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Miss Potter

The Contenders

Release: Dec. 29

Distributor: Weinstein Co./MGM

Oscar Alums: Renee Zellweger (supporting actress, “Cold Mountain”), Anthony Powell (costume design, “Tess,” “Death on the Nile,” “Travels With My Aunt”), Martin Childs (art direction, “Shakespeare in Love”)

“Miss Potter” has a lot in common with 2003’s J.M. Barrie-inspired “Finding Neverland”: It’s about a turn-of-the-century British children’s author whose most famous character is called Peter, it stars Acad faves and the plot involves a tragic loss.

“Neverland” was nominated for seven statuettes, including picture and actor, while taking home just one, for original score.

Somewhat similar to the incorporation of Barrie’s book characters in “Neverland,” Beatrix Potter’s illustrations — Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck included — come to life on screen in sequences interwoven with the live-action drama.

Acad members will likely recall Chris Noonan’s last helming effort, 1995’s “Babe,” which also involved talking animals. Both pics have a sweetness that never gets sappy.

The Aussie, who scored director and screenplay noms (the latter shared with George Miller) for “Babe,” hadn’t found the right fit for his follow-up until “Miss Potter.”

This time, script was by Tony winner Richard Maltby Jr.

Renee Zellweger’s perf as Potter is endearing and recalls her more contempo work in the “Bridget Jones” movies. (She was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the first “Jones” pic.) The Potter role is more serious, though not without levity, in the tradition of Jane Austen characters.

Never-nommed Ewan McGregor, in heavy mustache, puts in solid work as Potter’s determined publisher and suitor Norman Warne. Two-time Oscar nominee Emily Watson (“Breaking the Waves,” “Hilary and Jackie”) makes another memorable supporting appearance as Norman’s sister Millie.

Likely to strike a chord with Acad voters are the themes of an artist struggling against all odds and Potter’s conservationist bent (she amassed 4,000 acres of farmland, saving it from developers, and later bequeathed it to the British people.)

Among the tech accomplishments that could make it into the kudo fray is the work of costume designer and Oscar veteran Anthony Powell, Oscar-winning production designer Martin Childs and cinematographer Andrew Dunn, who lensed “The Madness of King George.” Editor Robin Sales also could get attention for moving the 92-minute pic along briskly and with great joy.

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