When the Lionsgate Awards site went LIVE today and listed their slate of contenders involving Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fisher Stevens’ Stand Up Guys, Gary Ross’ The Hunger Games, Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, and J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible, I started to analyze how this year could pan out for smaller films that are trying to make a play; even more so, the performances in them.
I’ve touted on podcasts for weeks that Nate Parker utterly deserves a citation in Arbitrage, a raw, authentic turn that stands as one of the year’s bests. His co-star Richard Gere is currently being predicted in the Lead Actor top five, mostly on the notion that after years of ignoring and snubbing, voter’s eyes would finally be open to the charm that Gere portrays in Jarecki’s film. As Hugh Jackman remains a mystery of the season in Les Miserables and the word of Anthony Hopkins’ work in Hitchcock rallies some muted enthusiasm, a first-time nominee is bound to crack the top five. Believe me, Bradley Cooper might have a leg up on Gere given his film’s Best Picture chances and the powerful Weinsteins backing, but perhaps an overdue veteran has the gas to go the distance.
The closest that Gere has come to Oscar attention was in Taylor Hackford’s An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and Rob Marshall’s Chicago (2002). The latter landed a Golden Globe in Gere’s hands and a Screen Actors Guild nomination. As ‘Robert Miller,’ Gere puts his allure that made him a star to good use as be bounces off his co-stars Nate Parker and Susan Sarandon. Arbitrage opened to decent reviews scoring 84% on both Rotten Tomatoes and Critics Choice critics. The film’s outstanding screenplay by Nicholas Jarecki could score him a deserved citation from the writer’s and be this year’s Margin Call, landing an unexpected Original Screenplay nomination.
Lionsgate has sent out screeners this past week to BFCA and Oscar voters which could start a reaction from members. Especially when many late-year entries will be competing to be seen by the early deadline set by AMPAS, an accessible, timely film like Arbitrage might do the trick for many.
Also on Lionsgate’s roster is J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible, featuring a fierce and ferocious performance by Naomi Watts. Watts, previously nominated in Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu’s 21 Grams (2003), hasn’t found herself on Oscar’s radar since. As ‘Maria,’ the desperate and brave mother, Watts engulfs herself into the role, naked, bare, and completely relatable. In a year where Lead Actress is nearly vacant, a powerful turn by Naomi Watts could easily find herself in a lineup. With the only Lead Actress to push is Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, Lionsgate can make a strategic, smart decision and put their money where its going to count.
As the film beats the heartstrings to death, Watts’ role along with co-stars Tom Holland and Ewan McGregor gather such a love from the audience, it’s hard not to think about the actual family long after the film ends. Watts’ film choices have been eclectic to say the least. Before 21 Grams, Watts wowed critics alike in David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001). After her Oscar nomination, fanboys attempted to unite to push her through for her towering work in Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005). Since then, Watts has only gathered minuscule buzz for works in Fair Game (2010) and Mother and Child (2011).
I truly believe, given the right campaign and push, Watts’ work is the type of performance that could not only be nominated but win on Oscar night. A scene involving Holland and herself walking through the rubble and discovering wounds that are beyond anything seen in a disaster film is quite engrossing. A naked and vulnerable breast bridged with an authoritative “what?!” encapsulates her entire character’s motivation and brilliance. It’s Watts’ most impressive turn yet as the film as sat with me. It’s natural and believable. I can’t imagine what she did to prepare for a role like this.
Unfortunately Holland has nearly nil chance at any citation given the Lead Actor field and McGregor, though admirable in his role, pales in comparison to the dedication and ferocity of the two leads. As the film clearly states itself as a true story, screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez does his best to bring this harrowing story to life. What I believe gives many dismissal of the film and story, is the lack of belief that this is in fact true. Hopefully, people don’t dismiss but embrace.
If there are two ponies to push from Lionsgate, Richard Gere and Naomi Watts are both realistic and worthy. Arbitrage is available on-demand and The Impossible opens December 21, 2012 in New York and Los Angeles.
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