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Tom O'Neil has the inside track on Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and all the award shows.

Category: Brad Pitt

Poll: Is Brad Pitt dodging award shows because he's mad they're snubbing him?

January 27, 2010 |  6:09 am

Now that the reps for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have denied rumors of a bust-up and TMZ has reported that Brad — well, at least his beard — is back at home with his brood, there goes the theory that he's snubbing award shows because he's embarrassed about the collapse of his romance.

He didn't show up at the Golden Globes or Critics Choice Awards where "Inglourious Basterds" was nominated for best picture — and won for best supporting actor (Christoph Waltz). Brad didn't show up at the Screen Actors Guild where — surprise — he was among the winners when the "Basterds" cast claimed the ensemble award. "Basterds" also won best supporting actor for Waltz, but Brad wasn't nominated for his own, separate award.

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Is it possible that he's privately upset that he hasn't generated solo kudos buzz this derby season? Last year, Brad was generously available to promote "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" when it was up for best picture at the Oscars, Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards and he was nommed for best lead actor at all of those award shows. When "Babel" was a top player one year earlier, Brad made the kudos rounds as he received sporadic nominations such as a bid for best supporting actor at the Golden Globes. So why is he M.I.A. now? Is it just a coincidence that he hasn't scored any solo nominations?

A source within the Weinstein Co., who asked not to be identified because she wasn't speaking officially on behalf of the firm, told Gold Derby, "We're all baffled. When people ask us, 'Where's Brad?' we honestly don't know!"

Gold Derby contacted the office of Brad's rep to ask why he's been missing from award shows, but we did not receive a response to our inquiry.

It's not far-fetched to believe that celebrities might skip award shows where their films are lavished with nominations just because they personally didn't get a bid. Remember when "Titanic" sailed into the Oscar history books without its lead male star on board as its team accepted 11 record-tying awards at the Shrine Auditorium? Rumor had it that Leo DiCaprio was so irked the he wasn't nominated for best actor that he stayed home.

The Directors Guild of America has announced that Brad will attend its awards gala Saturday as a presenter, but a DGA rep says he doesn't know if Angelina Jolie will be with him. Of course, Brad's probably showing up to support his pal Quentin Tarantino. Not being a contender himself at DGA, Brad has no beef with the guild. However, it's possible that he's snubbing the other award shows because they snubbed him.

If true, will he snub the Oscars next? E! Online reports that Angelina Jolie will not attend the Academy Awards because "Jolie will be heading to Venice at the end of February to start production on 'The Tourist,' a remake of a French thriller costarring Johnny Depp in which Jolie plays a vengeful Interpol agent." But what about Brad?

Photo: the Weinstein Co.

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Why 'Inglourious Basterds' will win best picture at the Oscars (Part 2)

December 30, 2009 |  2:10 pm

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Now that I've outted some Oscar pundits cited below for not taking "Inglourious Basterds" seriously early this derby season, a few are scrambling to insist that no, no, no -- they always thought it might be nominated. Really! They just didn't think it could win.

Oh, rubbish. A few weeks ago virtually all Oscarologists, forgetting the lessons of history, were preoccupied looking ahead on the calendar while predicting that "Invictus," "Precious," "Avatar," "Up in the Air," "The Lovely Bones" or another late 2009 release will win best picture. The ridicule they heaped upon me was for daring even to suggest that Quentin Tarantino's old August release was a serious contender.

Most rookie Oscarologists make that same mistake every year, focusing only upon late-year releases, forgetting how summer flicks like "Gladiator" or "Braveheart" or even spring releases like "Annie Hall" can make late-year dashes to win when December films trip up. That's what is happening this year. 

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Sure, some voters love "Avatar," but sci-fi/fantasy blockbusters are usually cursed at the Academy Awards. "The Hurt Locker" is respected, but it has several strikes against it, including a lack of stars, an off-putting title and the tragic fact that voters have recently shunned films about U.S. involvement in the Mideast.

"Precious" may be too gritty, too depressing, too scary in a real-life way to that pampered, lily-white Beverly Hills crowd.

"Up in the Air" is a fine film, but it's the tale of a cold-hearted corporate cat chasing babes and frequent flyer miles. It has the star power that's usually required to win best picture, but where's the gravitas?

That leaves us with "Inglourious Basterds" — almost by default. Film critics loved it ("There's no resisting it," Rolling Stone's Peter Travers warned). It was hugely successful ($300 million worldwide). It's got one of the highest cool factors in the biz because it's got Brad Pitt on screen and Quentin Tarantino behind the celluloid. Quentin hasn't been seriously in the derby since "Pulp Fiction" (1994). Now he's back with Oscar-mad Harvey Weinstein behind him pushing hard while blitzing Hollywood with cheap, nonwatermarked DVDs, and everywhere you look lots of nifty ads reminding you how much fun you had watching Quentin dare to rewrite World War II history.

This isn't one of those derby years where you have everybody obviously cheering on a film like "Slumdog Millionaire." Well, OK many people are rooting loudly for "Avatar," but, given Oscar history, odds are stacked against voters embracing blue monkeys.

Remember how shocked everybody (except me) was when "Inglourious Basterds" reaped the most Critics Choice Award nominations and landed in all of the top Golden Globe races? That's because there isn't a loud rah-rah section behind it to warn that the old August movie was about to make a big, splashy return. Its support emerges quietly when voters look over a ballot. Not thrilled by options among late-year releases, they spy that irresistibly cheeky title — "Inglourious Basterds" — on the list, they smile mischievously and can't resist checking it off.

Over and over I keep trying this same experiment with actual Oscar voters. I ask them what movie they may vote for as best picture. Only a few mention "Inglourious Basterds." Then I hand them a written list of movie titles to choose from and I ask them to tell me what they'd vote for, ranking top three choices first, second, third. "Inglorious Basterds" is the only film that gets mentioned by nearly everyone in one of the three positions. Some voters pick "Avatar," others "Precious," "Up in the Air" or "The Hurt Locker." Quite a few pick "Basterds" too, even though they didn't volunteer it until I showed it to them on a list. That's interesting. But it's ranked high up by almost every voter in my survey.

Breaking with recent tradition, a weighted ballot will be used to pick the winner this year. Thus, pundits must size up this race in new ways. I don't think "Basterds" would win under the old system, but I think it's the fave under this new one that offers 10 alternatives, thus widely splitting votes, giving the edge to the film with the most consensus support.

The movie with the most nominations usually wins best picture. "Inglourioius Basterds" could lead with 11: best picture, director, screenplay, supporting actor (Christoph Waltz), supporting actress (Diane Kruger or Melaine Laurent -- I don't think Laurent can be nominated in lead), film editing, cinematography, art direction, costumes, sound editing and sound mixing. By comparison, "Avatar" has the potential of reaping nine. "Up in the Air" could score eight.

Lastly, movies with the best titles usually win. As my Oscarologist pal Tariq Khan likes to say, if "Million Dollar Baby" retained its original title, "Rope Burns," it wouldn't have won. I'm sure he's correct. "Slumdog" struck the Oscar jackpot in part because it had "Millionaire" in its title. Aspiring toward beauty helped "American Beauty" and "A Beautiful Mind" to win. If a movie claims an award this year for best title, clearly it's the ingenious "Inglourious Basterds," which cleverly danced around censors by changing the spelling of a naughty word. How can voters resist tripping the light fantastic with Quentin?

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Photos: Weinstein Co.

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Christoph Waltz: The glorious villain in 'Inglourious Basterds'

August 21, 2009 | 11:40 am

As a sadistic Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," Christoph Waltz is the most deliciously evil villain seen by movie-goers since Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" and Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs." Wait! Is it a coincidence that both of those roles were Oscar winners — in flicks that won best picture?

Christoph Waltz won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival in May for "Inglourious Basterds" and now "is probably also destined for an Academy Award nomination," according to Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. But in which category? Waltz has more screen time than Hopkins, who won in lead, and a comparable amount to Bardem, who won in supporting. My guess is supporting, but I thought I'd torment the celebrated screen Nazi for his opinion.

Granted, Brad Pitt is dastardly in "Inglourious Basterds" too — ordering the beating (with a baseball bat) and scalping of German soldiers — but, hey, he's on our side.

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Do you think Johnny Depp is the actor most overdue to win an Oscar?

March 11, 2009 |  6:05 pm

In our poll on actors most overdue to win at the Oscars, Johnny Depp is leading by a wide margin. Currently he has received almost 44% of the votes while Leonardo DiCaprio sits in second place with 16% of the total. And none of the remaining eight choices — Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr., Ralph Fiennes, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law or Brad Pitt — is above 7% in the latest results.

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All of the actors in our poll have been jilted by the Oscars at least once. At 60, Samuel L. Jackson is the oldest of them and he picked up his lone supporting nod for "Pulp Fiction" in 1994. Jeff Bridges, 59, has four Oscar nods under his belt — supporting: "The Last Picture Show" (1971); "Thunderbolt & Lightfoot" (1974); and "The Contender" (2000); and lead: "Starman" (1984). Ed Harris, 58, also has four Oscar nominations that follow the same pattern — supporting: "Apollo 13" (1995); "The Truman Show" (1998); and "The Hours" (2002); and lead: "Pollock" (2000).

Of those men in their 40s, Cruise and Fiennes are both 46. Tom Cruise has three losing bids — lead for "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989) and "Jerry Maguire" (1996); and supporting for "Magnolia" (1999). Ralph Fiennes was nominated for his roles in two best picture champs — supporting in "Schindler's List" (1993) and lead for "The English Patient" (1996). Both Depp and Pitt are 45. Johnny Depp has earned three lead actor bids in the last six years: "Pirates of the Caribbean" (2003); "Finding Neverland" (2004); and "Sweeney Todd" (2007). Brad Pitt lost supporting actor in 1995 for "Twelve Monkeys" and was a lead actor nominee last month for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Now 43, Robert Downey Jr. was a lead actor contender for "Chaplin" in 1992 and just lost the supporting race for "Tropic Thunder."

Jude Law is 36 and has contended once for supporting ("The Talented Mr. Ripley," 1999) and once for lead ("Cold Mountain," 2003). And while Leonardo DiCaprio is the youngest of these actors at 33, he has already earned three Oscar nominations: supporting for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993) and lead for "The Aviator" (2004) and "Blood Diamond" (2006).

Of these 10 men, three appear in upcoming pictures that appear to be viable Oscar vehicles, at least on paper. Johnny Depp stars in Michael Mann's "Public Enemies." Leonardo DiCaprio has reunited with Martin Scorsese for "Shutter Island." And Brad Pitt has the lead in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds"

Cast your vote here. Then check back to see how your choice is doing. If your pick is not among the 10 in this poll, vote for whomever you like by clicking on the "Comments" link below. Ed Norton has already earned a load of write-in votes. And join in the heated discussion on this topic in our message boards.

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'The Dark Knight' dominates Saturn Awards with 11 nods while 'Twilight' is almost shut out

March 11, 2009 |  4:39 am

"The Dark Knight" dominates the competition at the upcoming Saturn Awards, leading with 11 nominations, including a best picture bid as well as acting nods for leads Christian Bale and Maggie Gyllenhaal and supporting players Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart. Three years ago, "Batman Begins" won three of its nine Saturn Awards races — fantasy film, lead actor (Christian Bale), and writing (Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer).

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This 35th annual edition of the awards honors films across four genres — sci-fi, fantasy, horror and action/adventure/thriller. That last catch-all category is where "The Dark Knight" is competing against "Changeling," "Gran Torino," "Quantum of Solace," "Traitor," and "Valkyrie."

"Valkyrie," directed by sci-fi veteran Bryan Singer, earned mixed reviews but did surprisingly well in terms of the Saturns. Besides that best picture bid, the film's seven Saturn nods include one for leading man Tom Cruise and another for Singer. Cruise is a previous seven-time Saturn nominee with one win for "Vanilla Sky" back in 2001, while Singer is a five-time contender winning for "X-Men" in 2000.

As the acting races span all four genres, Cruise's competition besides Bale (a two-time nominee) includes Oscar nominee Brad Pitt, who picked up his third Saturn nod with his bid for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." That epic time-traveling fantasy earned nine nods in total. Sci-fi hit "Iron Man" scored eight including a lead actor nom for Robert Downey Jr., who won this award in 1993 for "Heart and Souls" and had one other nod. Harrison Ford contends for his work in the sci-fi romp "Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which has six nominations in total. Ford won lead actor for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1982 and has now been nominated for all four films in the franchise.

Heartthrob Robert Pattinson was snubbed for his leading role in "Twilight." Did past four-time nominee Will Smith, who won the award last year for "I Am Legend," edge him out with his nod for "Hancock"? That critical flop but commercial hit also landed a bid for best fantasy film as well as a second supporting actress nod for Charlize Theron. The only nomination for "Twilight" came in the fantasy film race where it faces off against "Hancock" as well as "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and "Wanted."

Pattinson's "Twilight" love interest, Kristen Stewart, was likewise left off the list of lead actress nominees. Oscar contender Angelina Jolie competes here as "Changeling" earned her a third Saturn nod. Among her competiton are two other Oscar winners — Cate Blanchett, who picked up Saturn nod No. 4 for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and Gwyneth Paltrow, who landed her second Saturn nom for "Iron Man" — as well as four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, who is now a four-time Saturn nominee with her bid for "Blindness," newbie Emily Mortimer ("Transsiberian"), and one-time past Saturn nominee Gyllenhaal.

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Which actor is most overdue to win an Oscar?

March 8, 2009 |  9:24 am

Now that Kate Winslet is no longer poor Kate Winslet, five-time loser of the Academy Award, it's time to decide who deserves our pity next.

Nathaniel Rogers got this new pity party started over at Film Experience, combining male and female performers and deciding that we should all be boo-hoo-hoo-ing over Michelle Pfeiffer. Not a bad choice. She's lost three times and may be nominated next year for "Chéri," director Stephen Frears' adaptation of the romance novel penned by Colette. But there are so many snubbed stars in the Hollywood firmament, frankly, we'd like to break up this Oscars discussion into two parts based upon gender.

Let's start with the guys and have you pick the star you think we should all be rooting for.

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Of course, Peter O'Toole is most overdue in the literal sense, being the Oscars' biggest loser (eight defeats). But at this point, let's be honest, his hopes look dim. Besides, he's already got an honorary Oscar.

Poor Albert Finney doesn't have one of those and he's lost five times in the competitive races, but, truth be told, he also looks like a lost cause. He should have been nominated for "Big Fish" in 2003 but was snubbed. That tells us something, probably that the Oscar  voters don't appreciate how often he snubs them back, usually not bothering to attend the ceremony when he gets into the race. That started with his first big nom as best actor in 1963. The night "Tom Jones" won best picture at the Oscars, its star preferred to be in Hawaii partying with some foxy gals, so press reports tattled.

There are many others too, but our poll can only accommodate 10 names, so I had to be selective. Obvious choices are highly regarded, red-hot actors such as Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Johnny Depp could be back in the running soon with Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," Brad Pitt with Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Leo DiCaprio with Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island."

Stars like Donald Sutherland aren't here because they've never been nominated. Some chaps like Bill Murray and Edward Norton aren't listed because, well, they have PR problems within the industry and winning would be difficult for them, though not impossible. Others, including Liam Neeson and Dennis Hopper, aren't here because of my whim, but they were carefully considered. Really! Feel free to vote for whomever you like by clicking on the "Comments" link below. And please join in the heated discussion on this topic on our message boards.

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Photos: the Weinstein Co., Universal

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Gold Derby nuggets: Campaigners crash after the Oscars | Did Jennifer Aniston snicker when Brad Pitt lost? | Will Penelope Cruz fall into Carmen Miranda's trap?

March 3, 2009 | 11:17 am

• After winning the lead actor award at the Oscars for "Milk," Sean Penn has joined the campaign to have Harvey Milk's birthday, May 22, recognized as "a day of significance" in California. VARIETY

Woody Allen's "Whatever Works" will open the next Tribeca Film Festival. It's the first movie he's made set in New York City since 2004. HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Anne Thompson reports that the early exit of programmer Peter Scarlet from the Tribeca Film Festival "is an act of protest indeed." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

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• "Penelope Cruz won the best supporting actress Oscar for a role that lampooned her foreignness," notes a London paper. "Let's hope she doesn't fall into the trap that claimed Carmen Miranda." GUARDIAN

• There are lots of groans over the news that Ed Zwick will make another movie: "In the Heart of the Sea," based upon the destruction of the ship Essex by a sperm whale in 1820. His last, "Defiance," had high Oscar hopes but crashed after it got panned by Variety, the New York Times and the L.A. Times. Produced for $32 million, it earned only $27 million domestically. Lately, it's becoming popular to bash Zwick movies. The reason: His films have compelling subject matter and are well directed and acted, but they're terribly written. Dialogue is clunky. Characters are cookie-cutter cliches. Zwick should stick to directing, period. For his upcoming flick, he's the co-writer, along with the accomplished Marshall Herskovitz, but that's little reassurance, since together they gave us the clunkily penned "Last Samurai," which also fell far short of Oscar expectations. VARIETY

• While the Oscar success of "Slumdog Millionaire" marks a triumph for films made in India, the local film industry is suffering an all-time low in ticket sales. THE AUSTRALIAN

Oscar consultants are suffering battle fatigue and planning a wrap-up party. L.A. TIMES

• "'Slumdog Millionaire' child star Azharuddin Ismail has fallen ill as fears grow about the psychological state of the two young Indian actors," reports a London paper. TELEGRAPH

Scott Feinberg has been busy counting up fascinating Oscars stats. Here's an interesting factoid, for example: "Slumdog Millionaire" is the 10th best-pic winner that received most of its financing outside the U.S. FEINBERG FILES

• The Associated Press tally is wrong! While reporting on "The Simpsons" being extended two more TV seasons to become the longest-running series in prime-time TV history (surpassing "Gunsmoke"), the wire service counts 22 Emmy victories for that crazy Springfield cartoon clan. Hey, they've actually won 24. Most impressive: 10 of those were for best animated program. "The Simpsons" needs 13 more wins to tie "Frasier" as the weekly series with the most Emmys. ASSOCIATED PRESS

• Wake-up call to the Tonys? The 1993 hit film "Sleepless in Seattle" is coming to Broadway, adapted by original screenwriter Jeff Arch, who's working with composer/lyricist Leslie Bricusse ("Stop the World—I Want to Get Off," "Jekyll & Hyde," '"Victor/Victoria"). The original film was nominated for two Oscars. Arch was up for best original screenplay with co-writers Nora Ephron and David S. Ward (they lost to "The Piano" writer Jane Campion), and the film tune "A Wink and a Smile" was up for best song (losing to Bruce Springsteen's "Philadelphia"). PLAYBILL

• Fox News claims that the TV camera caught Jennifer Aniston snickering at the Oscars when her ex Brad Pitt lost lead actor and also claims you can see Brad being forced to his feet by Angelina Jolie when Kate Winslet beat her for best actress. Yeah, Brad's late getting up when everyone else stands around him, but he claps on cue when the winner's announced and, a short time later, he does rise. See the top video below. As for Jennifer, well, judge for yourself. See the bottom video. She's sitting right behind Sean Penn. She smiles when he wins. It's kind of a tilted, crooked smile. Is it really a snicker? FOX NEWS

Photos: The Weinstein Co., 20th Century Fox

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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie could be latest couple cursed at the Oscars

February 20, 2009 |  6:06 pm

For both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the only speech they really need to rehearse for Sunday's Oscars is what to say when they run into his ex-wife Jennifer Aniston. After all, both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are ranked by Gold Derby fourth in their respective lead races for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Changeling."

And the track record of couples both nominated for Oscars in the same year is not great. Of the 11 couples profiled below, only one — Frances McDormand and Joel Coen — both won on the same night. In four other derby years, the woman won while, in one instance, it was the man. And for the five others — including the most recent pairing of Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams in 2005's "Brokeback Mountain" — both of them lost.

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In 2005 Ledger and Williams met while making "Brokeback Mountain." He lost the lead actor race to Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote") while she lost the supporting actress Oscar to Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener").

In 1996, Joel Coen directed his wife Frances McDormand for the fifth time in "Fargo." She won her only lead actress bid (she has lost three supporting races) and he earned his first directing nod. While he lost that race to Anthony Minghella who helmed best picture champ "The English Patient" he shared the original screenplay Oscar with his brother Ethan Coen.

In 1995 Tim Robbins directed his partner Susan Sarandon to the lead actress Oscar in "Dead Man Walking." While Sarandon won on her fifth and, to date, final bid, Robbins lost his only helming nod to another actor turned director Mel Gibson who won for making best picture champ "Braveheart." Robbins would go on to win the supporting actor Oscar in 2003 for "Mystic River" which was directed by the ultimate crossover Clint Eastwood.

In 1968 Paul Newman directed his first film "Rachel, Rachel" with wife Joanne Woodward in the title role. Woodward lost the second of her four lead actress bids — she won with her first in 1957 for "The Three Faces of Eve" — to both Katharine Hepburn ("The Lion in Winter") and Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl"). Newman was nominated for producing this best picture contender which lost to "Oliver!" He would go on to win on the seventh of his eight lead actor nods in 1986 for "The Color of Money" and earned a single supporting nod as well. Newman also received an honorary Oscar in 1985 and the Hersholt humanitarian Oscar in 1993.

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In 1967 Katharine Hepburn won the the second of her record four lead actress awards for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" which was her final film with off-screen love Spencer Tracy. She always thought of this award as a tribute to Tracy, who died just days after filming finished on their ninth on-screen collaboration. Tracy lost his ninth and final lead actor race. He had won back-to-back Oscars in 1937 and 1938 for "Captains Courageous" and "Boys Town" respectively. "Dinner" was the only film they made together in which they were both nominated but Hepburn picked up the third of her 12 lead actress nods for their first collaboration "Woman of the Year" in 1942.

In 1966 husband and wife Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor contended in the lead races for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Taylor won the second of her two lead actress Oscars — the first was in 1960 for "Butterfield 8" — on her fifth and final nod. Burton lost the fifth of his seven nods to Paul Scofield ("A Man for All Seasons"). Burton shared the title of Oscar's biggest loser with his drinking buddy Peter O'Toole until O'Toole worsted him with his loss for "Venus" two years ago.

In 1963, Rex Harrison lost the first of his two lead actor bids for "Cleopatra" to Sidney Poitier ("Lilies of the Field") while wife Rachel Roberts lost her only best actress nod to Patricia Neal ("Hud"). Harrison would win the following year for reprising his stage role of Henry Higgins in best picture champ "My Fair Lady."

In 1957 husband and wife Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester were nominated for "Witness for the Prosecution." Laughton — already a lead actor champ for 1933's "The Private Life of Henry VIII" — lost the third of his three lead actor bids to Alec Guinness ("The Bridge on the River Kwai"). Lanchester lost the second of her two supporting actress noms to Miyoshi Umeki ("Sayonara").

In 1953 Ava Gardner successfully petitioned Columbia studio head Harry Cohn to cast her husband Frank Sinatra in "From Here to Eternity." While he won the supporting actor award she lost her only lead actress bid for "Mogambo" to Audrey Hepburn ("Roman Holiday"). Sinatra went on to earn one lead nod and was awarded the Hersholt humanitarian Oscar in 1970.

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Will Brad Pitt lose best actor due to Oscars' Slap the Stud Syndrome?

February 18, 2009 |  3:36 pm

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What's really curious about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is that most Oscar pundits give the lead star of the film with the most nominations virtually no hope of winning best actor. Among the five contenders in that category, Brad Pitt is usually ranked fourth or fifth by prognosticators. Why?

Most likely it's punishment for his good looks. Look at other top male stars who haven't won Oscars despite working in Hollywood for years: Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Gere. They're all heartthrobs — just like previous matinee stars who got snubbed in years past: James Dean, Steve McQueen, Tyrone Power and Robert Taylor.

Now consider the parade of young lovelies who dominated the actress awards in recent years. Best-actress champs over the last decade, for example, include Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Reese Witherspoon. Read more about that phenomenon in Gold Derby's separate blog piece about the Babe Factor.

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The male counterpart to that female factor is the Slap the Stud Syndrome. While a few handsome male stars have managed to win now and then in the past, most have been denied. There's a clear pattern of it.

Consider the case of Tom Cruise, who lost the 1989 best actor Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis. Both men played wheelchair-bound real-life heroes in "Born on the Fourth of July" and "My Left Foot," respectively. Cruise had won the Golden Globe while Day-Lewis had taken most of the critics prizes. When the British born Day-Lewis prevailed over the all-American Cruise many Oscarologists attributed this to another instance of the Slap the Stud Syndrome.

The theory goes that many of the academy voters are geezer guys who love the younger fillies but resent the handsome bucks. Their message to these Hollywood heartthrobs: "You already have it all –- fame, fortune and females aplenty. So, sorry pal, no Oscar for you, just yet."

However, just like the pretty women who de-glamorize themselves (Charlize Theron, "Monster"; Nicole Kidman, "The Hours") to win an Oscar so too can the handsome hunks who pack on a few pounds, a la George Clooney in 2005's "Syriana." Last year, Javier Bardem was the hunk du jour whose unflattering Buster Brown bowl cut in "No Country for Old Men" won him the supporting actor Oscar.

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And speaking of Clooney, as he was back to his usual movie-star-handsome-self last year in "Michael Clayton," the Slap the Stud Syndrome helped put Day-Lewis back in the winner's circle for "There Will Be Blood." That win also came at the expense of two-time loser Johnny Depp. He and Pitt, both 45, should take comfort in the fact that other studs won a best-actor Oscar later in their career when they were less of a threat to get the babes that the older academy guys can't.

While Tom Cruise lost his 1996 best actor bid for "Jerry Maguire" to respected stage star Geoffrey Rush ("Shine"), he lost the 1999 supporting actor race when nomm'd for "Magnolia" to one-time stud Michael Caine ("The Cider House Rules"). Caine did not win his first three best actor races and only won his first supporting Oscar ("Hannah and Her Sisters," 1986) when he was on other side of 50.

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Gene Seymour's Oscars predictions: 'Slumdog Millionaire,' Sean Penn and ...?

February 2, 2009 | 11:55 am

Film critic Gene Seymour has — most graciously — sent Gold Derby readers his take on the top Oscars derby races.

Not to be too dully aligned with Conventional Wisdom, but let's face facts: We've been in the season of "Yes We Can!" since last November. And in a "Yes We Can" year, it's too, too easy to handicap this year's Oscars list, with a couple of exceptions which need not be named except they involve actresses.

The only evidence this year of "No You Didn't" came with the curious case of the "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." After seeing it last Christmas, I turned to my cousin during the closing credits and stage-whispered, "You know what? I'm finally convinced. Life really is like a box of chocolates." He laughed at this. So did his wife. So did my wife and a few people sitting behind us. We had all come to the same conclusion about this movie: That we would have been better off if we'd opted for "Frost/Nixon" in the adjoining multiplex bunker.

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Nevertheless, I knew somehow that, despite our collective reaction, "Benjamin Button's" big-studio pedigree and star wattage would ensure a handful of Academy Awards nominations. In no way, did I expect there to be two handfuls. Seriously, Academy: 13 fracking Oscars nominations? 13? Really??

The suits needed to be placated somehow. I get that. I also get that the telecast needed some glitter to jack up its ratings; hence the gratuitous sop to Brangelina, who, after all this junk, had better show up. (What? Nominating Clint for a golden-age coup wouldn't keep viewers up late? Maybe not at for those of a certain age…)

But let me put down the whip on this all-but-dead horse. "Button" came up goose-eggs at SAG and it will come up goose-eggs on Academy Night. Unless something drastically alters this strange national mood of euphoria-wrestling-with-dread, what follows would seem to be The Script four weeks from now:

BEST PICTURE
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Milk"
"The Reader"
X - "Slumdog Millionaire"

The knives are out and you can see them gleaming from here to Mumbai. But I don't think it's going to matter in the end. Nothing shouts "Yes We Can" louder (and I mean literally) than this young man's quest for love and justice and The Final Answer. "Milk," for reasons cited below, may be the only one of this bunch who could pick "Millionaire's" pocket.

BEST ACTOR
Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"
X - Sean Penn, "Milk"
Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"

Leave aside, for the moment, the still-smoldering outrage in California and everywhere else over Prop 8 — though that has always been a factor. Think instead of the sweep of images that linger in people's minds from the Inauguration and its surrounding events. Whatever the next couple months or years may yield in frustration & hardship, Americans will still carry with them the breathtaking vision of millions of Americans who, through the electoral process, now feel connected to their country in ways they haven't felt in 400 years or so. "Milk's" subject speaks both to that apotheosis' possibility and the beautiful, painful yearning that preceded it.  In other words, this prevailing mood of "Yes We Can" is bigger than Mickey Rourke's personal triumph (which is almost as heartening) and certainly bigger than Pitt's gilded persona. Plus, Penn seems to have recovered needed buoyancy in his own persona from taking on this heroic role with such detailed and knowing gusto. He wins again.

BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Meryl Streep, "Doubt"
X - Kate Winslet, "The Reader"

After SAG, I was ready to make Streep the lock. But my good friend and learned colleague Ms. Lemire has got me thinking: Kate really glowed on GG night, didn't she? And didn't she say all the right things and straddle the border of humility and embarrassment weaving through every memorable acceptance speech? I'd say she was Inevitable if the nomination were for "Revolutionary Road," where she was not only amazing, but really, really good (good enough, anyway, to dazzle even those who were brought down by the rest of the movie). "Reader" isn't even close to "RR" in overall quality and, with all due deference to Christy, if they really want to honor Winslet for her body-of-work, why didn't they nominate her for the better movie? Nevertheless, it wouldn't be the first time a veteran's performance was singled out by her peers while another performance was anointed with the Oscar. In fact, didn't that happen last year?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin, "Milk"
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"
X - Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road"

For what it's worth, Downey's Oscar nomination in this category is exactly one year overdue –- for "Zodiac," which by the way should have been nominated in other categories a year ago as well. He deserves it this year too, but no one's feeling quite evolved enough ("No We Don't") to risk honoring someone doing blackface, however cannily or ironically. This is still Heath Ledger's to lose – and it wouldn't surprise me to hear some people voting twice, three times for him after they watch their "Dark Knight" DVDs.

Viola_oscars_academy_awards_doubt

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, "Doubt'
Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
X - Viola Davis, "Doubt"
Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"

So far, my biggest folly of this award season has been clinging to the false hope that Cruz's flamboyant and hilarious turn would find an Oscar waiting for it at rainbow's end.

It is, after all, a performance so huge in its movie's narrative scheme that it could have easily been tapped as for a lead nomination. Usually, that's an easy call.

But for whatever reason, people have it in for "VCB," despite the fact that it's been (in late-period Woody Allen terms) a hit.

On the other hand, Davis really does burn a hole in the screen in her relatively brief appearance. It all depends, I suppose, on what happens with the Lead Actress category, but don't ask me how.

BEST DIRECTOR
X - Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"
David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"
Gus Van Sant, "Milk"

Van Sant is Boyle's only real competition here for reasons already cited. At least, he should be, though Howard always seems extra inspired when his subject takes in the television business. (Yes, I do so think "EDtv" is his most underrated work. Come and get me!)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
"Frozen River"
"Happy-Go-Lucky"
"In Bruges"
X - "Milk"
"Wall-E"

Any of the other four would be worthy of the honor (and, after all this time, would it be too much to ask even one of Pixar's scripts to catch a break?) Momentum could carry "Milk" over the hump, but it's not writ in stone, so to speak.

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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to be among no-show nominees at Oscars luncheon

January 31, 2009 | 12:23 pm

Oscars nominees get together for the annual academy luncheon Monday and 15 of the 20 acting nominees will be among the almost 120 attendees.

Oscar_statues_061908

However, missing from the festivities at the Beverly Hilton Hotel will be: Oscars' lead actor contender Brad Pitt, who is busy promoting "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" overseas; his gal pal, lead actress contender Angelina Jolie ("Changeling"), who has gone along for the ride; New York-based Meryl Streep, who just equalled Katharine Hepburn's record dozen lead-actress nods with this bid for "Doubt" (she has a record tally of 15 Oscars noms overall — she was also MIA from this luncheon two years ago when nomm'd for "The Devil Wears Prada"); and Streep's co-star, supporting actor contender Philip Seymour Hoffman.

All five directing nominees — Danny Boyle, Stephen Daldry, David Fincher, Ron Howard and Gus Van Sant — are scheduled to attend, as are many of the Academy Award nominees in the other 18 races. Look for the historic group photo here Monday afternoon.

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Has Brad's 'Button' bumped Benny's 'Che'?

January 28, 2009 | 11:09 pm

One of our Buzzmeter Oscarologists, Kevin Lewin of World Entertainment News Network, is so riled up about the Academy Awards' snub of "Che" star Benicio Del Toro that he sent Gold Derby this "semi-rant." Hmmm. That's Kev just being modest. It's a rant. And a fun one. Maybe even Oscar-worthy — nomination anyway? Read on.

Spot the odd one out: Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, Richard Jenkins and Brad Pitt! Yes, ladies and gents, Brad's a movie star and the others are all actors.

Che_benicio_del_toro

I think the Oscars have done well to cut through the also-rans and make the correct picks this year — so many critics seem to have lost themselves in questionable films and roles, giving "Revolutionary Road," "Happy-Go-Lucky" and other movies far more kudos than they deserve.

But I'm not sure Pitt should be in there among this year's acting class — after all, his "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" really is half a movie of acting and half a movie of impressive special effects and facial tics.

Don't get me wrong, this is the best thing Brad's done — but even I can pull facial expressions for a computer to make me look like a pro!

Now, the crux of this semi-rant revolves around Benicio Del Toro's "Che." I'm sure our beloved Benny couldn't give two hoots about the Oscars — he already has one and he's clearly not the type of guy who's that bothered if he gets another. But fair's fair — his Che Guevara deserves some kind of reward. Maybe that's why Sean Penn singled the portrayal out at the SAGs on Sunday.

So here's something to ponder — did Steven Soderbergh's stubbornness cost Benny a nod? Should his name be on the short list instead of Brad Pitt's? The answers: Yes and Yes!

"Che" really doesn't need to be a four-hour-plus epic, and, though I admire Mr. Soderbergh's determination not to edit, I worry that his stance may have cost the movie the respect it deserves, and Del Toro an Oscar nomination. In turn, these accolades would have given the film the publicity boost it isn't getting.

I like Pitt a lot — he's got Steve McQueen's cool and a bag load of presence, but let's not confuse that with acting. He's a movie star. And, in a best actor category, shouldn't the best actors be there?

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