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The big news of the week is that "Charlie Wilson's War" starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman screened in Los Angeles.  Long considered a Best picture lock (and dare we say frontrunner), the film received luke warm reception from hot bloggers David Poland, Jeff Wells and Kris Tapley.  The film is directed by Mike Nichols from a script by Aaron Sorkin.  While the film stumbled, Philip Seymour Hoffman's stature as a Best Supporting Actor nominee is bolstered considerably.  It's too early to write it off as a Best Picture nominee, but like last year's "Flags of Our Fathers," expectations were probably too high, which means that barring a masterpiece, the film had nowhere to go but down.  Just how far down is the question.

I also got a review from a friend of a friend for "Atonement," Joe Wright's film adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel.  "It was okay," he wrote.  We'll see.

"American Gangster" got a huge push because of strong box office numbers.  If the films above it truly stumble, as it appears they have, "American Gangster" could be a consensus pick.  However, I still won't count out "No Country for Old Men."  On Saturday at 1:00 p.m. in Little Rock, the 250 seat theater showing the film was packed.  People complained about the ending, so I'm told.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" opened to some wicked positive reviews.  This is a film, like "City of God" a few years back, that could really make an impression on the Academy.  Watch for it coming to a theater near you. 

Frank Langella is getting some serious love for his role in "Starting Out in the Evening," a small film based on the novel by Brian Morton.  A.O. Scott gushed over it, and Lou Leminick at The New York Post has jumped on the bandwagon too.  Langella's one of those guys whose always been around, but never nominated for much of anything including an Oscar.  The Best Actor race is crowded, but if he's as good as these guys say, I like him sneaking in.  Oscar loves an older first-timer.

The Best Actress race seems to be a bit stagnant.  Marion Cotillard's stock has cooled.  Angelina Jolie faces obvious over-exposure issues.  Which leaves Julie Christie, likely bolstered because of the recent news surrounding the husband of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner (her husband has Alzheimers and met a companion in his care facility).  If this drives the Academy to see "Away from Her" again (it's been on DVD for several months), she stands to gain considerably.  Watch out for Laura Linney in "The Savages."  She could make a late season surge.  Ellen Page ("Juno") and Helena Bonham Carter ("Sweeney Todd") are contenders as well.

Buzz seems to be consolidating around Cate Blanchett for Best Supporting Actress.  Her role as one of six Bob Dylan's in Todd Haynes' film "I'm Not There" reeks of Oscar.  Not to take anything away from her, but this category is weak.  Real weak. 

Here are my Oscar locks as of 11/27/07 (new additions in italics):

Best Picture:

Best Director:
The Coen Bros. - "No Country for Old Men"
Ridley Scott - "American Gangster"

Best Actor:
Daniel Day Lewis - "There Will Be Blood"
Denzel Washington - "American Gangster"

Best Actress:
Marion Cotillard - "La Vie En Rose"
Julie Christie - "Away from Her"

Best Supporting Actor:
Javier Bardem - "No Country for Old Men"
Philip Seymour Hoffman - "Charlie Wilson's War"

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett - "I'm Not There"
Amy Ryan - "Gone Baby Gone"

Additional resources:  Sultans of Bling, In Contention's "Main Charts," Guru's o' Gold, Oscar Igloo, and The LA Times "Buzzmeter." 


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