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Insiders see Bill Murray, Naomi Watts as Oscar contenders

Naomi Watts Bill Murray

Naomi Watts and Bill Murray

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Updated: December 21, 2012 6:16AM



As Thanksgiving approaches and the studios grind out the final films of the year, the annual speculation has begun about the awards seasons — especially Oscar nominations, coming Jan. 10.

While in New York over the weekend, I caught up with a couple of Motion Picture Academy members who shared both their personal picks — and the buzz they’re hearing from other Hollywood insiders.

† The toughest race this year clearly will be for the best actor Oscar — with three amazing performances interpreting the lives of real men: Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” Anthony Hopkins in “Hitchcock” and Wilmette’s own Bill Murray as Franklin Roosevelt in “Hyde Park on Hudson.” A number of sources — with a good history of accurate Oscar predictions — believe this year’s race is Day-Lewis’ to lose, though Hopkins could be the spoiler.

Also being touted for nominations are Denzel Washington for “Flight,” Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master,” John Hawkes for “The Sessions,” Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Hugh Jackman for “Les Miserables.” If Richard Gere makes the cut for “Arbitrage,” that would be the veteran actor’s first nomination.

† As for best actress, the field is perhaps less crowded with clear favorites over earlier years, but the names I’ve been hearing the most include three of our most acclaimed veterans who already own Oscar hardware — Helen Mirren for playing Alfred Hitcock’s wife Alma in “Hitchcock,” Maggie Smith (“Quartet”) and Judi Dench for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” in which she co-starred earlier this year with Smith.

Others who could be contenders are Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”), Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Smashed”), Marion Cotillard (“Rust and Bone”), Keira Knightley (“Anna Karenina”) and first-time actress Quvenzhane Wallis for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” The 9-year-old would become the youngest person nominated in that category if she does indeed get a nod on Jan. 10.

IT DIDN’T WORK: Without question, Lindsay Lohan did everything she could to convince the producers of the Showtime telefilm “Liz & Dick” she was the perfect choice to portray the late Elizabeth Taylor in the cable TV movie about the screen goddess and her enduring, impassioned romance with Richard Burton.

Unfortunately, both critics and — more importantly — Hollywood decision-makers are scoffing at Lohan’s performance in the film, with the kindest comments calling the long-troubled actress’ Taylor portrayal “wooden.”

A veteran Tinseltown power broker told this column Sunday night, “This is really a disaster for Lindsay. It was supposed to be her big comeback — proving her two years of legal and addiction struggles had not hurt her once-acclaimed talent. Sorry to say, this will do just the opposite.” The exec saw “Liz & Dick” and called it “a real mess of a movie … and Lohan is a huge part of the problem.”

Another well-connected producer put it more succinctly: “It’s one thing to be known as troubled or difficult, but to be a joke — a laughingstock — that’s poison in this town.”

† Word has it Lohan and her mother, Dina, couldn’t care less about the negative press on “Liz & Dick” — attributing it to routine dissing of LiLo. “Lindsay believes there are a lot of people out there who just love seeing her fail or having problems,” said a close friend of the actress. “She’s tough. She won’t let this get her down, or, I hope, threaten her sobriety.”

† Much worse is the fact that Lohan’s alleged lying to a police officer — a criminal offense — is likely to lead to revocation of her probation. TMZ broke the news the Santa Monica city attorney is filing a criminal case against the actress accusing her of lying about being at the wheel of her Porsche last June when it ran into an 18-wheeler on the Pacific Coast Highway. The case now will go to L.A. County Superior Court Judge Jane Godfrey, who reportedly will yank Lohan’s probation and set a date for a full hearing, on the grounds she violated her probation in that jewelry theft case by breaking the law.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti and Rizzoli Publishing released the maestro’s new book, “Verdi, l’Italiano,” at the conclusion of a Milan literary festival Sunday — with an English-language edition yet to be announced.

Muti’s love of Verdi’s music has brought him great acclaim — including his first two Grammys, for Verdi recordings that also marked Muti’s recording debut with the CSO.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: Things were hopping Sunday at La Scarola on West Grand as baseball legend Tommy Lasorda — here for the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame festivities — popped in for dinner, much to the delight of co-owner Joey Mondelli, PR guru Dominic DiFrisco and his family, plus new hall of fame inductee and world trick-shot pool champion Stefano Pelinga. According to Lasorda, “I have always loved Chicago, and if I had ever left the Dodgers, I would have loved to come here to take the Cubs to the World Series.” Ahh, wouldn’t that have been great!. … While in town for his Chicago Theatre stand-up gig last week, “Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson and an entourage of pals dined at Nellcote in River West — then partied on at Drumbar in Streeterville. … Here performing at the Chicago Improv in Schaumburg, actor and comedian Kevin Pollak was spied dining quietly at Joe’s Stone Crab in River North. … Yes, that was Jose Contreras and his family lunching Monday at Foodease Market.

TOAST TO TROTTER: For those wanting to pick up a bottle — or more — from the famous wine cellar at iconic Chicago restaurant guru Charlie Trotter’s now-shuttered Lincoln Park dining mecca, Christie’s auction house is conducting an online sale, beginning Tuesday and running through Dec. 4. More than 4,000 bottles will be offered for sale, representing every wine-making region in the world.



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