Thursday, October 11, 2012

The "Zero Dark Thirty" Trailer Shows a Best Picture Nominee Coming out of Hiding

Up to this point, there has been little knowledge of what director Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty actually looked like. Being touted as "the Osama bin Laden" movie, it has been kept under wraps in ways that reflected the subject matter. The most that had been seen was a teaser trailer in which a voice screams "When was the last time you saw bin Laden?" over and over. Not too effective, but clarified that it was in deed about bin Laden. However, with a full length trailer and some actual plot revealed, does Bigelow's follow-up to Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker stand a chance of continuing to turn current events into big prize winners?

While it could still be seen as taboo, there has only been one female winner for Best Director at the Oscars. When Bigelow accepted the award from Barbara Streisand, she was met with "Well the time has come!" While former female nominees include Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola, it was a big deal. Since, there hasn't been any female director nominees and in general the contribution from said group in cinema has been at a low. While it isn't preposterous to believe that a female will win again, for now we ponder if Bigelow can go for back to back wins.

As stated, the teaser trailer left little to chew on. However, with the most recent trailer, we can finally see what is going on:

We finally get a sense of what the characters in this movie do. This isn't just an Osama bin Laden movie. It is in a way a spiritual successor to The Hurt Locker. It may not be an intimate portrayal of bomb deliminators, but through an intertwining story that shows how SEAL Team 6 took down the notorious terrorist with help from the C.I.A. The trailer features wide panning shots and a lot of espionage mixed with guys in suits. Another interesting feature is that IMdB has yet to release the character names for the cast that includes: Chris Pratt, Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler and Mark Duplass. However, with the above footage, it is hard not to tell where everyone falls. 

The biggest question is how well this movie will do at the Oscars this upcoming year. It has long been believed that Zero Dark Thirty will at least get a Best Picture nomination. Along with Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, that seems to be a given. Almost every director who has won the top prize and made a competent follow-up gets this treatment. 

Now that there are 5-10 nomination slots, this is almost guaranteed for Bigelow. If it does, it will continue to show the evolution of how the Academy has learned to accept current events as quality cinema. Somehow modern war films used to be disregarded by the Academy, but somehow Bigelow has made the genre as popular as the subject of Vietnam War was in the 70's and 80's. In this sense, she is an auteur and may be overly praised by the Academy as being one of the best. This isn't a problem if the film is good, but if the worst case scenario happens, it only puts the Oscars in as much scrutiny as they got for nominating the crowd splitting Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close for Best Picture.

Given that the movie is good, this will happen. She will get a Best Picture slot. However, can she win another statue, or better yet get a Best Director nomination? Signs are pointing to no. Even though Zero Dark Thirty has the advantage for opening in December, it will need to pick up a lot of buzz to even be considered. The field already has heavyweights like The MasterArgo, and Silver Linings Playbook to compete with. Also, since Bigelow has already won, she may be disregarded because of this in favor of giving a lesser name a chance. Of course, this could go either way, as a lot of the shots look really good.

It is also a good idea to see what The Hurt Locker got nominated for to further speculation:

*Best Directing: Kathryn Bigelow
*Best Film Editing: Bob Murawski, Chris Innis
*Best Sound Editing: Paul N.J. Ottosson
*Best Sound Mixing: Paul N.J. Ottoson, Ray Beckett
*Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal
*Best Picture
Best Cinematography Barry Ackroyd
Best Original Score: Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders
Best Actor: Jeremy Renner

* indicates wins.

Six out of nine nominations won. This is pretty impressive for a film that had to compete against Avatar and has become notorious as the lowest grossing Best Picture winner of all time. This isn't a bad thing, but only shows how much was going against the movie. With this established, Zero Dark Thirty may have less going against it, but it still has to garner some attention to be more than "that bin Laden movie."

I am almost sure that the film will earn a Best Original Screenplay nomination, if just because it is from former winner Mark Boal. If he could make defusing bombs into high caliber entertainment, then the cat and mouse game of finding bin Laden will be a bigger challenge. It also plays into the movie's favor that it is highly political and the Academy always acknowledges films that have that bent. Just look at last year's nominee The Ides of March. If this could be half as compelling as George Clooney's film, then this stands a chance at earning that nomination.

As stated, I also found the cinematography and visual appearance of the film to be attractive. This film could easily take technical categories because Bigelow has shown her capability to mix sound with tension. Maybe the editing will also get some nominations as well. Either way, the film, if successful, will at least get nominated in the technical fields and so far looks to be one of the stronger contestants. Les Miserables may have good editing, but I doubt that it will compare to Bigelow's style.

Jessica Chastain
The acting is a tough category to call. None of these actors are as established as Jeremy Renner was, and therefore has to face the conflict. Since I am not sure who plays what role, I cannot even predict yet who would get supporting or lead. Still, there is a chance that the troop aspect of the movie may get the acting attention. Chris Pratt (who was in last year's Best Picture nominee Moneyball) and Joel Edgerton may come out on top, though even with nominations, doesn't stand a chance against Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln or even the rumored Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock. Also, Jessica Chastain is coming off a Best Supporting Actress nomination for The Help. This could play in her favor and help to fill out a category that has yet to solidify.

The one other advantage that this movie has is that it is an election year. Since this is an event that has played into President Barrack Obama's past four years in office, the simple timing could raise it in the public's consciousness. Still, it would have to compete with other timely films like Argo, which while not central to the American government, is just as political of a subject. Also, the amount of hate for bin Laden could gain it recognition as the definitive bin Laden film. Still, this could all be for naught and if it appears too sympathetic to the terrorist, it is possible that this is another case like director Oliver Stone's W.

The way that I am looking at it, this is a film that will definitely have a lot of buzz surrounding as it gets closer. I am sure that Pratt or Chastain will land some acting nomination, though like Hitchcock, will only be used to fill out the fields. The biggest chance of winning that this film has in in Best Original Screenplay and the technical fields. I also doubt that Bigelow will earn a directing nomination, but still almost seems guaranteed a Best Picture slot. This is going to be one of the end of the year surprises that depending on the payoff will either show in the fields or just become "that bin Laden movie."

Do you think that Kathryn Bigelow can win awards back to back? Is it possible for Chris Pratt to earn an acting nomination and follow in The Hurt Locker's footsteps? Is Zero Dark Thirty going to be too risque of a subject to even get nominated?


  1. I think she could not because the Osama Bin Laden just got killed this year and it's risky business. If this film was released years after the killing of Bin Laden, it would definitely grab the Oscar. But I honestly think Argo or Lincoln could take the gold home.

    1. I have issues with Lincoln, simply because I feel that it is more prestige from the people involved than the actual movie, which was fine, but in no ways one of the more interesting choices.
      I am thinking for Zero Dark Thirty that it could win because of relevance and that it is recent. I understand the too soon card, but if it picks up some awards leading up to the ceremony, I think it stands a good shot, though I am firmly in the Argo camp myself. I felt it came out strong and hasn't lost stram since.