Les Miserables Shakes Up Oscar Race

Amongst awards pundits, this part of the Oscar season has always been about ticking off the few remaining boxes. The film festivals are long over, a critical verdict has been reached on the various titles screened there, and enough time has passed that the awards chances surrounding each title has settled on a decent consensus.

That just leaves the handful of holdouts – the half dozen or so films hitting at the end of the year that aren’t screened until late November/early December. The danger with being a holdout is the dismissal factor. For those key critics who’ll be the first to see and review these films, there’s only one question – is the film good enough for awards chances? More often than not these tough assayers are left wanting.

Amongst the hold outs, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “Django Unchained” and “Zero Dark Thirty” will screen in the next few days. One, however, screened on Friday afternoon after having just been finished earlier that morning – “Les Miserables”. While no reviews are allowed out yet, the resulting tweets, column mentions and discussions being held online have all come to the same conclusion – we appear to have a serious heavyweight contender.

The film scored a “raucous standing ovation”, and numerous reports at the likes of The L.A. Times, Datalounge and The Daily Mail all say the film is a contender for multiple awards. The most likely chances are Best Picture, director, and acting awards for Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.

The big question is will this buzz carry over to the more regular screenings? An attendee who commented over at Hollywood Elsewhere says “there were a boatload of NYC actors and theater geeks in the audience… It was like being at Comic Con for theater geeks” and claims that had a big impact on the feeling in the room. Said commentator was NOT as taken with the film, but he is the sole voice of dissent heard thus far.

“Les Mis” slots in very high in the Oscars horse race due to a real lack of consensus thus far. Ambitious epics “Anna Karenina” and “Cloud Atlas” have proven so divisive as to rule themselves out. Early reviews for “Hitchcock” and “Hyde Park on Hudson” indicate good performances in rather ordinary films. “Flight,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Sessions,” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” are all well regarded but none have enough real momentum behind them.

Despite widespread acclaim, “Skyfall,” “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” are dismissed out of hand because they are blockbuster genre fare – “The Hobbit” and ‘Django’ will also likely suffer this fate. Foreign language titles “Holy Motors,” “Rust and Bone” and “The Intouchables” don’t have enough wide support to break through, “Amour” and “The Impossible” might but both need to be seen by more eyeballs.

That presently leaves us with a four-way split with “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Les Miserables” all vying for the top slots while the more divisive dark horses “The Master” and “Life of Pi” hover close behind. How Tarantino, Jackson, and most pointedly Bigelow’s films will shake-up the race will be interesting to see.