Silver Linings Playbook
Along with Argo, David O. Russell’s family study is the one film that’s attracted the most Oscar buzz so far. Uproariously funny and surprisingly moving as well, this is a character piece that hits all the right notes and should be a home run with the Academy. I could easily see nominations for Best Picture, actor (Bradley Cooper), actress (Jennifer Lawrence), and supporting actor (Robert De Niro) along with dual citations for Russell for writing and directing.
The latest Paul Thomas Anderson epic was surely one of the most anticipated films to show here. It’s impeccably shot and features two knockout performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Both men seem like great-bet nominees to me, particularly if Hoffman is campaigned as supporting actor. (It’s a big, juicy role and could feasibly go either way.) Amy Adams, as always, is fantastic — though she may lack a money scene, she still makes enough of an impact to have a shot at her fourth nomination. I fear the movie overall may just be too unorthodox to be a true Best Picture contender.
Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort, a nail-biting hostage drama, seems to be the consensus choice for the most awards-friendly film of the festival so far. It’s exciting, well-paced, features an impressive cast, and, best of all, it’s a true story. I could see nominations for Best Picture, director, screenplay, editing, and supporting actor for scene-stealing costars Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston.
After its successful Sundance debut (where it was called The Surrogate), John Hawkes and Helen Hunt’s sexually frank drama played here to wonderful response. Hawkes (in the lead category) and Hunt (in supporting) seem like sure bets for nominations, and their strong buzz could even help the film become a Best Picture contender.
Joe Wright’s extremely risky Tolstoy adaptation features bold directorial choices that could turn off some voters. But if the Academy finds his unique retelling of the classic novel more interesting than a typical costume drama (which it is), it could be a contender. Regardless, it’s an instant frontrunner in the costume and design categories, and score as well. From the cast, Keira Knightley has a great shot for her second Best Actress nomination, while I’d love to see Jude Law recognized for his layered supporting role as the cuckolded husband Karenin, but the role may be a bit too muted.
In the vein of 127 Hours, J.A. Bayona’s film about a family who survives the 2004 Thailand tsunami is harrowing and ultimately inspiring. Naomi Watts is a worthy Best Actress candidate for her physically demanding performance, while her on-screen husband Ewan McGregor could factor into the supporting actor race for his quieter but nonetheless effective turn.
Rust and Bone
One of Cannes’ most popular films was this Marion Cotillard drama where she plays a whale trainer who loses her legs in an accident at work. The former Best Actress winner is certainly a contender again for her fierce, glamour-free performance…as long as enough people see the movie.
I completely fell in love with Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut about a group of retired opera singers (including Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly) who live in a retirement home for musicians. The Weinstein Co. has its hands full this season, but if it puts the entire cast in supporting, then Smith and Connolly could have an outside shot.
Michael Haneke’s Cannes-winning drama about an aging Parisian couple will be a top foreign-language competitor for sure. And his 85-year-old leading lady Emmanuelle Riva gives such a heartbreaking performance as a stroke victim that she could become the oldest Best Actress nominee in history.
Here’s the real wild card of the season, which (full disclosure) I haven’t been able to see yet. But for everyone who calls the film visionary, there’s someone else who thinks it’s too strange. The film is masterfully made. I’m not sure the content lends itself to Best Picture, but I can see it scoring nods for editing, design, sound, FX, and makeup.