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Gold Derby nuggets: Brenda Blethyn thaws 'London River' | Are Mirren & Plummer Oscar bound with 'The Last Station'? | Grammy contenders countdown

October 30, 2009 | 11:26 am

Brenda Blethyn London River  • Pete Hammond reports that "London River" will get a mid-November one-week qualifying run in L.A. as part of a campaign to secure a lead actress nod for two-time Oscar bridesmaid Brenda Blethyn ("Secrets and Lies," "Little Voice"). Blethyn plays a mother searching for her daughter who goes missing after a London bus bombing. The pic -- directed by 2006 best foreign film Oscar nominee Rachid Bouchareb ("Days of Glory") -- was Algeria's entry for this year's foreign film race but had too much English-language dialogue to qualify. Still without American distribution, screeners of "London River" will be sent to the academy acting branch. NOTES ON A SEASON

Susan Wloszczyna drills down into the academy decision to double the number of best picture nominees and strikes paydirt in this must-read analysis. Her nominees for favorite gripe about this change are: First place is redefined; box office will trump quality; honorary honorees are unseen; and sheer statue fatigue. USA TODAY

• In a compelling companion piece, Susan suggests that an expanded best picture race may mean more mainstream genres could squeeze into the lineup. Among the "less-than-usual suspects" are: documentary ("Capitalism: A Love Story"); animated feature ("Up"); blockbuster ("Avatar"); foreign language ("The White Ribbon"); action thriller ("Inglourious Basterds"); and adult comedy ("It's Complicated"). USA TODAY

The Last Station

Steve Pond focuses his laser analysis on possible Oscar bids by past champs Helen Mirren ("The Queen") and George Clooney ("Syriana") as well as the never-nominated Christopher Plummer. In the Michael Hoffman-helmed "The Last Station," Steve says Plummer is "quietly commanding and always fascinating" as Leo Tolstoy while Dame Helen is "a force of nature" as his wife. And in "The Men Who Stare at Goats," Grant Heslov’s "fast, entertaining and very funny semi-true farce about oddball experiments within the U.S. military, Clooney delightfully plays against type; he might think he’s as cool and slick as the typical Clooney character, but he’s seriously deluded." THE ODDS

• Last week, Richard Rushfield penned a must-read guide to fixing the Oscarcast. Written before the producing team of Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman was announced, Richard offers up a host of hosts ranging from the tried and true Billy Crystal to current teen queen Vanessa Hudgins. GAWKER

Greg Ellwood says the supporting actress Oscar race is between "Precious" mean momma Mo'Nique and "Up in the Air" ingenue Anna Kendrick. For Greg, "It wouldn't be a careless exaggeration to say that if one or neither of these two actresses weren't nominated it will be one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history. The true drama this season surrounds who their competition will be in the remaining three slots." HITFIX

Anne Thompson raves about the Kristin Scott Thomas double feature at the London filmfest "as John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi in 'Nowhere Boy' and as a sexy adulterer in the French hit 'Partir' ('Leaving'). 'Partir' (which showed in Toronto) stars Scott Thomas in French mode. In 'Nowhere Boy' she’s a prim stiff-upper-lip Brit." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

• This year's six winners of the $30,000 Nicolls fellowships bestowed by the Oscars will be feted with a dinner on Nov. 12. The half dozen winning scripts were chosen from a record 6,380 entries by a jury chaired by Susannah Grant -- a 1992 fellow and 2000 Oscar nominee ("Erin Brockovich"). A more recent success story from the 113 fellowships awarded since 1985 is James Mottern who directed this year's “Trucker” from his 2003 Nicholl-winning script. AMPAS 

Brad Brevet has locked in half of his predix for the 10 best picture nominees -- "An Education," "The Hurt Locker," "Invictus," "Precious" and "Up in the Air" -- and admits "those final five spots, however, have been a cause for some prognosticating concern." ROPE OF SILICON

Scott Feinberg embeds the recent appearance by "Precious" star Gabby Sidibe on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." As Scott notes, "Appearances like this one are important for Gabby not only because they begin to familiarize the general public with her name (although Ellen introduced her as 'Gabourey,' when lately people seemed to be moving toward calling her the less-tongue-twisting 'Gabby'), but also — and just as importantly — with what kind of a person she is (and is not)." AND THE WINNER IS

• Novelist Nick Hornby -- who could land his first Oscar nod for his sterling adaptation of Lynn Bamber's memoir "An Education" -- gives a rare and revealing interview to Michael Hann. Hornby says this writing job was a gift and he swears off adapting any more of his own works for the screen. THE GUARDIAN

Beyonce I Am Sasha Fierce Melinda Newman has compiled a comprehensive gallery of contenders for album of the year at the upcoming Grammys. Nominations will be announced Dec. 2 with the ceremony airing Jan. 31 on CBS. Among her top choices are "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" by Beyonce, "808s & Heartbreak" from Kanye West, and Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown." At the other end of her list of 11 possibilities are "BLACKsummers'night" by Maxwell and "American Saturday Night" from Brad Paisley. HIT FIX

Photo credits: Arte France; Sony Pictures Classic; Sony Music

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