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The Impossible (#110 of 5)

Poster Lab: Diana, with Naomi Watts Set Adrift Yet Again

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Poster Lab: <em>Diana</em>, with Naomi Watts Set Adrift Yet Again
Poster Lab: <em>Diana</em>, with Naomi Watts Set Adrift Yet Again

Poor Naomi Watts just can’t escape the big blue. Everywhere we see the Aussie actress these days, it seems she’s accompanied by a literal ocean, its waters deep and vast, and ripe for the application of metaphor. First, Watts fought against a tsunami in The Impossible, an act many would say paid off since it landed her an Oscar nod. Then, Watts cheated on bestie Nicole Kidman with Robin Wright, her Adore co-star with whom she did a son-as-sex-partner swap, and floated on an anchored dock just off the Australian coast. Now, Watts is gazing off into the ripply horizon again on this one-sheet for Diana, a once-baity biopic that casts the actress as the ill-fated “people’s princess.”

Bearing the tagline, “The only thing more incredible than the life she led was the secret she kept,” the poster, in all its open space, points to the missed opportunities of a life cut short, and calls to mind one of the worst lines in Titanic: “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.” Presumably, this scene shows Watt’s Diana on the luxury yacht of Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar), where a few of the film’s key scenes reportedly take place. Where it positions Watts herself is where she’s unfortunately been for too long now: caught drifting in limbo between her considerable talent and the quality of work to which she’s attached.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Actress

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Actress

Unlike Anne Hathaway, who’s probably even sidestepping sidewalk cracks lest she break some old Academy member’s back, and perhaps jeopardize her inevitable Fantine-quoting speech (“Life hasn’t killed the dream I dreamed!”), Jennifer Lawrence is taking a page from Mo’Nique’s book and playing the campaign game by her own rules. With Hollywood’s hottest new franchise already cranking up her star wattage, the on-fire frontrunner has, without denying her desire for victory or tainting her “It Girl” image, shown a refreshing, and even alarming, awards-season irreverence, such as in that little SNL intro bit, or her recent howler of an interview with EW. The lack of formality may prove off-putting to some, who prefer, say, an Oscar angel like Natalie Portman, but odds are Lawrence still has this win in the bag, as further evidenced by her precursor record and the sheer influence of Silver Linings Playbook producer Harvey Weinstein.

Ranking Oscar’s 2013 Nominees

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Ranking Oscar’s 2013 Nominees
Ranking Oscar’s 2013 Nominees

The 85th annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Starting tomorrow, check back daily as we predict the winner in every Oscar category. This year, 53 films received nominations in 24 categories, and with the exception of Chasing Ice, which I feel no compulsion to seek out, I’ve seen them all. Below, a ranked list, from best to worst, of those 52 films.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress

Compared to most of the season’s races, Best Actress has remained somewhat open, with only two gals firmly secure in their nominations, and at least five more boasting realistic chances. The two locks in question are, of course, Zero Dark Thirty lead Jessica Chastain and Silver Linings Playbook star Jennifer Lawrence, a pair whom most believe will duke it out for the win. Coming off of one of the most impressive breakthrough years of any actor in memory, Chastain took top billing in a film that never tried to promote girl power, but nonetheless emerged as a battleground riff on any number of feminist dramas, with a can-do female fighting powers that be to see justice done. Historically, it’s the sort of performance the Academy lives to reward, right up there with the dead-on mimicry of late icons. Lawrence, meanwhile, used her turn in Silver Linings Playbook to cement her career longevity, which has been hinted at since Winter’s Bone, the last film to land her a nod in this category. Far from a flash in the pan, Lawrence has that rare gift of deeply understanding the women she portrays, and her bone-deep grasp of unhinged widow Tiffany is the highlight of David O. Russell’s flawed dramedy.

Oscar Prospects: The Impossible

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Oscar Prospects: The Impossible
Oscar Prospects: The Impossible

If there’s a film this season that’s poised to nab Oscar’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close vote, joining a generously wide Best Picture field for its cloying take on a recent tragedy, it’s definitely J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible, a markedly odd prestige picture with enough capital-A acting and capital-I issues to distract from its dire mix of sentiment and insensitivity. Charting one family’s struggle to survive amid the devastation of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, this epic, fact-based tearjerker is already raking in critical acclaim, despite its pedestrian retooling of the disaster-movie formula. On this site alone, venom has been spat regarding the central family’s ethnicity, which was changed from Spanish to British in a move that reeks of commercial compromise. The contentious racial topic may well miff some Academy members of color (and the astute ballot-casters who love them), but likely not enough to quell the movie’s apparent wave of supporters. (Get it?) One should hope that savvier voters will simply dismiss the film for reasons more foundational than whitewashing, for The Impossible is essentially a topical twist on a Roland Emmerich deathfest, wherein viewers are subjected to endless weather-fueled carnage, with the salvation of the core cast serving as self-satisfied consolation. Indeed, this is all inspired by a true story (as an emboldened pre-film title card is sure to hammer home), but, true or not, the strength of a story is in the telling, and what’s peddled here is the convenient eminence of folks to whom, in comparison, all other survivors pale.