a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

As TIFF winds down, I’m back already in NYC, and finally at a stationary  location, where I can tell you all about it! Came back on Amtrak yesterday and ran into Super Critic Thelma Adams (of all people!) on the train, too,  who had a LOT to say about the goings on in the Best Actress race at TIFF. I’ll let the great Thelma speak for herself. Check her out on www.yahoo.com these days. Or at her own website.

My take? Well, Dame Maggie Smith came out of TIFF on Sunday night smelling like an Oscar rose with the triumphant reception of the Weinstein Co.’s “Quartet.” Dame Maggie, who is an unbelievably vital 80(!) wowed the crowd, I understand. I saw director Dustin Hoffman(of all people) equally receive bravos and the most heartfelt, loudest and longest ovation, I’ve ever heard or seen at TIFF ~ BEFORE A MOVIE! Yes, he introduced it and Dame Maggie and co-star Pauline Collins, had already returned to the UK, I guess, but Billy Connolly and Tom Courtenay were there to receive the huzzahs at the screening I caught on Monday, the day before I left.

However, it’s Dame Maggie’s film all the way. And as for Oscar? By George, I think she’s got it. Playing a VERY temperamental and disliked retired Opera Diva being sent into a retirement home that looks like Downton Abbey, Dame Maggie pulls out all the stops and shows why she is STILL one of our greatest leading actresses.

With two previous Oscar wins, could she possibly snag a third a la Meryl Streep last year? And like last year, she has the greatest secret weapon of Best Actress upset winners, HARVEY WEINSTEIN(!?!) behind her! How can she lose?

Well, Fox Searchlight as I’ve said earlier is positioning Dame Judi Dench(they’re VERY close friends IRL) opposite her in Best Actress from “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and if they both make it into the nominations’ circle, the Dames could cancel each other out. Dame Judi has an Oscar already, too. For “Shakespeare in Love” In Supporting. For eight minutes onscreen. But stil…

AND Dame Maggie has ANOTHER campaign on her behalf going for her. “Best Exotic Marigold”s Fox Searchlight is going for a Supporting Actress nomination for that film where she is playing a crotchety Cockney retiree. So she may get TWO Oscar nominations this year! PLUS the beloved “Downton Abbey” mojo, and Dame Maggie has Oscar buzz galore.

However, if the two Dames DO cancel each other out, who else is there? Well, suddenly after TIFF, there’s a LOT. Most especially Keira Knightley’s magnificent, unforgettable “Anna Karenina” which may also garner nominations in every single category available, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay(Tom Stoppard), Best Supporting Actor(Jude Law) Best Costumes(a cinch), Best Sets(natch) Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score. Best Everything, basically.

And “Quartet” won’t have that across the categories support…It’s corny as hell. But Dame Maggie and also Pauline Collins are super superb.

And there’s Marion Cotillard’s bone-crushing, heart-breaking “Rust and Bone” and back to the spring 9-year-old Qu’venzhane Wallis seems a shoo-in. Yes, even Thelma thought so. I guess I can reveal that.

Also well received is Jennifer Lawrence(yes, HER again) in “Silver Linings Playbook” which is something I haven’t seen. The only one actually, of all the best actress contenders…But since Marion Cotillard is without make-up, without hair-styling, and without legs in “Rust and Bone” I think SHE’S got the heart-breaking edge, over any comic performance.

And lastly, I have to mention the beloved Laura Linney’s understated, muted turn in “Hyde Park on the Hudson” underplaying a “little grey wren” to perfection against Bill Murray’s larger than life FDR. But does the Academy ever go for subtle and quite as Scott Feinberg posited in his Oscar review from Telluride at http://www.thehollywoodreporter.com ? They all LOVE Laura, so it’s possible.

And Dame Maggie has TWO Oscars ~ so far. But if I know Harvey Weinstein, she could can a third! But it’s a level playing field between these great ladies, and Qu’venzhane Wallis, too. They should ALL win!

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