A couple of hours ago Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone declared that The Artist has peaked in the Best Picture race and that War Horse is now the one to beat. She’s guesstimating by way of insect antennae, but she’s good at that. I also agree with her boilerplate observation: “The best films usually don’t win…the majority [wins] and emotion rules the day.”
But I don’t agree with saying War Horse is “in the Titanic realm as maybe the worst movie and the best movie at the same time.” However War Horse plays for this or that person, one thing it emphatically doesn’t do is hold its emotional cards close to the chest until the last 20 minutes, as Titanic does.
I’m also appalled at Stone’s observation that War Horse is “making people cry whole soggy tears, grown men even. What makes men cry? Poor war horses in peril.”
No…no. Real men do not cry at the sight of some poor horse or dog or any helpless innocent (including Tom Hanks‘ Forrest Gump) being in peril. I explained several years ago that “the one big thing guys cry about is loss — the son or daughter they didn’t love enough, the childhood dog that died, the woman that got away, the loss of a friend, the loss of a wallet with lots of cash in it. Fill in the blanks but that’s the trigger mechanism.”
There is no sense of profound loss in War Horse…none. It’s just an episodic adventure tale about a lovable horse that survives a terrible ordeal. That’s it. No more than that.
The emotionalism in War Horse — feelings of pity and compassion for a poor beast caught up in a brutal situation — is the lowest kind there is and about as sappy as it gets. Anyone over the age of seven or eight who feels emotionally devastated by being told or reminded that war brings terrible pain and trauma is probably emotionally stunted to some degree. I’m sorry to be blunt.
Fans of War Horse are “loving the old-fashioned faux-John Ford patina and the swelling music, and a celebration of the goodness of all peoples regardless of race or creed,” Stone writes. “How do you definite Best Picture of the year? Well, that’s how. War Horse is about the inherent goodness of people and thus the Oscar race will underline that and bold it.”
And on the other end of the spectrum is a film called Au hasard Balthazar, which is about a poor beast of burden who suffers from the myopia and selfishness that has defined so much of humanity throughout the ages, and who finds very little love in this world except from a young French girl and an older working-class woman who, toward the end of Robert Bresson‘s 1966 classic, recognizes the beast as a saint.
People who admire and respect a film like War Horse (and the childhood-level emotionalism that it shovels like so much manure) more than the austere humanism and directness of a film like Au hasard Balthazar are pathetic, plain and simple. This is the kind of response that Snooki from Jersey Shore would have. Life is a gulag without the ability see beyond the obvious. You can be an idiot and settle for Snooki-dom, or you can at least strive to be something more.
How anyone who’s seen and understood the Bresson film for what it is…how that person can give War Horse a Best Picture vote and then look at themselves in the mirror the next morning is beyond me.