The Winners Are...
Now that the Academy has chosen their winners, we present our own Cinema In Focus OSCARS for the best films of 2012. Our criteria are not based on the best story, graphic representation, or most entertaining, but what story had the deepest statement of values that are spiritually uplifting.
Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is more of an inspiring experience than an historical study. That is not to say that the facts of the Lincoln presidency and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment presented are not accurate, but it is to explain that the film creates a work of art in which history is given life and eloquence. Based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin and adapted for the screen by Tony Kushner (Munich), the dialogue is superb, the framing and cinematography are artistically engaging, and the title role is perfectly cast with Daniel Day-Lewis. Similar to his award winning film Amistad in which Spielberg presents the plight of slaves and the efforts of abolitionists, this film presents the dynamics that gave legal rights to all races of Americans.
Dean Wright (Director) and Michael Love (Writer) bring to the screen the inspiring and tragic story of the Cristeros War in Mexico (1926-29) where the government tried unsuccessfully, but brutally, to rid the country of the influence of the Catholic Church. Like Mel Gibson’s “The Passion Of The Christ”, this film is “R” rated and is not for the faint of heart as it portrays graphically the extent that an evil government is willing to go to fight with God.
The emotionally charged issues of public education are the focus of Daniel Barnz’ “Won’t Back Down.” Creating a film intended to give hope to parents and teachers who are struggling with inadequate community schools, he delivers a film that is inspiring while at times manipulating our emotions. Based on recent unsuccessful attempts to use the “parent trigger law” to take control of two elementary schools in California, this fictional motivational story is a moving tale that reminds all of us that the focus of education must be the children, especially the children whose parents’ poverty places them in neighborhoods where their local schools are failing them.
In a world where political lines are often drawn over abortion rights, it is important that our artists provide us with experiences that lift us above the partisanship to our shared humanity. That is what the Erwin brothers provide in their latest film “October Baby”. Opening the lives of a southern family when their daughter collapses on stage in her college play, we soon realize that her illness is based on a deep physical and psychological pathology caused by her premature birth due to a “failed abortion.” What is even more disturbing is that she did not know the circumstances of her birth or that the only parents she has ever known are not her biological ones.
In many ways, Hugh Jackman is the perfect Jean Valjean. With a troubled strength that he brought to his X-Men role of Wolverine, Jackman’s Valjean is believable as he brings his Tony-award winning abilities to the role. A prisoner forced into slave labor for almost two decades for having stolen a loaf of bread to feed his starving nephew, Valjean is filled with hatred until the kindness of a priest brings him into God’s care and transformation. Although he breaks his life-long parole, Valjean becomes a compassionate and upstanding businessman and community leader. But because of his parole violation, he has become the focus of Javert’s dedication to enforce the law, especially since he does not believe a person can change.