There are many ways of looking at a Best Actor Oscar race. You can ask yourself who gave the year’s strongest performances. You can think about who’s overdue, who’s surprising, who works the circuit effectively, who exceeds expectations, who elevates his movie the most by his presence in it. But ultimately, the question that decides the nominations is always this one: Who do actors want to vote for?
This year, that may be tough to answer, since Best Actor is shaping up to be an extremely unusual race. In Column A, we have three Goliaths: George Clooney for The Descendants, Leonardo DiCaprio for J. Edgar, and Brad Pitt for Moneyball. And in Column B, we have a whole bunch of Davids. The problem for the Davids is that they’re not Goliaths. The problem for the Goliaths is that voting for Davids is usually a lot more fun.
It's Friday and Hollywood has disgorged another batch of movies into multiplexes. Which will reign supreme and why? Below, our predictions for the Top 5 films at this weekend's box office.
5. J. Edgar
Leonardo DiCaprio puts on a rubbery old-guy mask and even less plausible accent to play the titular FBI director in Clint Eastwood's latest biopic, which expands nationally today. Eastwood's movies usually do better when the director is in front of the camera, but Edgar has made an impressive $53,000 in limited release since Wednesday, plus what else do your parents have to do this weekend?
In covering the Oscar race so far, I’ve tried to focus on movies that have already opened. But this week, I’m tossing that approach, because effective immediately, the attention of the Oscar-punditry universe swivels decisively forward. The last eight weekends of 2011 will bring more than two dozen movies with aspirations as modest as a single acting nomination and as grandiose as sweeping the slate from Best Picture to Best Makeup.
So from now until year’s end, the goal of every contender that opened before November 1 is simply survival. Think of the next two months as a tidal wave, and of early hopefuls like Midnight in Paris, The Help, and Moneyball as trees along the shore line. Some of those trees will topple — and a couple of months from now, those still standing may look that much taller. Same goes for the movies in the big wave; some will arrive with obliterating force while others will weaken the closer they get. (Please take the above tortured analogy as my tribute to Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter.) With that in mind, this Oscarmetrics installment is a cheat sheet — a map of the parallel tracks of reality and hype along which the race will now proceed.
We’ve all seen it happen in awards show after awards show. Some grizzled veteran or much-nominated actress finally wins an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, after years of disappointment — for work that’s maybe just a leeeeeetle bit subpar. It’s why Kate Winslet won an Oscar for The Reader, not Eternal Sunshine. It’s why Mary Louise Wilson won a Tony for Grey Gardens, not Cabaret. It’s why Susan Lucci won an Emmy for the 29th season of All My Children, not the previous 28.
Each week, marketers release new movie posters, many for films whose releases are still months away. But for those who know where to look, one-sheets can reveal studios' hopes and insecurities about their products. In this space, we will attempt to decode the hidden meanings of the week's new posters.