Hollywood’s Unsung Hero: Nature

Academy Awards

My favorite thing about February isn’t Valentine’s Day, or even the long President’s weekend. It’s the Oscars! — the best night of the year for me and my fellow movie geeks. I always have my underdog favorites (this year it’s Margin Call for screenplay) and I usually walk away with a grudge over an award lost (Forrest Gump over The Shawshank Redemption? Really?!).

But for all the years I’ve watched this event, I’ve never seen the Academy give an award — or even put together one of their famous montages — to a movie that celebrates nature. But I think there should be, don’t you? Would War Horse have been the same movie without the gorgeous backdrop of rural Britain? Of course not. So if the Academy won’t recognize the critical cinematic contributions of nature, then I will.

And the nominees are…

The Descendants

Many of you might feel that the work of nature that is George Clooney would be reason enough to include The Descendants in this list, but there’s more! The gem here is the stunning expanse of land in Kaua`i, the fate of which must be decided by Clooney’s Matt King. Should he sell and make himself and his extended family wealthy beyond measure? Or should he respect the wishes of his ancestors, including his Hawaiian princess great-great grandmother? Sounds like Matt could use the consul of the Conservancy’s senior scientist and cultural advisor Sam `Ohu Gon, who has clocked more than 25 years of summits-to-seas conservation in Hawai’i.


The Tree of Life

What form of nature isn’t in Tree of Life? This candidate for Best Picture opens to the sound of the surf, and in the course of 138 minutes it gives us thundering waterfalls, fields of sunflowers, peaceful rivers, deserts, volcanoes and… dinosaurs? Yes, at times I wondered if perhaps there was an editing mix-up between Terrence Malick and the team at NOVA. But the film also left me gaping at its beauty. What stuck with me was the sequence under the ocean: the jellyfish, waving kelp forests, the swirling schools of hammerheads, and of course, the happy reunions on the beach. How tied are you to the ocean? Are you a Captain Sparrow or an ocean poser like “marine biologist” George Costanza? Take our quiz and find out Which Ocean Celebrity Are You?


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

Nominated for Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects, the final film in the Potter series is awash in darkness, dementors and dueling wands. But in between, nature has some stunning walk-on roles: the bright, sparkling coast marking Dobby’s resting place; the mountain-ringed lake where the dragon of Gringotts unceremoniously dumps our three heroes; and of course, the misty, craggy beauty of Hogwarts’s grounds. Add some owls and snakes and you’ve got yourself a nature party. For a full run down on the nature of Harry Potter, check out my colleague Sherry Crawley’s blog, Adventure, Harry Potter Style.


Jane Eyre

Ah, Jane Eyre. I can forgive Ms. Bronte’s literary liberty in having Jane school her aunt on the definition of deceit as if she were a Toastmaster’s graduate instead of an 8-year old child. Why? For placing Thornfield Manor in a gorgeous and thick primeval forest. What better setting to meet the love of your life, and then knock him off his horse? If you’re as smitten with the woods as I am, read on to find out how the U.S. is now scaling up efforts to preserve them.

And the Oscar goes to…

That’s for you to decide. Which movie stands out for you? Is there another film from 2011 that I overlooked? I’d love to hear — post a comment below. And for those of you interested in knowing which films I’d pick if the Academy asks me to put together one of their famous movie montages for next year, check out my Top Five Nature Scenes of all time.

Kerry Crisley is associate director of strategic communications with an emphasis on marine work.

(Image: Oscar. Image source: Dave_B_/Flickr via a Creative Commons license.)

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  1. The Big Year – a celebration of birding with some wonderful nature scenes and birds.

  2. I would agree there needs to be a category for Nature.I the descendents scenes.But hands down with the northern lights to the sea it is the tree of life.The last two there was little to no nature scenes. Dreary..

  3. So clever! Thanks for writing, Kerry.

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