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September 09, 2008

Fox Searchlight flexes for Oscar

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For a while there, it looked like a bunch of oldsters singing the Stones were the best Oscar hope for Fox Searchlight.*

*Not meant as a slag on the delightful boxoffice dud "[email protected]"

The boutique studio that's home to award winners and formidable contenders from the past -- "Juno," "Once," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Notes on a Scandal," "The Last King of Scotland" -- has just upped its game, with THR's Steven Zeitchik calling Fox Searchlight a real player in this year's Oscar race.

How'd they do that? By snagging "The Wrestler" this week in Toronto and recently going halves with Warner Bros. on "Slumdog Millionaire." The former just won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and both are causing a big stir on the festival circuit. There's Oscar talk for "The Wrestler's" Mickey Rourke, and a couple prominent awards bloggers came out of a "Slumdog Millionaire" screening this weekend declaring it an Oscar best picture candidate. (That's the dramedy's star, Dev Patel, pictured with director Danny Boyle).

Add to that Searchlight's planned fall release of "The Secret Life of Bees," and you have a game on par with indie competitors like Focus Features and the Weinstein Co.

Having always appreciated Searchlight's consistently good taste -- "Napoleon Dynamite," "The Namesake," "Thank You for Smoking," "Waitress," "The Savages" -- not to mention their marketing prowess, we're glad to see them with a fourth quarter slate worthy of some Oscar campaigning. Makes it much more complicated and expensive for them, but more interesting for us. It's all about priorities.
 

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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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