This year Carbusters reviewed six of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture. The other three movies (Lincoln, Django Unchained and Les Misérables) were not included since they are set in the early to mid-1800s, before the use of the internal combustion engine automobile.
Our No-Car Oscar Award focuses on these movies’ depictions of transportation: How often are main characters shown driving or riding in automobiles? How often are they shown using alternatives to automobiles? What messages do these movies send about driving and about using public or non-motorized transportation? Points are given for showing characters walking, riding bicycles and taking public transportation. Points are taken away for showing characters driving or riding in cars. Positive depictions of cars (cars used to show status, logos prominently displayed, car travel depicted as freedom and independence) lose points. Negative depictions of cars (traffic jams, accidents, expensive) earn points.
Our pick for the 2012 No-Car Oscar award goes to Silver Linings Playbook, set in Philadelphia, where the two romantic leads are never shown driving a car. Below are the ratings for all six movies. (To see the score card for a particular movie, click on its title.)
Silver Linings Playbook (+38)
The romantic leads—Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress—do not own cars and are never shown driving cars themselves. Much of their courtship takes place on foot.
Carbusters Highlight: The couples’ first kiss takes place in the middle of a car-free city street.
Life of Pi (+ 35)
For a movie that focuses on a shipwreck and being lost at sea, Life of Pi still manages to portray an image of sustainable transportation. Pi’s childhood in India depicts plenty of people walking and biking and adult Pi lives a car-lite lifestyle with his family in Montreal.
Amour (+ 2)
This movie about love and aging and death takes place mostly indoors within the rooms and narrow hallways of a Parisian apartment. However, the one time the elderly couple is shown out and about, they use public transportation.
Argo (- 4)
This movie has many scenes of main characters getting around in cars and vans and prominently shows logos for Cadillac and Rolls Royce.
Carbusters Highlight: Two times U.S. government officials talk about the option of using bicycles to get the escaped embassy workers out of Iran. During one of these discussions, one character states, “Cars won’t work.”
Beasts of the Southern Wild (- 18)
There is much to like about this indie movie, including that very little blacktop is shown. However, the residents of this bayou community use motorized boats like cars to get around. In fact the father’s boat is made from the bed of a pick-up truck.
Zero Dark Thirty (- 35.5)
Nothing much non-motorized happens in this movie. Perhaps the worst car scene: a CIA agent is shown using government money to buy a brand new Lamborghini to bribe a Pakistani informant.
Carbusters Highlight: Osama Bin Laden’s hideout is located, in part, because his courier drives a white SUV, which makes him conspicuous on Pakistani streets filled with more affordable and efficient forms of transportation.