Ang Lee makes his latest assault on awards' season this week, when Life Of Pi hits theaters in the U.S. The magical 3-D tale is tipped for nominations at both the Golden Globes and the Oscars, though getting the public on-side and recording a large box-office opening would ultimately help its cause.
The movie - based on Yann Martel's thrilling novel of the same name - follows a young boy named Pi who sails from India to Canada with a cargo of zoo animals. When the ship sinks, he finds himself alone on a life-raft with only a Bengal tiger for company. Comparisons are already being made with Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, the multi-Academy Award winning 2008 movie that explored similar themes. Both films have young Indian lead characters who undergo intense inner journeys, as well as the literal adventures playing out on-screen. Both actors - Dev Patel in Slumdog and Suraj Sharma in Pi - were making their feature film debuts, though the former had some experience of television, whereas Sharma had next to no acting on his CV. Both films are visually stunning, with Danny Boyle's classic knocking the Academy for six with its rich colours and depiction of the hustle and bustle of Mumbai life. Ang Lee ultimately went down the 3-D route and anyone who has witnessed the preview trailer screening this year were utterly convinced he had made the correct decision. The vast seascape lends itself well to the new format and Lee has plenty of experience in making movies with aesthetics in mind. In terms of narratives, both movies are told through flashbacks with the tales eventually having religious connotations or messages.
Slumdog Millionaire was a true sleeper hit; a movie that appeared to come from nowhere before generating rapid pace as it hurtled towards awards' season. The Artist did something similar this year, as did The Hurt Locker in 2008. However, if Life of Pi is to challenge for Best Picture in February it will not be on the back of word of mouth - moviegoers will know how they feel about the movie pretty soon, with three months still to go before the Oscars. It sits at around fifth favorite with the bookmakers to win the biggest movie prize of them all, but Ben Affleck's Argo (the sleeper) and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (the blockbuster) appear to have the bases covered.