"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" deliciously pairs Richard E. Grant with Melissa McCarthy                "22 July" sees Paul Greengrass effectively depict another tragic historical event                Timothée Chalamet and Rachel Weisz to be Honored at Hollywood Film Awards                Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet are gunning for awards with "Beautiful Boy"                "Bad Times At The El Royale" is overstuffed yet pulpy fun from Drew Goddard                87 films will contend for Best Foreign Language Feature this year                "First Man" is another stunning achievement for Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling                Updated Academy Award predictions for early October                Bradley Cooper makes a stunning directorial debut with the Oscar frontrunner "A Star Is Born"                Trailer for 'Vice' reveals Adam McKay's biopic of Dick Cheney                Taking a look at potential Best Original Screenplay contenders                Nicole Kidman to Receive Hollywood Film Award                “First Man” and “A Star Is Born”: Films to see in October                Taking a look at potential Best Adapted Screenplay contenders                Could we be seeing a rematch of Damien Chazelle vs Barry Jenkins this year?        

Hollywood Contenders – Is there room among biopic contenders for Bryan Cranston and “Trumbo”?

Bryan Cranston
Among the many biopics swarming Academy voters this year (much like every other year), few will take you as much by surprise as Trumbo. I say this as someone who was very much surprised by how entertaining this look at screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and the Hollywood black list was, despite heavy material that could have turned into one big lecture. With a delightfully good performance by Bryan Cranston in the title role, there’s tons to like here. It opened this past weekend in limited release and might wind up a bit of an Oscar dark horse, provided it’s not swallowed up by some higher profile biopics…

The film tells the tale of how writer Dalton Trumbo (Cranston) was targeted by anti Communists and almost had his life ruined. At one time the top scribe in Hollywood, he was sent to prison and black balled from having his screenplays produced when the House Un-American Activities Committee labeled him a threat, part of the infamous Hollywood Ten. Not to be dissuaded, Trumbo created a black market for writers, secretly one two Academy Awards in the process (for Roman Holliday and for The Brave One), and eventually brought the whole thing to an end. Jay Roach directs from a script by John McNamara, while the starry cast in addition to Cranston includes Roger Bart, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Stephen Root, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alan Tudyk, and more. It’s a true ensemble, one of the best so far this year too.

What this movie really has going in its favor, aside from Cranston absolutely crushing it, is the perfect tone. The serious moments are given sincerity and weight, but Roach deftly uses his comedic background to make room for lots of humor. It makes for a full meal, not unlike what the director has done with his HBO flicks Game Change and Recount. The ensemble all pulls their weight, so everyone is on the same page here, making things flow very nicely. Again, this could have been like a trip to the dentist, but the cast and crew instead make it an absolute delight. You manage to leave a somewhat tragic biopic with a smile on your face.

The biopic competition this year will be fierce, as it pretty much always is with the Academy Awards. Trumbo is in a group that includes Black Mass, Concussion, The Danish Girl, Joy (kinda sorta), Love & Mercy, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton, Steve Jobs, and The Walk, just to name a handful. Some of those are bigger contenders than others, putting Trumbo right in the middle of the pack, so it remains to be seen how it will ultimately do. That being said, it’s coming out at the perfect time and definitely has a legitimate shot to make a mark during the precursors.

Speaking of awards, where could Trumbo campaign if things go well and Oscar could be in sight? Well, I suspect they’ll try for Best Picture, Best Director (for Roach), Best Actor (for Cranston), Best Supporting Actor (for Goodman), Best Supporting Actress (for Lane or Mirren), Best Adapted Screenplay (for McNamara), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. Frankly, it’s probably Cranston in Best Actor or bust here, but a lot will depend on the precursors. If Cranston in Actor becomes a viable option, watch out for Goodman in Supporting Actor as well. He nearly steals the show, especially with a scene in the third act.

Overall, it remains to be seen how things will ultimately go for Trumbo. The film opened last weekend and did solid limited engagement business, so that’s a plus, but we’re in the thick of the season, so competition will be plentiful. Again, it will more or less be make or break for it when the precursors really begin to get hot and heavy. That being said, regardless of its ultimate Oscar prospects, this is just a delightful film that deserves to be seen. Cranston is at the top of his game and it’s a fascinating period in Hollywood depicted with a tremendous amount of charm. Give Trumbo a lot and I think you’ll like what you find…

Be sure to check out Trumbo, currently in limited release!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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