The Winners Are ...
Now that the Academy has chosen their winners, we present our own Cinema In Focus OSCARS for the best films of 2014. 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.
Like buried treasure, Nicky’s Family tells the remarkable story of a humanitarian hero of World War II that was hidden for half a century. Nicholas Winton, a British man with indomitable energy who had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983 for his work establishing homes for the elderly, had a past life that when revealed in his late 70’s ignited brigades of compassion on a global scale.
The evil of racism is powerfully displayed in Ava DuVernay’s true story of Selma. A pivotal moment in protecting the voting rights of black Americans in 1965, we walk with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) as he motivates the clergy and others of all races to join in the march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the violence and denials of the voting rights of black Americans by the southern state of Alabama. In this screenplay written by Paul Webb in his writing début, we are invited to be present in both public and intimate moments in King’s life during this historical event.
In retelling the biblical stories, every artist must make theological as well as artistic choices. These choices reflect in part God’s story but they also reveal the hearts and thoughts of the individual story-tellers. This is not only true of every sermon delivered in every church, but it is also true of every film shown in which the biblical stories are portrayed. In Christopher Spencer’s film, Son of God, we experience a telling of the story of Jesus based primarily on the Gospel According to John with a hint of the Revelation of John. This particular telling is formed by Spencer as well as three writers who assist him: Richard Bedser, Colin Swash and Nic Young and it reveals a bias towards a Roman Catholic version of Jesus’ life.
Based on a book by pastor Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) about the vision described by his son Colton (Connor Corum), Wallace weaves a tale that is intriguing. A master at telling a story, as seen in his previous movies Braveheart, Pearl Harbor, Secretariat and The Man in the Iron Mask, Wallace doesn’t just have little Colton explain what he saw, he helps us know him, his parents, his town, his church and his life so that we live with the same tension everyone else experiences when they hear his account and have to confront the implications that become obvious when this little boy shares his experiences in heaven.
To tell the story of Louis Zamperini’s life in one film would be almost impossible. His mind-boggling transformation from a tough immigrant street kid, to an Olympic star, a World War II airman stranded in the Pacific for three months on a raft, two years tortured as a prisoner in a Japanese camp, and a hellish post-war life that got changed at a Billy Graham Crusade, is nothing short of a miracle. This is a film that will change peoples’ lives.