Release: Sept. 8
Distributor: Focus Features
Oscar Alums: Adrien Brody (actor, “The Pianist”), Ben Affleck (original screenplay, “Good Will Hunting”)
“Hollywoodland” gazes into the world of showbiz passions and foibles, subjects that have yielded Oscar gold many times, from 1937’s screenwriter nod for “A Star is Born” to multiple honors for “Sunset Boulevard” and Oscars for foreign language offerings such as “8½” and “Day for Night.”
The slightly fictionalized tale of actor George Reeves, the real man inside the TV Superman cape many decades ago, could resonate with acting branch members who might relate to aspects of the story. Themes include Reeves’ frustration at TV biz typecasting, the lure of falling into relationships that can further an acting career, and the venal nature of studio bosses intent on hits (as in films) and misses (as in freewheeling females).
Film’s best chances for Oscar action probably reside inside the acting categories. There’s standout work from Diane Lane (Oscar-nommed for 2003’s “Unfaithful”) as the wife of a studio boss who wants her mink and eye candy, too, which turns out to be the sweet-but-tormented Reeves, played with great empathy and sensitivity by Affleck. Affleck already grabbed acting honors at the prestigious Venice Film Festival in September for the role; and the real-life parallel of a thespian with serious intentions undone by a rather silly image on the tube and in the press might be irresistible to voters who appreciate Affleck’s heroic shift from the tabloid punching bag that was being half of Bennifer to this year’s serious Oscar contender.
Bob Hoskins, nominated as best actor in 1986’s “Mona Lisa,” also delivers a strong turn as Lane’s tough-guy honcho hubby, real-life MGM chief Eddie Mannix.
Scribe Paul Bernbaum, a TV vet moving to the bigscreen, could get Oscar attention with the lovely, nuanced noirish tale derived from the strange facts of Reeves’ life and mysterious death.
But with “Hollywoodland’s” less-than-robust box office biz ($14.4 million), it could elude multiple nominations more common with widely embraced pics. As such, the feature film debut of director Allen Coulter — whose streak as a helming-honors bridesmaid in TV land (four DGA directing noms and five Emmy noms collectively for “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos”) — might not end more happily in Featuresville.