The Spirituality of this Year’s Oscar Noms (2015)

This morning, the 2015 Academy Award nominations were announced. Before the final lap of award season fantasy games and prognosticating commences, we wanted to direct you to a few of the more spiritual elements of some these fine films and encourage you to go see them if you haven’t had the chance yet.

Of course you’ve heard about this film and the controversy surrounding it (which is mostly unjustified), but simple word-of-mouth has nothing on the experience of watching this film in the theaters and being transported back to America’s south in the sixties to view up close the struggle of a simple and thoroughly human preacher attempting to move mountains through grassroots activism to make this world a little more just and equal. Still holding at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, this should be first on your list if you only see one film this awards season.

This one’s the most overtly religious-themed movie of the bunch. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s because it’s a black-and-white Polish film about the aftermath of the Holocaust; and if you have heard of it, that’s probably because it’s currently streaming on Netflix. The beautiful and stark Catholic imagery alone is reason enough to watch this story of a young novice nun, who discovers not only that she is of Jewish descent and her family was killed during the war, but that there is a great and mysterious world filled with emotion, darkness, and passion just beyond the walls of her convent.

Richard Linklater‘s “12 Year Project” literally follows the growing up of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to age 18. Filmed over the course of a dozen years, the main star of this film (aside from Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette), is not an actor, but rather a concept: time. During the 2 hour, 45 minute running time, we witness Mason growing up in front of our eyes. As he morphs from kid to adolescent to adult, other characters do not always deepen or emotionally mature at all, while others seem doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past, time and again. Leaving the movie, you cannot help reflecting on the passing of time in your own life, and those fleeting moments of our existence that none of us will ever be able to hold onto in this world.

In true Matthew McConaughey fashion, the ending of this film is a little more arrogant and a little less spiritual and dependent on others than at first imagined, however it’s a terrific film if you love drama, sci-fi, science, the deeper questioning of our existence, Michael Caine, or any or all of the above. Seeking to save the population of Earth from planet-wide catastrophe (sounds biblical until you realize we brought on the doom ourselves…wait, that is biblical!), McConaughey’s character seeks salvation at the opposite end of the galaxy. Long story short: you do end up thinking about this movie for days, long after the credits have rolled.

The Lego Movie
The most transcendent, mainstream-animated experience since that scene in Toy Story 3, this film begins questioning existence (of the worldly kind, that is) from the opening song to the surprise-ending third act (where there’s more otherworldly questioning going on), as well as some bigger themes like who’s “the man upstairs,” forgiveness, tapping into one’s inner child, love (of course), and meaning in this world and in the more yellow-colored, blocky kind of world.

Click the image above to view all of the nominated films and to download a 2015 Oscar ballot.
Click the image above to download your very own 2015 Oscar ballot.

Joe is the Production Editor for Busted Halo, working as producer and editor for all things video. After graduating from T.C.U. with a degree in production and religion, Joe spent time teaching on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona, exploring the film and music scene of Chicago, volunteering with the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa, and surviving the world of corporate event production around the globe.