Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Telluride Film Festival: Benedict Cumberbatch and Reese Witherspoon Enter Oscar Race

The Venice Film Festival continues to chug along, and now Telluride has started, and the Oscar contenders continue to roll in. Cannes hits The Homesman and Foxcatcher continue to pick up steam, and Birdman landed to rave reviews and deafening Oscar buzz. Now we have two more contenders to add to the list.

The first, and one that I suspected would do well, is Jean-Marc Vallee's Dallas Buyers Club followup Wild, based on the best-selling memoir by Cheryl Strayed. I say in the headline that Reese Witherspoon enters the Oscar race, and that is entirely true. After not making too much of a mark since her 2005 win for Walk the Line, Reese is definitely back in the type of physical and emotional role that wins people Oscars (look no further than Vallee's last two muses Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto). But Witherspoon is not the only one getting buzz. The film as a whole could really play across the board according to early reviews that suggest it is another well-made effort from the newly popular director. The film could easily get into the Best Picture race, but it is Laura Dern, a previous nominee, who is getting as much attention as Witherspoon. According to early reviews, she is fantastic in her flashback role as Witherspoon's mother (let's not talk about the ridiculousness that Dern is old enough to be Witherspoon's mother), and could play a big role in the supporting actress race.

The other major contender to hit is The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It, unlike Wild, has not been met with such an enthusiastic response. The reviews have not been negative, just mixed. Word is that the overall production is a bit too straight-forward, a bit stale. But there have been raves layered in with the disappointments, and those have been for Benedict Cumberbatch. His stock has been rising in recent years, last year he was featured in a plethora of Oscar-nominated films, and he recently won a surprise Emmy for his recurring role on Sherlock. Plus, he has Harvey Weinstein behind him. He will work night and day to help his star, and I would not be surprised if he ends this already fantastic year with an Oscar nomination on his resume. I would not underestimate the film as well. It has the historical/biopic factor going for it, something that is popular among audiences and Oscar voters. And you should never discount Harvey. It doesn't matter how mediocre the film is, if it fits the part, it could easily be an Oscar player across the board.

As always, I end with my little disclaimer that these are early reactions, and that this is a long race with a lot of contenders left to show their stuff. As always, we'll just have to wait and see...

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