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Will Cate Blanchett Bloom in Blue Jasmine or Will Her Oscar Garden Be Blighted By Other Talented Flowers?

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"IN THESE matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain," said the Greek philosopher Pliny The Elder.

Though one might suppose Pliny was certain he'd escape the devastation of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. in 79 A.D. He did not. His nephew, Pliny the Younger, escaped. The Younger had a better rowing arm.

•SPEAKING OF certainties, the more I hear that the brilliant Cate Blanchett has a "lock" on the Oscar for best actress in Blue Jasmine, the more I wonder who the surprise winner is going to be this coming Sunday?

Do not discount Dame Judi Dench for Philomena (great sentiment there, and much-loved for her years as M in the 007 films.) Or Amy Adams. Hers was a terrific turn in American Hustle, and this is her fifth nomination. (She's been nominated five times for a Golden Globe, too.)

These women are Cate Blanchett's big competition. Meryl Streep was enjoyably over-the-top in August: Osage County but I wonder how seriously her performance has been taken. The movie itself was not taken too seriously. (One critic, who enjoyed it for what it was, referred to the Streep/Julia Roberts effort as a "massive thesp-a-thon!")

And as admired as it was upon first viewing, the heat seems off Sandra Bullock's floating-in-space heroine from Gravity. She doesn't have a lot to do in it.

•INTERESTING SUGGESTION from one Jay Springer. He reminds us that Alec Baldwin was once touted to star in a bio-pic on the late great designer, Halston. I think that project has gone with the wind. But how about this? TV's sexy Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch as Halston?

Halston was probably more traditionally handsome, but Mr. Cumberbatch is: "Tall, dark, linear and has piercing, yet sad blue eyes. Halston would be most pleased!"

Maybe. As much as I admire Alec Baldwin, I never could see him as Halston -- too rough-hewn and hefty (even though he's trimmer than he was) and not young enough to play Halston.

Jude Law has also been mentioned, and that makes some aesthetic sense but he'd still have to portray Halston's latter years. Time stands still for no beauty, male or female.

•I WAS intrigued by the trailer for Liam Neeson's coming movie, Non-Stop, about a mad killer on a plane. (Liam is the only one who can save the day.) But I saw part of a review -- I wouldn't read it all--and Non-Stop was described as "ridiculously entertaining." That's enough for me. I'm getting on board, and strapping myself in. I love to be entertained, ridiculously. (At this point in my life, taking things like movies or TV shows too seriously, is a real waste of time.)

P.S. Liam was on 60 Minutes last Sunday night. He is so truthfully "real."

•OKAY, I've been longing to say it, but if anybody gets killed off on Downton Abbey in Season 5, I vote for the brooding Bates, now suspected as the killer of his wife's rapist. (Lady Mary loyally destroyed what might have been evidence against Bates.) Bates has become increasingly creepy as the series has gone on. I can't fathom why Lord Grantham trusts him so; Bates has a serious serial killer vibe.

•The Season 4 finale was fine otherwise, ending with a beach party and loose ends aplenty. Who, if anybody will Lady Mary marry?...will Rose's next suitor be a Chinese warlord?...Edith and the eternal plight of the unwed mother...romance for no-nonsense Isobel?...the rack and thumbscrews for Barrow? And of course, the series' lynchpin, Violet, the Countess of Grantham.

Laughed out loud when Isobel said to Violet: "Why must you always sound like the sister of Marie Antoinette?"

After a tiny pause, Violet retorted: "The Queen of Naples was a stalwart figure, I consider that a compliment."

Isobel: "You consider everything a compliment."

Shirley MacLaine made a return appearance as Lady Grantham's mother, and had one good scene of reprimand aimed at Violet. But she simply doesn't have the proper rhythm for the show and she's been mostly let down by the writers. Too modern and too recognizable perhaps?

And please, those of you who carp about "historical accuracy" in the manner of how the household interacts, if a show like this was realistic, we'd loathe every upstairs member of the manor and be bored by the servants. It's just a TV show.

•SO, I have looked at Looking, the new HBO half-hour series about a group of gay friends in San Francisco. While it is a better representation of gay men than Will & Grace or Queer as Folk, the show perhaps needs a full hour to flesh out the characters. But what struck me is the copious amount of facial hair on the guys. The show is set in 2014, but most everybody looks like they just jumped off the ferry from Fire Island in 1980 and are ready for a chorus of "YMCA."

Have I not been keeping up? Is the "clone" look back. Everything does make a comeback, so why not that? (I don't mean to scare you, but sooner or later, those shoulder-padded power suits worn by the likes of Joan Collins on Dynasty will return. You've been warned.)

•MY WONDERFUL readers inform me that in the photo I ran the other day of Elaine Stritch and me walking down Fifth Avenue in 1956, we are actually walking "up" Fifth Avenue. "Rockefeller complex is on the west side of the street, so the traffic you see is going down Fifth Avenue!"

This changes everything! Elaine and I will have to reevaluate our long friendship, that's for sure. How many years have we been going in the wrong direction?

Oh, and the documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is being released by Sundance Selects, not HBO. (Although why HBO wouldn't eventually air it I can't imagine.)

It can be seen now on the big screen in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Theater on the West Side of Manhattan.