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Countdown to Oscars

Monday, October 18, 2010
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SONY CLASSICS FIGHTS GOOD FIGHT FOR EVEN LEAST LIKELY CONTENDERS

Nobody can say that Sony Pictures Classics hasn’t done right by its films this Oscar season — even those with paper-thin prospects of making it to the big show in February. At a time when no other studio has mailed even one DVD “screener” to Academy members — the barrage typically starts in November — SPC has already gotten four into their hands: David Michod’s “Animal Kingdom” (8/13, trailer), Rodrigo Garcia’s “Mother and Child” (5/7, trailer), Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give” (4/30, trailer), and Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” (9/22, trailer). SPC, as you may recall, knows as well as any studio that special things can happen by simply getting a worthy film — however small and obscure — seen by voters before they are inundated with more (and more familiar) titles; just two years ago, their little Sundance acquisition “Frozen River” was the first screener mailed out, and it wound up with Oscar nods for best actress and best original screenplay.

My only criticism related to SPC’s screeners is the decision — which admittedly may not have been the studio’s alone — to promote Annette Bening’s performance in “Mother and Child” for best actress. Bening is terrific in the film, but the studio and Bening have to know that she stands an infinitely better chance at a best actress nod for her performance in the much higher-profile “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features, 7/9, trailer), and that they — unlike the people pushing her for that film — could actually justify pushing her for “Mother and Child” in the supporting category, which is wide open, because she’s but one member of a large ensemble. (It’s a “Crash”-like film and awards situation: when no one is a clear lead, everyone can be promoted in supporting!) Instead of Bening potentially snagging a second nod in supporting (which she could conceivably even win), it’s now likely that she’ll wind up with only the one (in lead) or — if SPC does manage to get voters to check out “Mother and Child” and causes her supporters to split their support between her two films — none (a legitimate possibility in such a competitive year in the best actress category).

Photo: Amanda Peet in “Please Give.” Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

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  • Robert Hamer

    I wouldn’t be so discouraged if I were a Bening fan. Remember all the “Supporting Actress” awards Kate Winslet won for The Reader before the Oscar nominations were announced? Sometimes Academy voters have rare moments of defying the category campaigns of the marketers.

    Besides, it’s not as though this suddenly dooms her from winning an Oscar. She’s arguably still the front-runner in Best Actress for The Kids Are All Right.

    Besides her, best of luck to Jacki Weaver and Ann Guilbert. In a field as “wide open” as Best Supporting Actress this year, nominations for those two would be well deserved.

  • M.

    SPC is letting the Woody Allen movie open in my market without doing any press screenings or shipping out screeners. Not sure what the point of pushing it for Oscars is if they can’t be bothered with getting people to see it in theaters!

  • mr. shark

    I found Bening much better in Mother and Child. And she’s definitely lead, as she gets the most screen time, and has the strongest dramatic arc.