It’s won the audience prizes at the Toronto and Hamptons film festivals and wowed the crowds at Telluride. Now the British drama The King’s Speech, which has already emerged as an Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture and Best Actor (Colin Firth), will finally play in the U.K. as it has its premiere at the London Film Festival tonight. Firth knows it’s an important hurdle for his lauded film. “There are certain aspects of the home environment which are not that comfortable,” he told me earlier this week while I was at the festival. “I think your own critical community can be a lot more…critical than people elsewhere. But I tend to feel quite comfortable at the London Film Festival.” Firth stands to score his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar nomination after earning one for last year’s Tom Ford drama A Single Man (and quite possibly his second consecutive victory at the BAFTAs). Is he anxious for Ford to see his latest project? “I’m apprehensive,” he says. “I kind of wish that he could see it without having to watch me.”
Tag: Best Actor Oscar (51-60 of 105)
The staff at the Weinstein Company is in crisis mode today after the MPAA bestowed a dreaded NC-17 rating on its upcoming domestic drama Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Wiliams. I won’t even get into how ludicrous this decision is on the part of the MPAA. I’ve seen far more sexually explicit films get away with an R rating. As a huge fan of the film, I’m most worried about what today’s news means for its Oscar chances. The film might be too bleak to score a Best Picture nod (though if I had a ballot, it would be at the top), but I would have considered Gosling and Williams strong lead-acting contenders. But NC-17 movies simply don’t get Oscar nominations. (Unless you count a cinematography nod for Henry and June.) Ang Lee learned that the hard way with Lust, Caution. I would imagine the Weinstein Co. is considering making a few trims to the film to get an R, but it kills me to think that the version I saw (and can’t stop thinking about) in Cannes might not reach theaters. The movie isn’t scheduled for release until Dec. 31; here’s hoping they figure something out before then.
For weeks now I’ve been comparing Clint Eastwood’s upcoming drama Hereafter to 2006’s Babel, since they both include three distinct storylines that end up intersecting by the end of the film. (And because I loved both movies.) Now I’ve just received word from Warner Bros.’ awards consultant that Matt Damon will be campaigned in the lead actor category despite appearing in less than half of the film. By contrast, the entire cast of Babel was touted in the supporting categories. (Brad Pitt, Adriana Barraza, and Rinko Kikuchi earned Golden Globe nominations, while Barraza and Kikuchi repeated at the Oscars.)
This news surprises me, I have to admit. Maybe because I’m so into the Hereafter/Babel comparison, I’m feeling like the Academy strategy should be the same for both. But if you look at Hereafter‘s billboards, it’s clear the studio is selling the film as a Matt Damon vehicle, so this decision is consistent with the marketing plan. And by placing him in lead for Hereafter, Warner Bros. conveniently avoids vote-splitting with Damon’s supporting turn in the Coen brothers’ True Grit. (Did you see the trailer? It looks great.)
The bad news? He’ll have less of a shot at a nomination in lead, which is a shame, since he delivers a solid, emotional performance as a construction worker struggling to deal with his unwanted psychic abilities. But teaming with Eastwood in last year’s Invictus scored him a nod (albeit for supporting actor), so they’re clearly a formidable pair.
With glowing reviews and impressive box office, The Social Network will without a doubt be an Academy Award nominee in several major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay are slam dunks even at this early date. But what will its toughest competition be? Let’s look at it race by race.
Best Picture I feel confident that we’ve now seen at least half of the 10 eventual Oscar nominees, now that Inception, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, and The Social Network have reached theaters and The King’s Speech, Hereafter, and 127 Hours have each played a festival or two. Of that list, The King’s Speech strikes me as the strongest overall contender. I also have a hunch that the Coen brothers’ version of True Grit could end up as a major player.
Best Director David Fincher’s been nominated once before, for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He lost to Slumdog Millionaire‘s Danny Boyle, who could enter the race again this year for 127 Hours. But Fincher doesn’t need to worry about Boyle for the win. Besides The King’s Speech filmmaker Tom Hooper, Inception‘s Christopher Nolan and Joel and Ethen Coen for True Grit seem like top contenders. Again, it’s very early, but I could even see the Academy giving Best Picture to something more traditional like The King’s Speech and recognizing someone like Fincher in the directing category.
Best Actor It’s easy to look at Jesse Eisenberg’s turn and say that he’s doing the same deadpan brainiac thing he’s done before, but I really hope the actors’ branch recognizes what a phenomenal performance he gives. The more the film takes off overall, the better his chances are—but beating the likes of Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Robert Duvall (Get Low), Javier Bardem (Biutiful), and James Franco (127 Hours) will be difficult.
Best Supporting Actor I’ve already written about the decision to mount three supporting actor campaigns for The Social Network. I’d say Andrew Garfield is the film’s strongest shot at a nod here, though he’d face a slew of comparative veterans: Geoffrey Rush is a lock for The King’s Speech, while I’d say The Fighter‘s Christian Bale and The Kids Are All Right‘s Mark Ruffalo are also deserving of inclusion. Then there’s Matt Damon, who could be a Academy-friendly scene stealer in True Grit.
Best Adapted Screenplay I’d call Aaron Sorkin the clear frontrunner in this race; interestingly, though he’s won an Emmy for writing The West Wing and has also earned three Golden Globe nods in the screenplay category, he’s never been nominated for an Oscar. Perhaps the two other top adapted contenders are past winners in the original screenplay category: Toy Story 3‘s Michael Arndt (who won for Little Miss Sunshine), and the Coens (who have actually been victorious in both screenplay races). Thankfully for Sorkin, The King’s Speech and The Kids Are All Right will both compete in the original screenplay race.
Best Original Score It’s been exciting to see the Academy’s music branch embrace contemporary artists (A.R. Rahman, Eminem) over the past decade. Can we now dream that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ uniquely hypnotic Social Network score could actually get nominated? Please yes. If media attention determined the winner, it would certainly be a race between those two and Inception‘s Hans Zimmer. Though Toy Story 3‘s Randy Newman and The King’s Speech‘s Alexandre Desplat (both past nominees) would be formidable opponents as well.
At this point I see The Social Network at least leaving the Kodak with one piece of hardware. The next few weeks will dictate how much that number could rise.
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At the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, most of the Oscar talk surrounded the latest films by acclaimed directors Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler), both of whom reached new heights that year. Slumdog of course went on to win Best Picture and Best Director, while The Wrestler scored acting nods for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. Well, fast forward two years, and Boyle and Aronofsky have done it again. Boyle’s 127 Hours (featuring James Franco as hiker Aron Ralston, who was forced to amputate his own arm after being trapped by a boulder) and Aronofsky’s Black Swan (starring Natalie Portman as a mentally unstable New York ballerina) have just screened in Toronto after successful showings at Telluride and Venice, respectively, and they’re now challenging The King’s Speech for the title of most Oscar-buzzed film of the festival.
What’s interesting is that the two directors seem to have swapped styles since their last efforts. After the frenzied Slumdog, Boyle has crafted a much more intimate drama with 127 Hours, while Aronofsky has traded The Wrestler‘s character study with Black Swan‘s noirish visual flourishes. “Darren and I, at the beginning of the Slumdog/Wrestler thing, watched each other’s films and did an interview where we interviewed each other about the films,” Boyle told me today. “I remember thinking, I must do a film where I follow an actor the way he did with The Wrestler. So 127 Hours is my version of that. And I haven’t seen Black Swan, but I understand there’s more sparkle on the screen than in The Wrestler, which was very straight. I love that sparkle as well.” Both films will have their best Academy shot in the lead-acting categories (Franco for 127 Hours, Portman for Black Swan), but I’d call them both contenders for Best Picture and Best Director nods as well.
With so many of the acting races already sewn up at the Oscars this year, Missy Schwartz and I decided to turn the spotlight on four underdog nominees that we’re rooting for with passion…and not a little futility. True, these four performers don’t have a shot in Hades to reach the Kodak Theatre stage on March 7, but that doesn’t mean they’re not deserving of our love. Check out our choices below—and let me know who’s your favorite also-ran this year.
UPDATE 3/3 The Oscar balloting process may now be over, but negativity surrounding The Hurt Locker is still dominating the news, as producer Nicolas Chartier has now been banned from attending the Oscar ceremony as punishment for sending campaign emails to voters.
2/25 And as if on cue, the Hurt Locker backlash is ratcheting up. Paul Reickhoff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has written an essay in Newsweek pointing out what he perceives as the film’s inaccuracies, saying they “reveal not only a lack of research, but ultimately respect for the American military.” Since there are only five days left in the balloting process, many voters have already turned in their ballots.
2/21 The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air‘s victories at the Writers Guild Awards don’t change much in the overall awards race—since Inglourious Basterds was ineligible for the Writers Guild prize, The Hurt Locker didn’t have much competition in the original screenplay category. And Up in the Air has swept the adapted-screenplay awards all season long.
2/16 This weekend’s Eddie Awards ceremony, in which The Hurt Locker topped Avatar to win the American Cinema Editors prize, still puts Locker in the lead for the Academy Award. Meanwhile, Avatar‘s James Cameron is packing in the campaign stops in New York: He’s being honored by environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., at a cocktail party tonight followed by a Q&A for Screen Actors Guild members, while tomorrow he’ll be feted at a lunch and will tape an episode of Inside the Actors’ Studio.
2/12 Now that the Academy Award ballots have arrived in voters’ mailboxes, the campaigning is heating up once again. Best Actress nominees Sandra Bullock and Gabourey Sidibe have been making the talk-show rounds, while Inglourious Basterds teammates Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz were just honored at a Manhattan lunch hosted by Harvey Keitel. Here are my predictions of who will win in the eight major categories when the Oscar ceremony takes place on March 7.
Prediction: The Hurt Locker In the (albeit brief) history of the Producers Guild Awards and SAG Awards, no film has ever won Best Picture without winning at least one of the four major guild prizes (PGA, SAG, Directors Guild, and Writers Guild). Avatar already lost PGA and DGA to The Hurt Locker, and it wasn’t even nominated for SAG’s best ensemble prize (Inglourious Basterds won that one). And even though it was nominated, it’s obviously not going to win the Writers Guild award. So I’m siding with history and putting my money on The Hurt Locker.
Prediction: Jeff Bridges Bridges, a five-time nominee who’s never won, already has a Golden Globe, Broadcast Critics, and SAG Award on his mantel for Crazy Heart. But even more than that, I’m swayed by the standing ovations he’s routinely received at these award shows, where the audience includes dozens of Academy members. He’s got it in the bag.
Prediction: Sandra Bullock This is clearly the only thing resembling a race in the acting categories. The Blind Side’s Best Picture nomination (compared to no other nods for Julie & Julia) means Bullock has the edge. But you can never count out Meryl Streep, who certainly has legions of fans in the Academy, who may be sick of seeing Bullock beat her. Still, it’s Bullock’s to lose right now.
Prediction: Christoph Waltz Waltz has been the front-runner for this award ever since Basterds‘ Cannes debut last May. There’s no way he’s losing.
Prediction: Mo’Nique The mother of all locks this year. Precious is likely to lose five of the six trophies it’s up for, but not this one.
Prediction: Kathryn Bigelow Even if Avatar pulls out the victory for Best Picture, Bigelow still stands to make history as the Academy’s first-ever female Best Director. A similar result happened in 2001, when a blockbuster (Gladiator) took home Best Picture and the filmmaker behind a grittier entry (Traffic‘s Steven Soderbergh) won Best Director.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, Up
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Prediction: The Hurt Locker This may just be the toughest race to predict. It’s definitely between Boal and Tarantino. Since the Academy likes to double up and give its Best Picture winner a screenplay prize as well, I’m thinking Boal’s you-are-there Hurt Locker script will take it…barely.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Prediction: Up in the Air This one, not so tough to call. With Up in the Air a true underdog in all its other races, this is the film’s best (and perhaps only) shot at a win.
What do you think of my predictions? On the money? Too safe? I’ll have updates on the Oscar season on Twitter (@davekarger) leading up to the big night.
You can blame it on Adrien Brody. Ever since the star of The Pianist shocked the Kodak Theatre by winning the Best Actor Oscar over presumed front-runners Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis in 2003, some people now forecast upsets in the acting races every year. I’ve already begun to hear it: Maggie Gyllenhaal could just topple Mo’Nique for Best Supporting Actress. Woody Harrelson is poised to upset Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor. Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep will split the Best Actress vote, allowing for Gabourey Sidibe to steal it. I’m even quasi-guilty of perpetuating this myth: When one of my Twitter followers asked me if Jeremy Renner “could pull an Adrien Brody,” I responded, “It’s a long shot, but he’s the only one who can upset Jeff Bridges.” I still think Renner is No. 2 in the Best Actor derby, but face it: It’s not happening. And neither is Maggie Gyllenhaal. Or Woody Harrelson. Or Gabourey Sidibe. We all need to be content with the reality that the only real races in the major categories this year are for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Otherwise we’re all setting ourselves up for a night of disappointment on March 7.
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