Good Morning, Oscar: October 3

A shrinking Miramax changes the awards landscape, and has an unseen musical really become the frontrunner?

In today’s roundup of Oscar news ‘n’ notes from around the web, a shrinking Miramax changes the awards landscape, and has an unseen musical really become the frontrunner?

The end of an era: Disney has downsized Miramax and cut the number of movies the division will release each year. Anne Thompson says the staff will go from 75 to 25, and the release slate will drop from six-to-eight down to three. Gregory Ellwood wonders if the move will knock Miramax out of the Oscar race for good. I guess it won’t if they choose their three movies wisely … but will Disney give them the money for Oscar campaigns?

David Poland takes stock of the Oscar race, post-Toronto. Then he makes a chart of contenders. His take is certainly reasonable, though I don’t know about listing the yet-to-be-seen musical “Nine” as a 90 percent lock for a nomination, and the “front-runner.” But hey, Poland is a notoriously soft touch for musicals, and I’m pretty much the opposite: until I see it, I’m inclined to guess that it’ll be afflicted with one or another of the problems that almost always keep musicals out of the top category. Still, Rob Marshall pulled it off with his last musical, “Chicago,” and the film looks terrific (that’s Daniel Day Lewis and Marion Cotillard, right) so maybe, just maybe … (Movie City News)

“Right now it feels quiet,” says Sasha Stone. “Too quiet.” Then she looks at David Poland’s chart and says it makes her head spin. I think what she really means is that his air of authority baffles her at this early stage. (As do some of his choices.) (Awards Daily

Kris Tapley and Anne Thompson talk about the politics of the foreign-language submissions, argue about the best-picture chances of “Bright Star” (he says no, she says yes), and say nice things about horror films (“Zombieland,” “Paranormal Activity”) that have no Oscar shot whatsoever. (In Contention) (Thompson on Hollywood)

Dave Karger’s verdict on the Oscar chances of “A Serious Man”: screenplay, yes; picture, maybe; director, possibly; actor, perhaps; supporting actor, unlikely. (Oscar Watch)

Meanwhile, now that the film has opened, critics have been swooning. Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “a pitch-perfect comedy of despair.”  A.O. Scott, New York Times: “a distilled, hyperbolic account of the human condition.”  Glenn Kenny, Some Came Running: “The Book of Job on acid and running on a 360 horsepower engine.”  Armond White, the New York Press: “so sharp-witted that every irony makes life vivid rather than despairing.”

Well, maybe they haven’t all been swooning.  David Denby, the New Yorker: “As a piece of moviemaking craft, “A Serious Man” is fascinating; in every other way, it’s intolerable.”  Ella Taylor, the Village Voice: “buried beneath an avalanche of Ugly Jew iconography.”

As if Guiseppe Tornatore’s “Baaria” wasn’t already the most controversial foreign-film submission by virtue of the fact that it was chosen instead of the far more well-received "Vincere," now an Italian animal-rights organization is trying to stop all further screenings because, they say, a bull was slaughtered during the making of the movie. Wonder if "Vincere" is looking better to Italy’s film board right about now. (indieWIRE)

David Letterman, last night, bending the facts a bit on Roman Polanski’s arrest: “He shows up at the awards ceremony, and they lead him out in handcuffs. The same thing happened to me at the Academy Awards.” That’s not exactly true, of course, though a downcast Letterman did skip the Governors Ball and quickly leave the premises the night he hosted in 1995.