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(s) to ‘Joy’
‘Steve Jobs’ popular
Saoirse Ronan and ‘Brooklyn’
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.
‘Steve Jobs’ fills theaters, including academy’s
“Steve Jobs,” the impressionistic, three-act look at the life of the Apple co-founder, packed four theaters to the tune of $521,000 and also drew a turn-away crowed at the film academy’s screening Saturday night in Beverly Hills. The movie won a loud ovation from those in the 1,000-seat Samuel Goldwyn Theater with more than one academy member saying it played better than “The Social Network,” the last Aaron Sorkin-written drama about a tech entrepreneur.
Between the rave reviews and the avalanche of publicity, “Jobs” is certain to make academy members’ must-see list, more than half the battle in winning Oscar nominations.
Is Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Jobs accurate or a bit one-note in its belligerent tone? “I’ve heard people complain that the character’s not likable enough, but that’s not going to make any difference with the academy,” one Oscar voter said. “If anything, a lot of members will look at the horrible way he treats his employees and say, ‘You see. Look at what the guy accomplished. Being an ass has its advantages!’”
Saoirse Ronan primed to join the race for ‘Brooklyn’
No movie played better at Sundance this year than “Brooklyn,” a rich, romantic period drama about a young Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) coming of age in America. And the film just drew a similar reaction at the New York Film Festival (yes, it enjoyed something of a home-court advantage), demonstrating again the potency of the emotional connection it makes with its audience.
Ronan’s performance is central to that connection with the 21-year-old actress delivering an absolutely heart-rending turn as a young woman moving from naivete to quiet empowerment. The beautiful “Brooklyn,” opening Nov. 4 in limited release, is something of a throwback in its reserved tone and measured storytelling, making it a good bet to connect with the academy’s predominately older membership. Look for “Brooklyn” and its lovely lead to start picking up momentum in the coming weeks.