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Oscar Watching: All About The Weinstein Company

Over the last two years, The Weinstein Company has taken The King’s Speech and The Artist – both of which could have been conceived and filmed in almost any time period in which films existed – to Picture victories at the Academy Awards. Stormy weather certainly doesn’t cloud the boutique distributor and its head Harvey Weinstein when Oscars are in the question. For that reason, it’s quite ironic that David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook might be Harvey and company’s ticket to Picture gold once again.

This romantic dramedy about mentally unstable individuals, played by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, premiered at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival to rave response and, probably more importantly for its distributor, Oscar buzz; notable film journos and longtime Oscar followers Anne Thompson and Jeffrey Wells say it’ll be in the hunt for sure. Many immediately called Silver Linings a lock for multiple Oscar nods, including bids in Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay lists. Though buzz for the film spreads to many categories, Lawrence’s turn snagged most of the hype as a strong contender for Best Actress.

If she wins, the 22-year-old would become the second-youngest Actress winner in Oscar history, and such an outcome seems plausible. Lawrence earned pre-season awards hype for her leading work in Gary Ross’ adaptation of The Hunger Games – the film that made her Hollywood’s latest “it girl” – earlier this year. The actress seems to be banking on Silver Linings as her primary awards prospect, but don’t worry about her splitting votes with her work in Games. Oscar voters tend to take genre fare quite lightly – especially in the acting races – but the film’s massive box-office success (it currently sits as the 53rd highest-grossing film of all time) could boost her chances of winning.

Similarly fortunate years helped produced Actress wins for Grace Kelly and, most recently, Sandra Bullock. Also earning some buzz is Robert De Niro as Cooper’s father. He hasn’t been nominated in over 20 years and shouldn’t have trouble managing a nod if Silver Linings continues to build buzz. Meanwhile, Cooper presents a curious case. In terms of age and prominence in the industry, women tend to receive Oscar recognition earlier than men do. While Cooper’s been around for several years, making the case that he’s a threat in the Actor race might be difficult at this point.

Silver Linings hits U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, and another film under the Weinstein Company banner, Andrew Dominik’s action-oriented thriller Killing Them Softly, arrives the following weekend. The film, led by Brad Pitt, played in competition at Cannes earlier this year and earned positive reaction from critics. It was initially set for a stateside bow on Sept. 21 but then moved to an Oct. 19 release. The further delay of Killing to November suggests an awards campaign, quite possibly for Pitt, who reaped Oscar bids for acting in and producing Moneyball last year.

Despite Silver Linings and Killing emerging as ones to watch this awards season, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master – yet another film being handled by The Weinstein Company –made for the week’s biggest news among Oscar hopefuls. The period drama was the obvious critical favorite of the Venice Film Festival, and at the fest’s awards ceremony, it won the Volpi Cup for Actor – a tie between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix – and the Silver Lion (Director) prize for Anderson. The Venice jury also had The Master set to win the Golden Lion (Picture), but new fest rules allow no more than two major wins per film. Thus, Ki-du Kim’s Pieta nabbed the award. The unjust loss for The Master won’t hinder its awards traction, though: it’s still one of the most buzzed-about titles this season.

Bringing the conversation back to Toronto, the ambitious Cloud Atlas, helmed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski, had its world premiere at the fest. Though reactions are all across the board, viewers at the premiere gave the sprawling period/sci-fi epic a 15-minute standing ovation. Such a lengthy round of applause isn’t something you see at Toronto often. It’s still difficult to determine how far the film will go this awards season, but Atlas is worth keeping in the conversation.

Among significant acquisitions at the fest, Outsource Media Company takes on Mike Newell’s adaptation of Great Expectations; Roadside Attractions bought Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Imogene; Lionsgate picked up Joss Whedon’s treatment of Much Ado About Nothing; and Millennium Entertainment bought Scott McGehee and David Siegel‘s What Maisie Knew. These newly acquired films have release dates yet, but their distributors still have time to organize, if nothing else, Oscar-qualifying releases for them. Regarding Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines and Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell – now in the hands of Focus Features and Roadside Attractions, respectively – they’re currently slated to hit theaters sometime next year.

Even with such developments taking place at Toronto, expect more to Oscar-related happenings to take place between now and when the fest wraps on Sunday.

Read more Oscar Watching columns here.

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Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.