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Hits, Misses on Quest for Oscar Glory

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Hits, Misses on Quest for Oscar Glory

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - It's the time of year when everyone in the movie business makes lists. Critics compile their top films, and Academy members rank their favorites.

But what's an awards columnist -- without the authority of a critic or the voting power of an Academy member -- to do? Make lists about awards season, of course. With eight weeks to go until the Oscars, more surprises surely await.

The season, though, has come a long way already. From the ignoble to the inspiring, the subtle to the ridiculous, here are the five best stories and subplots from Oscar Race 2008.

- The real world. Weren't movies supposed to be an escape from real life? "Milk" director Gus Van Sant makes a movie about a politician who fights anti-gay legislation -- and California voters promptly pass Prop 8, which bans gay marriage. "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle makes a movie about sectarian violence in India -- and the country suffers one of the worst terrorist attacks in its history. Maybe all those World War II Oscar movies aren't such a bad idea after all.

- Make his day. By now Clint Eastwood slips in a last-minute contender so often it's a surprise when he doesn't. But after "Changeling" floundered with critics, it might not be a Clint year after all: "Gran Torino" has earned mixed reviews, and the movie seems like a best film long shot -- though don't count out the former Dirty Harry for a best actor nomination.

- Ambivalence. For reasons unclear, Paramount Vantage pushes back its "Defiance" opening and decides to give the movie only a token awards run, even though the picture is a tour de force and Daniel Craig, playing a tormented Jewish partisan, gives what is easily one of the best performances of the year.

- "The Dark Knight," the dark horse: It's a shoo-in for best picture! No, they'll never nominate it in a million years! The Batman tentpole yielded as many alleged certainties as it did critics' top 10 spots. Now that the dust has settled, its prospects are where many thought it would be -- an Oscar lock for Heath Ledger and an outside shot for director Christopher Nolan.

- Seeing double. Meryl Streep a contender for both "Mamma Mia!" and "Doubt." Josh Brolin in the mix for "Milk" and "W." Kate Winslet a potential dual nominee for "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader." Forget worries about an actors strike; does Hollywood have an actor shortage?

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Steven Zeitchik writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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