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Posts tagged ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

Provincetown Film Festival ’13 Wrap Up!

PROVINCETOWN FILM FESTIVAL 15th ANNIVERSARY Wrap-Up

Epstein/Friedman Triumph TWICE with Double Whammy of “Lovelace” &”The Battle of AMFAR” ~ Almodovar, “Fruitvale” and Divine also score

Oscar-winning documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman did the seemingly impossible at the 15th Anniversary of the Provincetown International Film Festival, which just wrapped. They opened this smart, exciting, essential & growing film festival with their first narrative feature film “Lovelace” about the ’70’s porn star Linda Lovelace of “Deep Throat” fame and followed it up with a terrific doc about the AIDS organization “The Battle of AMFAR.” Both were superb.

“Lovelace” was my favorite film of PIFF, boasting a surprising trio of Oscar-worthy performances from Amanda Seyfried (“Les Miz,””Mama Mia”) as Linda Lovelace herself,and Peter Sarsgaard (“An Education”) is incredibly believable in his tough-to-take role as Lovelace’s porn producer/husband Chuck Traynor. The triumvirate of great star turns is completed by an unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Lovelace’s hard-nosed Catholic mother. I never thought Seyfried had the dramatic chops, and I, like Harvey Weinstein I was told, did not realize that it was Sharon Stone as the mother, until the end credits rolled, and I nearly jumped out of my skin!

Stone has been nominated once before for “Casino”, but didn’t win, and now I think she will have another strong shot for sure, as Seyfried and Sarsgaard will, too, be up for Oscar consideration again. And this time, as a Best Supporting Actress, she could actually win. And neither Seyfried nor the worthy-as-hell, overdue Sarsgaard has ever been nominated either. Also, Radius the new Weinstein Co. off-shoot is repping this terrific film.

A biopic of a porn star? I didn’t think I’d like it, but “Lovelace” and Seyfried and Sarsgaard and filmmakers Epstein and Friedman draw you in utterly and make you CARE. And it’s funny, too, when it needs to be, and tragic as Lovelace’s story gets darker and darker. And with Harvey Weinstein in the mix behind them, look out!

“The Battle of AMFAR” is about the founders, the unlikely duo of research scientist Dr. Mathilde Krim and superstar-turned-activist Elizabeth Taylor. who joined forces to bring about a critical change in the perception of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1985. This terrific doc that sped by at a lightening pace was ALSO directed by Epstein and Friedman, who also directed “Lovelace”! Is there anything these two titans of cinema can’t do? It was definitely their time to shine at this year’s charming sea-side Festival.

The Weinstein Co. was also behind the laceratingly powerful racial drama “Fruitvale Station”, a true story about an innocent African American youth, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who is wrongly slain by police on New Year’s Eve 2008. Unknown actor Michael B. Jordan has to carry virtually every scene of the film, and he does, but it is Oscar Winner Octavia Spenser(“The Help”) who outdoes herself here as Grant’s mother.

Grant is no plaster saint and his mother knows it. We are shown flashback scenes of Grant in prison, when his mother comes to visit and tells him she won’t be coming to see him anymore and refuses to hug him. We see her try to control her wild, pothead son, when he gets out, and she tries to keep him on the straight and narrow, and most monumentally, we see her grieving when he is shot-to-death by police. Octavia Spenser meets every challenge of this bravura, heart-breaking role that pulls out all the stops, and then some.

Having won both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film at 2013’s Sundance Film Festival, “Fruitvale Station”, the subway station where the tragedy occurs, seems primed to compete across the categories as last year’s Sundance favorite “Beasts of the Southern Wild” did. And with Harvey as its’ producer, you know it will be a significant player this awards season.

An enchanting Film Festival by the sea, picturesque Provincetown is surrounded on three sides by water, and boasted a particularly strong slate of docs this year, with “Casting By” about the late, great, legendary casting director Marion Dougherty. Who at one time, as Tom Donahue’s film amply illustrates, seemed to be running the film industry in the ’70s. Dougherty speaks for herself fortunately in many insightful interviews, where it is revealed that she single-handedly talked directors Peter Friedkin into casting Gene Hackman in “The French Connection” and also persuaded John Schlesinger to cast Jon Voight in “Midnight Cowboy”! Try to imagine those two films without those two great performances, both of which won Best Actor & Best Film. Dougherty became so powerful that she turned Casting which was a male-dominated field, into the female-centric one it is today, as she constantly hired women as her assistants. But Casting Director don’t get Oscars. They don’t even have their own category, even as Dougherty and others fought for accreditation. The all-powerful DGA wants to make sure the power stays with The Director and not The CASTING Director. If the public only knew! And “Casting By” at least shines a bright, benevolent light on this tricky situation.

Another doc that knocked my socks off was “I Am Divine” about the late drag performer and cult icon of John Waters’ films “Pink Flamingos”, “Female Trouble” and “Hairspray” among many others. Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz emphasizes what a good actor Divine was underneath all the make-up and gowns and that he was poised to have a substantial character as a male character actor when he died of a massive heart attack at age 40. Too young. Too soon. And like with the unlikely heroine of “Lovelace”, Schwarz makes you care about his too-chubby protagonist, who just couldn’t stop eating. Or acting. Or acting out.

Waters was there to speak about the film and his late star. Noting that when people said that they often saw Divine walking around Provincetown in kaftans back in the Day, Waters said, “That’s a lie! Divine took cabs!”

And last but not least there is Pedro Almodovar’s HILARIOUS new comedy “I’m So Excited!” which is already one of my favorite Almodovar films. The hottest ticket in one of the smallest theaters (The Art House 2), I had to line up in a Rush Line for AN HOUR before the film started! But I got in! And what a delight it was!

I don’t remember Almodovar doing such an out-and-out comedy since “Woman on the Verge…” or “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down”. Pedro, always a scamp as well as a camp, lets the bobby pins fall where they may as he lets his hair down in the wildest situation imaginable. A plane is stalled flying over Toledo, where it circles and circle and circles. The three tres gay male flight attendants have drugged all the passengers in coach and are left to entertain the first class passengers with campy numbers like “I’m So Excited”, which is a music video-like gem. Pedro could direct musicals, too, if he wanted. I couldn’t stop laughing!

Penelope Cruz and Antonia Banderas make hilarious brief cameo appearances at the beginning of the film. And I was particularly fond of returning Almodovar regular Lola Duenas, “Sole” Penelope’s illegal hair-dresser sister in “Volver”, as a wacky psychic who predicts that she’ll lose her virginity on this flight. What do you think? Hilarity ensues! Don’t miss it!

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Oscar Predictions 2012!

My final Oscar Predictions! Shot at the great Health Food Store Green Sympathy, where they named a smoothie after me “The Stephen Holt Special”! I’m assisted here by Bway producer Jayne Ackley Lynch and Kyle Shim, son of the owner of Green Symphony, Jae Shim.

And after winning the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) Award last night, “Argo” is pretty much locked down for Best Picture and also probably Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editor, which I didn’t discuss here…but if it really is winning in all seven categories that it is nominated for, it could sweep Alan Arkin in in Best Supporting Actor.

Talk about having Oscar Momentum!

Camera& Editing- Kevin Teller

Qu’venzhane’s Best Actress Oscar Upset?

The one thing NOBODY is taking in to consideration in the now very competitive Best Actress Oscar race is the fact that NOBODY in that category has yet to compete against its’ youngest ever nominee, the now 9-year-old dynamo that is Qu’venzhane Wallis.

As my Oscar Idol Tom O’Neil keeps saying over at http://www.goldderby.com and I quote “Oscar likes Little Girls.” And historically, he’s right. Patti Duke? Tatum O’Neal?Anna Pacquin? Anyone? But they all won in Supporting. If Qu’venzhane was in Supporting, she just might win. But the Academy wisely nominated her in lead Actress which is where her astonishing performance belongs. A six-year-old carrying this entire movie? It was astounding! I’ve never seen a better performance by a child actor, or actress. She was unforgettable.

But she’s not gone up against the other ladies ANYwhere. So there’s no telling what havoc she might wreck. Jennifer Lawrence is the presumed front-runner for “Silver Linings Playbook.” But just this Sunday she showed surprising weakness at the BAFTAS in London when she lost to 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for “Amour.” But Qu’venzhane was not nominated for a BAFTA.

In fact, the Academy Award is the first serious Best Actress race she has competed in, against these women.

Well, yes, she did win Best Young Actor(or Actress) from the Broadcast Film Critics. I think she got Best Breakthrough Actress from the National Board of Review. And she won something similar from the Hollywood Film Awards.

And she’s charmed EVERYONE with her acceptance speeches. She irresistible. And Oscar likes to SURPRISE. And this would be a surprise!

It’s so boring that we all know “Argo” is going to win Best Picture(but deserving), and especially boring that Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln” and Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables” (who deserves it) are going to continue their march to the podium.

Jennifer Lawrence is also very young, 22, but Qu’venzhane is 9, and she did “Beasts of the Southern Wild” when she was six.

Exhibit A for Qu’venzhane ~ Everybody now pronounces her name correctly.
And Exhibit B – They also have learned to SPELL it correctly.

Tom O’Neil and Pete Hammond of http://www.deadline.com joked about her name in many early podcasts, but they are not laughing now. Calling her Miss Unpronounceable. They are NOT saying that anymore. In fact, BOTH have learned to say her name correcly, and say it with respect.

Exhibit C – The Academy liked “Beasts of the Southern Wild” enough to nominate it for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenply.

Benh Zeitlin has just turned 30 and he ALSO ranks as one of the youngest directors to ever be nominated, too, btw.

Some people feel a child that young’s performance is not an acting performance, it’s a manipulation of the child by the director. Hence Zeitlin’s wonderful, surprising nom.

Best Director is really the most up-in-the-air category of any of the Oscars this year. Since Ben Affleck was snubbed famously for “Argo.” We know he’s not winning? But who is? Zeitlin?

And I have this really strong suspicion that, well, a certainty, really, as an Oscarologist of LONNNNNNNG standing…that “Beasts” is going to win something big. It could be Zeitlin. It could be Qu’venzhane Wallis.

Jennifer Lawrence has her youth, her beauty, TWO multi-million dollar franchises “The Hunger Games” and “X-Men” behind her AND she’s got Harvey Weinstein and his super-effective TWC publicity machine behind her. They got surprisingly THREE BAFTAS in places that weren’t expected. Christopher Waltz for Supporting Actor for “Django Unchained” and Quentin Tarantino for Original Screenplay. QT could repeat that feat at the Oscars, since he also was snubbed for Best Director along with Affleck, Tom Hooper and Kathryn Bigelow.

AND he also got David O.Russell Best Adapted Screenplay for “Silver Linings Playbook” at the BAFTAS which nobody expected either.

Of those three wins, I think Tarantino is most likely to score at the Oscars. Mainly because Harvey is pushing Robert De Niro like CRA-ZEE here in the States for the sympathetic Italian father in “Silver Linings.” It’s been DECADES since De Niro won his last Oscar for “Raging Bull.” So I think he’ll score this VERY competitive race for Best Supporting Actor.

And “Silver Linings Playbook” is being advertised to death on TV and all the players, all four of the leads are nominated in all four acting categories and have been omnipresent on your and my TVs.

Qu’venzhane, well, she’s been around, but she’s also in school, and her responsible family wants to keep her there as long as 4th grade is in session.Or is it third?

Also, Jennifer Lawrence SHOULD have won in London. Harvey was working his magic, as I said, but the Weinsteining only went so far. It didn’t stop “Argo” Awards march and Jennifer Lawrence lost to Emmanuelle Riva.

Emmanuelle Riva is beyond brilliant and totally memorable in “Amour,” but I keep hearing that Academy members can’t watcn it on their DVDs. It’s about Octogenarians coping with death, basically, and it’s just too much, too depressing for many.

But they’ve all watched “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Oscar likes to do something that not everybody else has done in terms of a winner, and Qu’venzhane would certainly be that. She’d make history, too, as the youngest ever Best Actress Oscar winner and also as only the second African-American winner in that category EVER.

As Tom O’Neil is constantly saying “It’s which one is not like the other ones. It’s the Apple in a bag of Oranges.” And Qu’venzhane fits THAT description to a “T”

Last week she was one of the covers of Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar issue and she’s also on Vanity Fair’s Oscar cover banging away on a set of drums!

The Academy is constantly being accused of racism, especially after Viola Davis’s loss to Meryl Streep last year. That was Harvey at work, yet again. I think there’s a verb now. I’ll call it Weinsteining if anybody else hasn’t already.

And Oscar likes little girls.

And they like “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

And y’know something else? Everyone is underestimating her. But any time any one says her name on TV now, or anywhere, they SMILE.

If I was voting this year, she’s the one I’d vote for.

Emmanuelle Riva is frail and didn’t make it to the BAFTAS and is even now using a walker and may not be able to make that lonnnnng flight to LA. So there’s the fear of a no-show.

Qu’venzhane Wallis will make the MOST adorable speech ever.

You can see me interviewing her this past June when she was 8 on my You Tube Channel http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow and I ask her about the Oscars and you can see her charming response. She didn’t know what an Oscar was, BTW.

Last time I saw Qu’venzhane was at the Gotham Awards. It was outside at night, as I was leaving and she was SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS! To a bunch of screaming fans! Her mother Qu’lendrea was there and I noted to her that Qu’venzhane had gotten quite tall, since I had seen her last in June. She shooting up fast. And I said to her Mom, “Is she all right?” And she said, “Yes,” and I said “How is she taking all this?” And she said “She’s fine.”

Then she tapped Qu’venzhane firmly on the shoulder and pointed to me. Qu’venzhane remembered me! And smiled and curtsied to me.

I would vote for HER.

Maybe the all-too-serious actor’s branch of AMPAS wouldn’t. But the REST of the 4,500 membership, the infamous all male “steak-eaters” as Anne Thompson calls them just might.I call them the “SWORM”, the straight white old rich men, who are the majority of the Academy. Yeah, I can see THEM voting for Qu’venzhane.

Hugh Jackman Turns Into This Year’s Jean Dujardin! Hugh FTW!

I never thought I’d be writing this sentence, they are SUCH different men and performers, but last night by winning Best Actor Musical I saw Hugh Jackman turn into Jean Dujardin! Or this year’s Jean Dujardin to be more exact.

“Lincoln” lost BIG TIME last night. There’s no denying it with only one win for Daniel Day Lewis, who everybody seemed tired of already. Does he REALLY need a THIRD Oscar? I felt resistance all around that room last night. The applause was lukewarm, at best.

And who was it who cracked “He just grew a beard?” Was that Robert Downey Jr.? Was he expressing sentiments of a larger voting body that he belongs to, i.e., the Academy. SOME presenter onstage said that thought verbally, OUT LOUD, last night.

And then, and THEN “Les Miserables” won Best Film Comedy or Musical! Just like “The Artist” did last year!

The animosity towards Steven Spielberg was as palpable as if everyone in the room suddenly turned in to Jeffrey Wells of http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

Exclamation point!

And so this puts “Les Mis” FIRMLY back into the race. The “Lincoln” negativity is coming from the C-Span-ish-ness of that lumbering, sleep-inducing dirge. It’s History Channel all the way.

And now that I’ve got my TV back to working order, I would rather turn on the History Channel ANY DAY than sit through “Lincoln” again in my life-time.

To get it in the neck from the Broadcast Film Critics on Thursday, then again on Sunday for the HFPA, well…two strikes and you’re out.

The only important awards now left before the Oscars are the SAGs, which is where last year George Clooney lost out to Jean Dujardin and “The Artist”s Oscar win was sealed.

Watch for “Lincoln” not to win anything at the SAGs and we’re being set up for, as incredible as it may seem, another “Colored Purple” year. That was when, and I know I mentioned this SOMEwhere in my Live-Blogging posts last night, that was the year when the Steven Spielberg directed “Colored Purple” with 11 nominations going in to the ceremony, LOST ALL ELEVEN!

And it’s starting to happen again…Hugh Jackman really aced it last night by winning that Best Actor award AGAINST the Weinstein machine behind Bradley Cooper.

“Silver Linings Playbook” didn’t win much. Just Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress Musical-Comedy. She COULD win the Oscar, or it could be —wait for it —Qu’venzhane Wallis! For “Beasts of the Southern Wild!”

This is a really unpredictable year. Full of surprises. I guess I can safely predict THAT.

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.

Producers Guild Award Nominees A DAY EARLY!

With the Oscars themselves experiencing technical difficulties with their new on-line voting system, the Producers Guild, or the PGA, decided to one-up them and announced their nominees a DAY EARLY! Everyone wants to be first!

Thanks to Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone at http://www.awardsdaily.com for this comprehensive list ~
PRODUCERS GUILD NOMINATIONS

Argo” (Warner Bros.)
Producers: Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn

“Django Unchained” (The Weinstein Company)
Producers: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher

“Les Misérables”
(Universal Pictures)
Producers: Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Life of Pi” (Fox 2000 Pictures)
Producers: Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark

“Lincoln” (Touchstone Pictures)
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg

“Moonrise Kingdom” (Focus Features)
Producers: Wes Anderson & Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales

Silver Linings Playbook” (The Weinstein Company)
Producers: Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon

“Skyfall” (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson

Zero Dark Thirty” (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Megan Ellison

Not really shocked by any of these nominations except to note the “Beasts of the Southern Wild” got in (YAY!) and “Moonrise Kingdom” did, too! (Boo)

However “Skyfall” too was a bit of surprise. But I knew that “The Dark Knight Rises”, “The Avengers” and “The Master” as well as “Amour” were NEVER going to make it in.”Fllght” not getting in was also a surprise. And this could also indicate the Denzel Washington, the star of “Flight” could also be left at the Oscar altar this year.

“Amour” is NOT liked as much by the Industry types, as I’ve been saying for MONTHS, as opposed to critics who are putting it at the top of their lists. AND it’s in French. AND it’s a downer about D.E.A.T.H. It MAY get nominated for Best Foreign Film from Austria, but it could even get shut out there. It’s on the short list.

“The Master”s not making this list is no surprise to me. The movie is NOT LIKED. AND it didn’t make any money. This also may eliminate two if not all three of its’ major actors. Which would mean no Joaquim(Dirty Carrot) Phoenix, Amy(she’s been nominated enough already, 3x in this category, and they know she won’t win this year either)Adams for a pallid perfomance as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s strange, always-pregnant wife. And yes, even maybe the great PSH himself might miss out on a nod for Best Supp. Actor. He’s the only one who’s still got a little life in his Oscar dance now, I think.

This helps ALLLLL the other films. And yes, with this early move the PGA IS trying to influence Oscar voters, who still haven’t voted.

And it especially helps, on the cusp of being eliminated “Beasts of the Southern Wild” YAY!

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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