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London Film Festival Points To The Oscars

 

Inevitably, any major film festival that occurs in the Fall season has a role play in determining eventual Oscar nominees and even winners. It all starts off at the Venice and Toronto film festivals, where Oscar hopefuls get their debuts, and continues into the season, presumably climaxing with nominations that come at the first of the year. With the Academy’s recent expansion of the Best Picture category to include 10 films, it is very likely that several of the films presented here at the BFI London Film Festival will be major players in the Oscar race. 

 

 

Let’s begin with the Opening Night Gala, which premiered on 13 October. NEVER LET ME GO features a sparkling cast of young British talent, toplined by Carey Mulligan (last year’s Oscar newcomer for AN EDUCATION), Andrew Garfield (co-star of THE SOCIAL NETWORK and soon to be seen in red tights as the newest Spider Man), and Keira Knightley, who gives a heart-breaking mature performance that is already on everyone’s lips as Oscar bait (what will she wear to the ceremonies is high on television commenters’ minds). Despite its downbeat subject and restrained acting, look for possible nominations for all three leads (and maybe Charlotte Rampling or Sally Hawkins in the supporting actress category), screenwriter Alex Garland (adapting from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel), Best Director and even Best Picture nods.

 

The Closing Night Gala this evening (28 October) also has Oscar written all over it. 127 HOURS is another career milestone for Oscar winner Danny Boyle (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) in the harrowing true story of Aron Ralston, a macho extreme sports enthusiast who must resort to extreme measures to free himself when he becomes trapped by a rock in the desert canyons of Utah. What Boyle has been able to do with a film that is essentially a one-character drama in a claustrophobic, static setting is nothing short  of remarkable. Equally deserving of praise is lead James Franco, who gives a raw and believable performance as a man who faces his own mortality and must draw on his innermost resolve to survive. Franco is a shoe-in for Best Actor and Boyle may have to dust off another shelf for new Oscars for his visually impressive direction. Add to this the haunting music of A.R. Rahman (another SLUMDOG veteran) and the script co-written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, and this unexpectedly upbeat film will be a major contender come Oscar night.

 

 

However, Boyle might be eclipsed this year by director Tom Hooper, whose THE KINGS’S SPEECH has gotten the most Oscar buzz of any film to date. The film, a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a little-known chapter in British history (mainly the speech instruction received  by Prince Albert by an Australian tutor to eradicate his stutter) has received glowing reviews since its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in early September. Colin Firth plays the unlikely heir apparent who must ascend to the monarchy when his older brother abdicates the throne to marry a divorced American socialite in one of the more piquant scandals of the 1930s. Hollywood gossip has it that both Firth and actor playing the tutor, Geoffrey Rush (who already has an Oscar to his name for his lead role in the Australian film SHINE), will square off against each other for Best Actor honors. Helena Bonham Carter, a rather underrated actress of the first rank, may finally receive an Oscar nod for her role as the king’s wife. Screenwriter David Seidler, director Tom Hooper and possibly English acting royals Derek Jacobi or Michael Gambon (for best supporting actor honors) are expected to receive nominations, with the film possibly coming in with the most entries, for art direction, cinematography, costume design, make up and other ancillary awards.

 

Other LFF films that should also be strong Oscar contenders include THE KIDS ARE ALLRIGHT (Annette Bening, this could be your year), CONVICTION (Hilary Swank, do your two Oscar need company?), BLACK SWAN (Natalie Portman has received fantastic reviews, as has director Darren Aronofsky) and BIUTIFUL (will Javier Bardem add to his Cannes Best Actor prize for his role in this Spanish/Mexican co-production?). Perennial favorite Mike Leigh may also find himself at the Kodak Theater come Oscar night for writing and directing the widely-admired ANOTHER YEAR. The leads in the intense relationship drama BLUE VALENTINE, young Hollywood faves Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, are also being touted for acting nominations for their honest and riveting performances.

 

Will next year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film have been coronated at the London Film Festival?, Strong contenders for the prize that have shown here in London over the past two weeks include the Cannes Palme d’Or winner UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (Thailand), OF GODS AND MEN (France), ESSENTIAL KILLING (Poland), HEARTBEATS (Canada), OUTSIDE THE LAW (Algeria), LE QUATTRO VOLTE (Italy), A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN (Norway), SUBMARINO (Denmark) and SURVIVING LIFE (Czech Republic). 

It will be interesting in a few months to see whether this year’s London Film Festival was especially prescient in showcasing some of the year’s most celebrated films.

 Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

Coverage of the world of film festivals on the international film festival circuit.


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