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Gold Derby nuggets: 'August: Osage County' vies for West End kudos | Dave Karger: 'Amazing achievement' of 'Precious' | 'Avatar' is half billion dollar baby

November 9, 2009 |  2:47 pm

August Osage County Poster • Tony and Pulitzer prize winner "August: Osage County" landed on Monday's short list for the Evening Standard awards honoring the best of West End theater. Also vying for the top prize of best play are "Enron," "Jerusalem" and "Punk Rock." Deanna Dunagan earned a nod for recreating her Tony-winning performance as a manic matriarch in "August" and competes against three British talents -- Penny Downie ("Helen"), Juliet Stevenson ("Duet for One") and Rachel Weisz ("A Streetcar Named Desire"). Unlike the Oliviers in the spring which are akin to the Tony Awards, these prizes sponsored by London's top-selling local paper focus primarily on plays. The awards -- judged by a panel of theater critics -- will be handed out in a Nov. 23 ceremony at the Royal Opera House. THE GUARDIAN

• It is hard to believe but we are just weeks away from the end of the first decade of the new millennium. Tim Teeman, Kevin Maher and Wendy Ide have compiled their list of the top 100 films of the last 10  years. Their pick for the top pic -- "Cache." Of the nine best picture Oscar winners to date this decade, "No Country for Old Men" (2007) ranks highest at third right behind "The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum." "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) sits at sixth, "Gladiator" (2000) merits 32nd place, "The Return of the King" (2003) straddles the halfway mark and "Crash" (2005) clocks in at #98. Missing from this list are "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), "Chicago" (2002), "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) and "The Departed" (2006). TIMES OF LONDON

Precious Poster 2Dave Karger regards this weekend's rave reviews and record-breaking opening numbers for "Precious" through the prism of the Oscar race. As he says, "Considering all of this was accomplished by a film by a relatively new director with no big movie stars in it, it’s an amazing achievement. It was well on its way to becoming a Best Picture nominee already, but now 'Precious' is seeming more and more like a front-runner." However, as Dave asks: "Can it distinguish itself from 'Dreamgirls' (which missed out on a Best Picture nod) and 'Brokeback Mountain' (which lost to 'Crash') and actually win? Between 'Invictus,' 'The Hurt Locker.' 'The Lovely Bones,' 'Up in the Air,' and 'Nine,' it certainly seems to have some stiff competition." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Steve Pond sounds a warning bell about the awards prospects for "Precious" with this report: "Among the viewers who saw the film over the weekend, incidentally, were a group of Academy members and guests at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater Sunday evening. I hear that the AMPAS members screening drew a smallish audience (about 300 in the 1,000-seat theater) but played well, with the largest applause going to the film’s lead actresses, Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique. (Director Lee Daniels, in contrast, reportedly didn’t prompt as much enthusiasm.) The size of the crowd suggests to me that the film’s biggest problem will get getting Oscar voters to see it." THE ODDS

• On Nov. 5, the British Academy of Film and Television Los Angeles' (BAFTA/LA) Britannia Awards feted film legend Kirk Douglas, two-time Oscar champ Robert De Niro, "A Single Man" star Colin Firth, "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle and up-and-coming screen talent Emily Blunt. Among those feting the fab five were Amy Adams, Ewan McGregor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ben Stiller. THE CIRCUIT

Avatar PosterMichael Cieply calculates the cost of bringing James Cameron's "Avatar" to the screen at a staggering half billion dollars. As he explains, "Published reports have put the production budget at more than $230 million. But the price tag would be higher if the financial contribution of Mr. Cameron and others were included. When global marketing expenses are added, 'Avatar' may cost its various backers $500 million." But fear not News Corp shareholders as "a pair of private equity partners -- Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Media -- pick up 60 percent of the budget." And "in a further hedge, Mr. Cameron would give up part of his own participation in the film’s returns if production costs exceed a specified level, according to those who were briefed on the film. If final production costs exceeded $300 million, for instance, Mr. Cameron would effectively defer much of his payout until the studio and others were compensated, despite his years of labor on the movie." NEW YORK TIMES

Greg Ellwood doesn't even have "Avatar" among his top dozen picks for best picture. His top choice -- "Invictus." As Greg explains, "It has only been seen by some WB execs, but the buzz so far is more than good. More importantly, it has all the elements to build a consensus from Academy members (which is what wins the final price): an inspiring true story, a beloved Academy-friendly cast and a filmmaker in Clint Eastwood who many in the industry believe can do no wrong. And if it's half as good as the trailer, it's in. If it's as good and moving as the trailer? It's the absolute frontrunner. For now, we're betting on the latter." The rest of his top five -- "The Hurt Locker," "Precious," "Up in the Air" and "Up." HIT FIX

• It seems only appropriate that Kris Allen -- who won "American Idol" via a popular vote -- is part of Tuesday's line-up announcing those in the running for this year's People's Choice Awards. The rest of the readers of nominations are Cat Deeley ("So You Think You Can Dance"), Johnny Galecki ("The Big Bang Theory"), Jeff Probst ("Survivor") and Sofia Vergara ("Modern Family"). ZAP2IT

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Photos, from top: Steppenwolf Theater; Lionsgate; Fox

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