“Our Brand is Crisis” starring Sandra Bullock could be an Oscar season X factor


For a while now, I’ve been including Our Brand is Crisis high up in my predictions, perhaps to the confusion of some. I don’t blame anyone who wonders why a film they’ve probably barely heard of warrants the attention that I’ve given it. Well, for me, I like to try and run with my hunches, and one such hunch was that this political dramedy from David Gordon Green that stars Sandra Bullock had a chance as a dark horse or X factor. For a few months, I’d waited to see if it would be a 2015 or 2016 release, but in the past week or two, word has come down from Warner Brothers that not only is it coming out this year, it’s got an Oscar friendly release date as well. As such, I thought it was time to discuss this one a bit.

This is a feature film based on the documentary of the same name (Our Brand Is Crisis), which focused on the use of American political campaign strategies in South American elections. Specifically, it was a Bolivian politician named Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada hiring James Carville’s political consulting firm to help him win the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. Carville works to use American political campaign strategies, leading to a different outcome than might otherwise have been. For the film, Bullock will play ‘Calamity’ Jane Bodine, basically a stand in for Carville, I believe. Also in the cast is Ann Dowd, Zoe Kazan, Anthony Mackie, Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, and more. Green directs, obviously, with the script penned by Peter Straughan. Sounds like it has potential, right?

I see this like I would a George Clooney/Grant Heslov project (which makes sense considering that it was once a directorial project of theirs, and they still remain as producers), at least in terms of what the Oscar appeal could be. It’s a politically themed film, with satire, light drama, and a timeliness that is always welcomed by voters. Throw in how it’s not quite like anything else thought to be in contention this year and that’s another big benefit. If the quality is there for this one, it represents something that could really stand out from the awards season pack. In a world where too many contenders seem to be so similar, this is a benefit worthy of notice.

Awards wise, Our Brand is Crisis could compete in a number of categories. Obviously, there’s big ones like Best Picture, Best Director (for Green), and Best Actress (for Bullock), but also Best Supporting Actor (for either Mackie, McNairy, or Thornton), Best Supporting Actress (for either Dowd or Kazan), and Best Original/Adapted Screenplay (for Straughan, depending on how and where it gets categorized). Throw in Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score, and there’s a wide variety of places that this flick could show up in. If the movie is good, it’s not out of the question to look at Picture, Director (for Green), and Actress (for Bullock) as a potentially attainable goal.

Obviously, this is just a hunch right now, but sometimes hunches pay off. Sometimes they don’t, of course, so this is simply an X factor in the race at the current moment. There’s as good a chance as any other dark horse that this goes the distance, so why not be bold, right? If it’s not up to snuff, I’ll be the first to backtrack, but at this second, I feel decently good about this one’s chances. Green is a filmmaker well overdue for Academy attention, Bullock is becoming an Oscar favorite, while Straughan is a former nominee, so between all that and the strong ensemble cast, there’s no reason not to think this could be a player.

It will be a few months until we actually get an eye on Our Brand is Crisis in any notable way, potentially at one of the fall festivals, but the folks at WB certainly think this could play. You don’t schedule something like this for the end of October unless you believe it has some level of Academy appeal. We’ll know then if it’s going to work out or not for Bullock, Green, and company, but right now, it’s as interesting a dark horse as any other. We’ll see in October if it’s an X factor worth taking note of, but I still feel decent about this hunch of mine. Back it, scoff at it, whatever you choose, but do consider it, if only for a brief moment…

Stay tuned for much more on Our Brand is Crisis between now and its release on October 30th!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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