Best Picture: And Along Came War Horse and Other Films that Makes Us Cry and Affirm Our Lives

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.

Where War Horse derailed for me, where it dried my tears right up, was when Spielberg treated the horse like a dog or a person – anyone who has been raised with horses, as I have been, will smell a rat immediately.  Whoever made that decision made a very very bad one.  My own 13 year-old daughter would not buy it.  Maybe a seven year-old might.  If I could reach in and lob off those scenes I would.  See, what I think Spielberg missed with War Horse is the idea that with this kind of story you must do less, not more.  It is already so powerful to begin with he didn’t need to guild the lily.  It is our job to see the horse as a mythical creature, a miraculous thing. It’s not Spielberg’s job to drive this point home as if we’re too dumb to get it.  This the film’s primary problem, to my mind.

War Horse is about human kindness.  It is about how there are always going to be good people, even in the worst of times.  We cling to this notion and to the concept that people are basically good, not evil.  The horse is there to illustrate this, and it’s a Jesus-like horse.  You almost expect him at one point to look upward and say “forgive them. They know not what they do.”  Spielberg need not have embellished much of this.   It was plenty clear.

However, it is hard not to be won over by this movie. If you are an animal lover, if you can appreciate dazzling filmmaking as only a director as experienced as Spielberg, there is enough there to appreciate, even with the few really jarring, pure hokum scenes.  If you’re prepared for this you will be fine with War Horse. Just don’t expect Saving Private Ryan (or maybe it IS like Saving Private Ryan, just not the first 45 minutes).

So it makes me wonder about this year and all of the sentimental films we’re seeing.  The Artist, Moneyball, The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, Hugo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – these are films that make you smile, make you cry, make you FEEL.  Like The King’s Speech.  On the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing films that slice through the reality of our age, not numb us out from it – and those would be, possibly, Dragon Tattoo, Shame, Margin Call, Rampart, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Iron Lady…these are films about our failing government, sexual addiction, corruption, sociopathic children and self-deluded political leaders.

We have two Americas this year, two very different viewpoints on our experience. If we go by what looks to be leading so far, you can’t help but notice the wave of optimism flooding the Oscar race.  This is what I see when I look around.

 

134 Comments on this Post

  1. This is exactly what I have suspected from the moment I heard it was coming. “Hallmark Channel” indeed.

    Next…

  2. This is exactly what I have suspected from the moment I heard it was coming. “Hallmark Channel” indeed.

    Next…

  3. I would LOVE for Shame to get the “edgy/gritty” nominee slot, but my gut tells me that’s going to the big studio Dragon Tattoo.

    Rape, obliquely shown, is apparently more palatable than more graphic consensual sex.

  4. I would LOVE for Shame to get the “edgy/gritty” nominee slot, but my gut tells me that’s going to the big studio Dragon Tattoo.

    Rape, obliquely shown, is apparently more palatable than more graphic consensual sex.

  5. I don’t know. When I think most sentimental movies of the year, I have to include the trailer for We Bought a Zoo. I’ll be seeing it tonight at the special screening and cant wait. It should be interesting.

  6. I don’t know. When I think most sentimental movies of the year, I have to include the trailer for We Bought a Zoo. I’ll be seeing it tonight at the special screening and cant wait. It should be interesting.

  7. This movie doesn’t interest me one bit and I love horses! It really feels like Hallmark.
    OT: By the way there is a wonderful article/discussion on the NYT between AO Scott and Manhola Dargis about J. Edgar and ADM, worth a read: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/movies/a-dangerous-method-and-j-edgar-studies-in-repression.html?ref=movies

  8. This movie doesn’t interest me one bit and I love horses! It really feels like Hallmark.
    OT: By the way there is a wonderful article/discussion on the NYT between AO Scott and Manhola Dargis about J. Edgar and ADM, worth a read: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/movies/a-dangerous-method-and-j-edgar-studies-in-repression.html?ref=movies

  9. I’ve always said that for Spielberg to win another oscar he has to make one of the top 10 films of all time. We expect more from him than any other filmmaker alive and as you said sasha, that’s our fault. It’s almost impossible to meet those kind of expectations. This story is supposed to be sentimental and sweet. Michael Morpurgo book was written that way and the play that followed in his footsteps was too and it was a massive success. People loved it and responded to it, why would Spielberg make a different kind of film just to be grittier or just to “slice through the reality of our age”? This particular story is not made for that and people should know that before buying a ticket. As sasha mentions, the studio is not trying to sell this film for what’s it not, so for critics to use the “sentimentality” and “sweet” card against it is just plain stupid in my mind. And it’s a shame a lot of critics will resort to that.

  10. I’ve always said that for Spielberg to win another oscar he has to make one of the top 10 films of all time. We expect more from him than any other filmmaker alive and as you said sasha, that’s our fault. It’s almost impossible to meet those kind of expectations. This story is supposed to be sentimental and sweet. Michael Morpurgo book was written that way and the play that followed in his footsteps was too and it was a massive success. People loved it and responded to it, why would Spielberg make a different kind of film just to be grittier or just to “slice through the reality of our age”? This particular story is not made for that and people should know that before buying a ticket. As sasha mentions, the studio is not trying to sell this film for what’s it not, so for critics to use the “sentimentality” and “sweet” card against it is just plain stupid in my mind. And it’s a shame a lot of critics will resort to that.

  11. There is a serious chance, I think, that if this film doesn’t receive the kind of critical reception it requires, it could take quite a tumble in the race. I don’t think it has much chance of falling out of Oscar’s favour altogether, but I’ve been doubting its chances of winning for some time now, and your reaction only confirms my doubts, Sasha.

    I’m no more or less looking forward to this than I was after reading what you think. This is what I expected. And I agree, what we’re seeing is a wave of sentimentality, however well-crafted and justified, in films this year. But perhaps if The Artist, Hugo or The Descendants comes out on top, it won’t be so bad!

  12. There is a serious chance, I think, that if this film doesn’t receive the kind of critical reception it requires, it could take quite a tumble in the race. I don’t think it has much chance of falling out of Oscar’s favour altogether, but I’ve been doubting its chances of winning for some time now, and your reaction only confirms my doubts, Sasha.

    I’m no more or less looking forward to this than I was after reading what you think. This is what I expected. And I agree, what we’re seeing is a wave of sentimentality, however well-crafted and justified, in films this year. But perhaps if The Artist, Hugo or The Descendants comes out on top, it won’t be so bad!

  13. Deena Jones' wig

    Great! another sentimentally sappy movie from Spielberg. What range that guy has. I’ll pass.

  14. Deena Jones' wig

    Great! another sentimentally sappy movie from Spielberg. What range that guy has. I’ll pass.

  15. Jake G.!!!!

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will be hailed as the Modern Epic of our time and will fight War Horse for Best Picture! I just know it!

  16. Jake G.!!!!

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will be hailed as the Modern Epic of our time and will fight War Horse for Best Picture! I just know it!

  17. I dont mind sentimental from spielberg because he has a big heart. I mind sappy when it is a man like scorsese though, i didnt find it believeable, like willy wonka eating vegetables. The mans films are the most masculine i know of, for that to translate to a kids story was disastrous. Hmph. It looks like from the list there isnt a big front runner yet so then itll probably all go to The Artist by default

  18. I dont mind sentimental from spielberg because he has a big heart. I mind sappy when it is a man like scorsese though, i didnt find it believeable, like willy wonka eating vegetables. The mans films are the most masculine i know of, for that to translate to a kids story was disastrous. Hmph. It looks like from the list there isnt a big front runner yet so then itll probably all go to The Artist by default

  19. Keil Shults

    It’s funny watching people continue to try and badmouth Spielberg, all these decades and excellent films later (referring to the comments field, not Sasha’s article).

    Sure, the guy occasionally mars his otherwise fantastic work with too much sap or manipulation, but he still makes far better films than most of the filmmakers working today. And so what if Wat Horse ends up being as sentimental as the saccharine promos suggest? Is that really something to be angry about? If so, why ate you frequenting Oscar websites in the first place?

  20. Keil Shults

    It’s funny watching people continue to try and badmouth Spielberg, all these decades and excellent films later (referring to the comments field, not Sasha’s article).

    Sure, the guy occasionally mars his otherwise fantastic work with too much sap or manipulation, but he still makes far better films than most of the filmmakers working today. And so what if Wat Horse ends up being as sentimental as the saccharine promos suggest? Is that really something to be angry about? If so, why ate you frequenting Oscar websites in the first place?

  21. Keil Shults

    Sigh, I hate typing on my phone.

  22. Keil Shults

    Sigh, I hate typing on my phone.

  23. In other news

    Box Office Mojo currently has The Artist grossing an estimated $18,750/theatre average for Friday, putting it in line for the 3rd best /theatre average gross of the year thus far, behind Midnight in Paris and The Tree of Life. And people were wondering whether or not audiences would bother going to see a silent film…

  24. In other news

    Box Office Mojo currently has The Artist grossing an estimated $18,750/theatre average for Friday, putting it in line for the 3rd best /theatre average gross of the year thus far, behind Midnight in Paris and The Tree of Life. And people were wondering whether or not audiences would bother going to see a silent film…

  25. Just watching the trailer to War Horse makes me cry already. I’m sure I’ll be sobbing when I watch the movie. I don’t mind a good cry at the movies. Last year, it was Toy Story 3. Looking forward to this!

  26. Just watching the trailer to War Horse makes me cry already. I’m sure I’ll be sobbing when I watch the movie. I don’t mind a good cry at the movies. Last year, it was Toy Story 3. Looking forward to this!

  27. Alexandra

    Keil..fanned and faved!

  28. Alexandra

    Keil..fanned and faved!

  29. Bill_the_Bear

    I didn’t cry at any of the films you mentioned, including “The Descendents,” which I only saw yesterday. (However, I did bawl my eyes out the first time I saw “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which goes to show that there’s no accounting for taste.

    As for “War Horse,” it always looked to me as being a sort of a “National Velvet” with a male human protagonist instead of Elizabeth Taylor.

  30. Bill_the_Bear

    I didn’t cry at any of the films you mentioned, including “The Descendents,” which I only saw yesterday. (However, I did bawl my eyes out the first time I saw “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which goes to show that there’s no accounting for taste.

    As for “War Horse,” it always looked to me as being a sort of a “National Velvet” with a male human protagonist instead of Elizabeth Taylor.

  31. Keil Shults

    I didn’t mind the sentimental ending of Catch Me If You Can, but I did feel the ending of War of the Worlds ruined much of what came before it. And yes, both Schindler’s and Private Ryan ended on overly sappy notes, but they’re still great films.

  32. Keil Shults

    I didn’t mind the sentimental ending of Catch Me If You Can, but I did feel the ending of War of the Worlds ruined much of what came before it. And yes, both Schindler’s and Private Ryan ended on overly sappy notes, but they’re still great films.

  33. Paddy, at absolute worst you will still have guaranteed nominations for cinematography, score, sound, sound editing and art direction — all of those together could wind it up with a Best Pic nod. I can’t imagine it could get Director, though. But we’ll see. Five Oscar nominations for War Horse, locked and loaded, is not bad at all. Even without Pic/Dir. No acting nominations, no screenplay nomination.

  34. Paddy, at absolute worst you will still have guaranteed nominations for cinematography, score, sound, sound editing and art direction — all of those together could wind it up with a Best Pic nod. I can’t imagine it could get Director, though. But we’ll see. Five Oscar nominations for War Horse, locked and loaded, is not bad at all. Even without Pic/Dir. No acting nominations, no screenplay nomination.

  35. Rufussondheim

    Sasha alludes to everything I hate about Spielberg, he feels to do the thinking for you. I have discovered, over time, that I can think for myself and that I don’t need him to do it for me. And I love me some sappy movies, Field of Dreams, Joy Luck Club, Chariots of Fire.

    Where those films differ from Spielberg is simple, you need to make the connections yourself something Spielberg refuses to let the viewer do for himself. To make matters worse, Spielberg also draws big arrows on the screen pointing to what he needs you to so, and in some movies includes a picture of himself yelling “Feel this!” in a too-large box on the lower left hand corner of the screen. It’s enough to give Nicholas Sparks diabetes.

  36. Rufussondheim

    Sasha alludes to everything I hate about Spielberg, he feels to do the thinking for you. I have discovered, over time, that I can think for myself and that I don’t need him to do it for me. And I love me some sappy movies, Field of Dreams, Joy Luck Club, Chariots of Fire.

    Where those films differ from Spielberg is simple, you need to make the connections yourself something Spielberg refuses to let the viewer do for himself. To make matters worse, Spielberg also draws big arrows on the screen pointing to what he needs you to so, and in some movies includes a picture of himself yelling “Feel this!” in a too-large box on the lower left hand corner of the screen. It’s enough to give Nicholas Sparks diabetes.

  37. Bob Burns

    have read the book and seen the play. admire them. but cruelty to an animal in live action is very different from cruelty to a puppet, or even to a human. audiences won’t stand for it.

    reading the book or watching the puppets my imagination expanded the long suffering of the horse to the years of suffering by soldiers and animals in that insane war.

  38. Bob Burns

    have read the book and seen the play. admire them. but cruelty to an animal in live action is very different from cruelty to a puppet, or even to a human. audiences won’t stand for it.

    reading the book or watching the puppets my imagination expanded the long suffering of the horse to the years of suffering by soldiers and animals in that insane war.

  39. I’ve been dreading this because I could smell Hallmark miles away. But something kept me thinking this had BP in the bag. I’m hoping The Artist keeps it’s steady climb. Excited to see this odd season get going now.

  40. I’ve been dreading this because I could smell Hallmark miles away. But something kept me thinking this had BP in the bag. I’m hoping The Artist keeps it’s steady climb. Excited to see this odd season get going now.

  41. That’s true, Bob. I could barely stand it as it was, to tell the truth and I was relieved that Spielberg doesn’t show a lot of animal abuse. I love how you describe it, and I love that notion in the story.

  42. That’s true, Bob. I could barely stand it as it was, to tell the truth and I was relieved that Spielberg doesn’t show a lot of animal abuse. I love how you describe it, and I love that notion in the story.

  43. I think we have to wait and watch Extremely Loud. I predict it’s THE tear jerker film of the year and a major treat to War Horse and The Artist for Best Picture.

  44. I think we have to wait and watch Extremely Loud. I predict it’s THE tear jerker film of the year and a major treat to War Horse and The Artist for Best Picture.

  45. And unlike the majority here and everywhere else, I don’t see The Descendants winning. Really don’t.

    In the end, the Academy will choose between the tear jerker (Extremely Loud), the old fashioned ”classy” (War Horse) and the movie tribute (The Artist).

  46. And unlike the majority here and everywhere else, I don’t see The Descendants winning. Really don’t.

    In the end, the Academy will choose between the tear jerker (Extremely Loud), the old fashioned ”classy” (War Horse) and the movie tribute (The Artist).

  47. Nice write-up, Sasha. I felt your honest opinion come through. Props to giving what I think is the best assessment yet of Spielberg’s strengths and achille’s heal…execution and sentimentality. I saw the show in London and it carried the type of restraint you state lacks in the film version. This was because actors portrayed the horse with props that transformed the animal into an expression/extension of human emotion. Knowing the horse wasn’t actually a horse made the play work. If the play had an actual horse on stage listening to monologues about human frailty, the whole thing would look more like Circ du Soleil’s Cavalia. I haven’t seen the film yet so my opinion’s meaningless but I have a feeling that a play that relies on allegory shouldn’t work in the literal world of cinema. It’s like Charlie Kaufmann trying to adapt The Orchid Thief in Adaptation.

  48. Nice write-up, Sasha. I felt your honest opinion come through. Props to giving what I think is the best assessment yet of Spielberg’s strengths and achille’s heal…execution and sentimentality. I saw the show in London and it carried the type of restraint you state lacks in the film version. This was because actors portrayed the horse with props that transformed the animal into an expression/extension of human emotion. Knowing the horse wasn’t actually a horse made the play work. If the play had an actual horse on stage listening to monologues about human frailty, the whole thing would look more like Circ du Soleil’s Cavalia. I haven’t seen the film yet so my opinion’s meaningless but I have a feeling that a play that relies on allegory shouldn’t work in the literal world of cinema. It’s like Charlie Kaufmann trying to adapt The Orchid Thief in Adaptation.

  49. Keil Shults

    I think if a filmmaker manipulates you to feel sad or happy, they get a lot more flak than if they had made you feel enraged, disturbed, disgusted, frightened, etc.

  50. Keil Shults

    I think if a filmmaker manipulates you to feel sad or happy, they get a lot more flak than if they had made you feel enraged, disturbed, disgusted, frightened, etc.

  51. I don’t know, but I cried twice today from watching The Muppets and Hugo!

  52. I don’t know, but I cried twice today from watching The Muppets and Hugo!

  53. Princess of Peace

    I don’t think that The Descendents will win BP. It is a very good film but not a BP film. That is my opinion.

    I think that the frontrunners are War Horse, Extremely Loud, The Artist and Hugo.

    I love emotional films and I love edgy films – as long as they are good films. But is seems that on most of the Oscar boards only edgy films are looked upon favorably. Anything that makes you cry is looked down upon. What does that say about this younger generation of bloggers?

  54. Princess of Peace

    I don’t think that The Descendents will win BP. It is a very good film but not a BP film. That is my opinion.

    I think that the frontrunners are War Horse, Extremely Loud, The Artist and Hugo.

    I love emotional films and I love edgy films – as long as they are good films. But is seems that on most of the Oscar boards only edgy films are looked upon favorably. Anything that makes you cry is looked down upon. What does that say about this younger generation of bloggers?

  55. I think this could win

  56. I think this could win

  57. I have too laugh when everyone gets on a box and screams “manipulation”. What the hell do you think film is about? Film is about manipulation. The moment you sit down in a theater the manipulation begins. It’s starts with a screenplay where a writer decides what he wants you to know about the characters and where he’s going to take those characters, he decided their journey not you. You pay to see it play out and how well he crafts it. Every feeling, every insight, every moment of confusion is because someone sat down and wrote a story or adapted a story to make you think and feel. So many of you act as if you wrote the screenplays and that you have this box seat determining what the writer and director thought. Yes you can criticize the film based on it’s quality or you can critique the story line but too use manipulation of your emotions as a vanguard to deciding the worth of a film is so ludicrious. Then a cinematographer is brought on to enchance the piece by hopefully creating visuals that don’t compete with the story for attention. With film and color or black and white he tints and paints his interpretation or creates what he is directed to create. The same thing happens with the composer who creates a score and the designers who create the sets and costumes.

    You’re manipulated the moment you sit down and the lights dim and the manipulation doesn’t stop when you leave the theater.

  58. I have too laugh when everyone gets on a box and screams “manipulation”. What the hell do you think film is about? Film is about manipulation. The moment you sit down in a theater the manipulation begins. It’s starts with a screenplay where a writer decides what he wants you to know about the characters and where he’s going to take those characters, he decided their journey not you. You pay to see it play out and how well he crafts it. Every feeling, every insight, every moment of confusion is because someone sat down and wrote a story or adapted a story to make you think and feel. So many of you act as if you wrote the screenplays and that you have this box seat determining what the writer and director thought. Yes you can criticize the film based on it’s quality or you can critique the story line but too use manipulation of your emotions as a vanguard to deciding the worth of a film is so ludicrious. Then a cinematographer is brought on to enchance the piece by hopefully creating visuals that don’t compete with the story for attention. With film and color or black and white he tints and paints his interpretation or creates what he is directed to create. The same thing happens with the composer who creates a score and the designers who create the sets and costumes.

    You’re manipulated the moment you sit down and the lights dim and the manipulation doesn’t stop when you leave the theater.

  59. How is the war violence? I still haven’t recovered from SPR and don’t trust Spielberg not to give me nightmares.

  60. How is the war violence? I still haven’t recovered from SPR and don’t trust Spielberg not to give me nightmares.

  61. Bob Burns

    seems to me that the long pastoral chapter(s) establish normal life in contrast to war…. not just an introductory passage to introduce the characters, but an real balance to the ensuing hell.

    Albert is also from an almost entirely isolated world…. barely connected. Imagine how unconnected we would feel on dial-up. Albert is pre-radio….. and Joey comes into his life.

  62. Bob Burns

    seems to me that the long pastoral chapter(s) establish normal life in contrast to war…. not just an introductory passage to introduce the characters, but an real balance to the ensuing hell.

    Albert is also from an almost entirely isolated world…. barely connected. Imagine how unconnected we would feel on dial-up. Albert is pre-radio….. and Joey comes into his life.

  63. Rufussondheim

    Manipulation is a part of movies, whether it be emotional or intellectual. But what makes Spielberg more egregious than other filmmakers is that, in my opinion, he’s so obvious about it. You can see every trick he’s trying to use. More gifted filmmakers hide it better.

  64. Rufussondheim

    Manipulation is a part of movies, whether it be emotional or intellectual. But what makes Spielberg more egregious than other filmmakers is that, in my opinion, he’s so obvious about it. You can see every trick he’s trying to use. More gifted filmmakers hide it better.

  65. Oscar likes sentiment. At least in their favor this year…there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

    I for one loved Moneyball and The Descendants and would be happy with either winning Best Picture, in this year, or in any. The mass audience I watched The Descendants with was mostly bawling (myself included). That said, many also seemed to feel like ‘nothing happened’ and it ‘didn’t move.’ Out of what I’ve seen this year, I’d give it my vote, but I doubt the Academy is going to pick it. Still, I think Clooney is the frontrunner.

    Also saw Martha Macy, Hugo, Marilyn, and We Bought a Zoo in the last 24 hours. Really enjoyed Martha Macy, really disturbing in hindsight.

    I must say, I was a bit underwhelmed by Hugo. It was technically produced with magic like skills, but I found the story lacking. I think the reviews are a bit in overpraise, based on the filmmaker and the nod to film history’s past. It’s a movie for movie critics and lovers, but fell flat with the audience I was with.

    Marilyn is obviously all about her performance. I thought it was smooth enough…but Michelle Williams really is amazing. That’s all I can say.

    We Bought a Zoo will be a huge holiday film, I think. I don’t see any awards play (though, close to the best we’ve seen Damon). Instead, it might be more in line with Marley and Me, though a bit better. Still, what’s wrong with a crowd pleaser at the holidays? Take your family.

  66. Oscar likes sentiment. At least in their favor this year…there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

    I for one loved Moneyball and The Descendants and would be happy with either winning Best Picture, in this year, or in any. The mass audience I watched The Descendants with was mostly bawling (myself included). That said, many also seemed to feel like ‘nothing happened’ and it ‘didn’t move.’ Out of what I’ve seen this year, I’d give it my vote, but I doubt the Academy is going to pick it. Still, I think Clooney is the frontrunner.

    Also saw Martha Macy, Hugo, Marilyn, and We Bought a Zoo in the last 24 hours. Really enjoyed Martha Macy, really disturbing in hindsight.

    I must say, I was a bit underwhelmed by Hugo. It was technically produced with magic like skills, but I found the story lacking. I think the reviews are a bit in overpraise, based on the filmmaker and the nod to film history’s past. It’s a movie for movie critics and lovers, but fell flat with the audience I was with.

    Marilyn is obviously all about her performance. I thought it was smooth enough…but Michelle Williams really is amazing. That’s all I can say.

    We Bought a Zoo will be a huge holiday film, I think. I don’t see any awards play (though, close to the best we’ve seen Damon). Instead, it might be more in line with Marley and Me, though a bit better. Still, what’s wrong with a crowd pleaser at the holidays? Take your family.

  67. Just got back from We Bought a Zoo. Very good film. A lot better then Crowe’s last film. That being said, I don’t think its an “Oscar Movie”. Very sentimental. Very family oriented. Matt Damon is awesome as always, but I dont think he really has a chance either. That being said, its without a doubt the best animal-centric movie of the year. Beautiful cinematography and music really take it above the run of the mill family film.

  68. Just got back from We Bought a Zoo. Very good film. A lot better then Crowe’s last film. That being said, I don’t think its an “Oscar Movie”. Very sentimental. Very family oriented. Matt Damon is awesome as always, but I dont think he really has a chance either. That being said, its without a doubt the best animal-centric movie of the year. Beautiful cinematography and music really take it above the run of the mill family film.

  69. Despite everything that’s been said about how this Oscar season might pale to the last one…..I think we might actually have 10 good movies after all……with others on the outside looking in. I’m looking forward to catching up on all this in December and beyond…..

  70. Despite everything that’s been said about how this Oscar season might pale to the last one…..I think we might actually have 10 good movies after all……with others on the outside looking in. I’m looking forward to catching up on all this in December and beyond…..

  71. I’m really looking forward to catching up on all these Oscar hopefuls in December and perhaps beyond….we just might have 10 good movies after all with others on the outside looking in……I wasn’t expecting much after hearing repeatedly that this Oscar season would pale compared to the last….

  72. I’m really looking forward to catching up on all these Oscar hopefuls in December and perhaps beyond….we just might have 10 good movies after all with others on the outside looking in……I wasn’t expecting much after hearing repeatedly that this Oscar season would pale compared to the last….

  73. oh gosh, I’m sorry for the duplicates….I thought my first had been deleted. Edit away, oh mighty ones.

  74. oh gosh, I’m sorry for the duplicates….I thought my first had been deleted. Edit away, oh mighty ones.

  75. In the end, the Academy will choose between the tear jerker (Extremely Loud), the old fashioned ”classy” (War Horse) and the movie tribute (The Artist).

    Extremely Loud is an unknown. War Horse will not win. It will be lucky to get nominated. The Artist….it’s possible if this and that occur.

  76. In the end, the Academy will choose between the tear jerker (Extremely Loud), the old fashioned ”classy” (War Horse) and the movie tribute (The Artist).

    Extremely Loud is an unknown. War Horse will not win. It will be lucky to get nominated. The Artist….it’s possible if this and that occur.

  77. Tero Heikkinen

    “War Horse will not win. It will be lucky to get nominated.”

    It’s that bad, huh? Would you say Tintin was Spielberg’s better film in 2011?

  78. Tero Heikkinen

    “War Horse will not win. It will be lucky to get nominated.”

    It’s that bad, huh? Would you say Tintin was Spielberg’s better film in 2011?

  79. Extremely Loud is an unknown. War Horse will not win. It will be lucky to get nominated. The Artist….it’s possible if this and that occur.

    What is this year turning into? Is it officially a hot mess yet?

  80. Extremely Loud is an unknown. War Horse will not win. It will be lucky to get nominated. The Artist….it’s possible if this and that occur.

    What is this year turning into? Is it officially a hot mess yet?

  81. War Horse sounds like The Man from Snowy River. Which was a good movie but not Oscar worthy. I have a feeling the same is true for War Horse the only difference being Mr Spielberg.

  82. War Horse sounds like The Man from Snowy River. Which was a good movie but not Oscar worthy. I have a feeling the same is true for War Horse the only difference being Mr Spielberg.

  83. Houstonrufus

    I don’t have a problem with sentimental films. I don’t even have a problem with manipulative films. It’s all in how it’s handled. I think back to certain “sentimental” films like ET, The Color Purple, It’s a Wonderful Life, and on and on. I can’t imagine my life without some of these films. But then I can see a movie like Melancholia, as I did today, and appreciate that also.

    It appears Spielberg purposefully approached this project with a very old school, traditional style. I’ll have to wait and see what I think of it, but I have no doubt I’ll shed some tears. I’m not going to hold that against the film.

  84. Houstonrufus

    I don’t have a problem with sentimental films. I don’t even have a problem with manipulative films. It’s all in how it’s handled. I think back to certain “sentimental” films like ET, The Color Purple, It’s a Wonderful Life, and on and on. I can’t imagine my life without some of these films. But then I can see a movie like Melancholia, as I did today, and appreciate that also.

    It appears Spielberg purposefully approached this project with a very old school, traditional style. I’ll have to wait and see what I think of it, but I have no doubt I’ll shed some tears. I’m not going to hold that against the film.

  85. The hurt locker and No country for old man won the oscar. Well they were oscar miracles. But for this year i’m just hopping that War horse don’t win the oscar.

  86. The hurt locker and No country for old man won the oscar. Well they were oscar miracles. But for this year i’m just hopping that War horse don’t win the oscar.

  87. I like that this year turns out to be so unpredictable (well, who knows one months from now on…)! I worked over my annual predictions yesterday (for an article I use to write every year right before the precursors start – for a german site) and left “War Horse” out of the Best Picture-category.
    We can only assume (and hope) that “Dragon Tattoo” and “Extremely Loud” will be big players in the Oscar race, but they are both unknown quantities. From the films that are out I honestly can´t see a clear front runner and not even one candidate I would feel safe to predict for the win at this point:
    “The Artist”: Sorry, but I just can´t see the Academy go for a b/w silent movie, at least not for the win.
    “The Descendants”: Has many important elements and good critical response, but does it have the relevance or the prestige for the win? I doubt that, it feels like a film “happy to get nominated and maybe to receive the best screenplay compensation-award”.
    “Midnight in Paris”, “Moneyball”: Too lightweight, that´s just not what Best Picture-winners are made of.

    But what else? At this point I´d say: If either “Dragon Tattoo” or “Extremely Loud” fulfills our expectation as a critical darling and Box Office-Champ, that´s our frontrunner for the win.

  88. I like that this year turns out to be so unpredictable (well, who knows one months from now on…)! I worked over my annual predictions yesterday (for an article I use to write every year right before the precursors start – for a german site) and left “War Horse” out of the Best Picture-category.
    We can only assume (and hope) that “Dragon Tattoo” and “Extremely Loud” will be big players in the Oscar race, but they are both unknown quantities. From the films that are out I honestly can´t see a clear front runner and not even one candidate I would feel safe to predict for the win at this point:
    “The Artist”: Sorry, but I just can´t see the Academy go for a b/w silent movie, at least not for the win.
    “The Descendants”: Has many important elements and good critical response, but does it have the relevance or the prestige for the win? I doubt that, it feels like a film “happy to get nominated and maybe to receive the best screenplay compensation-award”.
    “Midnight in Paris”, “Moneyball”: Too lightweight, that´s just not what Best Picture-winners are made of.

    But what else? At this point I´d say: If either “Dragon Tattoo” or “Extremely Loud” fulfills our expectation as a critical darling and Box Office-Champ, that´s our frontrunner for the win.

  89. Peter Pedant

    It’s ‘gild’ the lily, not ‘guild’ As in gilding, to cover with gold leaf.

  90. Peter Pedant

    It’s ‘gild’ the lily, not ‘guild’ As in gilding, to cover with gold leaf.

  91. Wait what? War Horse might not even be nominated?

  92. Wait what? War Horse might not even be nominated?

  93. Just as I expected… I knew Tintin will be better than War Horse… Hope it’s “Academy-friendly” vibe won’t work come Oscars…

  94. Just as I expected… I knew Tintin will be better than War Horse… Hope it’s “Academy-friendly” vibe won’t work come Oscars…

  95. Bob Burns

    Not at all disappointed that WH will not win…. am very much inclined to love it, as a movie, not as an Oscar contender. Feel the same way about Hugo.

  96. Bob Burns

    Not at all disappointed that WH will not win…. am very much inclined to love it, as a movie, not as an Oscar contender. Feel the same way about Hugo.

  97. Peter Pedant

    Tom Hiddleston has just tweeted that the world premiere of the War Horse film will be at NY’s Lincoln Center on Sunday 4 December. http://twitter.com/#!/twhiddleston

  98. Peter Pedant

    Tom Hiddleston has just tweeted that the world premiere of the War Horse film will be at NY’s Lincoln Center on Sunday 4 December. http://twitter.com/#!/twhiddleston

  99. @Dominik: In what universe is Moneyball lightweight? I agree about Midnight in Paris, but Moneyball is full of dramatic and serious moments that prevent it from being light. It has a decent shot at a nomination.

  100. @Dominik: In what universe is Moneyball lightweight? I agree about Midnight in Paris, but Moneyball is full of dramatic and serious moments that prevent it from being light. It has a decent shot at a nomination.

  101. Edward Douglas

    I’ll be pretty miffed if either War Horse or The Descendants win Best Picture as neither are either director’s best work or even close to it, and most of the problems/flaws with both movies can be attributed directly to directorial decisions. That just leaves The Artist and I’m rooting for it all the way. No other way to show how HOllywood has lots its way in recent years than to nominate a movie that ignores everything that’s happened in the last 80 plus years. Spielberg will still get nominated for director and the awful screenplay will probably also get nominated as War Horse also is “old school filmmaking” but it’s not a great movie and it’ll divide audiences and voters.

  102. Edward Douglas

    I’ll be pretty miffed if either War Horse or The Descendants win Best Picture as neither are either director’s best work or even close to it, and most of the problems/flaws with both movies can be attributed directly to directorial decisions. That just leaves The Artist and I’m rooting for it all the way. No other way to show how HOllywood has lots its way in recent years than to nominate a movie that ignores everything that’s happened in the last 80 plus years. Spielberg will still get nominated for director and the awful screenplay will probably also get nominated as War Horse also is “old school filmmaking” but it’s not a great movie and it’ll divide audiences and voters.

  103. I read the book earlier this fall, and loved it. I’m anticipating this movie, along with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, (also read this book). Both books were amazing, though I preferred ELIC. However, based on the trailers, it looks like War Horse will be the better movie. Either way, these two have been my top 2 Oscar-type movies too see. I saw Hugo and fell in love with it- My top 3 these 3. (Unless one counts Deathly Hallows Part 2).

  104. I read the book earlier this fall, and loved it. I’m anticipating this movie, along with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, (also read this book). Both books were amazing, though I preferred ELIC. However, based on the trailers, it looks like War Horse will be the better movie. Either way, these two have been my top 2 Oscar-type movies too see. I saw Hugo and fell in love with it- My top 3 these 3. (Unless one counts Deathly Hallows Part 2).

  105. “If we go by what looks to be leading so far, you can’t help but notice the wave of optimism flooding the Oscar race.”

    You included Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with the first half. It plays on the feeling- there is no doubt about that. But, having read the book, I find it hard to see it as “optimism”. Great book, excellent, but rather depressing down to the end. If the movie plays out like the book, as it should, I don’t see people walking out of it anything other than “depressed”, or glad not to have been part of this family- (which doesn’t make it an optimistic movie IMO). It doesn’t mean the movie will be bad, just “realistic” to a degree.

  106. “If we go by what looks to be leading so far, you can’t help but notice the wave of optimism flooding the Oscar race.”

    You included Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with the first half. It plays on the feeling- there is no doubt about that. But, having read the book, I find it hard to see it as “optimism”. Great book, excellent, but rather depressing down to the end. If the movie plays out like the book, as it should, I don’t see people walking out of it anything other than “depressed”, or glad not to have been part of this family- (which doesn’t make it an optimistic movie IMO). It doesn’t mean the movie will be bad, just “realistic” to a degree.

  107. m1: I just don´t get Oscar-vibes by it. A nomination? Decent shot, agree with you there. “Lightweight” in terms that it´s a pretty conventional story, but maybe that´s the wrong word. Let´s say, “Moneyball” doesn´t look important/relevant/prestigious enough for the win- does it?

  108. m1: I just don´t get Oscar-vibes by it. A nomination? Decent shot, agree with you there. “Lightweight” in terms that it´s a pretty conventional story, but maybe that´s the wrong word. Let´s say, “Moneyball” doesn´t look important/relevant/prestigious enough for the win- does it?

  109. Robert A.

    “The Artist”: Sorry, but I just can´t see the Academy go for a b/w silent movie, at least not for the win.
    ******************
    Remember, though, that we’ve had many BP winners from the past that people were also dismissing at this stage in the game because the film did not fit into some perceived notion of what the Academy would vote for.

    Examples:

    1991, Silence of the Lambs. Sorry, but I just can’t see the Academy going for a serial killer thriller, at least not for the win.

    2007, No Country for Old Men. Sorry, but I just can’t see the Academy going for a movie that’s so dark and nihilistic, at least not for the win. The Academy likes uplift.

    2009, The Hurt Locker. Sorry, but I just can’t see the Academy going for a movie that made so little at the box-office, at least not for the win.

    No year is really identical to any previous year. We can look to the past (and should) for patterns and trends in voting, but to automatically dismiss a movie because it doesn’t neatly drop into some Oscar formula for a win is, I think, wrong-minded. Plus, as I’ve said before, how do we know the Academy won’t vote for a silent movie? They haven’t had the opportunity to vote for a silent film since the early 1930s, have they?

  110. Robert A.

    “The Artist”: Sorry, but I just can´t see the Academy go for a b/w silent movie, at least not for the win.
    ******************
    Remember, though, that we’ve had many BP winners from the past that people were also dismissing at this stage in the game because the film did not fit into some perceived notion of what the Academy would vote for.

    Examples:

    1991, Silence of the Lambs. Sorry, but I just can’t see the Academy going for a serial killer thriller, at least not for the win.

    2007, No Country for Old Men. Sorry, but I just can’t see the Academy going for a movie that’s so dark and nihilistic, at least not for the win. The Academy likes uplift.

    2009, The Hurt Locker. Sorry, but I just can’t see the Academy going for a movie that made so little at the box-office, at least not for the win.

    No year is really identical to any previous year. We can look to the past (and should) for patterns and trends in voting, but to automatically dismiss a movie because it doesn’t neatly drop into some Oscar formula for a win is, I think, wrong-minded. Plus, as I’ve said before, how do we know the Academy won’t vote for a silent movie? They haven’t had the opportunity to vote for a silent film since the early 1930s, have they?

  111. Robert, I hardly “dismissed” the film, in contrary I´m totally looking forward to see “The Artist”. I just don´t see it winning Best Picture.
    Sure they didn´t have the chance to go for a silent movie since the 30s, but being b/w is the second handicap.
    That´s not really a genre handicap, you see. The genre fits perfect, charming Ode to the golden Hollywood Era.

  112. Robert, I hardly “dismissed” the film, in contrary I´m totally looking forward to see “The Artist”. I just don´t see it winning Best Picture.
    Sure they didn´t have the chance to go for a silent movie since the 30s, but being b/w is the second handicap.
    That´s not really a genre handicap, you see. The genre fits perfect, charming Ode to the golden Hollywood Era.

  113. Beth Stevens

    If my wishes counted, either The Tree of Life or Hugo would be our BP winner. Or perhaps Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, if it’s mind-blowingly good. None of the other realistic contenders appears to have sufficient creativity, depth and gravitas.

  114. Beth Stevens

    If my wishes counted, either The Tree of Life or Hugo would be our BP winner. Or perhaps Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, if it’s mind-blowingly good. None of the other realistic contenders appears to have sufficient creativity, depth and gravitas.

  115. Tero Heikkinen

    Silent movies are being made all the time, but they are just too small to make Academy notice. Also, they can be b/w, too.

    An example: Juha (1999) by Aki Kaurismäki. Black and white silent film.

  116. Tero Heikkinen

    Silent movies are being made all the time, but they are just too small to make Academy notice. Also, they can be b/w, too.

    An example: Juha (1999) by Aki Kaurismäki. Black and white silent film.

  117. In an awards season that’s already turning out to be a mess, I bet Extremely Loud will come like a hurricane and mess things up even more.

  118. In an awards season that’s already turning out to be a mess, I bet Extremely Loud will come like a hurricane and mess things up even more.

  119. And if it’s good, I can clearly see Extremely Loud winning:
    Picture
    Directing
    Supporting Actor
    Original Score (Deslplat)
    Editing

  120. And if it’s good, I can clearly see Extremely Loud winning:
    Picture
    Directing
    Supporting Actor
    Original Score (Deslplat)
    Editing

  121. The Great Dane

    After King’s Speech winning last year, all bets are off. Anything could happen. They could underline their choice by choosing another to-obvious-sentimental-choice just to say “King’s Speech was NOT a one-off” or they could go in a completely different direction JUST to get away from letting King’s Speech win. To say that War Horse will NOT win is just to early. So many people were saying the same thing last year about King’s Speech. And since there is not an obvious frontrunner right now (all candidates seem to have something against them – “too family”, “too fantasy”, “too indie”, “too small”, “too non-BP”, “too underdog”, “too forgotten already”, “too silent movie”, “too foreign”, “too unseen yet”, “too arty”, “too edgy”) – I think nothing is set in stone yet. In three weeks, it will be a lot easier to narrow things really down.

  122. The Great Dane

    After King’s Speech winning last year, all bets are off. Anything could happen. They could underline their choice by choosing another to-obvious-sentimental-choice just to say “King’s Speech was NOT a one-off” or they could go in a completely different direction JUST to get away from letting King’s Speech win. To say that War Horse will NOT win is just to early. So many people were saying the same thing last year about King’s Speech. And since there is not an obvious frontrunner right now (all candidates seem to have something against them – “too family”, “too fantasy”, “too indie”, “too small”, “too non-BP”, “too underdog”, “too forgotten already”, “too silent movie”, “too foreign”, “too unseen yet”, “too arty”, “too edgy”) – I think nothing is set in stone yet. In three weeks, it will be a lot easier to narrow things really down.

  123. For all the people who are commenting on films they have not seen: Please shut up. Thank you.

  124. For all the people who are commenting on films they have not seen: Please shut up. Thank you.

  125. ^
    For all the people who take offense in reading such comments: Please don´t read them. Thank you.

  126. ^
    For all the people who take offense in reading such comments: Please don´t read them. Thank you.

  127. Sorry, folks, but Spielberg is a genius!

  128. Sorry, folks, but Spielberg is a genius!

  129. I saw a screening on Wednesday night and found the movie to be phenomenal. Of all the films I have seen this year, it’s the best picture by far!

  130. I saw a screening on Wednesday night and found the movie to be phenomenal. Of all the films I have seen this year, it’s the best picture by far!

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