Two award season films that look as if they won't be screened here in Seattle before I have to submit my nomination ballot for the Critics Choice Awards are Universal's Les Miserables and Weinstein's Django Unchained. Both of those films, along with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, have already enjoyed their first screenings in New York and Los Angeles or will be shortly.
On Friday, Les Miserables screened at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York and was very well received. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) and featuring a cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, the musical looks to become the first major musical Oscar contender since Chicago and has been my predicted Best Picture front-runner since my very first predictions this year and this first screening seems to suggest that just may be the way things turn out.
Les Mis played to a reported standing ovation, but the one thing to consider is it played to a crowd largely made up of theatre-goers, which is to say the deck was clearly stacked in its favor. Yet, pundits and critics in attendance also had positive reactions to the film, both as a film itself and for its Oscar chances.
Kris Tapley from HitFix tweeted, "Hathaway wins. GOD. I wept. Film's a triumph. They're on their feet here. NYC crowd ate...it...up."
Entertainment Weekly's Dave Karger added, "Anne Hathaway could easily win supporting actress. Her 'I Dreamed a Dream' is the showstopper."
In addition to Hathaway and the film, "Suddenly", the new original song written for the film is receiving positive buzz as is Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean as Scott Feinberg at The Hollywood Reporter breaks things down in detail. Hooper, as well, sounds like a strong contender for a Best Director nomination if not a near front-runner at this point.
On the heels of Les Mis getting all the attention over the majority of the weekend, Sunday night turned into a lovefest for Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, which Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter says "could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made."
As I revealed last week, the film largely centers on an unnamed female CIA analyst known as "Jen" who dedicated years of her life to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Known as Maya in the film, the role is played by Jessica Chastain and speculation on her role in the Best Actress race seems to be confirmed.
Universal asked full reviews to be held for Les Mis, but Columbia is no longer playing coy with Zero Dark Thirty and reviews are popping up everywhere. I will be seeing the soon film so I am avoiding reading any of them though the response is positive from all corners.
Chastain seems a lock for a nomination and definite competition for the long-thought Best Actress front-runner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook). It seems Kathryn Bigelow should prepare for another Director nomination, but can she win a second one? Mark Boal's screenplay seems a lock for an Original nom and is also a likely front-runner. There is also buzz for Jason Clarke who had a solid role in Lawless earlier this year and plays a CIA interrogator here.
One interesting note is that people are commenting on the lack of back-story with Chastain's character and a question of whether or not that lack of connection may cause for voters to be a bit turned off by the character or, at the very least, not as entirely appreciative as they'd be if we had a little more detail to go on.
As I said, I'll be seeing Zero Dark Thirty soon enough and be able to decide for myself where I see it fitting in, but it is nice to know (Oscars aside) we have something to look forward to along with Les Mis. Now all that's left is the first word on The Hobbit and Django Unchained, both of which will hopefully be received with similar respect.
I'll be updating my Oscar predictions all week this week so stay tuned for that, but for now you tell me, does this get you excited for the final month of the year?