Oscar Watch: 'Fruitvale Station,' 'The Butler' & Other Harvey Weinstein Goodies

by Alt Film Guide

Fruitvale Station Michael B. Jordan Oscar GrantCannes Film Festival 2013: Harvey Weinstein's Academy Awards Preview Show (Image: Fruitvale Station, with Michael B. Jordan)

Harvey Weinstein's Cannes Film Festival Coming Attractions Special, a showcase of upcoming The Weinstein Company releases, is now regarded as one of the Croisette's key film events. Because it provides a hint at who or what will win the Palme d'Or? Get real. Even at Cannes, it's all about the Academy Awards.

This year, Cannes Official Competition Jury Member Nicole Kidman was Weinstein's co-presenter. And no, there wasn't any influence peddling involved. Kidman was there because she is the star of The Weinstein Company's upcoming Grace of Monaco, in which she plays another K-named movie star, Grace Kelly. And let's not forget that 11 years ago Kidman won a Best Actress Oscar for The Hours, distributed by – at the time – the Weinstein-ruled Miramax.

Two movies inspired by real life events and centered on black men

Although Nicole Kidman is a likely candidate for the 2014 Best Actress Oscar (and, according to some, Tim Roth is a potential Best Supporting Actor nominee as well), one of The Weinstein Company's big Oscar releases may turn out to be writer-director Ryan Coogler's based-on-factual-events Fruitvale Station. Like Benh Zeitlin's fellow Sundance Film Festival hit Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station is bound to become the 2014 Academy Awards' indie darling. Coogler's film depicts the last day in the life of a black man, Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan), shot dead by a white San Francisco police officer, Johannes Mehserle, on New Year's Day 2009. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) plays Grant's mother. Best Actor Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) is one of the film's producers.

And that leads us to Lee Daniels' White House-set drama The Butler, in which Whitaker plays the title role. Supporting him in this Oscar-bait effort is an eclectic all-star cast that includes Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, James Marsden, Alex Pettyfer, Melissa Leo, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Mariah Carey, and Harry Potter's Professor Severus Snape Alan Rickman, here playing President Ronald Reagan.

Nelson Mandela bombmaker

And let's not forget Justin Chadwick's Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, based on Nelson Mandela's 1994 memoir, and starring Pacific Rim's Idris Elba in the title role and Skyfall's Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela. According to the New York Times' Logan Hill, in the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom trailer, Elba's Mandela “delivers impassioned speeches, sure, but he's also seen making bombs, blowing up buildings and ripping off his shirt to reveal a buff, action-star chest.” In other words, don't expect this Nelson Mandela to look or act like Morgan Freeman in Clint Eastwood's tame Invictus.

Hill adds that Harvey Weinstein “said the recent Boston Marathon bombings did not make him consider cutting scenes of Mandela making bombs and exploding government buildings. 'They made the bombs,' he said. 'They didn't blow up anybody, but they blew up buildings, and somebody could have inadvertently been hurt. We tell it the way he told it.'"

“Hurt” or blown to pieces. Anyhow, if Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom earns solid critical buzz among U.S. critics, expect the political drama-cum-biopic to enjoy a rewarding stroll on its way to the Oscars. The film's screenplay is credited to William Nicholson (Les Misérables, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Gladiator).

[“Oscar 2014 Watch: Harvey Weinstein Cannes Film Festival Coming Attractions” continues on the next page. See link below.]

Fruitvale Station Michael B. Jordan image: The Weinstein Company.

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