DreamWorks’ just-announced decision to move Steven Spielberg‘s War Horse from 8.12.11 to 12.28.11 indicates that the film has “awards potential,” says Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson. She also quotes DreamWorks topper Stacey Snider saying that War Horse “feels like a holiday movie,…[Spielberg] feels great about it, [and] we feel great about it.”

Awards potential? I’m not going to say anything, but please read what I wrote about War Horse on 5.4.10 and tell me if you think this film appears likely to make the awards cut, given the manipulative sentimentality that you always get with Spielberg at the helm, especially with John Williams doing the score.

War Horse is “a possible lunge at Oscar-level kudos, a Spielbergian hack move, another attempt at mass emotional manipulation, a sprinkling of art-film pretension, and yet a chance for Spielberg to show his stuff as a strongly visual storyteller who doesn’t need the engine of dialogue,” I wrote.

Nick Stafford‘s play, which is based on a children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo, is an anti-war piece that has simple strokes, and which was aimed at kids to begin with. Plus it has ample sentimentality — (a) a kind of Lassie Come Home story about a boy and his horse being separated, (b) a scene with German and British soldiers impulsively ceasng hostilities in order to save the wounded Joey’s life, and (c) a finale that some book reviewers have described as contrived and cloying.

“Plus it will also allow Spielberg to half-riff on Robert Bresson‘s Au Hasard Balthazar without having to acknowledge this, and to try and out-shoot the trench-warfare scenes in Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory.

In Hollywood parlance “great” means “good, fine, cool, steady as she goes,” etc. In this sense Snider’s quote reminds me of President Merkin Muffley saying to Premiere Dmitri Kissoff in Dr. Strangelove, “Well, it’s good that you’re fine, and that I’m fine. I agree with you. It’s great to be fine.”