With the 72nd annual Academy Awards a mere four days away, Christian movie sites are busy sizing up Oscar's picks for 1999's best, and offering a few suggestions of their own. Opinions vary widely as to the cream of the crop, but most critics agree that last year brought an encouragingly large number of spiritually themed films to the big screen.

"I can't remember a year when God figured so prominently in the [Oscars]," writes Charles Henderson, executive director for the Association of Religion and Intellectual Life ( ARIL) and host of christianity.about.com. In addition to Best Picture nominee American Beauty, which Henderson says "conveys a sense of the ultimate worth of life itself, and the mystery that lies behind it," he praises the strong spiritual elements present in nominees The End of the Affair, Magnolia, The Matrix, Dogma, and The Hurricane. "Spirituality is big in our culture these days, so it's not surprising that this theme is reflected in our best movies."

Preview also noted the trend. "In a somewhat surprising revelation, three of the five [Best Picture nominees] feature some sort of spiritual theme"—The Sixth Sense, American Beauty, and The Green Mile, which "features a professing Christian as the main character and a theme that closely parallels the life of Christ."Spiritual themes don't necessarily translate into spiritual depth, however; those nominees were among this year's most hotly debated films in Christian circles. (Peter T. Chattaway writes in Christianweek, for instance, that The Green Mile's so-called Christ figure has "no real purpose or redemption in his death that I can discern," and chides the Academy for a lack of risk-taking in its nominations.) For more complete coverage of Christian ...

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