Monday, November 17, 2014




hitfix

Off the Carpet: Where we stand

Five contenders have come out to play with a couple more around the corner
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"Unbroken" premiered in Sydney just hours ago as a show of appreciation (the film was largely shot in Australia) while screening to some press stateside (the big coming out will be Thanksgiving weekend).....
There a couple of doors left to be opened. "Unbroken" is stirring some mixed reaction. It has for some weeks now, really, but so did "Selma." And "Interstellar" was stacking up to look like a threat to win all the gold before it screened widely. So naturally, I'm in wait-and-see mode; this season has been funny like that. Angelina Jolie's film has been the on-paper thoroughbred for so long that it sort of seems like it's time for that aura to disappear. More often than not, the sight-unseen luster goes away for movies like this. But Jack O'Connell has started making the rounds, attending the Governors Awards, showing up at the Hollywood Film Awards to accept a bauble from Jolie, etc. We'll see.

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Unbroken Screens but Embargoed until December 2, 2014

Unbroken will be seen in various places before getting to critics and bloggers over here, mainly due to scheduling around the film’s director, Angelina Jolie, who will be doing appearances and Q&As to give the film the best possible landing. This is how films usually roll out at festivals, with directors there (at the very least) to give q&as after the screening. This does two things. The first, if “talent” is in the room the crowd is usually much more responsive. You can imagine how responsive they would be with Angelina Jolie in the room. But also it ensures people will at least SHOW UP to the screening, which ensures the film will be seen. In a competitive season, that becomes the most important thing.

Variety reported on the first screening, which said “largely well received” with “warm applause” and several gasps at the violence. I guess the best they could have hoped for was a standing ovation but from where I sit, that it was warmly received is good enough. The film is a victim of Oscar season hype already, being touted as the winner long before anyone has seen it. We put it on our list because it MIGHT be that movie. If it isn’t that movie we blame the movie, not ourselves. We see a movie in our heads and thus, if the movie falls short of that it suffers during this madness. This movie is being hyped as Jolie + Coens + Deakins + WWII + American hero – how can it go wrong? And the thing is, it might not go wrong, number 1. Number 2, unfortunately its goal now is to fill our cup not live out its own intended trajectory. Such is the insanity of Oscar season.

I don’t know what the film’s fate will be but being unable to talk about it right after it screened is causing a bit of an Oscar season flatline. There are too many people like me trying to come up with anything semi-exciting that isn’t just random publicity (interviews, profiles, pictures).
One thing Unbroken has going for it over all of the other films in the race is the simple fact of Ms. Jolie herself. If you notice the different ways Unbroken is being rolled out compared to other films, or even Selma which is also directed by a woman, is that Jolie’s star power is so gigantic her face is almost all that is required to sell the thing. Those set pictures from Unbroken were like an Annie Leibowitz photo spread. She is so pretty that her face on the cover of Vanity Fair sells her movie. There is no other director in the race that famous or that famous for her looks.

Of course, Jolie is famous for many other things, too – her unsurpassed humanitarian efforts with refugees, her marriage to Brad Pitt, raising six children but at the end of the day human beings respond to beauty. They (we) like pretty people and for Jolie, that is starting to look like her biggest and most powerful weapon in this regard. Many will come to screenings of the film just to have a look at her.

That isn’t to say she won’t be judged on her work but it’s interesting to watch how the publicity for her film is so tied up in ongoing obsession on her image. Then again, since the movie hasn’t been seen there isn’t much to go on. Oscar season hype has put it in the conversation but the conversation only has one place to go.

Since the film isn’t seen, there isn’t much to discuss except for my own private wish that her film wasn’t being predicted to win. When you start the race at the top like that you have nowhere to go but down. It isn’t her fault, of course. If anything, it’s the fault of Oscar season. We never seem to learn this one crucial lesson about sight unseen frontrunners.










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