a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Anna Karenina’

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Year’s Ten Best Pt.2 #5-1 ~The Stephen Holt Show at Tavola!

And here’s the top five of my year’s Ten Best of 2012, the best of the best! With “Picnic”s Matthew Goodrich at Tavola, the hot new Italian restaurant. 488 9th Ave.
This has been one of the best year’s for movies in many, many years, soooo many grrreat films! If you’ve been following this blog, you probably know what I’ve picked before I announce it!

Down to the Wire! Best Actress Predictions!

Tomorrow morning it will all be over, but the shouting. Yes,dear readers, dear cineastes, tomorrow at the crack of dawn in L.A. and at 8:30pm EST, the Oscar Nominations for 2012 will be announced and all will be revealed and Phase One, as it’s known of the Oscar Campaign will be over.

This has been my busiest Oscar season ever with helping Ann Dowd’s campaign as much as I have been able. Culminating last night in her win for Best Supporting Actress at the National Board of Review Awards ceremony. More, I’m sure, on that later.

But now on to what has become the thorniest category ever this year ~ Best Actress.

To echo all and sundry, there are two locks ~ Vanity Fair cover girl Jennifer Lawrence for the manic-depressive comedy “Silver Linings Playbook” and Jessica Chastain for the taut,controversial Osama Bin Laden hunt-thriller “Zero Dark Thirty.”

In the past two days, the lovely Jessica has received her first, major, best actress award from the New York Critics Circle on Monday night, then last night she got her National Board of Review Award.

Both those awards are announced beforehand and handed out at the aforementioned ceremonies. No nominees at either. Just winners. Plane and simple.

Now, the OTHER three slots for Best Actress are really fraught with possible suprises and booby traps. (Pun) Like for instance, WILL they REALLY nominate a six-year- old? I don’t think so.

So Qu’venshane Wallis is not showing up here, as charming and disarming as she is in person and on-screen in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

As I’ve been saying all along, as much as I love French culture and everything French, I don’t think the Academy is going to nominate TWO French actresses for Acting in their own language!

That would be Marion Cotillard in “Rust and Bone,” and 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour.” I think, to be brutally honest, that the young, cute one, Marion, gets in. And Emmanuelle Riva, who faces death in the most devastating screen portrayal, perhaps ever, will not.

I’m hearing that Academy types just aren’t watching “Amour”, and don’t like it when they see it. It’s a critics darling to be sure, but since the Academy is all about the same age as the two characters depicted in this film, I don’t think they are going to watch OR nominate it. They’ll leave it to the Foreign Language Committee to determine whether this Austrian/French co-production is in, or more likely out. No matter how much critical accolades it has won. One has to keep repeating the mantra ~”There are NO CRITICS in the Academy!” And it’s true. Nary a one.

So now we have three beauties, Jennifer, Jessica and Marion. So who are the other two? I’m thinking Helen Mirren, who got a SAG nod as well as just landing a BAFTA nomination,too this morning for her rousing, bracing portrayal of a real life Hollywood icon Lady Alma Hitchcock, Sir Alfred’s uber-talented wife, in “Hitchcock”, is going to get in. And of course, she’s a former winner, too, for Best Actress, for “The Queen.” But then so is Marion! For “La Vie En Rose.”

And the last place is a toss-up I feel between two talented ladies in films that might not have been seen much yet. Naomi Watts, in the tsunami horror film “The Impossible” and Rachel Weisz for the British drama “The Deep Blue Sea.”

I’m going to plunk for Rachel, since although she really already has an Oscar,like both Helen Mirren AND Maid Marion, they like her, they really like her.And the Oscars are nothing if not repetivive and clannish in their thinking and awarding. Or re-rewarding.

But Rachel IS extraordinary in “Deep Blue Sea.”

And Naomi, poor thing,is an Australia, and is someone who gets overlooked over and over, time and time again. And the same thing may happen this year.

And some of the snobby Actor’s Branch may feel that her portrait of a mother lost and injured by the tsunami that hit the beaches of Southeast Asia a few years back, is more screaming and stunt work, than a performance.

Whereas Rachel, who BEGINS “Deep Blue Sea”in classic Oscar fashion,by trying to kill herself via a gas heater, right after WWII, is more typically, the Academy’s cup of British Tea. And also, though Naomi got overlooked by the BAFTAs today.
So did Rachel, so it’s a toss up. But I’m picking Rachel, thinking that the BAFTA membership now is circling about 300 members of the Academy, too.

Also, Rachel, like fellow Nominee Jennifer Lawrence who raked in over $600 million dollars for “The Hunger Games” this year, Rachel showed her action heroine chops for real in the hit “The Bourne Legacy.” Anne Hathaway scored this double whammy too, this year with the blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises,” as well as cornering what looks like a sure win for Best Supp. Actress with “Les Miserables.” The Academy seems to be going for gals who can act, but also kick butt.And rake in millions at the Box-Office.

And in conclusion, It could also shock of shocks be the forgotten Keira Knightley in devisive masterpiece “Anna Karenina.”

So dear readers, dear cineastes, I see ~

Jennifer Lawrence
Jessica Chastain
Marion Cotillard
Helen Mirren
Rachel Weisz

We’ll know VERY soon, won’t we? And it will all look very, very different, won’t it?
Phase Two is NOT the same thing as Phase one.

MY TOP TEN FILMS OF 2012

1. Les Mierables

2. Anna Karenina

3. Compliance

4. Hitchcock

5. Rust and Bone

6. Invisible War

7. End of Watch

8. Argo

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Deep Blue Sea

 

Dazzling Oscar Hopeful Keira Knightley ~ Magnificent as “Anna Karenina”!

Beautiful, radiant, witty, intelligent and maturing into one of the great screen actresses of our time, Keira Knightley chats “Anna Karenina” with me at the Toronto International Film Festival 2012. Her breathtaking, bravura performance of Anna as a heroine AND an anti-heroine in this radical re-telling of Tolstoy’s oft-filmed tale,is like a dark diamond and  has Oscar Nomination written all over it.

Oscar Double Shocker! 2 Best Actress slots may open! “Beasts” not nominated for Best Picture at Gotham Awards!

Still reeling from Joaquim Phoenix’s “Oscar is utter bulls–t” remark, I think it’s gone unnoticed by all except the astute Anne Thompson on this week’s Oscar Talk podcast at www.indiewire.com and also on www.hitfix.com,where when partner Kris Tapley points out that the much-heralded “Beasts of the Southern Wild” did NOT get a Best Picture nomination from the upcoming Gotham Awards, she said “That’s not a sign of strength.”

“Beasts” did however get nominated for Best Breakthrough Performer for 8 Year-old Qu’venzhane Wallis and Best Director for 29-year-old Benh Zeitlin.

But not getting a Best Picture nomination from the Gothams, the East Coast’s answer to the Independent Spirit Awards, is a real and unexpected slap in the face to “Beasts,” and to Fox Searchlight. And may forecast what I am hearing about the way the Academy itself is responding to this beautiful, small Indie film. Which is not well.

Check out Pete Hammond on www.deadline.com, who has been saying this all along. Especially the Actor’s Branch, who take the SAG disqualification of performers Qu’venzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry of “Beasts” from consideration from THEIR awards, VERY seriously. SAG is the Screen Actors Guild, whose large membership hands out their own awards and whose membership overlaps the Academy. The Screen Actors Guild is also a Union. The film version of Actor’s Equity. And all voting members of the Actor’s Branch are all members of SAG.

Non-actors when they started “Beasts of the Southern Wild “& critically acclaimed though they are, I hear that the super-powerful Actor’s Branch especially is not liking the idea of nominating a non-actress,and a non-union member, who is an eight-year-old child.

“When there are so many PROFESSIONAL actresses who gave great performances this year.” So goes the current AMPAS Actor’s Branch thinking, I am told. And it’s that powerful branch, the largest in the Academy and they are the ones, the ONLY ones who nominate the Actors. And the Actresses. And most Oscarologists have little Miss Wallis in their top five. See Tom O’Neill’s http://www.goldderby.com charts, for one example.

Meanwhile, two of the  other main contenders for Best Actress that are on everyone’s lists of five potential nominees are French.

Marion Cotillard for “Rust and Bone,” who is being honored by the Gothams and AFI and just about every which way you turn for her stunning turn as the legless victim of a whale attack. She’s a whale trainer in a Sea World-like situation in the South of France and one of her Orcas attacks her. And even though Mlle.Marion is acting in her own language French, she’s IN with a capital “I” and a capital “L” for Lock.

But  the other Gallic contender, who very well may NOT make it, I’m hearing, is Octogenarian French actress Emmanuelle Riva. Riva plays the stroke victim in “Amour” The film won the Palme d’Or this year in Cannes. And the same-aged Academy is NOT digging this grim, unrelenting film about death. It’s too much and too close for Academy members. It should’ve been called “La Mort” which is French for death.

So Riva’s nomination is not a slam dunk, either though this difficult, gripping, unforgettable film may very well score a Best Foreign Film nomination.

So BOTH Qu’venzhane Wallis’ and Emmanuelle Riva’s slots may very well not be their slots at all come nomination day. But there are OTHERS, a few stellar Others who are waiting right in the wings right at their doorsteps,

Leaving two doors, or slots, in that suddenly contentious category, WIDE open for a pair of Dames. Always bet on the Brits. Dame Helen Mirren playing The Master of Suspene’s wife Alma in “Hitchcock”(which has not been seen yet) and also perhaps Dame Maggie Smith as a retiring but disliked opera diva in “Quartet.”

I saw”‘Quartet’ in Toronto and 77-year-old Maggie Smith could very well find herself Oscar bound. And then there’s of course the beauteous Brit, Keira Knightley, much more likely as the tortured heroine of “Anna Karenina”which I also saw in Toronto, and which is still my favorite film of the year so far. For the record, I thought both performances were divine and definitely Oscar-worthy.

And the leader of the pack at the moment, according to all and sundry is Jennifer Lawrence of “Silver Linings Playbook,”which I’m finally slated to see this week.

Nevermind, the still-unseen Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty.” We still don’t know if she’s a leading player or supporting, though.

But there are plenty of worthy, beautiful Oscar performances by actresses awaiting Oscar’s nod this year if BOTH Qu’venzhane Wallis and Emmanuelle Riva don’t make the cut.

So except for Lawrence’s presumed lead, this is now a very wide open category, with a small, but stellar group to pick from. Cotillard, Knightley, Mirren, Chastain, Smith. There’s enough. Or ALMOST enough. And all these ladies, I must point out are either Oscar nominees, and many of them winners! Cotillard and Mirren both have won. And Dame Maggie Smith has two wins out of SIX nominations! Knightley, Chastain and Lawrence are all previous nominees. They are all, as Anne Thompson likes to say, “In The Club.”

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Early Oscar Predictions! Anthony Del Col & Stephen Holt

The latest Oscar news! Canadian Kulture Vulture of Rogers TV, the ultra-sharp Anthony Del Col, the co-creator of “Kill Shakespeare,” was in town for Comic Con ’12 and we got to talking about “Argo,” “The Master,””Les Misearbles,” the mysterious Snuggles4 at www.goldderby.com and many other Oscar dillys, dallys & doozies!! Enjoy!

Post-TIFF ~ SUDDENLY, So many predictions about “Silver Linings”! But TIFF isn’t the Academy, folks!

TIFF only ended on Sunday, but it’s Oscar after-effects ripple on. The announcement that “Silver Linings Playbook” won the prestigious People’s Choice Award sent Oscar pundits and Oscarologists  (is there any difference?) running for the hills. And ALLLL of them suddenly putting “SLP” in their #1 position, when this was hardly the case way back when, say, on SATURDAY!

The Oscar pick’em race turns on a dime, and it certainly just did. AND NOBODY was predicting Jennifer Lawrence would win Best Actress “out front by a mile” as Tom O’Neill put it in two podcasts ~ one which he did with Sasha Stone and Jeffrey Wells, who barely let him, the Granddaddy of all Oscar prognosticators barely get a word in edgewise! No really! But Tom was very good-humored about it.

He, who did not even get to TIFF this year. Sasha has never been. And of course, Jeff Wells was VERY MUCH there.As you’ll see when my terrific interview with him comes out shortly at http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow.

Sasha, of course, is at http://www.awardsdaily.com and Jeffrey holds forth at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

Jeff fell, as I did, and fell HARD, for “Anna Karenina”, and he was outraged, just outraged, as I was too, and still am, by Manohla Dargis’s dismissal of “Anna Karenina” as “a travesty,” and she also calls the divine Keira Knightley’s great performance “miscast. ” and what is soooo galling is that this is in the NYTIMES! Jeff was hopping mad about this. APOPLECTIC! and I am, too! So much so he barely let poor SASHA even get a word in on her own podcast!

Conversely, Tom O’Neil and Pete Hammond barely discussed Keira Knightley’s performance or “Anna Karenina” at ALL! THEY were all about Jennifer Lawrence although Pete Hammond cautioned “It’s early yet.” They can be found at http://www.goldderby.com

All I can think of is the year when “Sideways” won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto, too. It got a lot of nominations, but it lost Best Picture. I’m also thinking of George Clooney’s starrer “Up in the Air” and also just this year’s past “The Descendants” both Toronto Hits, though not People’s Choice winners.

They were, however, raved and raved and raved about out of Toronto and all season long, and then…The Air Went Out. Of Both Of Them. Almost like clockwork. And George was certainly being championed as Best Actor, too. And both times, it didn’t happen. Last year, the Little Golden Guy went to Jean Dujardin for “The Artist.” Face it, George, you’re just never going to win Oscar #2.

Interestingly, “The Artist” was also at TIFF(and at Montreal AND at the New York Film Festival) but didn’t win the People’s Choice Award, or even come in second. But of course, it did win the Oscar.

And as Harvey W. would say regarding the Academy Voters “These are the ones that count.” So just because some film has won big in Toronto, doesn’t mean it’s also going to be embraced by the Academy. Oh no. Not by a long shot.

And Jennifer Lawrence? Well, I haven’t yet seen “Silver Lining’s Playbook,” but I’m not a fan. Her flat performance in “X-Men” coupled with her execrable under-acting(non-acting to me) Academy Nominated turn(she barely moved) in “Winter’s Bone” turned me off her in a very big way. I didn’t even bother to go to see “The Hunger Games” because she was starring in it.

Bland, bland, bland. Flat and bland. Curvaceous, attractive by any and all Old Hollywood or even New Hollywood standards, to be sure. She’s pretty. Ok. I’ll give her that. But I have yet to see her be anything other than sub-par. Jennifer, I’m waiting.*sounds of my foot tapping*

But with all these critical hurrahs she’s now receiving, I guess, in the case of “Silver Linings Playbook”, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. I certainly am looking forward to seeing it and seeing what all this fuss was SUDDENLY about.

I was certainly tracking the Best Actress contenders in earnest at Toronto. I got up at 5:30 AM to make a 8:45am screening of Marion Cotillard in “Rust and Bone” and the  otherworldly, magnifique Marion did not disappoint my Best Efforts.. Neither did the lovely,understated, shy mouse of Laura Linney in “Hyde Park on the Hudson”, or Helen Hunt, the VERY naked and full frontal sex surrogate  in “The Sessions,” the sublime,tormented  Keira Knightley as “Anna Karenina,” and last but not least, Dame Maggie Smith’s all out Oscar-bait turn as an aging Opera Diva in “Quartet.”

Not ONE person in Toronto. NOT ONE, mentioned to me I should see Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook’! NOT ONE! And I was listening…In fact nobody recommended “Silver Linings Playbook” to me at all. NO BODY! And then, BAM, out of nowhere this award! And then all these predictions! On Saturday…nobody was predicting her.

As Laura Linney said to me about all this Oscar madness “I take them with a grain of salt. You have to.”

I think all of this took the Weinstein Co. by surprise, too. During TIFF the #1 film was “The Master” Remember “The Master”? THAT’S what they were pushing, NOT “Silver Linings Playbook.” Now “The Master” is a SUDDEN #3, behind “SLP” and “Argo.”

And on the other side of the gender divide ~Is it Joaquim Phoenix in “The Master” or is it Daniel Day Lewis in “Lincoln”, or is it the much more sympathetic John Hawkes in “The Sessions”? I think the jury is really out on that category and you all KNOW how the Academy relates to Comedies, which the “Silver Linings Playbook” seems to be.

I’ll let you know MY take on all this as soon as I see the remaining films. You can’t write the story of 2012 when Oscar seekers like “Les Miserables”, “Lincoln”, “Zero Dark Thirty””Django Unchained” and “The Hobbit” are all still unseen.

In that case, the person I feel most in agreement with is Pete Hammond of http://www.deadline.com !

It’s not over until the Fat Lady(or in the case of Dame Maggie Smith in “Quartet”) the Thin Lady Sings!

Oscar Races Explode at TIFF! Dame Maggie, Keira, Marion,Laura Linney square off!

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!

More Oscar Actress Action – I Get the TIFF Catalogue for the First Time!

Landing like a bomb in my lap, after 14 years of yearning (they’re too expensive for words) is the 2012 TIFF Catalogue! I got handed one on the way out for attending a lovely do this week in NYC featuring Canadian Filmmaker’s whom TIFF is featuring. And was proud enough of to fly them all into New York and put them up in style for a presentation to the New York TIFF-bound press. Or some of them.

I was the most famous person there, which always makes me wonder…like, where’s everyone else? As I said, trips begin before the start, and the Toronto International Film Fest, was ALREADY in full, delightful swing at this event. Held in a swank Soho setting, with more free champagne flowing than I can ever remember anywhere at TIFF itself.

But the TIFF catalogue, with its’ beautiful, classy, snazzy, new 2012 red cover of movie-goers in presumably the Bell Light-Box, is a gift from the Gods, in full color yet, because in it is every single film of the 300 plus movies that TIFF is going to be throwing our beleaguered way in ONE WEEKEND two frenzied weeks from now. With extended and accurate descriptions of each film and complete contact info and credit list of each film as well. *swoon*

And aside from enjoying the hell out of its’ lavish self, what have I learned from it? Since we’ve been discussing actresses here, I’ll just continue along in that vein. Why? Because they’re easier to quantify. Less roles. Less films….Easier usually to get a bead on…Most films coming up later in the year, don’t feature lead actresses the way they almost all do men. The actress race is going to be decided at TIFF. I make one of my famous predictions. Or at least who’s going to be IN, and most clearly, who is going to be OUT!

ANYHOO, Simone….

Front and center, we find out that in addition to Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Marion Cotillard, we now have Dame Maggie Smith coming full force at us in “Quartet,” the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman! Set in an old age home for retired opera singers.(Does Dame Maggie let loose with an aria or two? Or just let loose with on-target zingers a la”Downtown Abbey”?”) it looks irresistibly Oscar-bait-y.

And now we can see why Fox Searchlight has been pushing Dame Judi for Supporting for “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” not lead, though she is the lead. Because they don’t want her colliding with her “Best Exotic” co-star Dame Maggie.

Dame Maggie is everywhere! Like her Oscar-winning role as Miss Jane Brody, she is in “Her Prime!” And that  right there is her problem. She’s won Best Actress before. For that very same “Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

“Rust and Bone,” Marion Cotillard’s feature in French, is playing for the public on opening night, but is NOT the Opening Night film. Something called “Loopers” is…In recent years, the Openers at TIFF have been almost ridiculous, if not laughable…Last year’s Canadian Hockey Musical “Scores” is a perfect example…So everyone will pile into the Princess of Wales theater in the theater district for “Rust And Bone.” This beautiful old candy-box of a Victorian show palace is usually housing legit features these days, but this year, it being commandeered by the festival, and will be where “The Master” is being shown. Because it can sustain the 70mm requirements of Paul Thomas Anderson’s much buzzed about take on Scientology. Or is it really about AA? Or something else? All will be revealed next week. Or the week after. Can I wait?

I can wait.

I’ve got to get through the endlessly enchanting Montreal Festival des Film du Monde first….I’m leaving SOON! BYE!

And “What Maizie Knew” with the always-wonderful, always-an-Oscar-bridesmaid, Julienne Moore is a gala presentation. As is “Hyde Park on the Hudson.” But the lovely Laura Linney isn’t enpictured in the catalogue! Only Bill Murray as FDR! What does THAT mean? If anything… Also a gala is “Silver Linings Playbook” with Jennifer Lawrence. The only Weinstein film in the Gala List…hmmm…

Then we have the Masters section, which is where “L’Amour” and Emmanuel Rivas can be seen, followed by “Special Presentations” which is where you’ll find Dame Maggie with her arms flung high into the air in “Quartet,” Keira Knightley looking ravishing in “Anna Karenina”(she ALWAYS looks ravishing), Marion’s “Rust and Bone” (used to be “OF Rust and Bone” in Cannes. They lost the “Of” I guess in translation), Greta Gerwig in “Frances Ha”,Kristen Wiig’s “Imogene”with Annette Bening in Support, Helen Hunt’s ” The Sessions”, Rachel McAdams AND Noomi Rapace in Brian Di Palma’s “Passion”…and well, it now looks like the Best Actress race is more crowded than ever! Oliver Sudden! And Special Presentations is where “The Master” is falling, too.

But by then half these films will be deemed worthy and the other half un-worthy. Separating the Oscar Lambs from the Oscar Goats is something that the Great Gods of TiFF are particularly adept at doing. And it can be brutal.

And Jeff Wells, that great Oscar scalawag, over at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com is stirring the waters today by saying he’s heard that ONE of the aforementioned films ^ is an unmitigated “disaster”! But he teasingly won’t say which one!

Usually, I rely in the TIFF-ites to choose their Galas and Special Presentations very, very carefully…Or maybe it’s something at the NYFF coming up immediately after TIFF?

Jeff said it’s something opening in the Fall…My best first guess would be David Chase’s “Not Fade Away” which is the centerpiece at the New York Film Festival. But it could be one of the above, or Jeff is just stirring the Oscar pot, as is his wont…

But if one of these films really does get blown out of the water, you heard it here first. Or rather, second!

Best Actress Race – Pre-Festivals, Pre-TIFF

So, just where are we now with the only race I feel that has some clarity this early, and on the other hand, is also wide open? Certainly compared with last year’s Best Actress race. Which was locked and loaded VERY early on in the season, if you remember. But perhaps you don’t. Rooney Mara’s sneaking in at the last-minute with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and her star-making turn as Lisbeth Salander, was the only surprise within that top category last year.

This year, with the exit of presumptive front-runner Carey Mulligan’s “The Great Gatsby” being shifted to NEXT SUMMER! GLACK! It’s mustn’t’ve so Great after all!

With Mulligan’s departure, this leaves many, many openings, so some surprises from the Indie world, like the stunning, scary tour-de-force of  veteran character actress Ann Dowd in “Compliance.” And certainly with Qu’venzahne Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” still hanging in there in release after three months, and still making money for Fox Searchlight.  That’s two Sundance ladies, although one is only 8 years old and the other well past 50. THAT’S interesting right there, in and of itself, it’s a unique pairing…IF it happens…Sundance didn’t have any gals in the Best Actress round-up last year, now it is making up for lost time with TWO.

Then there’s the absurd rumor that BOTH could go Supporting! Uh-oh! Category confusion! The dreaded Oscar disease that killed Viola Davis’ chances last year(among many other reasons).  If NEITHER Dowd nor Wallis end up in Best Actress, the category is RRRREALLY wide open.

Remaining are the soon-to-be-seen Helen Hunt, also out of Sundance, come to think of it with “Sessions.” She’s won previously of course and that always sort of hurts. Unless it’s a category with all previous winners. That was for “As Good As It Gets” where she played a worldly-wise waitress. Opposite Jack Nicholson.

Another previous winner Marion Cotillard has a VERY strong shot, it seems, with “Of Rust and Bone” which won her screaming raves out of Cannes this year. But NOT the Best Actress Award there. Which was a surprise.

She, too, is a previous winner for her incandescent, unforgettable Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”. She’s also in TDKR, too, remember this year. Something every Academy Voting member will have seen, even if it gets neglected in the nominations and I think it will…. But “Of Rust and Bone” is in French.

They COULD hold that against her. Since also acting in French this year is another Cannes contender, which DID win the Palme d’Or, Emmanuelle Rivas in “L’Amour.” TWO Best Actress nominees BOTH acting in French? I don’t think so. But if anyone can score acting in her own language once again it’s the beautiful Maid Marion.

Also soon to be seen at Toronto, along with “Rust and Bone” and “The Sessions” is Keira Knightley’s new star-turn as “Anna Karenina.” Directed by the extraordinary British helmer Joe Wright, who guided Knightley to her first and so far only Oscar nomination in “Pride and Prejudice.” Will this be a lucky charm once again for this dynamic duo? Or will she just fall short of a nod, and get snubbed, like she did for “Atonement”, which was certainly nomination-worthy in MY book.

And then there’s the darling Laura Linney, ALSO at Toronto, along with Hunt, Cotillard, and Knightley, WOW what a line-up! I’ll just be running from one Best Actress possibility to another in two weeks. Laura Linney has been picked by Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby as the Numero Uno Best of the Best for “Hyde Park on the Hudson.” She has been nominated three times before and this would make FOUR. She’s playing a real person, FDR’s until now, unseen and unrecorded mistress. And everybody loves Laura. She’s everywhere. She got a critically lauded TV series “The Big C” AND she introduces “Downtown Abbey” on PBS with great class and style. She’s due, if anyone is!

And perhaps even more importantly, “Hyde Park on the Hudson” has now ALSO been picked up by the NEW YORK Film Festival, which doubles Linney’s(and the pic’s) prestige chances. Neither “Of Rust and Bone” nor “Anna Karenina” has scored THAT particular double festival whammy.

Well, in two weeks time all will be revealed….And unless some one pops up in a year-end movie, like for instance, Anne Hathaway being put in lead, not Supporting for “Les Miserables” By George, I think we’ve already got our Oscar lady ducks all in a row! And all at Toronto, too! I can’t wait!

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