The winners are...
Now that the Academy has chosen their winners, we present our own Cinema In Focus OSCARS for the best films of 2016. 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.
In the midst of Hell, sometimes you meet God. Hacksaw Ridge may be one of the most realistic and bloody war movies of all time, but this true story of one man of faith who profoundly changes and saves the lives of countless numbers of men is easily one of the best pictures of the year
Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who served during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II and volunteered to go into the Army despite being a religious Conscientious Objector, became the first man in American history to win the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. Desmond Doss was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, a Christian sect that celebrates the Sabbath on Saturday, and whose members are encouraged to adhere to a strict diet and not take the life of anyone for any reason. Even so, he felt it his duty to stop the axis of evil that was represented in Germany and Japan. After enduring derision from his fellow soldiers and the military establishment, the Army gave him a chance to serve in a way that many considered a death sentence – entering the battlefield without a weapon.
Hidden Figures is a great reminder that you should never underestimate the greatness sealed within your soul. Three women, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) – all African American and acutely aware of the segregation of the time – found themselves at the center of the “space race” with NASA in 1961.
The space race didn’t have racial integration as a primary or secondary objective, but “necessity being the mother of invention” led to it becoming a catalyst for change. Katherine went on to become a leading figure in the landing of a man on the moon in 1969 and in the development of the Space Shuttle. In 2015 at the age of 97 she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama at the White House. In 2017 she still lives in Virginia.
Disney Studios knows how to make human interest stories better than anyone. William Wheeler (screenplay), Tim Crothers, and Mira Nair (director) have brought to the screen a simple, deeply moving true story about Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga). In 2012, Phiona was a young girl from Uganda who rose from the slums of Katwe to become a world-renown master grand player of the game of chess.
Part of the beauty of the Queen of Katwe is that the story has a happy ending. Phiona not only succeeds on a world stage, but she is able to buy her mother a life that is filled with peace. In no small part, this comes through the influence and mentoring of the pastors of Sports Outreach who gave everyone a grounding in faith and a vision for mutual love and compassion. This is a film that every family should see and discuss together.
Being a “Hero” in the real world doesn’t mean that you possess superpowers, but rather such acclaim often depends on circumstances and talents that are far less dramatic. It means doing the right thing at the right time with the instincts, skills, and internal gifting that is uniquely yours. More often than not, we describe people as heroes when they are “trusting in something beyond themselves to guide them at a moment’s notice when they don’t know what to do.”
This is seen in the extraordinary skill that allowed U.S. Airways Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) to land a disabled airliner in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. After striking a flock of birds upon takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, disabling both engines, his actions became legendary and turned his private life into a public hero. He didn’t see it coming, he didn’t jump into superman, but he relied on intangible skills that had been honed over a lifetime of flying such that in a matter of 208 seconds he saved the lives of all 155 souls aboard Flight 1549.
Deceit is seldom something we set out to do. Instead, we sometimes find ourselves presented with a difficult situation complicated by conflicting forces and choose to do something we know is wrong but decide to do it anyway for a variety of reasons. The result of such a choice is that we then have to cover it up. Lying, deceiving, burying the truth, we try to convince ourselves that we’ve done nothing really wrong as we attempt to enjoy our ill-gotten gain. But we soon discover that our happiness is built on a moral cancer that eats at our souls. This moral dilemma is the theme of Derek Cianfrance’s film The Light Between Oceans.
The intersections of life where sorrow and opportunity collide are often the places of great temptation as well as great courage. The Light Between Oceans is a study of both, powerfully expressed in a visual and compelling tale that speaks not only to the outward actions we do, but also the inward life we live. It is exploring this intersection that makes this a significant and insightful film.