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Oscar Watch: A premature ode to 'Joy'; 'Jobs' packs the academy

Oscar Watch: A premature ode to 'Joy'; 'Jobs' packs the academy
Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) in "Steve Jobs." (Francois Duhamel / Universal Pictures)

Oscar Watch, charting the smiles, the frowns, the ups and downs of the awards season, comes to you every Monday from now through the end of February.

This week, we'll check in with a movie that just opened, one that has wowed its festival audiences and a title that isn't due until Christmas.

Ode to 'Joy'

"Joy," David O. Russell's upcoming dramedy starring Jennifer Lawrence as an entrepreneur tackling the American Dream, had a test screening last week. And, based solely on one enthusiastic report, many Oscar bloggers are scrambling to rejigger their predictions and crown it King of the World.

Now, I love Russell's manic filmmaking as much as just about anybody, but a careful reading of the breathless account of this test screening raises a red flag or three.

Let's start at the beginning: "['Joy'] was either going to be a huge success or a big disappointment," the report begins, which is a good way to approach, say, matrimony, but not moviegoing. Couldn't the film, like most would-be Oscar contenders, simply fall in the range of the flawed-but-OK to the very good? I don't know about you, but I rarely leave a movie walking on sunshine or feeling like my soul has been crushed, though, judging from my Twitter feed these days, I'm in the minority. Extreme opinions > measured responses.

The report goes on to call the test screening a "pretty massive success" with "Joy" (which opens on Christmas) giving off "'Erin Brockovich'/'Mildred Pierce' vibes" and being "100% Jennifer Lawrence show" and "David O. Russell's best film since 'Three Kings.'"

The writer, a passionate Russell supporter, goes on to chide Oscar forecasters for not ranking "Joy" higher, saying they missed the boat with "American Hustle" last year (two years ago, actually, but it does seem like Russell puts out a movie annually) and wondering the source of the hesitancy.

"Is it time to give in or does the film still need to be 'seen' to be properly analyzed and predicted?" he concludes. I'd like to think that's a rhetorical question, but, these days, I'm afraid I know the answer.

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