When looking at the nominee’s list for this year’s Best Picture, I felt like I could hear Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas asking me, “Where is the love?” But this year’s omission of romantic movies is merely a continuation of a trend that has been going on since the start of the millennium: The death of the love story.

The 1990’s were filled to the brim with epic romances. The first Best Picture winner of the decade, “Dances with Wolves,” started a trend that continued almost nonstop until 2000. With the exception of the years 1991-1993 (in which “Silence of the Lambs,” the Clint Eastwood western “Unforgiven,” and “Schindler’s List” took home the major prize, respectively) grand tales of romance seemed to be a sure ticket to receiving the Oscar. Forrest Gump, Braveheart, The English Patient, Titanic, and Shakespeare in Love dominated in the years following 1993, reflecting the glowing optimism of an America that was booming with new technology, a beloved president, and a surplus in the economy for the first time since the pre-Reagan era.

The 1990’s, looked back on now with fond memories that are seemingly basked in sunshine and nostalgia, were truly a happy time for the country. Bubblegum pop music in the form of Britney Spears, The Spice Girls, and N’Sync dominated the charts, and likewise the film industry reflected this celebration of happiness and romance. Along with the films that actually took home the prize, a number of romantic films, both epics and comedies, were nominated. Some of the most classic and beloved romantic comedies in the film cannon were made in the 1990’s, including the nominated “Ghost,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Jerry Maguire,” and “As Good as It Gets.” Although without the drama or sweeping tales of period romance that ousted them for the main prize, the majority of these films were either smart, funny, or both, without being too drenched in the sentimentality and tearjerkers that were to come in the following decade.

The end of the romantic film can be coincided with the end of America’s optimism. Following the shocking Lewinsky affair in 1998, Americans were no longer glowing with pride for the president that had been doing so well. The following year, “American Beauty,” a film that popularized the trend of showing the ugliness of lust, love, and youth, took home Best Picture, cementing the end of the epic romantic era.

To say the 2000’s have been completely devoid of romantic films would be erroneous and wrong. But they have been a different kind of romance, and when it comes to love stories, they are not the kind of film the Academy takes seriously. Romantic comedies, attempting to appeal to a young crowd, have developed a tendency to go toward two extremes. There are the crass films made in an attempt to appeal to teenage boys, with romance in the form of one night stands and sexual innuendo (such as in the American Pie series). On the flip side, there are films drenched in sentimentality, often adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle), and seemingly made for the purpose of making women cry. The majority of these sexual comedies and “chick-flicks” are devoid of the intelligence, creativity, and the acceptable humor that the Academy is willing to recognize, and thus have been left out of the race.

Although the optimism that came with the technology boom worked in the romantic film’s favor in the 90’s, it has helped become the source of its downfall. As special effects technology vastly improved and film companies realized, rightly or wrongly so, that massive money could be made from action-film blockbusters with out-of-this-world car chases or never-before-seen CGI technology, such movies began filling up the box-office and even the Best Picture nominee list, including the first two Lord of the Rings films, winners “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) and “Gladiator” (2000), “Master and Commander,” “Avatar,” “District 9,” and “Inception,” to name a few. The romantic films that were able to manage a nomination, including “Moulin Rouge” (2001) and winner “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), had to bring something different in order to make themselves standout from the tearjerkers of the era. Moulin Rouge showed vast creativity in its unique musicality and grandness, and “Slumdog Millionaire” was so jam-packed with violence and discussions of poverty that it can hardly be called a romantic film at all. But if the 2000s were a period of any kind of love, it was largely on an individual scale.

The Oscar nominees from the first decade have had themes of devotion and love, but of a different kind. Instead of focusing on boy-girl romances, many of the films that were nominated for Academy Awards had protagonists who were dealing with a love that related to their own achievements and passions. Thus began the slew of movies that reflected this new feeling of individualism in an era in which Americans were feeling less confident in their country’s capabilities and began to rely more on themselves. Best Picture winners like “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) and “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) were biopic films about successful individuals overcoming obstacles to achieve a goal or dream. Two of this year’s nominees, “The Fighter,” and “The King’s Speech,” reflect this same theme.

The Oscar-nominated millennium films that have touched on a love story have been either about a love different from the regular boy-girl romance or about the pitfalls of love in general. “In the Bedroom” (2001) “Sideways” (2004), and “An Education” (2009) focused on the consequences of love and/or infidelity. “Sideways” (2004) also focused on the theme of platonic love between two friends, a theme that was later furthered in the first homosexual romance “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). After “Brokeback Mountain” lost in a shocking upset by the film “Crash,” many criticized the Academy of homophobia. The sole romantic comedy in the ten nominated films this year, “The Kids Are All Right,” the second nominated film to focus on a homosexual relationship, is not even considered a front-runner. Other odd love stories, such as “Lost in Translation” (2003) and “Juno” (2007), helped begin a wide-acceptance of independent films, as they were considered by many to be a breath of fresh air in unique filmmaking in a decade full of dramatic biopic films and dark dramas dealing with contemporary issues in American society. But even these films were in no way romantic, dealing with loneliness and the pitfalls of sex, respectively.

This year’s nominee list for Best Picture only features one true romantic film, the comedy “The Kids Are All Right,” in a ten-picture list that contains four biopics, one Western, one psychological thriller, one animated feel-good comedy, and three dramas. With the top two contenders, “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network,” both being biopics, it is hard to tell if the Romance era of the 90’s will make a resurgence anytime soon. Until then, reruns of Sleepless in Seattle will just have to suffice.

By Anneta Konstantinides