My Favorite Moments in the 2011 Best Picture nominees: War Horse

And our final Best Picture nominee, War Horse. An unfairly maligned film by most people (because it’s a film that seems like an obvious Oscar winner), it’s a film whose reputation, I feel, will grow in the coming years because it is actually quite good. It seems like Spielberg doing Spielberg while trying to do John Ford, and I say — what’s so wrong with that?

Here are my favorite moments from War Horse:

5. The gorgeous images.

I was gonna put a shot here of the horse running through the trenches, and that great shot of the cavalry riding the horses along the river, or the final shot of the horse bathed in red — but I felt this was best served as just a blanket statement of “gorgeous images.” There are some beautiful images in this film. I chose this one because it most reminds me of Gone With the Wind. And man, do I love that film. But this film is filled with such great images. It’s hard to choose just one.

4. The barbed wire scene in No Man’s Land.

I loved it so much. It was obvious what was going to happen, but still, I loved it. I loved how the horse brought everyone together, and just the simple idea of something transcending war. It’s a beautifully calm scene, one of the best-written ones in the film.

3. The “Quiet Man” staging.

I loved how much this reminded me of The Quiet Man. If you look at John Ford’s staging in that, it reminded me a lot of this. Flat staging in the foreground, wide expanse of fields and countryside in the background. I loved every moment of it.

2. The structure.

I loved how the film progresses. We follow the horse. Which then allows us narrative freedom with the human elements. Joey is born, is sold and separated from his mother. Bought by Albert’s father. We get the whole training sequence as they try to save the farm. Then he’s sold to the cavalry, meets the other horse. Follow him through the cavalry charge. Then he’s with the Germans and we see those two boys deserting to save the younger one. Then we get the young girl and her grandfather. Then it’s back to the Germans pulling cavalry. Then the trenches, and then back with Albert. It’s wonderful. Few stories allow for the narrative freedom that this one does. And I like when films don’t follow the usual structure. So I was especially impressed by how this one managed to fit so much into it.

1. The trenches.

I love me a good trenches film. That was always the selling point for me here. If there was any part of any war I loved studying the most, it was World War I and the trenches. Hell, I wrote my senior thesis as a trenches film! So that was always going to be my favorite moment of this film. But still, I’m glad the rest of it was just as good as this part. I don’t even care how “Spielberg” it is. A great film is a great film.

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