Queen, Departed also early award favourites
If the victory of best-picture champ Crash over front-runner Brokeback Mountain last winter proved one thing, it’s that nothing is ever certain at the Academy Awards.
Yet with two-and-a-half months to go before the Oscars on Feb. 25, three seemingly sure picks and a wildly eclectic lineup of potential and long-shot contenders have emerged.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most likely possibilities:
• Dreamgirls: It certainly won’t go down as one of Hollywood’s all-time musical classics, but this adaptation of the stage hit about a Supremes-like pop trio that emerges from Detroit’s Motown scene in the 1960s has everything going for it. A sharp cast led by Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy and the scene-stealing Jennifer Hudson bring great vitality to the well-crafted film from director Bill Condon.
• The Departed: Martin Scorsese is one of the Oscars’ most notorious bridesmaids, arguably the greatest living American filmmaker to be shut out on best-picture and director wins. The first two-thirds of his cops-and-mobsters epic is as grand as anything he’s done in the genre, and despite a shaky third act, the film has the critical acclaim and box-office clout that spell best picture. It doesn’t hurt to have terrific performances all-around from Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg.
• The Queen: More likely than a best-picture nomination is the chance that Helen Mirren will walk away with the best actress prize as Queen Elizabeth II. The universally acclaimed film from director Stephen Frears is anchored by a performance from Mirren that’s equal parts withering imperiousness and deep introspection as the secluded queen copes with the crisis of Princess Diana’s death in 1997.
•Little Miss Sunshine: It’s one of the year’s funniest movies, a handicap at the Oscars, which rarely gives comedy its due. Beneath the laughs, this tale of a seriously messed-up family headed to their little girl’s beauty pageant has an undercurrent of pathos bordering on tragedy. Husband-and-wife directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have crafted a heavy-duty film disguised as a road romp, and the ensemble of Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano and Abigail Breslin are so authentic, you’d think they’d been bickering around the dinner table for years.
• Flags Of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima: As film twofers go, Clint Eastwood’s achievement is unprecedented. In the span of two months, he’s presented bookend Second World War films, Flags focusing on the American experience at Iwo Jima, Letters told from the Japanese perspective. Flags earned solid reviews but faltered at the box office. Could the decision to bump Letters to late 2006 instead of its 2007 release revive Flags’ sinking Oscar prospects? Or could Letters emerge as Eastwood’s big Oscar offering, despite being told in Japanese with subtitles?