Gold Derby nuggets: Hugh Jackman hails new Oscar hosts | 'A Town Called Panic' calms Oscars toon race | Yea or nay to last-minute Oscar entries?
• Shira Levine caught up with last year's Oscar host Hugh Jackman Tuesday night and got his first response to this year's double act of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin: "I had no idea they were. You are breaking the news to me. They are both fantastic. Steve actually gave me a lot of funny hints last year. I rang him and he was really helpful. He is really funny and he knows what he's doing. He's done this before. Alec Baldwin is also a true genius. I think the both of them together have hosted 'Saturday Night Live' like 100 times, so you know they must be funny." NEW YORK
• Steven Zeitchik reports that Fox Searchlight is gauging reaction to Wednesday's screening of the country-music drama "Crazy Heart" before deciding whether to push this planned 2010 release into this year's Oscar race. Based on Thomas Cobb’s novel, the pic -- dubbed the singing "Wrestler" -- from first-time director Scott Cooper tells the story of "a washed-up country singer (Jeff Bridges) who gets his life back on track thanks to the help of a female reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and a close but complicated relationship with a younger country star (Colin Farrell)." RISKY BUSINESS
• Steve Pond is keeping a close eye on the animated feature Oscar race and reports that it just got entry No. 17 -- "A Town Called Panic." As Gold Derby reported last month, Zeitgeist Films -- the American distributor of the French-Belgian co-production -- had not scheduled the required L.A. qualifying run. Steve tell us that filmmakers Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar took matters into their own hands, signed the Oscar submission and booked the film into the Claremont 5 -- "a low-profile, out-of-the-way theater, to be sure, but one frequently used for Oscar-qualifying runs. It’ll play there between December 11 and December 17." But remember, even crossing the threshold of 16 entries doesn't guarantee there will be five films that pass muster with the screening committee. THE ODDS
• "Everybody's Fine" certainly doesn't reflect the thinking of Greg Ellwood who reports: "Before tonight's premiere at Los Angeles' AFI Film Fest there was hope the tale of a widowed man who travels the country to reconnect with his children could put Robert De Niro back in the Oscar game, but that's a pipe dream now. The movie is a mess in so many ways that neither the legendary actor or the stars who play his children -- Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore and Kate Beckinsale -- can save it. In fact, the more the picture goes on you start to wonder 'What convinced any of them sign on to this?' " HIT FIX
• According to Mariah Carey, director Lee Daniels originally wanted his "Shadowboxer" leading lady Helen Mirren to play her part of the social worker in "Precious." Paul Gaita found this interesting tidbit in an interview that the Grammy winner and possible Oscar contender gave to the UK's Sunday Mirror. THE CIRCUIT
• While Dame Helen won't be in the running for a supporting nod for "Precious," Dave Karger says she could well make her way into the best actress race. He considers her work in "The Last Station" to be the strongest from the trio of last-minute contenders, the others being Brenda Blethyn ("London River") and Bryce Dallas Howard ("The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond"). Says Dave, "Of the three, I’d give Mirren the edge; her performance as Leo Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia, is fiery and intense, and she’s got Sony Pictures Classics releasing the film. But with other promising contenders yet to be seen ('Nine's Marion Cotillard, 'The Lovely Bones' Saoirse Ronan), scoring a nomination as a last-minute contender is definitely going to be an uphill battle." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
Photo credits, from top: Fox Searchlight; Miramax; Sony Pictures Classics