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Cesar Award Smackdown: Roman Polanski vs. 'Of Gods and Men'

The Ghost Writer

Will Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer sweep the French Oscar-equivalent Cesar Awards, or fall to fellow Oscar-snub victim Of Gods and Men?

"I would be surprised if Polanski doesn't sweep the Cesars," says European AOL News reporter Dana Kennedy. "For one thing, as you know, the French delight in going against the grain, especially the American grain. Not to honor Polanski for his art because of what many French consider past sexual peccadilloes to them is typically American puritanism. They prefer their artists troubled and tortured if not downright pervy (see also Serge Gainsbourg and the Lemon Incest video he did with then 12-year-old daughter Charlotte). And also, who better to host the Cesars than Lycee Francais fluent Jodie Foster, the great defender of Mel!"

Granted, Polanski won the Langlois Award on Monday -- but at the same ceremony, Of Gods and Men star Michael Lonsdale won the best actor award for a performance more revered than any in the American movie star-infested Ghost Writer. Granted, Polanski swept the European Film Awards, won the Silver Bear for best director at Berlin, and his film is up for eight Cesars. But Of Gods and Men leads the field with 11 noms, plus it won the Grand Prix at Cannes, National Board of Review best foreign language film and was France's selection for the foreign-film Oscar. The French film community was "stunned and numb," says a campaign consultant, when the moody, moving drama of Trappist monks caught between their Algerian villager flock and terrorist factions was unexpectedly snubbed by the Oscars despite an influential faction loudly advocating it. It opens theatrically in New York and L.A. on Feb. 25, the day of the Cesar Awards.

Fewer were stunned that Polanski's chilly, brilliant film didn't conquer Oscar mountain. On the other hand, you have to admit it's more of a thriller than Xavier Beauvois's monk-martyr meditation. The Cesar contest is a ripping yarn versus a flipping yawn, Gods and Men haters say.

Guy Lodge of In Contention calls the contest for Beauvois by a nose: "I'd bet on the weighty prestige veneer of Beauvois' film winning out, but sentimental loyalty to Polanski shouldn't be underestimated -- he is, after all, a previous winner for both Tess and The Pianist."

To hear the words sentimental and Polanski in the same sentence leaves me stunned and numb.

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