December 03, 2010 at 06:08 PM EST

Image Credit: Lorey SebastianEarlier this week I had the opportunity to see Joel and Ethan Coen’s eagerly awaited adaptation of True Grit, the last assumed major Oscar contender of the year. I’ll leave it to my esteemed colleague Lisa Schwarzbaum to provide a proper review in the coming days, but I’d say the Coen brothers have a second consecutive Best Picture nominee on their hands. The film is beautifully shot and—no surprise considering the cast—very well acted. It’s a hoot to see Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and a host of fascinating looking character actors act with their jowls and mutton chops amidst the Coens’ majestically shot 19th Century landscape.

So in which categories is True Grit most likely to be a major contender? I’d call it a sure thing for a Best Picture nod given that race’s 10 slots. And the Coens could certainly make it into the director and adapted screenplay hunts as well. As for the cast, Matt Damon makes the most of his one-liners but simply isn’t in the film enough to be a serious supporting actor contender. Ditto Josh Brolin, who doesn’t even appear until the last act. Jeff Bridges could end up scoring a Best Actor nomination thanks to his droll performance as marshal Rooster Cogburn, but I wouldn’t say Colin Firth needs to worry about losing to him again this year. In my mind the strongest acting candidate from the film is newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who knocks her large supporting role out of the park, exuding precociousness and confidence from her introductory scene. She had me smiling nearly the entire film and I’d imagine most Academy members will have the same reaction.

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