Some of the movies nominated for Academy Awards Tuesday have not been shown in Brainerd. That in itself is not too surprising. It has happened before. What's unexpected is that one of them is "American Beauty," which chalked up the most nominations, eight, and is the heavy favorite to win the best picture Oscar.
This is a seemingly downbeat story of a dysfunctional family, focusing on the self-loathing father (played by Kevin Spacey, considered almost a lock for best actor), who is seeking to find a measure of personal happiness in his miserable life. What distinguishes and elevates the film, in the eyes of most critics, is the fresh, original and humorous approach of the moviemakers.
Audiences like it too. Since its release last September, the film has earned $75 million at the box office, a more than respectable sum for a movie that is such a radical departure from the usual kid-tested escapist fare. To capitalize on its Oscar buzz, "American Beauty" will be re-released this weekend to about 1,200 theaters nationwide. But not in Brainerd.
True, the film is probably not for everyone. It deals with so many touchy social issues (including marital infidelity, child abuse, drug abuse and homosexuality) that it is bound to step on a few toes. But no movie can be daringly innovative and completely safe at the same time.
I've seen "American Beauty" (in Minneapolis) and like it. However, my opinion of its merits is not really relevant here. What's vital is that lakes area residents who care about movies get an opportunity to see it and decide for themselves. And at a theater, where it is meant to be seen, and not on video.
(Forsberg is a member of the Brainerd Dispatch's editorial board and also a member of the Society for Cinephiles, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of classic films.)
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