The fight for the Oscar is often a bloody one, filled with subplots, capers, and strategic stabs to the back, metaphorically speaking. But this year an unusual amount of mayhem is showing up in the movies themselves. Academy members in the thick of screenings for the Oscars could be forgiven for wishing they had donned surgical scrubs for what has become a very bloody year.
While it can be stipulated that the only violence of "Dreamgirls
," one of the season’s clear favorites, comes during a torrid head-shake of refusal in Jennifer Hudson’s crescendo during “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” — and in "The Queen
," another strong candidate, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, occurs at arm’s length — many others among those being mentioned include overtly violent themes that are executed with jaw-dropping visual candor.
The big awards movies got off to a murderous start this season with "The Departed
," a film in which a number of characters played by big-name actors were whacked at close range as bodily fluids splattered everywhere. The body and organ count continues to mount as the season closes. Clint Eastwood's war film, "Flags of Our Fathers
," featured horrific scenes of beach warfare with more soldiers blasted into more pieces than we’ve seen since "Saving Private Ryan
," including a head unaccompanied by a body. Its sibling film, “Letters From Iwo Jima
” — Mr. Eastwood used the same battle to shoot a film in Japanese as well — has an extended riff on the consequences of sequential suicides by grenade.
It is not just war and crime movies that take a machete to fainter sensibilities. A message movie like “Blood Diamond
” does not just refer to child amputees — it shows the process. And "The Last King of Scotland
" features human flesh regarded as a cut of beef. Then the stream of bloody movie scenes becomes a river in "Apocalypto
," which has several recently removed hearts held aloft, a few more of the aforementioned bouncing, unattached noggins and enough impalement to bring to mind human shish kebab.