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Is the Best Picture Race Over Already? Harvey Sends ‘The Master’ to Venice

Is the Best Picture Race Over Already? Harvey Sends 'The Master' to Venice

Speculation about Paul Thomas Anderson’s eagerly awaited drama “The Master” has included much educated guessing about the best time to release what surely will be a major awards contender. When the Weinstein Co. suddenly notched a Sept. 14 date for the film to open in theaters last week, it became a virtual guarantee that the fall Venice-Telluride-Toronto festival triumverate would include high-profile screenings of the film.

Deadline reported Monday that the film will be part of the Venice lineup, even though it was not included in the fest program released last week. The Venice berth – which may be joined by a Telluride “sneak” and a Toronto slot – sets up “The Master” to attempt a run much like TWC’s 2010 best picture Oscar winner “The King’s Speech,” which began its sure-thing momentum at Telluride.

Anderson’s previous film, “There Will Be Blood,” scored eight Oscar nominations – and two wins – despite bypassing the awards-season drumroll that Venice-Telluride-Toronto provides. It only won two, however, and none for Anderson. It seems obvious that Harvey Weinstein thinks this is PTA’s year and plans to push “The Master” all the way to the podium as he did “The Artist” earlier this year.

While TWC has other awards-potential releases on its slate, including Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and John Hillcoat’s “Lawless,” “The Master,” with Oscar bait Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix leading the cast, is by far the best bet. And with the Scientology angle sure to provoke controversy and the possibility of a Best Picture threepeat dangling in front of Weinstein, expect an avalanche of Harvey from September 1 through February 24 – interviews, guest hosting slots, press releases, provocations, profiles, phone calls, skywriting, etc. – unlike anything he’s perpetrated before. And expect it to work.

After all, when it comes to awards season, Harvey himself is the Master.

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