Oscar Contenders

Love for the Ladies: 'Les Miserables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' are Unwrapped

Hathaway, Chastain and Bigelow earn Thanksgiving weekend love

Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables
Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables
Photo: Universal Pictures

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.

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Photo: Columbia Pictures

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.

You can find commentary on the film at Time, HitFix, Awards Daily, The Hollywood Reporter and Gold Derby.

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?

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  • Winchester

    Several of the big ones (Les Mis and Lincoln for instance) don't open til mid January in the UK so I'll be seeing them late in the game but I get the feel this could be a slightly more interesting Oscar year with a lot of genuinely good contenders.

  • Ron Oneal Fresh

    Beautiful shot of Jessica Chastain character reflection on the American flag.

    That said

    I hope I won't roll my eyes too much at the hooah pro-military propaganda piece this will most likely be. I'm fool to even think for even a second that it would be subtle about it. There is no other way to tell the story of killing Bin Laden.

    • Liathach

      The Hollywood Reporter review says that the movie isn't gung-ho, and begins with a scene of CIA agents torturing a suspect - so I hope it's not as much of a propaganda piece as you suspect.

      • Ron Oneal Fresh

        I hope you're right. I don't wanna dislike the film just b/c it has an agenda.

        I don't maybe it's the timing of Zero Dark Thirty that's bugging me.

        But that's a me problem and I probably shouldn't take it out on the film.

        Especially when I haven't seen it.

  • ThePrinceIsOnFire

    I Think we will get a real idea of Les Mis actual values once it hit theatres. Musical is one of the hardest movie genres, as a lot of people totally reject sing-feast( just like many hate horror movies) and a movie to really conquer a wide audience has to be really outstanding. That only happened with Moulin Rouge recently.and that was a heavy dialogued musical, with pop songs .Chicago, also quite full in the spoken dialogues, was mostly a critical success, as public only rated it 7.1 on IMDB, which is even lower than critcal bashed "Phantom of the Opera", which got 7.2 on the same site. There has never been a doubt that it will get nominated in many, many categories: But will the public love it?Will it stick in pop culture? I don't understand oscars, actually. Do they award the movie with the best impact on public? Beacuse in that case the dark night rises, or movies like The hobbit or Skyfall should get the nom; So do they award the movie with the best qualities as in cinematography, directing, script..? Because AMOUR should win this year, then. Les Mis is just a smart compromise between quality and buzz. And I hope they don't go for that. Last year They made the bold choice with "The Artist" Let's hope the do that again with "AMOur". Peace.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mv11391/ Michael

    Good to hear good reactions for both Hathaway & Chastain. Again, i'm more excited about Zero Dark Thirty than Les Mis. I'm not a fan of musicals (I did like Chicago) but i'll still watch Les Miserables, i'm interested in the flick. I'm a huge Kathyrn Bigelow fan and same with Jessica Chastain, ZDT looks really good also with a good cast. I really can't wait January.

  • The Jackal

    Just finished reading review for Zero Dark Thirty over at:

    VARIETY
    http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117948801?refcatid=31

    The Hollywood Reporter
    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movie/zero-dark-thirty/review/393870

    This film sounds impressive and I cant wait to see the results for myself. I'm guessing Oscar noms for Best Director & Actress are foregone conclusions now. Sounds like Jessica Chastain just became an even hotter commodity.

    Thems the facts

  • Dj

    Happy there's a real fight for best actress now

  • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

    Very much excited for December to hit, though I still have some November films to catch up on. I've been compiling my own Oscar predictions, and have been wavering on whether or not I think we will see a 9th and/or 10th nominee, but my top 4 are unchanged since I first drafted up my predictions at the beginning of October.

    I also keep going back and forth on whether Moonrise Kingdom or Beasts of the Southern Wild is the stronger contender, as I feel that at least one of these will find its way into the field. Anyways, based on all of this, here's what I have for Best Picture right now:

    1. Les Miserables
    2. Zero Dark Thirty
    3. Lincoln
    4. Argo
    5. Silver Linings Playbook
    6. Django Unchained
    7. Life of Pi
    8. Moonrise Kingdom
    ---BUBBLE LINE---
    9. Beasts of the Southern Wild
    10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Anthony_X/ Anthony_X

    Major shake-up in the race this weekend.

    I think that the most competitive race this year will be Best Supporting Actor. Redmayne entered the race pretty strongly and if someone from Les Misérables is going to get in, I think it's going to be him and not Russell Crowe.

    1. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
    2. Tomy Lee Jones
    3. Robert DeNiro
    4. Ewan McGregor
    5. Eddie Redmayne
    -----
    6. Leonardo DiCaprio
    7. Alain Arkin
    8. Russell Crowe
    9. Matthew McConaughey.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

      I see Ewan McGregor sitting this one out. Leo or Crowe will get it-depends on how good Leo is or how loved Les Mis is

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

        You are right about Eddie, though

      • Jake17

        It doesn't sound like Crowe is going to get in, based on early reviews. So it seems likely DiCaprio gets the nomination. Also, don't count out Samuel L. Jackson, I've his part is even stronger than DiCaprio's.

  • Jake17

    I can't wait for both Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty to come here. Also, I've heard Jennifer Ehle may be a potential threat to Anne Hathaway. I really hoped she would get love last year for Contagion, so I'm hoping she gets a much deserved nomination.