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December 15, 2008

'Slumdog,' Penn clean up critics awards

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Pounding rainstorms have gridlocked traffic all over Los Angeles today -- watch out for those sinkholes! -- but the awards game is pedal-to-the-metal right now with plenty of critics choices to inspect from the warm and dry Gold Rush HQ, namely those from Boston, Chicago, New York's online reviewers and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

There is consensus, and there's not. There certainly is on "Slumdog Millionaire," which keeps its momentum going toward Oscar, and on Sean Penn in "Milk." (More on the prickly Penn below). Beyond that, it's a mishmash.

Chicago is slated to give its awards on Thursday, whittling down from nominations that include filmmaker Gus Van Sant ("Milk"), supporting actress Viola Davis ("Doubt"), best actor Clint Eastwood ("Gran Torino") and "WALL-E" in both best picture and best animated categories. Full list of candidates here.

Beantown critics threw their lot behind "Slumdog" and "WALL-E" for best picture, Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke, Sally Hawkins, Heath Ledger and Penelope Cruz in the acting races.

But this indecisive group also names a runner-up and sometimes more than one per category. Is that fair? That's a lot of green ribbons, or whatever color it is for "almost won after a couple people tied." All the many winners here.

New York's online critics fell hard for rags-to-riches-love-story "Slumdog" (picture, director, cinematography, screenplay, score), along with "Man on Wire" (doc) and "WALL-E" (animated flick). More here.

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And Women Film Journalists -- an endangered species, even before the latest rounds of head lopping at major media outlets -- weighed in with "Slumdog," "Frost/Nixon's" adapted screenplay by Peter Morgan, the ensemble cast of "Rachel Getting Married" and the French thriller "Tell No One." More results here.

Now, back to Penn.

He's already racked up an armload of awards nods for his spot-on Harvey Milk, the slain gay activist, but he can't necessarily be bothered with the press that champions him. Tom O'Neil at Gold Derby thinks that might have something to do with Penn's aversion to answering any tough questions about his high-on-Fidel political views.

Wait, tough questions? From entertainment reporters? There's got to be another reason. And whatever it is, could it hurt Penn's chances at an Oscar nod, since the Academy voters tend not to take kindly to a huffy, press-unfriendly attitude? With the kind of roll he's on (see above), we seriously doubt it.

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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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