‘Les Misérables’: Is Anne Hathaway Musical The Oscar Front-Runner?

First 'Les Mis' screening reactions signal musical's status as the heavyweight contender in the coming awards season.

Do you hear the people sing, singing the praises of “Les Misérables” ? Depending on whom you followed on Twitter over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the answer is very likely “yes.”

Director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of “Les Mis” premiered in New York City on Friday for select critics, just hours after the filmmaker completed his final cut of the film. The overwhelming consensus is that the “King’s Speech” director has delivered a serious Oscar contender, if not the frontrunner, in what’s already shaping up to be an extremely competitive awards season.

It’s widely agreed that Anne Hathaway is a lock for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as tragic factory worker Fantine. “Anne Hathaway could easily win supporting actress,” Fandango.com correspondent Dave Karger wrote after the NYC screening. “Her ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is the showstopper.”

Hugh Jackman is also considered likely to secure his first-ever Oscar nomination for playing the “Les Mis” leading man, ex-con Jean Valjean. His performance has received raves from critics, with Hooper himself going so far as to say the movie would not exist without Jackman.

“The audition with Hugh, which was in May of last year, was an extraordinary moment because that was when I knew I had a movie,” Hooper told Deadline.com shortly after the first “Les Mis” screening in New York. “Hugh has a kind of innate grace and spirit as a human being and a great kind of moral compass and gentleness that is perfectly suited for this man going on this spiritual journey. In that audition the sheer power of his singing standing just a couple of feet in front of me was formidable. That’s when I knew this was a ‘go’ movie in my head. He took me over the line in three hours.”

Beyond acting nods, many are placing “Les Mis” as the current Best Picture frontrunner — a late-game status that Hooper is used to by now, having gone through a similar experience with “The King’s Speech” ahead of the 2011 Oscars.

“Is this the one to take it all the way, two years after Hooper did precisely that?” wonders Kristopher Tapley of Hitfix.com. “I’m thinking it might just be.”

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