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As We Anticipate the Oscars, Help Choose the 2011 Fatherhood Movie of the Year!

The entertainment industry is eagerly looking forward to the presentation of the Oscars at the 84th Academy Awards on Sunday. Meanwhile, National Fatherhood Initiative is looking to you to help us select the 2011 "Fatherhood Movie of Year." As part of our efforts to shine a light on cultural messages that highlight the unique and irreplaceable role that fathers play in their children's lives, we've nominated four movies and are asking the public to vote for the one that best communicates the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

The four nominees are Courageous (Sherwood Pictures), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Warner Bros.), Moneyball (Sony Pictures), and We Bought a Zoo (Twentieth Century Fox). Visit NFI’s official Facebook page to watch the trailers of these four films and vote for your favorite!

Courageous (directed by Alex Kendrick; starring Alex Kendrick and Ken Bevel) tells the story of four police officers struggling with their faith and their roles as husbands and fathers. When a tragedy strikes close to home, together they make a decision that will change all of their lives.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (directed by Stephen Daldry; starring Tom Hanks and Thomas Horn) tells the story of a nine-year-old who searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his beloved father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Moneyball (directed by Bennett Miller; starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill) tells the true story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players. A divorced father, Beane must balance his love for the game with his love of his daughter.

We Bought a Zoo (directed by Cameron Crowe; starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson) tells the story of a widowed father who moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo. Based on a true story, We Bought a Zoo shows how a father learns to embrace his new life with his two children.

Given the power of film in shaping public perceptions, NFI applauds these four films for their efforts to depict fatherhood in a positive and powerful way. Tell us which one you think deserves to be recognized as "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" 2011 by voting on our Facebook page everyday until Sunday, February 26 (the day of the Oscars).

Is Hollywood Helping Or Hurting The Case For Fatherhood?

I came across an article some days ago in the Los Angeles Times that reported on a rise in Hollywood films that featured parents in situations that led the moms and dads in the film to be stressed or anxious. Featured in the piece was Golden Globe Award-nominated film The Descendants starring Globe Best Actor winner George Clooney. In the film, Clooney plays a dad going through a tough time with a dying wife, betrayal, and attempting to get closer to his two daughters.

The film (which is excellent) takes the viewers through a lot of emotional ups and downs as Clooney exhibits the fear of having to raise his daughters without his spouse by his side. In the family film We Bought A Zoo, Matt Damon plays a widower with two young children struggling to stay close while Damon’s character navigates opening a zoo.

Another movie that was up for a few Golden Globe Awards, Carnage, also featured parents who argued with other parents over how to best deal with their fighting children’s issues. Although the film is billed as a black comedy, the core of the movie centers on how parents all have their own way of dealing with their children. The all-star cast of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz delight in their roles, but the ugly war of words become the centerpiece instead of these adults finding a way to cope with one another.

Parents going through times in film, especially dads, is not a brand new concept although the recent slate of films would suggest this is the case. There is something about watching angst unfold onscreen that captivates and infuriates all at once; there’s always an end to the movie but never to the realities that exist outside of the theater.

As said by Dr. Alexandra Barvi of New York University, “In the past, people parented based on instincts and how they were raised, but now with technology and the ease of transmittable information, we know so much more about parenting. We do so much more thinking about parenting. You can't turn on a morning show without an expert talking about college anxiety, how to keep your kids busier.”

Is Hollywood and television making it so that fathers new and old are overloaded with what can be seen as poor parenting tactics? Is the portrayal of parents in harrowing situations inspiring to dads who want to combat the anxiety that goes along with raising their children? Are fathers and mothers looking for ways to stave off the sometimes bleak imagery of parenthood and offer a reversal of sorts?

A good number of films with these sorts of plot tie-ins end with a happy moment of closure or triumph. There are even several films over the years that tell great stories about devoted dads who go through a lot of turmoil (and eventually joy) such as Big Fish and Finding Nemo. What we should focus on while viewing movies that feature dads and moms under duress is to make sure we’re talking about ways to avoid that struggle in our real lives.

Perhaps then, Hollywood can begin to tell a different story showing the endless possibilities of a blissful union between fathers, mothers, and their children.

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