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Category: Clint Eastwood

Cecile de France: Riding the 'Hereafter' wave

October 22, 2010 |  1:37 pm

Cécile de France won two Cesar Awards, France's equivalent to the Oscars — for "Russian Dolls" (2005) and " L'auberge espagnole" (2002). Now she teams up with Oscar royalty (producer Steven Spielberg, director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Peter Morgan) in "Hereafter," in which she portrays a French TV journalist who has a spiritual awakening after she has a near-death experience during a tsunami. We chat about all that at the Hollywood Museum.

The L.A. Times gave "Hereafter" a rave review, noting, "The compelling thing about 'Hereafter' is the way it places spiritual themes squarely in the kind of Hollywood context that attracts stars like Matt Damon and top Belgian actress Cécile de France." Both stars give "solid performances," adds the Times.

Camera work by Steve Nycklemoe

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Gold Derby nuggets: Oscars not moving ... in 2012 | Clint Eastwood on 'Hereafter' | Matthew Weiner teases 'Mad Men' finale

October 14, 2010 |  4:43 pm

• Looks like the Oscars won't be moving up to January after all as per the following statement: "The Academy’s Board of Governors has determined that the date of the 84th Academy Awards in 2012 will not be significantly earlier than the now-traditional last Sunday in February. A different date still remains a possibility in subsequent years, and the Academy’s staff and Board will continue to evaluate the advantages and challenges associated with such a change."

Anne Thompson analyzes the list of the 65 films contending for the foreign language Oscar and notes, "Per usual, Sony Pictures Classics boasts four entries this year: 'Incendies,' 'Of Gods and Men,' 'In a Better World' and 'Life, Above All,' so many in fact that co-president Tom Bernard was hard-pressed to name them all. Most years, at least one SPC film winds up being nominated, so I’m putting all four on my lead contenders list." Anne rounds out her top 10 with a half-dozen others, including "Biutiful" and "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

• And Bilge Ebiri handicaps the documentary feature Oscar race with the following expected to make the top five: "Client 9," "Inside Job," "A Piece of Work," "The Tillman Story" and "Waiting for Superman." VULTURE

Clint Eastwood Cecile de France HereafterAnthony Breznican gets the taciturn Clint Eastwood to talk and finds that, "The real Eastwood is quick with a wisecrack, though strangers tend to see only the intimidating visage, not the amiable sense of humor. And he doesn't pretend to have every answer." As Anthony notes, "If anything, his best movies tend to be about irresolvable questions: 'Unforgiven' (1992), about whether violence can ever be justified, or 'Million Dollar Baby' (2004), which explored the pain of how a life should be allowed to end. 'Hereafter' is similar territory." Says Eastwood, "I'm not necessarily trying to find if there is a hereafter. I don't know. I go by proof. If somebody said, 'Do you believe in purgatory and heaven and all that kind of stuff?' I say that's to be proven. But I'm willing to be proven anything." USA TODAY

Dave Karger reports, "A week after the MPAA branded its domestic drama 'Blue Valentine' with an NC-17 rating, the Weinstein Company has decided to appeal the decision and hope for an R without any trims to the film." As Dave notes, "The NC-17 would limit the film’s audience and its Oscar chances. The question is whether the notoriously stubborn MPAA will budge." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Lou Lumenick reveals, "Two Oscar hopefuls have had their December theatrical debuts cancelled after they were tepidly received at last month's film festivals. The Weinstein Co. yanked Julian Schnabel's 'Miral' from a Dec. 3 limited opening and will dump, er, release this decades-spanning drama improbably starring India's Freida Pinto as a Palestinian in March. Meanwhile the Weinsteins' former associates at Disney have pulled the plug on plans to release John ('Shakespeare in Love') Madden's 'The Debt,'' a remake of an Israeli film with Helen Mirren as a guilt-stricken Mossad agent, on Dec. 29. NEW YORK POST

Jeff Wells pens a love letter to Rosamund Pike who has supporting roles in "Made in Dagenham" and "Barney's Version." Says Jeff, "People are going to have to sit down and see these films and realize on their own that Pike is the best thing about both, and then do and say something about that." HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE

• And Peter Knegt points out 10 other performances that could get overlooked in this year's awards derby. Among them "Ghost Writer" adversaries Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor and "Another Year" best friends Jim Broadbent and Peter Wight. INDIE WIRE

• As Joel Keller admits, "I had been trying to pin down an interview with Matthew Weiner since before the fourth season of the show ('Mad Men') began, and we finally were able to sit down and discuss the season earlier this week. What follows is a long, but pretty extensive, overview of season four, and while Weiner doesn't give any details about this Sunday's season finale, he does hope that 'people will see the finale and understand the journey that they went on for the season.'" TV SQUAD

Maureen Dowd uses the upcoming release of "Fair Game" to revisit the real-life controversy seven years on. For Dowd, "The movie makes clear that Plame was not merely 'a secretary' or 'mediocre agent' at the agency, as partisan critics charged at the time, but a respected undercover spy tracking Iraqi W.M.D. efforts." NEW YORK TIMES

John Lopez kicks off the "Little Gold Men" column with an in-depth look at the state of the Oscar race to date. VANITY FAIR

Photo: Clint Eastwood on the set of "Hereafter" with Cecile de France. Photo credit: Warner Bros.

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Gold Derby nuggets: 'The Social Network' connects | Clint Eastwood honored for tolerance | 'Boardwalk Empire' preview

September 15, 2010 | 11:22 am

The Social Network poster • Our pal Pete Hammond caught an early screening of "The Social Network" and thinks this "is Sony’s best shot at Best Picture in years, a lock for Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards. And most importantly, Oscar nominations in every major category including Director for David Fincher, Writing for Aaron Sorkin, lead actor for Jesse Eisenberg (playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg), Supporting Actor for both Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score, editing and so on. It also looks like it will be a major box office hit, hitting a nerve with the young demographic that are on the front lines of moviegoers." DEADLINE

• Surveying the playing field for this year's Oscars, Sasha Stone finds four forces to be reckoned with: "127 Hours" — "Danny Boyle’s second slam dunk is causing tears, standing ovations and, on occasion, seizures"; "The King's Speech" — "another film most seem to agree is one of the better films they’re seeing, and this is an across-the-board reaction"; "The Social Network" — "early word is good. Really good"; and "Inception" — "still one of the most imaginative studio films ever released, and a solid money maker." AWARDS DAILY

Lady Gaga proved to be a winner with the home audience as well as those voting on the MTV VMAs. This edition of the kudocast drew the highest ratings since 2002 with 11.4 million viewers. That is up 27% from last year. And in the key demographic of ages 12 to 34, the show earned a 10.0 rating, up 33%. Compare these stellar numbers to 2006, when only 5.8 million viewers tuned in. As Devon Thomas notes, "The show this year featured Lady Gaga in three outfits with eight awards as well as Taylor Swift and Kanye West performing new songs (their 'drama' from last year and responses garnered buzz from viewers who were curious to see what the two would do next)." CBS NEWS

• At the 15th annual edition of the Art Directors Guild kudos next Feb. 5, Alexander Golitizen, Albert Heschong and Eugene Lourie will be posthumously inducted into the hall of fame. Golitzen won Oscars for "Phantom of the Opera" (1943), "Spartacus" (1960) and "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), and contended 11 more times. He also designed the set for the Oscarcast on numerous occasions. Heschong was a TV stalwart, winning an Emmy for the "Playhouse 90" production of "Requiem for a Heavyweight." Lourie, a French designer, is best known for his work with Jean Renoir, including "Grand Illusion," the first foreign-language film to contend for best picture at the Oscars.

Motiff_logo • To celebrate its first film festival, the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles will salute Clint Eastwood as "an accomplished filmmaker whose films have brought awareness to themes encouraging tolerance, justice and human rights." Said the Center's Rabbi Marvin Hier, "We believe Mr. Eastwood is a superb choice for this award, which celebrates those whose work shines a light on themes of acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and forgiveness. That is certainly true of Mr. Eastwood’s outstanding cinematic achievements, with only the most recent examples being 'Letters From Iwo Jima,' 'Gran Torino' and 'Invictus.' " Eastwood will be feted at a gala on Nov. 14 while the festival, which runs for six days beginning Nov. 13, will "explore human rights issues and prevent hatred and genocide through the medium of film." MOTIFF

• On Tuesday, singer-songwriter Alan Jackson received the Founders Award at ASCAP's annual country music kudos in Nashville. ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams said the award, which has previously been handed to stars including Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul McCartney, recognized Jackson as "a supreme talent, inspirational songwriter, recording artist and modern legend, whose artistry, style and enduring music resonate with and inspire generations." A special musical tribute to Jackson included performances of several of his hits by Steve Earle, Dierks Bentley and Chris Young. Bentley won the songwriter/artist award while Brett James was top songwriter. "Need You Now," written by Josh Kear and released by Lady Antebellum, was named country song of the year. ASCAP

Bill Maher explains his record-breaking losing streak (0-26) at the Emmys to Randee Dawn. "A panel of like 10 people watches one tape. If half of those people are religious, that probably eliminates me right there. A lot of people wouldn't vote for such an outspoken atheist, someone who made 'Religulous.' " THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Boardwalk Empire HBO • The new HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" begins this Sunday, and Frazier Moore was wowed by the first installment, calling it a "wondrous new drama." Set in Atlantic City, "at the dawn of Prohibition when anything goes in this rollicking, stinking-rich resort town, the series boasts a robust cast including Steve Buscemi (as Nucky), Gretchen Mol, Dabney Coleman, Kelly Macdonald and, in a breakout portrayal as Jimmy, Michael Pitt." For creator Terence Winter it's a decade ripe for storytelling. "So much is going on: Women get the right to vote, the Black Sox scandal had just happened, broadcast radio came in and young people were starting to come to the fore influencing culture. All that, plus Prohibition was enacted." AP

Willa Paskin writes of Tyler Perry's new picture "For Colored Girls," which, she notes, "got pushed up from January to November, landing it smack in the middle of the Oscar race. This is less surprising than it may sound, given 'For Colored Girls' highbrow pedigree. The film is based on the play 'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf' by Ntozake Shange, which is structured as a series of twenty prose poems delivered by women. Judging from the trailer, much of the poetry remains. None of the lines delivered — by a cast that includes Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Phylicia Rashad — sound like regular dialogue. A little more regular is the big group hug scene and the omnipresent vibe of melodrama." VULTURE

• Looks like "The Conspirator" won't be contending at this year's Oscars. The Robert Redford film about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln premiered at the Toronto filmfest and, as per this report from Michael Cieply, "Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions said they acquired rights to distribute the film in the United States and plan to release it next spring." NEW YORK TIMES

Top photo: "The Social Network" poster. Credit: Columbia.

Middle photo: Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival logo. Credit: Museum of Tolerance.

Bottom photo: Steve Buscemi in "Boardwalk Empire." Credit: HBO.

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Calling all psychics: Will 'Hereafter' return Clint Eastwood to the Oscars?

September 13, 2010 |  2:07 pm

Clint Eastwood has had trouble getting back into the Oscar race lately. After winning best picture way back in 1992 ("Unforgiven"), he had a great run from 2003 to 2006 with two best-pic nominees ("Mystic River," "Letters From Iwo Jima") and one more champ ("Million Dollar Baby"), but then he got tripped up. His later films scored acting bids for Angelina Jolie ("Changeling") and Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon ("Invictus"), but they didn't make the best-picture contest. "Gran Torino" got shut out of all  categories, but most Oscarologists believe it would have done better if it had been released to theaters a few weeks earlier.

Hereafter Clint Eastwood news

Trotting out onto the derby track next: Clint's "Hereafter," which just broke out of the gate at the Toronto International Film Festival. It's hard to size up because it's not a typical Clint flick. It's part blockbuster (a tsunami hits in the first few minutes) and part sci-fi/fantasy (Matt Damon stars as a reluctant, real psychic) — two film genres that sometimes have trouble at the Oscars (except if they're "Avatar"). However, lots of Oscar royalty is involved, including producers Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Peter Morgan ("Frost/Nixon," "The Queen," "Last King of Scotland"). Plus lots of academy darlings in the crafts/tech areas.

Reviews have been mixed but mostly positive from major media sources.

ROGER EBERT, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: "I was surprised how enthralling I found it. ... 'Hereafter' is unlike any film Clint Eastwood has ever made, but you'd think he'd been preparing it for years."

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: "The film never is less than intriguing, right from its tour de force opening sequence, and often full of insights into why people long for answers, sometimes with great urgency. ... As with 'Letters From Iwo Jima' and 'Million Dollar Baby,' Eastwood has made a movie that shakes up the whole notion of what studio movies can be."

VARIETY: " 'Hereafter' is a beguiling blend of the audacious and the familiar but is armored against risibility by its deep pockets of emotion, sly humor and matter-of-fact approach to the fantastical."

Cinematical is among its detractors, blasting it as an "unchallenging dullard," but "Hereafter" may be critic-proof. I have a hunch it's going to be a blockbuster hit — just like "Ghost," which gave the masses the same comforting assurance that dead loved ones can communicate with us through the veil. "Ghost" spooked its detractors at the box office, pulling in $217 million domestically. At the Oscars, it reaped five nominations, including a surprise best-picture bid. It won two: best original screenplay (Bruce Joel Rubin) and supporting actress (Whoopi Goldberg).

Back in 1990, there were only half as many slots for best picture, of course. Until we observe how "Hereafter" performs after its theatrical release on Oct. 22, it's unwise to believe some Oscarologists who say it's not a strong contender for best picture. No doubt they're the same Oscarologists who pooh-poohed the possibility of another commercial, feel-good flick breaking in last year: "The Blind Side."

Hereafter clint eastwood tiff news 2
Hereafter clint eastwood tiff news

Photos, from top: "Hereafter." Credit: Warner Bros. Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon arrive at Toronto's Elgin Theatre for "Hereafter's" North American premiere. Eastwood, left, film costar Bryce Dallas Howard and Damon on stage before the film unspooled.  Credit: Tom O'Neil

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Gold Derby nuggets: 'Glee' gives back | Tonys a no-go for Conan O'Brien | 'Avatar' rules Empire awards | 'Lost' finale finds big bucks

March 30, 2010 |  7:00 am

Glee_logo • "Glee" fans who can't wait for the return of the freshman hit to Fox on April 13 can see the show a few days early at "Glee" charity screenings in nine cities nationwide. Monies raised from the preview of the 14th episode of the Golden Globe-winning musical comedy series will support the school music program run by the Grammys foundation.

• Oscars co-host Steve Martin told Sandy Cohen he wasn't nervous the second time around on the stage of the Kodak Theater because he has been performing live so much as of late. The musical Martin has been strumming the banjo out on tour with the Steep Canyon Rangers. AP

• Add comic-book star to the list of achievements for daytime and prime-time Emmy champ Ellen DeGeneres. The one-time Oscar host is featured in a series of comics from Bluewater Productions that salute women of power. Previous installments of the series have spotlighted politicos Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi as well as TV legends Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey.

• Reporting on Sunday's American Cinematheque fete for Matt Damon, Josh Duboff notes, "It was more like a Comedy Central roast than a stuffy Hollywood ceremony." Among those skewering Damon were his best bud and Oscar-winning screenplay collaborator Ben Affleck ("Good Will Hunting"), that film's acting Oscar champ,  Robin Williams, and Oscar winners George Clooney, Clint Eastwood and Charlize Theron. The ceremony will air on ABC sometime in the coming months. NEW YORK

Tony Award • CBS offered Conan O'Brien the hosting gig at the upcoming Tony Awards, but the onetime NBC star declined. Reports are that O'Brien had agreed to forego appearing on TV until Sept. 1 when the peacock net paid him nearly $45 million after he was yanked from "The Tonight Show" just seven months into his contract. However, O'Brien is still going legit as he hits the road beginning April 12 with the 30-city tour of the aptly titled "The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour." GOSSIP COP

• Two contenders for this year's Tony Awards are shuttering on Sunday, well in advance of the June 13 ceremony. The first rialto revival of the 1960 Tony-winning play "The Miracle Worker," starring Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") and Tony nominee Alison Pill ("The Lieutenant of Inishmore), opened to mixed reviews March 3. And the musical melange "All About Me" with Tony champ Dame Edna Everage ("The Royal Tour") and cabaret darling Michael Feinstein never found its footing after debuting March 18 to middling notices. These unexpected theater vacancies may well be filled by other shows rushing into town before the April 29 cutoff for Tony eligibility.

• Investing in a Broadway show is not for the fainthearted so the news that the musical "Next to Normal" has recouped its $4-million budget is indeed welcome. The tuner, about a woman battling bipolar disorder, won star Alice Ripley the lead actress award at last year's Tonys, bested "Billy Elliot" for score and tied with that show for orchestrations as well. Composer Tom Kitt credits the performance by the cast on the kudoscast with making the difference between profit and loss. "It seemed that our performance in a national forum that night created a new interest in the show." NEW YORK TIMES

Avatar Poster • On Sunday, "Avatar" picked up three awards, including best picture, from the U.K. film magazine Empire. James Cameron, who took the best director prize, attended the ceremony at London's Grosvenor House and said in his acceptance speech (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) that, "clearly the Empire magazine readership is more discerning than the British or American academies." No doubt Cameron was especially pleased that the film's performance-capture star Zoe Saldana won best actress. Supporting actor Oscar champ Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") went home with the best actor award. EMPIRE

• 1996 supporting actress Oscar champ Juliette Binoche ("The English Patient") has a starring role on the official poster of the Cannes film festival, set to unspool for the 63rd time beginning May 12 for a dozen days along the Croisette.

Rachel Weisz -- the 2005 supporting actress Oscar winner for "The Constant Gardener" -- may be battling James Bond in the 23rd installment of the long-running movie franchise. Weisz, who appears opposite Bond star Daniel Craig in the upcoming "Dream House," has joked in the past about being a Bond girl. But the plan is to have her star as the head of Quantum, the evil organization that has beset Bond in the last two movies. CINEMA BLEND

• Last year, Tim Allen reunited with the cast of "Home Improvement" to receive the Fan Favorite prize at the TV Land Awards. On April 17, he will host the eighth edition of these kudos at Sony Studios, with the festivities airing on the cable net on April 25. Among the already announced recipients are "Everybody Loves Raymond" (Impact award), "Glee" (Future Classic award) and, appropriately enough, the Legend award to both Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. And Farrah Fawcett -- who was left out of the "In Memoriam" segment of the Oscars -- will be paid tribute by her "Charlie's Angels" costars.

Lost_Logo • The 2005 Emmy-winning best drama series "Lost" signs off for good on May 23, and the alphabet net is reportedly looking for $900,000 -- that is four times the usual rate -- for a 30-second spot on the two-hour finale. Although that would make it the most expensive ad buy for a series this season, it is a real bargain next to the $2.3 million that some advertisers paid to NBC for spots on the finale of "Friends" in 2004. No word yet on what Fox will charge for the two-hour series finale of the 2006 Emmy-winning best drama series -- "24" -- when it airs the following night. AD AGE

• Add Adam Lambert to the list of bold-faced names topped by Tom Ford appearing at the L.A. celebration of the 21st annual GLAAD Media Awards on April 17. Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teenager whose high school canceled the prom rather than allow Constance and her girlfriend to attend, will present the Stephen F. Kolzak Award to Wanda Sykes. GLAAD

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First photo: "Glee" logo. Credit: Fox

Second photo: Tony Award statue. Credit: American Theater Wing

Third photo: "Avatar" poster. Credit: Fox

Fourth photo: "Lost" logo. Credit: ABC

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Gold Derby nuggets: Gabourey Sidibe's film future? | Exploring 'The Cove' | Steve Pond ponders Oscars

March 11, 2010 |  3:51 pm

Gabourey Sidibe Oscars Precious • In a provocative piece, Luchina Fisher asks, "Will Gabourey Sidibe's size limit her career?" Building off of Howard Stern's criticism Monday of the lead actress Oscar nominee for "Precious," Fisher interviewed, among others, New York casting director Bernard Telsey, who said Sidibe's size is both a plus and minus as well as Greg Kilday, film editor for The Hollywood Reporter, who said Hollywood will have to think creatively to find roles for Sidibe. By the by, Sidibe already has wrapped another film -- "Yelling to the Sky" -- and has just inked a deal to appear as a recurring character on the new Showtime series "The C Word."  ABC NEWS

• Five-time Emmy champ Kelsey Grammer is headlining the upcoming second Broadway revival of the 1984 top Tony tuner "La Cage Aux Folles." Initially Grammer will play the more sedate role of George opposite Douglas Hodge, who is recreating his Olivier-winning performance as the cross-dressing Albin. However, as Grammer told the New York Post, "In six months, I switch over to playing Albin. It really means I must memorize the whole show." PLAYBILL

• In a countdown of the top 10 Oscarcast jokes, this one by Jimmy Fallon topped the list: "Did everyone watch the Oscars last night? Or as I like to call it James Cameron’s own personal hurt locker." MEDIAITE

The Cove Oscars • On Tuesday, Louie Psihoyos, director of the Academy Award-winning documentary "The Cove" was interviewed by New York Times science scribe Andrew Revkin at the Asia Society in Gotham. The former National Geographic photographer "predicted that Japan would be more likely to shut down the seasonal capture and killing of thousands of dolphins because of the human health implications of eating dolphin meat -- which the film shows is laced with high levels of mercury -- than because of complaints about cruelty in the killing of the marine mammals." NEW YORK TIMES

• In anticipation of Betty White's guest-hosting appearance on the May 8 installment of "Saturday Night Live," the Daily Beast video crew has compiled 11 clips of the still sassy octogenarian in some of her most memorable TV moments, including two of the roles that won her Emmys: Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and Rose Nylund on "The Golden Girls." THE DAILY BEAST

Drew McWeeney is delighted that Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood ("Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby") has made a biopic of one-time FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover his next project. Dustin Lance Black -- who has penned the script -- won an Oscar last year for his original screenplay for "Milk," another true life story. HIT FIX

• In advance of Sunday's premiere of "The Pacific," HBO gathered 250 WWII vets in the nation's capital to salute their service. Among those praising their heroics were series producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg who wanted to make a companion piece to their 2001 Emmy-winning "Band of Brothers," which focused on the war in Europe. AP

OscarsSteve Pond shares nine lessons learned from this Oscar season, including this observation: "You can’t force populism on this batch of voters. If ever there was a year when the Academy was nudging voters to go for something popular, this was it. But the Best Picture winner hasn’t been a widely popular film since 'The Return of the King,' and voters refused to take the hints dropped by the expanded slate of nominees and the mass-appeal Oscar-show bookings. These voters like what they like, not what the public likes." THE ODDS

Amy Kaufman reviews the tweets of rookie Oscarcast producer Adam Shankman and discovers that he thinks the show was a rousing success. Among his recent tweets was this one -- "I'm spool tired stilli cnt believe I just produced 1 of the most successful Academy Awards of all time. Humbling." And on the subject of a return engagement as producer, Shankman tweeted: "I loved ths years #oscars. Best experience of my life. I'd just do things differently if I did them again 2 surprise ppl. dont wanna repeat." 24 FRAMES

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Top photo: Gabourey Sidibe at the 82nd annual Academy Awards. Credit: Mark Boster / LAT

Middle photo: "The Cove" poster. Credit: Lionsgate

Bottom photo: Academy Award statues. Credit: AMPAS

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Beware: Here comes an 'Inglourious' upset at the Oscars

February 17, 2010 | 10:17 am

The Academy Awards never go according to script. Although most Oscarologists say that "The Hurt Locker" or "Avatar" will win best picture, they may be underestimating that sneaky dark horse poised to pull off a classic derby upset: "Inglourious Basterds."

Yes, "The Hurt Locker" has the most momentum and buzz right now and appears to be the front-runner – with "Avatar" close enough behind to dash ahead in the homestretch. But "Basterds" is within striking distance too and, I believe, will strike.

Oscars Academy Awards news upset prediction 2

"We're going to win best picture," vows its executive producer, veteran Oscar grabber Harvey Weinstein, whose former studio Miramax won best pic twice ("Chicago" in 2002, "Shakespeare in Love" in 1998) when it was part of Disney. Now that Harvey is out on his own with the Weinstein Co., he's hellbent to have his shingle do it again, although technically he won't win a statuette himself. That'll go to producer Lawrence Bender if "Basterds" does prevail. Harvey got a taste of victory last year with Weinstein Co.'s "The Reader" being nommed for best pic and winning best actress for Kate Winslet. But now he tells my Envelope colleague Pete Hammond that "Basterds" will nail it: "We are going for it and we are gonna get it."

As Pete's article points out, Harvey's mounting a full-throttle blitzkrieg across Hollywood. Last week Gold Derby caught agent Ari Emanuel rallying Quentin Tarantino's pals at Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills. Meantime, out in Manhattan, New York magazine's Vulture blog spied Quentin and Harvey huddling with Oscar voters "in the fantastically opulent Upper East Side townhouse of director/rich person" Katharina Otto-Bernstein "to pretend they were only sort of campaigning for Oscars."

One of Harvey's best picture victories, "Shakespeare in Love," was a jaw-dropper pulled off after it won the ensemble prize at the Screen Actors Guild, the same award "Crash" nabbed before usurping the best picture trophy in 2005. At the most recent SAG Awards, that ensemble award was snagged by "Inglourious Basterds."

One of the most respected Oscarologists on the planet, Jack Mathews -- former film critic of the New York Daily News who now writes for Moviefone -- believes that "Basterds" has a real shot to win: "A very good case can be made for its ability to pull off a 'Shakespeare'-size upset. It received just one less nomination than 'Avatar' and 'The Hurt Locker' and it has received them in all of the pertinent categories -- picture, directing, acting, screenplay and film editing. It also did well at the box office, selling $120.5 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada and $193 million overseas. Academy voters don't always reward the biggest commercial success, which is 'Avatar;' nor are they known for throwing gold in the direction of box office bombs, which is 'The Hurt Locker.' Compared to those extremes, 'Basterds' may have just the right mix of good filmmaking and commercial appeal."

Other notable Oscarologists like Hammond believe a "Basterds" upset is possible too. Susan Wloszcyzyna of USA Today says, "If any film has a chance to pull an upset (over 'The Hurt Locker'), it's going to be 'Basterds' and not 'Avatar.'" See Gold Derby's roundups of diverse opinions about a possible "Basterds" upset from many major Oscar pundits here and here.

"Basterds" also has something else in its favor that often decides what wins best picture: a famous person behind it who's overdue for Oscar glory.

Former Variety editor Peter Bart has a brilliant Oscar theory we should all carve on tablets to be doled out from mountaintops. He says that movies that win best picture almost always have a recognizable person behind them that we wish to give an Oscar. "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) and "Unforgiven" (1992) won, for example, because Hollywood wanted to hug Clint Eastwood. No one -- let's be honest -- thought that "The Departed" was the best picture of 2006. It prevailed because Hollywood wanted to give an overdue best picture hug to Marty Scorsese. Even though "A Beautiful Mind" (2001) was under fierce media attack for sugarcoating the oft-sordid story of its real-life protagonist, it still won because Hollywood was determined to catch up with Ron Howard.

Of the key people behind the three current best picture leaders, there's less urgency to reward James Cameron since his "Titanic" swept in the past, tying "Ben-Hur's" record (11 wins). But he's not completely out of the running considering that Eastwood's films won twice. However, "Avatar" may be cursed because no sci-fi flick has ever claimed the top Oscar.

If so, then best picture is a race between Kathryn Bigelow and Tarantino. Early tea leaves say Bigelow should win because she claimed top honors from two prizes that often mirror Oscar's outcome: the producers' and directors' guilds. In fact, PGA's voting method mirrored Oscar's exactly using a preferential ballot with 10 nominees and "The Hurt Locker" won. Doesn't that guarantee that it'll win best picture at the Oscars too?

No. This year the main focus is chiefly on Bigelow. She's a glamorous, even heroic filmmaker -- a sexy person to vote for in many ways. At PGA and DGA there was only one category for voters to embrace her. However, at the Oscars, there are two -- best picture and director -- and that's the key difference. Voters will certainly give Bigelow the Oscar for best director and, once they've checked off that list, they may wish to go elsewhere with their best picture vote. Maybe to that other notable person who's overdue for Oscar glory: Tarantino.

In 1932-43, when the Oscars expanded their best picture race to more than five nominees, the winner didn't agree with best director five times (42%) out of 12 derbies. Over the last decade, the director and picture races were out of sync three out of 10 races (30%).

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Oscars guided by guild awards in nominations

February 2, 2010 | 10:01 am

Oscars New Members movie news 1357986 This year, 19 of the 20 SAG acting nominees are contending at the Academy Awards. The only one not to make the cut was SAG supporting actress contender Diane Kruger ("Inglourious Basterds"), who was replaced on the Oscars ballot by Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Crazy Heart").

Last year, 18 of the 19 SAG acting nominees repeated at the Academy Awards. As double SAG nominee Kate Winslet was bumped up by the Oscars from supporting to lead for "The Reader," she was denied a lead nod for "Revolutionary Road." However, that film's Michael Shannon managed to knock SAG nominee Dev Patel of "Slumdog Millionaire" out of the supporting race.

Two years ago, 15 of the 20 SAG nominees went on to compete at the Oscars. Three years ago, it was also 19 of the 20 with the one variation coming from the same film -- "The Departed" -- as SAG nominee Leonardo DiCaprio was replaced at Oscar time by Mark Wahlberg.

Four of the five SAG-nominated ensembles appear in Oscar-nominated best pictures with only "Nine" not making it into the top 10. Last year, four of the five SAG-nominated ensembles also did so, with SAG contender "Doubt" replaced by "The Reader." "Slumdog Millionaire" won both awards. Two years ago, only one SAG ensemble nominee -- "No Country for Old Men" -- made it into the best picture race, although that film won both prizes as well. Three years ago, it was three of five, with "Little Miss Sunshine" taking the SAG prize but losing the top Oscar to "The Departed."

Last year, all five of the lead actress nominees also competed for both awards. Two years ago, it was four of five as the only SAG nominee not needing a babysitter come Oscar night was Angelina Jolie ("A Mighty Heart"), whose spot went to "The Savages" star Laura Linney.

As with this year, last year's supporting actress race matched up only four to five as the promotion of Winslet for "The Reader" left room at the Oscars for the addition of Marisa Tomei ("The Wrestler"). Two years ago, this race was also four for five with SAG nominee Catherine Keener ("Into the Wild") replaced by Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement").

Last year, lead actor also matched up perfectly. Two years ago, it went three for five with the SAG nominees as relative newcomers Emile Hirsch ("Into the Wild") and Ryan Gosling ("Lars and the Real Girl") were replaced at the Oscars by Hollywood vets Johnny Depp ("Sweeney Todd") and Tommy Lee Jones ("In the Valley of Elah").

Last year's supporting actor race was four for five with Shannon replacing Patel. Two years ago, SAG nominee Tommy Lee Jones ("No Country for Old Men") was replaced by Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Charlie Wilson's War").

This year, the DGA lineup is repeated at the Oscars. Last year's DGA picks for best director matched up with four of the five academy choices as DGA nominee Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight") was edged out at the Oscars by Stephen Daldry ("The Reader"). Two years ago, DGA nominee Sean Penn ("Into the Wild") lost his Oscar slot to Jason Reitman, who helmed best pic nominee "Juno."

Of this year's 10 PGA nominees for best picture, eight of them earned Oscar nods. The exceptions: One box office champ -- "Star Trek" -- was replaced by another -- "The Blind Side" -- and one set of Oscar favorites -- Clint Eastwood and "Invictus" -- was replaced by another -- the Coen brothers and "A Serious Man."

Last year, the PGA went four for five with the Oscar contenders as "The Dark Knight" was bumped by "The Reader." Two years ago, it was also four for five with PGA nominee "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" replaced by "Atonement."

This year, only two of the five WGA nominees for original screenplay -- "The Hurt Locker" and "A Serious Man" -- are contending at the Oscars. Last year, just one of the five WGA nominees for original screenplay made it into the Oscar race -- eventual winner Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"). Two years ago, the WGA picks lined up with the Oscar nominees except for "Knocked Up," which was knocked out of the competition by the team that whipped up "Ratatouille."

The adapted screenplay Oscar race only includes two of the WGA nominees as well -- "Precious" and "Up in the Air." Last year, the Oscars went four for five with only the WGA nominees for "The Dark Knight" bumped by David Hare, who adapted "The Reader." Two years ago, Sean Penn, who wowed the WGA with his adaptation of "Into the Wild," was snubbed at the Oscars as was the scripter for "Zodiac." They were replaced by "Atonement" adapter Christopher Hampton and first time writer-director Sarah Polley.

The Oscar nominees for best cinematography line up with the American Society of Cinematographers choices with the exception of "Nine" lenser Dion Beebe, who was replaced by "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" shooter Bruno Delbonnel. Last year, ASC nominee Roger Deakins ("Revolutionary Road") was replaced at the Oscars by Tom Stern for "Changeling." Two years ago, the ASC went five for five.

This year, the Oscar nominees for editing include just three of the American Cinema Editors' picks as the cutters for "Inglourious Basterds" and "Precious" replace those for "Star Trek" and "Up in the Air." Last year, the nominees lined up, and two years ago, ACE nominee "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was replaced by "Michael Clayton."

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Biggest snubs at the Golden Globe nominations: Hey, where's 'Invictus,' 'A Serious Man' and poor Bryan Cranston?

December 15, 2009 |  7:23 am

When Golden Globe nominations were unveiled this morning, Clint Eastwood was nominated for best director and Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon scored bids as thespians, but "Invictus" was snubbed in the race for best drama picture. This same odd split occurred in 2006 when Eastwood was nominated TWICE for best director for "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima," but "Flags" was snubbed for best drama picture. ("Iwo Jima" wasn't eligible for that category but ended up contending for best foreign-lingo film.)

Speaking of that directors' category: where's Lee Daniels ("Precious")?

Other Golden Globe oddities: "A Serious Man" wasn't taken too seriously in the race for best comedy/musical picture. It got skunked, but star Michael Stuhlbarg made the list for best actor. By contrast, over the last week, "A Serious Man" was nominated for best picture by the Critics' Choice Awards, and it made the top 10 lists from the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review.

Golden Globes nominationos news

There's something else funny (or not so funny) about the Golden Globes' comedy race: "(500) Days of Summer" and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt were nominated for best picture and actor, but costar Zoey Deschanel ("Summer" herself! — that's the lead character's name) got the cold shoulder!

Alec Baldwin wasn't nommed for "It's Complicated" — oh, no! Let's hope that doesn't hurt his odds for an Oscar bid. For maximum mischief and drama's sake, Baldwin must be nominated while hosting the Academy Awards ceremony, don't you agree?

Over on the TV side: poor Bryan Cranston. The "Breaking Bad" star recently won best drama actor twice at the Emmys, but he can't catch a break at the Globes.

Considering how much the Globes usually love the hottest new TV shows, it's surprising not to see "FlashForward" or "The Good Wife" up for best drama series.

NOT NOMINATED FOR BEST DRAMA PICTURE
"The Blind Side"
"District 9"
"The Lovely Bones"
"The Messenger"
"An Education"
"A Single Man"

NOT NOMINATED FOR BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL PICTURE
"The Proposal"
"A Serious Man"
"Sherlock Holmes"

NOT NOMINATED FOR BEST DRAMA ACTOR
Nicolas Cage, "Bad Lieutenant"
Sharlto Copley, "District 9"
Robert De Niro, "Everybody's Fine"
Ben Foster, "The Messenger"
Hal Holbrook, "That Evening Sun"
Viggo Mortensen, "The Road"
Brad Pitt, "Inglourious Basterds"
Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"
Michael Sheen, "The Damned United"

NOT NOMINATED FOR BEST DRAMA ACTRESS
Shohreh Aghdashloo, "The Stoning of Soraya M."
Brenda Blethyn, "London River"
Abbie Cornish, "Bright Star"
Penelope Cruz, "Broken Embraces"
Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart"
Saoirse Ronan, "The Lovely Bones"
Audrey Tautou, "Coco Before Chanel"

NOT NOMINATED FOR BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL ACTOR
Jim Carrey, "A Christmas Carol"
Sacha Baron Cohen, "Bruno"
Bradley Cooper, "The Hangover"
Ryan Reynolds, "The Proposal"

Continue reading »

Gold Derby nuggets: Daytime Emmy primers | Beyonce to perform at MTV VMAs | Early Oscars noodling

August 28, 2009 |  3:10 pm

• Getting ready for the Daytime Emmys to be telecast on Sunday at 8 p.m. PDT/ EDT on the CW network? Here are two primer articles to check out: our curtain-raiser here at The Envelope plus the report in Variety.

Morgan freeman

• If Scott Feinberg is correct, the 10 Oscar nominees for best picture will be the following, listed here in order of likelihood of winning: "Invictus," "Nine," "Amelia," "Up in the Air," "Precious," "Avatar," "The Lovely Bones," "An Education," "Capitalism: A Love Story" and "The Hurt Locker." In the derbies for best actor and actress, he puts Morgan Freeman ("Invictus") and Carey Mulligan ("An Education") out front. And the Winner Is. . . .

• Beyonce is not only up for nine Moonmen on Sept. 13, she'll also perform at the MTV Video Music Awards crooning "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." Other performers include hubby Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Green Day, Pink and Muse. This will be the third time she's sung on the show. She did "Crazy in Love" in 2003 and "Ring the Alarm" in 2006. MTV

• Sept. 1 is the deadline for documentary filmmakers to submit their work for Oscar consideration. Oscars.org

Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon," which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, has just won the Grand Prix bestowed by the International Federation of Film Critics (Fipresci). It's also been named Germany's entry to the Oscars. Previous champs were Oscar ponies "Volver" and "There Will Be Blood."  Variety

• Below is the trailer to quirky Oscar contender "The Men Who Stare at Goats," a film about a secret U.S. military unit devoted to exploring psychic power. It not only stars George Clooney, but it's directed by Grant Heslov, who cowrote "Good Night, and Good Luck" with Clooney, and co-produced and costarred in "Leatherheads" with him too. Oh, yeah, "Goats" also stars Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey. It's based upon Jon Ronson's 2004 book.

Photo: Warner Bros.

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Which films are front-runners to win the next Oscars?

March 16, 2009 |  9:28 am

The last Oscars derby ended just weeks ago, but -- admit it -- you can't wait to find out which ponies are out front for the next race. Our forum posters are already making early predix here, but below is some of our own noodling too.

Among the Oscar contenders for best picture, for example, are Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones," Clint Eastwood's untitled project, Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island," Rob Marshall's "Nine," Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" and Stephen Frears' "Cheri."

The Oscar winning "Lord of the Rings" scripters Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens adapted Alice Sebold's best-selling novel, "The Lovely Bones." Jackson -- who also won Oscars for directing and producing the third film in the 'Rings' trilogy -- performs the same roles here. Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement") is the murdered girl who watches over her grieving parents -- Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg ("The Departed") and supporting actress winner Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener").

Clint_eastwood_matt_damon_morgan_fr

Clint Eastwood won his two directing Oscars for best picture champs "Unforgiven" (1992) and "Million Dollar Baby" (2004). Four-time nominee Morgan Freeman co-starred in both those films and won the supporting Oscar for the latter. The old friends reunite for this fact-based film (at one time titled "The Human Factor") set in post-apartheid South Africa. Freeman portrays Nelson Mandela and Oscar nominee Matt Damon ("Good Will Hunting") as the coach of the first integrated rugby team.

With the period crime drama "Shutter Island" based on the 2003 best-selling mystery by Dennis Lehane ("Mystic River"), Martin Scorsese helms his first film since winning an Oscar for 2006 best picture "The Departed." Three-time Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "The Aviator," "Blood Diamond") takes direction from Scorsese for the fourth time. He plays a U.S. marshal searching for a patient (Emily Mortimer) missing from a Cape Cod hospital for the criminally insane in 1954. Oscar winner Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi") is the head of the hospital, with Oscar nominees Max von Sydow ("Pelle the Conqueror") as a dubious doctor and Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mountain") as DeCaprio's wife.

Rob Marshall ("Chicago") works his magic on another stage-to-screen transfer with an adaptation of the 1982 Tony-winning best musical "Nine" that was, in turn, inspired by Federico Fellini's 1963 Oscar-winning "8½." Two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis ("My Left Foot," "There Will Be Blood") is the wayward film director at the center of the action, while a bevy of Oscar winners are the women in his life -- Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") as his faithful wife, Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Christina Barcelona") as his mistress, Nicole Kidman ("The Hours) as his protege, Judi Dench ("Shakespeare in Love") as his mentor and Sophia Loren ("Two Women") as his mother.

Oscar winner Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain") reunites with Oscar-nominated scripter James Schamus ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") for "Taking Woodstock," a biopic set against the backdrop of the famed 1969 musical festival. With Schamus now head of Focus Features, expect a big push from the studio for this period piece. Emmy-nominated writer Demetri Martin ("Late Night with Conan O'Brien") plays the son of the couple -- two-time Oliver winner Henry Goodman ("Assassins," "The Merchant of Venice") and Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton ("Vera Drake") -- behind the festival. The rest of the cast is filled with theater folk, including Tony winners Liev Schreiber ("Glengarry Glen Ross") and Dan Folger ("The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee") and nominee Jonathan Groff ("Spring Awakening").

Meryl_streep_oscars_julie_and_jul_2

Twenty-one years after "Dangerous Liaisons," Michelle Pfeiffer reunites with director Stephen Frears ("The Queen") and Oscar-winning scripter Christopher Hampton for an adaptation of Colette's 1920 novel, "Cheri." Back then, Pfeiffer earned the first of her three Oscar nods for playing the innocent; her other noms came for "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and "Love Field." Now she is the seductress who beds the young son (Rupert Friend) of her courtesan friend (Oscar winner Kathy Bates, "Misery").

And while Pfeiffer has never won an Oscar, Meryl Streep just lost for the 13th time. She could be contending again for playing chef Julia Child in "Julie and Julia." Writer-turned-director Nora Ephron earned Oscar nods for her original scripts for "Silkwood," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle." In her adaptation of Julie Powell's best-selling memoir, Ephron tells the parallel stories of a modern day woman -- two-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams ("Junebug," "Doubt") -- working her way through Julia Child's classic cookbook and its origins.

In flashbacks set in 1950s Paris, Meryl Streep plays the culinary wizard and her "Devil Wears Prada" co-star Stanley Tucci is her husband. An accent and a physical transformation could well earn the soon-to-be 60-year-old actress another Oscar nod after 12 leading bids and another three supporting ones. And while she has only two wins ("Kramer vs. Kramer," "Sophie's Choice") to show for her efforts, Streep should remember that all-time champ Katharine Hepburn didn't take three of her four lead actress Oscars till she was at least that age. This contender is produced by Scott Rudin ("Doubt," "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood") and due to open Aug. 7.

Photos: Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures

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Matt Damon: Oscars usually get it wrong

March 16, 2009 |  9:23 am

"I don't think that the awards necessarily get it right," Matt Damon told Parade. "I think they get it wrong more often than they get it right."

Matt_damon_ben_affleck_oscars

Matt Damon didn't say if he thinks the Oscars got it wrong when he and Ben Affleck won best screenplay of 1997 for "Good Will Hunting," but he apparently thinks that he should've been in the derby trot for the same film much more recently.

"I think that the best way to judge movies is, like, 10 years after they're released," he added. "I think they should actually do the awards that way. I think they should have done the Academy Awards this year for movies from 1998."

So that must mean that Matt Damon may wish not to be considered for his roles in films due out this year like Clint Eastwood's "The Human Factor," and Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret," and Paul Greengrass' "Green Zone" and Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant" till 2019.

Hey, in the photo above, doesn't it look like Damon and Affleck are trying to give back their Oscars?

Do you think they also want to give back their Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards?

Photo: ABC

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