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Which films are front-runners to win the next Oscars?

March 16, 2009 |  9:28 am

The last Oscars derby ended just weeks ago, but -- admit it -- you can't wait to find out which ponies are out front for the next race. Our forum posters are already making early predix here, but below is some of our own noodling too.

Among the Oscar contenders for best picture, for example, are Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones," Clint Eastwood's untitled project, Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island," Rob Marshall's "Nine," Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" and Stephen Frears' "Cheri."

The Oscar winning "Lord of the Rings" scripters Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens adapted Alice Sebold's best-selling novel, "The Lovely Bones." Jackson -- who also won Oscars for directing and producing the third film in the 'Rings' trilogy -- performs the same roles here. Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement") is the murdered girl who watches over her grieving parents -- Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg ("The Departed") and supporting actress winner Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener").


Clint Eastwood won his two directing Oscars for best picture champs "Unforgiven" (1992) and "Million Dollar Baby" (2004). Four-time nominee Morgan Freeman co-starred in both those films and won the supporting Oscar for the latter. The old friends reunite for this fact-based film (at one time titled "The Human Factor") set in post-apartheid South Africa. Freeman portrays Nelson Mandela and Oscar nominee Matt Damon ("Good Will Hunting") as the coach of the first integrated rugby team.

With the period crime drama "Shutter Island" based on the 2003 best-selling mystery by Dennis Lehane ("Mystic River"), Martin Scorsese helms his first film since winning an Oscar for 2006 best picture "The Departed." Three-time Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "The Aviator," "Blood Diamond") takes direction from Scorsese for the fourth time. He plays a U.S. marshal searching for a patient (Emily Mortimer) missing from a Cape Cod hospital for the criminally insane in 1954. Oscar winner Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi") is the head of the hospital, with Oscar nominees Max von Sydow ("Pelle the Conqueror") as a dubious doctor and Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mountain") as DeCaprio's wife.

Rob Marshall ("Chicago") works his magic on another stage-to-screen transfer with an adaptation of the 1982 Tony-winning best musical "Nine" that was, in turn, inspired by Federico Fellini's 1963 Oscar-winning "8½." Two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis ("My Left Foot," "There Will Be Blood") is the wayward film director at the center of the action, while a bevy of Oscar winners are the women in his life -- Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") as his faithful wife, Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Christina Barcelona") as his mistress, Nicole Kidman ("The Hours) as his protege, Judi Dench ("Shakespeare in Love") as his mentor and Sophia Loren ("Two Women") as his mother.

Oscar winner Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain") reunites with Oscar-nominated scripter James Schamus ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") for "Taking Woodstock," a biopic set against the backdrop of the famed 1969 musical festival. With Schamus now head of Focus Features, expect a big push from the studio for this period piece. Emmy-nominated writer Demetri Martin ("Late Night with Conan O'Brien") plays the son of the couple -- two-time Oliver winner Henry Goodman ("Assassins," "The Merchant of Venice") and Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton ("Vera Drake") -- behind the festival. The rest of the cast is filled with theater folk, including Tony winners Liev Schreiber ("Glengarry Glen Ross") and Dan Folger ("The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee") and nominee Jonathan Groff ("Spring Awakening").


Twenty-one years after "Dangerous Liaisons," Michelle Pfeiffer reunites with director Stephen Frears ("The Queen") and Oscar-winning scripter Christopher Hampton for an adaptation of Colette's 1920 novel, "Cheri." Back then, Pfeiffer earned the first of her three Oscar nods for playing the innocent; her other noms came for "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and "Love Field." Now she is the seductress who beds the young son (Rupert Friend) of her courtesan friend (Oscar winner Kathy Bates, "Misery").

And while Pfeiffer has never won an Oscar, Meryl Streep just lost for the 13th time. She could be contending again for playing chef Julia Child in "Julie and Julia." Writer-turned-director Nora Ephron earned Oscar nods for her original scripts for "Silkwood," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle." In her adaptation of Julie Powell's best-selling memoir, Ephron tells the parallel stories of a modern day woman -- two-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams ("Junebug," "Doubt") -- working her way through Julia Child's classic cookbook and its origins.

In flashbacks set in 1950s Paris, Meryl Streep plays the culinary wizard and her "Devil Wears Prada" co-star Stanley Tucci is her husband. An accent and a physical transformation could well earn the soon-to-be 60-year-old actress another Oscar nod after 12 leading bids and another three supporting ones. And while she has only two wins ("Kramer vs. Kramer," "Sophie's Choice") to show for her efforts, Streep should remember that all-time champ Katharine Hepburn didn't take three of her four lead actress Oscars till she was at least that age. This contender is produced by Scott Rudin ("Doubt," "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood") and due to open Aug. 7.

Photos: Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures


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The comments to this entry are closed.


And the award for best Actress goes to: MERYL STREEP for Julie and Julia!!!

knowing how the AMPAS of late shows disrespect for talent much greater than many of its members own, the oscar best actress will never go to meryl streep!

but meryl streep doesn't need another oscar.

I want to see Peter Jackson triumph at the Oscars again, was so good for the New Zealand film industry after Lord Of The Rings, hes a great man and a cinematic genius. I used to live SO close to him, he came to my school looking for extras when he was filming them down in Wellington =P

Why bother even releasing these movies if your already handing out nominations sight unseen? My prediction? 70% of the movies listed above won't even be nominated.

Watch for Mo'Nique's performance in the Sundance fave "Push: Based on a Novel By Sapphire", now renamed "Precious".

She OWNS the Best Supporting Actress Oscar next year:

Just two factual corrections regarding Clint Eastwood's South African project: Matt Damon actually plays Francois Pienaar, the captain of the national team which had been integrated for more than a decade prior to the Rugby World Cup 1995 events portrayed in the film.

Meryl Streep is NEVER!!! going to win again. NEVER!!! Forget it. Its not going to happen. The Academy will NEVER!!! let her reach, not to talk about break Katherine Hepburn's altimate record. So, I think you all need to get the idea out of your heads, and just try to enjoy her movies at least(which I say is very hard to)

Meryl Streep will win it this year. Unless, harvey Weistein steps in again and campaigned for another actress.

what could be relevant about woodstock? a pointless war that makes only the most evil people rich? and we suffer to this day with mediocre pap called music?

"Nicole Kidman ("The Hours) as his protege" ...Really? Protege? Isn't she 20 years too old?

This is going to be Matt Damon's year. He has 3 movies coming out this year that are begging to be nominated. I hear nothing but great things about the Informant, so I think he is easily in for best actor.

oh and I love Meryl and Amy, and hope they do more movies together, but Julie/Julia is a Golden Globes movie if that. I just dont see it going anywhere awards wise.

Tom, do you have something against Cameron Diaz to not even mention her amazing performance in "My Sister's Keeper"? Also Abigail Breslin and Sofia Sofia Vassilieva are in contention too for their phenomenal performances in the same movie. And what about Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Veronika Decides to Die"? She's very good too.



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