The Winners Are ...
Now that the Academy has chosen their winners, we present our own Cinema In Focus OSCARS for the best films of 2015. 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 or challenging.
McFarland USA may be a small town in California’s Central Valley, but it is ground zero for the feel good movie of 2015. This is a story on many levels of people who live beneath their potential, but who learn from one another the power of love, family support, and teamwork to bring to the surface the people that they were meant to be. Brought to the screen by Disney Pictures, it is certain to be a hit with every high school in the country that dreams about being better than they are.
The true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery and campaign to protect football players from repeated, mind-altering concussions is told in Peter’s Landsman’s film Concussion. A Kenyan-born genius who graduated from medical school at the age of 16 and holds eight advanced degrees as well as multiple board certifications, Omalu is a board-certified forensic pathologist. When he investigated the death of the Pittsburgh Steeler’s superstar center Mike Webster (David Morse), he discovered that Webster’s brain was damaged because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease caused by the estimated 70,000 blows to his head he suffered as a football player.
This is a true story that is not easy to watch, but it has profound implications and is a challenge for each of us to confess our guilt and sin. The Boston Globe’s January 6, 2002 front-page Spotlight investigation told the readers about how John Geoghan, a local parish Catholic priest, had sexually abused more than 130 young boys in different churches for more than 30 years. Spotlight was a key in-depth research team at the Globe that would take on major issues within the Boston area. Often they would take a year to put the story together. In this day of instant Internet news, it is hard to imagine having the luxury of having a team take a year to get the story right. Little did they know where this story would lead, or the implications for the Catholic Church, but it may have been one of the most healing moments in modern history. This film won the Academy Award for the Best Picture of 2015.
Turning tragedy into triumph requires faith, and faith can produce miracles. Such is the experience of four children orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Witnessing the destruction of their family and village, then walking a thousand miles across Africa to Ethiopia alone and eventually being rescued and sent to a confusing but safer world in America, these lives become symbols of hope in a world filled with evil.
The true story of James B. Donovan’s negotiation skills during the Cold War is powerfully presented by Steven Spielberg in his film Bridge of Spies. A masterpiece of cinematic story-telling, Spielberg partners with the excellent writing of Ethan and Joel Conan along with the newcomer Matt Charman. If that partnership was not enough for a great film, the acting of Tom Hanks in the lead role lifts the film even more as he demonstrates his ability to represent the strength of one man willing to stand against injustice.