At the end of Monday’s business day (3.31), Variety‘s Pamela McLintock posted a story about the 2008 awards season starting to shape up. It’s impossible to find it through Variety‘s sluggish search engine, but here’s a rundown of the titles she mentioned and my thoughts about same.

I know next to nothing and can sense even less at this stage, but my blindshot hunch (based on a little siren call I’m half-hearing, like the sound of a mosquito) is that David Fincher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Gus Van Sant‘s Milk are potentially the two strongest Best Picture contenders right now.
By HE bullshit meter standards, I mean. Hairs on the back of the neck, etc. Which isn’t to say they won’t morph into serious contenders down the line, which I think will happen. Probably. But it’s only April 2nd.
The first because an adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald work bestows an aura of class and aspiration, because the reverse-aging story contains a powerful metaphor, because the de-aging process that Brad Pitt will go through may touch people on some level, and because Fincher is owed for the Zodiac blowoff at the hands of Paramount and the Academy. And the second because The Times of Harvey Milk, the 1984 Oscar-winning doc, makes people cry every time they see it.
Universal and Imagine’s Frost/Nixon from director Ron Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan, opening 12.5 with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen as Richard Nixon and David Frost. I’m hearing//deducing that it’ll more of an acting shot for Langella than anything else.
U and Spyglass’s Flash of Genius, opening 10.17, toplines Greg Kinnear as a fucked-over genius inventor of a special kind of windshield wiper. I’m spitballing here and now that dramas about geniuses getting screwed over my corporations, like Francis Coppola‘s Tucker or the possibly forthcoming The Farnsworth Invention, contain very little intrigue or suspense or emotional potential. We know the basic story going in. I’m presuming it’s basically a yaddah-yaddah unless the writing and acting are spellbinding. Life is unfair and corporations are run by pricks — we know that going in.
Sony’s Will Smith drama Seven Pounds, from Pursuit of Happyness director Gabrielle Muccino is almost certainly going to flirt with emotional manipulation. Flirt, not overwhelm. No call or premonition beyond this.
The Coen brothersBurn After Reading isn’t Oscar material. Strictly a sardonic comedy.
The Duchess, a Keira Knightley-Ralph Fiennes drama opening on 9.12 (Paramount Vantage), may show at Cannes, so we’ll see what’s when if that happens.
Another Cannes possibility is Fernando MeirellesBlindness (Miramax, 9.19) with Gael Garcia Bernal, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. Nobody knows nuthin’, but I sense a competitive edge here. Meirelles is a first-rater.
Bryan Singer and Tom Cruise‘s Valkyrie (United Artists/MGM, 10.3) doesn’t strike me, script-wise, as Oscar material. It’s a well-written historical thriller, etc., but a question mark in terms of its emotional element.
Ridley Scott‘s Body of Lies (Warner Bros., 10.10) with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe is basically another thriller also with a moral undercurrent. No comment beyond this. Haven’t read it, let it go for now.
Baz Luhrmann‘s Australia (11.14) with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman is…I don’t know. Does anyone? Haven’t read the script here either.
John Hillcoat‘s The Road (Weinstein Co., 11.26) with Charlize Theron, Viggo Mortensen and Guy Pearce. Cormac McCarthy again?
Sam MendesRevolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage/DreamWorks, 12.19) is looking, right now, like a fairly likely Best Picture contender because of the marquee power, the release date and so on. Unless, of course, it turns out to be Little Children or something close to that.
Another big contender, as previously noted, is David Fincher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount, 12.19), which has an intriguing story and a certain high-pedigree aura.
McLintock reports that several possible awards contenders have yet to be dated, including Miramax’s Doubt, Focus’ Milk, DreamWorks’ The Soloist, Universal’s The Changeling, Paramount Vantage’s Defiance and Fox Searchlight’s The Secret Life of Bees. The Weinstein Co. hasn’t assigned release dates to Shanghai and The Reader.