Thought-provoking 'War Horse' a surefire Oscar nomineeThursday, December 01, 2011 By Mr. Chad L. Waggoner, Trinity teacher
Every year our school produces teams that are competing for state titles, top scholars, and generous spirits, which I am sure causes those outside of our community to be a little bit jealous. “Oh, there is Trinity, ugh.” However, we are not alone. Trinity and Steven Spielberg share that special something in common, excellence. Much like we are competing for a state title in sports, Spielberg will once again be competing for Academy Award nominations with his upcoming Christmas release of “War Horse.” This will be to the criticism of some, “Oh, there is Spielberg again, ugh.” This is his finest film since “Saving Private Ryan” was released in 1998. When the nominations are released I am stating now that Spielberg’s touching drama will be one of the 10 films nominated for best picture, and he should receive a nomination for directing. The film will also earn other nominations that will probably include best adapted screenplay (it is based off a British children’s story.) “War Horse” is the story of a horse and the lives it touches and crosses during the tragic years of World War I. It is both moving and inspiring as it intertwines seven stories of the war that are all brought together through the journey of the horse. Each story, although brief, is masterfully told by Spielberg. Within minutes he has developed a strong emotional connection to a character of that story. “War Horse” will do for WWI what Spielberg and Tom Hanks did for WWII in “Saving Private Ryan.” The First Great War, a war mostly unknown to Americans, resulted in the butchering of over nine million men in combat. Spielberg reveals the tragedy of the war, not as gruesomely as “Ryan’s” Normandy scene, but possibly more emotionally shocking with what he doesn’t show but allows the audience to imagine. One of the scenes that will remain with the audience is in the early part of the war when British cavalry charge a German post defended with machine guns. Although you don’t see the killing, what is more powerful is seeing a shot of the German guns followed with a shot of horses without riders. Showing without showing is some of the magic Spielberg had to learn as a young director of “Jaws,” in which the monster is not seen, but felt and known. Spielberg makes you feel the war without necessarily seeing the war. He pulls at your emotions in each of the seven stories, and if a horse could win an acting nomination, “Joey” would. Somehow the eyes of the horse, its manners, its struggles, connect with a real human emotion, making the performance very human. The difference between “War Horse” and “Ryan” is that parents can take their children to the film. I did, and it allowed me to have a long conversation about war, love and loyalty with my sons following our viewing of the film. Both of my son’s loved the film. “Ryan” is still far too graphic to share with them at ages 10 and 8. “War Horse” will be one that will be shown in the classrooms, allowing students to understand the devastation of the first “Great” war and how it shaped Europe. It will be listed as one of the best films of the year. It will be nominated for multiple Academy Awards. It is a film that brings together the inspiration of heart and courage as well as reminding us of the foolishness, stupidity and sorrow of war. “War Horse” may make you cry, it may make you angry, and it may make you laugh, but the most important point is that it will make you pause and ponder.