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

Category: Darren Aronofsky

Gold Derby nuggets: EW covers 'The Social Network' | 'Tangled' unfurled | Anderson Cooper to daytime

September 30, 2010 | 11:46 am

Social-network-entertainment-weekly-coverDave Karger chats with the cast of "The Social Network" including this week's EW cover boys Justin Timberlake, Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield as well as screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. In the print interview, Timberlake talks about his dormant music career, admitting, "Does a painter make a painting because he has to make it by December 21st? No, he doesn't. It happens when it pours out of him. That’s how music is for me." And when pushed about future projects, Timberlake responds, "All I'm saying is, in very simple terms, I'll know when I know. And until I know, I don't know." EW

• In a provocative article, Gregg Kilday and Matthew Belloni ask, "Will white be the only color on the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards?" Their answer: "Although Oscar contenders are just lining up at the starting gate for the annual run for the gold, there's a real possibility that for the first time since the 73rd Oscars 10 years ago, there will be no black nominees in any of the acting categories at the February ceremony. In fact, there are virtually no minorities in any of the major categories among the early lists of awards hopefuls." THR

Paul Bond writes that the marketing of "Secretariat" has taken a page from "The Blind Side" playbook by targeting Christian audiences. As he notes, the film "even opens with a lengthy quote from the Bible, a portion of God's speech to Job. A trailer that includes those lines is on Christian websites all over the Internet, and some of those sites contain the earliest reviews of the film and offer users a chance to see advanced screenings." Director Randall Wallace told THR that the Bible quote is "transcendent" explaining, "I wanted to capture that timelessness and majesty. The idea that courage prevails." THR

• Friday at 5 p.m. PDT is the deadline for submitting entries in three of the 24 competitive categories at the Oscars: foreign-language film, animated short and live-action short. Each country can enter only one foreign-language film. Last year, 65 nations competed for the five slots. AMPAS

• The Santa Barbara filmfest is celebrating the career of Harrison Ford on Nov. 19 with a gala where he will receive the 5th annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film. In a statement, the 93-year-old screen legend for whom the prize is named said, "I'm delighted to give this award to Harrison Ford. It's always a pleasure to honor these young actors who do so well." SBIFF

Tangled poster For Steve Pond, Disney's newest film, "Tangled," is "the likeliest Animated Feature nominee this side of 'Toy Story 3' (and perhaps 'How to Train Your Dragon'), and you can probably reserve a Best Song slot for one of the Alan Menken/Glenn Slater songs -– maybe the heroine’s statement-of-purpose anthem that comes early in the film, or the big romantic ballad from later on." Pond attended a preview of the film Wednesday and reports that "Disney rarely shows its work to press and guests before the films are finished but in this case, the product clearly warranted a sneak peek. Even with portions of the movie in storyboards or incomplete form, one thing was clear: 'Tangled' is a vibrant, touching film that feels fresh even as it hearkens back to the classic Disney animation of the early 1990s." THE ODDS

Anthony Breznican reports that the six films in the "Star Wars" saga are being converted into 3-D. The first of the films in chronological order -- "The Phantom Menace" -- will be the guinea pig for this highly technical task and should be re-released sometime in 2012. As Lucasfilm spokeswoman Lynne Hale told him, "The process is really extensive, and we want to make sure each of the films gets the attention it needs, so we're not ready to talk about the release patterns of the other films." USA TODAY

• Four-time Oscar champ Katharine Hepburn is the subject of a new exhibition at Ohio's Kent State University. The school bought her extensive collection of costumes that range from stage appearances in the 1930s to TV movies in the 1980s. Designers represented include Adrian, Cecil Beaton, Coco Chanel, Edith Head, Irene and Walter Plunkett. KSU

Scott Feinberg passes along this sad news: "Joe Mantell, one of Hollywood’s most prolific character actors for over half a century, has passed away at the age of 94, his family informed me this evening. Mantell is probably best remembered for 'Marty' -- both the landmark live television version that aired on 'The Philco Television Playhouse' in 1953, with Rod Steiger, and the best picture winning film version in 1955, with Ernest Borgnine -- in which he portrayed the title character’s best friend Angie, who famously asks him over and over again, 'Well, what do you feel like doin’ tonight?' (He was nominated for the best supporting actor Oscar for the latter.)" SCOTT FEINBERG

• The 20th annual Gotham Awards will fete Darren Aronofsky, Hilary Swank, Robert Duvall and Focus Features exec James Schamus during the Nov. 29 ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street. Says Oscar sage Sasha Stone, "Robert Duvall is up for the Oscar this year with 'Get Low.' Swank is under consideration for 'Conviction.' And Aronofsky is all the rage this year for 'Black Swan.' James Schamus and Focus Features bring to the table 'The Kids Are All Right,' 'Somewhere,' 'The American' and 'It’s Kind of a Funny Story.' The Gothams can sometimes herald in contenders -- my first pass at this is that it breathes life into Robert Duvall’s campaign, and possibly Hilary Swank. They are the two that benefit most from this." AWARDS DAILY

Cooper.anderson.b • Looking to fill the void when Oprah Winfrey leaves the airwaves, prime-time CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is picking up a day job as well, hosting a weekday talker beginning in the fall of 2011. In the statement making the announcement, Cooper said, "Over the course of the past few years, I've had the opportunity to work on a number of daytime programs. It's fun and interesting to work in daytime television. The format is unique and you can really go in-depth on a wide range of fascinating and compelling stories. With this new program I hope to relay important information and relate to people and the audience in a completely different way. It's an exciting opportunity to show another side of myself and create something worthwhile and special in daytime." DEADLINE

•"Modern Family" mates Cam and Mitchell shared their first kiss on Wednesday's episode. As Willa Paskin observes, "The kiss was both frustratingly and admirably understated. On the one hand, seriously, that's what you call a kiss?! On the other, 'Modern Family's' creators didn't bow to the pressure to make Cam and Mitchell's kiss a huge deal, sacrificing character and story line in the process." VULTURE

• "The Flintstones" began its six-season run on ABC on this date back in 1960. To celebrate the golden anniversary, cablecaster Boomerang is airing the first episode in the 8:30 p.m. time slot, as it originally ran. The show contended for an Emmy in the field of humor for its first season, losing to "The Jack Benny Show." Rich Keller has compiled eight fun facts about the cartoon classic and peppered them with must-see clips. TV SQUAD

Ben Stiller is coming full circle for his return to Broadway by starring in a revival of "The House of Blue Leaves" next spring. He made his only appearance on Broadway in the 1986 Lincoln Center production of John Guare's 1971 dark comedy. Back then, Stiller played the sane son in a family of daydreamers, while John Mahoney and Swoozie Kurtz were his less-than-understanding parents. Now, Stiller takes on the role of the father while Emmy champ Edie Falco will play his wife. Mahoney and Kurtz both won Tonys for their efforts in the featured races. Will Stiller and Falco stay in these races or bump up to lead like Viola Davis did successfully this past season for the revival of "Fences." PLAYBILL

Upper photo: Entertainment Weekly cover. Credit: Entertainment Weekly

Middle photo: "Tangled" poster. Credit: Disney

Lower photo: Anderson Cooper. Credit: CNN

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Natalie Portman is the official Oscar front-runner

September 10, 2010 |  2:21 pm

"That's it! The best actress race is already over!" gasped a notable Oscar-tracking journo after witnessing Natalie Portman's dazzling diva turn in Darren Aronofsky's ballet thriller, "Black Swan," at the Toronto International Film Festival.

I was equally wowed and tempted to agree with that Oscar assessment except for one cautious reminder. At this point on last year's calendar we didn't know that the eventual winners of the last Academy Awards for best actress and actor -- Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") and Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") -- were even in the running.

Natalie Portman Black Swan-1

That said, it's still fun to make fierce pronouncements, so let's leap as boldly as Portman does on screen while she performs "Swan Lake": Yes, she's out front. Yes, Portman will be very hard to beat because she's got many strong advantages.

1) DIVA APPEAL: In "Black Swan," Portman gives in dance what many past winners did in song -- the full-throttle diva performance: Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl"), Liza Minnelli ("Cabaret") and Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"). Unfortunately, ballet has played only a minor role at Oscars past, so it's hard to look backward for guidance to what will happen ahead. "The Turning Point" spawned two best actress nominees (who probably canceled each other out in the voting), Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, but they played dancers past their prime, not bouncing ferociously and constantly on stage.

2) GET PHYSICAL: Throughout the two hours of "Black Swan," Portman gives an even more athletic performance than Hilary Swank did when boxing her way to an Oscar victory for "Million Dollar Baby."

3) THE BABE FACTOR: Those notoriously frisky good ol' boys in the motion picture academy have clearly turned the best actress competition into a beauty contest in recent years: Sandra Bullock ("Blind Side"), Charlize Theron ("Monster"), Nicole Kidman ("The Hours"), Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"), Julia Roberts ("Erin Brockovich"), Gwyneth Paltrow ("Shakespeare in Love") plus many more examples in between and earlier. Portman is knockout gorgeous in "Black Swan."

4) THE SEX FACTOR: Overt eroticism used to be a turnoff at the Oscars in more prudish times, but nowadays we're seeing those academy gents get excited by sexy roles. Some cynics say Kate Winslet ("The Reader") and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball") wouldn't have won without their brazen sex scenes. In "Black Swan," Portman has steamy masturbation and lesbian scenes.

Continue reading »

Oscar mystery surrounds 'Black Swan'

September 7, 2010 |  6:08 am
Black Swan natalie portman news

"Natalie Portman’s dazzling tour de force makes her an instant leading contender in every best-actress race," Pete Hammond (Deadline Hollywood) proclaimed about her performance in "Black Swan" after its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival.  The London Times decreed Portman so "astounding" in Darren Aronofky's ballet thriller that "awards are sure to follow."

Portman is so lovely that she could certainly fit this year's "The Babe Factor" at the Oscars, where the best-actress race has largely been a beauty pageant for more than a decade (Sandra Bullock, Marion Cotillard, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, etc.). It can't hurt that she has a steamy lesbian scene in "Black Swan" that will surely get noticed by those notoriously frisky good ol' boys in the motion picture academy.

But is Portman really such a shoo-in for best actress? And what about "Black Swan" getting into the best picture race? Aronofky's "The Wrestler" didn't make the cut for best picture of 2008, but there were only five nominees back then.

Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood, Indiewire) includes "Black Swan" on her list of top 13 strongest rivals to be nominated for the top 10 best-pic slots, but she's not confident about its chances. She says, "I wonder how 'Black Swan' will fare on the academy side. It may be painful for older voters to watch" because of its violence on screen. Nonetheless, Thompson believes "actors may laud Portman."

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