The Contenders

Release: Nov. 17

Distributor: Weinstein Co./MGM

Oscar Alums: Anthony Hopkins (actor, “The Silence of the Lambs”), Helen Hunt (actress, “As Good as It Gets”), Richard Chew (editing, “Star Wars”), Scott Millan (sound, “Ray,” “Gladiator,” “Apollo 13”), Michael Minkler (sound, “Chicago,” “Black Hawk Down”), Shawn Murphy (sound, “Jurassic Park”)

Can “Bobby” be this year’s “Crash”?

Like last year’s best pic winner, it’s a multithreaded ensemble piece that tells a politically tinged L.A. story. This one, though, comes not from a writer with an Oscar pedigree but from a showbiz scion, Emilio Estevez, and it’s set 38 years ago.

Estevez, as a boy of 6, was the one who told his father, Martin Sheen, of the shooting of presidential hopeful Bobby Kennedy. Sheen later took young Emilio to the Ambassador Hotel, to the podium where Kennedy gave his final speech.

In the pic, Estevez takes a tried-and-true movie (and TV series) device, the hotel as cross-section of society, and applies it to the Ambassador and the day Kennedy was mortally wounded in 1968. The approach allowed Estevez to bring in the wide range of issues confronting America at the time: an unpopular war, an even more unpopular president, racial and intergenerational conflict and voting problems at the polls. It’s no accident that some of those issues, and some of RFK’s speeches addressing them, may evoke today’s politics as well.

Aside from the resonant political themes, there are several undercurrents that could push “Bobby” into the Oscar race. Most powerful among them is that ensemble pieces tend to appeal to the actors branch.

Pic has more than a dozen significant roles. Among the cast are Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Laurence Fishburne, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, Helen Hunt and Ashton Kutcher. Estevez and Sheen also make appearances. All could be candidates for supporting honors. Stone, Moore, Lohan and “Six Feet Under” vet Freddy Rodriguez are getting early buzz.

The Academy also is known to have a soft spot for actors-turned-helmers. A recent case in point is last year’s director nominee George Clooney, who also took on a political period subject with “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Key for pics with multiple storylines is editing, so if Acad voters warm to the film, Richard Chew could be a contender. Patti Podesta’s re-creation of the Ambassador could garner some attention, as could Bryan Adams’ song “Never Gonna Break My Faith,” performed by Aretha Franklin and the Harlem Boys Choir. Pic also may contend in sound categories.

One more thing: Estevez pushed to have the film made in Hollywood, not out of town, to keep jobs in the area. That can’t hurt, either.

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