TORONTO – It’s only the first day of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and two major prestige pics have already shown their wares to the assembled international press corps; Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball” and George Clooney’s “Ides of March.” Both films have the potential to be solid box office performers and receive very positive reviews. Critically, this pundit fell for the political leanings of “Ides of March” (grade: B+) a bit more than Billy Beane’s story in “Moneyball” (grade: B), but both films have the potential to make their mark on awards season. With that in mind, let’s run down the best awards season bets for each picture.
Chances: Longshot and Sony Pictures and the film’s producers would no doubt be surprised if it went there.
Best Director – Bennett Miller
Chances: Miller’s first movie since his breakout “Capote” raise even more questions about him as a filmmaker. The picture seems very much along the lines what original helmer Steven Soderbergh was going to fashion. Does Miller actually have his own voice or is he another James Mangold in the making? That won’t play with the director’s branch.
Best Actor – Brad Pitt
Chances: Certainly more in the conversation than many would have expected. It’s a more charismatic turn than Pitt’s work in “Tree of Life” and his character has to carry the film. At worst, expect a Golden Globe nod.
Best Supporting Actor – Jonah Hill
Chances: It’s a nice dramatic turn for the comedic actor and screenwriter, but this is a major longshot.
Best Supporting Actor – Philip Seymour Hoffman
Gotta give him credit for buzzing his hair off for the role, but he’s not in the movie as much as you’d think. His chances are significantly better for “Ides.”
Best Adapted Screenplay – Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
Chances: Adapted is always a tough category, but this Oscar-winning duo have fashioned a punchy script that is much more entertaining than the subject matter would necessarily make it out to be.
“THE IDES OF MARCH”
Chances: You’ll hear this again and again over the next five months: “If there were 10 guaranteed nominees it would be a major player, but with the 5% vote? It’s gonna be tough. Would likely only qualify if there were more than five to six nominees this year.”
Best Director – George Clooney
Chances: Depends on how the field shapes out. “Ides” is not the stylistic endeavor “Good Night, and Good Luck.” (his first directing nod) was. If the movie is embraced, it’s certainly possible but feels like a stretch right now.
Best Actor – Ryan Gosling
Chances: Gosling has a competing performance in “Drive” and a supporting turn in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” which could all affect his chances. Arguably, his best work is in “Drive,” but it may be too quiet and subtle to gain voter traction. His “Love” turn is the showiest and most entertaining. As a smart campaign manager looking to make the right choice for a presidential candidate, Gosling is very, very good. And yet, if he couldn’t land a nomination for his stunning work in “Blue Valentine,” well, color us concerned.
Best Supporting Actor – Philip Seymour Hoffman
Chances: Hands down, the film’s best overall hopes at Oscar time. Hoffman is superb and powerful as a the senior campaign manager for Clooney’s candidate. Don’t be surprised
Best Supporting Actor – Paul Giamatti
Chances: Possible, he’s just as snappy as Hoffman, but with less screen time. They’d have to fight for it.
Best Supporting Actor – George Clooney
Chances: Unlikely. He’s got one killer scene with Gosling, but his acting honor should come in the best actor category with “The Descendants.”
Best Supporting Actress – Marisa Tomei
Chances: No way. She’s having a great time playing among her quality co-stars, but she’s not in it enough to really be a candidate.
Best Supporting Actress – Evan Rachel Wood
Chances: She was stronger in “The Wrestler” and couldn’t get a nod. Hard time seeing it here.
Best Adapted Screenplay – George Clooney and Grant Heslov
Chances: Possible. Like “Moneyball,” “Ides” is eligible for what always turns out to be the most competitive screenplay category. However, you could easily make the argument the writing team turned a stage play into a real film and actually improved upon the original source material.
Note: It rarely affects Oscar, but “Ides” has an excellent chance for a SAG Awards best ensemble nomination. Most of the cast would have to play the SAG screening game, but it’s doable and deserved.
Are you looking forward to “Moneyball” or “The Ides of March”? Share your thoughts below.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow Gregory Ellwood @HitFixGregory.