Gold Derby nuggets: Sigourney Weaver praises James Cameron | Fighting words of snubbed 'Tyson' director | Will Sandra Bullock be blind-sided in awards game?
• Jada Yuan chats with Sigourney Weaver about reuniting with "Aliens" helmer James Cameron for "Avatar." Says Weaver -- who landed the first of her three Oscar nods under Cameron's direction -- "Well, he was always so sweet to me during 'Aliens.' And that was a tough picture for him, because the crew had this big Ridley Scott obsession, and it took him a while to get their attention as a filmmaker. But with me and the other actors, I always felt, he cast so well; he's so devoted to his actors. He does get impatient with filmmaking in a way, but he always pushes himself harder than anybody else, so even though he can be a little growl-y, it's over in a second when you move on. He operated on every single shot in this movie." NEW YORK
• Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com tells Gold Derby: "This weekend against 'Twilight,' 'Precious' expands from 174 to 629 theaters and I think it will gross roughly $11M and rank fifth or sixth. The total should break $20M by Sunday with a lot more to go."
• An Oscar voter tells us that he received a "DVD bonanza" on Thursday. All of these screeners came in the mail: "(500) Days of Summer," "District 9," "Julie & Julia," "Pirate Radio," "Away We Go," "Taking Woodstock," "A Serious Man," "Coraline" and the animated feature "9."
• Michael Cieply reports of his conversation with James Toback, who explains the absence of his feature documentary "Tyson" from Wednesday's long list of Oscar contenders as ascribable to something "I put fully in the category of extortion that I did not go along with." Responding to this allegation, documentary branch executive committee chair Rob Epstein told Michael: "I have no idea. It certainly hasn’t come before me." As for the selection process, Michael reports, "Epstein said most of about 150 members participated in one or both of two committees that review feature-length and short documentaries. Because of the way films are distributed for viewing among members, who do not see all submissions, a very small number of people can determine the fate of a film. Mr. Epstein described the process as being fairer than an earlier one, under which a Los Angeles-based committee drawn from all Academy branches reviewed documentaries." NEW YORK TIMES
• Steve Pond dug into this story as well and discovered that "each participating member was sent screeners of 15 of the 89 eligible documentary features. The division of labor means that each of the eligible documentaries will have been scored by about two dozen members -- not a large body of voters, but one that should be big enough to absorb any individuals looking to skew the vote for personal reasons." As academy exec Bruce Davis explained, "Toback’s concern was that one of the documentarians voting to pick the shortlist bore him a grudge and should have recused himself/herself from the balloting." However, he said, "The accounting firm has assured us that ‘no single voter was responsible for [“Tyson”’s] failure to make the shortlist." THE ODDS
• Pete Hammond points out an interesting change in the rules for Oscar nominations: "Beginning this year, anyone who has ever been nominated at any time for an Oscar in a category outside of their own area will now be allowed to also nominate in that race too." As per Pete, "This means multi-hyphenates such as actor Warren Beatty now get a say in the exclusive directing and writing clubs as well." NOTES ON A SEASON
• Dave Karger takes a look at the Oscar odds for two films opening today and sees Penelope Cruz as a possibility to land another lead actress nod for her work in "Broken Embraces," while writer-director Pedro Almodovar could contend for his original screenplay, a category where "pickings are quite slim. And he’s won this category before." As for Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side," Dave says, "It’s been a good year for one of this country’s top sweethearts (with the exception of 'All About Steve, of course). Comparisons to 'Erin Brockovich' may help Bullock’s case, but she still seems like a better bet for a nomination at the Golden Globes." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
• Scott Feinberg, however, doesn't think that two-time Golden Globe nominee Sandra Bullock will make the grade with the HFPA this year for her dramatic work in "The Blind Side." Neither does he see her landing a nod for her comedic timing in "The Proposal." Scott does think that Penelope Cruz will get a drama nom for "Broken Embraces" and that Meryl Streep will reap a rare double bid for the comedies "Julie & Julia" and "It's Complicated." AND THE WINNER IS
• The administration committee for the Tony Awards will convene for the first time this season on Dec. 10. The committee is comprised of two dozen theater folk, with 10 apiece from the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing -- which jointly host these top theater kudos -- and one each from the Dramatists Guild, Actors' Equity Assn., United Scenic Artists and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. This committee "determines eligibility for nominations in all awards categories, reviews the rules governing the awards, and appoints the nominating committee. It may, at its discretion, bestow [four] non-competitive Tony Awards: Special Tony Awards and the Regional Theatre Tony Award; as well as Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre and the Isabelle Stevenson Award." PLAYBILL
Photos: James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver on "Avatar" set (Fox); "Tyson" poster (Sony Pictures Classics); "The Blind Side" poster (Warner Bros.)