Academy Screenings: An Oscar preview | AspenTimes.com

Academy Screenings: An Oscar preview

Stewart Oksenhorn

Jaden Christopher Syre Smith stars in The Pursuit of Happyness along with his father, Will Smith. The film shows tonight at Harris Hall to open Aspen Films Academy Screenings program, which runs through Jan. 1. ( ZADE Rosenthal/AP)

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN The race for the 2006 Academy Awards started … well, actually years ago, when producers and studios began matching actors and directors with stories and scripts, with an eye toward making the sort of films that win Oscar glory.But the race began in earnest last week with the nominations for the Golden Globes. The Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are a leading indicator of Oscar potential. Though they are not necessarily an essential qualifying hurdle: Last year’s Academy Award winner for best picture, “Crash,” didn’t earn even a Golden Globe nomination in the best picture category. Still, actors, directors and producers with eyes on the Oscar inevitably feel encouraged by a Golden Globe nod.For a decade and a half, film fans in Aspen for the holidays get a front row seat for the Oscar race. Aspen Film’s (the former Aspen Filmfest) Academy Screenings packages award-potential films for an intensive immersion. This year’s bounty is especially generous: 26 films, a bundle large enough that there will be some slight overlapping in screening times; the Wheeler Opera House is being put into use – along with the screenings’ traditional home at Harris Hall.

The Academy Screenings feature most of the big Golden Globe contenders – at least in the drama category. “Babel,” by the Mexican team of director Alejandro González Iñarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, leads the Globes pack with seven nominations, and will show at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19. The film, about contemporary stress in a variety of settings around the world, earned nominations for best drama, best director and best screenplay, as well as nominations for actors Brad Pitt, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikichi, all in supporting roles.”The Queen,” a portrait of the British royal family in the days following the death of Princess Diana, earned four Golden Globe nominations: best drama, best screenplay, as well as for its director, Stephen Frears, and lead actress, Helen Mirren. It shows Dec. 20 in the Academy Screenings.”Little Children,” director Todd Field’s adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s 2004 novel about modern American family life, is up for three Golden Globes: for best drama, for lead actress Kate Winslet and for Field and Perrotta’s screenplay. It shows Dec. 28 in the Academy Screenings.”Notes on a Scandal,” with nominations for lead actress Judi Dench, supporting actress Cate Blanchett, and for best screenplay, shows Dec. 30.

“Letters from Iwo Jima,” which offers a Japanese perspective on World War II, is up for two Golden Globes – for director Clint Eastwood and for best foreign language film. It shows Dec. 26 at the Wheeler Opera House. “Flags of Our Fathers,” for which Eastwood also earned a best director nomination, shows in the series Dec. 27 at the Wheeler.”Volver,” by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, earned a pair of Golden Globe nominations – for best foreign language film and for lead actress Penélope Cruz – and shows Dec. 26 in the Academy Screenings.Other Golden Globe-nominated pictures showing in the Academy Screenings series include “Bobby,” a broad look at the day Robert F. Kennedy was shot (nominated for best drama and showing Dec. 26); the offbeat romance “Venus” (nominated for lead actor Peter O’Toole and showing Dec. 31); “The Last King of Scotland” (nominated for lead actor Forest Whitaker and showing Dec. 28); “Miss Potter” (nominated for lead actress Renee Zellweger and showing Jan. 1); and the Mexican horror film “Pan’s Labyrinth” (nominated for best foreign language film and showing Dec. 29).The series opens tonight with another Golden Globe nominee, “The Pursuit of Happyness” (Harris Hall, 5:30 p.m.). Based on a true story, the film stars Will Smith – nominated in the best actor category – as a father looking to improve his life in ’80s San Francisco.

The Academy Screenings include none of the five films nominated in the best musical or comedy category.For the complete schedule of films, go to http://www.aspentimes.com/film.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com