You know you’re in a very strange Oscar year when Martin Scorsese has delivered one of the sweetest films of the year. But it isn’t alone in its sentimentality.
Maybe blame it on the recession, the Wall Street bailouts, the unending wars. Maybe blame it on last year’s uber-sappy Best Picture winner – but either way, Oscars 2011 is — with a few notable exceptions — all about sentimentalism. Right at the top of the list of sentimental films, with no dispute whatsoever, will be Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.
It’s hard to know what people will eventually make of War Horse. The studio has been selling it for exactly the kind of movie that it is. They have no misled people into thinking it’s a hard-hitting auteur’s vision of war. It is none of those things. But it is a very moving fable of sorts that should be right in line with what American families are looking for this holiday season: emotional comfort. War Horse will feel like you’ve seen this movie a hundred times on the Hallmark channel until the horse is taken from his master and made to fight in the war. At that point, Spielberg and his adept team deliver much of the movie we all thought was coming – and it’s stunning to watch. But as it is with every Oscar year, our expectations of what a Spielberg movie called War Horse might be inevitably tumble when we’re confronted with the reality. This is our own fault. We wanted Spielberg to make the movie we wanted him to make – we all assumed it would be closer to Saving Private Ryan than to Always.
I cried throughout War Horse. I cried the way I cried at the Kite Runner, A Beautiful Mind, Sophie’s Choice, Terms of Endearment and I must say, The Descendants. It’s hard not to cry when such a beautiful animal is used to illustrate such a brutal war.