"Zero Dark Thirty": too cool, or too controversial for Oscars?

Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:56pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Just three months ago, "Zero Dark Thirty" looked like a strong contender for the movie industry's biggest prize.

But when the Oscar for Best Picture is handed out on Sunday, the thriller about the decade-long U.S. hunt for, and 2011 killing of, Osama bin Laden is unlikely to get its name engraved on the coveted gold statuette.

After a fierce campaign over the movie's depiction of torture that started in Washington and extended to human rights groups, "Zero Dark Thirty" went from front-runner to also-ran at the Academy Awards.

Despite winning early honors from influential critics in New York, Washington, Boston and Chicago, pundits say the failure of "Zero Dark Thirty" to win traction in Hollywood may have as much to do with its style as the heated debate it has provoked.

"It's a little cool," said Dave Karger, chief correspondent for Fandango.com.

"Usually you need some kind of crowd-pleasing element to have a shot at winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and that is what (Iran hostage drama) 'Argo' has. It has a great rousing emotional aspect to it which 'Zero Dark Thirty,' by design, does not have," Karger told Reuters.


Early signs of trouble for "Zero Dark Thirty" came in mid-December when U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin sent a letter to movie studio Sony Pictures.   Continued...

Jessica Chastain in a scene from the film "Zero Dark Thrity." REUTERS/Jonathan Olley/Sony Pictures