Angelina Jolie won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Girl, Interrupted. She went behind the camera as director and producer of the World War 2 biographical drama, Unbroken. It opens Christmas Day. Based on a best-selling book of the same name, it's the story of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini, a World War 2 veteran who passed away this year at age 97. His life story was one of survival, resilience and redemption. Not only was Lou in active combat, he survived beatings when he was a Japanese prisoner of war. As Lou says in the film, "If I can take it, I can make it."
How is the movie? Big and impressive. There are memorable scenes, such as the fighter plane sequences and the nearly 50 days of Zamperini being lost at sea. Zamperini and two crewmembers fight starvation, storms and sharks. British actor Jack O'Connell is terrific as Lou. You'd swear he'd grown up in Southern California like Lou did. I did wonder, before she cast O'Connell, if Jolie auditioned any young Italian-American actors in Southern and Northern California, West Coast guys who really had Italian immigrant relatives like Lou did. Unbroken moves you, yet it falls short of being a classic -- like Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan.
I don't think Jolie had a giant a budget like Spielberg may have had to do that 1998 Tom Hanks film. However, she gets the most out of fewer extras and locations. Remember how Saving Private Ryan opens with that graphic sequence of hundreds of G.I.s in battle during the D-Day invasion? Jolie opens with a pilot combat sequence and concentrates on about a half dozen soldiers. Very effective. It's action-packed and focusing on fewer men hits you with the realization of how young our military men in WW2 were. They were guys right out of high school or in their early 20s thrust into sheer horror and facing absolute evil as they bravely fought for freedom. Jolie has a nice economy as director.
As it turns out, a 1936 Olympics competitor is the cruel, jealous Japanese officer in the prisoner of war camp. He's played quite effectively by actor Takamasa Ishihara.
Dig these Women in Film history facts: The first person to get an Oscar nomination for acting thanks to a woman director was Ruth Chatterton, Best Actress Oscar nominee for 1930's Sarah and Son, directed by Dorothy Arzner. Italian actor Giancarlo Gianni was a Best Actor of 1976 Oscar nominee for the foreign film, Seven Beauties, directed by Italy's Lina Wertmüller. For that same film, Lina Wertmüller was the first woman to get an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
Barbra Streisand directed Amy Irving to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 1983's Yentl. Streisand directed Nick Nolte to a Best Actor Oscar nomination and Kate Nelligan to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 1991's The Price of Tides, also nominated for Best Picture.
Tom Hanks was a Best Actor Oscar nominee for 1988's Big, directed by Penny Marshall. Sofia Coppola directed Bill Murray to an Oscar nomination in the same category for 2003's Lost in Translation. Patty Jenkins directed Charlize Theron to a Best Actress Oscar win for 2003's Monster. Lisa Cholodenko directed Annette Bening to a Best Actress Oscar nomination and Mark Ruffalo to a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for The Kids Are All Right, also a nominee for Best Picture of 2010.
Meryl Streep has been a Best Actress Oscar nominee thanks to two female directors -- Nora Ephron of 2009's Julie & Julia and Phyllida Law of 2011's The Iron Lady, the Margaret Thatcher biopic that earned Streep her third Oscar.
Those are some of the Oscar nominations that came for films directed by women. Let's see how Angelina Jolie does with Unbroken when the Oscar nominations are announced January 15th.