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Contender: ‘War Horse’

The Contenders 2011

Steven Spielberg and war are a potent awards combination (“Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan”), as are the two-time Best Director winner and tales of youthful friendship (“ET”). Why not mention his track record with creatures (“Jaws”) as well? Simply, this storied filmmaker’s eagerly awaited realization of author Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel about an English farm lad’s deep connection to a horse sent to serve in The Great War is destined to excite the Academy’s love of spectacle, history, emotion and Spielberg, and lead to the director’s seventh nomination. (As in previous years when he’s had two releases, it’s doubtful he’ll be splitting votes in this category with the more popcorn-centric entry, in this case his “Tintin” movie.) Expect the usual nom onslaught, too, for his regulars: cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (two wins), editor Michael Kahn (three-time winner) and composer John Williams (five-time winner), and the potential for tech recognition across the board. Previous scribe nominees Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) and Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”) look certain of getting an adaptation nom. Acting nods are iffier: outside of unknown Jeremy Irvine in the lead – and of course, it’s really an un-nominatable horse who really stars – the narrative sprawl points to a raft of supporting possibles, led by two-time nominee Emily Watson as the boy’s mother.

Release date: Dec. 25

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