One of the best things about cinephilia is its omnivorousness; when you reach a certain level, you can find someone willing to defend just about anything for one reason or another. Thus, while many savvy, 21st century viewers may balk at a film as schmaltzy and Oscar bait-y as War Horse, you may encounter a few film buffs and critics who are willing to stand by it as a tribute to How Green Was My Valley-era John Ford and a distinctly old-fashioned brand of Hollywood sentimentality. For truly, this is a work of cinematic nostalgia, from the image of a pastoral ideal to the highly-saturated hues that evoke the good old days of Technicolor. Naturally, the film’s old-fashioned, unashamedly cornball approach leaves many things riding against it: the characterizations are archetypal to the point of paper-thin, it prominently features a child actress taking her best stab at an anonymous European accent, and if you’re ever unsure how a moment is supposed to make you feel, John Williams will be happy to tell you. But if you’re willing to set aside cynicism, you might see that this is not a crassly pandering film, but one that aims to express a genuinely humanistic worldview. It’s significant, rather than an oversight, that Spielberg ignores the politics of World War I or why it was being fought in the first place: it’s enough that the war is happening. The focus is on the people involved, rather than the sides, and to win the war is to survive it. And there are even a few moments when the film’s central thesis—that despite the cycle of conflict, basic human goodness and mercy transcend national barriers—is expressed very well through drama and through cinema. But the rest, particularly towards the end, is a bit awkward, a bit cursory, or a bit much. So enjoy what it has to offer, and as for the Best Picture nomination, I can’t get too enthusiastic. Does they Academy grade primarily on production values, are they too easily won over by 20th century costume dramas, or is it that Spielberg has a lifetime invite? Or is everyone just getting old?