Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Could '1917' win the Oscar for best picture? The case for Sam Mendes' WWI drama

Feb 06. 2020
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By The Washington Post · Travis M. Andrews · ENTERTAINMENT, FILM 

(This story is part of a series evaluating the chances of all nine best picture nominees.) - - - From "The Hurt Locker" to "Platoon" to "Lawrence of Arabia," war movies have a history of winning best picture (along with a glut of other awards) at the Oscars. That bodes pretty well for "1917," the World War I epic directed by previous Oscar winner Sam Mendes and shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is widely considered to be the best in the business. The two made the movie appear as i

The movie also comes with a compelling backstory, complete with the sort of sentimentality the academy gobbles up: Mendes's grandfather Alfred fought in World War I and would tell stories of his time serving. One of these tales found Alfred delivering a message across no man's land, the area between the warring trenches. "That image of him, that little man alone in that vast emptiness, stuck with me," Mendes told The Washington Post. "And when I came to have the courage to sit down and write my own script, that was the story I felt compelled to tell."

Total nominations: 10 (picture, director, score, original screenplay, cinematography, visual effects, sound mixing, sound editing, production design, makeup and hairstyling).

Synopsis: Two young British soldiers are ordered to abandon the trenches and enter enemy territory to deliver a message calling off an attack on a German platoon.

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman as Lance Corporal Blake and George MacKay as Lance Corporal Schofield, with a supporting cast rounded out by Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Richard Madden.

Why it could win: Let's set aside the fact that this is a prestige war movie, something of a nectar for academy voters. Let's also set aside that Mendes dedicated the film to his grandfather, who inspired it. The filmmakers spent months speaking to the press about the actual creation of the movie, and "1917" is the rare instance in which the behind-the-scenes stories are actually interesting.

The movie is shot to look like it's happening in real time, which required the entire film to be painstakingly outlined beforehand. Mendes and his team set up camp in an enormous field and mapped out the entire film, plunking down different colored flags to show where this actor or that camera should be when shooting commenced. The dialogue was precisely timed; the sets built with a set of strict guidelines in place. The movie is a true technical feat.

Why it might not win: The movie didn't receive a wide release until January, long after the other eight contenders began marinating in the public. Historically, that places it at something of a disadvantage, one that might be somewhat mitigated by the barrage of press preceding its initial, limited December release. It's also been criticized for being more of a technical achievement than an emotional one, which could prove problematic, depending on how many voters agree with that statement.

 

 

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