Oscars derby update: 'Nine' finally debuts | Best picture upset by 'Inglourious Basterds'? | Alec Baldwin may be a truly winning host
BEST PICTURE: "Nine" finally unspooled at industry screenings in New York and Los Angeles for the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and the junket media. Nearly all of the principal cast members (Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman) plus director Rob Marshall attended the Q&A screening for the Screen Actors Guild in New York. For now there's a lid on reviews while an embargo is in place.
If "Nine" doesn't prove to be a strong best picture contender for Weinstein Co., then maybe "Inglourious Basterds" will emerge as a front-runner? Or maybe not. When Gold Derby heard how popular it is with Golden Globe voters and predicted it would win best picture at the Oscars, it triggered an uproar in the blogosphere.
One clear front-runner, "Precious," just proved to a real winner at the box office during its second week of release. "It was a fantastic expansion, which Lionsgate widened from 18 to 174 theaters," Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com reports to Gold Derby. "Going into the weekend, I thought it had a shot at breaking into the top five despite a very limited release, and it shot up to No. 3." Its $5.9-million take, he said, was "fantastic."
Meantime, all Oscar voters just received the following DVDs: "(500) Days of Summer," "Bright Star" and "Young Victoria." Previously, all members of the academy received "An Education" and "The Messenger" (Nov. 16), "Coco Before Chanel," "Whatever Works" and "The Damned United" (Oct. 26) and "Anvil" (Oct. 8).
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Now that it looks like the list of nominees will expand from the usual three to five, the race for best animated feature is getting truly animated. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" just opened last weekend in only four theaters, but reaped an impressive $337,000 after also scoring socko reviews (88 score at Metacritic). EW's Dave Karger and I both believe it's now a strong contender for a nom, but that means it must dislodge one of these five current faves: "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," "Coraline," "Ponyo," "Princess and the Frog" or "Up."
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Oscarcast co-host Alec Baldwin has emerged as a serious contender for best supporting actor, according to early buzz for "It's Complicated." The Nancy Meyers comedy hasn't screened to media yet, but it's been viewed by some key industry players and we hear that Baldwin steals the show. Hmmm … can he become the first Oscar host ever to win on ceremony night? Prospects of a nomination for him are certainly brightening. Read more here.
Woody Harrelson's Oscar hopes appear brighter too, thanks to positive reax to his playful performance as a bully soldier in "The Messenger," which opened in theaters last weekend. There's also buzz for Ben Foster in the lead race, but Woody grandstands over him throughout much of the film.
Photo: Weinstein Co.