‘Contact’ kudo chances

The last time Jodie Foster and Robert Zemeckis were in the Oscar-buzz loop was the last time she acted and he directed. In 1994, they both benefited from the academy’s love affair with movies about mentally or emotionally challenged characters, a la “Sling Blade,” “Rain Man,” “My Left Foot,” etc.

Zemeckis won the best director Oscar for best picture “Forrest Gump” and Foster followed on two previous best actress Oscar wins for “The Accused” (1988) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) with a nomination for her backwoods “wild child” in “Nell.”

The director and the actress joined forces this year to head out of this world with the alien-communication thriller, “Contact,” in which her astronomer is chosen to be ambassador for the Earthlings to an extra-terrestrial civilization.

The movie’s New Age fuzziness on an epic scale, with assurances that the Great Beyond isn’t a scary place, could help or hinder its chances for multiple noms beyond the usual tech nods — depending on Academy members’ cynicism meters. But Foster’s performance of inner strength throughout a mega-stratospheric journey could connect.

OSCAR QUOTIENT

Classic Oscar credentials: 5 (Epic scale, but the Academy doesn’t do space travel)

Cause celebre: 3 (Only if you live on Planet Zaldor)

Vanity element: 7 (Big star, big star helmer)

The David vs. Goliath Syndrome: 2

The feel-good movie of the year factor: 6 (Aliens give good New Age advice)

The unavoidable, inexorable buzz pic: 2

Idiot savants have more fun: 3 (Pic is pro-pocket protector set)

Timing is everything: 0 (Nobody knows what they did last summer)

O.Q. total: 28

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