This was a weird film. One, because it is a PG-13 war film. So all of the violence is off-screen or hidden behind objects. It's so strange.
Second, I think it says a lot about the target audience that the previews before this film were not for A Separation or The Deep Blue Sea or some other seerious adult drama. No no. The previews were for Disney nature films about an orphaned chimp and whales in trouble. The obvious, tear-jerker, happy ending, we are going to tug on your heartstrings till they bleed kind of films. Which is pretty much what War Horse is. Did I cry during it? Damn straight. Was it complete emotional manipulation rather than great film making? Yup.
I honestly have not completely wrapped my head around how the new Oscar balloting works, but my sense is that a film with a small, but devoted following (say, the Tree of Life) has a better chance of a nomination than something that is broadly liked, but not loved. The way I understand it, any film that gets 300 first place rankings out of 5,500 ballots will get a nomination. Now, I don't understand why people then think that there will only be 8 nominees, because I could see some dark horses (heh) reaching that number. But, despite War Horse's throwbacks to old-school film making, I think it is out in a year with too many other "nostalgia" films to be ranked as number one on many ballots. I could easily see it being left off the nominations while Tree of Life or Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sneak in. Although they did just have the tribute to Steven Spielberg.... hmmm. Hard to say.
Anyways, I'll take my best stab at predicting the nominees this evening. But War Horse? Meh. It's beautifully crafted, but not great. I'd rather watch a BBC WWI production.