Recognizing the power that films have to influence and reflect the human condition, on the day of the Academy Awards we present our own
2008 CINEMA IN FOCUS INSPIRATION AWARDS:
The story explores the deepest themes of life, from loyalty and love to betrayal and despair. The redemptive nature of the film is seen in the title itself as Jamal travels an unexpected road which prepares him for the questions he will be asked on the television show. That love is possible in even a “slumdog’s” life is a message of hope that speaks to a world where the majority of humanity lives in poverty.
“The power of doubt is not to be underestimated, but neither is that of faith. Both are inextricably bound into a single cord that defines both our relationship with God and with each other. At times, one may seem to have conquered the other, but that is only until the next experience either undermines faith or banishes doubt. This complex reality is insightfully presented by John Patrick Shanley in both his play and his film, which are simply titled “Doubt.” The setting of the story is 1964 in a Catholic Parish church and school located in a northeastern American city that ministers to an Irish and Italian neighborhood. It is a time of civil unrest following the assassination of President Kennedy and ecclesiastical unrest with Vatican II. Tradition is represented by the principal of the school, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep). Sister Beauvier’s own pain has caused her to retreat into a cold world of rules and fears. This is symbolically presented on film as the frigid wind blows through her attempt to hide in her tradition.
A fantasy which weaves together romance with injustice, improbability with tragedy and abuse with hope, Gina Prince Blythe-Wood’s adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel is a delight. The central character is a young southern teenager who is carrying a deep guilt. At the age of four, Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) was attempting to protect her mother from her abusive father when she accidently killed her. This loss is devastating - not only to Lily but also to her grieving, seething father T. Ray (Paul Bettany).
Based on a story by Dave Johannson, the central character is a septuagenarian who has just lost his wife. Standing at the head of the casket at her funeral and obviously dissatisfied with his sons, grandchildren and priest, Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a lonely man. He is also a crusty old man with a racist bigotry, obscene vocabulary and violent past who lives in his life-long home in the middle of a neighborhood that changed long ago. His now dangerous neighborhood is interracially populated with conflicting gangs, the white flight happened years before, and this is a topic of concern among his adult children. Next door to his carefully maintained older home lives an Hmong family he despises without even knowing them. But providence provides him with the opportunity to find love and redemption.
It takes a child to see the truth and speak it, even when adults are working hard to cover it up with defensiveness, justification and deceit. Though it is difficult to tell the story of the holocaust to children, John Boyne offers an amazing presentation in his fable The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Taking this fiction to the screen as both director and writer of the screenplay, Mark Herman creates a compelling study of innocence in the face of horrific evil. The central character is Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the inquisitive eight-year-old child of a German SS officer played by David Thewlis. An upper-level officer, Bruno’s father is given a promotion during the war and we soon discover it is as commandant of a concentration camp. A father whose wife and children are Christians, he hides the truth from them that his camp is not a working camp but a death camp.