MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

20W2O: 18 Weeks To Go – Surprise!

I would love to tell you that I thought there would be as big a surprise in the awards races as, say, Ben Mendelsohn in Killing Them Softly. Great, memorable performance. But that momentum is just not there. But there are some cases that I do think could upset the apple cart as we move through the next 6 weeks… and in terms of Oscar nominations, that’s about all that’s left, folks, thanks to the bizarre choice by The Academy to institute “early voting” and a harshly short window on all nomination voting of January 3.

Javier Bardem – Skyfall: For the first time in my memory, a Bond film is a serious contender for a bunch of nominations, including acting. Daniel Craig is perfect in the film, though Best Actor is a tough nut to crack, especially for a Bond who just signed up for 2 more. No victory lap nomination. But Bardem, whose performance is more subtle and complex as any Bond villain as well as being joyous scenery chewing, should be taken seriously as a potential Supporting Actor nominee. His arrival in the film, starting with the dramatic Bond version of Frank-N-Furter’s entrance in Rocky Horror Picture Show, is like a landing strip for Bardem’s magic, rolled out for him by Sam Mendes.

Jack Black – Bernie: A very unexpected performance by Mr. Black. The question is whether he can/will work as hard as Demián Bichir did last season. People like the movie and the performance a lot… when they have seen it.

Tom Hanks – Cloud Atlas: Hanks doesn’t seem like an underdog. Heck, tell people that Tom Hanks will be in 6 roles in a film, it seems like an obvious get. But it’s not. Cloud Atlas is a movie that will be better remembered than launched. As usual, some critics are responding to a complex movie – the kind they always say they want – with derision. (See: The Master backlash) But Hanks is the central soul of this film and really stabilizes the journey. His work is everything you would expect from Hanks and much, much more. He deserves serious consideration and given who he is, has a real chance of getting it.

Jude Law – Anna Karenina: The phrase “hold the screen” is front and center in this Joe Wright/Tom Stoppard adaptation of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” And for no actor in the film more so than Jude Law, whose Karenin is a nuclear power plant of emotion, all kept inside, powerfully trying to let its energy out with precise control. Law continues to be one of the prettiest character actors in movie history.

Leslie Mann – This is 40: There was a lot of talk about Mann for her supporting turn in Knocked Up. But those expecting a longer variation on that character’s insecurity and anger and nothing more are in for a big surprise. This is as complete and complex a female character in a gentle comedy as has ever been delivered by Nora Ephron, Nancy Meyers or any other director known for portraits of women. The challenge will be voters and critics being willing to allow themselves to believe their eyes and hearts when the writer/director over the title is Judd Apatow.

Seth McFarlane – Ted (screenplay): There is a reason that this is a $480 million comedy. The script. The idea, the jokes, the structure. It would be kind of shocking to me, really, if this film wasn’t nominated for screenplay. Yet, I seem to be alone in this conviction amongst awards watchers. But the writes out there usually get down to things that moved the needle, whether by laughter or tears.

Kelly Reilly – Flight: One of the big acting surprises of the season. She and Denzel’s character are put on parallel tracks from the start of this film and Ms. Reilly is up for the role of being ying to his yang. I would say that this would be a guaranteed nomination if Harvey Weinstein was pushing this film, but Harvey pushed her years ago for Mrs. Henderson Presents, which came up short in the first year of The Weinstein Company. But that was a young beauty as a stripper with issues. This is an adult, complex performance without a lot of story to propel the audience’s experience of her. She needs to be strong enough not to throw us off when she is suddenly going toe-to-toe with a great movie star and actor. And she pulls it off.

Matthias Schoenaerts – Rust & Bone: I think Marion Cotillard has a real shot at her second Oscar for this powerful performance. Schoenaerts is the Ginger to her Fred. He doesn’t get the big events into which he can breathe deep emotion. He is brooding, pained, harsh, and thanks to Schoenaerts, quite loveable. It’s a remarkable performance that will only become serious Oscar nomination bait with face time (he is, personally, a charming and funny guy that women LOVE) and a good reaction to the film from enough voters.

Omar Sy – The Intouchables: A superstar moment. This is a movie that people just plain fall in love with. Sy beat out last year’s Best Actor winner in France’s Cesar Awards. The argument between the two was legit. This role gives Sy the perfect balance of comedy and drama… the kind of role that would have put an Oscar on Eddie Murphy’s shelf in the 80s.

Alicia Vikander – Anna Karenina: I mentioned Jude Law earlier. But you kind of expect that power from two-time nominee Law. You don’t see it coming from this 24-year-old show-stealer. Vikander’s Kitty, along with the man who has such passion for her, Domhnall Gleeson’s Levin, is at the still beating heart of this movie. She is the standard bearer for truth, above and beyond the social standards of the day. And Vikander, a Swede who has done a bit of TV and three other films (including 2012 Magnolia release, A Royal Affair), is more than up for it. Keira Knightley steps up to a new level with this film… and young Vikander, whose character kind of balances Knightley’s Anna, has enough on-screen charisma to keep the side of “good” a more than equal choice.

Rachel Weisz – The Deep Blue Sea: This is Ms. Weisz’s 10th feature since she won the Oscar for The Constant Gardener. There’s been high-profile stuff, but she has also chosen to keep doing smaller, more challenging films along the way. Last year, she starred in The Whistleblower, which few people saw because its subject was Bosnian sex slavery, facilitated by UN “peacekeepers.” The year before, it was Agora, an epic movie that didn’t quite work, but was held up by Weisz’s performance as a strong woman in a world where women were not considered of value, much less equal. She’s been there for Kar Wai Wong, Fernando Meirelles and Rian Johnson. On Deep Blue Sea, she takes the journey with Terence Davies on Terence Rattigan’s period classic and gives the most naked performance of her career… and I don’t mean counting the moments of nudity. Her Hester Collyer is a raw nerve exposed suddenly in an incisor that has gone decades without a cavity. She is lost, seemingly for the first time in her life, in something she cannot control, cannot rationalize, and cannot fix. The film, released by Music Box, grossed just $1.1m domestically, though never on more than 56 screens at any one time. So it’s an uphill battle. But if any actress can overcome those limitations with awards voters, it’s Weisz.

7 Responses to “20W2O: 18 Weeks To Go – Surprise!”

  1. movielocke says:

    Another possible surprise, The Hobbit and in particular Richard Armitage in best supporting actor–though I presume you are working from what you have already seen.

    I know The Hobbit hasn’t been seen yet, but many of the pundits have already relegated it to the Also Rans. I think that’s a big mistake, Lord of the Rings all succeeded with the Academy, I think The Hobbit will as well, and The Hobbit will be the last major release to open before early voting begins. Yes, most of the voters will be spending that Nov. 26-Dec.17 period seeing Les Mis and all the other late december releases, including the Hobbit, in screenings, but my question is will the DGA (and WGA, Wilshire Screening room etc) be installing an Integrated Media Block in Screen 1 just so they can show HFR3D for a single film?

    Obviously the Samuel Goldwyn will for the official academy screening, but I doubt we’ll see an IMB at the other screening rooms without the studio putting in the legwork to make it so. What that means probably means is that a lot of academy members–at least on the tech oriented side–are going to have to see Hobbit opening weekend if they want to check out what the finished state of the new tech is like. To me that means the last thing that voters will remember/see before online balloting opens is the Hobbit, and just look up recency bias for why being the Last Seen is so important.

    I am probably overthinking this, the studios are pretty fucking good at getting screenings set up right, but the IMB requirements for the Hobbit make me pause, I think most screenings will be 4k flat 24fps, not HFR–I suppose a similar situation is The Master, I’m certain it screened in 70mm at the Samuel Goldwyn, but how many other screenings have been in 70, how many will be in 70? Not very many, is my guess, because like HFR, 70 requires special kit install in most screening rooms. It’s interesting to think that both films, using old and new tech, respectively, are outliers of how movies are seen.

    And naturally anecdotes are anecdotal and useless, but my movie-watching group of industry-types (we cover Art Dept, post, marketing, screenwriters, and a variety of producers)–have been discussing The Hobbit, all but one of us are powerfully curious to see final HFR product, and we plan on catching it opening weekend.

  2. Rob says:

    I would love for Weisz to get in. No other performance I’ve seen yet this year comes close.

  3. kim says:

    I would love to see Jude Law get in !

  4. Joey says:

    My girlfriend just got into the academy and we just started to go to the screenings — I loved Ted and really want the screenplay to get nominated. Hopefully they’ll send us a Ted screener. Regardless, I’m going to make sure she’s seen it (I found that girls do NOT want to see this movie).

  5. dinovelvet says:

    I wonder if Judi Dench might be considered for supporting in Skyfall. Hard to discuss why without spoilers. But they love to nominate her anyway, right?

  6. chris says:

    Might as well just go ahead and spoil it since your implication pretty much already did, dinovelvet.

  7. Stephen Holt says:

    And the (still unseen) possible multitudes of nominations for the performers in “Les Miz” Hugh Jackman(lead), Russell Crowe(Bsuppactor), Sasha Baron Cohen(Bsactor), And the largest Best Supporting Actress slate since “Tom Jones” trifecta, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, and Helena Bonham-Carter! They could ALLLL get in! Or most of them! Pushing “Les Miz” ahead of everyone in the total nomination count.

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima