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FIRST-PERSON: Will ‘Rings’ be king at Oscars?

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Although the contenders for Oscar’s Best Picture this year each contain some objectionable content, four of the five nominees presented uplifting messages.

However, that should not be construed as an endorsement of these films. Please go to my website at www.moviereporter.com for the entire reviews, including the content, before deciding if these films are suitable for your family.

And the nominees — at a glance — are:

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”

You have to be a fan of this genre to best appreciate this metaphor-laced action adventure. I freely admit that I do not share the enthusiasm many of my colleagues in criticism lavished upon this production. But I also admit an admiration for the visual opulence director Peter Jackson brought to the screen.

What’s more, there are spiritual ideals that can be gleaned concerning faith, honor, loyalty and man’s struggle with his inner nature. Tolkien’s themes deal with friendship, mercy, self-sacrifice, nature versus industry and, finally, redemption. Where I found these ideas muted in the first installment, dwarfed by the action sequences, both the second and now this final chapter leave a more thoughtful impression.

“Lost in Translation”

Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) are two Americans in Tokyo. Bob is a weary movie star in town to shoot a whiskey ad campaign, while Charlotte is a young, directionless woman tagging along with her workaholic photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi). Each suffering from insomnia, Bob and Charlotte cross paths one night in the luxury hotel bar. This chance meeting soon becomes a surprising friendship. Sofia Coppola’s film, from her original screenplay, contemplates the unexpected connections we make that might not last — yet stay with us forever.

The leads are not perfect people. They are simply wounded human beings afraid of the dark. Bob often anesthetizes himself with whiskey and Charlotte also seeks substitutes for facing life’s ethereal questions. But when portrayed effectively, we can often learn as much from the struggles of the confused as we can from the preaching of the enlightened. The tragedy is that our two likable leads seek ways of numbing themselves to life rather than addressing the spiritual nature that lies dormant within them. Even their own bond, which is a good and caring one, still misses the true meaning of life. If man is indeed here in order to find a meaningful relationship with the Creator through faith, then for Bob and Charlotte, this has sadly been lost in translation. For me that’s the point of the film. People are mental, physical and spiritual beings. When that third category is overlooked, no amount of the other two will bring contentment.

“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”

Writer/director Peter Weir has captured the enormity of the sea, while examining the innermost recesses of the human heart. He examines friendship, loyalty, courage and fortitude amidst an exciting, suspenseful action-packed tale. And what a pleasure to see a story set in a time when a belief in God was simply an accepted thing.

“Mystic River”

Artistically, this is a superb film, with a suspenseful, engrossing story and outstanding work by the film’s ensemble, ably directed by Clint Eastwood. I wouldn’t suggest we avoid such films because they contain depressing themes, but this one’s tale of a boy molested and haunted by that event throughout his life, plus the murder of a lead character’s daughter and other killings, are seen from the viewpoint of people who do not center Christ in their lives. I kept wondering, “What can I learn from this story?” Perhaps it reminds us to be grateful that we can turn to Christ in times of torment. And maybe it will cause us to be sensitive to those who don’t.


Based on the best-selling book, the film tells the story of three men -– a jockey (Toby Maguire), a trainer (Chris Cooper) and a businessman (Jeff Bridges) -– and the down-and-out racehorse that took Depression-era America by surprise. A triumphant account of a roughhewn, undersized horse that became one of the world’s most renowned celebrities and arguably the greatest champion of all time. Not just a horseracing movie, Seabiscuit is a perceptive tale of three men who find redemption.

God’s name is profaned 11 times in this movie, and I cringe every time I hear a profane utterance, but Seabiscuit acknowledges God to be a vital part a main character’s life.

So which film do I think will win the Oscar? Hey, you don’t make half a billion dollars and not win Best Picture. Like with anything else worldly, follow the money. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King will go home with the gold. Far from being my favorite film of the year (my favs were “In America” and “Together”), still it’s very satisfying that the source material for Rings came from J.R.R. Tolkien, a man of strong Christian ideals.

Billy Crystal will return as host for the 76th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 29, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
Phil Boatwright is a film reviewer and editor of The Movie Reporter, on the Web at www.moviereporter.com.

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