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Does Oscar history repeat itself?

Jason Fraley, WTOP film critic

WASHINGTON – Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

As I combed through this year’s nine Oscar nominees, some familiar themes emerged.

Does the Academy choose its films based on similar themes? Or is it just a freak coincidence?

You be the judge.

A Thematic Comparison of the 9 Best Picture Nominees

Based on thematic elements, not the quality of the film or its chances of winning



Common Themes

Beasts of the Southern Wild

The Artist

Low-budget, indie powerhouses that thrive off unknown actors, upstart directors, powerful music and plenty of heart

Silver Linings Playbook

The Descendants

Off-beat family dramedies from Oscar-nominated writer/directors (David O. Russell / Alexander Payne) with known stars (Bradley Cooper / George Clooney)



True stories become thrilling crowd pleasers, showing range from Bennifers and Brangelinas (Ben Affleck / Brad Pitt)


War Horse

Spielberg period pieces of wartime heroism with John Williams scores and Kaminski cinematography

Life of Pi


Oscar-winning directors (Martin Scorsese / Ang Lee) comment on storytelling while pushing the 3D envelope


The Tree of Life

Daring directors (Michael Haneke / Terrence Malick) win the Palme d’Or, breaking conventions of life and death

Les Miserables

Midnight in Paris

Best Picture directors (Tom Hooper / Woody Allen) tell stories of Paris heroes dreaming “dreams of time gone by”

Django: Unchained

The Help

Deep supporting casts bolster mainstream race flicks about servants and slaves

Zero Dark Thirty

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Gutsy heroes grapple with 9/11 cell-phone memories

Note: The years are when the movies were released.

Follow WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley on Twitter @JasonFraleyWTOP or check out his blog The Film Spectrum.

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