“Before I read any more reviews and start questioning my judgment, I’m going to predict that Babel will be nominated for best picture this year. What’s more, I think it just might win,” says Newsweek‘s Sean Smith in a 10.27 posting. “Why? Because the Oscar is almost always awarded from the heart rather than from the head. Pulitzers Prizes and Nobel Prizes and National Book Awards are doled out, in general, for intellectual achievement — they reward how a piece of work makes us think about the world. But the deepest value of movies is how intensely they make us feel.
Babel could only have been made in a post-9/11 world, and it is a powerful comment on our cross-cultural anxieties and our assumptions and fears about each other. It also features mesmerizing performances, including the most natural, raw and memorable scene of Brad Pitt’s entire career. Yes, maybe the film is melodramatic. Maybe too many bad things happen to too many good people. But there is also a sense at the end of the film that most of these characters will survive their tragedies and will manage to find some measure of happiness — that there is hope for them and, by extension, us.
Babel may be painful, but it is not bleak. Ultimately, though, the reason I think Babel could win best picture has nothing to do with what I think about it at all. It’s because watching Babel in a packed theater last month, I felt the same rush I had watching American Beauty, Shakespeare in Love and Million Dollar Baby. I can’t rationalize it. I can’t quantify it. I can barely explain it. All I can tell you is that, as sappy as it sounds, those films — and this film — made me feel as if my heart had expanded.
“Judging from all the people crying around me, and in the elevator afterward, and in the parking garage after that, I suspect that I am not alone. All of that may mean nothing. It’s just a feeling. But this year, at least, I’m not going to ignore it.”