By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 11, 2009 at 9:13AM
As the deadlines for the Hollywood Foreign Press and film critics voting loom, the studios are finally starting to screen the last four big guns. The HFPA is heading to New York this weekend for the Nine junket. And they're seeing The Lovely Bones and Invictus. Avatar will likely be the last to show--not before December 10, says Fox.
Peter Jackson's $70-million The Lovely Bones, based on the Alice Sebold novel, is a fascinating case of a movie surrounded by speculation. The footage I've seen is gorgeous. And Paramount knows that it has to sell a thriller to one audience (placing the trailer in front of Twilight: New Moon) and a PG-13 family film to another. (The novel was both a mainstream and young adult bestseller.) But the main audience is adults: Paramount is confident enough in what they have to follow the Gran Torino approach, rolling the movie out limited December 11 in New York and Los Angeles, going wider Christmas Day, and really wide President's Day weekend. That film was finally the highest-grossing holiday film last year. Because they built on good word-of-mouth.
Paramount is also (contrary to some rumors), mounting a full-on Oscar campaign, including Saorise Ronan in best actress and Stanley Tucci in supporting. (He's also up for Julie & Julia.) I'm showing the film to Sneak Previews on December 16.
Other Oscar news on the jump:
The latest Gurus 'o Gold chart positions Precious star Mo'Nique, who rocked on Oprah last Friday in a live interview from her Atlanta TV show, as the one to beat in supporting actress. (Supporting actor is all over the place.) Every single Oscar maven (including me) put her at number one. On Oprah, Mo'Nique said that the monstrous mother she plays is based on her older brother, who molested her. All she had to do was keep it real and channel him, she said.
Fox Searchlight isn't settling for Crazy Heart as their main Oscar contender; they are also pushing Maggie Gyllenhaal for best actress. While she's very good in the movie, she's a long-shot even for supporting actress. I see Crazy Heart as strictly a Jeff Bridges play, based on his entire career. But if the movie takes off on its own merits, then Gyllenhaal could enter the fray. They are also harboring hopes for their summer hit 500 Days of Summer, especially for the writers, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, who could have a shot in the always-slim original screenplay category, even though they are relative newbies.