Oscar’s Surprise Winner: Nature

Ah, Oscar Monday: the morning when I and my fellow movie lovers sit bleary-eyed at our kitchen tables and office desks, clutching our coffee mugs a little more desperately than usual. But it’s worth it, isn’t it? The pageantry, the speeches, the tributes, and the surprises make up for the lack of sleep.

What was your favorite moment? Ben Affleck’s emotional Best Picture acceptance for Argo? William Shatner reprising his James T. Kirk to taunt host Seth MacFarlane? Or was it Jennifer Lawrence – fresh from her Best Actress win – becoming endearingly awestruck at meeting Jack Nicholson backstage?

Here’s what I’m going to remember: never before has a single year yielded so many acclaimed, nominated movies featuring nature – specifically the power of nature – so prominently.

  • Life of Pi: Nominated for 11 Oscars and winning four, Life of Pi is a visually stunning film set almost entirely outdoors. I brought my son to see it just yesterday. Usually, he’s the boy who chats non-stop, asking “who’s that guy?” “Why is he laughing?” “What’s going to happen to that other lady?” This time, however, he was silent, completely captivated by breaching whales, standing meerkats, and the evolving relationship between boy and tiger.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece, the entire universe will get busted.” The part-reality, part-fantasy tale of post-Katrina life through the eyes of six-year old Hushpuppy garnered four high-profile nominations (for Best Picture, Direction, Actress and Adapted Screenplay).
  • The Impossible: Earning a Best Actress nomination for Naomi Watts, The Impossible brought the power, terror and tragedy of tsunamis to the screen.
  • Kon-Tiki: Thor Heyerdahl’s legendary journey across the Pacific Ocean in a balsa log raft – complete with whale sharks, raging seas and the beauty of the Coral Triangle – captured a Best Foreign Language Film nomination for Norway.

So what’s happening? Why the – pardon the pun – flood of nature-themed films? It is clearly, in part, the powerful stories coming out of natural disasters like Katrina and the tsunamis in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The potent displays of nature may also inspire the telling (or re-telling) of other legendary stories in the wild.

Personally, I’m hopeful that a year of highly acclaimed, award-winning films showcasing the power of nature will do more than just entertain. The images and performances may – in some small way – help keep issues like natural disasters and climate change top of mind. That, in turn, can motivate leaders at all levels to take actions that reduce risks to people, like rebuilding the reefs, marshes and other habitats that can help protect coastal communities from the impacts of storms and flooding.

Am I being optimistic? Time will tell. For now, I’ll revel in the Academy Award’s Year of Nature… and add Kon-Tiki to my Netflix queue.

[Image: Life of Pi. Image source: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation via imdb.com]


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  1. Please don’t forget Chasing Ice and its nomination for Best Original Song! There is a lot of powerful nature in that movie, specifically showing the extreme effects of climate change.


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