The Healthy Librarian

The Healthy Librarian

Posted February 2, 2010

Published in Lifestyle

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Dinner and a Movie On a Cold Winter's Night - How About Some Meaningful Movies for Grown-Ups and a Sophisticated Mediterranean Vegetable Ragout?

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"We are always on the lookout for movies that "speak to our condition" (a Quaker phrase) and reveal new possibilities for our lives. We love dramas that touch on universal experiences, knock down barriers between people, and evoke our compassion. We are enriched by stories that touch our hearts and send us out of the theater rejoicing. A truly good film is not only thought-provoking and entertaining, it also leaves the viewer with a sense of what it means to live deeply and fully every day."

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Film Critics 

If you're receiving this via email click here to get the full web version of the post.

OK--the 2010 Oscar nominees have just been announced.  So, let's talk movies!

What do you do for "an evening out" when you don't want to spend a lot of money? 

  • Make dinner at home.
  • Rent a movie.
  • Invite some friends over to share the dinner & the movie.


The Best Movies for 2009

I "discovered" Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat many years ago when I subscribed to a quarterly magazine called, "Spirituality & Health".  

Once a year the  Brussat's would compile at Top 10 List of the Most Spiritually Literate Films of the Past Year.  I knew I could trust their recommendations because I loved the ones on their list that I had already seen.  When I took their recommendations for ones I hadn't seen, I was almost always rewarded with a winner.  See what you think!

Don't be put-off by their use of the words "Spiritually Literate".  These movies aren't religious or sappy.  If you like movies that are intelligent--shake you up--stretch your mind--and make you look at yourself or the world a little differently, they just may become your Go-To-Movie-Critics, too. 

Here's their list of the Ten Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2009.  If you like what you see, scroll down on their site, and check out the blue sidebar for their favorite picks of years past. 

For the Brussat's Reviews of the Latest Releases click here.

Missing from the "Most Spiritually Literate List" but well worth seeing:

  • It's Complicated  (Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin.  Later-in-life romance for the baby boomer set--sassy, touching, and a just a whole-lot-of-fun)
  • Pirate Radio  (Philip Seymour Hoffman) In 1966, hard-partying British DJs have the time of their lives running a radio station on a ship in the North Sea, broadcasting generation-defining (but banned) music to millions. Music rocks!
  • Crazy Heart (Jeff Bridges) Powerful story of a washed-up alcoholic country western singer who starts to rethink his sorry life. Music rocks!
  • This Emotional Life.  PBS documentary.  Harvard psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Daniel Gilbert (Stumbling on Happiness) hosts this three-part PBS series that explores the range of human emotions and how we can strive to become more positive in our day-to-day lives. The program examines the biological basis of happiness, the role of relationships-marriage-friendships-family- and the ways in which we can cope with negative emotions.  Borrow it from your public library or Netflix.  My husband, my 26 year old son, and I were transfixed for 3 nights and 6 hours watching this PBS special when it aired.  Trust me--if they watched this for 6 hours and loved it--it has to be good!
  • Blind Side (Sandra Bullock) The true inspirational story of African American Michael Oher, a homeless teen with serious learning problems from across the tracks, who is taken in by an affluent Memphis couple, enrolled in a private Christian school, and taught to play football.  Michael goes on to graduate from college and play for the NFL.  To read the "real" story in the New York Times, click here.  It's worth it!

My Go-to-Gal For Dinner Recipes

Now for the "dinner" part of the "dinner & a movie".  When it comes to healthy recipes that are original, with lots of flavor and spice, I turn to Susan Russo, at Food Blogga.  My husband and I made this recipe last weekend and we LOVED IT.   I took some of the leftovers to work to get a review from my "official taste testers" and they gave it a BIG THUMBS UP!  Look for the recipe after the movie reviews.

Take Your Pick of the Most Thoughtful Movies for Grown-Ups in 2009

The Ten Most Spiritually Literate Films of 2009

*I've added an asterisk to movies I have personally seen & recommend.  Click on the links to read the Brussat's reviews.

The Messenger (Oscilloscope Laboratories) is an emotionally affecting drama about the birth of compassion in an Iraq war hero assigned to work for the Casualty Notification Office.

CONNECTIONS *HL Liked it, didn't love it
(20th Century Fox) is a visually impressive and imaginative sci-fi masterpiece replete with spiritual lessons embedded in the story of an ex-Marine who joins a tribe of indigenous people.

Up in the Air
(Paramount Pictures) is a bright, sassy, and savvy relevant story about home, connections, unemployment, technology, and traveling light.

Julie & Julia
(Sony Pictures) is a celebration of culinary creativity that demonstrates how the spiritual practice of enthusiasm makes it possible for two women to give their best to the world.

(Warner Bros.) is an astonishing and incredibly entertaining movie about the power of forgiveness, the importance of sports, the art of transformative leadership, and the reconciliation of the races.

(Indie PR) is an uplifting story of a Palestinian mother whose resilience and grace under pressure enable her to triumph over the various obstacles as she makes a new home for her son in America.

LOVE *HL Thumbs Up
Away We Go
(Focus Features) is an incredibly original and appealing drama about the cross-continent journey of two parents-to-be seeking to deepen their relationship while also finding a new home to raise their child.

A Serious Man
(Focus Features) is a thought-provoking spiritual drama that honors the mystery of God, the futility of seeking answers, and the need to live as best we can in a sea of roiling troubles and uncertainties.

The Hurt Locker
(Summit Entertainment) is a riveting Iraq war film about three members of an Army bomb dismantling squad in Baghdad.

Precious (Lions Gate) is an emotionally poignant drama a depiction of a degraded and abused African-American teenage girl whose life is turned around by the love and concern of an inspiring teacher.

The Ten Most Spiritually Literate
Documentaries of 2009


Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love (Shadow Distribution) is an inspiring exploration of the power of music and the soul of a big-hearted African Sufi singer who has used his exceptional talent to make a better world.

Burma VG: Reporting from a Closed Country (Oscilloscope)) is a moving documentary about the courage of underground video journalists during the 2007 protests in Burma against a repressive military regime.

Crude (First Run Features) is a dramatic documentary about the David vs. Goliath dimensions of the "Amazon Chernobyl" case where indigenous tribal groups are fighting the multinational corporation Chevron.

The Garden (Oscilloscope) is a compelling documentary about an urban garden collective and their fight for justice in a nation where poor people are expected to keep quiet and not speak truth to power.

They Killed Sister Dorothy (Junge and HBO Documentary Films) is an engrossing documentary on the life and work of Amazonian activist Sister Dorothy Stang and the trial of those involved in her murder in 2005.

The Way We Get By (Gita Pullapilly) is an extraordinary documentary that celebrates the kindness of three elders who serve as troop greeters in Bangor, Maine.


Afghan Star (Zeitgeist Films) follows the competitors in an American Idol-like TV show that reflects the volatile mix of history, religion, and pop culture in contemporary war-torn Afghanistan.

Unmistaken Child (Oscilloscope) is a compelling, enlightening, and emotionally absorbing documentary that follows a Tibetan Buddhist student assigned to find the reincarnation of his teacher.

The Cove (Lions Gate) is a thoroughly shocking documentary about the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan.

*HL Thumbs Up
Food, Inc. (Magnolia Pictures) is a bracing and disturbing documentary about the industrialization of farming, the dangers of genetically modified foods, and the growing power of the unregulated food industry.

Ten More Spiritually Literate
Films of 2009

The Soloist (Dreamworks Videos) is a deeply spiritual movie about the moral complexities of helping another person, opening one's heart, feeling the pain of another, and letting go of the need to fix that person.


District 9 (Sony Pictures) is a bold and creative science fiction adventure that shows the dire consequences of hating strangers and ignoring the spiritual practice of hospitality.

Phoebe in Wonderland (Image Entertainment) is a family drama about the power of the imagination and the challenges faced by children in a world where conformity is rewarded over creativity.


Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Bros.) is a haunting, innovative, and poignant film about childhood that may have you howling with the Wild Things inside and around you.

American Violet (Image Entertainment) is a courageous expose of racism as the sick and sad shadow that is still alive and well in America.

Bright Star (Apparition) is a spellbinding story of true love between English poet John Keats and his neighbor Fanny Brawne.

LOVE *HL Liked It, Didn't Love It

(500) Days of Summer (20th Century Fox) is a fresh and appealing romantic drama brimming with heart, creativity, and panache.

Cold Souls
(Samuel Goldwyn Films) is an engrossing surreal comedy that takes an inventive look at soul, dreams, emotions, and the emptiness of a life devoid of meaning.


The Invention of Lying
(Warner Bros.) is a romantic comedy that brings us to a deeper sensitivity to the sharp edges of honesty and the ways in which deceptions can both heal and harm.

*HL Thumbs Up

In the Loop (IFC Entertainment) is an audacious and well-written British comedy that is the wildest and funniest political satire since Wag the Dog.

What's for Dinner?  The Food Blogga's Mediterranean Vegetable Stew with Olives


photo by Food Blogga

Mediterranean Vegetable Stew with Olives

Makes 6 generous servings

Note: Omit the grated cheese, and this recipe is vegan. 

3 tablespoons olive oil  (I made this with 1 TBS of oil--and nutritional info reflects this change)

1 yellow onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 fennel bulb, cut into ¾-inch pieces (about 1 ½ cups)

1 eggplant, cut into ¾-inch pieces (about 3 ½ cups)

1 red bell pepper, cut into ¾-inch pieces (about 2 cups)

¼ cup dry white wine

1 (28- ounce) can crushed tomatoes

¼ cup coarsely chopped Kalamata olives

¼ cup coarsely chopped Cerignola olives (large, green Italian olives)

1 (14-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained

Zest of ½ lemon (about 1 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary  (I subbed 3 TBS of basil and it worked just fine)

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Grated Parmesan or Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese  (I omitted the cheese)

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add onions, and sauté until just transparent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and fennel, and cook 2 minutes. Add eggplant and peppers, and cook 3-4 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add wine, and cook 5 minutes. Add tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy. Add olives, cannellini beans, lemon zest, fennel seeds, salt, and crushed red pepper. Stir well, and cook until heated through, 3-4 minutes. Stir in fresh herbs.

2. Serve with crusty Italian bread, or serve atop polenta, rice, or wide pasta noodles, such as parpadelle. Garnish individual servings with desired amount of grated cheese.

NOTE:  I served this on homemade polenta the 2nd night.  I can't believe how easy it is to make.  It was a great combo with the stew.

Recipe created by Susan Russo of Food Blogga. Makes 6 servings


Nutrition Facts
Food Blogga
Mediterranean Veg Ragout wt Olives
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Calories 184
Total Fat 4.9g
      Saturated Fat 0.7g
      Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 796mg
Carbohydrate 33g
      Dietary Fiber 10.1g
      Sugars 10.9g
Protein 7.4g
Vitamin A 55% Vitamin C 203%
Calcium    6% Iron 15%