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22 R-rated films dominate Academy Award nominations

HOLLYWOOD (BP)–A total of 22 R-rated films received 69 Academy Award nominations Tuesday, Feb. 9 — comprising the vast majority of films in the Oscars’ top 18 divisions.
For Best Picture, for example, four of the five nominees are R-rated.
Although positive messages were contained in some of these films, moviegoers will find themselves bombarded by much profane, obscene or exploitive material in many of these Hollywood offerings.
Of the 676 films reviewed by the Motion Picture Association of America in 1997, 23 received a G rating, while 434 got an R rating. Seems a little out of balance, don’t you think? (The MPAA will have the stats for 1998 sometime in March.) According to a comprehensive 10-year survey complied by the Dove Foundation, of all films released by Hollywood since the MPAA introduced the movie ratings system in 1968, 60 percent have been rated R.
Whether individual films have a detrimental effect upon audiences has yet to be irrefutably proven, but it doesn’t take a gaggle of psychologists to realize that nonstop exploitive sexual images and brutal violence does exacerbate destructive behavior.
As media commentator Michael Medved states in his provocative and insightful book, “Hollywood Vs. America:”
“The most profound problem with the popular culture isn’t its immediate impact on a few vulnerable and explosive individuals, but its long-term effect on all the rest of us. The deepest concerns about Hollywood go beyond the industry’s role in provoking a handful of specific crimes and involve its contribution to a general climate of violence and self-indulgence.”
In an era when morality and social standards seem to be undergoing an evolutionary makeover, the Christian community should take into account the teachings of Scripture before supporting the media’s product. Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Psalms 101 and Ephesians 5:11 each admonish us to be careful of what we put in our minds, not merely for our own mental health, but to demonstrate to others what we stand for.
The Oscars air Sunday, March 21, beginning at 5 p.m. (PST) on ABC.
For awareness’ sake, the Best Picture nominees are recapped below, along with Video Alternatives — films containing the same theme or style as the Oscar contenders, but lacking the objectionable material.
ELIZABETH. Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush. Gramercy. Historical thriller. R (violence, including brutality to Protestants by Catholics, with torture and burning at the stake, several murders and the aftermath of a battle, briefly viewed but with dead and bloodied bodies strewn over the field; sexuality, including a graphic sexual situation, brief nudity and a homosexual situation is implied). Based on the rise to power of Queen Elizabeth Tudor (the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn). Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, ruling for more than 40 years amidst intrigue and betrayal. A well-made film on all accounts, including the history of the struggle to protestantize England. Vid. Alts. Becket, Elizabeth R, Henry V (both versions), Lady Jane, A Man for All Seasons. Caution: These alternatives contain adult subject matter, but they do not bombard the viewer with negative imagery. Each is extremely well-made and convey positive messages. However, their adult subject matter may not be suitable for kids.
LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. Roberto Benigni. Miramax. Comedy/drama. Italian, with subtitles. PG-13 (adult subject matter; thematic elements concerning the Holocaust). To protect his son from the horrors of concentration camp life, a gentle Jewish man makes a game out of everything going on, causing the boy to believe they will win a prize if they survive. Poignant and often humorous, the subject matter is handled tastefully, not bombarding the audience with gruesome images.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon. Dreamworks. War drama. R (profanity & obscenity is sprinkled throughout, but not the overwhelming amount I had anticipated; extremely graphic, often nauseating wartime violence, including lots of blood spurting anytime someone is shot, bullets going through helmets, parts of bodies exposed, amputations; 2 sexual conversations, but treated tastefully; a mother’s reaction to the news of her three sons’ deaths is heartbreaking; much intensity). A squadron is ordered to find and safely bring out of battle a soldier whose three brothers have been killed. The first battle scene taking place on Omaha Beach is 20-plus minutes long, containing controversial amounts of horrific violence. Now famous for its grisly action scenes, the most moving moments do not take place during battle, but toward the beginning as the mother hears of her sons’ deaths, and at the end when a veteran, who has returned to the cemetery in France, salutes a fallen comrade. A powerful film that has led to a renewed interest in the sacrifices made during World War II. Vid. Alts. They Were Expendable, All Quiet On The Western Front, Paths of Glory, Mrs. Miniver (yes, I’m including Mrs. Miniver. One scene, with a British family nestled together in a homemade fallout shelter, depicts the horror of war just as potently as anything in Saving Private Ryan), The Longest Day and The Fighting Sullivans. The latter is a true account of five close-knit brothers killed in battle during WW2. Deals mainly with the family growing up, with folksy life lessons and gentle humor. Sweet, yet never saccharine. Earnest and patriotic, yet never maudlin. Today’s generation may cringe at some of the dated dialogue, including the expression, “That’s swell.” But I would remind under-20s that, in their future, the idiom, “Dude,” will also cause ridicule.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench, Ben Affleck. Miramax. Costume romance. R (rowdy sexual hijinks, including nudity and a sexual pairing; one obscenity, but I caught no misuse of God’s name). Bawdy fictional account of the Bard and the muse who inspired Romeo & Juliet. The sex scenes are not too explicit but, beware, sexuality is a major part of this story. Vid. Alt. Shadowlands, the 1986 version starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom. This is a lovely film which deals with the loss of a loved one. Try asking your local Christian bookstore if they carry it.
THE THIN RED LINE. Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Nick Nolte. 20th Century Fox. War drama. R (profanity and obscenity throughout; lots of blood, guts, gore and men in wounded agony, graphic battle scenes with mutilated bodies; some sexuality between a man and his wife, but no nudity in those scenes; there are a few shots of nude natives, but it’s more National Geographic than sensual). Mercilessly long and moody anti-war adventure concerning an infantry unit preparing to land on and liberate Guadalcanal. Exquisite cinematography and good performances, but it tends to drag on, making its point again and again. It is not a film about defeating evil, but about the evil all men are capable of committing. A rather portentous exercise by an aging flower child/ director who has chosen an important WW2 battle to promote pacifism. For the men who gave the last full measure of devotion on that little island, there are those of us who are grateful for their sacrifice. Evil constantly prowls. Occasionally, it must be vanquished. Vid. Alt. Guadalcanal Diary, a first-rate 1943 actioner.
Among other nominees:
Best Actor: Nick Nolte, Afflicted (R-rated); Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan; Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters (R); Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful; Edward Norton, American History X (R).
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth; Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare In Love; Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station (R); Meryl Streep, One Sure Thing (R); Emily Watson, Hilary and Jackie (R).
Best Supporting Actor: James Coburn, Affliction; Robert Duvall, A Civil Action (PG-13); Ed Harris, The Truman Show (PG); Geoffrey Rush, Shakespeare In Love; Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan (R).
Best Supporting Actress: Cathy Bates, Primary Colors (R); Brenda Blethyn, Little Voice (R); Judi Dench, Shakespeare In Love; Rachel Griffiths, Hilary and Jackie; Lynn Redgrave, Gods and Monsters.
Best Director: Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful; Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan; John Madden, Shakespeare In Love; Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line; Peter Weir, The Truman Show

Boatwright, a Baptist layman, is the editor of The Movie Reporter, a monthly film guide, and can be contacted at (805) 495-0914 or at www.moviereporter.com.

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  • Phil Boatwright