October 23, 2016
        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                "The Birth of a Nation" looks to survive controversy and contend for awards                "The Girl on the Train" hopes to transport Emily Blunt to the Oscar race        

“The Help” helps its awards chances – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Boffo box office is not the be-all-and-end-all, but the best laid plans of some awards strategists have been waylaid when films with aspirations have fizzled in the marketplace.

To that end, Tate Taylor’s “The Help” helped its fledgling awards campaign by opening to a robust $25.5 million in estimated ticket sales. Though the film opened behind reigning box office champ “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” Taylor’s adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s racial-divide novel earned outstanding grades from audience members (an A+ on CinemaScore) and began generating awards buzz.

“It seems to me like Emma Stone and Viola Davis should be campaigned as Best Actress while the rest of the strong female cast (including Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Sissy Spacek) belongs in the supporting category,” Dave Karger writes for EW, focusing on the Oscar race.

Broadening the viewpoint, “The Help” is poised to perform well with The Broadcast Film Critics Association’s annual Critics’ Choice Award (the group’s Best Ensemble category seems ideal for this rock-solid acting corps), as well as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globes.

It’s early in the race, and we’re just now starting to see the formidable roles we expect to compete in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress roles. We’ll know in the next few weeks how Stone, Davis, Spencer and Chastain stack up against the likes of Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”), Tilda Swinton (“We Need To Talk About Kevin”), Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet (both of Roman Polanski’s “Carnage”). My guess is that Davis and Spencer stay at the forefront of the conversation, even as Stone and Chastain – as good as they are in the film — start slipping behind the competition.

But at least “The Help” remains in the hunt, for as unfair as the practice might be, a bad opening weekend would have silenced these awards discussions in a heartbeat.

For more on “The Help,” be sure to read our interviews with Viola Davis, Tate Taylor, Octavia Spencer and Kathryn Stockett, only on HollywoodNews.com’s Awards Alley.

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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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