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Gold Derby nuggets: Pond & Hammond: Oscar race recaps | Stone: Oscars for 'Harry Potter'? | Cheers for Matt Damon on '30 Rock'

September 24, 2010 |  2:14 pm

Oscars Academy Awards Statues • Noted Oscarologist Steve Pond begins his savvy survey of the state of the race as follows: "'The King’s Speech' and 'The Social Network' proved their mettle, 'Black Swan' and '127 Hours' stirred up passions, 'The Tree of Life' is officially out of the running, and 'The Conspirator' and 'Conviction' dinted their Oscar chances. With the first round of fall showcases behind us -- Venice, Toronto and Telluride -- and the New York Film Festival set to unveil 'The Social Network' on Friday -- the Oscar picture is clearer. But there’s still room for lots of movement, for favorites to fade and dark horses to come out of nowhere." THE ODDS

Pete Hammond turns his attention to those potential Oscar contenders that weren't previewed at the film festivals. He starts his rundown with the "Wall Street" sequel opening Friday and concludes 17 films later with the remake of "True Grit" due out Christmas Day. Pete is bearish about "Money Never Sleeps," noting, "sequels rarely compete and Oliver Stone’s 1987 original received just a single nomination -- and won Best Actor for Michael Douglas. His bigger-than-life Gekko remains its best chance to jump in the race, particularly with goodwill for the actor running high due to his cancer and memories of his acclaimed work in the indie 'Solitary Man' still fresh from earlier this year." As for the Coen brothers' take on "True Grit," Pete says, "John Wayne won an Oscar. But it’s really Mattie’s tale, so look for a possible supporting actress in newcomer Hailie Steinfeld. Thankfully, the La Beouf role which Glen Campbell screwed up 40 years ago is now in Matt Damon’s hands. And reigning Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges takes on Cogburn. Never, but never, underestimate what the Coens are up to. So this could also be the rare western to make the Best Picture honor roll. No one has seen it yet, though." DEADLINE

Lane Brown kicks off his must-read weekly Oscar futures this week. Leading off his list is this assessment of key movements in the best picture race: Up -- "The King's Speech": "A great trailer and an audience award in Toronto allay fears that it might be too boring. Plenty of probable contenders are still unseen, but for right now, 'Speech' is in a two-horse race with 'Social Network.'" Down -- "Never Let Me Go": "Okay reviews and not-bad box office. Hasn't picked up much steam, though." VULTURE

Harry Potter and the Deadly HallowsSasha Stone asks, "Is it finally time for AMPAS to recognize the 'Harry Potter' series?" Her answer: "The biggest problem with the films so far is that they’re only really good if you’ve read the books. Like the 'Twilight' series, the plots to these films don’t work so well without the filled in context. Filmmakers don’t need to work as hard because they know they have a built in audience. With the 'Harry Potter' movies, it has never been a question of technical excellence -- art direction, visual effects, costumes, makeup -- always first rate. But what about the story? Can this, the second to last 'Harry Potter' film either have enough gravitas, or depth, to place it in the top ten for Best Picture? The odds are against it. It’s a sequel. It’s an effects-driven movie. None of the other 'Harry Potter' movies have been nominated before. On the other hand, if there was ever a time to honor this beloved series, it is now. After seven reliable years of box office success, why the hell not. If they can award Sandra Bullock with an Oscar for her box office achievements throughout her career (but mostly for 2009), why not the 'Harry Potter' series?" AWARDS DAILY

• The romantic comedy-drama "Love and Other Drugs" has been slotted in as the opening night film of the AFI filmfest on Nov. 4 while "Black Swan" closes out the festivities a week later. Last year, those honors went to the stop-motion  "Fantastic Mr. Fox" -- which contended for best animated feature --  and "A Single Man," which landed Colin Firth his first lead actor nomination. AFI FEST

• "Modern Family" and "The Big Bang Theory" both fared well with their first episodes of the season. In its second-season opener on Wednesday, the comedy series winner "hit all-time highs in both viewers (12.7 million) and adults 18-49 (5.1 rating)" while Thursday's fourth season premiere of the showcase for lead actor champ Jim Parsons drew 14 million viewers and was up 4% among adults 18-49 from last year when it followed "Two and a Half Men" on Monday night. ZAP2IT

• Two-time Emmy winner Steve Bass has signed on as production designer for the 83rd Academy Awards. While this will be his first time working on the Oscars, he and the kudocast's director, Don Mischer, are old colleagues. They recently collaborated on the Emmy Awards telecast at which Bass contended for his work on last year's Tony Awards. While he lost that bid (his sixth), he did win for the second of his four nominations for the Grammy Awards in 2005 as well as for his work with Mischer on the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In the announcement, Mischer says Bass is "the perfect person for this year’s Oscar. He’s an innovative, creative talent who I know will do justice to the tradition and glamour of the Academy Awards." AMPAS

100924mag-30-rock-matt-damon1Bruce Fretts gives a cheer to "30 Rock" guest star Matt Damon. "In the fifth-season opener, the Oscar-nominated actor reprised his role as airline pilot Carol, Liz Lemon's high-flying love interest from last spring's finale." For Fretts, "Whether Carol was bonding with Liz over their mutual fondness for Muppets presenting awards or weeping about his desire for "grown-up love," Damon showed a refreshingly silly side in keeping with 30 Rock's anything-goes spirit. And we haven't seen the last of him, as Liz bid him a temporary farewell: 'See you Oct. 14!' That happens to be the date of 30 Rock's live episode. Sounds like perfect timing for a little more goodwill hunting." TV GUIDE

• Presenters for the 31st edition of the News and Documentary Emmy Awards Monday night in Gotham include: Lester Holt, Sheila Nevins, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Bob Simon and Paula Zahn. "PBS NewsHour" picks up the chairman award while documentarian Frederick Wiseman is feted for his lifetime achievement. Emmys will be handed out in 41 categories including breaking news, investigative reporting, outstanding interview, and best documentary. NATAS

• One nominee who won't be attending the festivities at Lincoln Center is Robert Halderman, who made news last year for his attempted extortion of David Letterman. Recently released from jail, he is in the running for a "48 Hours Mystery" report on Amanda Knox. As per his lawyer Gerald Shargel, "he's not doing any interviews and just wants to return to a quiet and productive life." THR

Photos, from top: Academy Award statues. (Credit: AMPAS); "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" promotional still. (Warner Bros.); Matt Damon on "30 Rock." (NBC)

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