Packed Q&As for the likes of "Atonement," "Eastern Promises," "Michael Clayton," "Sweeney Todd," "The Great Debaters" and "Into the Wild," to name just a few contenders, have been in full swing in these final days. These intimate sessions will probably continue right up through the Jan. 25 due date for SAG ballots.
20th Century Fox toppers Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos threw one at Rothman's house Wednesday night for "Juno" and Picturehouse hosted one for their "La Vie en Rose" star Marion Cotillard Thursday night at Il Cielo.
Cotillard, whose remarkable performance as Edith Piaf could make her only the second actress to win for a foreign-language performance (Sophia Loren was the first in 1961), was radiant as she is now ensconced in L.A. through the first week of February.
Saturday night, Cotillard receives her L.A. Film Critics award for best actress. Then Sunday, she and Picturehouse hope to hear the anchors of "Access Hollywood" (oy!) announce she has won a Golden Globe as well.
It's a smart strategy since she is not as well known here as in France and the personal touch can make a big difference, particularly when there are the likes of an icon (favorite Julie Christie), a superstar (Angelina Jolie) and a celebrated newcomer (Ellen Page) -- all expected to have a run at the actress race as well.
Picturehouse topper Bob Berney engineered a highly successful campaign for Charlize Theron in "Monster," and the exposure he put the star through during a key period paid off big-time with her ultimate win at the Oscars. He obviously hopes to repeat with Cotillard, whose film was released last June.
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An absent Christie skipped potential photo ops on Sunday and Monday for her wins at the Broadcast and New York Film Critics awards for "Away From Her."
Christie has been "away from here" for several weeks but is promising to come back for a voter-heavy Santa Barbara Film Festival appearance Jan. 25, just three days after nominations are announced.
Cotillard and Page will be given the festival's "Vanguard" award Jan. 30 while Jolie receives "Performance of the Year" there on Feb. 2. Cate Blanchett, another contender, gets the Modern Master Award on Jan. 26.
Meanwhile, this week the clouded race for best picture just got a little clearer with the all-important disclosure of Directors and Writers Guild nominations. Since these awards, like the Oscars, are voted on by peers in the industry -- rather than critics -- they tend to be much more accurate in foretelling eventual academy nominations.
If that is indeed the case this year, and we add up the numbers from DGA, WGA and previously announced SAG nods, then "Into the Wild," "No Country for Old Men" and "Michael Clayton" are looking awfully good to get into the best pic race on Jan. 22.
"Wild" scored writers, directors (both for Sean Penn) and four SAG noms. "Country" and "Clayton" made virtually the same run (both had three SAG nods, although "Clayton" missed out on the important best cast category).
With mentions from all three groups,"There Will Be Blood" also is looking like a solid nominee at this point. That leaves "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" with DGA and WGA nods, and "Juno" with one SAG and a WGA nomination. Both films will fight it out for the fifth of Oscar's Best Picture slots if you decide to use the Guild tea leaves as your guide.
Still to be heard from is the Producers Guild, which announces its nominees on Monday.
The British Academy's nominations are out on Wednesday and can also be telling.
BAFTA put out its "long list" of preliminary contenders, and swamping the field with a whopping 17 mentions is hometown favorite, "Atonement," which needs all the British love it can find after its stunning omissions in all the Hollywood guild races to date.
"Atonement" is so far the biggest head-scratcher of the season, the presumed front-runner since the Venice and Toronto film festivals in late summer, it is a beautifully crafted movie that has "Oscar" written all over it.