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Critics Pick Early Best Picture Oscar Contenders

| by Hollywood Elsewhere

Updated, corrected: The first MCN Gurus o' Gold Best Picture chart was posted last night, and it's nothing. It's too early, nobody knows zip -- everyone's hedging or spitballing or opting for safe ground. It's significant, though, that each and every Guru -- Greg Ellwood, Pete Hammond, Peter Howell, Dave Karger, David Poland, Sasha Stone, Kris Tapley, Anne Thompson, Suzie Woz -- voted for Tom Hooper's newly-arrived The King's Speech.

Of the top sixteen films -- Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, Black Swan, True Grit, Another Year, The Fighter, Love and Other Drugs, 127 Hours, Winter's Bone, How Do You Know, Never Let Me Go, Hereafter, The Tree of Life -- eight are looking like possible (but not likely...not yet) soft sisters:

(a) Toy Story 3 -- It's pointless to explain to the Gurus (or to anyone for that matter) that as superb as Toy Story 3 is, predicting that the Academy will nominate it for Best Picture is (a) an acknowledgment of and tribute to its quality as well as a lament about live-action features often coming up short, and (b) is essentially a futile wheel-spinning exercise as it's probably not going to be Best Picture-nominated, and is all but locked to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

(b) How Do You Know/Everything You've Got -- I've been sensing for years that the spirit has been seeping out of James L. Brooks. It would be delightful if he wasn't "past it" in terms of Oscar-worthy material, but I suspect that he is. He's not the guy he was in the '80s and early '90s. I think he's aged out. As Good As It Gets was the last time it all seemed to connect in the right way. I don't think I'm alone is saying that Spanglish was the death knell. Brooks' apparent inability to decide whether to call his film How Do You Know or Everything You've Got obviously indicates a shaky focus.

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This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

(c) Winter's Bone -- Never a strong Best Picture contender; the heat has always been with Best Actress contender Jennifer Lawrence.

(d) Hereafter -- I've read Peter Morgan's script, and I've considered what Anne Thompson had to say to Kris Tapley about how Hereafter has been playing with the early-looksee crowd. And there's reason to suspect that it's not a strike, and that two or three or more pins will be left standing.

(e) Love and Other Drugs -- The Ed Zwick factor has indicated from the get-go that this romantic dramedy wouldn't a hot prospect for Best Picture status. It's always looked like an Anne Hathaway for Best Actress thing -- that's the only thing I'm half-convinced of.

(f) Another Year -- Admired as they always are (and for all the right reasons), Mike Leigh's films don't tend to penetrate the Oscar realm.

(g) Never Let Me Go -- Some feel it's a brilliant masterwork; others are calling it a chilly dispiriting piece about meekly submitting to cruel fate. Indications are that critics and Academy members will continue to express divided opinion.

(h) 127 Hours -- The red-arm factor -- nausea, aversion -- may be a problem down the road, or it may settle down and go away. The Telluride reviews have been very good, but there does seem (key operative term) to be a vulnerability in this regard.

That leaves seven rock-solids -- Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, The Social Network, Black Swan, True Grit, The Tree of Life -- and a complete unknown with David O. Russell's The Fighter. And who's to say that True Grit is a major Coen Bros. film? They can be rote -- they don't have to be brilliant.

And what about The Tourist, The Conspirator, Biutiful, The Way Back, etc.?