almost certainly the most well-known cartographer. In 2021 the Sierra Club honored the then 32-year-old with its EarthCare Award, previously awarded to the … Read More

‘Ted Lasso’ shows a better way to be a man

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

Apple TV+’s ‘Ted Lasso’ is a skillfully crafted story about masculinity that is compassionate and supportive. Ted Lasso is teaching boys how to be men and men how to be good people. Right there on television, where the opposite usually happens. The American series—named for its main character and produced in London for Apple TV+—was nominated for 20 Primetime Emmy Awards its first season alone, scooping up Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and other awards along the way. It was just renewed for a third season. The premise will feel slightly familiar to fans of the 1989 film Major League: An owner of a United Kingdom soccer club hires American coach Ted Lasso, hoping he’ll be incompetent and drive the team into the … Read More

In ‘The Hidden Life of Trees,’ forests are family, too

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

Trees are, as it turns out, social and more than a little like us. Trees have friends. Trees talk to each other and send over resources when a neighbor is in need. Trees nurture their children. Trees sound the alarm about environmental threats. Trees grow stronger and more vigorous when raised in diverse communities, and they struggle in artificially planted, monoculture forests where all of the trees are the same age. Trees are, as it turns out, social and more than a little like us. So says forester and bestselling author Peter Wohlleben, whose book, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World (Greystone Books), inspired a feature-length documentary by the same name directed by … Read More

Ze Frank’s ‘True Facts’ are full of wit and wonder

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

Ze Frank makes good stuff that reminds people how good they are too. “True Facts,” little bitty animal movies, are treasures of bug and bird and bat lore. They are laugh-out-loud delightful, thanks to Ze Frank, their witty creator. These 3- or 4- or 10-minute minidocumentaries use gorgeous and remarkable research footage from scientists accompanied by irreverent and clever narration by Frank, a onetime media executive at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures and a longtime internet content creator. There are “True Facts” about ostriches, dragonflies, batfishes, ducks, giraffes, shrimp, octopi, owls, ants, star-nosed moles (gird your loins for that one), and tardigrades. What’s a tardigrade? You probably know it by one of its alternate monikers: the moss piglet or water bear. No? … Read More

In ‘All Creatures Great and Small,’ humanity steals the show

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

A new PBS series about a country vet shows the power of human decency. It’s so nice to visit England. It’s even more delightful to time travel back to the years before the Second World War, remembered nostalgically through the eyes of beloved author and veterinarian James Herriot, a pen name used by James Alfred Wight. His bestselling books include All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, and The Lord God Made Them All. A classic BBC television series, All Creatures Great and Small, ran for 90 episodes through the late 1970s and 1980s. Now there’s a new adaptation of the same title, and it is glorious. The first six episodes debuted in the United States on PBS Masterpiece in January, … Read More

‘Expecting Amy’ and ‘Schitt’s Creek’ get families right

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

Both series offer compelling, transformative views into what family means. An HBO Max three-part docuseries, Expecting Amy, and the final season of the award-winning and oft-Emmy-nominated Schitt’s Creek (a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation sitcom on Netflix in the United States) deliver plenty of laughs—and compelling, transformative views into what family means. They are brilliant. Expecting Amy is a behind-the-scenes docuseries of comedian (and actress, producer, writer, and director—she seems able to do everything) Amy Schumer’s life on the road as she develops new material for her 2019 Netflix special, Growing. While she rehearses, shuttles to and from hotels and venues, and cuts deals on her cell phone, she also struggles with a truly crummy pregnancy. Suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum—near-constant nausea—she carries on interviews while holding a … Read More

Pixar’s ‘Soul’ says a lot about life, not just what’s after

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

‘Soul’ shows us not only what we might be missing about the point of living, but also what we are missing right now. Parents with more than one child know this already: Babies show up with personalities, differences, and strong attitudes toward broccoli, music, and siblings. There’s nature, there’s nurture, and then there’s just what you get—and who the heck knows where that stuff comes from? In Pixar’s Soul, now streaming on Disney+, director Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc. and Inside Out) attempts to answer that question along with defining the meaning of life and identifying a soul’s central purpose. These are hefty tasks to pack into a full-length animated feature and still hope it appeals to the entire family. Well, it doesn’t, but … Read More

A new documentary asks: Who killed Bishop Juan Gerardi?

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

‘The Art of Political Murder,’ produced by George Clooney, is now streaming on HBO. There is a lot of blood. Blood on the concrete next to the car. Blood on the chunk of concrete used to bludgeon his head. Blood on the cloth covering his body. And then there’s the blood on the hands of the people who murdered bishop and parish priest Juan José Gerardi Conedera. In Guatemala in the 1960s and ’70s, Gerardi was bishop of Verapaz and Quiché. He became auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Guatemala in 1984. He was an outspoken human rights activist working for official acceptance of indigenous languages and the improved status of Mayan peoples. He openly criticized the military’s violence against … Read More

In ‘Tales of the City,’ A Netflix Reboot that Celebrates our Differences

Pamela Hill NettletonEssays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

This miniseries will change how you see the world. When you turn on the television, the people you see may look like you. But if they don’t, you may feel invisible to the very culture in which you live.  The most powerful tasks media perform are to show us ourselves, show us one another, and show us how others see us. For example, most Christian Americans were taught what the Crusades were about—which side was honorable, which side was godless. I recently edited a military history novel, Brotherhood of the Mamluks (The Sager Group) by former Marine Brad Graft, about a disillusioned crusader who switched sides to fight with Muslims. That uncommon perspective changes how you see the world working—just … Read More