Oscar Nominees Annnounced Amidst Tumultuous Pac-12 Season

Today the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced.

Like the Pac-12, it hasn’t been the best year for film and the nominations demonstrate this much. No single movie has swept us off our feet, excited us to conversation, pushed us to the floor with laughter, or changed our thinking. Just as no team has wowed us on the basketball court, no motion picture will escape 2011 an epic (the Harry Potter series did end, though).

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been entertained. It doesn’t mean we don’t watch or enjoy ourselves or have our emotions tugged at. Whether we’re fans or theatergoers, we appreciate the experience and the event of it all.

I have not seen all nine of the Best Picture nominees (5-of-9), but it is a goal of mine to do such. I have, however, watched a lot of Pac-12 hoops and I will now attempt to briefly analogize the Oscar nominees to Pac-12 contenders.

  1. The Artist” – While the Oregon State Beavers kicked their season off loud, they find themselves in conference play a lot like this film: unable to speak. In this silent film, the protagonist (Craig Robinson), amidst fears he’ll lose his acting job with the nearing arrival of talking pictures, clings to a young up-comer (Jared Cunningham) to carry him through.
  2. The Descendants” – This is the story of a supposed to be wealthy, happy, and successful man living in paradise (Hawaii). We quickly learn that looks can be deceiving and at the end of the day, life is what we make it. The Washington Huskies are arguably the most talented Pac-12 team but everything is not well in Seattle. They may have a roster with Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, but that alone won’t lead to success or happiness.
  3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” – A tale of discovery amidst loss, the Oregon Ducks lost two supposedly vital cogs (Barron, Brown) but have found their way to the top of the conference standings. In the movie, our young protagonist loses his father in the 9/11 attacks, enduring pain en route to self-discovery.
  4. The Help” – This is a tale of hard work, courage and defying the establishment. While the “help” of this small Mississippi town were supposed to shut up and do their jobs, they conspired to tell their stories, rise up and have their voices heard. As the newcomer Colorado Buffaloes were picked to finish eleventh in the conference, they too have worked hard and asserted themselves as equals amongst the conference elite.
  5. Hugo” – An orphaned boy finds himself adventuring through Paris, clinging to the past left to him by his late-father. The Washington State Cougars were orphaned by their best player, Klay Thompson, when he bolted early to the NBA. Like Hugo, the Cougars were left a broken memory (Hugo: automaton, WSU: Faisal Aden) of their former lead. Both protagonists seek how to get their bequeathed goods to work.
  6. Midnight in Paris“- A movie that encourages us to appreciate the present and not cling to the past, longing for a better time. Woody Allen directs a beautiful movie and tells a wonderful story, teaching a lesson the Arizona Wildcats could learn: it is best to recognize that which you immediately have, while not letting the past stifle your growth.
  7. Moneyball” – Stoic, straightforward, and raw, this movie tells the less than exciting but powerful story of the Oakland A’s. Like Johnny Dawkins and his Stanford Cardinal, there’s little substance or flash to the movie but the most is made of what there is. Making the best of the least available worked for the A’s and now the Cardinal. Also an obvious Bay Area parallel.
  8. The Tree of Life” – This movie received big hype with its big stars and artsy overtones but then obtusely disappointed. It’s essentially a convoluted self-indulgence for writer/director Terrence Malick. Like the UCLA Bruins, it’s ultimately much ado about nothing and a humungous let down. No synopsis necessary.
  9. War Horse” – California Golden Bears. Analogy impossible, but read on.

As research for this post I had to read some synopses of these films. Like I said, I’ve seen five of the nominees and really enjoyed them, save “The Tree of Life” which I thought was terrible. The most memorable part of that viewing experience was when the movie stopped about two-thirds of the way through. Because the movie was so convoluted I sincerely thought it was the ending. Alas, it was not and the old, grumpy usher entered the theater to see what had happened. When a patron asked what the deal was, the elderly usher quietly replied, “Oh shit,” before slinking back to the projection room. The movie resumed and we all got free ticket vouchers. The only good thing to come of that film.

But I’ve digressed. Back to my research.

I was familiar with most of the stories and, quite favorably, the movies paralleled the Pac-12. Until I got to number nine, “War Horse.” I hadn’t the slightest clue what the movie was about and gained no perspective from the IMDB summary. So, I went to gchat and asked Brad who had seen it and had this to say:

Brad: drunkard dad goes to market to buy work horse for failing farm falling behind on rent to land lord
dad gets into bidding contest for a thoroughbred horse and pays too much for a fine horse they dont need
boy/teenager
becomes strangely obsessed with the horse
it’s supposed to be heartwarming boy loves pet (like old yeller or something)
but the boy is too old for that, and it seems weird
what kind of boy loves a horse?
anyway, i digress
after horse nobly plows the field and saves the farm

 me:  (this is hilarioius)
 Brad:  the father is eventually forced to sell the horse to the army for the war effort
World War 1
where a calvary is still used
well i guess the key to the story is
at some point when the boy is training the horse at the outset
he develops a hand whistle to call the horse
that is supposed to be unique
you realize right away that after the horse gets lost in the war
the boy and hte horse will be reunited via this hand whistle
and in fact, this is exactly what happens
but first
you have to sit through a steven spielburg (sp?) of recycled cliche disney nonsense
where you are following the story of a horse and his interactions with various persons affected by the war
most notably a young girl who also falls in love with the horse
eventually the horse escapes the german bondage of halling massive artillery
and goes on some overly dramatic gallop across war torn trenches of world war one
only to wind up stuck in barbed wire in the middle of no mans land (between the trenches)
and foster a momentary peace between the german and british forces to set the horse free
it’s at that point the boy is blinded by mustard gas
and then finds his horse via the handwhistle
somehow having fostered such a relationship with his horse that he knows him without being able to see him
anyway, the blindness recedes
and he goes home to a sunset/sappy ride home to his farm
on the horse
and embraces his father
movie sucked
Such was my research regarding the Oscar nominated film, “War Horse.”