Saturday, March 04, 2006

Spiritual Popcorn Oscars 2006

On Oscar night (this Sunday, March 5th), actors, actresses, cinematographers, directors, producers, composers, costume designers, and many others will gather in Los Angeles for the 78th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jon Stewart. Many will be nominated, but few will win. Below are my choices for the roles, films, or jobs that, to me, seemed the most spiritually-engaging.

My guess is that the actual award winners will look different than this list; but if we could hand out our own "Spiritual Popcorn Oscars," this is what that list would look like:

Best Picture
Crash (while spiritual messages are all over this year's roster of Best Picture noms, the fact that a film was able to tackle one of the most popular New Testament parables, the Good Samaritan story, makes this my favorite of the year)

Best Actor
Heath Ledger, Brokback Mountain (the depth at which Ledger took us into this man's inner struggle between honesty and lies, between one love and another, between obligation and desire is what makes his role both the saddest, but most spiritually-compelling for asking all of us how do we handle our inner demons and our shadow side)

Best Actress
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line (Witherspoon's ability to show us unconditional love and compassion towards another is evidence enough to make her performance so noteworthy)

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Dillon, Crash (he represents the Samaritan in the Good Samaritan story: so hated yet so compelled from within to reach out his hand to save another from harm's way)

Best Animated Feature
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (while Wallace & Gromit's message of caring for all creation is important and the film itself was a fun ride, it pales in comparison to Corpse Bride's message of love beyond death, and the gentle release of a soul into heaven)

Best Adapted Screenplay
A History of Violence (its deep, dark questions of what humanity is capable of, and how we cannot run away from our past, are reasons enough to award this script the top honors)

Best Original Screenplay
Good Night, and Good Luck (for looking the audience in the eye and demanding we pay attention to media as bearers of message and intelligent conversation - instead of seeing media as an escape from our lives - is itself a message for us to look deeper into films, books, music, news, and pop culture for what lies beneath)

Best Director
TIE: George Clooney & Steven Spielberg, Good Night, and Good Luck & Munich (direction is risky, bold, and adventurous, so hats off to two bold films in today's political climate of terrorism and international politics, for saying something that needed to be said about the violence and fear that overwhelms society today)

Best Film Editing
Crash (in a sense, this is not just one Samaritan story, but several; editing all these stories into one coherant piece is what makes this film so compelling; the great editing shows us how our lives are so interconnected with one another, no matter our race or background)

Best Visual Effects
King Kong (actually, Andy Serkis and Peter Jackson both need to be nominated for their work acting and directing in this wonderful movie; but the sheer fact that a digital ape can make an audience realize what unconditional love is all about is an amazing testament to the power of Kong's visual effects)

Best Cinematography
Batman Begins (this film is about dealing with fear, and the fear itself was palpable in the dark landscapes of Gotham City; you could almost feel the dampness of the batcave with the way the screen illuminated Batman's underground home; we were transported into Bruce Wayne's world of fear, violence, and uncertainty just by the way the camera panned this movie)

Best Art Direction
King Kong (the landscapes say it all... when we see New York for the first time, we are taken to a new appreciation of this famous city; when we see Skull Island, fear and angst stirs our souls; when dinosaur and ape go head-to-head, we are on the edge of our seat; when Kong sits atop the Empire State Building and yearns for his old island, we miss it too)

Best Costume Design
Memoirs of a Geisha (for broadening our cultural perceptions, for taking us across the ocean, and for making us feel the inner struggle of the geisha just by the look and feel of the costumes)

Best Makeup
Star Wars Episode III (this film is about the final turn to the dark side, the embrace of the shadow for Anakin Skywalker; the makeup used to transform Anakin from wide-eyed Padawan to bitter Jedi and finally to scarred and beaten Darth Vader is what makes this turn so captivating, so believable, and makes us ponder our own scars that turn us to the dark side)

Best Sound Editing
War of the Worlds (when a film can scare and move you when even you close your eyes is itself a spiritual experience; fear and fright highlight the message of this movie, and when you can do such a good job in the sound department alone to get that across, you clearly deserve the award)

Best Sound Mixing
Walk the Line (music is what made the love story of Johnny and June Carter Cash so endearing; kudos for the mix of music, dialogue, and romance into the score of this movie)

Best Score
Memiors of a Geisha (in all his years of scoring films, John Williams never seems to disappoint; in addition to the costumes, the William's score transports the listener to another culture, another way of life for us to discover anew)

Best Song
"In the Deep" from Crash (it is during this song that the pieces of this wonderful film all start to come together, a song that underscores the deeper meaning behind prejudice, injustice, and hatred and, through its musical score, transform those into a new understanding of love, compassion, and harmony)

As for Best Supporting Actress, Doucumentary Short Subject, Documentary Feature, Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, and Foreign Language Film, I have not seen enough of their nominees to make an informed choice.

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