October 26, 2016
        Viola Davis will be campaigned in Best Supporting Actress for "Fences"                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        

“Descendants” the weekend’s unofficial “winner” – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Official winners from the Venice Film Festival won’t be announced until Saturday – Steve McQueen’s “Shame” and Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” are being suggested as frontrunners for this year’s Golden Lion, at this point – and Telluride doesn’t concern itself with trophies.

Yet one film that premiered over the weekend can claim an undisputed victory from the weekend thanks to the near-universal praise it received and the momentum it is building heading into the lengthy awards-season marathon.

Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” which held its world premiere in the mountains of Colorado, seemed to catapult itself into the Oscar race with a powerful showing at Telluride. Some will have you believe it joins current contenders such as Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” and Tate Taylor’s box-office juggernaut, “The Help.” But the general consensus out of Telluride is that both Payne and his star, George Clooney, have excellent shots at getting into their respective Oscar categories as the season plays out.

Interesting for Clooney, however, is the fact that he has his own film to promote as the fall film festival season pushes on. The Oscar winner will be in Toronto later this week with both “Descendants” and the political drama “The Ides of March,” which he directed. “March” opened Venice to largely positive reviews but could not play Telluride, even though Clooney was honored by TFF organizers. Our eyes will turn to Toronto next to see how “Ides,” which co-stars Ryan Gosling as a political aide, plays to critics and crowds.

Another well-received film helped its awards aspirations over the weekend with a fine festival reception. Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Artist” continued to charm crowds after launching at Cannes earlier this year. It, too, brings its bandwagon to TIFF later in the week. Yet the buzz surrounding this silent film, which pays tribute to Hollywood Golden Age, was nowhere near as loud as what’s swirling around Payne’s “Descendants.”

Granted, it’s way too soon to declare any film a frontrunner. And too much can happen between now and the nomination stage. We’ve seen films deemed mortal locks for Best Picture glory fizzle and die for various reasons. But the consensus on “Descendants” seems to be that Fox Searchlight has a contender on its hands. I’m anxious to see who they proceed.

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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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