In her L.A. Times article about campaigning for Academy Awards, Mary McNamara offers a textbook example of how a good writer can uncover fascinating factoids and memorable admissions while mining familiar ground. The distinctive novelty of this year's Oscar sweepstakes -- the Best Picture race appears unusually wide open -- makes the piece all the more interesting. Money quote from Amanda Lundberg, founding partner of the PR firm 42West and former head of publicity at Miramax: "The Oscars are about honoring the people who make the films... but also about getting people excited about going to the movies. It wasn't started by the committee for the Nobel Peace Prize."
Elsewhere: Stephen Schaefer offers a handy-dandy guide to Best Foreign Language Film nominees, Richard Corliss waxes euphoric about the great Ennio Morricone -- who'll be honored with a lifetime achievement award during Sunday's Oscarcast -- and Tom O'Neil sees a groundswell of support rising for Babel in the Best Picture category.