Best Health-Themed Movie of 2014: The Nominees Are Announced

Awards shows are coming, and everyone is watching to see which films will be considered the best.

For two years I have been awarding Dr. Cary's "Academy Award" for the best health-themed movie of the year. 2014 has several movies that are deserving of my nomination. Let me describe them now for you to consider, and explain why these films are important to you, your family and friends. In several weeks, I will announce my award for the best of the nominated films.

The Fault in Our Stars. I have previously described this film in my blog in the Huffington Post. This movie describes patients with cancer in the age group of adolescent and young adults. This group is now called AYA. Physicians who treat AYA patients are a new sub-specialty of oncology, with unique research clinical trials that will improve the care of patients in this age of 15 to 25. The film brilliantly portrays the suffering (physical and emotional) of these patients, the importance of support of friends, and the unpredictability of cancer cure.

Dr. Cary's Tip: See the film and think about friends and family who could use your support, especially in the AYA age group.

Dolphin Tale II. Why, you might ask, would Dr. Cary ever nominate a family movie about a dolphin without a tail for a health-themed movie? This very entertaining film describes the advances in prosthetics. For individuals who have lost limbs, engineering advances have enabled them to improve their quality of life by increasing their physical function with state-of-the-art prostheses. The film introduces this with the new tail for Winter, the rescued dolphin. But it also portrays veterans with artificial limbs thanks to the advances by the Department of Defense (wonderfully supported by the Wounded Warriors Project) and children with prostheses, all of them having fun and enjoyment. This introduces children and even many adults to the acceptability of individuals without limbs into social situations.

Dr. Cary's Tip: See the film with children and then talk about how courageous people with prostheses are and how normal their relationships can be with other children.

The Theory of Everything. This film is a portrayal of the gradual deterioration of Dr. Stephen Hawking, a brilliant physicist, who suffers from motor neuron disease (Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS). Although Dr. Hawking's mind remains intelligent, he becomes nearly totally paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Despite this, he remains a loving father with a wonderful sense of humor. The movie illustrates the problems faced by patients with chronic progressive neurological disease, and how the support of family and friends can help these individuals have a good quality of life. Also, it shows how a bad prognosis (he was told he had only two years to live) can be wrong and that there is always hope for a longer and better life.

Dr. Cary's Tip: See the film and think about neurologically-challenged family or friends, and how your support can help them have more enjoyment. These people need your friendship, even if it is sometimes hard to accept their deterioration.

Still Alice. You have probably not yet seen this film, which had limited openings in New York City and Los Angeles for a few days at the beginning of December. Julianne Moore portrays a college professor who develops early onset Alzheimer's Disease. The movie realistically presents the emotional feelings of the patient and her family who are dealing with cognitive loss. Also portrayed are less evident issues such as genetic testing for illnesses without a good treatment, memory aids, social disengagement, and family frustration. Alzheimer's disease in this film shows mental decline while retaining good physical function, in contrast to the Theory of Everything which shows physical decline while retaining good cognitive skills.

Dr. Cary's Tip: See Still Alice and consider how well your family has supported relatives or friends who have suffered dementia, and how working together may help patients to have a better life.

Which of these films would you think is most deserving of an award for helping you to deal with a health issue? For my choice for the award and my reasons, look for my follow-up column in a few weeks. Warning: published movie reviews and film critics will probably not help you to predict my selection.