The Winners Are...
Now that the Academy has chosen their winners, we present our own Cinema In Focus OSCARS for the best films of 2013. 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.
Racism has been horribly destructive in this “land of the free and home of the brave.” Although not unique to the United States, the very principles on which our nation is based makes racial and gender barriers all the more offensive. But though we believe that all of us are created equal, the implementation of that belief has been and continues to be a struggle. One of those struggles was on the field of Major League Baseball. This struggle has been powerfully brought to the screen by one of the best screenwriters in recent times, Brian Helgeland. With the same sensitivity he brought to Mystic River, Man on Fire, LA Confidential and A Knight’s Tale, Helgeland both writes and directs an inspiring film of vital importance to healing the racism once rampant in the U.S.
Lee Daniels’ tale of the civil rights movement in the United States focuses on the story of one man and his family who experience the cataclysmic changes that have taken place over the last century in this country. With an African-American President in the White House, the film ends by finally claiming victory over the horrific injustices perpetrated on this persecuted race. The emotional content of this historical journey is powerful and the violence is not easy to watch. The main character is based on the true story of Eugene Allen who worked as a butler for eight American Presidents, was invited to a state dinner by the Reagan family, casted his vote for President Obama and saw him elected before he passed away in 2010. However, Allen did not experience the rift in his family that was portrayed in the film nor did he have a son who, in Forrest Gump-style, participated in virtually every significant moment in civil rights history.
Brad Silverman’s Grace Unplugged presents a multi-layered look at living a life of purpose rather than one of celebrity. Recognizing that a life of fame and fortune does not satisfy the soul, the film walks with a young music-minister’s daughter who has the abilities to be a success in Hollywood. Feeling hampered by her father’s control as well as by her southern Christian subculture, this young musician has to not only face her father-issues but her faith-issues as well. Partnering with writers Brandon Rice and James Killian, Silverman wrote and directed this engaging and inspiring coming-of-age tale.
Every once in a while a film comes along that remarkably captures history in a way that sears its images and its impact on the depths of your soul. Shindler’s List with its contrasting portrayals of the horrors and heroes of the Nazi Holocaust, or the storming of the beaches at Normandy in the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, are but a few that have risen to this level. Now among them will be 12 Years A Slave, an autobiographical look at the despicable treatment of one group of human beings by another in the decade prior to the Civil War of the United States.
Morgan Neville’s documentary gives far more insight into our shared human experience than merely a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of musicians. Focusing on the backup singers whose talents often overshadow those of the stars they serve, Neville’s exploration of the dynamics of and relationships between those who support leaders in a subservient position is fascinating. Allowing the musicians to speak for themselves without any additional commentary while filling the screen with powerful musical performances, 20 Feet from Stardom is a valuable and entertaining film.