By Peter Knegt | Indiewire September 18, 2012 at 10:43AM
Three weeks ago, Indiewire suggested 10 things the power trio of the fall festival circuit - Venice, Telluride and Toronto - might reveal about awards season. From new work by Ben Affleck, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, Brian DePalma and Terrence Malick, to films that could rocket out of nowhere, these festivals were the first opportunity for awards prognostication to move beyond intelligent (or not) guessing. So what exactly went down?
Expectedly, quite a bit. In the midst of the chaos, IW published this update, which suggested the likes of Ben Affleck's "Argo" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" had established themselves as films to watch for, while Roger Michell's FDR biopic "Hyde Park on Hudson" was the biggest disappointment. But since then, there have definitely been a few more major developments.
The most significant of which was "Silver Linings Playbook," which went into Toronto without much buzz and came out of it with the festival's People's Choice Award and near-frontrunner status in a couple of major Oscar categories (particularly best actress for Jennifer Lawrence). Between "Linings," "The Master" and sight-unseen "Django Unchained," The Weinstein Company could have their third triumphant Oscar year in a row.
Further thoughts on both "The Master" and "Silver Linings" are included in the below answers to the 10 questions Indiewire posed three weeks back (as well as in these updated Oscar predictions). Of course, there's still much to come. Among those that weren't on the circuit are the aforemenioned "Unchained," Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," and Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables" (not to mention "Life of Pi" and "Flight," which are both screening at the New York Film Festival in a few weeks).
But for now, there's definitely a considerable amount for Oscar prognosticators to work with. Just perhaps not as much as perhaps thought going into Toronto.
Question: Is "The Master" a sure bet?
Answer: It certainly seems like it. An enthusiastic critical response out of Venice and Toronto (and some killer box office numbers quickly after to boot) has pretty much secured Paul Thomas Anderson's veiled take on Scientology as a fixture in the race. Nominations for best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best actor (Joaquin Phoenix), best supporting actress (Amy Adams) best supporting actor (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and a couple technical nods seem pretty assured.
But the bigger question is can it go all the way? Its status as a frontrunner was muted a bit by the well-recieved (and more accessible) likes of Ben Affleck's "Argo" and David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" (which like "The Master," has Harvey Weinstein behind it). Though it seems like its safest bet at an actual statuette comes from Anderson himself, who could very well win his first Oscar in the somewhat thin best original screenplay category (where the likes of "Argo" and "Silver Linings" aren't competing). Best picture and director are much bigger question marks, and how big the inevitable backlash against the film is will be telling as to how possible that is five months from now.
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Question: Does Summit Entertainment have a Oscar-worthy duo on its hands?
Answer: Before The Weinstein Company's back to back best picture wins these past two years, it was the story of a little distributor that could when Summit Entertainment's "The Hurt Locker" topped the box office juggernaut that was "Avatar." Other than being the distributor of "Twilight," that's been Summit Entertainment's only really other major claim to fame... Until now?
Sadly, not as far as Oscar goes. Summit had two of the most buzzed about films heading into the Toronto International Film Festival: Juan Antonio Bayona's narrative depiction of a family's struggle in the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami, "The Impossible," and Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own 1999 coming-of-age novel, "The Perks of the Being a Wallflower." The former could definitely factor into a few races (namely for Naomi Watt's lead performance), but in general its perhaps a bit too oversentimental and thin even for Oscar. The latter, meanwhile, is an excellent little film that warrants Oscar attention more than "The Impossible" (particularly for Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller's performances and Chbosky's screenplay). But its teen-fueled content is unlikely to appeal to enough voters when all is said and done.
Question: Bradley Cooper, Oscar nominee?
Answer: He has a very, very good shot. From "The Hangover" to "The A-Team" to well, "The Hangover, Part II," Bradley Cooper has never exactly seemed destined for Oscar glory. But the huge buzz surrounding lead role as a mentally unstable former teacher in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" might very well change that.
Cooper -- alongside co-stars Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro -- was lauded for his work in the film, and he had the unique distinction of starring in not one but two of Toronto's most acclaimed titles. His work as a cop-turned-politician on a collision course with Ryan Gosling in Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Behind The Pines" also found great reviews. Though that film -- picked up out of the festival by Focus Features -- is set for a 2013 release, and thus is out of this year's conversation. But maybe a year from now we'll be asking: Bradley Cooper, two-time Oscar nominee?
Question: What's up with "Cloud Atlas"?
Answer: Well, a lot. Perhaps the most ambitious film set to premiere on the fall fest circuit, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski's "Cloud Atlas" is a 164-minute, $100 million adaptation of a best-selling book that many felt might be unadaptable. And in the end, some agreed. But not everyone. The film definitely had its fair share of cautious supporters (Indiewire's Eric Kohn admired the "sense of ambition that pushes it forward"), but not the kind of support necessary to push something into the Oscar race.
That said, when Warner Brothers releases the film next month, things could change. Strong box office and public support (both very unassured at this point) would be a huge boost for the film. But until that happens, a few technical nods are the film's only safe bets.
Question Can Terrence Malick make it two in a row?
Answer: Highly unlikely. Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" definitely surprised a few people when it ended up getting nominated for best picture and best director last year, but it went to show what a passionate base of fans he has in the Academy. But his follow-up, "To The Wonder," has so far been tough for even Malick's fans to fully appreciate.
Voted Toronto's most disappointing film in this poll, "To The Wonder" found the most mixed reviews of Malick's career (granted, Indiewire's was quite positive). And it's also yet to find a distributor. It surely will sooner or later, but the chances of it being released this year are somewhat slim when it does.
Question: Is "Quartet" the new "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"?
Answer: Probably not. Yes, it is indeed another comedic drama about a group of British retirees starring Maggie Smith. But Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut had a pretty muted response out of Toronto. What response there was was definitely not so bad, but even so it suggested the film -- which finds Smith star alongside Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly as a group of retired opera singers -- might be a bit too minor for Oscar, especially in the shadow of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
"Quartet" is set for distribution by The Weinstein Company (who are likely going to give it a qualifying run before releasing in early 2013), so the film also faces steep competition internally from aforementioned likes of "The Master" and "Silver Linings," meaning there might not be enough Harvey-love to go around. That said, best actress is indeed a weak category, and no one should ever underestimate Dame Maggie Smith.
Question: Can Ben Affleck finally make the big category?
Answer: All but assured. Reviews for his third directorial effort -- a political drama about the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis --were fantastic out of Telluride and Toronto and its clear Affleck has made his most ambitious picture yet. While his "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town" each earned strong reviews and Oscar nods for acting (Amy Ryan and Jeremy Renner, respectively), "Argo" seems like a very safe bet to get Affleck his first best picture nomination, and potentially a best directing nod as well.
How the film fares when its released theatrically in October will be its next test, but for now count "Argo" in as a major Oscar contender this year.
Question: Is "Anna Karenina" another "Soloist," or more like an "Atonement"?
Answer: More like an "Atonement," but not necessary like an "Atonement." Joe Wright's Tolstoy adaptation was unanimously championed for its design (costume design and art direction are absolute locks at this point), though critics were much more mixed on the film itself. Though such was the story for Wright's "Atonement," which ended up with a best picture nod.
At this point, call it a reasonable bet for a few major nods. Keira Knightley and newcomer Alicia Vikander are among those possibilities in the actress and supporting actress categories, respectively (especially since both categories are very weak). But if the rest of the year is stronger than average, it might be tough. Though definitely not as tough as it was for people to ever consider "The Soloist" a contender.
Question: Is Kristen Wiig about to get a second Oscar nomination, but this time for acting?
Answer: No. Kristen Wiig managed a well-deserved Oscar nomination earlier this year for co-writing "Bridesmaids," the film that propelled her into the A-list and paved the way for her to leave "Saturday Night Live" and focus her career on film full-time. The first test of that trajectory came with Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's "Imogene," which premiered in Toronto. The film saw Wiig star as a playwright who stages a suicide in an attempt to win back her ex (Matt Dillon), only to wind up in the custody of her gambling-addict mother (Annette Bening). Seemed like a potentially juicy premise, but reviews were generally mixed and Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions -- who jointly acquired the film -- seem likely to hold it until 2013.
Question: Is any other film without distribution about to enter the Oscar race?
Answer: Shockingly, not really. Like "Imogene," most of the plethora of films picked up out of the fall fest trio seem set for a 2013 release..
Some examples: Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Behind The Pines," Scott McGehee and David Siegel's "What Maisie Knew," Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing," Neil Jordan's "Byzantium," Mike Newell's "Great Expectations," Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell" and Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" were all picked up and all generally well-received. A lot of them haven't confirmed dates one way or another (though the most Oscar-friendly of them, "Pines," is a definite 2013), so we never know... But so far nothing seems to be coming out of TIFF looking like the next "The Wrestler," "Rabbit Hole" or "A Single Man."
Check out Indiewire's latest chart of Oscar predictions here.