"Even though the movie's official Academy screening was skedded just as Yom Kippur was ending, the turnout was larger than normal and the response at the end very enthusiastic," reports Pete Hammond at Deadline. "A two-time Oscar winner who frequently attends these private weekend screenings for voting members told me, 'There was big loud applause at the end credits -- and that’s something I rarely see at the Academy.' He went on to praise the film as easily one of the best he has seen there in some time (and, interestingly, he’s not impressed with much of the 2010 output so far). He singled out Affleck's direction and the acting ensemble for particular kudos. Two other Academy members who saw the film at non-Academy screenings told me the same thing."
Greg Kilday of the Hollywood Reporter says, "One audience member reported that though a few thought the movie was derivative of other crime tales, 'it was well received, and Ben got nice applause.' With 10 best picture slots up for grabs, 'Town' could prove a contender."
Guy Lodge of InContention.com is skeptical: "I still think people may be jumping the gun a little. The film had a terrific opening weekend at the box office ($24 million), but we have yet to see how it holds. If it’s still hanging around the upper rungs of the chart a month from now, there may be something there. As for the actor-director issue, it’s worth noting that while the Academy looks kindly on thesps who take a supposed creative risk with their personal prestige projects — why hello, Kevin, Warren and George — there's less precedent for them honoring actors making meat-and-potatoes entertainment."
"The Town" may be typical film grub, but so was a recent best-picture champ released around the same time of year by the same studio. The Hollywood Reporter adds, "Affleck's film bears a passing similarity to Martin Scorsese's 'The Departed' -- same town, similar accents -- which Warners opened on Oct. 6, 2006, and rode to four Oscar wins, including best picture, plus a $132 million domestic gross."
"The Town" reaps a high critics' score of 94 at Rotten Tomatoes and respectable 74 at Metacritic. Affleck has not broken back into the Oscar derby since winning best original screenplay with Matt Damon in 1997 ("Good Will Hunting").
Photo: Last year's star of "The Hurt Locker," Jeremy Renner, at right with Ben Affleck, has strong Oscar buzz in the supporting race as a maverick member of Affleck's gang in "The Town."