Let's be realistic. "Legend" is a sci-fi genre movie, at least on the surface, and it is difficult for actors to break through with the academy in this type of film.
previous Notes On A Season column speculating on Smith's chances, Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens" is one of the few to pull off a nomination in the lead categories.
Certainly the box office numbers, which far exceeded industry expectations, will catch the eye of the industry.
But the academy's actors branch, the one that nominates, is the least likely to give much heft to theatrical receipts.
In fact, the actors branch is more notorious for rewarding little-seen performances in box office also-rans.
Warners, as we previously noted, has created a targeted campaign for Smith's work in the film, one that included a packed and very well-received session with the star for the Screen Actors Guild nominating committee Dec. 1.
Studio campaigners were so eager to have Smith's work seen by the group as soon as possible that the event unspooled with a wet print fresh from the lab.
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There have also been a few trade ads touting Smith's performance. However, piracy concerns and "Legend's" mid-December release date have kept the studio from sending out DVD screeners to awards groups, including the academy, at least so far.
Smith is not alone in being unavailable on DVD in academy members' homes.
Screeners for another actor contender, Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," have yet to be mailed to the academy's actors branch and most likely won't until January.
Meanwhile, Daniel Day Lewis' performance in "There Will Be Blood" just landed in academy mail slots this weekend.
Obviously, all of the studios with legitimate contenders are hoping academy members will actually find the time to watch these films on the big screen. However, a surprising number of voters say they catch the films only at home now.
If voters are inclined to pop a "Legend" DVD into the player, it could be because of the early word-of-mouth about the rigors of Smith's performance. In appearances for the movie Smith often mentions that he is alone on screen or opposite a dog for nearly an hour.
That's an acting challenge that resonates with the acting branch, whose members certainly know how difficult it is to pull off.
Some critics are even throwing around the words "Oscar worthy" and "Tour de Force." (However, "Legend's" Rotten Tomatoes rating just barely broke into the "fresh" from "rotten" category with 61% positive reviews. Metacritic is slightly more favorable with 66% generally favorable reviews.)
Smith has also noted publicly that the film is unique in that it was purposely designed to be a hybrid of a summer action-type blockbuster and a more thoughtful, serious drama normally found in the fall. The gravity of the movie's theme explains why there is any Oscar talk at all.
Smith is clearly liked by the academy with previous nominations for "Ali" and last year's "The Pursuit Of Happyness." But the challenge of getting often snobbish voters to see his latest, and maybe -- considering the pure acting challenges -- greatest, is daunting despite the box office glory.
If Warners amps up its campaign even more, perhaps Smith can pull off a hat trick.
Considering this weekend's box office and that Will Smith is now arguably the world's No. 1 movie star, we wouldn't be surprised to see the studio throw increasing academy campaign dollars behind the film.
But time is running out. If Smith can pull off a nomination in this genre, at this late date and against incredibly stiff competition, he really does deserve to be called "Legend."