Best actor, actress races tighten ahead of Oscars

Tue Feb 19, 2008 2:01pm EST
 
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For weeks, Britons Daniel Day-Lewis and Julie Christie have looked like sure bets to win the coveted best actor and actress Academy Awards, but in the days ahead of Sunday's gala ceremony, momentum has shifted.

Hollywood enjoys surprises on the movie industry's most prestigious night, and pundits think popular actor George Clooney and little-known French actress Marion Cotillard would be wise to start practicing their acceptance speeches.

"There is no such thing as a shoo-in at the Oscars. Hollywood is a town of bull-headed, contrary-minded people," said Tom O'Neil, columnist for www.TheEnvelope.com.

Day-Lewis, 50, an actor known for lengthy preparation, is well-liked by Academy voters. He won an Oscar playing a man who overcomes cerebral palsy in 1989's "My Left Foot," and has been nominated two other times for "In the Name of the Father" and "Gangs of New York."

This awards season, he has earned numerous honors playing a sadistic, early 20th century oil prospector in dark drama "There Will Be Blood" -- only his fourth film in a decade. Yet, Oscar watchers say, his work is as sharp as ever.

"Day-Lewis hasn't really lost anything. Even if you don't like the movie, it's a big performance and he dominates the film," said Pete Hammond, movie critic for Maxim magazine.

But opinions are split over the film's overall appeal, and Oscar voters prefer inspiring characters over villains.

"Clooney's never been nominated for lead actor and in 'Michael Clayton' he's a hero who sheds his evil ways, so the question is, how Clooney-crazy is Hollywood?" said O'Neil.   Continued...

 
<p>Actor Daniel Day-Lewis during the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, February 8, 2008. For weeks, Day-Lewis and Julie Christie have looked like sure bets to win the coveted best actor and actress Academy Awards, but in the days ahead of Sunday's gala ceremony, momentum has shifted. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>