"Another Year," another Oscar bet for Mike Leigh

Sun Jan 2, 2011 10:52pm EST
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By Martin A. Grove

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With six Oscar nominations to his credit, British filmmaker Mike Leigh is back in theaters with an awards contender struggling to be heard among the clamor.

"Another Year" opened last week in New York and Los Angeles against three other high-prestige pictures vying for Oscar glory: "Blue Valentine," "Biutiful" and "The Way Back." They join a big field of contenders led by the likes of "The Social Network," "Black Swan," "The King's Speech" and "True Grit."

To date, "Another Year" has been recognized only by the National Board of Review, which named Lesley Manville best actress for her role as a lonely, single woman prone to a few too many glasses of wine.

The Writers Guild of America ruled the film ineligible for a writing award (despite Leigh's 1997 nod for "Secrets & Lies"), and many argue that its best Oscar shot, for Manville's performance, is hampered by Sony Pictures Classics' decision to put her up for best actress instead of supporting actress, where she would have loomed larger. "That might be an error," Manville told New York Magazine. "I don't know -- but it's their call. I'm a novice at this, so I wouldn't dictate it, really."

Leigh is fairly philosophical about the awards process. When he's informed of the film's Oscar buzz, he says, "Well, I'll believe it when I see it."

He previously bagged Oscar nominations for directing "Vera Drake" and "Secrets," and for writing "Vera," "Secrets," "Topsy-Turvy" and "Happy-Go-Lucky." His stars do well, too: Imelda Staunton, who has a small role in "Another Year," got a best actress Oscar nomination for "Vera," and Jim Broadbent a best actor BAFTA nod for "Topsy."

Broadbent and Ruth Sheen play a radiantly happily married couple who divide their time between tending to their vegetable garden and tending to their needy family and friends.

Leigh made the $8 million film in a 12-week period that depicted the passing of four seasons. Sony picked up U.S. rights at the Cannes Film Festival in May.   Continued...