Stories of Drug Use in the 2016 Oscar Nominations

Amy Winehouse from Oscar-nominated documentary "Amy"

Unlike previous years, 2016’s Academy Awards Best Picture nominees did not highlight the topic of substance use. However, a few other nominated films did.

“Amy” remembers the life of Amy Winehouse, a fiercely talented singer who struggled with a drug and alcohol addiction. “Cartel Land” looks at two vigilante groups fighting against Mexican drug cartels. “Sicario” follows an FBI Agent (played by Emily Blunt) who joins a task force to apprehend a Mexican cartel leader. “Til It Happens To You” is a searing song by Lady Gaga from “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about women sexually assaulted on college campuses. One scene from the disturbing, yet powerful music video, shows a young man slipping a roofie into a young woman’s drink (see below).

Let’s take a closer look at these nominees:

Amy Winehouse“Amy”
Nominated for Documentary (Feature)

British singer Amy Winehouse, a six-time Grammy winner who died at the age of 27 in 2011 from the cumulative effects of substance use, had a turbulent life after her powerful singing voice was discovered and she was propelled to fame.


Cartel Land“Cartel Land”
Nominated for Documentary (Feature)

On opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, two vigilante groups led by men staunch in their belief that they are saving their countries, fight against Mexican drug cartels. In Arizona, military veteran Tim “Nailer” Foley leads a paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, while in the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles organizes the citizens rising up against the Knights Templar cartel.

Nominated for Sound Editing, Original Score, Cinematography

FBI Agent Kate Macer is recruited by a shadowy government official to join an inter-agency task force to apprehend a Mexican cartel leader. Guided by a consultant with a suspicious agenda and a tendency to use brutal tactics, Kate embarks on a mission that forces her to question her idealism and leaves her unsure who she can trust.

Til It Happens To You“Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”
Nominated for Music (Original Song)
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga

With studies indicating that 16-20 percent of women are sexually assaulted while attending college in the United States, more and more survivors are speaking about their experiences. As colleges strive to protect their brands and financial stability, assault victims often experience cover-ups by campus officials and police, but survivors continue to pursue their education and fight for changes in campus policies.

Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think? Are you aware of any others from the list of nominees that cover substance abuse as a sub-plot, in a scene, or in some other significant way? (Full disclosure: we haven’t seen them all.) And who will the winners be on Sunday, February 28, 2016? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.