‘Crazy Heart’: The Year’s Big Oscar Shocker?

Does Fox Searchlight have a country-music Wrestler up its sleeve? That’s the buzz surrounding Crazy Heart, for which the specialty division has scheduled a surprise, last-minute screening. The film is still dated for release next year, but the thinking is that this could be a warm-up for a 2009 release and awards push, says the blogosphere.

Searchlight was the darling of the awards season last year with both The Wrestler and Slumdog Millionaire. Given the lukewarm response to this year’s one-time hopeful Amelia, says the Risky Business blog, the outfit may now be putting its muscle behind Crazy Heart, the country-music drama starring Jeff Bridges.

Searchlight does have another serious awards-season contender in (500) Days of Summer, a candidate for an original screenplay nod. And, in the mind of The Big Picture blog, the studio must be betting that Bridges — perennially one of Hollywood’s most-underrated actors — could land some best actor nominations.

Crazy Heart marks Scott Cooper‘s directional debut. The film is based on Thomas Cobb’s novel and centers on a washed-up country singer who gets his life back on track thanks to the help of a female reporter, and a close but complicated relationship with a younger country star. 

T-Bone Burnett serves as a producer, and Colin FarrellMaggie Gyllenhaal and Robert Duvall also star.

Company reps, BIZ says, aren’t formally confirming that there’s a calendar move or awards-push in the offing, but given how much Searchlight has been a fixture on the Oscar circuit the past few years — and how high expectations are for this film, which execs have been buzzing about for several months — it would almost be odd if they didn’t.

TBP reports that sources say Searchlight is planning a limited Dec. 11 release in Los Angeles and New York before taking the film wider early next year.

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