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Denzel Washington's 'Fences' could own two acting Oscars this year

Denzel Washington's 'Fences' could own two acting Oscars this year
Denzel Washington and Stephen McKinley Henderson in "Fences." (David Lee / Paramount Pictures)

A third Oscar for Denzel Washington? A first for Viola Davis? Plus a measure of redemption for Mel Gibson and a busy weekend in Hollywood with the opening of AFI Fest.

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars.

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I'm Glenn Whipp, The Times' awards columnist and your newsletter host.

'FENCES' ESTABLISHES ITSELF AS A PRIME OSCAR CONTENDER

Denzel Washington's movie adaptation of the August Wilson play "Fences" had a splashy coming-out party in Westwood before an audience of about 1,400 academy and guild members and assorted journalists. The reception was just shy of bonkers, which I wrote about here in my latest Oscar Watch predictions column.

Based on the response and the towering quality of the performances, I put Washington and Viola Davis at the top of the lead actor and supporting actress categories, respectively. The Westwood audience repeatedly roared and cheered during the movie when Davis or Washington delivered a choice line of Wilson's poetic dialogue. And they stood and applauded — in the darkness, mind you — while the closing credits rolled.

Standing ovations are par for the course at these events when talent arrives on stage. But jumping up from your seat to register approval when nobody can see you — that's another thing entirely. It's a sure sign that a movie connects with people on a deep, emotional level. "Fences" opens Christmas. You'll be reading a lot about this movie for the next few months.

Annette Bening will receive an AFI tribute.
Annette Bening will receive an AFI tribute. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

AFI FEST SPOTLIGHTS AWARDS SEASON HEAVYWEIGHTS

AFI Fest will be in full swing this weekend in Hollywood, with 79 movies, including anticipated awards season contenders such as "La La Land," "Jackie" and "Lion" as well as tributes to Annette Bening and Isabelle Huppert and more. Times film writer Josh Rottenberg previews the festival here, while Times film critic Justin Chang offers his 10 movies to catch at the week-long event.

Mel Gibson, director of "Hacksaw Ridge"
Mel Gibson, director of "Hacksaw Ridge" (Andy Kropa / Invision)

IS IT TIME FOR HOLLYWOOD TO 'GET OVER' MEL GIBSON'S PAST?

Mel Gibson's war drama "Hacksaw Ridge" opened recently to strong reviews, decent box office and quite a few standing ovations around Hollywood. Does that mean the filmmaking community is ready to welcome Gibson back, following a decade-long exile? Maybe. I spoke to Gibson and others about the warm reception the Oscar-winning director has been receiving at "Hacksaw" events. You can read the story here.

Joel Edgerton, Jeff Nichols and Ruth Negga from "Loving."
Joel Edgerton, Jeff Nichols and Ruth Negga from "Loving." (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

GOING BEHIND THE SCENES WITH 'LOVING,' PREVIEWING THE OSCARS

The first print issue of The Envelope arrived Thursday. In it, I spoke to the team behind the beautiful civil rights drama "Loving," and previewed some of the story lines that will define awards season. One prediction: The first December release to win best picture since Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby."

Feedback?

I'd love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can't get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.

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