Tuesday, March 1, 2022

It's Oscar Month at Movie Churches!

As a kid, I got very excited about the Oscars (okay, sure, I was a strange kid). I would beg my parents to let me stay up and watch the whole thing. I remember in elementary school faking sick to miss a 4-H event so I wouldn’t miss the ceremony. We even hosted (and attended) Oscar parties through the years.

I’ve lost interest in the last five years or so. Some reasons include the Oscars not showing the lifetime achievement awards, and this year dropping the technical awards so they can show Twitter vote competitions. The ceremony has just become less fun.

But I’ll always appreciate one thing about the Academy Awards: the Oscars led me to track down and watch some great films I might never have watched otherwise (and some stinkers, but the good ones made it worthwhile). The Academy Awards are at the end of this month, so we’re looking back at films featured here at Movie Churches in the past as well (follow the links.) And we will be writing about other Oscar-winning and nominated films in the weeks to come.

(Best Picture Nominees from the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties)

Two of the biggest stars from the Thirties, Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, starred in one of the early disaster films, San Francisco (1936), recreating the 1906 earthquake. For our purposes, we can be thankful the film has a boxing preacher as well.

The 1938 Best Picture winner, The Life of Emile Zola, is… fine. Another of the nominees that year has weathered the test of time much better.  The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, tells a story that has been told in many films through the decades, but this is still the best. Fortunately for Movie Churches, Friar Tuck is featured in the film.

Back in the Golden Days of Hollywood, clergy often were featured as heroic figures, though their theology was usually bland and little mentioned. Films that exemplified this hagiographic view of clergy include Spencer Tracy’s priest in Boys Town (1938), Ingrid Bergman’s nun in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), and David Niven’s pastor in The Bishop’s Wife (1947).

At the start of World War II, studios did their part for the war effort, making films glorifying heroes and battles of the past. Sergeant York (1941) with Gary Cooper also included a theological defense for going to war.

Like The Bishop’s Wife and It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is one of the few classic Christmas films to be nominated for Best Picture (no such luck for Elf or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation).

The Fifties were the era of big-screen Biblical epics. Two of those featured churches and were nominated for Best Picture: Quo Vadis (1951) and The Robe (1953). A different kind of religious epic, The Nun’s Story (1959) starred Audrey Hepburn.

Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth is widely regarded as one of the Academy’s worst picks for Best Picture. It beat two classic films: The Quiet Man (1952) -- one of John Ford and John Wayne’s best efforts  -- and one of the greatest of Westerns, High Noon (1952).

Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at the other Best Picture nominees featured in Movie Churches -- along with the winners.

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