POSTED February 22 2013

What do this year’s Oscar nominees say about America?

Daniel Day-Lewis, presumptive Oscar winner, as Abraham Lincoln.

Daniel Day-Lewis, presumptive Oscar winner, as Abraham Lincoln.

Last year it seemed to me that the message of The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’ Oscar-winning film about the Hollywood star, circa 1927, who resisted the new technology of talking pictures, was about the sweeping technological changes shaking up contemporary Hollywood.

This year’s Oscar nominees, among them Argo, a fact-based film in which Hollywood saves the CIA’s bacon, have more political and social immediacy, as I talk about in the linked notes. As The New Yorker’s Rick Hertzberg noted earlier in awards season, what’s striking is how many of the nominees engage with important events and themes in American history. Three of the nominees (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained and Lincoln) address political and social inequalities. Two (Argo and Zero Dark Thirty) are about American intelligence and geopolitics.

Of the nominees you’ve seen, what’s the takeway? What do you think will win? Why?



  1. Gary Kramer says:

    I think the best gauge is to look at the Documentary Features. There are two absolutely phenomenal documentaries on fighting against the system: HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE and THE INVISIBLE WAR. Then you have two remarkable films about issues in the Middle East. And yet, it is the feel-great, inspirational comeback tale, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (which will likely win). What does THIS say about our priorities?

  2. What I think three of the most-talked about contenders — Argo, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty — have in common (even if they take some liberties with the facts) are each in very different ways on completely different missions, show arms of the U.S. government actually succeeding and accomplishing things. With the twits of both parties who serve a function almost as important as the seat fillers at the Oscars so dystunctional and after their own interests, all three films give viewers a glimpse of times when they could take some pride about times when there were people working us from the president to members of Congress all the way down to anonymous CIA agents who actually did their job and did it well.

  3. Quora says:

    How do the 2012 best-picture nominees reflect America?…

    For a refresher on the nominees, see:

  4. William Lutz says:

    What’s been remarkable (from what I can see) is the growing trend toward secessionist trends: Virginia (along with other states) seeking money based on a gold standard; states refusing Medicaid financial support as well as federal highway funding, the list goes on. All this aside, the films this year seem to focus on conflict – both internal and external – impacting who we are as a nation.

  5. Jennifer Kotter says:

    Have to agree with Edward here: heroics needed and so is inspiration. this country needs new examples of “US government actually succeeding and accomplishing things.” To see silver lining, I think we have to do something to make some happen…

  6. Miz Val says:

    America:Takes a licking and keeps on ticking

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