By James Hirsen, Special for USDR
It’s that time of year again, the Oscar season, that is, and the Hollywood campaigns are in full swing.
The Academy requires a film to be released prior to the end of the year in question in order to qualify for an award, and because of this a slew of Oscar-seeking cinema is just about to hit the theaters.
Interestingly, to compete for an Academy Award, movies are also required to be up on screens for a full week within the year of consideration, which means the last chance for any would-be Oscar contender to be released is on Christmas Day.
Consequently, this year Santa will be delivering a sizable sack-full of film debuts that deal with not so jolly subjects, the reason being these are the types of movies that are considered by critics to be more Oscar worthy.
On December 25, Hollywood is set to release the following films:
-“Big Eyes,” a biography of 1950s and 60s artist Margaret Keane, directed by Tim Burton and starring Amy Adams, which tells the story of how Keane’s then-husband, Walter Keane, portrayed by Christoph Waltz, fraudulently took credit for his wife’s work;
-“The Imitation Game,” featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, who spearheaded the effort to crack Nazi Germany’s Enigma code, leading to the Allies winning World War II;
-”Unbroken,” Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut that tells the World War II story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic track star who survives a plane crash in the Pacific and two and a half years as a Japanese prisoner of war;
-“Into the Woods,” a Stephen Sondheim musical mashup of several Grimm fairy tales, which includes among its cast Oscar diva Meryl Streep playing the Witch, Anna Kendrick in the role of Cinderella, Johnny Depp portraying the Wolf, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, and Chris Pine playing the Prince.
Perhaps the most intriguing title with a Christmas Day release date is “American Sniper,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, with Cooper portraying U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most effective sniper in U.S. military history.
Critics love the movie and Warner Bros. clearly views it as an Oscar contender. A potential problem for the film, however, is the political worldview that many of the voting members of the Academy hold, the same voting members who ultimately decide the nominations and winners.
Some liberal-minded Academy members may have difficulty being objective when it comes to the subject matter of “American Sniper.”
“They’d have to change the logic of the entire votership because these red-state, red-bait movies have got to appeal to L.A. and New York — and that’s going to be tough,” a rival awards campaigner told The Hollywood Reporter.
“This lefty crowd isn’t going to gather around a Navy SEAL best known for killing people,” the source said.
Eastwood has had to deal with biases such as these in the past. He directed and starred in the 2008 film “Gran Torino,” and despite the fact that the movie was named one of the ten best of the year by the American Film Institute, took Best Actor honors for Eastwood from the National Board of Review, and garnered Best Actor nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association and Chicago Film Critics Association, the Academy unfortunately spoiled the atmosphere of the 81st Academy Awards by failing to nominate “Gran Torino” for any category.
Back in 2004, Warner Bros. changed its strategy on another Eastwood film, “Million Dollar Baby,” deciding late in the game to launch a full blown Oscar campaign after rival studio Universal postponed the release of another award-seeking boxing film, “Cinderella Man.” “Million Dollar Baby” had not been screened at the usual major festivals. Still, the campaign succeeded in the end, resulting in the film’s win of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
“American Sniper” has also missed out on the majority of major film festivals and is actually a late arrival on the Oscar scene. It remains to be seen, though, whether liberal Oscar voters who were prone to tolerate the idea of handing out awards to a sports movie on boxing (which incidentally had an assisted suicide subtext) are going to have a problem judging fairly when it comes to a story of a real-life war hero known for his skill in lethal sharpshooting.
In this competitive Oscar season, it would be smart for Warners to stress Eastwood’s huge and highly respected body of work as well as his renowned standing in the entertainment industry.
While the studio is at it, it wouldn’t hurt to remind the Academy that the public would most certainly enjoy seeing the 84-year-old legend honored for the talents he has so generously shared and for the incredible journey on which he has graciously taken us.