Maui Arts & Entertainment

Three Films with Oscar Buzz Premiering

December 16, 2012, 3:44 PM HST
* Updated January 2, 8:32 AM
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By Vanessa Wolf

Remember how amazing Joaquin Phoenix was in 2005’s Walk the Line: so amazing he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor that year?

And then, not too long after, he went seemingly nuts: grew that grizzly bear beard, took up rap, and acted like a lunatic on Letterman?

Well, it looks like he’s back on his meds…and back in full force. Those predicting the films mostly likely to garner Oscar nods have given Phoenix’s latest performance the green light.

It is one of three flicks opening as part of the First Light Film Festival this week that you don’t want to miss.


Zero Dark Thirty


In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first female director to ever win an Academy Award for her film The Hurt Locker. The movie also swept Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing that year.

On Thursday, at 7:30 p.m., be one of the first to catch Bigelow’s follow-up (and likely Oscar dominator in 2013), Zero Dark Thirty.

For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty reunites the Oscar-winning team of director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal for the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.


The precursor awards for Zero Dark Thirty are notable, including winning the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, and the Boston Society of Film Critics awards for best picture and best director. In addition, awards have also already been garnered from the above groups for best cinematography and best actress for Jessica Chastain.

The film has also received Critics Choice, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.

The Master

Gone is the Charlie Manson beard. Joaquin Phoenix appears to be back on his game.  Catch his latest effort Friday at 2:30 p.m. at the Castle Theater as he stars in The Master.

The film tells the story of Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a World War II veteran struggling to adjust to a post-war society who meets Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a leader of a philosophical movement known as “The Cause” who sees something in Quell and accepts him into the movement. Freddie takes a liking to “The Cause” and begins traveling with Dodd along the East Coast to spread the teachings.

The Los Angeles Film Critics Circle has already awarded The Master with Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams) awards.

It has also garnered a slew of nominations including best picture, best screenplay, best action, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best cinematography, and best score from the Critics Choice, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe Awards.

Phoenix may still not be the man we thought we knew. Word on the street is that early screening film audiences were left with an overwhelming reaction of “huh?” at the end of The Master.  Still, everyone unanimously agrees that Joaquin Phoenix gives an amazing manic performance and is a top contender to not only be nominated, but possibly win.

Determine whether life is imitating art –  or vice-versa – for yourself Friday afternoon at 2:30.

Django Unchained

Finally, it seems Kathryn Bigelow has some Academy Award competition as Quentin Tarantino is expected to get an Oscar nod for both best director and best film for Django Unchained.

Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained stars Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles—dead or alive.

To add weight to these predictions, Django Unchained has already received best picture nominations from the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics Choice Awards, and the San Diego Film Critics Society. It has also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Director, Screenplay, and best supporting actor for both Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Django Unchained plays Friday, December 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the Castle Theater.

Tickets for the screenings are $12 each.

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