October 24, 2016
        Mel Gibson to be Honored with the Hollywood Director Award at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Michael Moore drops a surprise new film with "Michael Moore in TrumpLand"                Hollywood Contenders: New Oscar Predictions for October                Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster                85 countries will be competing for Best Foreign Language Feature nominations at the Oscars                Tom Hanks to receive Hollywood Actor Award for "Sully" @ Hollywood Film Awards                "Certain Women" showcases Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams                Ben Affleck is perhaps Hollywood's biggest and most diverse superstar        

Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” continue to earn raves

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Call off this year’s Best Actress race. Natalie Portman already has won the Oscar for her reportedly searing performance in Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.” Our apologies to rival contenders like Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”). Better luck next year!

OK, I’m kidding. But that’s the kind of reaction pouring out of Venice now that Aronofsky’s ballet drama has opened the annual film festival. Early buzz from critics on the scene was positive. Now more critics are heaping praise on the film and, specifically, Portman’s performance as a ballerina struggling to succeed in a major Manhattan company.

The Times UK said Portman in “astounding” and “awards are sure to follow.”

The Independent opted for words like “searing” and “enthralling” in its review.

The headline on Deadline boldly claims, “Critics Predict Natalie Portman Will Win Oscar For Venice Opener ‘Black Swan’”

And she may. But it’s barely September. The race might have started, but far too many contenders are still standing at the gate. I’m willing to believe Portman is terrific in Aronofsky’s film. I’m anxious to see it next week in Toronto. But claiming a victory for any film this early in the game raises expectations too high, which is harmful and silly.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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