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As always, this year’s Oscar race kicked off at January’s Sundance Film Festival. Front and center at the festival were two Amazon Studios acquisitions. Like Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s 2017 Oscar-nominated Sundance Amazon buy “The Big Sick,” Nisha Ganatra’s “Late Night” (June 7) deals with how cultures collide, this time in the New York talk-show universe. Writer and star Mindy Kaling plays the diversity hire for an all-male writers room for a woman talk-show host, played with such brio by Oscar-winner Emma Thompson (“Howard’s End”) that a Supporting Actress nomination should be in the bag, assuming that Amazon turns their $13-million pickup (Metascore: 70) into a summer hit.
Amazon - Writer-turned-director - Scott - Z - Burns
Amazon plunked down another $14 million for writer-turned-director Scott Z. Burns’ post-9/11 fact-based political thriller “The Report,” a taut drama slated for fall release that imparts reams of info about CIA interrogation techniques, along the lines of post-Watergate journalism drama “All the President’s Men,” which won four Oscars. “The Report” makes heroes out of dogged investigator Dan Jones (Adam Driver) and his boss, California Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening). After four nominations, the respected Hollywood insider is long overdue.
Oscar-winner - Octavia - Spencer - Help - Supporting
Another Oscar-winner, Octavia Spencer (“The Help”), is a strong supporting actress candidate for her layered performance as a strong, demanding teacher with family secrets in Julius Onah’s Sundance breakout “Luce” (Neon), a provocative dissection of a well-intentioned suburban couple (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) whose adopted African-born overachieving teenager (breakout Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) runs into conflicts with his teacher (Spencer) that spiral out of control.
Coming up in the Cannes competition is Pedro Almodóvar’s semi-autobiographical “Pain & Glory” (fall, Sony Pictures Classics), starring Antonio Banderas as an aging filmmaker in declining health looking back on his life, from his ’60s childhood through his ’80s coming of age and discovery of cinema. Portraying his...
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