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FIRST-PERSON: The good & bad of the Oscar nominees

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–The nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards were announced Jan. 25 in Beverly Hills. In keeping with a revived tradition that resurfaced last year, there are 10 nominees for best film. “The King’s Speech” received the most nominations with 11; “True Grit” in close pursuit with 10.

The nominees for best picture are: “Black Swan” (R), “The Fighter” (R), “Inception” (PG-13), “The Kids Are All Right” (R), “The King’s Speech” (R), “127 Hours” (R), “The Social Network” (PG-13), “Toy Story 3” (G), “True Grit” (PG-13) and “Winter’s Bone” (R)

Let’s first examine the strengths of several of the nominees before looking at an element of filmmaking most often ignored by award committees.

“The Fighter” shows the importance of family and its main theme is one of redemption (See a detailed review at http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3627).

Reminding us of the true special effects (story, dialogue and performance), “The King’s Speech” contains a depth in both script and execution, giving film viewers a striking example of what this medium can deliver. It is a film about character (http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3630).

“The Social Network” defines a generation of go-getters who are finally seduced by the same forbidden sins as other generations — namely, boundless pleasures of the flesh and the love of money. What impresses the film’s characters is the thought of gaining a billion dollars. Never once do they think about losing their very soul (http://previewonline.org/rev.php3?3604).

Though there are some darker tones in “Toy Story 3,” like its predecessors it’s about friendship — and faith (http://previewonline.org/rev.php3?3573).

While darker in tone than the original (I sense a trend in sequels and remakes), the new “True Grit” captures the faith element found in Charles Portis’ 1968 novel, with young Mattie’s religious values being well spoken here and supported by the contemplative hymn “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms.” Sadly, though “True Grit” got 10 nominations, it failed to receive one for Best Score — even though, in my opinion, it was (http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3632).

“Winter’s Bone” is poignant and moving, a well-acted, nicely paced drama concerning nobleness found in the human spirit (http://www.previewonline.org/rev.php3?3635).

Alas, along with the artistic and thematic qualities found in most of these films, many of the contenders are also laden with a cancerous content that has stealthily attached itself onto the fabric of our culture. Along with excesses in the areas of sexuality (“Black Swan,” “The Kids Are All Right”) and violent behavior (“True Grit,” “Winter’s Bone”), vulgar and profane language are found in each of these movies, except for the cartoon. Six of the best picture nominees are rated R, three are PG-13, with only one rated G (same as last year, though that year’s one animated film, “UP,” was rated PG). With the exception of Disney’s “Toy Story 3,” each of these films uses both obscenity (curse words) and profanity (misuse of God’s name or Christ’s). Indeed, “The King’s Speech” received its rating for two or three scenes that featured the main character uttering a stream of invectives out of frustration. Without those few abuses, the film could easily have stayed within the PG category.

Homosexuality became a theme graphically pronounced in several movies this year, and two of the films containing lesbian activity were given award recognition. Though I did not review “The Kids Are All Right,” I was disheartened by the near pornographic qualities found in “The Black Swan.” Sexual situations are used here to shock and reveal a dispassionate bawdiness (http://moviereporter.com/reviews/display.php?id=1921).

The Bible makes it clear that we are not to be governed by the world’s standard. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). The key word here is renewing.

Movies can be parables that instruct, sometimes in spite of their makers. Indeed, we can learn from viewing portraits of man’s folly. But a film’s allegory best serves as a warning when you know God’s will. Embrace God’s Word and you will be able to see through the agendas of those you don’t.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for Baptist Press and is the author of “Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad,” available on Amazon.com. He also writes about Hollywood for previewonline.org and moviereporter.com.

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  • Phil Boatwright