“Arrival” has opened to almost universal acclaim, scoring a jaw-dropping 96 at Rotten Tomatoes and an impressive 82 at MetaCritic. The rave reviews for this sci-fi flick about a linguist (Amy Adams) recruited by the military to try to communicate with aliens should turn this popcorn picture into a strong Oscar contender much like “The Martian” last year.
“Arrival” marks the first studio feature for acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve, after the gritty dramas “Incendies” (2010 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film), “Prisoners” (2013) and “Sicario” (2015). His unique approach is a large part of the film’s appeal to critics. And reviewers are equally smitten with the performance of Adams. As Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) notes, “Adams’ contribution is essential to this plan, especially when you realize that the story is in large part about the nature of language learning and linguistics. Her ability to create empathy and emotional connection, with the audience as well as the aliens, reminds us that the best and most effective science fiction is invariably deeply human at its core.”
While science-fiction is a genre that is not often represented at the Oscars, there is precedent for a performance to be singled out by the acting branch: Sir Alec Guinness in “Star Wars: A New Hope” (nominated for Best Supporting Actor, 1977) and Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” (nominated for Best Actress, 1986). And Adams is long overdue for Oscar gold after five losses. Indeed, should she be an also-ran just one more time, she would tie the records of Thelma Ritter, Deborah Kerr and Glenn Close who all went 0 for six.
Adams reaped the first of her four Supporting Actress nominations back in 2005 for her breakthrough role in “Junebug”; she lost to Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”). In 2008, she was nominated for her featured turn in “Doubt” but Penelope Cruz prevailed for “Vicky Christina Barcelona.” Two years later, she lost to Melissa Leo, her co-star in “The Fighter.” In 2011, she was cited for “The Master” but Anne Hathaway won for “Les Miserables.” And in 2013, she earned her first Best Actress nomination for “American Hustle” but was bested by Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”).
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