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Oscar Watching: I’m in Love with AMOUR

I had the chance to see Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or-winning Amour (Love) over the weekend. It also played the AFI Fest – and we’ll be talking about that in a bit – but I saw it here on the East Coast. The French-language aspect might hinder its chances at Oscar glory, but the critics – and even the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which occasionally throws a bone to foreign flicks – might rally for it at the end of the year.

As for my own thoughts, Haneke crafts a sad yet beautiful story of an elderly couple’s love and how it’s tested when the wife has a stroke. Jean-Louis Trintignant wonderfully navigates his not-so-obvious character arc as a conflicted husband, and Isabelle Huppert showcases his inner conflict with her subtle work as his daughter. I expect the season to more or less ignore Huppert, but Trintignant could score in the best actor race.

But the real story here is Emmanuelle Riva’s work as the disabled wife. She still magnetizes as she did with her alluring performance in Hiroshima mon amour, but she uses that screen presence to a completely different effect in Amour. She presents a performance of immense physicality on par with Daniel Day-Lewis’ My Left Foot performance, perhaps even surpassing the two-time best actor winner’s powerful work. Perhaps it’s just my love for the performance talking, but I think Riva might walk away with the best actress Oscar at the end of the season.

Speaking of Amour, the film reaped six nominations at the 25th annual European Film Awards. Riva, Trintignant, and cinematographer Darius Khondji were recognized for their efforts, with Haneke picking up bids for directing and writing. The film also earned a nod for best European film. Another Cannes player, Thomas Vinterberg’s Jagten (The Hunt), picked up five mentions, while the foreign-language crossover hit The Intouchables also earned spots in several races.

Amour also snagged a mention at the British Independent Film Awards in best international independent film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which we discussed earlier this year, and documentary feature hopeful The Imposter made impressive showings with BIFA, nabbing slots in picture and director. Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, and Tom Wilkinson were recognized for their efforts in the former film. The two dames seem likely for Oscar recognition, but I’m less sure about Wilkinson.

Meanwhile, Elle Fanning and Alice Englert landed in the actress and supporting actress races for Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa. Watch out for the former on the awards trail this season, as many think her performance will resonate with Oscar voters. I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that BIFA’s supporting actress lineup includes Olivia Colman’s performance in Hyde Park on Hudson.

The documentary feature race also moved forward this week with the reveal of the Cinema Eye Honors nominations. The Imposters and Searching for Sugar Man both earned five nods each, including in the top race, outstanding achievement in nonfiction feature filmmaking.

Now let’s talk about the AFI Fest, which gave us what might be the biggest Oscar happening of the week with the unveiling of Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock. The film loses a bit of steam due to mixed response, but Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren remain contenders in the actor and actress races. I may have been wrong in thinking that Scarlett Johansson’s turn as Janet Leigh would gain traction, but it still looks like it might have two major nods at best. To me, it still looks like this year’s My Week with Marilyn, but the season might prove me wrong.

Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible also played at the fest. Our own Eric Ambler enjoyed it, saying it’s a film with “great performances and emotional honesty.” However, Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience wonders if the impact of Hurricane Sandy might hurt its chances. I haven’t been buying into this film as much of a contender, but Rogers’ analysis makes me question it even more.

Finally, how about the weekend box office? Wreck-It Ralph pummeled the competition with $49 million. Throw in the rave reception from the critics, and we might finally have an actual front-runner for best animated feature film. Robert ZemeckisFlight arrived with $24.9 million. Our own Ryan Mailley suggests that it might be an Oscar player in his review, and it’s been gaining buzz since its New York Film Festival premiere. Denzel Washington earned acclaim for his leading work, and with money in the bank, he seems safe for a best actor nod. Any attention beyond that, though, might be a bit of a stretch to predict right now.

Read more Oscar Watching columns here.

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The Author

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.