The 2013 Academy Awards aren't presented until Feb. 24, but for now family-friendly fare occupies the catbird seat at this year's Oscars.
In announcing Oscar nominees last week, the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed elevated distinction on “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi” — a pair of films with minimal objectionable content. What’s more, several safe-for-kids and fun-for-adults titles are also nominated for Academy Awards this year.
Recognition for wholesome fare
“Lincoln” and “Life of Pi” received 12 and 11 Oscar nominations, respectively, the highest totals for next month’s Academy Awards. The two films share several characteristics: Both are among the nine contenders for Best Picture, and their content is generally fit for tweens and teens.
The nominations for “Lincoln” include some of the biggest names in show business: Steven Spielberg (Directing), Daniel Day-Lewis (Actor in a Leading Role), Tommy Lee Jones (Actor in a Supporting Role), Sally Field (Actress in a Supporting Role), John Williams (Original Score) and Tony Kushner (Adapted Screenplay), just to name a few. Couple that with the fact “Lincoln” has the biggest box office gross among the Best Picture nominees — to date, more than $152 million domestically — and it’s no surprise the presidential biopic is the consensus favorite to beat back the other eight nominees and take home the top prize.
“Lincoln” is grounded in zealous attention to historic detail by luminaries like Spielberg, Day-Lewis and Kushner. The result is a movie that creates ample educational value for American families.
“Lincoln” is rated PG-13 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language. Two groups that monitor movies for family friendliness — Ok.com and Common Sense Media — effectively signed off on "Lincoln": 97 percent of Ok.com users said the film is worth your time, while Common Sense Media gave the movie five stars. Both deem it appropriate for ages 13 and above.
“Life of Pi” offers moviegoers a steady stream of pleasant surprises. The plot centers on a teenage boy and a tiger that are alone on a small boat lost at sea. Although the film lacks for big names compared to a star-studded cast like that of “Lincoln,” director Ang Lee fuses rich texture into “Life of Pi” via seemingly disparate — but ultimately harmonious — tools like a heavenly soundtrack, cutting-edge digital animation, old-fashioned storytelling and even religious overtones.
Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout as well as some scary action sequences and peril, “Life of Pi” earned positive marks from 86 percent of Ok.com users. Common Sense Media awarded four stars to “Life of Pi” and recommended the film as appropriate for ages 10 and up. Ok.com recommends it for ages 12 and up.
Safe for Kids
Each of this year’s five nominees for Animated Feature Film can reasonably be considered “kid-friendly.” However, even though all five movies bear a PG rating, recommended ages for this quintet range from 6-plus all the way to 12-plus.
"Brave": Pixar's latest is about a fiery red-haired Scottish princess searching for her own identity. Rated PG for some scary action and rude humor. OK.com rating: 83 percent positive, ages 8+. Common Sense Media recommendation: ages 7+.
"Frankenweenie": This black-and-white affair from distinctive filmmaker Tim Burton is about a young Victor Frankenstein bringing his deceased pooch back to life. It’s more sweet than scary — but still better suited for tweens than young kids. Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images and action. Ok.com rating: 67 percent positive, ages 9+. Common Sense Media recommendation: ages 9+.
"ParaNorman": About a lonely boy who ultimately gains social acceptance vis-à-vis his ability to speak to dead people. This is easily the scariest and creepiest of the five films nominated for Best Animated Feature. Rated PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language. Ok.com rating: 68 percent positive, ages 10+. Common Sense Media recommendation: ages 12+.
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits": A merry pirate named Captain leads his band of sailors in search of treasure and fame. Be prepared to laugh a lot during this movie, which comes from the creators of “Wallace & Grommit.” Rated PG for mild action, rude humor and some language. Ok.com rating: 92 percent positive, ages 6+. Common Sense Media recommendation: ages 6+.
"Wreck-It Ralph": Disney film in which longtime video-game villain Ralph tries to make friends and turn over a new leaf in life. Also, don’t miss “Paperman” — the seven-minute Disney featurette that’s nominated this year for Best Animated Short, and which airs immediately before “Wreck-It Ralph.” Rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence. OK.com rating: 94 percent positive, ages 6+. Common Sense Media recommendation: ages 7+.
Best of the rest
For adult moviegoers, here are a few more Oscar nominees generally unencumbered by egregious content and likely worth the price of admission.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild": The jewel of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, “Beasts” earned four nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress for 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis. As the New York Times’ A.O. Scott wrote, “The movie, a passionate and unruly explosion of Americana, winks at skepticism, laughs at sober analysis and stares down criticism.” Rated PG-13 for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and brief sensuality. Ok.com rating: N/A. Common Sense Media recommendation: ages 14+.
"Moonrise Kingdom": A month after showing up on several critics’ end-of-year top 10 lists, this quirky comedy was relegated to a single Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Nonetheless, it’s still a must-see for fans of smart dialogue or oddball humor. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking. Ok.com rating: 82 percent positive, ages 14+. Common Sense Media recommendation: ages 14+.
"The Impossible": Based on a true story. Naomi Watts nabbed a Best Actress nomination for her turn as a wife and mother who fights to keep her family alive in the midst of the 2004 tsunami that devastated Thailand. Rated PG-13 for intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity. Ok.com rating: N/A. Common Sense Media recommendation: ages 13+.
"5 Broken Cameras": A Best Documentary Feature nominee about escalating tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, “5 Broken Cameras” succeeds in showing audiences a side of the story that never makes the nightly news. As the Deseret News reported last year, this film forces its audience to take a fresh look at a complicated social conflict with no solution in sight. Not rated. Shows violent encounters between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers.
"Searching for Sugar Man": Nominated for Best Documentary Feature. “Searching for Sugar Man” shows how — completely unbeknownst to him — the '70s folk singer Rodriguez has been a hugely popular musical artist in South Africa during the last couple decades despite being an afterthought everywhere else in the world. Last year the television show “60 Minutes” profiled Rodriguez. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some drug references. Ok.com rating: N/A. Common Sense Media recommendation: N/A.
Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at [email protected] or 801-236-6051.