GETTING FESTIVAL BUZZ
End of Watch. This gritty cop drama isn't exactly Oscar's wheelhouse, but it's getting great reviews and it comes from David Ayer, who wrote Training Day, the movie that got both Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke acting nominations. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena will probably be campaigned for their roles as well, but we'll have to see what it amounts to.
The House I Live In. A heartbreaking documentary about the American Drug War that ought to find its way into Best Documentary Feature contention.
Argo. Here's the big 800 pound gorilla of the season right now. Ben Affleck's spy thriller got rave reviews at the Toronto Film Festival last week, and is poised to tick virtually every Oscar box if it's as big a hit in theaters-- including, believe it or not, a Best Director nomination for Affleck. That guy who used to stand around making dick jokes with Kevin Smith has grown up so fast, hasn't he?
Seven Psychopaths. Director Martin McDonagh, whose feature debut In Bruges was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, is back with another black comedy that hit big at TIFF last week, and includes some supporting performances from the likes of Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson that could be worth watching as the season goes on.
The Sessions. This big Sundance success looms large for one very specific reason-- John Hawkes's mesmerizing, very committed performance as a man in an iron lung who wants to have sex for the first time. Helen Hunt-- yes, that Helen Hunt-- could also be a Best Supporting Actress contender, and who knows, if they like the film enough it could go all the way to Best Picture too.
Cloud Atlas. It premiered to wildly mixed reviews in Toronto-- for my part, I adored it-- and it will be an uphill challenge for this massive, ambitious film to fit in with the usual Oscar profile. But you just never know what might catch fire, so don't count it out. At the very least, technical awards are very likely.
A Late Quartet. It's a posh film with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Christopher Walken in the cast, but reactions in Toronto were only so-so. We'll see what kind of push it gets.
Anna Karenina. Not everyone fell for it at Toronto, but those who did-- like Sean-- fell hard. It's a sumptuous period film that might not be for everyone, but you can never count those out when it comes to Oscars.
The Silver Linings Playbook. Having won the Audience Award at Toronto, it's positioned itself as a serious Best Picture contender, with people even talking up a Best Actress win for Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper's first nomination. There's a lot of excitement around it right now, but it's likely the Weinstein Company will keep it close tot he vest until much closer to its November release date, so expect it to be quiet for a long while yet.
Rust and Bone. A brutal but moving drama about a romance between two very damaged people, this French-language film will have a lot of American competition, but a very buzzed-about performance from Marion Cotillard ought to get it plenty of attention all the same.
Hyde Park On Hudson. Almost nobody liked this movie when it played in Toronto, but almost nobody liked The Iron Lady either, and Meryl Streep still won an Oscar for playing a real politician. Bill Murray might be able to do the same, but we'll see how much he's sandbagged by the subpar movie.
The Impossible. It starts with a nail-biting recreation of the 2004 South Indian Ocean tsunami, then segues into the kind of giant, heartstring-plucking emotions that Spielberg would envy. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts both give strong performances, but people have to be willing to put themselves through the trauma of seeing it to actually nominate it.
Amour. The Palme d'Or winner from Michael Haneke is brutal and heartbreaking, but features two phenomenal lead performances and a quiet emotion that wins over anyone brave enough to see it. If viewers can overcome the bleakness, it could be a dark horse Best PIcture contender to watch.