Three new movies are opening in limited release today that have taken completely different and unexpected paths during awards season so far.

"Biutiful" debuted to mixed reaction at Cannes, but Alejandro González Iñárritu's stark drama was picked up by Roadside Attractions who have worked hard to try to land an acting nomination for star Javier Bardem.  Unfortunately, that looks like a long shot at this point as it appears the picture just couldn't break through a crowded field to make a mark with guild voters (and overall reviews haven't helped either).

"Blue Valentine" was almost sent to the slaughterhouse because of an original NC-17 rating by the MPAA, but that ridiculous decision was overturned just before the picture landed SAG nods for stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling.  And while some will argue an earlier release date may have found "Valentine" crashing the best picture ten, it may not be too late if the Sundance Film Festival drama becomes a screener favorite of Academy members before the looming nomination vote deadline.

Lastly, out of all three candidates, "Another Year" was expected to be the most consistent player.  Well liked out of Cannes (some thought it could snag the Palm d'Or), I saw "Year" win over the crowd at the Telluride Film Festival the following September.  Star Lesley Manville has been on the shortlist in the actress race since the summer and she won that honor from the National Board of Review just a few weeks ago.  However, overall the heat has seemingly dissipated and the folks at Sony Classics must be wondering just where Mike Leigh's drama will land.  Most were stunned Manville didn't get a SAG or Golden Globe nomination and while it made this pundit's ten best list it hasn't been the staple you would have expected considering the early critic's chatter.  Especially as many have proclaimed it as one of Leigh's best films since "Secrets and Lies" (which is high praise). 

Taking place over the span of one year, the film shows the evolving relationship between a number of characters including very much in love, but close to retirement couple Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (a wonderful Ruth Sheen), their son Joe (Oliver Maltman) and Gerri's insecure work colleague Mary (Manville).  It may just be "another" year, but by the end of the film Mary's life, in particular, is forever changed.

I spoke to "Another Year" stars Broadbent and Manville a few months ago and they were as charming and polite as you'd expect two classy acts from Leigh's acting stable to be.  They were also, however, a bit frank on how tough starring in a Leigh film is and that the amount of work it entails from an actor's point of view requires (at least from Broadbent) some consideration.  Yet, considering the moving and nuanced results, it's no wonder both actors have worked with Leigh four (Broadbent) and six (Manville) times respectively.  

You can watch our lovely discussion embedded in the post above.  And in the meantime, make sure to check out "Another Year" when it hits a city near you.  
 

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