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Cinema in Focus: Inspirational Picture Oscars Get Their Due, Too

Now that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences 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.

Best Inspirational Picture: McFarland, USA

McFarland may be a small town in California’s Central Valley, but it is ground zero for McFarland, USA, 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.

Best Actor in an Inspirational Role: Will Smith in Concussion

The true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery and campaign to protect football players from repeated, mind-altering concussions is told in Peter Landsman’s film Concussion.

A Nigerian-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 Steelers’ All-Pro 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.

Best Picture Confronting Community Values: Spotlight

Spotlight 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 Jan. 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.

Best Picture Supporting Family Values: The Good Lie

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 depicted in The Good Lie.

Witnessing the destruction of their family and village, then walking a thousand miles across Africa to Kenya, spending 13 years in a refugee camp and eventually winning a lottery for relocation, the siblings are sent to a confusing but safer world in America, the film immortalizes these lives, and they become symbols of hope in a world filled with evil.

Best Picture Depicting Personal Courage: Bridge of Spies

The true story of James B. Donovan’s (Tom Hanks) negotiation skills during the Cold War is powerfully presented by Steven Spielberg in his film Bridge of Spies

Presenting a masterpiece of cinematic story-telling, Spielberg partners with the excellent writing of Ethan and Joel Coen along with the newcomer Matt Charman

If that partnership was not enough for a great film, the Hanks’s acting 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.

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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