The Toronto International Film Festival ended last weekend. “The Master” is opening wide this weekend. The race to this year’s Oscars has begun. And now so has our official coverage of the race.
Coming out of Toronto there were a number of clear contenders as well as a few fuzzy ones. They are:
“Silver Linings Playbook” — This has to be considered the overall favorite so far. It won the Audience Award at Toronto (as did eventual Oscar winners “The King’s Speech” and “Slumdog Millionaire”) and along with a best picture nomination is seems likely for best actress (Jennifer Lawrence), actor (Bradley Cooper), supporting actor (Robert De Niro), writer and director (David O. Russell). It’s a twisted romance about mental illness and football and just such a damned audience pleaser. It opens here Nov. 16.
“Argo” — Probable best picture and best director for Ben Affleck. Based on a true story (an Oscar plus), it features Hollywood in a positive role (a big Oscar plus), but it’s too much of an ensemble piece to score any acting nods. Also a real crowd-pleaser, a thriller with comic elements, about the rescue of six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis. It opens Oct. 12, so it could fade.
“The Impossible” — Shoo-in best actress nomination for Naomi Watts, likely supporting actor for Ewen MacGregor, possible best picture and multiple technicals. But the movie is downright harrowing (although also ecstatic), the true story (repeat, Oscar plus) of a vacationing family swept away in the tsunami that devastated Thailand.
“The Sessions” — True story (getting the drift here?) of a guy who’s lived most of his life in an iron lung but decides to lose his virginity with the help of a sex therapist. Surprisingly funny while touching. Actor nom for John Hawkes, supporting actress for Helen Hunt, and maybe supporting actor for William H. Macy as an understanding priest. Depending on the eventual field, maybe even a best pic nod. Opens 11/9
“The Master” — Opened wide today. Reaction has been admiring if mixed, with most praise directed at actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. Problem is, Phoenix isn’t a schmoozer and Hoffman already has an Oscar, and besides, they could cancel each other out. Beyond that, it has a long time to fade.
“Cloud Atlas” — I’m guessing this is one of the rare instances where audience reaction may drive Academy reaction. Critics are already split into a love or loathe relationship with this wildly ambitious film from the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer which tells six different stories spread over centuries at the same time. I could see it becoming a cultural phenom or a gargantuan flop. If it goes phenom look for best actor (Tom Hanks), supporting actor (Jim Broadbent), pic, director, screenplay et al. If it bombs look for a $2.99 DVD within the year. Opens 10/26
There are, of course, many potential contenders — “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Django Unchained,” “Promised Land,” “Les Miserables” — yet to come, many of which are traditionally DOA, with some dark horses sneaking in at the end. But make no mistake: It’s on.