Today in Oscar Hell: 'Reader' Climbs, Bagger Returns

The Oscar-blog circus officially opened its third, classiest ring today at the NY Times, where David Carr returned for a fourth go-around as The Carpetbagger. Not to be outdone, resident Envelope clown Tom O' Neil honked out a new batch of hype, followed by another cluster of animals trotting around the tent with prognostication tricks of their own. It's a loud, occasionally aromatic free-for-all, but we'll show you where best to watch after the jump.

· Carr actually leaped back on to the Oscar hamster wheel on Sunday, when he narrowed the 2008 Best Picture class to "seven or eight" potential nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Doubt, Frost/Nixon and The Reader. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino was tossed in as well, but forget about it — it's more likely a Best Actor lock for Eastwood, with the film falling off everywhere else. Frost/Nixon is in a little better scenario, with two acting nods likely and an adapted screenplay nod likely.

· At least one fellow Oscar wonk suggests Carr is getting bad information regarding The Reader, and Variety offered lukewarm praise at best. But part of the Defamer team got a look at the embattled Weinstein offering this morning, and it's actually quite good — not the best thing any of us has seen this year, but handled with all the tasteful austerity and consistency Oscar voters love from their Holocaust-themed films. For now anyway, however unpopular the sentiment, we can't see how the Academy would snub it for Picture.

· Or actress — another point Carr addresses today. That Kate Winslet-vs.-Kate Winslet scenario she and Scott Rudin feared is likelier than anyone (except Harvey Weinstein) would probably hope for.

· Bozo O'Neil refuses to go away, meanwhile, with his latest malformed balloon-animal at the LAT looking suspiciously like a two-headed Button/Slumdog hydra battling each other for a bone. This is when it helps to have a seasoned sucker-puncher like David Fincher on your side. EDGE: Button.

· Finally, the Gurus o' Gold at Movie City News are forecasting dark-horse candidates for acting nominations. But! One of those waaaay down the list is Sally Hawkins, who is actually a nominee shoo-in for Happy-Go-Lucky. Keep your grain of salt nearby.