Because Pixar/Disney’s Ratatouille is said to be the year’s best- reviewed film that has also earned more than $500 million worldwide, Envelope columnist Pete Hammond is floating a fanciful notion that it might end up as a Best Picture Oscar contender.

“In a season of dark, depressing dramas, Ratatouille may seem like an alternative — lighter, more optimistic and audience-pleasing,” Hammond suggests. “Bloodshot, gun-shy academy voters looking for something different might come back to this one after trying out some of the newer films in the awards mix.”

It’s only November 1st and I’m already starting to hate this kind of talk. Hating the flabby mentality behind it, I mean. American Gangster isn’t dark or depressing in the least — it’s a sprawling urban crime drama that never bores and in fact leaves you wanting more at the end. Atonement is very sad, yes, but teh last time I looked sadness wasn’t synonymous with depressing. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead is an ancient Greek tragedy set in contemporary Manhattan and a nearby suburb, and it’s impossible for a film as decisively directed and stunningly well-acted as this to be depressing. Charlie Wilson’s War (if it’s good enough to be considered) isn’t in the least bit d & d, to go by the script. No Country for Old Men is a genius-level chase thriller with a powerful theme (i.e., present-tense indecency overcoming the decency of the past) that anyone over the age of 10 will recognize as truthful. And The Kite Runner is a touching and compassionate film about redemption.

If more tea-leaf readers had the cojones and 20/20 vision to stand up and recognize that Zodiac is perhaps the most deserving Best Picture contender of them all (or is certainly one of the stronger ones), I would add that it too is neither dark nor depressing. It is simply too brilliant and above-the-pack to warrant any such terms.

Anyone reading this who’s also whispered to Pete Hammond that too many of the leading Best Picture contenders are dark and depressing is hereby requested to zip it and keep it zipped until the ’07 Oscar race is over and done with. Thanks — your cooperation is much appreciated.