Did the filmmaker prevail where the president so far has failed?

Did Morgan Spurlock find al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden?

Hard to believe, but speculation about whether he did began in February at the Berlin film festival after Spurlock, the same dude who got all fat and sick and pathetic by gorging on Mickey D's fare for 30 days in Super Size Me, made a group of potential buyers totally hot 'n' bothered by showing 15 minutes of his new docu, Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? (The Weinstein Co. fished out its checkbook and bought the film.)

Spurlock did search for Osama. The documentary follows him on the quest.

The film's director of photography, Daniel Marracino, really stoked the speculation by telling Variety, "We've definitely got the holy grail" (a strange choice of symbol), implying that grail is bin Laden.

Is bin Laden the grail?

Or is it all just a publicity stunt for Spurlock's film, which will debut next month at the Sundance Film Festival?The Hot Line

Ellen DeGeneres and George W. Bush best mates? No!

But there she was yesterday on her talk show, having a breezy chat on the phone with the Commander in Chief.

Ellen's guest Jenna Bush hooked her up with the First Dad. See, Ellen got all crazy-eyed when she realized Jenna has The Power to call the leader of the free world - just like that.

Jenna dialed. She got through to First Mom Laura Bush, who told her, "I'm just sitting here with Daddy."

Ellen seized her chance and blurted, "I wanted to say 'hi' to Daddy."

The prez got on the line. "How's my little girl doing?" he asked.

"Oh, she's great."

Was George angry about the impromptu call. "No, not at all . . . I'm glad to talk to Ellen," said George W. Bush.

Britney under suspicion? (Again?)

Will

Britney Spears

ever right her ship? (Well, it's less a ship than a bumper car.)

The pop star is under a dark cloud - again - with a report that the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services is investigating "multiple child abuse and neglect" allegations that have arisen as part of the custody jihad being waged between Brit and her ex-hubby, Kevin Federline. In a letter requesting that some of the custody files be unsealed, an attorney for Family Services writes that his agency is deeply worried about the safety of Brit and Kev's boys, Sean Preston and Jayden James - if they are left in her care.

Does 'Compass' have an agenda?

First there were the wizards and trolls in

Lord of the Rings

. Then those dastardly kids learning to be witches and wizards in

Harry Potter

.

The latest film to draw ire from religious traditionalists is The Golden Compass, which is based on a novel by the agnostic author Philip Pullman as part of a trilogy in which the church has strayed from its original path and become corrupt and evil.

Compass director Chris Weitz insists his film doesn't contain Pullman's critique of organized religion.

To detractors, that's not good enough. "The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books," said league president William Donohue.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that Compass has an "anti-clerical subtext" but says the film portrays "a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism."

Scarlett on the warpath

Scarlett Johansson

vociferously denies a report in the coming issue of Us Weekly that asserts that the

Scoop

star has undergone plastic surgery. "I have always been straightforward with the press regarding my body image," Scar tells OK! mag, adding, "I feel compelled to take immediate legal action against Us."

By the Grace of Nancy, she's back

That'd be the warm-hearted, gooey cable news anchor

Nancy Grace

, who's returning from maternity leave. Nancy, who went on leave Nov. 4, when she gave birth to premature twins

Lucy

and

John

, plans to be back on CNN's

Headline News

on Jan. 7. The premature births occurred when Nancy developed symptoms of pulmonary edema. But she's fine now, as are the babies, whose every stage of development is recorded on Nancy's baby blog (

» READ MORE: www.cnn.com/HOTTOPIC/23

).

Drunk no more and sorry for it

The Dublin District Court has dropped charges against the menacingly pretty

Tudors

star,

Jonathan Rhys Meyers

, who was arrested last month at Dublin International Airport for public drunkenness and breach of the peace. J.M., who has apologized for his unseemly behavior, was issued a legal caution.

Oprah still in charge

Last week, a week after

Oprah

called it "the one Christmas CD every family should have,"

Josh Groban

's holiday disc,

Noël

, which had been languishing on the Billboard album chart for seven weeks, shot up to the top spot. The CD has retained the lead for a second week, moving 539,000 copies.

The Eagles

' appearance on CBS'

60 Minutes

gave a boost to

Long Road Out of Eden

, which sold 313,000 copies to move from No. 5 to No. 2.

Alicia Keys

'

As I Am

has slipped a rung to No. 3.

Jack knows Jersey

In an interview on Parade.com, veteran actor's actor

Jack Nicholson

, who was born in Neptune, N.J., (Monmouth County), shares his feelings about his working-class roots in Jersey.

"Jersey's the most parochial place in the world," says Jack. (Yo, watchit!). "But the Shore . . . was a very great place for a kid to grow up. It's a country club kind of mixed area with every kind of person there."

"As little kids, we didn't deal with class boundaries. We were all over one another."

It's an awarding time of year

Award season is upon us. The National Board of Review yesterday named the

Coen brothers

'

No Country

for Old Men

, a powerful drama about crime along the Rio Grande, as its best film of the year. The director prize went to

Tim Burton

for his wonderfully crazed

Masterpiece Theater

-meets-

Corpse Bride

killer pic,

Sweeney Todd

. In other awards,

Michael Clayton

star

George Clooney

was recognized as best actor, while the incomparable (the divine)

Julie Christie

won best actress for

Away From Her

.

Contact "SideShow" at sideshow@phillynews.com.
Inquirer wire services contributed to this column.