Sony Classics aims for lead with Knightley in ‘Method,’ supporting for ‘Carnage’ cast

When I spoke to Sony Classics honcho Michael Barker at this year’s Telluride Film Festival, he told me, “Watch out for Jodie Foster.” We were talking about the lead actress category at the time, and Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” had just played the Venice fest. He was high on her chances and feeling invigorated by reactions to her showy turn in the film.

Well, things change in an Oscar season. According to screening literature recently placed at the studio’s official site, not only will Foster actually be campaigned in the supporting actress category, but so will co-star Kate Winslet. Additionally, the other actors in the film’s quartet — Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly — will be campaigned for supporting actor, taking the entire cast out of lead contention.

This, I think, is a smart way to go. The Best Actress race is already filling up and seems to have little room for movement between seven or eight serious possibilities. Meanwhile, the film’s best shot at a nomination is probably for Christoph Waltz’s smarmy lawyer (the character portrayed by Jeff Daniels on Broadway). And in a category that has a lot of wiggle room, I think he becomes a real possibility now.

I wasn’t a big fan of Polanski’s film or Foster’s performance, which I found to be way too broad. She will fare better in supporting actress than in lead, but I don’t know how far she’ll get. Nevertheless, again, I see the logic and think it’s a smart play.

Not as smart, in my opinion, is gunning for a Best Actress nomination for Keira Knightley’s histrionic performance in David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method.” For reasons mentioned above, Knightley is likely to face a tougher road to a nod than she would have in supporting. I imagine the move has something to do with the fact that the studio has performances from Marion Cotillard, Jessica Chastain and now Jodie Foster, among others, to promote for supporting, with nothing to work with in lead.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There is Vera Farmiga in “Higher Ground.” And I suppose either Leila Hatami or Sareh Bayat could be campaigned for their wonderful work in “A Separation” (which is set for release within the year as opposed to the usual tactic of holding foreign films for the following year). But as far as viable options, there isn’t anything beyond Knightley or Foster, and so they’ve made their call as to which goes where.

These decisions aren’t up to the studios exclusively, mind you. Personal publicity for the talent has to sign off on any such move, and sometimes, they’ll even end up working against the best interests of a contender in order to get the spotlight of a higher profile campaign. I’m not at all insinuating that’s what’s going on here, I’m just saying if you have beef with the decision, it’s not just the studio who is implicated.

So, with that in mind, what do you say to this? These films haven’t been released yet but maybe some of you have caught them at this or that festival. Any thoughts?

(These changes will be reflected in Monday’s chart update.)