In his debut column for the ’08-’09 Oscar-season, N.Y. Times guy David Carr – a.k.a., “the Bagger” — says that “seven or eight films have a shot” at the Best Picture Oscar. “The consensus, in no particular order — well, okay, in a little bit of a hierarchy — includes The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, Milk Doubt and The Reader.”

Uhm, no. Not The Reader. Ixnay on the Eader-ray. (God, that sounds facile! Can you imagine pouring your heart and soul into a film for 18 months and then reading “ixnay on the Eader-ray”?) Sorry but that’s the verdict I’m hearing. Intelligent, well written, handsomely shot, doesn’t deliver emotionally.

“And a surprise may be waiting in the wings,” Carr goes on. “Clint Eastwood, a durable crush object of the Academy, has a habit of swinging out of the trees late in the game, as he did two years ago with Letters From Iwo Jima so keep an eye on Gran Torino.” The early rumble is that it’s more of a Clint performance film than a Best Picture contender, but sure, yeah, I’d love to keep an eye on Gran Torino . No Manhattan screenings are currently set, of course. (That I know of.) Tomorrow night there’s an L.A. press screening with a wine–cheese-and-Clint after-party.

“With almost three months to go, a great deal can happen,” says Carr. “The chemistry of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Australia may bring to mind oil and water, but the Academy may swoon over the epic intent of the director, Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet).” Forget it. No way.

“The Walt Disney Company is carpet-bombing voters with DVDs to argue that the robotic glories of WALL*E should not be pigeonholed into animation alone.” That’s a no-go also. WALL*E‘s excellence has never been in question, but animated films need to stay on their side of the Rio Grande.

“And there’s always a chance that smaller films like Rachel Getting Married, with a searing performance by Anne Hathaway, or The Wrestler, featuring the muscular return of Mickey Rourke, might sneak in.” Nope. Rachel was written off weeks if not months ago.

And The Wrestler isn’t playing well with the over-50s. It’s a sharp and ballsy film, but when you hear about older people walking out of screenings because of the metal-staple scene and booing the mention of its name the following week, you might as well throw in the towel. Rourke is in good shape for a Best Actor nomination, though.