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Oscar Watching: Will HITCHCOCK Murder the Competition?

The awards season never comes without a few curveballs, and Fox Searchlight just threw one our way. Last week, the distributor announced that Sacha Gervasi’s feature-film debut Hitchcock, about the legendary director and his making of the horror classic Psycho, will arrive in limited release on Nov. 23, 2012. The film stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Dame Helen Mirren as his wife Alma Reville.

Searchlight’s eleventh-hour decision to release Hitchcock this year mirrors what the distributor pulled with Crazy Heart in 2009. In the case of that musical drama, Searchlight sensed a weak actor race and knew Jeff Bridges’ performance in the film could pull off a win. The actor earned his fifth Academy Award nomination, which became his first win at season’s end. Will Hitchcock perform similarly?

For starters, it’s doubtful that Hopkins will pick up his second trophy for the film. Sure, Meryl Streep nabbed her third trophy for prosthetics and an accent change, but the actor race is quite crowded. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him pull off a nomination, though. At least the makeup job should assure a makeup and hairstyling bid. Mirren, another previous winner, might also end the season with a nomination. She benefits from a flimsy actress race, though the category is quickly becoming a competitive one.

More likely for attention is Scarlett Johansson, who feels like a formidable supporting actress contender for her portrayal of Janet Leigh, an Academy Award nominee for her iconic Psycho performance. Despite an impressive career, this will mark the actress’ first nomination if she makes the cut. Though less respected than Johansson, Jessica Biel might compete in the same race for playing the famous Vera Miles. James D’Arcy’s performance as Academy Award nominee Anthony Perkins could join the haphazard supporting actor fray.

As for recognition in picture, director, and adapted screenplay, such an outcome isn’t likely. Voters adorned two fictional movies about movies, The Artist and Hugo, with picture bids last year, with the former winning. However, the occasionally light biopic My Week with Marilyn, which accounts for the making of The Prince and the Showgirl, only scored nominations for actors Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh. Though Hitchcock could surprise us and take the season by storm, I’m thinking it’s more of a Marilyn than an Artist.

Debuting two weeks ahead of Hitchcock is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. With Daniel Day-Lewis playing the titular U.S. President, the biopic accounts for his fight against slavery and the division of the country. Sight unseen, it understandably sits atop myriad Oscar prognostication lists, with projected wins in picture, director, and actor. One day before its limited release on Nov. 9, though, Lincoln will close this year’s AFIFest. Infamous New York Post story aside, this move isn’t one of confidence; Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells states:

“It basically says ‘the AFIfest hoopla will help a little bit, fine, but we can’t risk a big wave of critical reactions. We feel fantastic about Daniel Day Lewis’s performance, his voice choice notwithstanding, but we’d rather have this film open on the strength of our three big names — DDL, Abraham Lincoln and Steven Spielberg.’”

When examining the box-office numbers from this past weekend, it’s safe to suggest removing Robert Lorenz’s Trouble with the Curve from our Oscar prognostication lists. The Clint Eastwood-led drama about a baseball scout and his daughter, played by Amy Adams, was poised to debut in the high teens but fell very short of expectations. More importantly, the film was a dud with most of the critics, scoring a 52% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Many chalk up the film’s poor performance to Eastwood’s tepidly received “stand-up routine” at the Republican National Convention, in which he addressed an empty chair as if President Barack Obama were sitting in it. However, most Eastwood films don’t have massive openings and instead enjoy long theatrical runs.

Even though the critics aren’t fans of the film, they seem to like Adams’ performance. Love for her work could bolster goodwill for the actress, who’s likely to earn a supporting actress nomination – and possibly a win – for Paul Thomas Anderson’s critical favorite The Master. The drama about a cult called The Cause scored $5 million in its first wide-release weekend after pulling in phenomenal numbers from limited release last weekend. Still, it’s doubtful that The Master makes as much as Anderson’s 2007 film There Will Be Blood in the long run.

Scoring the top spot at the box office was the cop drama End of Watch, grossing about $13.2 million. The Toronto player doesn’t seem like Oscar bait on the surface, but it has the approval of the critics. If they honor the film with their year-end awards, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña could respectively compete in the actor and supporting actor races. Writer-director David Ayer might also score recognition for his original screenplay.

The teen-targeted horror flick House at the End of the Street snagged the runner-up slot with $13 million. If the bias against this genre weren’t enough, the horrible reviews guarantee that we won’t be chatting this one up at the end of the year. Still, it goes to show that Jennifer Lawrence, who’s a best actress frontrunner for Silver Linings Playbook, is impossible to ignore this year.

Regarding limited releases, the teen-targeted drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower and How to Survive a Plague, David France’s documentary about the fight against AIDS, debuted to strong reviews and respectable box-office numbers. The latter might become a documentary feature contender, though the former’s Oscar candidacy is more uncertain.

Also questionable in candidacy is Sally Potter’s drama Ginger and Rosa, which A24 just picked up and plans to qualify for Oscar consideration before the end of the year. On a final note, one year after winning the foreign language film award for A Separation, Iran will boycott the race this year because of the controversial anti-Muslim film Innocence of Muslims.

The race is taking hold, folks. The season will certainly be exciting to follow in the coming weeks.

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The Author

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.