As I mentioned in my prior post, my wife and I have attempted to see all the Best Picture nominees for this year’s Oscars©. With the broadcast of the awards on Sunday, I am proud to report that our attempts have been successful. In the four years that we have done this we are constantly amazed at the stories and settings we are able to visit through cinema. This year, the scope of settings – from the late 1800s North American wilderness to the surface of Mars, from East Berlin in the 1950s to Dorchester in the 2000s – we have been places familiar and unfamiliar and introduced to fascinating characters.
This year, unlike others, all the story lines and the characters have been haunting. Each movie, in different ways, has left me with the same question: what can I do, what must I do – as a human being, as a Christian and as a pastor – in light of the needs represented by these films. What do I do for (taking the movies in alphabetical order) those crushed by the housing crisis of 2008, those imprisoned for political reasons around the world, those who immigrate to America looking for a hope they cannot find at home, those trapped through human trafficking, those abandoned and alone, those damaged by the murder of their child, those traumatized by sexual and psychological abuse and those, once abused, who have been silenced or dismissed by ‘the system’? This year’s Best Picture nominees are a hodgepodge of social ills that need to be addressed.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40
My take-away from the cinematic experiences of the last month and my movie-going is that while I cannot do everything, I can do something. One of the movies, Spotlight, was filmed in our neighborhood and depicts the plight of those reporting on the clergy sex abuse scandal in my town; I surely know someone affected and I could do something. The news is rife with reports on immigration, political prisoners, kidnappings and human trafficking; surely I could do something. Then there are people broken by life – those who have lost a home, lost a child, been abandoned by friends; surely I could do something. In fact, surely, I must do something, anything, to offer hope, healing and haven to those in pain.
I am grateful for Hollywood’s reminder that there are good people and there are terrible circumstances, occasionally meeting and alleviating suffering; may we be those who help those in need.
For what it is worth, I think my favorite picture was Room, the sweetest picture was Brooklyn, the best writing was The Big Short, the most beautiful picture was The Revenant and the Oscar for Best Picture will go to Spotlight (maybe I am biased for Dorchester). Now, for me, there will be no more movies for a while – hopefully I will be too busy helping those whose stories now haunt me.