In some respects, this week’s Oscar Watching reflects the tale of two Daniels: Steven Spielberg directs Daniel Day-Lewis in a biopic about President Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, and Daniel Craig does his thing as James Bond for this third Bond flick, Skyfall. Believe it or not, we’re talking more about the latter than the former.
But let’s begin with Lincoln. The film won positive response out of its unofficial New York Film Festival premiere, but our own Eric Ambler enjoyed it but expressed some concerns over its “struggles to strike an appropriate balance between silliness and solemnity.” Lincoln officially debuted as the closing film of AFI Fest last week and made almost $1 million at just 11 locations over the weekend. Expect it to perform moderately well this coming weekend as it expands. I only say moderately because the primary attraction at the cinema will be The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, which I might actually discuss next week in some capacity.
I doubt Lincoln is the be-all and end-all Oscar front-runner, but Spielberg’s biopic should have little trouble snagging a best picture nomination. Day-Lewis’ work should reap the method performer yet another best actor nomination, and the best supporting actor race will probably include Tommy Lee Jones’ performance. Sally Field might snag her first nomination in more than 20 years and first ever in best supporting actress, and Tony Kushner’s script might score in best adapted screenplay. Expect myriad crafts nominations – and a mention for prolific composer John Williams, of course – to follow.
Of course, we already knew that. The real Oscar story of the week (maybe) is Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. To some degree, Oscar buzz has surrounded this one for a few months, and the 23rd James Bond film lived up to the hype since critics – including our own Daniel Sarath – loved it. It’s certainly the most acclaimed installment of the franchise in recent times, and it might be the most highly lauded ever. Oh, and it made lots of money. What’s more, Javier Bardem won raves for playing the villain, and Dame Judi Dench scored some nice notices for her interpretation of MI6 head M. Both previous Oscar winners have substantial Oscar buzz for their work.
Acclaim signifies that we should watch out for Skyfall in the crafts races – Roger Deakins in best cinematography, for instance, might earn yet another nomination – which would probably be the case even if the reviews failed to burst through the genre roof. There’s also Adele’s gorgeous title track that plays over the opening credits in typical Bond fashion. It sounds like an obvious original song contender – if its use of Monty Norman’s “James Bond theme” doesn’t hurt its eligibility.
But what about major races? Bardem snagged Oscar gold for playing a villain, the now iconic Anton Chigurh, in 2007’s No Country for Old Men, but is he much of a threat this time around? I wouldn’t count on it. I’m not betting on Dench either, but this blockbuster might boost her best actress chances for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Hey, it helped in 2005 when she starred in Casino Royale and scored with Oscar for Mrs. Henderson Presents.
As for picture, well, I began Oscar Watching with an examination of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers and how it might factor into the Oscar season. As I wrote back in June, “The Avengers will become the first Picture-nominated sequel whose predecessors were completely ignored in the major races if it actually makes the cut.” Well, the same applies even more so to Skyfall: 22 predecessors, none of which were recognized in major races. In other words, I’d take the idea of Skyfall scoring major recognition – and especially the notion of a potential bid in best picture – with a very fine grain of salt.