Now that the nominations are official, Thomas Hibbs, author of the new book Shows about Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture, published last month, begins his reflection on the year's worth of Oscars. Writing for the National Review online, Hibbs comments on how "there are no movies making big social or political statements, nor are there the usual films with dark themes." Here is a short excerpt of the article:
What an unusual list of Oscar nominees for Best Picture—sentimental and populist. Among the nominated films, there are no movies making big social or political statements, nor are there the usual films with dark themes. There is nothing to rival Brokeback Mountain, The Kids Are All Right, Milk, or even Black Swan, Precious, or Winter's Bone. Oscar took a pass on the politically charged Iron Lady, even if Meryl Streep received an inevitable nod for Best Actress. Also overlooked was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the remake of a Swedish film, featuring grisly sexual violence, a decent murder-mystery investigation, and an all-too-predictable discovery as to the source of the evil.
What's striking about so many of the nominees is that they feature ordinary folks dealing with the ordinary dilemmas of work, race relations, familial loss, or the effects of war with ingenuity, humor, hope, and courage. Even the quirky George Clooney vehicle The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne in his long-awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed Sideways, to some extent fits this description.