Who's got the early buzz?

"Babel"Pro: Voters may finally discover artsy director Alejandro González Iñárritu, thanks to an A-list cast and a timely message about irrational hysteria over terrorism.

Con: Older academy members may balk at "Babel's" violence and avant-garde interweaving of four globe-scattered stories.

"Blood Diamond"Pro: Slick entertainment with political message. DiCaprio really sparkles.

Con: Looks like an action film, so may not be taken seriously.

"Bobby"Pro: Looks like "Titanic" with lots of celebs on course to collide with historical tragedy. Poignant clips of real Bobby Kennedy a plus.

Con: Detractors say it's really "The Love Boat" with pop stars like Lindsay Lohan and Ashton Kutcher aboard.

"Catch a Fire"Pro: Voters like real struggles against Third World oppression ("The Constant Gardener").

Con: African political drama "Hotel Rwanda" was nommed for best pic at Globes, not Oscars.

"The Departed"Pro: Take Martin Scorsese, add heartthrobs, blood, guns and let Jack wig out. Box-office gold = Oscar gold.

Con: Boys misbehavin' is fun, but not weighty.

"Dreamgirls"Pro: Nearly a dozen musicals have won best picture, and this one's a B'way classic about showbiz.

Con: Recent film tuners flopped ("The Phantom of the Opera," "The Producers").

"Flags of Our Fathers"

Pro: Clint. "Flags' " theme of disillusioned soldiers facing civilian life is a proven Oscar conqueror ("The Best Years of Our Lives," "Coming Home").

Con: Could it be "Jarhead" without Jake?

"The Good German"Pro: Oscar champ Steven Soderbergh directs Oscar A-listers George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in big December pic.

Con: Popcorn pix aside, Soderbergh has crashed since "Traffic."

"The Good Shepherd"Pro: Academy loves movies directed by actors (Robert De Niro), plus dramas based on real life (this is about the early days of the CIA).

Con: De Niro hasn't proved himself as a director.

"The Last King of Scotland"

Pro: Forest Whitaker is bewitching as Ugandan devil Idi Amin.

Con: Amin is so creepy it's hard not to penalize the pic.

"Little Children"Pro: Kate Winslet aches magnificently for love. Jackie Earle Haley is hauntingly creepy.

Con: The icky subplot about a tortured sex offender forces viewers to — eeew — feel for him.

"Little Miss Sunshine"Pro: Like "Crash," it's an inspirational story that keeps chuggin' at the box office.

Con: Is it more like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," a box office juggernaut that was ignored at the Oscars?

"The Pursuit of Happyness"Pro: Superstar Will Smith is winning as a destitute dad determined to succeed so he may provide for his son.

Con: Too sappy?

"The Queen"Pro: Oscar embraces small biopics ("Capote") and everything British ("Shakespeare in Love").

Con: In the best-actress race, Helen Mirren faces a real age bias: Women older than 40 rarely rule.

"Running With Scissors"

Pro: The long-overdue Annette Bening gets a flashy role. Based on a book that's a cult fave.

Con: Bening's nutty role is often unsympathetic.

"Venus"

Pro: With seven defeats, Peter O'Toole is Oscar's biggest acting loser. (That's a plus.) He's also great as a lecherous, booze-swilling actor inches from the grave.

Con: It's hard to sympathize with a bully geezer lusting after a young tart.

"World Trade Center"

Pro: Oliver Stone is a proven Oscar plus ("Platoon," "Born on the Fourth of July") and handles this Sept. 11 drama deftly. Plus, it's all about heroes.

Con: It's a bit schmaltzy and may have opened too soon.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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