Disney screened War Horse for 10 or 12 journalists last week at the Animation screening room on the Burbank Disney lot. A guy who saw it and is a huge fan (“If you like animals…”) told me it was him and 10 or 11 others. It was also shown to a bunch of Manhattan guys a short while ago — EW‘s Owen Gleiberman, Rex Reed, Hoberman, etc. Not all of the NYFCC members but a lot of them.

This morning I was kicking around the reactions to War Horse and The Descendants with a friend, and he/she said that The Descendants holds up well on a second viewing “but I just don’t know if it’s a Best Picture winner. This feels like a really lackluster year for movies in general.”

To which I replied: “It’s absolutely truthful and real and so well sculpted. Those last 20 or 25 minutes or so starting with Robert Forster coming to visit his daughter in the hospital room and then Judy Greer arrives and Clooney’s goodbye and that final gaze at that virgin property in Kauai and onto the dumping of the ashes and then the three of them on the couch at the very end is perfect.

“It isn’t a BIG SHAMELESS EMOTIONAL GUT-GRAB WHAMMO movie, true, but God help us if we’re only sufficiently moved to hand out the Best Picture Oscar to films of that sort. The magical realism of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close might take it in the end, but heaven save us from the inevitablity of poor scared horsey and all those shells bursting everywhere.”

To which he/she replied: “I don’t know. I am not giving up yet on Dragon Tattoo. It may turn out that Incredibly Loud or War Horse will seem too affected or syrupy sweet for Oscar voters and they’ll look for something exciting to vote for. I remember when it was Bugsy up against Silence of the Lambs and how everyone thought Bugsy would win because it was an ‘Oscar movie.’ But in the end, it wasn’t. Bugsy didn’t offer up a Hollywood ending, though Silence really did — the bad guy got punished.” Or eaten, rather.

The Descendants is the closest to a winner we have right now. I don’t think The Artist will finally cut it, and not Moneyball either. It’s gonna be The Descendants vs. whatever’s coming next.”