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Early-Year Releases Wrestle Oscar Attention Away From Festival Circuit

As the Venice-Telluride-Toronto film festival corridor begins to churn out something resembling an Oscar season beat sheet, a handful of earlier 2017 releases are speaking up, lest they be lost in the fall prestige clutter.

Wednesday night, 20th Century Fox will hold a screening of James Mangold’s “Logan” — on the Warner Bros. lot, oddly enough — with Mangold and star Hugh Jackman on hand for a Q&A. The film hit theaters less than a week after last February’s Oscars ceremony and went on to rack up over $616 million in global box office receipts. It also remains one of the year’s most critically acclaimed films.

Chief on the list of possibilities for the film is Patrick Stewart’s supporting performance, saddling up to the role of Professor Charles Xavier for the seventh time (nearly as many times as Jackman has tackled Wolverine). But this is his most emotional rendering of the character yet, and it comes in a film that hasn’t been dismissed as a genre trifle, but rather, one with hard-bitten western DNA that could appeal more than other films in the “X-Men” series have.

Prior to scheduling that event, the gears at Fox were already turning for another of the studio’s genre entries, “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Producer Peter Chernin even hopped on the phone with awards press to discuss plans to keep Matt Reeves’ film in the industry’s eye. “War” hasn’t connected at the box office as much as the studio would have hoped, but it remains one of the year’s best, and you can expect a push for recognition — even of the special achievement sort — for what Andy Serkis and company have accomplished in the performance-capture realm throughout the series.

Finally, a number of journalists were quick to mention on Twitter that they had received the first “awards screener” of the year in the form of Universal’s “Get Out” Blu-ray mailer. In reality, Jordan Peele’s satire — which grossed over $252 million worldwide — was meant to ship months ago timed to the DVD’s street date, but it fell through the cracks for boring reasons that aren’t worth mentioning here. The discs went to members of the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. and Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. this week. Universal is actually keen on getting a jump on things overall, however, as the film is viewed as a serious contender for the studio.

We’ll have to wait a few weeks before we’ll know what the true “first awards screener” of the year will be, i.e. discs that land on actual Academy members’ doorsteps (or inboxes). But in the meantime, these campaigns are doing what they can to stay out ahead of what is sure to be another noisy season. We’ll see how much of a grip they can maintain throughout.

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