Director Michael Haneke, left, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant… (Denis Manin / Sony Pictures…)
The Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. named it best picture. Will academy members be in the mood for "Amour"? Time to check with the Oscar 8-Ball, that magical portal into the minds and hearts and, in the rare applicable instance, the souls of academy members and how they'll be voting this awards season.
You may rely on it: Since winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Michael Haneke's latest, an unflinching, intimate portrait of an elderly man (Jean-Louis Trintignant) caring for his wife (Emmanuelle Riva) as her life comes to an end, has been a favorite for the foreign-language-film Oscar. It won four honors, including picture, at the European Film Awards, and has a great many fans among academy voters. The foreign-language-film nomination committee will certainly stamp its ticket, making it two in a row for Haneke, following the nomination of his 2009 Palme d'Or winner "The White Ribbon." And we're hearing enough support from the writers branch that Haneke might win his first individual Oscar nomination for the movie's tender and powerful original screenplay, a sharp break from the filmmaker's prior poke-in-the-eye style of storytelling.
Signs point to yes: Riva was another L.A. Film Critics Assn. honoree, sharing the group's lead actress honors with "Silver Linings Playbook's" Jennifer Lawrence. The 85-year-old Riva, best known for her debut more than half a century ago in Alain Resnais' New Wave classic "Hiroshima mon amour," has won raves for the quiet and, at times, angry nobility she brings to this woman felled by time. Owing to her own age, Riva hasn't traveled to the U.S. from her native France to promote the film, lowering her profile, but not her stature. She could well take a place alongside 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis when the actress nominees are announced in January.
Concentrate and ask again: Could Haneke win a nod for screenplay and director? With so many Oscar winners and past nominees with worthy movies this year, that seems a stretch. The film itself has a better chance at landing a best picture nomination, but only if its backers convince voters that it's worthy of being honored in two categories. The last two movies to be nominated for both picture and foreign-language film -- "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Life Is Beautiful" -- were commercial hits. "Amour" may not have that distinction.
Don't count on it: Riva's costar, Trintignant, is equally good, but finds himself in a category crowded with big-name contenders. He's a long shot at best.
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Michael Haneke looks death square in the eye in "Amour"