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Oscar Watching: Only a Few Mysteries Remain

The Twilight Saga is over! The series finale, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, opened to nearly $141.1 million in the States over the weekend. Kristal quite enjoyed it, but I wasn’t impressed. But Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is less divisive when it comes to Oscar since it’s not even a contender for any major races, so…

Moving to last weekend’s limited releases, Joe Wright’s take on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina bowed in 16 locations in the U.S. with $320,690 and a per-theater average of $20,043. The director’s Atonement took in $784,145 from 32 theaters for a $24,504 average in its debut, so apparently moviegoers are less keen on seeing his new period piece. The Keira Knightley-led adaptation feels bound for nods in best costume design and best production design, but it’s doubtful that the actress herself picks up recognition or that the film scores in any major races. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Knightley with another Golden Globe nomination, though.

David O. Russell’s dramedy Silver Linings Playbook, which we’ve discussed and has been reviewed, also debuted in limited release, pulling in $443,003 from 16 locations. Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo reminds us that Russell’s last venture, The Fighter, grossed $300,010 from four locations on its opening weekend in 2010. He cites other adult-oriented films, like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (a huge Oscar contender) and Sam MendesSkyfall (not so much), and The Weinstein Company’s eleventh-hour choice of playing it in select locations before unveiling it elsewhere as possible reasons for the film’s less-than-impressive bow. It expands to 420 locations today, and while Silver Linings Playbook should have little trouble scoring nominations, its chances of winning any of them might falter if audiences show little interest.

Speaking of Lincoln (reviewed), the film rolled out to locations across the country and scored $21.05 million from 1,775 locations. Subers notes that this is “easily the best start ever for a narrative feature about a real-life president.” In case you didn’t know already, this film will hog lots of the awards conversation in the coming weeks.

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (previously discussed) and DreamWorks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians hit theaters across the country today. I’ll see the former, which is apparently the better of the two films, before the day ends. Expect Lee’s adventure to earn nods in picture and director along with myriad mentions in the crafts races and a possible nod for David Magee’s adapted screenplay. The latter rests on shaky ground due to mixed critical notices, and DreamWorks can’t Pixar its way into a nomination in animated feature – especially considering the phenomenal year it’s been for animated films. The remake of Red Dawn also debuts today, but, well, it’s a remake of Red Dawn.

Looking only slightly ahead, Sacha Gervsi’s Hitchcock arrives in select locations on Friday. The film’s tracking on Rotten Tomatoes with a 69% approval rating as of this writing. That’s not bad, but you know how I’ve compared it to My Week with Marilyn, which failed to gain traction outside of the actress and supporting actor races last year? Well, that one ranks at 84% on the same site. Scores on Rotten Tomatoes aren’t everything, but I still have huge reservations about Hitchcock as an awards contender. It’ll need to gain some serious ground at the Golden Globes to stay in the conversation.

Moving on with the upcoming weekend’s limited releases, Ken and Sarah Burns’ acclaimed doc The Central Park Five also lands on Friday. Ken is a two-time nominee for documentary feature, and his film might be the one to beat in that highly competitive race this year since he’s one of the most respected documentarians ever. The fact that PBS unveiled his two-part miniseries The Dust Bowl earlier this week certainly can’t hurt.

The weekend also sees the limited debut of Jacques Audiard’s French-language drama Rust and Bone (reviewed) Marion Cotillard’s really gunning for a second Oscar nod for her leading turn in the film – as evidenced with her place in the aforementioned Actress Roundtable – but the best actress winner failed to earn nods for well-received turns in best picture nominees like Inception and Midnight in Paris. I can see the acting branch ignoring her once again – especially considering how volatile the best actress race is at the moment. Then again, delusions of grandeur (i.e. my (possibly) wishful thinking that Emmanuelle Riva’s turn in Amour might take the season by storm) might be clouding my vision.

Contenders make their way to theaters today or on Friday, but there are still some that remain a big mystery. Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible (reviewed) is a prime example of a film that’s difficult to judge due to a late release. However, many members of the press have seen it, and while I’ve been skeptical of its chances, it’s certainly a contender. I’m still wondering why so few have pointed out that it’s a movie about a Spanish family that’s being played by white people, but I digress.

Angelina Jolie recently held a special screening of The Impossible in hopes that friend Ewan McGregor can gain some traction in the best supporting actor race. For whatever reason, the actor’s yet to earn a nomination, and this might be his time to shine if the film hits. But the bigger story here is Naomi Watts, a one-time actress nominee who looks to contend in that race once again. She participated in The Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable alongside Amy Adams, the aforementioned Cotillard, Sally FieldAnne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, and Rachel Weisz, all of whom, save maybe Weisz, are strong contenders for Oscar recognition.

Also, the Palm Springs International Film Festival will give Watts the Desert Palm Achievement Award. Eight of the 10 individuals to last receive this honor also received Oscar nominations in their respective years, and five of those eight nominations resulted in wins. Expect Watts to be a major talking point in this season’s best actress race as the season progresses. (I should also note that Hunt will also receive Palm Springs’ Spotlight Award. The aforementioned Adams and Jessica Chastain, who might be a best actress nominee for Zero Dark Thirty, won the same honor in years they also received Oscar nods, so look out for her in the supporting actress race for The Sessions.)

Less mysterious is Judd Apatow’s This is 40. It debuts on Dec. 21, but are we expecting this one to play to empty houses? Some members of the press saw it this past week, and the buzz so far paints the sort-of sequel to Knocked Up in a positive light. Leslie Mann seems to be getting the best notices of anyone in the film for her work, and I imagine she’ll land a Golden Globe nod for best actress in a motion picture comedy or musical. After all, that fifth spot is up for grabs – the first four probably being occupied by Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Dame Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Meryl Streep (Hope Springs), and Dame Maggie Smith (Quartet).

This is 40’s best shot at Oscar might be in best original song. Several new songs were written specifically for the film, but Universal’s For Your Consideration website only lists Fiona Apple’s “Dull Tool” for consideration. The song’s apparently included in the film, and Apple’s such a respected singer-songwriter that the music branch might embrace it.

There’s also Les Misérables, which neither the press nor the public have seen just yet, but that’s soon to change. Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the iconic stage musical will screen in New York on Friday. The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg dropped that detail in a live-chat last week and said he would share his thoughts about the film’s awards chances after that. We’ll wait and see…

Before ending this week’s piece, I should note that voting for the Screen Actors Guild Awards begins today. In case you didn’t gather as much from the length of this week’s column, we’re in the thick of the awards season.

Edit: David Magee wrote the screenplay for Life of Pi for which Yann Martel, who wrote the novel from which the film is adapted, was earlier credited in this article. Also, Sally Field participated in the Actress Roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter. The article’s been edited to correct these errors.

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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.