Do The Oscars Deliberately Snub Families?
Having reviewed films from a family perspective for over two decades it is obvious that family entertainment doesn’t receive much love from the voters who determine the biggest awards in Hollywood. This year was no exception. The crowning glory (the Best Picture award) at the 2015 Oscars went to an R-rated movie about a washed up actor trying to put his life and career back on track. With about 180 profanities and some sexual nudity thrown in for good measure, it’s a good bet Birdman won’t be on your family’s “must watch” list.
However, the purpose of the Academy Awards was never to specifically honor family films. The privileged voters who determine the hand that will hold Oscar at the acceptance podium are made up of current and former industry members. The group has been criticized for their vast majority of white members (94%) and a median age of 62 years of age. So it’s no wonder movies targeting a family demographic aren’t crowding out Oscar categories.
Taking a look at the winners for 2015 (announced at last Sunday’s award ceremony) the Animated Feature Film category is once again offering the best choice for family viewing. Big Hero 6 took the statue for best in the category, and the also-nominated How To Train Your Dragon 2 is another film families have embraced at the box office.
In the other voting categories, the pickings for movies rated PG-13 or less that might be appropriate for family viewing are few—especially when considering the winners. Still Alice is a fine movie in which Julianne Moore won Best Actress for an amazing performance. But it’s about a woman struggling with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Unless you have a teen who wants to see what I think is Kristen Stewart’s best performance (at least compared to her pouty portrayal in the Twilight franchise) this middle-age downer-drama is unlikely to keep any kids engaged.
Likewise with The Theory of Everything, a drama that depicts the life of Stephen Hawking. It won Best Actor for Eddie Redmayne. Again, it’s a drawn out tale of Hawking’s life that will likely hit the snooze button for teens while some parents may not appreciate Hawking’s views on religion or his unfaithfulness in marriage.
Another movie portraying a real life genius (and one of my favorites this year) is The Imitation Game. Alan Turing is a pioneer of the modern computer, but his role in helping the Allies beat the Nazis during World War II wasn’t revealed until recently. Winning the award for best Adapted Screenplay, teens may find it intriguing but parents should be aware of frequent smoking and mature themes involving bullying, mental health and Turing’s closeted homosexuality.
Digging deeper into the list we find Ida, a film that offers captivating cinematography and a compelling story. This Polish film took the Oscar in the Foreign Language Film category. Budding filmmakers in your family may be excited to view the unusual camera angles, but the movie’s plodding plotline—along with frequent smoking, drinking, a sexual scene and a suicide—doesn’t make for a family fun night. And some teens (and adults) hate subtitles.
Finally the Visual Effects category offers up a group of PG-13 titles that provide the typical action/adventure many teens and adults rush out to theaters to see. Interstellar offered gobs of eye-candy and was snubbed in every other category, but took the crown for it’s visual effects—and rightly so. The other nominations in visual effects that teens and adults may enjoy are Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The Winter Solider, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
The aforementioned Birdman, Whiplash and the quirky The Grand Budapest Hotel were the major winners of the night and all of these are rated R, mainly for profanities and some sexual content.
With the risk of using a fishing metaphor, I’ve always advised that if you want to catch a salmon, don’t fish in a swimming pool. Likewise, if you’re hoping to snag a great family film, the Oscars are a poor pool in which to fish. Here’s a list of best family movies for 2015, but make sure to click each title and read our full review. Also you’ll find some recent classic re-releases to home video in there as well.
The bottom line is the golden Oscar statue is only one of many awards by which a movie is measured.