“This train carries saints and sinners. This train, carries losers and winners.” —Springsteen
So much of the Oscar race is built on the precarious ledge of hope. Audiences hope the movies are good. Publicists hope for many nominations and a big payday. Film fans hope for their tastes to be validated. Filmmakers hope people will love and respond to the project they’ve just devoted years of their time to creating, actors hope their emotional investment won’t have been fruitless, and Oscar voters hope the movies are good. Finally, the year’s strongest Oscar contenders also depend heavily on hope.
Silver Linings Playbook is about the hope for a better life despite the many difficulties we are sometimes born with, Les Miserables is about the hope for the future of the impoverished underclass in France, that their suffering and bloodshed won’t have been in vain. Zero Dark Thirty is the hope that all of our efforts to kill Bin Laden and cripple Al Qaeda will keep us safer. Argo is about the iffy hope that a half-cooked bad idea could free the hostages. And Lincoln is about the hope for equality for all Americans, the hope that humanity will prevail even at a time when many people couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
While those films are probably the ones that would be nominated if there were still only five Best Picture nominees, the theme of hope extends past them to the other films that are pushing their way in — Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Flight and Moonrise Kingdom.
In each of these films the characters strive to do what they fear can never be done. They risk humiliation, or they risk their lives all to keep hope alive. They are all about hope, sacrifice and endurance.