Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Was Angelina Jolie unqualified to direct the big-budget World War II saga "Unbroken"? The movie tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, a champion runner and champion survivor -- of his bomber's crash, 47 days on an ocean raft and torture in a Japanese prison camp.
Salon writer Andrew O'Hehir asks a good question about the movie: "Would it be getting less attention if (a big-time male director such as Steven Spielberg or Clint Eastwood) had made it, or more respect?"
I can answer that: No and yes. I don't recall a Spielberg or Eastwood movie opening to anything less than an orchestral response. The second part is more complex. Yes, many critics seem to resent that Angelina was provided a directing opportunity presumably because she's Angelina -- and have taken it out on the movie.
Jolie was one of only two women to direct a major-studio picture in 2014. The other was Shana Feste, who made "Endless Love." If Jolie was given the job because she's a super-celebrity, then her honor was not a blow for feminism in Hollywood.
That doesn't mean the movie is bad. It happens that "Unbroken" ended its opening week with strong box-office sales. Though perhaps long, much of it is arresting. Few will forget the terror of being cooped up in a B-24 bomber under aerial attack.
But New Yorker writer David Denby dismissed the movie as "an interminable, redundant, unnecessary epic." Then he got personal and patronizing: "You feel like yelling 'Cut!' to the director, Angelina Jolie, who confuses long scenes of sadism with truth-telling."
Look, one can sympathize with critics overcome by Jolie fatigue. The woman is a vertically integrated, self-promoting conglomerate. Ever since she issued racy self-photos as a teen, she has regaled the public with her every detail -- the tattoos and drug use and marriages and mental illness and bisexuality and double mastectomy.
Her humanitarian subsidiary has Jolie visiting refugee camps with cameras in tow, becoming a U.N. goodwill ambassador, addressing the G-8 foreign ministers and starring in documentaries about herself. She adopted three foreign children -- from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam -- and sold pictures of them (and her biological babies) to fan magazines.
This is in addition to starring in a big-screen production line as sex kittens, superheroes and troubled women alike and being voted "Most Beautiful Woman in the World" by the readers of Vanity Fair. She's also married to Brad Pitt.
It couldn't have helped Jolie that the opening of "Unbroken" coincided with the release of hacked Sony emails in which executive Scott Rudin calls her "a minimally talented spoiled brat." Jolie was apparently trying to lure a director whom Rudin wanted for his movie on Steve Jobs to a movie she was starring in. (We are shocked, shocked to find that hardball is going on in Hollywood.)
The Jolie story seemed to little concern the attendees in my suburban multiplex who applauded at the end of "Unbroken." They were there to see a movie.
OK, so "Unbroken" is highly derivative of earlier movies. Little coming out of Hollywood isn't.
Another recent biopic, "The Theory of Everything," is a parade of Hollywood cliches. Though Denby gave the movie about physicist Stephen Hawking a mixed review, he honored it with three times the space provided "Unbroken," and he didn't pummel the director in the process.
Can more than a handful of female directors who have artistic vision and intellectual depth but who aren't fabulous creatures get hired for big pictures? (Their male equivalents do.) That's the real issue. Among major studios in 2014, they could be counted on one finger of one hand.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentary.
See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.