So, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I mean. I don’t know what to say about that. It is what it is. What it has been. And, if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, just check out the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. I know. It’s disappointing that there were no actors of color nominated for this years’ awards ceremony. But, I also realize it’s not disappointing to everyone and, for some people, it’s not even a thing.
The Oscars have been around for a long time. They’ve been around long enough that, when they were established, the idea of having people of color in a movie was probably one of the last things on anyone’s mind. This year, there’s talk of a boycott of the Oscars, based on the fact that all the acting nominees are white. Some people have even called for Chris Rock to step down from his role as emcee for the event. But, I tend to think having Chris Rock as the emcee for an Oscar ceremony in which there are no people of color might be a better move for everyone, than having him step down.
I only bring all of this up because I wanted to share a couple of movies I’ve watched over the past few weeks. I watch a lot of movies, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about movies before. I’m not a film critic. I’m just a regular person who likes some movies, and doesn’t like others. When I meet someone for the first time, one of the things I might ask is, “What’s your favorite movie of all time?” You can tell a lot about a person from the answer to that question.
Recently, I’ve watched two movies about young boys— Beasts of No Nation (Netflix), and Little Boy (Amazon Prime)— that have really grabbed hold of my heart. They look different, they play differently, they even sound different. But, they speak to an important facet of this world we’re living in.
I thought for sure Beasts of No Nation would be nominated for multiple awards, but I was wrong. Even though it won’t be up for an Oscar, you can still watch it on Netflix and judge for yourself. Beasts of No Nation is not for the faint of heart.
Back in December, the movie’s director, Cary Fukunaga, was interviewed by Terry Gross for NPR’s program, Fresh Air. Here’s how NPR described the film:
Beasts of No Nation, which is available on Netflix, is adapted from the novel of the same name about child soldiers in an unnamed West African country. In it, Ghanaian actor Abraham Attah plays a young boy who has lost his family and falls into the hands of a commander who uses a combination of force, flattery, threats and drugs to commandeer an army of child soldiers.
There is a lot of blood of this movie. A lot of violence. There is profanity and nudity and there are drugs. If you watch the movie and wonder about the young actors on your screen, be sure to listen to the conversation on NPR.
Idris Elba stars in the movie, alongside the young Abraham Attah who plays the role of Agu. Aug’s life is forever changed when his brother and father are killed. Agu escapes and is soon taken in by the Commandant, played by Elba.
Here’s what I think: The story is powerful. The acting is masterful. The movie should have been nominated. If you watch it, let me know what you think. But, don’t forget, this one is not for the faint of heart.
If you do watch Beasts of No Nation, Little Boy is the perfect counter to the depth of emotion you’ll experience while watching Beasts. Don’t watch Little Boy right away. Give yourself some time to process Beasts. Then, when you’re ready for something heartwarming and whimsical, queue up Little Boy. Here’s a brief description from IMDb:
An eight-year-old boy is willing to do whatever it takes to end World War II so he can bring his father home. The story reveals the indescribable love a father has for his little boy and the love a son has for his father.
Some have said this is a faith-based movie, but I don’t see it that way. Faith definitely makes an appearance, as it were. But, I think it’s a misnomer to call the movie “faith-based.” There is a lot of love in the movie, to be sure and, while some might argue with me here, these days I think we could use a few more fantastical movies about the power of love.
Both of these movies are about young boys and their experience with war. While one of the movies is tough to watch, and the other is more winsome, both movies drive home a point about the impact of war on the psyche, and both movies give us pause as we consider the affect of what’s going on “over there” on the lives of real people, real children, and real families who live in the midst and the aftermath of the devastation of armed conflict.
Have you watched these movies? What did you think? What is your favorite movie of all time?