On Sunday and Monday, media pundits will see the last of the major Oscar contenders – “Unbroken” – and we will finally have a good sense of the race.
“Unbroken” could soon jump ahead based upon its pedigree, which makes it look like the ultimate made-for-Oscars movie. Like “12 Years a Slave” and “A Beautiful Mind,” it tells the real-life story of someone who triumphs over extreme adversity – in this case Louie Zamperini, a former Olympic track star who survives a plane crash, gets lost at sea for 47 days and then endures two and a half years locked up in Japanese POW camps during World War II.
The fact that it’s directed by past Oscar champ Angelina Jolie (“Girl, Interrupted”) gives the film sex appeal, but makes it attractive for another reason, too. Hollywood is eager to recognize more female directors now that Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) became the first to snatch the helmer’s trophy. However, Jolie competes against another notable female this year, of course — Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) – and many Hollywood insiders are skeptical that Jolie has the chops after she failed behind the camera with “In the Land of Blood and Honey” a few years ago.
But Universal Studio execs seem convinced that Jolie succeeds this time with “Unbroken.” They’re worried about two other things instead. “Unbroken” is brutally violent (just like the book upon which it was based) and it doesn’t give viewers a warm rosey glow at the end a la “The King’s Speech” or “The Artist.” Academy members like afterglows and they often don’t appreciate extreme violence.
Currently, Gold Derby’s pundits predict “Unbroken” will be nominated for 8 Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Music Score, Sound Editor and Sound Mixing. There’s also a good chance Jack O’Connell could be nominated for Best Actor if he pulls off an impressive performance and knocks out one of the many heavyweights already crowding that acting matchup.
So far this Oscar season I have been betting on “Unbroken” for Best Picture by default. I’m skeptical that “Boyhood” or “Birdman” can prevail. Both are terrific films that are worthy of winning, yes, but “Boyhood” doesn’t feel “important” enough and “Birdman” is too weird. Academy members don’t go for crazy stuff.
That said, those two flicks will probably sweep the awards bestowed by the New York and Los Angeles film critics over the next 10 days. However, when “Boyhood” competes at the Oscars, it won’t have widespread support across academy branches, which is usually essential to win Best Picture. Right now Gold Derby Experts predict “Boyhood” will only nab 6 nominations: Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Editing, Supporting Actor (Ethan Hawke) and Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette),
Over the past 30 years only one film has won Best Picture with six noms: “Crash.” One film actually triumphed with fewer: “The Departed” (5).