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Juno

The Contenders

Release date: Dec. 5 Distributor: Fox Searchlight

One of the brightest lights on the fall film festival scene, “Juno” is quickly racing toward major contender status without yet having bowed in theaters.

Pic, the funny and moving tale of a whip-smart high-schooler who finds herself pregnant and brokers an adoption with a couple she finds in the PennySaver, was an instant hit in Toronto and went on to win the top prize in Rome, among other fest unspoolings and awards.

It’s an extremely potent alchemy of two striking emerging talents — lead thesp Ellen Page and helmer Jason Reitman — and a complete newbie to the biz, screenwriter Diablo Cody. All three could see Oscar heat if “Juno” sets audiences on fire upon its release in December. Cody, in particular, is receiving oodles of attention for her crackling dialogue.

The pic’s gem-filled supporting cast also could yield noms — Jennifer Garner as the earnest and eager adoptive mom; J.K. Simmons as Juno’s quick-witted, loving dad; Allison Janney as her supportive, no-nonsense stepmom; and “Superbad’s” Michael Cera as her sweet, thunderstruck b.f.

Presuming some powerful positioning by indie-comedy marketing heavyweight Fox Searchlight, “Juno” could find itself in the fortunate position of last year’s “Little Miss Sunshine” — the yellow VW bus replaced with “Juno’s” yellow-shorted, constantly jogging track team. In another kudo season packed with dark, even sinister films, this quirky comedy has serious potential to sneak into the picture final five.

See photos, trailer and more on ‘Juno’

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