Our office's crystal ball usually tends to function best on Fridays — and even then, as we handicap new releases in our Defamer Attractions column, it can be a tad hinky. But after a few weeks of painstaking inquiry, we think we now have a handle on some of the fall movie slate's biggest revelations to come. Will Brad Pitt backward-age his way to Oscar immortality? Is Twilight really the best investment for your vampire-movie dollars? Can Beverly Hills Chihuahua live up to its exceptional promise? Follow the jump for answers to those and a few of the season's other pressing questions. Feel free to scan your own tea leaves as well; our own oracle shuddered and crapped out the minute we asked about Australia, so any and all input is welcome. Onward!1. Brad Pitt will win an Academy Award. We know the post-Toronto establishment has all but engraved Mickey Rourke's name on this year's Best Actor Oscar (hell, even Rourke has engraved his name on this year's Best Actor Oscar), but taking both The Wrestler (release date TBD) and Pitt's epic The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (12/25) sight unseen, we'll take the aging-backward-on-other-people's-bodies gimmick over the gritty indie comeback 10 times out of 10. Not that it won't be close: Brad Grey will spend more on his old pal's campaign than Fox Searchlight is probably ready to drop on Rourke's, but Rourke will be the more accessible nominee to the media. Look for dark horse Sean Penn (Milk) to split the field late; Focus Features won't settle for another 0-fer in '08. 2. W. (10/17) will tip the election to the GOP. Opening less than three weeks before Election Day, the film will be too muddled to move the Democrats yet irreverent enough to galvanize the Republican base against Hollywood one more time before voting. Oliver Stone will be recognized as the new Ralph Nader. 3. You're going to miss Don LaFontaine a lot more than you think. Otherwise execrable trailers like this one for The Haunting of Molly Hartley (10/31) acquired bittersweet relevance overnight: 4. The Weinstein Company will muscle its way back to prominence. Harvey had a relatively hemorrhage-free summer, closed out by his $16 million-grossing (and counting) Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Meanwhile, Zack and Miri Make a Porno (10/31) left Toronto with goodwill to spare, the LA immigrant saga Crossing Over (10/24) has Harrison Ford, Sean Penn and others channeling Crash, and the company bumped up The Reader for Kate Winslet Oscar consideration. (NB: The Rourke Factor also reportedly inspired Harvey to finally slot his long-shelved Killshot on Nov. 7.) The Weinsteins being the Weinsteins, of course, the operation could crash at any time, but at least the ensuing conflagration promises Hindenberg levels of spectacle. That's our Harvey. 5. Owen Wilson will emerge from, return to hiding after explaining the trailer to Marley & Me (12/25). That is all.
6. The Soloist (11/21) will be better than it sounds. But it sounds great, right? Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, directed by Pride and Prejudice/Atonement helmer Joe Wright? Alas, the logline: "A schizophrenic, homeless musician from Skid Row, Los Angeles dreams of playing at Walt Disney Concert Hall." Based on a true story, natch: Downey Jr. plays the real-life LAT reporter who befriends him, warning Foxx behind the scenes about the perils of going full-schizo. All things being equal, we like their chances. 7. Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York (10/24) will be this year's unlikeliest tearjerker. Not just for its devastating, beautiful final act, but also for the probability that Sony Classics will weep red ink when it makes about five cents at the box office.
8. Twilight (11/21) will only be the second-best vampire movie released this fall. You won't find Let the Right One In (10/24) on the cover of EW, but you'll find the Swedish export in a lot of festival juries' hearts since last spring. Half coming-of-age romance and half vengeful horror epic, it picks up the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy whose sweet new girlfriend next door ends up being several thousand years older than she looks — and behaves accordingly. Genre distributor Magnet Releasing might only get this on a hundred screens, but watch the word-of-mouth and top-10-list acclaim bump it into sleeper status by the end of the year. 9. Extreme Movie will open to a $0 gross after viewers confuse it with the other, less-illustrious Movie franchise. But you can be prepared: Extreme Movie is the teen sex comedy starring Michael Cera and Frankie Muniz; Disaster Movie et. al. are the ones whose auditoriums smell faintly of piss. Know the difference! 10. Daniel Craig will miss 2006. Casino Royale was a surprising, sporadically brilliant reboot, but the honeymoon is over: Quantum of Solace's trailer isn't dazzling anyone; the title is stillborn; Sony couldn't settle on a US release date (it finally chose 11/14); and unfairly or not, franchise obsessives want nothing to do with new director Marc Forster. And all this after the Bond curse cost Craig part of his finger. It's a cruel world, but not as cruel as it'll seem after Defiance (12/12), the WWII Jewish resistance drama in which he and screen bros Liev Schrieber and Jamie Bell fight off Nazis during the invasion of Poland. Among the last of Paramount Vantage's orphaned prestige titles, and opening opposite Doubt, an expanded Frost/Nixon and The Day the Earth Stood Still, it's bound to knock Craig back to stardom's second tier for a while to come. 11. Beverly Hills Chihuahua (10/3) will astonish and amaze. But you already knew that.