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Gold Derby nuggets: 'Avatar' vs. 'The Hurt Locker' | Oscars boost box office | 'Avatar' and 'emotion capture'

February 3, 2010 |  5:04 pm

The Hurt Locker posterSteve Pond analyzes the matchup at the Oscars between "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" by delving into the numbers of academy members in each of the branches that nominated the movies. "First, we’ll start with the categories that nominated one film, but not the other. For 'Avatar,' that was Art Direction and Visual Effects. For 'The Hurt Locker,' Original Screenplay and Best Actor. So now we have four AMPAS branches going on record to say that they prefer one film over the other. Here, the numbers don’t favor James Cameron’s big hit: The art directors branch of the Academy contains 374 members, the visual effects branch 279. On the 'Hurt Locker' side, the writers branch has 382 members, while the actors branch is by far the Academy’s largest, with 1,205. So Kathryn Bigelow’s film comes out with a big lead, 1,587 members to 653." THE ODDS

Sasha Stone considers the best picture Oscar nominees in terms of the precursor awards and says, "The preferential balloting is the trick here. There are films that are poised to upset either 'Avatar' or 'The Hurt Locker' and those would be, as you can see below, 'Precious,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'Up in the Air' and, most surprising of all, 'Up.' Of those, only 'Precious' has editing, director, screenplay and two acting nods. That puts it in a startlingly good position heading into this race. Next in line is 'Basterds' with editing, director, screenplay and one acting nod. 'Up in the Air' has all of those, THREE acting nods (the most of any film?) but no editing. Finally, 'Up' is the kind of overall crowdpleaser that could sneak up and become the first animated film to win Best Pic. But probably we’re looking a very obvious answer here. The only problem, being, of course, if everyone puts the one film at number one." AWARDS DAILY

Anthony Breznican spent the wee small hours of Oscar nominations morning with academy president Tom Sherak and co-announcer Anne Hathaway. As Anthony writes, "Hathaway has on her game face. 'I'm doing the foreign-picture announcements, which is very nice for Tom to hand over,' she jokes. 'He took animated (with titles such as 'Up' and 'Coraline') and gave me foreign films (which include 'El Secreto de Sus Ojos').' She has been singing show tunes as the makeup and hair people put on some finishing touches." USA TODAY

Oscars Expanded Best Picture RaceClaudia Eller and Ben Fritz catalog how "every studio with a best picture nominee made plans today to benefit from Oscar attention, be it by drawing new audiences to existing theaters, expanding into new theaters or bringing attention to DVDs." For example, when it comes to "An Education," "Sony Pictures Classics will expand the British drama, which has collected $8.8 million so far in the U.S. and Canada, from 75 theaters to 760 this Friday." COMPANY TOWN

Melena Ryzik looks beyond the best picture nominees and discovers that any Oscar attention can make a difference. Consider "The Messenger"  which earned nods for supporting actor and screenplay. "The studio is redesigning the poster 'so the nominations are on top,' David Fenkel, a partner, told the Bagger. The film, which stars Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster as military men tasked with delivering grim news to families, has been in theaters since November and has grossed less than $1 million so far. With the nominations to build on, it will double the number of screens in the coming weeks, Mr. Fenkel said, in cities like Philadelphia, Boston and Phoenix. 'The idea is that now the film, with the nominations, will be perceived as bigger than its box office gross, no matter where it ends up,' he said." THE CARPETBAGGER

Greg Ellwood reviews some of the bigger surprises in Tuesday's Oscar nominations including a snub of four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore "seemingly knocked out of the Best Supporting Race by 'Crazy Heart's Maggie Gyllenhaal. Considering 'Heart' didn't get into the ten, it shows how little appeal Tom Ford's 'A Single Man' had with the Academy. The drama received only one nod for actor Colin Firth." HIT FIX

Nathaniel Rogers reviews the Oscar nominations and reveals some interesting statistics -- "Meryl Streep has been nominated for 37% of her screen appearances" -- as well as some offbeat ones -- "We have five Leos (Woody, Sandra, Helen, Anna and Vera). I guess that's not surprising given Leo's show off nature but no Aquarius, Pisces or Aries nominees."  THE FILM EXPERIENCE

Avatar Golden Globes winner James Cameron Zoe Saldana Sam Worthington • "Avatar" does not number any acting bids among its nine Oscar nominations and, as Alex Ben Block reports, this is frustrating for the filmmakers. "'People confuse what we have done with animation,' Cameron told THR at the PGA Awards. 'It's nothing like animation. The creator here is the actor, not the unseen hand of an animator.' The Oscars snub is 'a disappointment,' said producer Jon Landau, 'but I blame ourselves for not educating people in the right way.' Landau explained that they needed to make clear that the system they used represents a new way to use motion capture photography, or as Landau puts it, 'emotion capture.' A key breakthrough in 'Avatar' involves photographing facial features of the actors with a tiny camera suspended from a skull cap in front of the performer's face that caught every twitch and muscle movement, all faithfully reproduced onscreen." THR

• He may not have won the academy over with his adapted screenplay for "Invictus" but Anthony Peckham is to be feted by the Writers Guild of America, West with the Paul Selvin award which recognizes written work that embody the spirit of constitutional rights and civil liberties. As WGAW president John Wells said in making the announcement: "Anthony Peckham’s screenplay for 'Invictus' perfectly illustrates what the Paul Selvin Award stands for, expertly conveying how only a few men can unite to impact positive change, and have that change resonate around the world." WGAW

• Grand slam awards winner Mel Brooks reminisces about his late wife Anne Bancroft in this touching interview. Brooks tells John Carucci that "Bancroft always had his best interests at heart right until the end. One of the last things she did was help him structure 'Young Frankenstein' as a musical. 'She suggested where and when to sing, and what to save (from the film version),' Brooks said. 'She was wonderful.' Bancroft did not live to see the show's Broadway opening in late 2007. 'I had to open it without her,' Brooks says, choking up. 'It was hard. It's still hard.'" AP

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Top photo: "The Hurt Locker " poster. Credit: Summit

Middle photo: Academy Award statues. Credit: AMPAS

Bottom photo: "Avatar" poster. Credit: Fox 

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