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'J. Edgar' Opens AFI Fest

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AFI Fest kicks off in L.A. today, with the opening of Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar," starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the controversial FBI head. Other Oscar contenders looking to make a splash include "The Artist," which has been charming festivals all over the world; "Shame," featuring a spellbinding performance from dark horse candidate Michael Fassbender; and Roman Polanski's all-star "Carnage."

I'm most curious to see how an audience responds to "J. Edgar," which I've had an opportunity to check out and will later talk about in more detail. I hear the film got a warm reception at this week's SAG Nominating Committee screening, although DiCaprio didn't receive a standing ovation--unusual for an audience of actors. I personally think he's a surefire nominee, doing great work as the American icon, and was also very taken with Armie Hammer, who plays his associate Clyde Tolson. I've heard others question how financially success the film will be, but it can't hurt to have DiCaprio as its star.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing DiCaprio for an upcoming issue. I found him to be modest, polite, and a bit cautious in what he was willing to reveal. Understandable, considering he's spent most of his life being world famous. Most of all, I was taken with how serious he takes the craft of acting, working with coach Larry Moss on every role, and really digging into a character's life and history. I think because he is such an enormous star, he is often underrated as an actor. He is consistently making interesting choices, eschewing easy leading men roles, and seeking out the best filmmakers to collaborate with. I strongly believe he deserved an Oscar nod for "Inception," a beautiful, moving film disguised as a big-budget chase movie, that was held together by his assured, wounded performance. How ever "J. Edgar" ends up faring at the box office, it would be very hard to overlook DiCaprio.

--Jenelle Riley

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