Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” continue to earn raves

By Sean O’Connell 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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