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How will 'Black Swan' play with academy voters?

November 12, 2010 |  6:00 am


Let's be clear: Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" is a horror film. A compelling, visceral, beautiful horror film with a brilliant performance by lead actress Natalie Portman but a horror film nonetheless. The want-to-see factor on the film, which bows in limited release on Dec. 3, is likely to be high with both horror addicts and Aronofsky fans who are willing to be challenged by the director of "The Wrestler" and "Requiem for a Dream."

As such, Fox Searchlight, the distributors behind the film, has launched an interesting online campaign, with a slick website titled The site presents haunting images from the film in a disjointed, eerie manner and you can get some back story on Portman's character Nina Sayers by following her on both Twitter and Facebook.

Searchlight is often the master of movie marketing and it seems to be having a good time with this original film. But how will its messaging play to academy voters, who are most often older and not fans of genre films? "Black Swan" has already been identified as a likely best picture nominee and Portman appears on every prognosticator's short list for the lead actress award.

Searchlight, as expected, isn't talking, but rival marketers note it's not unprecedented for the academy to reward genre movies. "The Exorcist" was nominated in 1974, while "Silence of the Lambs" won in 1992. And both "No Country for Old Men" and "Slumdog Millionaire" had horrific elements in them.

The likely biggest challenge is Aronofsky's onscreen weird factor. As one prognosticator puts it, "Aronofsky is allergic to sentiment and commercial sensibilities." That may fare well with the hipster crowd likely to turn up for "Black Swan," but it could create a real challenge for the older, more conventional voters.

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: "Black Swan." Credit: Fox Searchlight