We place premature bets on ''Rescue Dawn,'' ''Ratatouille,'' and ''Sicko''

The Academy Awards were given out just over four months ago, but with so much potential Oscar bait already in theaters, it’s becoming impossible not to think about (gulp) next year’s ceremony. The new prisoner-of-war drama Rescue Dawn, which opened July 4, features strong male contenders in stars Christian Bale (Best Actor) and Steve Zahn (Best Supporting Actor), while Disney and Pixar’s well-reviewed Ratatouille and Michael Moore’s headline-grabbing Sicko could factor into the animated-feature and documentary races, respectively — if Moore deigns to submit his film in the doc race, that is. (He declined to enter Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004, hoping for a Best Picture nod instead.) But it’s the Best Actress race that’s already the most interesting, with Away From Her‘s Julie Christie, A Mighty Heart‘s Angelina Jolie (who’s been without a nomination since winning for 1999’s Girl, Interrupted), and La Vie en Rose‘s Marion Cotillard all getting raves at this early date. The awards may be eight months away, but Bale and company shouldn’t worry that Oscar will forget them — after all, Meryl Streep earned a nod for her performance in The Devil Wears Prada, and it came out in June 2006.

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