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Is 'Juno's' Ellen Page the new Oscar frontrunner?

December 31, 2007 |  4:44 pm

Given its breakout box-office success, "Juno" is now a heavyweight contender for an Oscar best-pic nomination and star Ellen Page may be emerging as the best-actress frontrunner.

The $3.2 million that "Juno" just earned on Friday in less than 1,000 theaters is the second-biggest haul ever for such an indie flick, falling shy of the $8.2 million record set by "The Blair Witch Project" on 1,101 screens in 1999. "Juno" continued to rack up more than $3 million per day since then, bringing its tally to $25.7 million. Its momentum suggests that it'll soon surpass other notable indies in this derby, including "No Country for Old Men" ($41 million). It's already surpassed "Atonement" ($11 million), but that's in restricted release — on only 310 screens for now.

Fox Searchlight is so juiced by "Juno's" early success that it's upping its rollout to a total of 2,000 screens next weekend. The film being billed as "this year's 'Little Miss Sunshine'" will surely end up outshining last year's best-pic nominee, which earned about $60 million in the U.S.

Ellen_page_3

What makes "Juno" glow are two things: Ellen Page's radiant performance and Diablo Cody's sizzling script. Cody already has the Oscar for original screenplay locked up. Now "Juno's" mega-success presses Page ahead in the actress' derby, too. Up till now she wasn't getting sufficient respect because she portrays an uppity, pregnant 16-year-old who deserves a good slap. But actress Page is really a 20-year-old Serious Thespian deserving serious attention from Oscar voters now that her movie has been endorsed so enthusiastically by film critics (Roger Ebert trumpets "Juno" as the best picture of 2007) and moviegoers. She's also campaigning agressively, by the way. You can catch her on David Letterman 's show on Thursday night, Jan. 3.

Page has recent Oscar history on her side. Look at the best-actress champs over the past 10 years: 6 were first-time nominees. Voters love ingĂ©nues, especially if they're sexy — and that's Page, in a quirky kinda way. One of Page's chief rivals is 66-year-old Julie Christie ("Away from Her"), who's still sexy, sure, but not in that winking, come-hither way of Helen Mirren, who won last year at age 61 after unbuttoning her bra on the cover of Los Angeles magazine. Shrewdly, Mirren played up her randiness in a bawdy way last year and managed to appeal to the usual Babe Factor in this race. Recent winners have almost all been hotties coveted by the ole geezers who dominate the motion-picture academy: Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts. Other than Mirren, only one woman past the age of 50 has won an Oscar for acting over the past 15 years (Judi Dench, "Shakespeare in Love").

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Christie isn't playing along saucily like Mirren for now, thus hurting her chances. Futhermore, her movie's a big downer, story-wise, since her character suffers from Alzheimer's. Will voters even watch it? I wonder. Every year I continue to be flabbergasted by the huge number of major films that voters don't bother viewing, even though they have the DVD right on top of their TVs.

Pundits who don't put Christie out front in the best-actress derby are mostly betting on Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"), who, at age 32, is comely and she has the lovely advantage of portraying a real-life famous person, just like four of the past five winners. But Cotillard has disadvantages. Who really cares — let's be honest — about Edith Piaf, eh? And, besides, Cotillard doesn't do the Little Sparrow's singing and that's obvious while watching "La Vie en Rose." Jamie Foxx won best actor despite not crooning Ray Charles' tunes in "Ray," yes, but he played the piano, he portrayed a blind man (disabilities always help, of course) and he and Charles are both popular Yankee showbiz figures.

"Sweeney Todd" continues to be a curious wild card, which means Helena Bonham Carter does, too. Ten days after opening, it's still pulling in more than $2 million per day despite being a bizarre, R-rated musical that invites its audience to cheer on cannibalism and a razor-wielding murderer. It's not catching on as a wild hit, but that may not matter if it continues to hold on in theaters, picking up repeat viewers and word-of-mouth late-comers. Then it'll still be considered a success, "Sweeney" will remain in the best-pic race and Carter will benefit.

It's difficult telling how "Atonement" is playing out, being only in 310 theaters for now. If it wins best picture, Keira Knightley — who certainly fits the Babe Factor profile — can go along for the ride into the lead-actress winner's circle, but she's only in half of the film and her role isn't showy. Nowhere do we see her pleading for morphine like Cotillard or having a mental breakdown like Christie.

Amy Adams could be this year's Oscar Babe, but "Enchanted" is probably too silly. That babe Angelina Jolie is impressive in a real-life role in "A Mighty Heart," but she's won in the supporting race in the past ("Girl, Interrupted," 1999) and now she's sullied by this film's failure at the b.o. and her own life in tabloid headlines.

(Photo: Fox Searchlight)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Comments

Well Page fans are keeping a tally and this is snub #2.

Why Page will not win an oscar: (And I really don't want her to):

1. A comedic role. The last best actress for a comedy was in 1997 for Helen Hunt and lets face it, the academy don't give oscars for comedic roles.

2. Her age. Perhaps academy elders will feel she's far too young, and perhaps too inexperienced to get such an honour.

3. Her competition: Julie Christie (the academy love her) and Marion Coultard (an amazing performance that is in a biopic= oscar bait)

4. The movie.. Since when do the academy give oscars to near unknows people in an indie film? Alan Arkin won because he was so respected and aging, not because he had the best male supporting performance of the year.

5. The role. Playing a smart person and saying supposedly witty things, or crying isn't exactly that hard. Academy voters may actually think the role is out of touch and actually repulsive. The other actresses in the running have far more challanging and meaty roles.

5. You may argue that the academy love to honour young actresses but that is only the supporting catagory. Ok, Keisha Catle-Hughes was nominated but the role was oscar bait and it had been ages since a young nomination. Ellen Page is a faw years too late.

I am surprised that Ebert picked "Juno" as the Best Picture of 2007. Juno was just another popular film, specifically targeting the 18 to 25 audience.
It is nothing special. I had almost walked out of the theater, but the latter part of the movie redeemed itself a bit. I would only give an "C." Movies like "Atonement," "Kite Runner," "Savages" were much more moving with deeper thoughts.

Tom, come on. It bothers me that you're being "dazzled" by publicists and agents trying to get more copy for Page. Don't get me wrong -- I think she's great, but her performance in "Hard Candy" was FAR BETTER than in "Juno". She will get the nom, but she won't win. I think Cotillard will get it. At least I hope.

Perhaps, Tom, you can use the "surprise" bo strength of Juno as an opportunity to edge away from that absurd "Sweeney wins top 5 Oscars" prediction? The wise would find a slot for Juno ahead of Sweeney at this point.

As it fades with tepid word of mouth counteracting a few overpraising critics, I doubt the Sondheim film will win even one of the top 5, and the pic remains likely to not any noms aside from the tech depts. (The SAG snub of guild fave Depp is very telling, all the yawping about "no DVD screeners" notwithstanding).

Tom, Juno is NOT going to play well with the Academy's elders. I personally DESPISED it and thought Ellen Page was an over-rated Grade B CANADIAN actress. She had TWO notes to her performance, quipping and crying.NOT a Best Actress "Academy Performance". To me she was a little no-neck monster from Halifax. NOT an Oscar winner. Nominee maybe, but not a winner.

Are you insane? Are you out of your mind? Why to write such a foolishness like that? My Goodnes! We'e had a lot of mistakes in the category of Best Actress, in my opinion, the most unfair of all. Do I have to remember how many real ACTRESSES lost Academy Awards to "ingenue"? What a waste of gold: Jodie Foster and Hilary Swank (2), ok, I like them, they're real ACTRESSES but twice? Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow (the worst in the whole Academy History), Nicole Kidman (by a nose), Reese Whiterspoon (by a mimic), Halle Berry (by a pair of breasts). My God, I am so sick of it all. If the Canadian favorite of the hour win and I hope she loses, I will never watch an Academy show in my LIFE!

ellen page frontrunner? this seems gossip from ellen page's agent.

She was great but marion cotillard and julie christie were perfect...

Check my new oscar blog:

countdownoscar.blogspot.com

You have some good points, tom, and I was just thinking the same thing recently, because there is such a close split between Cotillard and Christie. Cotillard does have the age advantage over Christie, being younger, though Christie is much better known in this country but some people might not know which way to go and with the votes being split, Page might come in and grab the Oscar much like Adrian Brody did a few years back. Would be pretty amazing for sure.

I hope not. While I think Page is terrific in Juno, I think much of the performance hinges on the zinginess of the writing. It's too early to tell whether Page is, in and of herself, a great actress.

Christie, on the other hand, builds her character from within, working from a far more spare script. It's a devastating display of actorly intuition. I hope the end effect isn't too subtle for the Academy to notice.

You don't mention another key point, Tom - wouldn't a win for Page would make her the youngest Best Actress winner ever, breaking Marlee Matlin's record? I know those voters like their ingenues , but they might want to wait until she's a bit more seasoned.

The Globe race is really the one to watch - I still think Cotillard will scrape past Page to win, even though it's a travesty she's not in the drama category. (A "musical" award for someone who doesn't even sing?!) If Page wins, though, she could be a huge Oscar threat.

And I wouldn't write off Adams for the Globe win just yet - another adorable ingenue, but one who really proved her chops in Junebug. When last were the comedy/musical races so crucial?

As a huge Piaf fan, I hope that Marion Cotillard will win the Oscar. Her performance transcends mimicry, and I feel that this was truly the best performance of the year: male or female; lead or supporting. But as a Canadian, I can't hold a grudge if Page (a fellow Canadian) or Christie (in an Ontario production) wins. That being said, MARION FOR THE GOLDEN GLOBE, SAG AND OSCAR!


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