Ahhhh. I use the Oscar nominees as a checklist of movies I ought to see. Sometimes when left up to my own devices, I'll be lazy and just pick some escapist fare or I'll cave to the spousal unit and go see a chick flick. Nothing wrong with mainstram movies and I like them a lot and nothing precludes Oscar nominees from being big budget flicks. But life is often crazy busy and I just want to be entertained and not have to have a film degree to understand what's happening.
But then, I watch something like Midnight in Paris or The Descendents or Tree of Life and I kick myself in the butt saying "don't be so lazy". These are excellent movies and you don't need to be a film critic or a rocket scientist to get them and understand them and really enjoy them with the added benefit of your mind was taken outside of its old staid boundaries and challenged a bit.
I will confess that it took me 3 times to watch Tree of Life and start to "get it". We tried it as a Friday "movie and pizza" night and I was just too tired to get into it. Second time I got interrupted by something and finally I watched it yesterday on a quiet Sunday afternoon where I had time to stretch out a bit and time and patience to allow it to unfold before I passed judgement on it.