Does an Oscar Qualifying Run for 'The Lady' Make it a Real Contender?

September 15, 2011
Source: Deadline

The Lady

Straight out of TIFF, Luc Besson's The Lady, a biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese pro-democracy activist and political prisoner, has just been acquired for US distribution by Cohen Media Group. Cohen has plans to release the film late this year in hopes that it will quickly enter the race of Oscar contenders, with a campaign focused on Besson's directing and performances from Michelle Yeoh (Memoirs of a Geisha), who plays San Suu Kyi, and David Thewlis (Harry Potter, Seven Years in Tibet), who plays her husband and biggest supporter that led the campaign for her Nobel Peace Prize win in 1991. More thoughts below.

The Lady is the second film from Toronto Film Festival to instantly set it sights on the little gold man, behind Steve McQueen's Shame which, like Cohen and The Lady, Fox Searchlight has plans to release in December as a Oscar-qualifying platform release with a strong push to get nods for both Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. The film does not have a rating yet, but is said to be NC-17 material, and the subject matter is said to be a little risque for the more traditional Academy, many who have seen Shame believe that it will at least earn its actors nominations, specifically Fassbender.

I've never been one to call the winners this early in the game when it comes to the Academy Awards but the early season has begun to provide us with a lot of films that stand out as Oscar bait, especially with what Toronto has provided us with these past few weeks. The political drama The Ides of March - from writer/director/star George Clooney and co-starring Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti - is looking like a definite maybe to win Clooney his first statue for directing (he was nominated in 2005 for both his directing and writing credits on Good Night, and Good Luck.) Clooney has double the chances this year in the acting category, as Alexander Payne's The Descendants seems like it could make for serious competition in the running. Moneyball is another film that could get a nod, at least for Brad Pitt's performance and the adapted screenplay from Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian. Though, not all TIFF films panned out to be quite the award-worthy films they were believed to be, such as the case with David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method which received considerably less than stellar reviews.

So let's look at what else 2011 has given us thus far: Tate Taylor's The Help seems to be a favorite of both critics and movie goers alike and feels like this year's The Blind Side. Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is another from this year that has been beloved by all those who have seen it. Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life seemed to be a sure thing earlier in the year but opinions proved to be more polarized; however, no doubt that Fox Searchlight is going to make a push for it along with their dark horse Martha Marcy May Marlene and the aforementioned Shame. Speaking of dark horses, there are plenty more to be considered. Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, Drake Doremus' Like Crazy, Lynne Ramsay's We Need To Talk About Kevin, and Warrior are all smaller, indie titles I could see making their way into the running as well.

From all accounts, The Lady does appear to be the type of The Reader-esque drama voters go after (no surprise that Besson himself told Deadline "I'm a voter, and I most certainly would vote for them," [in reference to Yeoh and Thewlis]). However, when all the cards are laid out on the table as they are, you can see that this year has already provided us with an assortment of films that at least seem like sure things.

And the year's not close to over yet. We still have the winter movie season to look forward to, which will give us films from Oscar heavy-hitters: Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Steven Spielberg's War Horse, Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close adaptation, and David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo are all expected to be forces to reckon with in December. Oh, and who could forget Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which features a cast of more Oscar nominated and Oscar winning actors than a Madame Tussauds' House of Wax. Guess we shall see who prevails come Tuesday, January 24th, when the 2012 Academy Award nominees are announced! What do you think so far?

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