Sunday, February 22, 2015

Random Thoughts

I saw Unbroken again recently, in a theater, after having seen all the other Awards contenders.  I was curious how I would now judge it vis-a-vis the eventual Oscar nominees.

Unbroken held up very well on 2nd viewing.  I noticed more detail this time around and more deeply appreciated the direction and the craftsmanship.  I still found it moving and powerful.  Overall, I thought it to be even better than I remembered from my first viewing 2 months ago.  And while I feel a few seconds could have been shaved off the camp scenes and a couple of beatings could have been a bit shorter, they're minor quibbles.  So objectively, my view hasn't changed: Unbroken was a bonafide Awards contender that compares favorably with the Oscar nominees.  Perhaps even more than many nominees, I feel Unbroken will hold up very well over time.   Years from now, away from the politics of Oscar campaigning and any reviewer bias, audiences can view it and still appreciate it for what it is:  a beautifully conceived and well crafted film that very ably conveys the themes of Zamperini's life: steadfastness, survival, forgiveness.

-- Fussy

Why Oscar Snubbed Angelina Jolie's 'Unbroken'

Forget the brouhaha over "Selma." Or whether "Birdman" really soars. In snubbing Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" — the riveting red-white-and-blue tale of the Greatest Generation's Captain America: Louis Zamperini — Oscar has disproved Samuel Johnson:

Hollywood, not patriotism, is the last refuge of a scoundrel. And there are scoundrels aplenty in Tinseltown.

Other than for cinematography, film editing and sound mixing, "Unbroken" did not garner any award nominations. And Mrs. Brad Pitt was persona non grata for the best director nod.

All Angelina did was to make Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling biography of Louis Zamperini come to vivid life on the silver screen. Under her astute and nuanced direction, British actor Jack O'Connell captured Zamperini's Italian wit, grit and grace under fire.

In only her second directing go-round, Jolie turned in a tour de force, evoking Frank Capra, John Ford and Steven Spielberg at their cinematic best. And ultimately, the film resonated with audiences, earning $115,129,195 at the box office domestically (and $159,929,195 worldwide).

But Angelina's forthright depiction of a gutsy Italian-American Olympian turned bombardier, which struck a balance between can-do American derring-do and the dehumanizing savagery of war, may have soured liberals on "Unbroken."

Zamperini also served his nation when more than 600,000 Italian-Americans had been classified as "enemy aliens" under FDR's Executive Order 9066. (Many were persecuted, interned and lost their civil liberties.) There's also possible squeamishness over Takamasa Ishihara's visceral depiction of Sgt. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, Zamperini's savage Japanese torturer.

Yet Oscar harbors a specific ethnic antipathy that worked against "Unbroken."

Though the left applauded Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper," Hollywood's hypocrites cannot abide a real-life Italo-American hero on the big screen. (Ironically, "Sniper's" Bradley Cooper shares Zamperini's Italian ancestry.)

Central Casting prefers fictional criminal cretins such as Don Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano over Italian-American warriors like Zamperini who saved the world.

• Iaconis is chairman of the Italic Institute of America.

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