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Faith films largely absent from list of Oscar nominees
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Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Leo McHugh and Douglas Booth in Noah (2014) - photo by Mark Kellner
No one should confuse the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award nominations with a popularity contest, which means faith-friendly films are often left out of the picture.

That was the apparent consequence in the nominees for the 2015 Oscars Thursday. With one exception, movies that told stories of faith, though big at the box office last year, failed to tickle the fancy of those making the nominations.

Only "Selma," which vividly portrays the roles of the late Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., African-American parishioners and white church leaders in the mid-1960s struggle for voting rights, secured a Best Picture nomination, though none of its cast were nominated for Academy Awards. The film's song "Glory" was nominated for Best Original Song.

Even though "Noah," the controversial retelling of the flood described in the Old Testament book of Genesis, has U.S. ticket sales of $101 million, the quasi-biblical epic didn't receive a single Oscar nomination.

The Academy can select 10 films for the Best Picture nominations, but only eight were picked this year, with no explanation given for the shortfall.

Oscar nominees or not, big and independent studios have taken a liking to faith-based films because they are popular and profitable. Last year Hollywood spent hundreds of millions of dollars producing and promoting faith-friendly films, as the Deseret News reported a year ago.

Other religion-related movies that got no Oscar attention included "Exodus: Gods And Kings," director Ridley Scott's angst-ridden account of the Hebrew liberation from centuries of slavery; "God's Not Dead," a set piece tale about an atheist college professor's conversion to faith; and "Son of God," which sprang from the Mark Burnett and Roma Downey 2013 miniseries, "The Bible."

Although the films had mixed critical success, each pulled in between $59 million ("Son of God") and $64 million ("Exodus") at the box office. Also missing in Oscar contention was "Heaven is for Real," another 2014 faith-themed movie about a young boy's visions of heaven that netted over $91 million in domestic ticket sales.

"Unbroken," the inspiring story of Louis Zamperini, the U.S.-born Olympic athlete who survived years of World War II imprisonment by Imperial Japanese forces, had elements of faith and was largely turned aside by the Academy nominators. Director Angelina Jolie was not nominated all the director nominees this year are men but the film grabbed minor category nominations for Best Sound Effects and Best Sound Mixing.

Zamperini, 97, died July 2, 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times, a few months before the movie premiered.

The film was criticized by some for downplaying Zamperini's Christian conversion at a Billy Graham crusade, but others saw a faith theme in the film, Religion News Service reported.

Although Zamperini, according to Jolie, was happy with the presentation of his story in the film, he earlier told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association his 1949 Los Angeles religious encounter saved his life and changed his future.

"This Billy Graham thing is a phenomenal miracle the way it started," Zamperini said. "The way it spread out. Im one guy that got saved, and Ive spoken to hundreds of thousands and had my testimony in papers where millions read it. One person! Think of the spider-web effect all over the world."
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