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MOVIES: Oscar’s diminishing worth

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — I love movies. Always have. When I was 8 years old, I would come home from school and watch the afternoon movie on a local TV channel that ran the same film five days in a row.

I’d see the likes of “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Hondo,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Them!” and countless others. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was studying the art and construction of movies. Little did I know that this practice would serve me as a film critic one day.

Year after year since those childhood days, I have dutifully taken note when Oscar nominations are announced and the Academy Awards are telecast. Those nominations were announced today (Jan. 22); the 91st Oscars presentation will air Feb 24 on ABC.

Five R-rated films are among this year’s Best Picture nominees — “BlackKkKlansman,” “The Favourite,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born” and “Vice” — while three are PG-13 – “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Green Book.”

Over the decades, I’ve seen John Wayne win his Best Actor trophy for “True Grit” (being an unabashed fan of the Duke, I was quite happy that night). On other telecasts, I watched such moments as Sacheen Littlefeather rejecting Marlon Brando’s Oscar in protest against the injustices to Native Americans and someone other than George C. Scott picking up that year’s Best Actor statuette, when he refused to accept it believing that award competitions corrupted an artist’s work.

Amid Oscar’s glamour, I’ve heard countless acceptance speeches that put aside “thank-you’s” in favor of setting us all straight about this cause or that. In recent years, a disdain for conservative values and sometimes even religion has permeated these artistic celebrations. And while I believe in justified outrage and standing up for the oppressed, these days it seems only a far-left viewpoint is allowed a voice in the entertainment industry.

There are a lot of good people in the cinematic colony; like any caring citizen, they seek ways to enrich society. But many in that community search for change and justice via a secularist perspective — one that ignores biblical principles.

On my spiritual path I’m increasingly troubled by the media’s abuses, often exacerbated at award ceremonies. Whenever consumption of movie secularism distracts me from biblical directives, I can’t escape the Bible’s words in Ephesians 5:11: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

Perhaps it can be argued that Christians should watch the Oscars. After all, the first step by any general before battle is gathering information for strategic decisions. Knowing the philosophies of world leaders and the divisiveness of local anarchists helps us combat a secular worldview, and it reminds us to pray for our lost world. Certainly I promise to pray for our lost world, but to paraphrase screen legend Bette Davis in “Cabin in the Cotton,” I’d like to watch the Academy Awards, but I just washed my hair!*

In other words, I find little worth in Oscar’s gold.

Award shows come and go, with audiences soon forgetting who won what. What remains is the work itself in a genre that combines the essence of all the other art forms. Filmmakers, in their finest moments, have used the movie medium to edify as well as entertain. And we movie buffs are blessed to live in a time when you can watch restored Blu-ray editions of films from decades past that still entertain, inform or nourish the spirit without gratuitous crudity and social blabbering.

“Uh-oh, Phil’s going to tell us just to watch old black-and-white movies starring dead people.”

To that, I say: During all decades of the past 100 years, Hollywood has produced many films that reveal the customs and sensibilities of each generation. Those same films generally gave us valuable teachings while entertaining us. So my advice is — don’t be afraid to watch a movie from another era. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

There are also several companies making family films or faith films today that compete with big studios both artistically and technically. (They’re easy to find on the internet.) And on occasion, show biz folk still offer films that entertain without bombarding us with the aforementioned gratuitous crudity and social blabbering.

Sadly, though, the vast majority of today’s motion pictures simply plunge us further into decadence, while ignoring the most profound use of the arts — the glorification of our Creator.

In Philippians 4:8 we are instructed: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” And Psalms 101 tells us: “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.”

So, amid the Oscars annual whoopla, be careful of what Hollywood puts in your head and heart.
*”I’d love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair,” Bette Davis in Cabin in the Cotton.

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright