Rallying for Letters from Iwo Jima for Best Picture? Oscar's Gone to War Before

As Oscar time gets closer, we're all looking at the nominees and making our guesses as to who's gonna win what. (Don't worry: I'll post predictions in plenty of time to help you fill out your office pool entry!) And the Best Picture category this year may be the most interesting: there's no clear front-runner, no obvious favorite, and the slate of nominees is, perhaps, the most evenly matched in a long while. Each of these five very different films -- alphabetically, Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen -- has plenty of precedent among the Best Picture winners of the past, too.

If you're rallying for Letters from Iwo Jima [my No. 9 movie of 2006], for instance, you'll find Oscar has gone to war in the Best Picture category before ... and you'll probably enjoy checking out these films while we wait for the ceremony:

All Quiet on the Western Front (1929/1930): The original war-is-hell movie, this one looks at it from the perspective of "the enemy," too, humanizing the young men who fought World War I on the German side and showing that those who fight in the trenches -- in this case, literally -- are victims of their own leaders' ideologies.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): Three soldiers returning home from the battlefields of World War II discover how hard it is to leave the war behind. Features a heartbreaking performance by Harold Russell, who actually did lose both his hands in the war.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957): This gorgeous film about ugly life in a Japanese POW camp during WWII is a masterpiece of suspense, irony, and filmmaking that is spare and lush at the same time. This is one of the best war movies ever made, sure, but one of the best movies of any kind, period.

Patton (1970): George C. Scott plays the famous -- and famously contradictory -- general with a fierce gusto, while this seemingly straight-up film slowly sets him up for a downfall. This is a great look at how war chews up even its heroes.

The Deer Hunter (1978): The experience of combat impacts different men in different ways, as this slow-burn drama demonstrates. Actually, it's almost a horror movie, like horror movies used to be: not necessarily gorily graphic, but emotionally and psychologically terrifying.


MaryAnn Johanson

author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride

minder of FlickFilosopher.com