The Contenders 2011

Awards speculation is a given when two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep is front and center of a prestige project, and with her tackling formidable British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, topping this movie’s potential kudos pyramid will likely be the celebrated thesp’s 17th Oscar nomination.

If the movie scores as a portrait of parliamentary power and female resolve against a longstanding political boys’ club, look for supporting nods as well for previous nominee Jim Broadbent (“Iris”) as husband Denis, and possibly Anthony Head as Thatcher’s deputy prime minister Geoffrey Howe.

The hottest name outside of Streep could be U.K. scribe Abi Morgan (original screenplay), who is also getting attention from the Steve McQueen-directed awards hopeful “Shame,” which she co-penned. Director Phyllida Lloyd, meanwhile, is coming off the musical fluffball “Mamma Mia!” — the kind of Streep vehicle that doesn’t get nominations — so entering the directors’ circle will be an uphill battle unless the film is both a critical and box office hit, the way previously recognized U.K. biopics (and Academy fodder) “The Queen” and “The King’s Speech” were for Stephen Frears and Tom Hooper, respectively.

On the tech side, “The Queen” costume design nominee Consalata Boyle is a factor, while the talented “Twilight” d.p. Elliot Davis could be on board for his first cinematography nomination.

Release date: Dec. 30
The Weinstein Co.

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