Monday, January 5, 2015

Random Thoughts

If, when Academy nominations are announced on January 15, Unbroken does not secure a BP nod, it will no longer be a shock.  It's certainly not out of the running and a nomination is still possible; Academy members reported applause and cheers after the film's Academy screenings.  And I still think voters will give Angelina and the film credit for ably tackling an unwieldy story and will also want to acknowledge Zamperini.   But after missing the cut for SAG, GG, and now PGA, it clearly isn't a top contender.  And that's without taking into consideration its critics scores on RT and Metacritic which are the lowest of all leading BP hopefuls.  The only hope is that the votes from the Academy's 6,000+ members will more closely reflect the sentiment of the movie-going public which made the film a surprise Christmas hit.

Among the critics that I regularly read, many didn't understand the filmmakers' decision to highlight select themes without giving further insight into Zamperini's thinking and without more "heart".   There was room for both given the over-long camp scenes which could have been edited down.  (Angelina's desire to "honor" what Zamperini went through being partly the reason behind her choices.)  But even among those who didn't embrace the film, most praised Angelina's skills as a director.  Now that she doesn't have a manager, she can talk to more people directly and get their unfiltered assessment of what worked and what didn't. She has said in the past that she doesn't read reviews but it would be to her benefit to read the fair and balanced reviews of a few critics like Manohla Dargis and Eric Kohn.

Angelina has already joined the ranks of bankable directors and will be among the few female directors with a $100M-grossing film.  Kathryn Bigelow's top grosser, Zero Dark Thirty, ended ts domestic run with $96M and Unbroken should surpass that figure within the next week or so.  With Angelina's obvious talent and passion, I am sure she will be back in the race again soon.

We may not have long to wait as By the Sea could be headed for Cannes.  It's a small drama without complex CG so Angelina could have it ready by mid-May (especially if she won't have to set aside time to campaign for Unbroken.)  As a film set in the South of France, I can't think of a better venue than Cannes for By the Sea's world premiere. 

Angelina told Anne Thompson she is already preparing Africa which is even more clearly Awards material, and I am excited to see what Roger Deakins can do with the dramatic African backdrops.  Centered on Richard Leakey's 1980s battle against elephant poaching in Kenya, it is a much more focused story than Unbroken.

Angelina chose two extremely difficult projects for her first two efforts, and especially with Unbroken, became too emotionally attached to her subject.  Both Unbroken and Blood and Honey were hampered by the complexities of the stories they were attempting to tell and even seasoned directors may not have been able to do better.  In contrast, both By the Sea and Africa should have cleaner and clearer storylines and Angelina will be less emotionally burdened.   Hopefully one of them will emerge as a true, strong contender and both will be commercial and critical hits. 

-- Fussy

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