You have not heard about these nominations, because the Academy really doesn't have a category of Best Health-Themed Movie of the Year. But as a physician, I know that what everyone sees on the big screen (and later on our smaller screens at home or on our mobile devices) causes us to think about our personal lives and experiences and informs many of our conversations. So when movies portray important health themes, I use these to talk with my family and also my friends and patients about health issues in our lives.
So I began last year giving out my own list of nominations. Here tare my nominations for 2014 for Best Health-Themed Movie of the Year and why I nominated them.
My nominees are:
• Hours is a portrayal of life in a New Orleans hospital following a natural disaster, a hurricane (? Katrina) with no electricity and no backup generator. In this, Paul Walker's last film written and directed by Eric Heisserer, Paul Walker must sustain his newborn daughter's life on a mechanical ventilator while he is deserted by all of the hospital staff. In this picture, we can ask ourselves, how much do we depend upon hospitals and physicians for their emergency care, and to which hospital would we go in a disaster or crisis? Also, how prepared are we, personally, at home and work for a disaster? When electricity fails, how will we communicate and survive? Your homework assignment, should you choose to accept it (it's a Mission Very Possible), is to have your own disaster plan. My suggestion for your plan will be in a future article. For full disclosure, my son Jaron Presant was the Director of Photography, but that did not influence my decision to nominate the film.
• Dallas Buyers Club is a film written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, which has been nominated as best film of the Year by the Academy. It shows us through the outstanding acting of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto what goes through a person's mind when suddenly confronting a life-threatening diagnosis. Beyond that, it gives us insight about how far people will go to get information about their illnesses, how they will use all means to get life-sustaining drugs or treatments, the problems with limited drug supplies for certain conditions, the effects of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation and restrictions on our drug access for life threatening diseases such as diabetes and breast cancer, off-label usage of drugs in America, and the use of foreign pharmacies to acquire drugs (a very common process in America). One only wonders what effect the Affordable Care Act will have on these issues and we hope that government policies will continue to provide good access to the best medicines in the world.
• Nebraska is a film that portrays an elderly man, played by Academy Award nominated Bruce Dern, who is confused and shows signs of early dementia. Written by Bob Nelson and directed by Alexander Payne, the film shows us how aging can lead to poor cognitive function, and how important support from family can be in adjusting to cognitive challenges.
• Blue Jasmine is an Academy nominated story about a woman whose situation is causing anxiety and depression. Written and directed by Woody Allen, it makes us aware of how disrupting such a person, wonderfully acted by Cate Blanchette (Academy nominee), can be in a family, and how much support and medical care is needed is dealing with major life changes.
• Love is All You Need portrays a woman, acted by Trine Dyrholm, who is recovering from breast cancer and divorce who finds support through a family celebration (wedding) and a new friend, Pierce Brosnan. This displays how much family and friendships mean in helping to readjust, often to actually survive, following a life-threatening illness. As often happens, these crises disrupt marriages, adding the stress of lost love to the fear of fatality.
I will give out my award for the best health-related movie, and the reasons for the choice, just before the Academy names the real Oscar winners. Not to steal their show, this health award is simply to help everyone's appreciation of how important film themes are to all of us, and how much admiration we should have for film-makers and the industry for relating to our own personal passions, and out lives. So now you can vote on which film is your health-themed favorite, just like Academy members vote for their real awards.