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Oscars update: Mysterious 'Nine' and 'Lovely Bones' finally debut; Sandra Bullock ambushes derby fillies

November 25, 2009 |  9:39 am

Here's our latest take on the recent twists and turns on the derby track.

BEST PICTURE
The best-picture hopes of "Up in the Air" and "The Hurt Locker" got a boost from being the only two films backed by all 20 experts forecasting the Oscar nominees at The Envelope's Buzzmeter.

Mystery surrounds how Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" will fare in top derby races. After it debuted at a royal premiere in London's Leicester Square, the Sun crowned it "the best film of next year," adding, "Yes, even better than the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy."

Nine Lovely bones

However, the London Guardian gave it only two stars out of five, infuriated that director Jackson scrubbed "Bones" clean when adapting the bestselling novel about the rape and gruesome murder of a 14-year-old girl. The newspaper harrumphs: "The screen version is so infuriatingly coy, and so desperate to preserve the modesty of its soulful victim, that it amounts to an ongoing clean-up operation."

Mystery also surrounds the derby fate of "Nine" after it received mixed responses at early screenings. Audiences went wild for it at SAG nom com Q&As. But was that largely because they were blinded by the star wattage in attendance, including past Oscar champs Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench and Marion Cotillard? Lou Lumenick of the New York Post heard so much negativity from people who attended different industry screenings that he attended that he removed "Nine" entirely from his list of potential best-picture nominees at The Envelope's Buzzmeter.

Overall, it has received mostly enthusiastic reax. However, many industry pros are quick to add, "It's no 'Chicago.' " Translation: It will be nominated for best picture, but it won't win. "For a movie this well pedigreed not to get a nomination, something would have to have gone terribly wrong," insists Lane Brown of New York Magazine's Vulture blog.

Again, I reiterate that the Weinstein Co.'s best hope for a best-pic victory is "Inglourious Basterds," but no one believes me. Just wait till Golden Globe and DGA noms come out, you naysayers!


BEST ACTOR

The chief problem with "Nine" is the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrays the adorable, charmingly seductive Guido as a scowling, smug, vile-tempered, chain-smoking egomaniac. He's old enough to be the poppa of the gals he treats like annoying slaves. In other words, forget the playful, winking 30-ish
Marcello Mastroianni you saw in the film upon which this musical was based, Federico Fellini's "8 1/2." This is your father's Guido (Day-Lewis is 52 years old) and – watch out, kiddies – Daddy's in a really bad mood.

Nonetheless, the majority view is that Day-Lewis can do no wrong and his lack of huggability is offset by his superstar aura and high Cool Factor. Maybe so. Over all, reax are positive, and a growing number of Oscarologists believe he'll reap a bid for best actor in a crowded field.

What to think of Tobey Maguire's odds for "Brothers"? Easily, it's his most impressive performance ever, brimming with scary believability as he goes bonkers after escaping nightmarish captivity as a soldier in Afghanistan. Spider-Man proves that he's a serious actor in "Brothers," but Steve Pond of the Wrap believes that the film has problems: "Despite impressive moments of frayed-nerve intensity, there’s precious little subtlety here and way too many cliches."

But beware: Many Oscarologists made the mistake of underestimating the Oscar luck of director Jim Sheridan, whose "In America" (2003) scored three surprising nominations — best screenplay plus acting bids for Samantha Morton and Djimon Hounsou in the supporting slot.

Biggest surprise in The Envelope's Buzzmeter is such strong support for Colin Firth ("A Single Man"), who receives the most support from our pundits predicting best actor: 17 votes out of 20. George Clooney ("Up in the Air") comes in second place (16), followed by Morgan Freeman ("Invictus") with 11 votes. "Invictus" was finally seen by media last week, but there's still an embargo on reviews. One thing is clear: Forget early scuttlebutt you may have heard about Freeman giving a performance as Nelson Mandela that really belongs in the supporting slot. Nope. He's lead.

"The Road" debuts in theaters today, thus officially launching Viggo Mortensen into the race. Read more about his Mortensen's candidacy here, where you can see my video chat with him.


BEST ACTRESS

The screenings of "Nine" deflated Marion Cotillard's hope of being nominated for best actress two years after winning for "La Vie en Rose." She doesn't enter the film until more than halfway through, and then she doesn't stick around for long, disgusted by Daniel Day-Lewis' philandering. (You go, girl!) Maybe that's a good thing, considering how Oscar voters love to embrace the role of long-suffering wife. However, it's clear to most Oscarologists that the Weinstein Co. has pushed her up to lead in hope of spreading the gold. "Nine" already has too many gals in the supporting cast. Penelope Cruz and Judi Dench have real shots at bids for best supporting actress. Nicole Kidman is in that derby too, but forget it. Her role isn't showy enough.

Pete Hammond is exulting in a well-deserved, I-told-you-so stance over his early warning that Sandra Bullock could be a serious derby rival. Now he crows, "I stand by this more than ever"  now that "The Blind Side" has opened "with an over-performing $34.6 million (Bullock's best ever) and a very rare A + Cinemascore rating."


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