All eyes are on the last batch of major year-end movies to be factored into the Oscar zeitgeist. Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, at least, will play better for the older Academy--many of whom lived through the decades depicted in this ambitious J. Edgar Hoover biopic dominated by Leonardo DiCaprio's moving performance in the title role--than the wider moviegoing public. Eastwood acknowledged this during his intro at Thursday's AFI FEST opening night unveiling at Mann's Chinese, thanking Warner Bros., his home for 41 years, for supporting so many offbeat projects that were not mainstream: "Sometimes they turned out pretty good," he said.
Indeed, Eastwood has delivered a consistent string of quality films, even after his career peaks, the Oscar-winning Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Written by Milk's Dustin Lance Black, J. Edgar cross-cuts between the old Hoover, not willing to release his hold on the reins of power after 48 years and eight presidents (many of them afraid of his secret files), and flashbacks to his life from age 19 through his rise to power at the Bureau of Investigation (eventually the FBI). Hoover started out responding vigilantly to terrorist violence and wound up corrupt, paranoid and egomaniacal.
More details and a round-up of early reviews are below.
On this week’s Oscar Talk, Kris Tapley and I air our reactions to AFI FEST opener J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in a tour-de-force performance as J. Edgar Hoover, young and old. We agree that DiCaprio could move into the lead in the Best Actor category, and Armie Hammer, Judi Dench and Naomi Watts could be in the running for supporting nominations too. It may not be best picture, although some categories could go with a period film from the respected and popular Eastwood, from art direction and cinematography to makeup. Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black enters some speculative territory, here; depending on critical reaction, he could be rewarded with a script nod.