In late 1965, the three-decade-old National Legion of Decency changed its name to the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures. That switch signaled an intent on the part of the U.S. church’s officially-sanctioned film agency to take a more open and positive — though by no means uncritical — approach in its assessment of cinema.
In keeping with this new emphasis, the film office issued its first list of the 10 best movies released over the previous 12 months.
Here are the 10 best films overall.
•A modern-made silent film, “The Artist” recounts the contrasting fortunes of a dashing star for whom the arrival of the “talkies” presages decline, and one of his adoring fans who’s destined for stardom.
•”The Conspirator” is an engrossing historical drama about the lawyer who defended Mary Surratt, the pro-Confederate widow charged with conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.
•Stylish -- though frequently violent -- “The Debt” follows a game of cat-and-mouse across two time periods as three Mossad agents track down and capture a Josef Mengele-like Nazi war criminal.
•In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” the titular wizard continues to battle his evil nemesis aided, once again, by his two closest friends.
•Set in the early 1960s, the warm, deftly acted drama “The Help” compellingly portrays the efforts of a rebellious white Southerner and would-be journalist to write a book documenting the lives of group of black housemaids.
•The 3-D fable “Hugo” follows the adventures of a 12-year-old orphan who lives in one of Paris’ great train stations during the 1930s.
•”The Ides of March” is a savvy but raw political drama about an up-and-coming press spokesman who discovers that the campaign manager for whom he works and the candidate in whom he deeply believes are not all they seem.
•Writer-director Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” asks the question: Would you be happier living in a long-ago, mythically remembered past? A frustrated Hollywood screenwriter and would-be novelist (Owen Wilson) gets to find out when he gains mysterious entree to the French capital of the 1920s.
•”Of Gods and Men” is a brilliant dramatization of real events, recounting the fate of a small community of French Trappist monks (led by Lambert Wilson and including Michael Lonsdale) living in Algeria during that nation’s civil war in the 1990s.
•In “The Way,” after his semi-estranged son dies while hiking the ancient pilgrimage route to the Spanish shrine of Santiago de Compostela, a California doctor resolves to complete the journey as a means of honoring the lad’s memory.