Last night marked the 85th Annual Academy Awards, a ceremony which honors the year’s greatest achievements in film.
As is my tradition, I watched the entire telecast in rapt attention—drooling over the gowns, deconstructing the performances, and waiting with bated breath for the winners to be announced.
Truth be told, I have always loved Oscar night. I look forward to it for weeks in advance, preparing myself by watching as many of the films as possible and casting my own private ballot. Sometimes, I even throw a little soiree.
But how could a generally mindful person be so enamored with an award show? It’s superficial, it celebrates an industry of incredible excess and the necklace Anne Hathaway had on was probably worth more than my entire house (no offense Anne, I love you).
On top of that, 2012 provided us with films that feature images of war, slavery, oppression, parental neglect and extreme violence, among others. Though each of these themes represent truths that exist in the world, I have certainly found myself questioning how I feel about a body that supports and honors those kinds of films.
But I make it sound like the Oscars have no redeeming qualities. In fact they have many. The Oscars are about rewarding the spectacular achievements of our best creative minds. They’re about calling attention to people who tell important stories. They’re about art. They’re about celebrating a medium that moves us all.
To that end, I’ve compiled a list of the most important lessons that I took from each of the Best Picture nominees.
Finding mindfulness in some of these films was a stretch (I’m looking at you, Django Unchained), but even amongst such a disparate list, there is some universal truth in each.
Make your own choices.
When Tony Mendez goes over the heads of all his superiors and decides to extract six hostages from Iran without permission, he puts his entire career and his life at risk. Hopefully, most of us will never be in the position to gamble with such high stakes, but the spirit of the movie rings true in all our daily lives: trust your gut, don’t be afraid to go against the grain and do what you think is right, even against all odds. If you don’t make the best decisions for you, then who will?
Take care of your love.
What is life without the people we share it with? There is no better testament to lifelong love than this couple, whose heartbreaking last chapter of their lives will move even the stoniest of hearts. Georges faithfully takes care of his ailing wife Anne through the very end—we should all be so lucky to have partners who will take on the thankless task of tending to us in our final days. So go find a good one! It will be worth it in the end.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Be happy with whatever life gives you.
As a very young, extremely poor and nearly parentless child living in the storm-threatened Bathtub of Louisiana, you might think that Hushpuppy would have little to be happy about. Quite to the contrary, she and her close community of neighbors are far more content than you might think it possible to be in such a situation. They are proud of where they come from, fiercely loyal to their home and enjoy themselves in all kinds of unconventional ways. It just goes to show that life is what we make it. Whether we live in a flooded shack or a gated mansion, happiness isn’t a result—it’s a choice.
Choose your friends wisely.
At the center of this film is a partnership, between the freed slave Django and the ruthless but loyal bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. They are an unlikely pair connected tenuously by a common goal, but they soon find each other to be reliable partners in crime. Though I can’t condone any of the acts committed as a result of their association, one thing can be learned here: life is all about who you live it with. Life is too short to fill it with toxic people—instead, choose ones you know will always have your back.
Fight for what you believe in.
Nothing says dedication like dying for your country. Though their eagerness to sacrifice their lives for the greater good may have been a bit excessive, each of the characters in this film fiercely fights to protect their rights. Revolting against a monarchy they didn’t support, we all could learn from the grit and determination of these people who will give up everything to achieve their goals. If each of us could advocate so brazenly for even one cause we feel is important, imagine how we might change the world?
Life of Pi
Live your own truth.
This film treats us to the dazzling story of a boy and a tiger stranded at sea, showing both their journey home and their journey to God. But as Pi retells his harrowing story years later, he calls his own tale into question: was it really a tiger? What was true? Nothing is certain in this life and we must decide on a daily basis what we believe about the world. Oftentimes, truth is simply what we make of it. So find your truth, hold onto it and never let go.
One person can change history.
Abraham Lincoln was one of our most famous and best-loved presidents, enacting change that would forever shape the future of this country. Though there are probably few souls in these United States that don’t know his story, it still bears repeating. Leading by example, he taught us to never underestimate the power of great leadership. It is so easy to feel small amongst the seven billion of us that share this planet. But if we dream it, and if we work hard, we can all change the world.
Silver Linings Playbook
Find people that balance your crazy.
Pat Solitano has issues. He’s bipolar, he has recently been released from a mental facility, he is estranged from his wife (who has also taken out a restraining order against him) and on top of all that he has to move back in with his parents. But when the mysteriously alluring and equally complicated Tiffany comes into his life, everything changes. Mental illness is no laughing matter, but we’re all a bit crazy in our own ways. The people who matter to us most are the ones who understand our crazy, embrace it and make us sane when we don’t feel it. Everyone has a match in life, even (and perhaps especially) the people who live outside the norm.
Zero Dark Thirty
Never give up.
It took 12 years, many lives and extraordinary means to locate the number one terrorist in the world. Though this film was subject to enormous criticism for its supposed historical inaccuracy and portrayal of torture, the one thing that rang true for me here was the remarkable dedication of a group of people to their cause. They had a near-impossible mission, but they went to the ends of the earth to make it happen and it was that inexhaustible drive finally helped them to achieve their goals. The tracking and killing of Osama bin Laden is a highly controversial topic to be sure, but I know that I can’t help but admire the commitment and passion displayed by everyone involved. No matter how we feel about their cause, we can all be inspired by their perseverance.
Caroline Scherer is finding her way in the world. She is a thinker, a dreamer, a writer, and an old soul. She enjoys, but is not very good at yoga, and is feeling guilty about maybe wanting to reevaluate her vegetarianism. She is also an increasingly less recent graduate of Skidmore College, but pretends otherwise. Nowadays, she uses her liberal arts education to work at an independent bookstore and navigate the strange world of post-graduate underemployment. She is an avid swimmer, crossword puzzle enthusiast and dog lover.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise