The Spiritual Lessons Of The Oscar Best Picture Contenders

The top 5 candidates for this year's best picture Oscar all have spiritual learning aspects to them that drive their main characters hard lessons and in some cases, their healing. Here's a look at them. 

"The King's Speech" - Finding your voice

One of the two favorites to win Best Picture, this is the story of King George VI's rise to the thrown at the start of WWII. The film centers around his battle with a speech impediment that holds him back from stepping into the leadership role he was born for. Its a funny and warm movie which keeps its laser focus on George. No side story gets any attention. Because of that you feel his pain, frustration, and success at a very deep level. A fantastic movie and one of three here based on a true story.

VividLife's review talks about George finding his voice:

The journey to find ourselves nearly always involves the search for our own voice, usually figuratively, but sometimes quite literally. It can be a terribly painful process, one that requires tremendous courage, stamina and fortitude. But the payoff that comes from successfully locating that often-elusive expression of ourselves can be beyond words.


"Black Swan" - The Shadow wants to dance

An aspiring ballerina gets her big break but must reach deep inside if she is going to be successful in her new part. As she connects with her that dark piece it causes a split and we see her breakdown slowly and thoroughly as the film unfolds. It is a very intense ride which will likely bring Natalie Portman her first Best Acress Oscar.

From The Psych Central Movie Blog:

At rehearsals for the ballet, we soon see how the disavowal of her “darkness” has enfeebled Nina: the choreographer tells her she’s perfect for the role of the white swan but lacks the passion needed to dance the  black swan with real conviction.

Under the emotional and sexual pressure he exerts in an effort to arouse her passionate side, Nina’s disavowed experience begins to break through.  She bites him when he kisses her — the first sign of aggression we’ve seen.  Obviously still a virgin, she begins to masturbate one morning as the choreographer suggested, then breaks off in terror when she realizes her mother is asleep in a chair mere feet from the bed.  The expression of sexuality cannot be tolerated any more than anger or independence.

As I discussed in my earlier Tolkien posts, this kind of psychological splitting cannot hold.  The projected or split-off aspects of the self inevitably seep back in. The disowned part of Nina’s experience — what Jung would have called her “shadow self” — shows up as a twin, a mirror image of Nina that she glimpses in passing.  


"The Fighter" - Breaking free from the chains

A struggling boxer, Mickey Ward, must break away from his family if he is to make good on his last long shot at a title. To move out of the rut his career and life have been in he must face the reality of what  his mother, his gaggle of crazed sisters, and his crack addicted brother are providing him. As Mickey breaks away from those unhealthy relationships things begin to turn around. That is when he is able to reconnect with them in a healthier manner and goes on to create the life he always dreamed about. Based on the true story of the Lowell, MA boxer. 

VividLife has a great in-depth review including this about breaking away from what is holding you in place.

No matter how much we might like to think otherwise, it can be surprisingly easy to allow others to run our lives if we let them. Most of us would probably find that quite frustrating, but it must be especially exasperating if our calling in life requires us to take command of things in charting our own course. Allowing ourselves to become shackled by others keeps us from fulfilling our potential and achieving our destined greatness. So learning how to free ourselves from such stifling circumstances is crucial, a lesson that provides the ironic focus of the inspiring new biopic, “The Fighter.”

"The Social Network" - Narcissistic driven creativity

This is right there with the King's Speech as a top contender for Best Picture. It is the story of the creation of Facebook following it from its infancy in a Harvard dorm to its multibillion dollar IPO. It starts with brilliant but self centered Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg being dumped by his girlfriend. His anger at this rejection drives him to build out his first web site which he finds an eager audience for. From there he keeps building and only relates to people though what he has created. It is a sad story to watch so much brilliance with so little compassion. His pain is evident from the first reel and ends with him alone, trying to reach out to someone in person, and when that fails he goes back to the web site for connection.

From PsychCentral:

When one feels unbearably small and inferior, or when one receives a deep and intolerable narcissistic injury, one can escape those feelings by flight into powerful destructiveness.  (I’ve often wondered if this dynamic lies behind pointless and destructive viral assaults by hackers on large Internet networks.)  Wounded and in pain, Mark employs his brilliance to rage against his world.

Of course, he then goes on to create Facebook, the most important social medium of his generation and one of the most successful companies in history. One can bolster a fragile and injured ego through creative endeavor as well … but at some level, such achievements still represent narcissistic and compensatory defenses.


"Inception" - You can't bury your past

This brilliant movie from director Christopher Nolan has many shamanic aspects to it, but none more important than Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) having to deal with a wound he has locked in his subconscious. The film is visually stunning and has a complex story which challenges the viewer. A rarity in Hollywood that likely hurt its Best Picture chances. 

CelestineChua has more on Cobb's lesssons:

Or in other words – “Don’t bury unresolved issues”. Cob tried to bury his deepest regrets and guilt in his subconsciousness. He created a prison to dump them in and locked them away, without intending to address them (or at least he was trying to block them away as long as he could). However, the more he tried to push them away, the more the inner issues came back to taunt him. Throughout the film, you can see these issues surfacing in different ways – at first it was sporadic, then later on it became more frequent, and in the most unexpected situations. They were also self-sabotaging. For example: Mal tried to jeopardize his assignments; there was the part where the train suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the 1st level inception dream sequence; the kids’ illusions kept appearing and distracting Cobb. It was only when Cobb addressed these issues in the end that he finally got control of the situation.

What does this mean? If you have certain problems or unhappiness, don’t bury them. This includes feelings of frustration, disappointment, sadness and pain, fear, negativity, and so on. It also includes disagreements with your partner, family, friends, colleagues, and so on. Hiding from such problems won’t solve them. At first it may seem it’s ok, but after a while they’ll resurface – at first sporadically, but then more and more regularly. The further we run and the more we try to prevent these don’t exist, the more the issues will tear through our subconsciousness to stop us. In fact, they often appear at least expected times and freeze us in our tracks.

Avoidance is never a solution to anything. The best way to deal with our issues is to deal with them straight on. That’s what it means to live life in liberation.

Image of "The King's Speech" from Wiki Commons