Oscar 2012: Films That Awaken our Spirit!

22 Feb

1st article in  our 5 week series Bringing Spirituality back to Hollywood.

 By Open Book

It’s quite difficult to put forth new ideas.  It takes visionaries and innovators to awaken our spirit. The Independent Spirit Awards were created to support and honor diverse filmmaking in Hollywood.  The endless stream of sequels, franchises and retellings of fairytales makes you feel like your seeing double sometimes. Oh, wait! We are! Mirror, Mirror and Snow White & The Huntsman. Hmm! Is this literally a play on good and evil?  Are we going to see these films nominated for an Oscar next year?  Today blockbuster films geared at mainstream audiences lack heart, soul and depth.  With the Oscars this weekend, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how many Independent Films versus Blockbuster films were nominated for an Oscar last year.  So let’s get started.

Last year Black Swan, Kings Speech, The Kids are Alright, Social Network, 127 Hours, The Fighter, Toy Story 3, Winters Bone, True Grit and Inception were all up for best picture. Only two of those films were blockbusters and even film independent alumni, Christopher Nolan, directed one. According to an article in Vanity Fair executive director of Film Independent Spirit Awards discusses how we benefit from originality and innovation.

  • As executive director Dawn Hudson told us on the phone before the ceremony, you may not know who some of the lesser known filmmakers are now, but supporting them now means you could be lining up to see their masterpieces in the future: “It’s hard to have a career in independent film, and you need all the support you can get … Following was such a great first film for Chris Nolan, and how many people have seen the incredibly fabulous original Inception? Now I see everything based on Inception—commercials and videos and songs,” Hudson says.[1]

What is the definition of spirit? According to the Merriam Dictionary it states,

  • An animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms
  • a supernatural being or essence: as a capitalized : holy spirit, b : soul”

After watching Whitney Houston’s funeral this past weekend, the country mourned an artist who awakened our mind, body and spirit with her voice. She was taken too soon. Yet, her death has made the country question the demands placed on artist today. Do we need to bring spirituality back to Hollywood to support artists and innovation?  Today there is so much focus on outward appearances. Today films, music and literature rely on empty, superficial content that does not give back to audiences. Given the films nominated for Oscars this year how many of these films moved you spiritually and made you think critically?

  •  The Artist
  •  The Descendants
  •  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  •  The Help
  •  Hugo
  •  Midnight in Paris
  •  Moneyball
  •  The Tree of Life
  • War Horse

56 Responses to “Oscar 2012: Films That Awaken our Spirit!”

  1. Littlebells February 22, 2012 at 10:50 AM #

    I am so excited for this series!!!!

    Let’s see, EC&IL and The Help definitely got me thinking, but it was The Tree of Life that really took me by surprise. Even now, I still continue to think about it. Not so much the content at this point, but I remember how it made me feel. I found it very reflective.

    I think HW has definitely lost it’s way. It has become about greed and status, however it can be achieved, instead of being uplifting and edifying to the soul. Fortunately we do have writers, directors and actors who want to create these (spiritual) type of films. It isn’t completely lost, but they are in the minority. I think society as a whole has lost spirituality as well. Anyone can say they are spiritual and believe in God, a higher being, a stronger force, etc…however, they need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I have found that those who are truly spiritual don’t flaunt how spiritual they are but in what their daily conversation consists of. It is also shown in how they treat people. Ok, let me bring this back to films!! haha!

    I think HW underestimates how much more successful they could be if they went back to their “house”, knocked it down and built a “spiritual” foundation.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 10:04 AM #

      Hi LB-

      U Said: “Anyone can say they are spiritual and believe in God, a higher being, a stronger force, etc…however, they need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”

      Me: ITA! Actions speaks louder than words. Only history can reveal peoples true intentions IMO!! Those who are all talk have no substance and get easily distracted by the latest trends.

      • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 10:20 AM #

        Let me also add. Originality takes discipline.

  2. Comic Relief February 22, 2012 at 12:44 PM #

    Can’t wait for the discussion.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 10:07 AM #

      Thanks CR!

  3. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 10:13 AM #


    Of the films nominated for Best Picture this year.

    What films moved u internally?

    What films caused u to think critically?

    Are there films that moved u but did not get nominated? If so what are those films?

    P.S. LB just the last question. Given u have already answered the first two.

    • Littlebells February 23, 2012 at 12:11 PM #

      Mmm…now I need to go back and look at all the films released this year!!

      • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:09 PM #

        LOL!! Sorry!!

  4. Comic Relief February 23, 2012 at 6:52 PM #


    I think what I liked about “The Help” was it looked at such a broad cross section of different women from a time period and circumstances we don’t always here about. I’m not sure I was moved but I was definitely invested when the movie ended.

  5. Comic Relief February 23, 2012 at 6:52 PM #


    What I appreciated about “Midnight in Paris” it definitely had a point of view about nostalgia and the people who are enamored with it. I can’t say I was moved but I was completely engaged in the conversation I felt I was having with the director; Woody Allen.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:11 PM #

      Hi CR-

      Yeah! I liked “Midnight In Paris” also. Great choice.

  6. Comic Relief February 23, 2012 at 6:53 PM #


    I was really impressed with Charlize Theron in “Young Adult” but the movie wasn’t nominated. I was moved by the way she portrayed how disappointment could eventually make one appear bitter or even deranged. Many appreciated the movie but obviously a sizable number of Oscar voters did not feel that way.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:12 PM #

      Love, love, love YA. No Hollywood Happy Ending. Loved it!!!

      Charlize was fantastic.

  7. Comic Relief February 23, 2012 at 6:53 PM #


    In regard to your question about being moved was there a reason you asked?

    • Open Book February 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM #

      Hi CR-

      Let me see. The reason I’m asking if there are particular films that moved u because I want to know a few things.

      1. Was it the story or performance?
      2. Was it a Blockbuster or Indie Film?
      3. Did it connect with what’s going on socially?

      • Comic Relief February 24, 2012 at 1:47 PM #


        • Open Book February 24, 2012 at 3:44 PM #

          Tick! Tock! Let me know if u need me to be more explanatory.

  8. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

    Hi Everyone-

    Welcome new and returning visitors to our discussion tonight. Please feel free to comment or ask questions.

  9. Francesa February 23, 2012 at 7:12 PM #

    The Descendents didn’t necessarily move me, but I think Alexander Payne adapted a great interpretation of the book. He hit on a lot of what is going on in society today. It is funny with respects to spirituality that Mel Gibson(ugh) made the Passion of Christ movie and it was very well received. Now i know that is based on his interpretation of the bible but it obviously hit the religious nail on the head(bad analogy)

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:22 PM #

      Hi Francesa

      The Descendents was very melancholy to me. What did u think of the ending?

      Passion of the Christ. I thought was very well done. ITA agree with your analogy.

  10. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:16 PM #

    Let me see. I loved “The Artist.” Fantastic film!!!! It was creative, very moving. Made me think. Visually stunning etc….

  11. Francesa February 23, 2012 at 7:21 PM #


    I as well loved the Artist. I kind of had to change my viewing habits while watching. But you are correct very moving and it was visually stunning. I have not seen that for awhile in a film, which was nice.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:25 PM #

      Yeah! It does make u change your viewing habits. I thought the very opening scene of the film was very clever. What scene did u like the best?

  12. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

    My Week With Marilyn

    We Need to Talk About Kevin



    A Dangerous Method

    Win Win

    Young Adult

    All these films did not make the Oscar list. Did anyone see any of these films? If so do u think they should have been nominated rather than some of the Blockbuster films that were nominated this year?

    • Littlebells February 23, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

      Hi everyone! I’m mid picking my mom up at the airport and getting out of town with the hubs. Yay!

      I just watched 50/50 last night and I really appreciated it. No I don’t have cancer or know anyone personally who has, but I appreciated the realness of the emotions and grief process for everyone involved. It’s weird to admit, but my favorite scene was JGL screaming and freaking out in the car. That is real. Very, very real.

  13. Francesa February 23, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

    I think the dance scene finale was my favorite. Scene stealer was the dog. Ha!

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:38 PM #

      Oh! I love the dog!! Scene stealer for sure…..LOL!!

      Yes! Excellent ending to the film was the dance scene finale.

  14. Francesa February 23, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

    I did see 50/50 and it was good. The movie with a dark undertone with a lot of funny parts. But I don’t think that Seth Rogen would ever be nominated for an oscar since you think of him as a comedian.

    My week with Marilyn was okay, but Michelle Williams did a fantastic job as Marilyn and is very deserving of the nomination. The movie on a whole no.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 8:08 PM #

      I loved 50/50. Dark & Funny….It was great. I think the film as a whole deserved some recognition perhaps a nomination. IMO!!

  15. Francesa February 23, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

    I think there are to many nominations for best picture. I wish they would go back to the old format. Also, it seems all the best picture and best anything is only movies/people that have been out recently and not the year on a whole.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:52 PM #

      Sooo true. Way to many films nominated. But I have a theory on why it’s good to get nominated. LOL!!

      Anyway, that really makes me angry they don’t consider films from the whole year. Why do u think that is?

    • Littlebells February 23, 2012 at 8:12 PM #

      Yes to absolutely everything you just said. What I want to know is there a criteria that needs to met in order to get a nomination? A checklist of some sort??

      • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

        Hi LB!!

        Yes! There is a checklist. Let me see if I can find it for u? Hold on…

  16. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 7:48 PM #

    I was shocked War Horse made the Best Picture list instead of Shame, YA ,We Need to Talk About Kevin, 50/50. Do u think risque subject matter should keep a film out of the running?

    • Comic Relief February 24, 2012 at 1:53 PM #


      What would you define as risqué’ subject matter? I thought the movie was about sex addiction, do you or others perceive this topic to be titillating?

      • Open Book February 24, 2012 at 3:53 PM #

        Well the only film listed above dealing with sex addiction was Shame. However, to answer your Q more directly. I would say risque subject matter often times challenges or confronts issues we have or are experiencing in our present day reality. Far to often Blockbusters fail to do that to be more neutral or PC. Does that make sense?

  17. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

    Many Blockbusters feel like assembly line films. They lack depth, heart and soul. Most Independent films today connect with audiences spiritually and critically. Why do u think (some) Blockbuster films lack those qualities? Can u name some Blockbuster films made in the last five years that has moved u like Schindler’s List?

  18. Francesa February 23, 2012 at 8:11 PM #

    I think that we live in the moment and once it goes to dvd it is forgotten about. I don’t think studios run very good campaigns for actors, movies etc once that happens.

    I don’t think risque subject matter should keep a film out of running. They act like they are scared, but they make movie why not nominate it, if it is worthy. They aren’t afraid the nominate the actor or actress but not the movie.

    I am going to have to dig deep on the last question….

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 8:27 PM #

      Yes! A film hits DVD forget about a nomination.

      I think in the past they just cut their losses given it cost so much to run a campaign. Especially, for a film, less so for an actor.

      Given it cost so much to run a campaign for an Oscar. This year HW set a cap on how much a studio could spend on a campaign. This is to equal the playing ground for Blockbuster/Indie filmmakers. What do u think of this?

  19. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 8:18 PM #

    Many stories like Snow White, Peter Pan etc…are undergoing re-tellings. However, where are our Snow White, Peter Pan stories of today? Pixar takes a long time to make their films. Do u think development time contributes in making original material?

  20. Francesa February 23, 2012 at 8:30 PM #

    Yes, i do believe that time in development effect original material. It seems that today’s movies are just similiar stories told over in different ways. Pixar has really found a niche in the market and they do it very well. There movies stand the test of time (Toy Story, Cars). I believe those are the new Snow White and Peter Pans. We demand more from movies today, more complex yet lighthearted and funny. But the flip side to that is we also expect political correctness.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 8:59 PM #

      U Said: “We demand more from movies today, more complex yet lighthearted and funny. But the flip side to that is we also expect political correctness.”

      Me: Ahh!! Spoken like a true visionary.

      What did u think of Borat?

    • Open Book February 24, 2012 at 11:34 AM #


      I hope I did not put u on the spot by asking u about Borat? Although, I hardly doubt I embarrassed u. But going back of your comment about being PC or the irony in finding that balance etc.. I have to admit when I first saw Borat I was completely offended. A friend took me to see it and I thought he’d lost his mind. LOL!! I thought HOW DARE U? This is an abomination against women. Needless to say after about a half hour into the film I found myself laughing. I thought this is complete “Theater of the Absurd.” I did stay and watch the entire film and the conversations it sparked after lasted for a few days. Anyway, I think films that get that kind of reaction out of people are few and far in between because filmmakers are worried about being PC.

  21. Francesa February 23, 2012 at 8:33 PM #

    OB it was nice chatting with you. Hope to be on Saturday. I have a conference call. Have a great Friday.

    • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 8:37 PM #

      Bye Francesa,

      Thanks for coming. Great talking to u.

      Take Care!!

  22. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 8:35 PM #

    Here u go LB-

    The criteria for determining if a film is eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award varies from category to category.

    Best Picture: the film must premiere in Los Angeles county during the calendar year.

    Best Director: due to strict rules from the Directors Guild of America (DGA), only one individual may claim screen credit as a film’s director, unless two co-directors seeking to share director credit for a film qualify as an “established duo”. In the history of the Academy Awards, established duos have been nominated for Best Director only three times: Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (who won for West Side Story in 1961); Warren Beatty and Buck Henry (who were nominated for Heaven Can Wait in 1978), and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (who won for No Country for Old Men in 2007).

    Best Animated Feature: The award is only given if there are at least eight animated feature films (with a theatrical release in Los Angeles). For the purposes of the award, only films over 70 minutes long are considered to be feature films. If there are 16 or more films submitted for the category, the winner is voted from a shortlist of five films (which has thus far happened only in 2002 and 2009), otherwise there will only be three films on the shortlist.

    Best Documentary Feature: films must NOT be constructed entirely out of archive footage.

    Best Foreign Language Film: the film must be foreign AND in a foreign language. British films in English are not eligible. It used to be the language had to be indigenous, so that an Arabic film made in Italy was not eligible. That rule was changed, so that a Hindi film made in Canada was eligible. The film must premeire in a commerical movie theater BEFORE it is broadcast on television. The submitting nation must exercise sufficient artistic control over the film (whatever that means).

    • Littlebells February 23, 2012 at 8:44 PM #

      Seriously? SERIOUSLY??? That is the ONLY qualification for Best Picture???? Well that explains a lot…

      • Littlebells February 23, 2012 at 8:45 PM #

        Thank you btw. 🙂

        • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 9:05 PM #

          U are welcome!

      • Open Book February 23, 2012 at 9:01 PM #

        LOL!! No there’s more criteria for best picture. I was trying to give u an overall so u could see other categories. Sorry!!

        • Littlebells February 23, 2012 at 11:30 PM #

          Ok, well that makes me feel somewhat better…:)

  23. Open Book February 23, 2012 at 9:04 PM #


    I have to leave now. However, I will come back later and check if there are any more comments or questions.

    Great discussion.

    Take Care!!

  24. Francesa February 24, 2012 at 6:14 PM #

    OB no offense taken. ITA with you in regards to Borat I enjoyed Borat and like you I thought OMG what am i watching, but once I settled in I thought it was really funny. There are not many movies out there like that. Did you like Blazing Saddles? That for me falls into that same catergory.

    • littlebells February 24, 2012 at 7:02 PM #

      Blazing Saddles is a CLASSIC!!! I was offended by Borat at first and then found myself laughing. 🙂 I agree with your comments about demanding more but still wanting laughs. I’ve had about enough of political correctness. I get it and I respect it, but some folks take it to such an extreme that they can’t just sit back and enjoy life. I think filmmakers need to take more risks and let the audience make the choice to challenge their minds. I have learned more from those films not necessarily well received by critics and the public, but I’m glad the film was made and that I could enjoy it and allow it to help me grow as a person. Please don’t ask me which films have done this because there are too many and my brain might explode!! hahahaha!!!

      • Open Book February 25, 2012 at 5:31 PM #


        I hear u! I think filmmakers at best owe audiences their best work and effort. If they at least do their best, take risk, are well versed in what’s happening today, than audiences will appreciate the effort. IMO as people strive to be PC, irony always reminds us we’re human.

    • Open Book February 25, 2012 at 5:09 PM #


      I like u! Yes, Blazing Saddles is hilarious and a good comparison to Borat….. this is my favorite scene. Very smart film.

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