Trophy Talk: ‘Unbroken,’ ‘Big Eyes’ and Why There’s Still No Best Picture Frontrunner
People love watching famous people accept trophies. So, every so often, The Huffington Post’s Chris Rosen and ScreenCrush’s Mike Ryan will speculate about these trophies and which famous person might win one. It will be fun. Let’s talk some trophies! Today, we discuss Angelina Jolie's ‘Unbroken,’ Tim Burton's ‘Big Eyes,’ the recent critic awards results, and why there is STILL no Best Picture Frontrunner.
Mike: One of the last perceived awards contenders, Angelina Jolie’s ’Unbroken’, screened this week. What do you think?
Chris: Well, I think it’s one of the more difficult movies to watch that we’ve seen this year. Just brutal stuff from beginning to end without very much in the form of respite. In your piece about ‘Unbroken’ this week, you mentioned how we spend nearly the entire movie waiting for Louis Zamperini to get beaten again. And every time, he does. (See ‘Unbroken,’ out Christmas Day!) So, as a movie, it’s difficult; I don’t see myself revisiting ‘Unbroken’ a lot on cable. But as an Oscar play? Well, I think it’s still a solid contender. Maybe it’s not the slam-dunk winner everyone thought it would be five months ago, but it seems like a likely Best Picture nominee, with a wealth of potential below-the-line nominations, including Roger Deakins. Can we just give that guy an Oscar already?
Mike: No, we can’t give him one. And I suspect the people who vote won’t either ... again ... sadly. There just seems to be a lot of movies like ‘Unbroken’ this year: Movies that “will get a nomination,” but don’t feel like winners. I’ve been saying since September that ‘The Imitation Game’ will win Best Picture, not because it’s my favorite movie (though I do like it), but because it checks off all of the beats that voters seem to like. But, I said that thinking that eventually something else would take its place. ‘Boyhood’ is a critical darling that is always right there, but never seems to get over that “frontrunner” hump. I still think ‘Selma’ will make a run because (A) it’s great and (B) the current climate is impossible to ignore. Frankly, I’m shocked it’s not considered a frontrunner right now.
Chris: I am, too. I mean I understand why a lot of the Oscar experts don’t have ‘Selma’ running away with this thing -- it hasn’t earned support from critics’ groups just yet, for starters -- but it just towers over the competition in my mind from an awards standpoint. It’s a great movie, with a great story, a great narrative behind its production and a timely peg that allows Academy voters to seem relevant for once. I assume once next week’s SAG and Golden Globe nominations are announced, ‘Selma’ will be considered a more viable contender. Especially at the SAGs, where I think it could score a Best Ensemble nod along with citations for David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson and even Carmen Ejogo. Or maybe Oscar voters will just go loopy and throw ‘A Most Violent Year’ in there and call it a life.
Mike: Speaking of “loopy,” the NBR awarded Clint Eastwood a trophy for ‘American Sniper.’ How much credence should we put in these very early results? If you look at the history of both the NBR and the New York Film Critic Circle Awards, they don’t match up with the eventual Oscar winner too often. For example, the NYFCC and The Academy Awards agreed on Best Picture four times over the last 20 years.
Chris: Well, if Clint Eastwood was ever going to win an award this year, it was probably going to be at NBR. He’s won five awards from the National Board of Review, including Best Director for ‘Invictus.’ (That is a thing that happened. The 2009 versions of us must have had a field day talking about that one in Trophy Talk.) The NBR also likes to spread the wealth. They gave ‘Rosewater’ and ‘Selma’ awards for "Freedom of Expression" (what?) and tossed ‘Fury’ a plaudit for Best Ensemble. So, I don’t put too much stock in Eastwood’s win. But as I joked on Twitter, I’m surprised NBR didn’t create a Best Fuggedaboutit Award for ‘Jersey Boys.’
Mike: That should be a new award: “The ‘Invictus,’ No One Will Remember This Movie in Five Years But We are Going to Honor it Anyway, Award.” If this were a real award, I think I would award it to ‘Unbroken.’
Chris: ‘Big Eyes’ might have something to say about that
Mike: You’re insane, ‘Big Eyes’ is good. And it’s growing on me. What do you have against ‘Big Eyes’?
Chris: You cannot send messages over 2000 characters long. Oh. Well, plenty as it turns out. But I do love Christoph Waltz playing Taran Killam’s Christoph Waltz impression. That is good stuff.
Mike: I actually love Waltz in this movie. I’ve never seen him so, at times, whimsical. Of course, he’s also kind of a monster, but we’ve seen him play monsters before.
Chris: He’s really having a blast. He says "bon vivant!" at one point, and it might be my favorite thing in any movie this year. I mean, to be fair, I didn’t hate ‘Big Eyes.’ It just felt slight and very much like an adaptation of a Wikipedia page. It’s the kind of movie I’ll watch on an airplane in six months and then tweet about how I liked it. So it’s not as bad as ‘Bad Words’ or ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West,’ but as an awards bait movie, it has so many problems. Maybe it should have come out in March.
Mike: “It’s the kind of movie I’ll watch on an airplane in six months and then tweet about how I liked it.” It’s a crime that's not on a movie poster somewhere. Actually, that quote belongs in a museum. You know, I’m not a huge fan of the term “awards bait.” But, if there is such a thing, I don’t think ‘Big Eyes’ qualifies. It’s too quirky. I mean, it’s a very un-Tim Burton Tim Burton film, BUT IT’S STILL TIM BURTON. And I love that he had this movie in him. There’s only one scene that if you just walked in you might think, Oh, is this Tim Burton?
Chris: True, it’s not the movie’s fault it was propped up as a contender by an awards-savvy Harvey Weinstein (who even jumped ship on ‘Big Eyes’ by refocusing on ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’). And it’s a pleasure that Burton finally made a movie without Johnny Depp. Unless he played one of the paintings? In which case, it’s Depp’s best performance in 15 years.
Mike: Not his three minutes in ‘Into the Woods’?
Chris Rosen is the managing editor of Huffington Post Entertainment. You can reach him on Twitter. Mike Ryan is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.