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    A View from the Pew

    The Oscars: A Guilty Lenten Pleasure 

    The Oscars: A Guilty Lenten Pleasure

    I love movies. I watch them in the kitchen when I cook. I enjoy watching them with my family and I thoroughly enjoy seeing films in theaters. The Oscars almost always fall within the season of Lent. I think of them as my guilty pleasure in this season of prayer, fasting and alms giving. Would I fast from the Oscars? Not a chance. I love the arts and admire the people who can take a story line and teach, evoke, muse, challenge and change us through this medium. I’m not talking about lifestyles. No one can judge another person, although opulence and indulgence seem to thrive in this industry. I’m talking about actors, musicians, directors, writers, technicians and the myriad of talented artists who use their skills to create change in the world.  At the end of the day, isn’t that what we’re all about? 

    In addition to some very artistic films that never make it to Oscar nominations, I really attempt to see as many of the nominated films before the big night. Midnight in Paris surprised me: I did not expect Woody to time time travel and really enjoyed the film. Woody does not anticipate a win for his charming film. I agree, although the film made the 'list', so kudos to Woody.

    So what are my ‘picks’ for tonight’s Oscar wins?  I love three films in particular because of their strong themes of compassion, social justice and heartfelt love.

    The Descendents reminded me of a Native American lesson. When we make decisions, we need to consider how that decision will impact seven generations after us. The story considers ethical decisions verses money and power. The film also considers that although Hawaii may be viewed by visitors as the Land of No Troubles, the movie opens with a glimpse of island reality. The same human conditions exist that afflict everyone else: poverty, sickness and family problems. The film presents a visual opportunity to view Hawaii’s veracity within the first five minutes of the film. Eco-ethics as well as fidelity and strong family ties evoke powerful themes of justice, integrity and responsibility. In my opinion, this film shows George Clooney at his best because he lives what he believes in his life. His authenticity showed in his performance.

    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close stayed faithful to Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, which thoroughly moved me. Sometimes hilarious and often times poignantly stirring, the story extends far beyond a reminder of the wake of 9/11. Extremely Loud renewed my belief that stepping into someone’s shoes and walking around in them can entirely change perception and perspective. Diligence, love and patience can replenish relationships and restore faith in humankind. A compassionate and impeccably envisioned novel and film, both the book and the film bring an astounding array of emotions within an flawless story. Max Von Sadow never spoke a word but conveyed such a depth of feeling that his silence spoke more eloquently than any dialogue. Read the book and see the film. 

    The Help Adapted from Kathryn Stockett's novel of the same name and adapted for the screen and directed by Tate Taylor, this book and film go into my Top Ten Favorites of All Times category. After Viola Davis stole the scene from Merryl Streep in their scene in Doubt in 2008, I became a Viola Davis fan. Even Streep became her fan! If you watched this year’s Golden Globe Awards, Davis went up against Streep for Best Actor. Streep won for The Iron Lady; Streep wanted Davis to win for her lead role in The Help. “Your my girl, Viola,” Streep said with her heart in her eyes and voice as she left the stage holding the Golden Globe.

    Viola graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater from the school that my daughter Martha attends, Rhode Island College. You can find Viola’s picture in the RIC Hall of Fame. Every time she wins an award, you will hear her reference her Rhode Island professors and her native city of Central Falls, RI with gratitude and encouragement to young artists. “Dream big and dream fierce,” she said when she won Best Actress at SAG. Davis also offers a strong supporting role in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and in many other current films and television series. However, her performance in The Help brought me to my knees.

    Davis’ role as a maid during the Civil Rights era American in the early 1960’s exposes the racism of the maids of the era in the South where they worked for white families. The book issues the story in the voices of three astonishing women that creates a movement, changing them, their town and the way women view one another.  The film brings them to life in deeply stirring and poignant ways. Sometimes comical and always riveting, The Help approaches social attitudes, grief, child rearing and racism with such flawless creativity that just sucks you into its human heart through superb performances by a sterling cast of characters. I love Davis and she’s in good company in this film. Read the book and see the film.

    Time for dinner and the red carpet time, another guilty Lenten pleasure.

    Until next week, take good care.