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ANALYSIS: And the Oscar goes to…

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–“The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men” (Psalm 12:8 NIV).

Only movie critics should be allowed to vote for the industry’s best contributions each year. After all, they’re the only ones who have seen all the films. Taking that a step further, only Christian reviewers should be assigned the job. (Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.) For unlike our secular counterparts, we examine not just the technical and artistic merits of a film, but its content as well.

There are nearly 300 different award functions each year highlighting the best in movies. Yet none of these ceremonies ever examines a film’s content (the reason for the rating). I’m stymied by this omission, as the content of films has become as influential culturally as the aesthetic and technical merits. Perhaps more so. So, why does the entertainment community continually ignore the ever-present use of exploitation, obscenity, cynicism and negative excesses when praising its product?

This year only two of the Best Picture nominees for Oscars were violent enough to receive an R rating (“Gangs of New York,” “The Pianist”), but look at the themes of the remaining contenders. “The Hours” examines depression, but I doubt those seeking a spiritual walk will find much resolve in the thoughts of Virginia Woolf. The look of the film is exquisite, the acting top drawer, and the direction swift-moving and visually interesting. But a more morose or self-absorbed group would be difficult to find at the movies.

“Chicago” has well-staged musical numbers and good performances, especially from Queen Latifah as the prison matron, but it is full of cynical themes and bawdy, downright lustful imagery. With its nine profanities, seven obscenities, constant sexual innuendo, implied lesbianism, and the extremely provocative musical numbers, I question how this film escaped an R rating.

And when it came nominating time, why were performances by Kevin Kline, Pierce Brosnan and Mel Gibson overlooked this past year? In “The Emperor’s Club,” Mr. Kline gives one of his best-defined performances. He is an actor of great depth and comprehension. The saying goes, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” Well, Kevin Kline not only lets us see in, he somehow reflects out, helping us to understand our own behavior. Was he too challenging?

What about Pierce Brosnan in “Evelyn”? His Desmond Doyle is a heavy drinker and a slacker, until he realizes that his lifestyle is unsatisfying. He even becomes a religious man, as we learn in a moving scene in which he asks the Holy Spirit for guidance. Being from Ireland and the product of a home whose father walked out on the family, Brosnan has brought his life experiences into this characterization, giving the portrait depth and resolve. Was he too inspiring?

In “We Were Soldiers,” Mel Gibson gives the best performance of his career. His Col. Moore is portrayed as a religious man. Several times he is seen in prayer, reflecting a reverence for God and a need for the Almighty’s direction. Indeed, he reminded me of what King David might have been like when heading his armies. Was he too religious?

As for Best Picture, why was M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” left out of that category? It astounded on several levels. Like Hitchcock, Shyamalan builds tension through restraint. It’s not what we see, but what we imagine that scares the Jujubes out of us in this movie. Besides being an arm-grabbing suspenseful thriller, “Signs” is an equally touching family drama. We get to know this broken family as they cope with the traumatic loss of a wife and mother. There is an intimacy in both script and presentation that causes us to care for these people.

Added to the drama and suspense is the story’s subtext about a man losing, then regaining his faith. And lastly, the film has an intriguing take concerning coincidence in our daily lives. Do events happen by chance or do they serve to develop our nature? Shyamalan’s film is about finding our way — or finding our way back. Was this film too profound?

With a glut of award shows examining movies from every conceivable audience demographic, I’m surprised the honorees have time to do any work. So why do celebrities show up night after night for new statutes? While there are several financial reasons, as well as politically correct ones, it would be naive to dismiss the adage, “Ego is a thirst that’s hard to quench.”

Does anyone believe that the producers of all these award shows have a burning desire to congratulate filmmakers? Get real. These industry rituals are money makers, especially when televised. What’s more, they are designed to spotlight the organization that sponsors the event. (That goes for Christian award ceremonies, as well.)

Certainly there is a place for award shows. When it comes to the arts, there should be recognition of thoughts that stimulate the mind of man. But since we are spiritual beings as well as physical creatures, shouldn’t there be some significance paid to that which lives on? When it comes to praising its product, Tinseltown usually ignores the Creator of creative thought. Award shows honor the artist, not the Creator.

The majority of this year’s Oscar contenders, though artistically relevant, assault the viewer with negative images, messages and material that the Bible is clear about our avoiding. Maybe we have evolved into beings able to process this abuse, but is that what our Creator intended for us?

Oscar shouldn’t be our navigator when it comes to selecting entertainment choices. Before supporting the media’s product we should take into account the teachings of Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Psalms 101 and Ephesians 5:11. For not until we desire to rise above the world’s standard can we embrace God’s.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective, online at www.moviereporter.com. The Academy Awards will be held Sunday, March 23, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

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  • Phil Boatwright