a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

New York’s just had its’ first major snowfall, Christmas is around the corner, and can the Oscar race for Best Picture be just down to three films already?

To judge by the major Oscar websites, it already seems a done deal. With “12 Years a Slave”, “Gravity” and unbelievably “American Hustle” being judged the only three that could. Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone has another great “State of the Race” piece and she sees it this way at http://www.Awardsdaily.com and so does Tom O’Neil at http://www.goldderby.com

But interestingly though they came to the same conclusions about THE THREE. Sasha has “12 Years a Slave” is on top, and Tom O. is sticking to “Gravity.” Me? I’m on Sasha’s side. And I hope that’s the way it plays out.

I saw “12 Years a Slave” for the THIRD time last night, and was bowled over by it all over again. It’s beauty.It’s musical score by Hans Zimmer. The cinematography, director Steve McQueen’s expert use of his large cast. There’s not a weak one among the vast ensemble. And the writing is so good! And it’s a true story!John Ridley is the screenwriting, based of course on the now best-selling book by Soloman Northrup. First published in 1856.

And Lupito Nyong’O and Chiwetel Ejiafor broke my heart all over again.

I can’t even imagine sitting through “American Hustle” Three times. Maybe to figure out its’ dense con artist plot within a plot within a plot. But not even Jennifer Lawrence’s hilarious mob wife would get me back a second time. There’s not enough hours left in my life.

“American Hustle” benefits greatly from being the new kid on the block as it were. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” have been going strong since Toronto Film Festival, which is where I saw the both of them. And that’s a problem, too. Keeping the momentum going this long. Both Fox Searchlight and also Warner’s have that as a task they must fulfill.

I just  got a press release that it’s going to be re-released, though I just saw it for the third time, as I’ve said, last night. It’s made $35 million, which is no small amount of Oscar change. And the nominations are only now about to be mailed out to the membership.And of course, those all important DVD screeners.

Seeing movies on the big screen is the only way, really, to see these important films, IMHO. I saw “Her” tonight. Cute. With a small “c”. But with so many films these days being so dark and so tragic, “Her” is really a sweet, sweet love story…about a man(Joaquim Phoenix) who falls in love with his Ciri-like Operating System, voiced magnificently by the totally unseen Scarlett Johansson. It gains by comparison. It aims to be GENTLE. And it refreshingly is.

It’s a futuristic love story, but that’s all it is. Filmed in Beijing, it looks like it really HAS been shot in the future, too.

In any other year, Joaquim Phoenix’s kindly, lost, dweeb Twombly would be in the best actor race. Most of the film is ONLY shots of his face. I didn’t know if it would sustain, if he’d be that riveting, but newsflash, he is. TOTALLY different from his disturbed loner Freddie Quell from last year’s “The Master” which, yes, indeed he WAS nominated for Best Actor for. But this year Best Actor is so crowded, he hasn’t a chance to get in.

He hasn’t turned up in any of the precursor critics awards. And neither, strangely has Tom Hanks for “Saving Mr. Banks”. His Disney on Disney performance is not going down or turning up anywhere.  At least not yet.. NOBODY nominated him for this Supporting turn, whereas they ALLLLL nominated him for “Captain Phillips” as Best Lead Actor and they’ve nominated Somali newcomer Barkhad Abdi in all three major races, too. For Best Supporting Actor.

He and Daniel Bruhl  of “Rush”as well have been nominated for the SAG Award, the Golden Globe award and also the Critics choice awards, something NOBODY could have seen coming, but yet, there they are. They made the golden trifecta that you NEED to get to be nominated for an Oscar.

Oprah was left out of the Golden Globes in Best Supp. Actress for “The Butler”. So does that make her vulnerable? Or just simply unpopular with the Hollywood Foreign Press?

And Robert Redford not being nominated for a SAG award for Best Actor for “All Is Lost” is still the most shocking snub. And it WAS nominated for Best Stunt Ensemble, which is really crazy weird because HE IS the Ensemble, in this one person movie.

That, yes, can be seen as merely stunt work.And it IS incredible stunt work. For a 77-year-old man to be doing all that running (around his sinking yacht), climbing the mast, swimming with sharks…well, he’s certainly in good shape for his age. And his agility is amazing. But is that great acting? Well…

It’s also  almost totally silent.

He says one word and one word only “FUCK!!!!!” when he begins to finally sense the utter desolation of his desperate situation. IF ONLY THAT WEREN’T HIS ONLY WORD…And I thought, “Well, he’s lost the Oscar. Right there.”

In this tough field, he’ll be lucky to be nominated. And he’s not actively campaigning as the other 77-year-old in the race for Best Actor is, Bruce Dern, for “Nebraska”. He’s everywhere. In L.A. Guess he’ll be showing up in New York to pick up his National Board of Review award for Best Actor. He won that, Bruce did. And he also triumphed at the L.A. Film Critics.
But neither of them are going to win against “12 Years a Slave”s majestic powerhouse Chiwetel Ejiafor.

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