As in years past there is always room for an old-fashioned arthouse costume drama in the Oscar mix. And “The Wings of the Dove” has the strong possibility of copping beaucoup nominations in both the major and technical categories. The Henry James adaptation will likely get a glitzy push from Miramax, which is no stranger to the exigencies of wooing Academy voters with this kind of material — as the company demonstrated last year with its near clean-sweep Oscar-winner “The English Patient.” The film could wedge itself into the best picture category, with its major competition being the epic period adventure “Titanic.” While the majors should make a better showing this year than last, there will still be one or two spots for top-notch indie work.
This film could also be the ticket for director Iain Softley, whose main credit so far has been the little-seen early-Beatles rumination “Backbeat.”
Helena Bonham Carter is long overdue for Academy recognition based on such period winners as “A Room With a View,” “Hamlet” and “Howards End.” It being such a weak year for women overall, she has an excellent chance of securing a best actress slot. Pic’s leading man, Linus Roache, who previously did good work in the controversial “Priest,” could be swept up in a tide of good will for the movie, as could supporting actress Allison Elliott, who was noted (but not by Oscar) last year for her work in “The Spitfire Grill.” Again, Elliott has a better chance than Roache, simply because the distaff acting races are not as hotly contested.
Screenwriter Hossein Amini’s previously tackled the equally daunting “Jude,” based on Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure,” for the bigscreen. He’s likely to be recognized when the writers’ branch members of the Academy sit down to fill out their nomination ballots. So too should Eduardo Serra’s cinematography. Serra has been a frequent collaborator of French director Patrice Leconte (“The Hairdresser’s Husband,” “Tango”) and also photographed the epic adventure “Map of the Human Heart.” And let’s not forget Ed Shearmur’s dramatic score.
Classic Oscar credentials: 8
Cause celebre: 0
Vanity element: 0
David vs. Goliath syndrome: 6 (Miramax always plays indie card)
Feel-good movie of the year factor: 2 (What do you expect? It’s a Henry James adaptation.)
Unavoidable, inexorable buzz pic: 4 (Buzz is building)
Idiot savants have more fun: 0
Timing is everything: 7 (Holiday rush)
O.Q. total: 27