Lightning Round: 9/21

Hoo boy. Lulled into the drab routine of searching for noteworthy events in the summer doldrums, I had forgotten about the flurry of random news and awards-related tidbits that annually floods the film world immediately following TIFF. Now that a lot of the major contenders have gotten their feet wet, campaigns are get kicked into gear and wild speculation abounds regarding who will rise to meet the challenge of the presumed frontrunners. Breakout stars are featured in profile after profile while disappointing flops are quickly swept under the rug. All in all, an exciting time. Here’s a run-down on some of the news of the past week:

  • Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” followed up on its strong Telluride buzz by taking the coveted People’s Choice Award at TIFF. Previous winners include “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Precious,” and “American Beauty,” so that win is often a strong springboard into the Oscar race (though certainly not a guarantee of ultimate victory). With 10 slots, a Best Pic nomination is as good as locked for “The King’s Speech” at this point.
  • FIPRESCI (the international critics’ association) shocked many this week by naming Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” as their film of the year. FIPRESCI has a thing for auteurs (past winners include P.T. Anderson’s “Magnolia” and “There Will Be Blood,” Almodóvar’s “All About My Mother” and “Volver,” Godard’s “Notre Musique,” and Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”), so I wouldn’t read too much into this, but we know from the success of “The Pianist” that Polanski probably does have a strong following in the Academy. Remember, these are a lot of the same people who (annoyingly) clamored for and praised his ultimate release from Swiss authorities a couple months back. Could voter sympathy bring “The Ghost Writer” into the mix? I still doubt it, but we’ll see.
  • John Cameron Mitchell’s “Rabbit Hole” got picked up by Lionsgate (taking on a seriously full plate this year if you combine the studio with its subsidiary Roadside Attractions; certainly more so than last year, when they glided by on the success of “Precious”) and it’s looking like a serious play could be made for Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest. Based on the Tony-award-winning play of the same name, I’m going to guess at best it’ll play out like “Doubt” and be mostly an actor’s showcase as far as the Oscars/major awards are concerned.
  • “Country Strong,” a film about a washed-up country singer (Gwyneth Paltrow) who teams up with a young up-and-comer (Garrett Hedlund, soon to be seen in “TRON: Legacy”) on tour, will in fact be released in 2010 (there was some doubt about this). Though this pretty much just sounds like the female version of “Crazy Heart” to me, I read that Paltrow’s performance is strong enough to get into the already crowded Best Actress discussion. And the Academy does love them some country music, so as long as the songs are original they can probably chalk up a nomination there.
  • The Hollywood Film Festival announced some of the honors that it will present at its annual gala ceremony in late October; these things are extremely hit-or-miss when it comes to predicting eventual nominees, but almost always the people are at least in the discussion. Take of this what you will.

Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, “Conviction”

Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”

Breakthrough Actor: Andrew Garfield, “Never Let Me Go,” “The Social Network”

Breakthrough Actress: Mia Wasikowska, “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Kids Are All Right”

Cinematographer Award: Wally Pfister, “Inception”

Composer Award: Hans Zimmer, “Inception”

  • And finally, Guy Lodge at In Contention gives what I think is a pretty good look at the buzz surrounding “The Town” and its Oscar chances. If this thing really becomes a phenomenon we will of course have to adjust for that, but for my money “Inception” and “Toy Story 3” are going to be the nods to populist entertainment this year. Then again, last year we had both “District 9” and “The Blind Side” get in there besides “Avatar” and “Up,” so who knows. In any case, the film is already in danger of entering the “so much talk about being underrated it’s overrated” zone. Though I still want to see it. Curse you, Ben Affleck, and your dreamy stubble.

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