From Room, to the Revenent, to Mad Max, and even to Bridge of Spies and the Martian, there's a common theme of survival in most of the best pictures this year. It's a strange thing though, because when one looks around a society overall, it doesn't seem like things are that bad. The stock market is doing OK, unemployment is generally down, and there's no major foreign conflicts, aside from the consistent background thread of international terrorism. So why then are all of the major American motion pictures appealing to our desire to see people survive horrific circumstances? Is it a matter of catharsis, or is there some sort of secret danger that the culture is currently feeling, even if they can't put words to it?
Decades from now when people look back at the best picture nominees for this year, perhaps it will be very clear why survival was the key message that year. The same way a film about alcoholism one in the mid 30s, or the way Midnight Cowboy was able to pull off a win in the late 60s. Even so, at present, it's a mystery. Perhaps this is a Rorschach test that we don't even know we are participating in.