Faith Wins at the Academy Awards

Unbelievable moments in acclaimed films are often inspired by real-life “Mysterious Ways.”

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The Academy Awards are this Sunday, my favorite of the self-congratulatory, star-studded spectacles that pop up on TV this time of year.

Who can forget Roberto Benigni reacting with childlike glee at his surprise Oscar win? Heath Ledger’s family accepting the Oscar after he was posthumously awarded Best Supporting Actor.

Or host Ellen DeGeneres ordering pizza for Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and the rest of the A-listers in the Oscars’ audience–a gag which ended up being a godsend for a small L.A. restaurant chain? 

The Oscars get a lot of flack for leaving out worthy nominees, but on the whole, they do a good job of celebrating the films that moved us in the past year.

Those movies often have something in common, a powerful scene that touches something fundamentally true about our lives.

Often that scene is a “Mysterious Ways.”

In the movie Boyhood (semi-spoiler alert), the mother, a college professor (played by Patricia Arquette), is having some work done on the fixer-upper that she recently moved into with her new husband and two children.

She is impressed with the professionalism of Ernesto, one of the young men hired for the job. She makes an offhand comment that he seems cut out for more than just construction labor and encourages him to pursue a college degree.

The scene barely registers until late in the film, when the mother and her two children are sitting at a restaurant.

The assistant manager approaches and introduces himself. “You probably don’t remember me,” he says. It’s the laborer from earlier, now enrolled in college. He thanks the mother for helping to change his life.

One critic called the scene unbelievable: “Logically, it feels like a stretch: the initial exchange so brief and minor that his evolution feels unearned. Worse, Ernesto’s journey relies on an audience that has internalized the idea that Olivia’s words could have such effect….” 

But we here at Mysterious Ways know that a brief encounter between strangers really can have an outsize impact. Just read the true stories of Gayle AndersonLaura Kaye, Sharon Harris, and of course, Jack Aydin, our associate editor’s father.

When the truth is so incredible, it’s no wonder that Hollywood would try to portray it on screen (our Jessica Toomer wrote an excellent piece about how our magazine inspired a the new Hallmark movie, A Gift of Miracles.

Divinely-driven moments are all over this year’s slate of nominees: from the scene in American Sniper when Chris Kyle tucks a tiny Bible in his pocket (we’ll have a story about so-called “bulletproof Bibles” in our next issue), to the faith that brings so many different people together to march with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.

What movie do you want to win? What scenes from your favorite films remind you of the real-life miracles we share in Mysterious Ways?

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