Michael Slezak
November 12, 2007 AT 08:24 PM EST

The halls of most major retail operations have been decked with holly, cardboard snowflakes, and cartoon turkeys, which can mean only one thing: The Academy Awards are coming! In the spirit of the season, EW’s own Oscar prognosticator Dave Karger posted a gallery last week of early front-runners, but I was bummed to see that Steve Carell isn’t getting much buzz for his work in Dan in Real Life.

I know some of you probably think that’s an insane idea. Best Actor Oscar nods, after all, are supposed to be reserved for guys who play tortured heroes, morally ambiguous villains, and outsize real-life characters (bonus points if they’ve got well-documented quirks or accents). They don’t go to romantic comedy leads, right?

But as Dan, a widowed father of three who finds an unexpected (and unexpectedly complicated) chance at love, Carell is magnificent. His character’s repeated attempts to derail his teenage daughter’s love affair are hilarious without ever feeling forced, and yet his warbled last verse of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” during a family talent show reduced me to tears. (Yeah, I’m an easy crier, but still…) As Owen Gleiberman points out in his A- review of Dan in Real Life, “the whole movie spins around Carell’s inspired performance as a man who is going quietly nuts because the universe has decided to toy with him.” If that’s not worthy of a little Oscar love, then what the heck is?

What say you, PopWatchers? Do you think Carell deserves to at least be considered alongside Clooney, Hanks and Mortensen this awards season? And while we’re on the topic, what other loopy, longshot Oscar nominees are on your wish list?

addCredit(“Dan in Real Life: Merie W. Wallace”)

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