Strong perfs should place pic in Oscar's crosshairs

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One standout performance can seize the Academy’s attention, but the actorly heft of “Get Low” should plant helmer Aaron Schneider’s picturesque period piece squarely in Oscar’s crosshairs. Working in the film’s favor is an ensemble of Oscar favorites, each of them playing to his or her strength.

Robert Duvall’s hairy hermit Felix Bush, who wants to attend his own funeral, personifies crusty, taciturn Americana; his character is haunted by his past in a way that could evoke for voters Duvall’s Oscar-winning turn in “Tender Mercies” (1983). Bill Murray’s undertaker Frank Quinn represents Felix’s refreshingly anachronistic opposite, post-modernly sardonic and wrily funny in a way Murray has made synonymous with himself. And Sissy Spacek’s Mattie Darrow, Felix’s old flame, embodies those qualities auds always associate with Sissy Spacek: warmth, earthiness, and understated sexiness.

Placement in the Acad’s top 10 seems a distinct possibility, given a screenplay by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell that plants the viewer firmly in Depression-era Tennessee without a sense of petrified history. The rollicking nouvelle-bluegrass score by Dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas is propulsive, and the visuals by d.p. David Boyd evoke Walker Evans in color.

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