Lincoln, window

Meanwhile, with the third stop-motion nominee, Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie," he attained a more traditional experience with the technique while exploring a black and white retro world of monsters and memories. It's the most personal movie he's ever made, imperfect yet joyful in its celebration of individual creativity and anti-bullying in its own right.

Creativity and responsibility were at the heart of both "Brave" and "Wreck-It Ralph." Mother and daughter repair the fabric of their bond and save their kingdom in the uneven yet gorgeous Scottish folk tale, while two unlikely video game characters unite in an act of bravery to save their world. But for Rich Moore, "Ralph" was also about embracing the Disney legacy and bringing it into the 21st century with new vitality.

As for the live-action best picture nominees, I was particularly struck by the transcendence in both "Lincoln" and "Life of Pi." They bridge the past and present to help us find meaning and purpose in these difficult times, and I came away awestruck. It's not easy to convey inner and outer worlds simultaneously, but Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee did so with insight and joy. Somehow Lincoln summons the strength to help repair the great divide in his family and in the nation, and Pi and Richard Parker reach a greater understanding about co-existence.

It was a pretty good Oscar season after all.