A life-affirming year in film

The 2012 Oscar nominations are out, and the films honored this year make a poignant statement.

Nine movies were nominated for best picture: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Help, Moneyball, War Horse and The Tree of Life.

All of these films share a few common traits, with limits on their violence, foul language and overt sexuality. Audiences seeking relief from agitated and unstable times endorsed reflective films examining humanity and relationships.

That said, not everyone is happy with the nominations. Are they ever? Of course there are surprises and what some consider snubs.

Kirsten Dunst, who won best actress in Cannes, is notably absent. Her performance in “Melancholia” was outstanding and most deserving, as was the film itself. Yet, as the title well describes, there was nothing up lifting about it and let’s not even mention Lars Von Trier’s incident at Cannes.

Most, including myself, felt almost sure that Albert Brooks would be nominated for his role in “Drive,” a movie whose intense violence goes against this year’s trend.

As for surprises, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” wasn’t even a dark horse in most predictions. As you might have guessed by now, it’s also very touching.

The most gasps came with the best actor nomination for Demian Bichir in “A Better Life.” Neither Bichir nor “A Better Life” were given much thought, much less a mention, in this year’s predictions.