I'm normally not a fan of the movies nominated for best picture each year, but I feel like the cultural part of me should be interested in the movies that make the final cut. (As opposed to the cutting room floor!) At this posting, I've only watched 1 of the nominated flicks, Finding Neverland, but have heard about the ending of the movie voted best picture -- Million Dollar Baby.
What I've discovered is a theme running through Hollywood that has crept into the storyline of two of the nominated pictures, and becoming a running theme through other movies. That theme? The fascination with death.
I'll preface this blog entry by warning you that if you haven't seen the movies I've mentioned, and you don't want to be surprised, you might want to quit reading now.
Let's start with Finding Neverland. In totality, I truly enjoyed this movie. It is definitely a film for a lover of imagination. The story is told of JM Barrie, the author of "Peter Pan" and the inspiration for that tale. He is influenced by a family of 4 children, all boys, with a widowed mother who falls ill not long into the movie. Being a seasoned moviegoer, I had a sense the mother wouldn't make it to the final credits. And, I was right. At the end of the movie, the mother dies, leaving behind her 4 sons in the co-guardianship of Mr. Barrie. "Uncle James" as little Peter calls him, describes the afterlife as "Neverland" and if we imagine, we can be there too....and he can find his mother there in his imagination.
Again, I'll emphasize my enjoyment of this movie. Rarely these days is there a movie coming out of Hollywood that is void of profanity and nudity. I applaud the nominators for putting such a clean, wholesome movie on the best picture list. But, it brings to mind the fascination with death....what is the afterlife? Is it a Neverland? Can we go there in our imagination? Although no mention of God, the subtle message of believing is there, yet the universalistic message that we're all going to "Neverland" is prevalent. I may have never noticed this "death trend" if I hadn't heard about the other movie in question, Million Dollar Baby.
The trailers and promotionals for Million Dollar Baby give it the feel of a female "Rocky" flick. But, you are unsuspectingly surprised at its ending. Maggie is the "female" Rocky equivalent with a dream to become a boxer. Frankie, her trainer, athough skeptical, finally decides to take on her challenge and train her to victory. In a bout with the British champion, Maggie takes a deadly blow that breaks her neck and paralyzes her for life. At this point in the movie, the focus shifts to assisted suicide. Maggie doesn't want to live, and asks Frankie to help her. After refusing, Frankie changes his mind and decides to do it. He comes to her room, tells her he's going to do it, removes the breathing tube and injects her with adrenaline.
In this Oscar-winning movie, we've seen euthanasia and assisted suicide as a viable option. In one movie we see death as a trip into imagination, and in this movie our character buys her own ticket to her "Neverland." We speak much about the sanctity of life as it relates to unborn children. But, we need to begin to see the impact our disrespect of life is having on the other end of the spectrum....not just when we enter the world, but when we leave the world.
I believe it brings to light two insights to our society. First, we want to be the captain of our ship, our own "god" that knows best what we need. As humans, we rebel against authority, our sin nature leads us in that direction. The slippery slope of that sin leads us to ignore the One that Created us, and remembering that He is in control of whether we live or die.
Second, and the theme I spoke of earlier, our fascination with death. The world spins its wheels trying to find the answers to life after death, what happens at death, and can I know? This has always been a heated debate in the world, but as Christians, we should capitalize on the evangelistic opportunities it provides. Yes, there is life after death...and eternal life in Christ is available to any who believe and receive. It is not an imaginary Neverland....it is the glorious home of Heaven that is being prepared now for the Believer's arrival.
One of the controversies at this year's Oscars was the snubbing of a movie that surpassed all expectations and most box office records. Mel Gibson's, "The Passion of the Christ" was left off the best picture nomination list. Ironically, the fasicnation we have in this world around death should have catapulted the greatest story of life from death ever told into the best picture nominated list without hesitation.
For those looking for the answers to life's greatest questions, "what happens after death?", this movie depicted the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A death that didn't end there at the cross, but began with His Resurrection that gives those of us who believe a life everlasting with Him. Oh, if the world's fascination with death would lead them to the cross where their questions are answered!