If you can find a review of Cloud Atlas that doesn’t use the word “ambition,” I will give you a quarter. Everyone is talking about the sheer grandiosity of the project, an adaptation of a book that has been called “unfilmable.” More than simply the most obvious talking point, the movie’s vast scope is also a major point of division between critics. Those that love it seem to praise its ambition most of all, while its detractors claim that the Wachowski Starship and Tom Tykwer bit off far more than they could chew. I would argue for the latter, that while there are many excellent individual moments spread across Cloud Atlas’s six stories, the larger endeavor often gets bogged down in its own scope. However, that might mean nothing at all for its Oscar chances. Cloud Atlas is a great example of a group we might call “lesser epics.” These films tell broad, temporally extensive narratives that take up many years, distant locales, and well over two hours of screen time. They are often period pieces with meticulous detailing, gorgeous landscapes, and the occasional stunning special effects. Yet for whatever reason they don’t come quite come together in the end and they rarely make much money. At the end of the day, however, their ambition is often deemed enough on its own to garner a smattering of Oscar nominations. Cloud Atlas is nothing if not ambitious, but is that enough to impress the Academy?