Never accuse Harvey Weinstein of not being willing to take a gamble. After all, he bought the rights to Morten Tyldum's WWII drama "The Imitation Game" based on just 15 minutes of footage and brought the finished film to Telluride on Friday. That latter move meant giving up a premium slot at the upcoming Toronto filmfest due to the its new policy demanding exclusivity for the first four days. However, his risks are paying off as the early buzz is very promising.
Newly crowned Emmy champ Benedict Cumberbatch ("Sherlock") plays Alan Turing, the British mathematician who cracked the German code known as Enigma and helped the Allies win the war. Keira Knightley is Joan Clarke, a colleague whom he romances to conceal his true sexual identity. After the war, he works on the development of computers but his world comes crashing down in 1952 when he is prosecuted for being gay and agrees to chemical castration in lieu of imprisonment. Two years later, he committed sucide.
Both performers are well-positioned for Oscar nominations. Cumberbatch cracks the enigma that was Turing, with a slew of scenes that showcase his talent. And Knightley (a 2005 nominee for "Pride and Prejudice") is charming in a role that is being touted as supporting but could still land her in lead based on her star power and billing.
The film marks the English language debut of Norwegian helmer Tyldum ("Headhunters") as well as the first script by Graham Moore, who adapted the acclaimed biography by Andrew Hodge. Both will be strong contenders at the Oscars, as will six-time nominee Alexandre Desplat for his score and the creative whizzes responsible for the period design and costumes.
No doubt, Weinstein considers this smalltown fest a good luck charm as eventual Best Picture champs "The King's Speech" and "The Artist" both screened here back when TIFF was still allowing Telluride titles to be showcased in its first weekend. As with both those pictures, "The Imitation Game" opens the Friday before Thanksgiving (in this case, Nov. 21).
Why do Academy Awards get doled out to everybody in Hollywood except its hottest actors? A list of Oscar's biggest losers looks like a roster of its top matinee idols through screen history -- from Cary Grant, James Dean, Montgomery Clift and Rock Hudson to Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp. Studs have had a much better shot winning Oscars for working behind the camera -- as proven by Best Director victories by Robert Redford ("Ordinary People," 1980) and Warren Beatty ("Reds," 1981) among others.
Above: Measured by box office gold, Will Smith is the biggest star in Hollywood, but he's never earned Academy gold. Twice he was nominated (for "Pursuit of Happyness" in 2006 and "Ali" in 2001), but the Oscar has eluded Smith just as it has most of Hollywood's biggest male matinee idols.
Gorgeous women win Oscars all time (Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman), but when handsome studs come close to victory, they usually get slapped down by the geezer guys who constitute the biggest voting bloc within the academy. It's as if the geezers are telling each Adonis: "That's quite enough, dude. You've got good looks, hot chicks, fame and fortune. Here's one thing you can't have! Aha!"