And The Oscar Goes To…

Three expert movie-watchers discuss the moral, ethical, religious, and spiritual themes they saw in some of this year’s Academy Award nominees. Watch Melani McAlister, associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University; Cathleen Falsani, author of “The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers”; and Jennifer Fleeger, assistant professor of media studies at Catholic University. Edited by Emma Mankey Hidem.


  • Margaret Opine

    I SAID TO SOMEBODY THE OTHER DAY THAT, “It is time(s) for the church people to come out of the closet.”
    SO, to view this video with “religious movie critics” was welcomed and being a lover of movies I also welcome a religious genre to the movie market but I welcome the genre on its on movie-making ability, not on its ability to tell me what god is or what morals should be. Hollywood has mostly, traditionally, spoken to the moral code without brandishing some particular religious code unless the character is religious based.
    The moviegoers are movie-goers; I’m sure that they prefer moral sensibilities to no-moral-sensibilities and when such evil-horror movies are marketed they stand or fall in their own movie-genre market. I don’t watch horror movies; that’s why there are genres, everybody doesn’t like every voice. I will watch religiosity in movies and films but if there is no weight to the storytelling, just preachy rhectoric with the filmmakers’, writers’ and directors’ views of god presented along with a moral code as well….that would end up seeming horrible to me. That would be scary to see movies where someone’s belief are shoved down my movie-going throat.
    The critics mentioned “religious people” over and over again; that’s sounded ethnic to me. Is this where we’re going? Religious People & Not Religious? Mainstream has tried to prevent the breaking off in ethnic groups based on anything…mainstream has tried to hold the lines together for the health of the nation. Meaning, some people can do this; some people can do that. Some people can believe and perceive in this fashion while others are different. “CHOICES” and “FREEDOM”, have we lost those as values?
    WHY did I say the church people need to rise during these times?
    Well, while I don’t like to be beaten over the head by The Reiligious Right with their version of religiosity; I think there is definitely a place for the Right in mainstream; I am worried we have gone too far liberally on some issues but abortion is not one of them. I want that centralized as a Choice. But on some of the other issues I like it that the religious people are there at the table to balance things out but not to “preach” religion, that’s for church, but to put a moral spin on things; so that religion is not left out.
    All in all, I welcome the religious genre at the movie theater, but I will view the religious-based movies as any other movie product and I will criticize the movies for its storytelling, performances and production.

  • Alan Miller

    Such meaningful insight and interaction with great cinema. Thank you!

  • darbea

    Perhaps I’m quick to judgement, but the impression I got listening to the commentary in the video is that morality and ethics is born from religious values and beliefs, and they’re pleasantly surprised to see morals, ethics and redeeming qualities in the studied characters although none of these characters are religously based. Morals, ethics and values have no basis in religion. The basis comes from the human condition. These values are just as present in secular and atheist communities. Let’s face it: how many wars have we had, how many people have been slaughtered in the name of atheism? And yet to this day, we have to put up with the childish temper tantrums, “My God is better than your God” type behavoir, “if you don’t believe what I believe, you’re going to hell”, and other common religious dogma.
    These movies weren’t made to appeal to or address ANYTHING religious. They were studies of the human condition. It’s rather insulting to think that a religious critic’s opinion somehow “legitimizes” these films.
    Religion has no monopoly on morals or ethics. Just ask an altar boy. Or a Serb or Croat, Jew or Iranian, or any of the hundreds of millions of people who have been abused or slaughtered for millenia.

  • Scott Lahteine

    I have to agree that the statement ‘the kinds of questions religious people are interested in’ seems to come from a narrow sense of what a ‘religious’ person is versus what a ‘non-religious’ person is. From my point of view, people who are ‘into religion’ are not themselves the sort of people who are interested in deep spiritual questions at all, but the kind of person who prefers simple draconian answers. And I think this fact is borne out in the way that ‘religious people’ act out in the political arena. They are not interested in modern and nuanced answers to questions of moral and ethics from secular or atheistic people, regardless of whether or not they have wisdom or insight. Rather, they seem for the most part strongly attached to tradition, strongly influenced by authority figures, and easily duped by people who speak their language but who have a cynical agenda. Indeed, the people who are most interested in real answers to deep questions about life, meaning, and identity are profoundly suspicious of any religion that claims to have divine authority or absolute answers. And rightly so. The kingdom of heaven is within, and organized religion has become one of the biggest barriers to personal insight. They themselves have not entered, and they are preventing those who might enter from entering.

  • magy stelling

    The Oscars did not nominate the most outstand religious movie this past year.. I am speaking of ,OF GODS AND MEN” A FRENCH FILM WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES.. THIS MOVIE IS BASED ON A TRUE story of seven Trappist monks who were murdered (martyred in Algeria in the 1990s. It is a compassionate story of each monk discerning the question shall I leave or stay. In other words they are deciding shall they say yes or no to God. They all know that their choice consequences no matter which one they choose.

    While this movie portrays Catholic monks its theme is universal
    for we each are face with this yes or no answer to at some time in our live. The movie is very well diredted and the monks are portrayed accurately. To look in to the heart and soul of any spiritual person is a rare treat.