This week, the McGrath Institute Blog is going to the movies, in anticipation of the 92nd Annual Academy Awards, which will air this Sunday, February 9. Interest in awards ceremonies, especially the Oscars, has waned in recent years, as indicated by the downward trend in the ratings. Hollywood politics impact which films and film-makers are nominated and which ones are snubbed, professional critics and filmgoers alike rightly point out the lack of diverse representation of women and people of color among the nominees, and for a Christian, the general culture surrounding film-making in Hollywood is deeply problematic.
So why bring to light what so often dwells in darkness?
Because millions of people still turn to movies for deeply human stories told in compelling ways, stories that—despite their often problematic origins—largely focus on Christian themes like good vs. evil, the search for redemption, the need for conversion, and the transforming power of self-giving love.
This week, we’ll take a look at each of the nine Best Picture nominees, providing a glimpse of how they engage these themes, and why they might be of interest to a Christian moviegoer. For viewers with an awareness of the performers’ and film-makers’ personal stories, it may be difficult or even impossible to bracket out the artists’ problematic histories in order to view their work with an open or unbiased eye. Yet, it may just be that the reason these stories of death and life, despair and hope, damnation, conversion, and redemption get told over and over again in so many different forms is that the artists themselves are searching for the very redemption they portray on the screen. And it may just be that the reason we keep flocking to see these films is that, in our own way, we are too.
The arts in general, and movies in a unique way, are how we human beings tell our stories. So, for a Christian viewer, these forms of art can help us see more vividly how our stories are entwined with the story of salvation history. Whether explicitly or implicitly, intentionally or unintentionally, movies can help present facets of the Good News in new, unexpected, and even challenging ways, and in so doing, they can help us come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of that all-important, all-powerful story: the story of divine love that became little, that become vulnerable, in order to suffer and to die and to rise, in order to redeem the cosmos from sin and death.