"Oh, and a horse."

Seriously, the only movie among this year’s nine best-picture nominees that isn’t a study in masculine suffering is “The Help,” simply because it doesn’t have any men in it. (I’ll grant half a point to the decidedly odd “War Horse,” whose human characters don’t matter much and tend to die rapidly.) But “The Help” can serve in its own way as analogy and salve for Hollywood’s (and America’s) current predicament, since it presents itself as a moral fable about how we all faced a Difficult Time and became stronger and better people. It, too, is an ambivalent, Gatsby-flavored tale about time (more ambivalent than it wants to be, maybe), struggling to balance the desire to rescue what is beautiful from the past — as the eponymous hero of “Hugo” and Oskar in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” and Owen Wilson’s dazed Yank in “Midnight in Paris” all want to do — with the imperative of closing the door and moving forward, as do George Clooney’s Matt King in “The Descendants” and Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane in “Moneyball.”

Read More | Andrew O'Hehir, Oscar 2012: Chicken Soup for The Hollywood Soul | Salon