Friday, January 23, 2009

Disability content in Oscar-nominated films

I have seen some of these and read about others. Here's some of the disability content I know about in the films. Let me know if you know of others. (The picture is from "Smile Pinki," a short documentary nominee about an Indian girl with a cleft palate.)

* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Benjamin Button starts life as an 80-year-old and ends it as a child with Alzheimer's. Here's Michael Berube's essay about the disability themes within it.

* “Frost/Nixon” (Universal)

* “Milk” (Focus Features) -- Although the AIDS crisis hadn't begun yet, several of the gay rights activists who helped Harvey Milk become the first gay elected official later died of AIDS, like Milk's former lover Scott Smith, who died of AIDS in 1996.

* “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company) -- I read the book and the main character played by Kate Winslet may have a learning disability.

* “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight) -- Several poignant scenes touch on the practice of disabling orphan children so they will make more money as beggars. In one brutal scene, acid is poured into a child's eyes to blind him.

* Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor” (Overture Films)

* Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” (Universal)

* Sean Penn in “Milk” (Focus Features)

* Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)

* Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)

* Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married” (Sony Pictures Classics) -- The plot revolves around Anne Hathaway's character who has a substance abuse/addiction problem.

* Angelina Jolie in “Changeling” (Universal)

* Melissa Leo in “Frozen River” (Sony Pictures Classics)

* Meryl Streep in Doubt (Miramax) -- The film has an elderly nun character who appears to have Alzheimer's.

* Kate Winslet in “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company)

* Josh Brolin in “Milk” (Focus Features)

* Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount) -- The controversial film that sparked disability rights protests around the USA because of the film's repeated use of the "R word."

* Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt” (Miramax)

* Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.)

* Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) -- He plays John Givings, the hyperobservant son of the main characters' real estate agent who was recently released from a mental hospital where he had 27 electroshock treatments. His character's bitter insights shatter the fragile harmony of fifties suburbanites, according to New York magazine.

* Amy Adams in “Doubt” (Miramax)

* Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (The Weinstein Company)

* Viola Davis in “Doubt” (Miramax)

* Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)

* Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)

* “Bolt” (Walt Disney), Chris Williams and Byron Howard

* “Kung Fu Panda” (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount), John Stevenson and Mark Osborne

* WALL-E (Walt Disney), Andrew Stanton -- It deals with the issue of obesity and some called it fattist.

* “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)” (Cinema Guild), A Pandinlao Films Production, Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath

* “Encounters at the End of the World” (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment), A Creative Differences Production, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser

* “The Garden” A Black Valley Films Production, Scott Hamilton Kennedy

* “Man on Wire” (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn -- No disability content but a fantastic documentary about the man who snuck into the World Trade Center so he could walk on a high wire between the two towers. Amazing footage!

* “Trouble the Water” (Zeitgeist Films), An Elsewhere Films Production, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal -- No explicit disability content but it focuses on the devastation that Hurricane Katrina brought to poor, African American families in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina left many people with disabling conditions, I believe.

* “The Conscience of Nhem En” A Farallon Films Production, Steven Okazaki

* “The Final Inch” A Vermilion Films Production, Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant -- It is a 38-minute film about the historic global effort to eradicate polio.

* “Smile Pinki” A Principe Production, Megan Mylan -- A film about Pinki, a rural Indian girl, does not go to school because she has a cleft lip. (Picture from documentary above.)

* “The Witness" - From the Balcony of Room 306” A Rock Paper Scissors Production, Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde