Film fests start early Oscar buzz

Ben Affleck is shown in a scene from Argo. (Handout)

Ben Affleck is shown in a scene from Argo. (Handout)

MICHAEL RECHTSHAFFEN, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Now that all the glitz and glitter has faded in the wake of that four-month festival-palooza known as Cannes/Venice/Telluride/Toronto, it's a good time to get a sense of the early frontrunners going into awards season.

Sure, it's a whole four months before the Oscar nominations are announced and a big chunk of the likely contenders aren't even completed yet, but that doesn't mean there hasn't already been some serious awards buzz surrounding a number of films and performances.

Topping the list would have to be Ben Affleck's Argo, which officially hits theatres on Oct. 12, is a certified crowd-pleaser set against the backdrop of the 444-day Iran hostage crisis.

The energetic film is as good as a shoo-in for best picture and best director, as is Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, the drama that may or may not be inspired by the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Joaquin Phoenix, who fortunately did not make good on his threat to quit acting, is a likely lock in the various best actor categories while Philip Seymour Hoffman is certain to head up the best supporting actor slots.

Among the other actors who made a splash at the summer film festivals are Bradley Cooper, in his most accomplished role to date in David O. Russell's mental illness-themed Silver Linings Playbook (the dramedy took home this year's audience award at TIFF) and Bill Murray, playing Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park on the Hudson.

Several actresses have also emerged as serious awards season contenders, especially Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Cooper's emotionally disturbed neighbour in the enthusiastically received film.

There's also been Oscar buzz surrounding Keira Knightley's turn as Anna Karenina in the latest big screen take on the Leo Tolstoy character, as well as Marion Cotillard's performance as a killer whale trainer who has a terrible accident in the French film, Rust and Bone.

The above join several films and performances that already had awards pundits uttering the "O" word--beginning with Beasts of the Southern Wild and the remarkable performance of the drama's nine-year-old star Quvenzhane (watch TV journalists break a sweat over that one) Wallis.

Joining Beasts among the Best Picture nominees could be Wes Anderson's critically-acclaimed Moonrise Kingdom and, of course, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, although the Motion Picture Academy has yet to show the filmmaker much love.

Granted, any number of unknown quantities could sweep in between now and December and force some of those frontrunners out of contention.

Sight-unseen, industry observers are already declaring Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (arriving Nov. 16) a lock among the Best Picture nominees along with Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal.

And while we still don't know how many Best Picture contenders will be making the 2013 cut, odds are in favour of Peter Jackson's first installment of The Hobbit and Kathryn Bigelow's chronicling of the taking-out of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, to put in an appearance.

Also expected to live up to expectations are Les Miserables (plus a Best Actress nod for Anne Hathaway as Fantine) and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Ladies and gentleman, start your promotional engines--it's gonna be a heated race.

 


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