‘World War Z’ for Best Picture?

World War Z

Brad Pitt's zombie tale has suspense, emotion and substance

There are many films this year that I admire, and a few that hold a special place in my heart. One of those is a film produced by Brad Pitt and the Plan B team and I am praying that when Academy Award nominations are announced on Jan. 16, this one will
do well.

I’m talking, of course, about “World War Z.”

Did you think I meant “12 Years a Slave”? I loved that one as well. But the Steve McQueen film has already been at the center of most awards conversations. However “WWZ” was absent from the awards buzz until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences unveiled its VFX short list on Dec. 5, where the film is cited along with nine others.

Why has “World War Z” been mentioned so rarely? To me, it’s a perfect film: suspenseful, witty, emotional and substantial. The Internet folks have debated endlessly (as Internet folks tend to do) about its meaning: Is it a political allegory? Is it about pollution? A health crisis? Whatever you read into it, it’s a quantum leap above the usual zombie movie.

It meets the two highest standards when judging a film: “WWZ” does exactly what it set out to do, and it seems like a movie that people will want to watch (maybe multiple times) in the next 30 years.

And to boost its awards cred, the film has a great backstory. The media this year have been filled with tales of mega-scale star pics that tanked, such as “The Lone Ranger” and “After Earth.” Those pundits were writing off “WWZ” before it opened and echoing Vanity Fair’s breathless account of its troubled production. But the naysayers were silenced when the film turned out to be good; Variety chief critic Scott Foundas hailed it as “surprisingly smart, gripping and imaginative.” It earned $540 million globally, enough to encourage talk of sequels, despite its high pricetag.

As for awards, a zombie film doesn’t seem like Oscar fodder. But then, neither did gangster films, toga epics or kung-fu movies, until “The Godfather,” “Gladiator” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” proved that people can create a genre film that is high art.
So a big round of applause for producers Ian Bryce, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Pitt as well as director Marc Forster and writers Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof and J. Michael Straczynski.

Clearly, the guilds should consider it, from editing, cinematography, sound, VFX and SAG Ensemble. But best picture Oscar? Absolutely. I’m not an Academy member and I doubt if I would deem it the year’s best picture in my final ballot; but I would certainly put it in the handful of top films worthy of a nomination.

The multiple nominations for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “District 9” show that Oscar voters are thinking outside the box. I love that. Keep it up, gang. Let’s show a little zombie love this year!

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  1. Ian says:

    I am delighted to know that others, especially industry professionals, feel this way! World War Z went way above and beyond my expectations, with its heartfelt story and masterful maintenance of suspense at all the right moments. And the visual effects to make the zombie hordes appear to be a single, living being were magnificent!

    The film isn’t really a zombie movie, anyway; it’s a human interest film that happens to revolve around a zombie outbreak.

    Thank you for your inspired insight Mr. Gray.

  2. Frank W says:

    I was watching classic Zombie movies first run when most of you were in diapers.

    The point of WWZ and what the writer of the article seems to be expressing is that there is a deeper meaning behind it than just zombies. Just as Dawn of the Dead was an allegory of consumerism as well as a bang-up gory zombie flick (back in the day when it was rated “U”) WWZ is all about family and loyalty and the bad effects of globalization. Sure, I felt that the movie needed a bit of gore–seemingly going out of their way not to show any–and some set pieces just seemed impossible to survive — but at least we got to see the new Doctor Who shot a year before he got the job.

    I found it immensely rewatchable–i did think it could have been better, but it was a deeper flick.

  3. John Shea says:

    A spoonful of medicine helps the sugar go down? I’d love a zombie movie to win Best Picture, as long as that doesn’t encourage movie makers to add allegory and messages and ‘substance’ to stories that need none of that judgmental puritanical crap. We have plenty of documentaries and news and Internet and books if we fear pure unadulterated fun.

  4. Regular film viewer says:

    This is blasphemous. You hardly present an argument for your egregious oscar hopeful, let alone give the reader any substantial reason to even see the film.

    You want to nombiate a zombie movie from 2013? I’d argue that the bizarre, somewhat comedic and oddly romantic “Warm Bodies” outdoes WWZ.

    You’d prefer just to nominate Brad Pitt? I’ll take his character in one of the fall’s biggest underachievers, “The Counselor,” before thinking about this load of shit.

    I’ll see you at the 2015 nomination party. I’ll be the guy pushing Spongebob Squarepants 2 for best picture while everyone laughs at you trying to defend the train wreck of a sequel that will be WWZZ.

    See you then Cheese-Weeny!

  5. mw says:

    This article is a joke. The film does not have a good story to tell, and it certainly doesn’t tell the story is has well. It’s a straight forward and predictable action ride. How does that deserve an Oscar nominee?

  6. JimR says:

    Uh…no. Not even in an alternate universe. Better to give the award to STAR TREK or MAN OF STEEL than the insipid WWZ.. Whatever else it may have been, “gripping and imaginative” are far from applicable. (Unless you’ve neverv seen a movie or even zombie story before).

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