“The Artist,” “The Help,” “Carnage” and more pick up steam – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: The awards race has transformed from a protracted marathon to a healthy sprint over the past few days. We’re not yet at a full-blown run, but activity is buzzing around a handful of titles that hope to compete in various Oscar categories. Let’s take a moment and run through a few recent movements.

– The 15th Annual Hollywood Awards Gala recognized several talents whose names should find their way into the Oscar race. George Clooney and Michelle Williams picked up trophies for “The Descendants” and “My Week with Marilyn,” respectively. “Moneyball” director Bennett Miller earned what Sony hopes is the first of several awards for his work on the baseball drama. The same goes with supporting actors Carey Mulligan (“Shame”), Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) and the cast of “The Help.” My friend Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter does an excellent job breaking down the Oscar prospects of the Hollywood Awards Gala honorees. Read it here.

– And here’s my official recap of the event, which came across as a celebration of this year’s truly outstanding films.

– Meanwhile, Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere attended the gala and was struck by the poignancy of certain speeches. He says Glenn Close’s acceptance speech for the Career Achievement was the frontrunner until Viola Davis took the podium to speak for the “Help” ensemble. Wells goes so far as to say Davis’s speech was so amazing, it cemented her status as this year’s inevitable Best Actress winner. Do you agree?

– Warner just invited me to a “J. Edgar” press screening. Not a week-of opening, but an early, pre-AFI Fest screening. That’s a great sign for a picture that hasn’t begun screening in earnest. Not sure when I can officially “talk” about Clint Eastwood’s biopic (with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the late FBI director). But you can bet I’ll have plenty to say once the film opens on Nov. 9.

– Speaking of invites, Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” is hosting several press screenings in N.Y. and L.A. leading up to its Dec. 16 release date. I’m interested to see if the picture can gain better traction after a mixed festival start. I see it myself next week at the Savannah Film Festival.

– Ah, the Savannah Film Fest. It starts Saturday, with Michel Hazanavicius’ winning “The Artist.” It includes festival screenings of “A Dangerous Method,” “Butter,” “Carnage,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Another Happy Day,” “The Son of No One,” “Like Crazy” and the always anticipated Director’s Choice. It has become a must-attend over the years. I’ll report from the fest whenever possible.

– Have you seen John Hawkes perform his haunting “Marcy’s Song” from Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” yet?

– Or the latest “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” poster?

For complete Oscar and Film Festival coverage, visit our Awards Alley for the latest news items, reviews and interviews all season long.

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