The Contenders 2011

Though the awards buzz around this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s post-9/11 urban odyssey has been extremely loud, Warner Bros. is playing its cards incredibly close: Media will likely see it last of all major contenders. Whether that’s due to worry, confidence or simply last-minute tinkering remains to be proved, but producer Scott Rudin seems to have assembled the ingredients like a master media chef.

Foer’s narrative — about precocious 9-year-old Oskar’s search for the meaning of his dad’s death in the World Trade Center, and his grandparents’ connection to the firebombing of Dresden — suggests the same blend of whimsy, magical realism, history and moral uplift permeating scribe Eric Roth’s Oscar-winning “Forrest Gump” and -nominated “Benjamin Button.” Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock provide B.O. insurance, and helmer Stephen Daldry has amply demonstrated skill with moppets in “Billy Elliot,” all-star casts in “The Hours” and weighty themes in “The Reader.”

Daldry, Roth, d.p. Chris Menges and editor Claire Simpson — the last three previously laureled — should figure strongly in year-end balloting, as will the supporting turn of Max Von Sydow as Oskar’s haunted granddad. Recognition for the legendary Ingmar Bergman mainstay, nominated only once before for “Pelle the Conqueror,” could be seen as overdue in a category that’s already proved useful for recognizing beloved veterans (Connery, Coburn, Ameche, Palance) in lieu of an honorary statuette.

Release date: Dec. 25
Warner Bros.

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