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Focus Features Planning To Push "Pariah" Into 2012 Oscar Race; What Are Its Chances?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 27, 2011 at 3:28AM

I suspected as much, given how late in the year Focus Features plans to release the film, despite its Sundance Film Festival debut in January, 8 months ago. And it's obviously definitely a good look for the film (Pariah), its director (Dee Rees) and star (Adepero Oduye).
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I suspected as much, given how late in the year Focus Features plans to release the film, despite its Sundance Film Festival debut in January, 8 months ago. And it's obviously definitely a good look for the film (Pariah), its director (Dee Rees) and star (Adepero Oduye).

Focus Features will release Pariah in December, and (here's the part I'm referring to in my first sentence), as Deadline notes, they are "fully committed to campaigning it as well, particularly for its 17-year-old star Adepero Oduye, who plays a Brooklyn high school student who isn’t exactly what she seems, at least to her more conservative parents. Certainly the success of Precious with Academy voters should give Focus hope this can follow a Sundance path to Oscar attention..."

First of all, I should correct Deadline and say that Adepero Oduye is not 17-years old. She plays a 17-year-old in the movie, which maybe is what they meant to say. Although I'm sure Adepero wouldn't mind the error ;)

But so... what's really exciting here is that Focus is planning to push the film and its star into the Oscar race this year! I assume the categories they are considering are Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actress.

What are the film's chances? It's a long-shot, given the competition, but anything is possible. I'd say the category in which they'd have the best chance would be Best Adapted Screenplay, which, by the way, was one of the categories Precious won an Oscar for last year. And I make the comparison to Precious solely because the Deadline piece references it.

In the Best Actress category, Adepero would likely be going up against Viola Davis (The Help), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), and others.

Tough group this year. And given how well The Help has done commercially and critically, many are saying it could very well be this year's The Blindside, and the Oscar in this category would be Viola Davis' to lose.

But Meryl Streep is always a contender, though I read some early reactions to The Iron Lady that weren't strong.

In Albert Nobbs, Glenn Close plays a woman who poses as a male butler in a Dublin hotel in the 1860s. Oscar has generally been kind to actors and actresses in dramas who pretend to be the opposite sex. Besides, Glenn Close is certainly a fine actress, and she's never won an Oscar, despite being nominated 5 times. So, if this Albert Nobbs is all that folks expect it to be, she'll probably be a shoo-in for the Oscar in this category, because she'll have two things working for her - the kind of role she plays, and the fact that she's never won, despite all the nominations (the sympathy vote; or more like the "we should have given it to you before, but didn't, and so we're giving it to you now" vote).

As for Best Director and Best Picture, Pariah and director Dee Rees will face stiff competition if nominated - from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, Woody Allen and others. Both male-dominated categories.

But really, if the film receives ANY nominations at all, I think that'll be a coup! Forget winning (although that would be grand!); a nomination in any of the major categories for a film of its size and subject matter would certainly give it, its cast and crew a significant awareness boost!

So, we'll see how it all plays out. There's still plenty of cinema to watch in the next 4 months. But I'll certainly be watching this closely for obvious reasons! It really depends on how effectively Focus Features is able to campaign for the film. Also, will it see the same kind of vocal support from the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry that Precious saw when it made its run?

At the very least, the film should do well in the pre-Oscar indie film awards circuit however.

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