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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

February 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Oscar countdown: “War Horse”

And now, the final step in our alphabetical march through the Best Picture nominees: “War Horse,” Steven Spielberg’s World War I drama about a young man and his horse, based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo (also the basis for a play). Many months ago, back when all these Oscar-nominated movies were just a gleam in a projectionist’s eye, I’d have guessed this film as the front runner. I mean, come on: Spielberg, World War I, a noble horse, sweeping vistas of the British countryside and the French battlefield, a John Williams score — anything about that not sound Oscar-friendly to you? And yet, while this film was popular with audiences (I’ve heard from many readers who loved it), it doesn’t seem to have captured Oscar’s imagination. My guess is (like “Tree of Life”) that it doesn’t screen well on DVD, which is how many members view the nominated films; or maybe it all seemed just too spot-on. Whatever the reason, if you’d told me eight months ago that a black-and-white silent film would be favored over a Spielberg epic to win Best Picture, I’d say you were crazy. Nice that the film world can surprise us sometimes.
Total U.S. box office: $78.8 (second among the nominees, but far behind “The Help”)
Total Oscar nominations: Six, including best picture, art direction, cinematography, original score, sound editing and sound mixing.
Best chance for a win: Never root against John Williams, who has more Oscar nominations than any other living person: 47. (He’s nominated twice this year, also for “The Adventures of Tintin.” Only Walt Disney, among individuals, has more.) Williams has won five times previously, but not since 1993 (for “Schindler’s List”).The Academy may also choose to honor the film’s beautiful cinematography (by Janusz Kaminski).
Odds of this film creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: Maybe if Spielberg shows up on a horse . . . oh, I don’t know. Maybe if Williams tied with himself?
Where I’d rank this film among the nine best picture nominees: 9. Somebody’s got to go last.
TZR_Film_Review_War_Horse.JPG.jpg
Jeremy Irvine and friend in “War Horse” (photo by David Appleby, courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures)

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