Tailor-made for end of the year Seriousness, Michael Winterbottom’s “Welcome to Sarajevo” is already being compared to another tale of journalists-in-war, and one with Oscar laurels — “The Killing Field.” “Sarajevo” is simply one of the few movies this season dealing in topical issues, a factor which traditionally resonates at Oscar time.
Miramax’s marketing focus appears to be on the film and the themes of the Bosnian War, helped along by some strong reviews. The ensemble mix of highly visible names such as Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei with lesser-knowns Stephen Dillane and Kerry Fox may provide tough sledding for the acting candidates.
Focus, then, might shift to the adapted script by Frank Cottrell Boyce (from Michael Nicholson’s book, “Natasha’s Story”), Winterbottom’s directorial re-staging of the siege of Sarajevo and Daf Hobson’s newsreel-style cinematography and circuitous tracking camera. Like so many movies this year, Adrian Johnston’s score is somewhat lost in a flurry of songs.
Finally, the film’s best picture chances rest on the Academy’s desire to include a topical political film not made by an American, but which hits such sentimental buttons as the rescuing of wartime refugee children. Given the issue-free season, this may be enough for “Sarajevo” to win the war.
Classic Oscar credentials: 7 (Somewhat epic in scope, but obviously on a budget)
Cause celebre: 10 (Bosnian War, refugees, journalistic ethics debates)
Vanity element: 2 (Harrelson-Tomei only stars: they’re mostly off-screen.)
The David vs. Goliath Syndrome: 7 (Perennial Miramax factor, which company will exploit to hilt)
The feel-good movie of the year: 3 (Wartime tragedy, with some triumph)
The unavoidable, inexorable buzz: 6 (Respect, if not excitement among industry watchers)
Idiot savants have more fun: 0
Timing is everything: 8 (Prime opening slot in Miramax’s crowded slate)
OQ total: 43