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Inside the Best Picture nominees: A deep dive into 'American Sniper'

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AMERICAN SNIPER Bradley Cooper

The Academy Awards are just days away—which means it’s time to buckle down and really get to know this year’s Best Picture contenders. First on our list: Clint Eastwood’s patriotic, controversial Chris Kyle biopic.

Name: American Sniper

Tweetable description: God, Country, Family…God, Family, Country. #AmericanSniper

Movie math: American Sniper = (The Hurt Locker + Lone Survivor) − Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

Release date: Dec. 25, 2014 (limited); Jan.16, 2015 (wide)

Run time: 2 hours, 14 minutes

Box office: Opening weekend (Jan.16): $89.26 million; total domestic box office: $281,389,352 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 73 percent 

What Chris Nashawaty said: “Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is a film that evokes complicated emotions. A month after seeing it, you might still be wrestling with whether it’s powerful, profound, or propaganda. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, Eastwood is a guy who built his career on the paradox of violence—the early shoot-‘em-ups followed by the late Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus conversion of Unforgiven. But he seems to want it both ways with American Sniper, a movie that treats killing with videogame impersonality, then tries all too quickly to reckon with the psychological fallout of those acts.”

Best Line: “If you think that this war isn’t changing you, you’re wrong. You can only circle the flames so long.”—Taya Kyle

Worst Line:

Chris Kyle: “I’m not redneck; I’m from Texas!”

Taya Kyle: “What’s the difference?”

Chris Kyle: “We ride horses and they ride their cousins.”

Number of Oscar nods: Six—Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role (Bradley Cooper), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing.

Movie’s Oscar history: Cooper’s nomination for Actor in a Leading Role is his third consecutive career acting nod (he was recognized for “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” but did not win for either); the other nominees in his cateogory are all Oscar first-timers. This is the eleventh career nomination for Eastwood—his last nominations were in 2006 with Letters from Iwo Jima (which was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture); his last win was in 2004, when Million Dollar Baby won for Best Director and Best Picture. 

What it has won thus far: National Board of Review’s award for Best Director; named one of National Board of Review’s Top Ten Films; among the AFI ‘sMovies of the Year; BFCA Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor in an Action Movie; Denver Film Critics Society Awards for Best Actor; Denver Film Critics Society Awards for Best Picture; Iowa Film Critics Award for Best Movie Yet to Open in Iowa

Why it should win: Box-office-wise, Sniper beat out all other the Best Picture nominees after two—count ’em, two —days of its wide release. (This also makes the film the most commercially successful number in Director Eastwood’s folio.) It’s not every year that an Oscar contender is also a huge box-office draw—and a global watercooler topic. The film is still considered a long-shot in this category, but given its late-season surge, it just might be a surprise the Oscars broadcast can cash in on. Also: Regardless of any politicized view of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, Cooper is magnetic in the role.

Why it shouldn’t win: Despite its “fresh” Rotten Tomatoes score, Sniper is actually the worst-reviewed of all the Best Picture nominees. In light of Eastwood’s cinematic legacy and gravitas, we know this isn’t his best work—nor the last time a picture of his will likely be nominated. And finally, there’s the controversy surrounding the film, which would taint a win no matter which side you fall into.

Vegas Odds: 12/1 according to Las Vegas Sports Betting

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