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Other Oscar contenders in the mix

Several films could sneak into the nominations

Beyond our 22 Contenders, several pics could sneak into the Oscar nominations — from festival favorites and little indie engines that could, to blockbusters and late-year openers.

  • “BALLAST”: Helmer Lance Hammer’s quietly powerful debut won director and cinematography prizes at Sundance 2008, where it quickly became a critics’ favorite. Pic racked up four Gotham Awards noms, the most of any nominee this year.

  • “CHE”: Steven Soderbergh and Benicio Del Toro, who both won Oscars for their work on “Traffic,” reteamed on this epic Che Guevara double-header. The lengthy opus unspooled at fests including Cannes, where Del Toro won the actor trophy.

  • “DEFIANCE”: Ed Zwick’s WW II saga, based on the true story of the Bielski brothers’ vengeance campaign against the Nazis in 1941. Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell topline. Solid crafts include costumes by Oscar winner Jenny Beavan.

  • “THE DUCHESS”: Oscar nominees Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes play the Duchess and Duke of Devonshire. Based on Amanda Foreman’s popular novel, this pic could sneak into the acting categories, but crafts nods are more likely.

  • “ELEGY”: Isabel Coixet’s Philip Roth adaptation was praised after its Berlin bow for its intelligence and honest performances, from Ben Kingsley to Penelope Cruz, to key supporting turns from Dennis Hopper and Patricia Clarkson.

  • “FROZEN RIVER”: Helmer Courtney Hunt has won lots of fest prizes this year, including Sundance’s top prize. Pic also put thesp Melissa Leo in the spotlight. Her fierce border-smuggler performance is now nommed for a Gotham, as is the film.

  • “IRON MAN”: With “The Soloist” now pushed to 2009, one of Robert Downey Jr.’s only kudo shots this year seems to be with Jon Favreau’s critical and boffo comicbook hit. With “Dark Knight” also gunning for Oscars, could “Iron Man” join the race?

  • “I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG”: A prize- winner in Berlin and admired at the Telluride and Toronto fests, Philippe Claudel’s tale of two sisters on the road to reacquaintance has put thesps Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein on the radar.

  • “LAST CHANCE HARVEY”: Do two Oscar winners — Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson — starring as likable, unlikely lovers spell kudos? Probably not likely, but this moving human tale could tempt voters if other options seem bleak.

  • “WENDY AND LUCY”: Kelly Reichardt’s little indie drama, starring Michelle Williams as a woman from a broken household with dreams of salvaging her life in Alaska. Pic traveled festivals, including Cannes, Toronto and New York.

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