L.A. Times/Envelope columnist Pete Hammond was way in front of everyone on calling The Blind Side as a Best Picture contender and especially as a Best Actress shot for Sandra Bullock. Here’s how it went down, according to an e-mail he sent around this morning:

(l. to r.) Sandra Bullock, Pete Hammond, Roger Durling.

“I first saw The Blind Side on the WB lot on October 15th. This was roughly five weeks before opening, and there were about five people in the screening room. I called WB the next day and asked them afterwards if they knew what they had, that this was Bullock’s Erin Brockovich, and said she can get an Oscar nomination if they campaign it. They weren’t even planning to do that at this stage.

“I held off writing about it and predicting the Oscar nomination until Nov 4th — the first time I talked it up.

“The same day I participated in the first Gurus Of Gold on November 4th and was the only pundit predicting Bullock then. (Aside to Poland: If I hadn’t put her on there she wouldn’t have even made your Gurus list, David!)

“On November 23rd I wrote about it again after the opening weekend’s boxoffice report and put out a public plea for someone, ANYONE to join me on buzzmeter in predicting Bullock. Again I was still alone.”

Wells to Hammond: I might have joined you, Pete, if the brainiacs at Warner Bros. publicity had the horse sense to invite me to their early screenings, which of course in their stupendous and magnificent obstinacy they don’t.

“That article was used by Santa Barbara Film Festival chief Roger Durling in convincing Sandra’s reps to commit to a tribute and award at the SBIFF when a Best Actress nomination seemed still like a longshot. He first contacted them after the first article on November 4th. He hadn’t even seen the movie at that point.

“This coming Friday night I am hosting the SBIFF American Riviera award tribute to Sandra’s career at the 2200-seat Arlington. Roger told me it is the fastest-selling tribute in the 25-year history of the festival.”