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Oscar Nominations on the Horizon

With the Oscar nominations almost upon us, many wonder if “Slumdog Millionaire” might steal the hearts of the 6,000 members of the Academy.

After days of breathless celebration, the nation settled back on its heels to let the new Obama administration begin its work. 
And Hollywood, too, began the work of deciding what history will record as the best in film of 2008. Oscar nominations were being prepared for the crack of dawn on Thursday. In the wake of weeks of critics’ awards, Golden Globes and pre-award posturing, it was clear that this year, nothing would be clear.  
Early favorites seem to have been blown from the field of frontrunners chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Little has been heard from “Gran Torino,” a dark and violent morality tale starring Clint Eastwood, even as it has posted gains at the box office. “Milk,” a drama starring Sean Penn about the murder of San Francisco’s first elected gay politician, has been slow to be adopted by audiences, despite wide critical praise. “Frost/Nixon” and “Revolutionary Road” and “The Reader” are all strong candidates, from directors and actors with long award pedigrees. 
But many wonder if a tiny, independent film set in faraway India,  “Slumdog Millionaire,” might steal the hearts of the 6,000 members of the Academy.  So far, it is the closest thing to a runaway hit – especially for a foreign film. It has taken in $44 million in the United States, and another $16 million abroad, ahead of its anticipated debut in India.
But if “Slumdog” does take the mass of nominations, it will once again leave the Oscars with the problem of drawing a mass audience to a ceremony that honors a film with no known movie stars, as has happened – to declining ratings – in previous years.