Thom Geier serves up commentary on movies, TV, books, theater, and all manner of pop culture
Surprise, surprise. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, that unpredictable gaggle of 90-some L.A.-based “journalists” and industry hangers-on, has announced its nominees for the 72nd annual Golden Globes — and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken is completely MIA. Remember, this is the organization that only four years ago bestowed a Best Actress nomination on her for that non-musical, non-comedy The Tourist (RottenTomatoes score: 20 percent).
And the fact that the film got completely shut out of any nominations means that Jolie — and her also-snubbed A-list hubby, Brad Pitt — won’t be appearing on the Jan. 11 broadcast that the org usually likes to stack with as many recognizable faces as humanly possible. How could the HFPA have soured on Jolie? Perhaps coincidentally, the snub comes just days after the leak of Sony studio documents that confirm what many of us have long suspected: Jolie is not exactly the most beloved figure in Hollywood. Whether or not she’s “a minimally talented spoiled brat,” as the perpetually unfiltered producer Scott Rudin put it to studio boss Amy Pascal in an email, it’s clear that she has earned a rep for divalike behavior that has not endeared her to those who write the checks or distribute glittery hardware at podiums. And that can be fatal to an awards quest. Just ask Barbra Streisand, whose 1991 drama The Prince of Tides earned seven Oscar noms, including Best Picture, but not Best Director. (In fact, two directors of non-Best Picture nominees got recognition over her that year.)
Unbroken was supposed to be Angelina Jolie’s triumph, her bid for actor-turned-director greatness. It was an inspiring true story (shades of Warren Beatty’s Reds or Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind or Ben Affleck’s Argo!) with an epic sweep (shades of Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves or Mel Gibson’s Braveheart).
But it appears that it’s just not to be. Though I’d personally rate the film every bit as good (and flawed) as Dances With Wolves or even Argo, showing a commendable technical grasp of challenging material, the advance reviews have been lackluster. “A great true story is telescoped down to a merely good one,” Todd McCarthy writes in The Hollywood Reporter, while Variety declares it “well-mounted but underwhelming.”
But as ever, there’s a likability factor that enters into the awards game — or at least a very Hollywoodish desire for a personal narrative arc that can help sell/justify a campaign for mantel tchochkes. Robert Redford was a beloved matinee idol stretching himself by going behind the camera when his Ordinary People beat out Raging Bull in 1980. Clint Eastwood was a venerated figure whose late career as a director has been Oscar-blessed twice, with Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. George Clooney, Hollywood High’s reigning BMOC, has earned nominations for both Good Night, and Good Luck and Michael Clayton — and while both films lacked the heft of a Best Picture winner, everyone expects that his turn will come with the right material in the right year. However, Ben Affleck’s perceived snub in the directing category two years ago created an irresistible underdog narrative that catapulted Argo above worthy contenders like Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook to claim Best Picture. Even in the awards race, artful storytelling is king.
Unfortunately for Jolie, the story for this awards season has run away from her. She’s no longer the UN goodwill ambassador making an earnest, inspirational true story about historical triumph over adversity. She’s a “minimally talented spoiled brat” cravenly attempting to broaden her brand. Do you detect a hint of gender bias in this narrative line? Male directors can be difficult and bullying, but women (particularly ones who still appear in front of the camera) are held to a standard that requires them to remain forever relatable. Jolie seems serious about filmmaking — she recently wrapped another movie, By the Sea, that she also wrote and stars in. Who knows how her career will go, but it’s worth noting that Beatty and Costner haven’t followed their directorial Oscar wins with Eastwood-like careers behind the camera. I for one am curious to see how Jolie’s next act unfolds.