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‘World War Z’ for Best Picture?

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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