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Category: Hilary Swank

Gold Derby nuggets: Pete Hammond: Oscars in November | 'The Hobbit' sets starting date | Supporting race surprises

October 15, 2010 |  5:23 pm

• After reviewing the pros and cons of moving the Oscars, Pete Hammond proposes that they should indeed change the ceremony's timing. However, for Pete, such a shift should not be just the few weeks being bandied about as of late but months earlier -- in November. DEADLINE

Sasha Stone considers five films that could replicate the success of "The Blind Side" at this year's Oscars. Leading her list is "For Colored Girls" followed by "Love and Other Drugs" and "Secretariat." "How Do You Know" and "The Town" round out her selections for that slot. AWARDS DAILY

Kris Tapley and Anne Thompson welcome In Contention contributor Guy Lodge and Indie Wire blogger Peter Knegt to the latest installment of their weekly Oscar Talk podcast. IN CONTENTION

The Hobbit • "The Hobbit" is a go, says Sharon Waxman. Peter Jackson, who hauled home three Oscars for his work on the final film in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, is helming the two prequels with lensing on the first to start in February. As Sharon notes, "Jackson was already on board to write and produce 'The Hobbit.' But because of financial turmoil at MGM, which owns half of the franchise together with Warners' New Line Cinema, the project became one of the most torturous in Hollywood history. Sets have already been built in New Zealand, and actors -- including Sir Ian McKellan -- have been on hold for months; Martin Freeman has been rumored to play Bilbo Baggins." THE WRAP

• On Oct. 18 at 1 p.m. ET, former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell will host a live webcast to reveal the nominees for the 20th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards. The awards will be handed out on Nov. 29 at Cipriani Wall Street. In addition to the competitive kudos, actors Robert Duvall and Hilary Swank, director Darren Aronofsky and Focus Features’ CEO James Schamus will each be presented with a career tribute. GOTHAM AWARDS

• With two-time Oscar champ Hilary Swank's latest film, "Conviction," opening Friday, Kyle Buchanan and Claude Brodesser-Aknera analyze her award and career prospects. As they observe, "Unlike many actresses her age, the 36-year-old Swank is better suited for award-caliber dramas than romantic comedies, and while Hollywood is rough on women already, it's even less receptive to the idea of building a mid-priced drama around one." VULTURE

Nathaniel Rogers turns his attention to the supporting actor race. As he notes, "Lately, Oscar voters have been on a villainous bender in the Supporting Actor category. There are many reasons for this, the first being who the hell would deny Ledger in '07, Bardem in '08 and Waltz in '09? But aside from a great quality performance -- not usually the deciding factor -- Oscar has always enjoyed a good stock role, particularly in the Supporting categories. Are they in the mood for The Sidekick, The Villain, The Wisened Old Man/Mentor, The Sad Sack, or The Eccentric Weirdo?" THE FILM EXPERIENCE

Erik Childress makes the provocative suggestion that Annette Bening should consider dropping down to the supporting race for her performance in "The Kids Are All Right." MOVIEFONE

Image: "The Hobbit" book cover. Credit: Houghton Mifflin Co.

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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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Toronto Film Festival lineup loaded with Oscar hopefuls

July 27, 2010 | 10:45 am

TIFFlogo-1024x309 The 35th annual edition of the Toronto Film Festival is scheduled to include the world and North American premieres of a slew of awards contenders. This year's festival is to kick off on Sept. 9 and run for 11 days.

Among the 50 titles announced Tuesday are the following films that could well figure in the contests for kudos this year:

"Another Year" -- The latest domestic drama by Mike Leigh ("Happy Go Lucky") is centered on a middle-aged couple (Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen) and their assorted friends and family, including a saucy alcoholic (Lesley Manville).

"Biutiful" -- Oscar champ Javier Bardem won best actor at Cannes for his portrayal of a dying father looking for redemption in this film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel").

"Black Swan" -- Darren Aronofksy's psychological thriller revolves around a dancer (Natalie Portman) in competition with a young upstart (Mila Kunis) for the prima ballerina position.

"Casino Jack" -- Two-time Oscar champ Kevin Spacey portrays jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff in this political drama from George Hickenlooper.

"The Conspirator" -- Robert Redford's film about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln features James McAvoy as a war hero defending a mother (Robin Wright) accused of aiding her son in the plot to kill the president.

"Conviction" -- Tony Goldwyn's stirring biopic stars two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as the crusading Betty Anne Waters, who worked tirelessly to free her wrongfully imprisoned brother (Sam Rockwell) .

"The Debt" -- Oscar champ Helen Mirren joins forces with "Avatar" star Sam Worthington for John Madden's thriller about Israeli agents on the hunt for a Nazi in 1965.

"The King's Speech" -- Colin Firth plays King George VI and Helena Bonham Carter his supportive wife, Elizabeth, in Tom Hooper's historical drama, which focuses on the work of a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) who boosts the king's confidence.

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Sandra Bullock and Kate Winslet: Victims of Oscar curse?

March 17, 2010 |  3:32 pm

Just days after last year's Oscar winner Kate Winslet announced her split with hubby Sam Mendes comes news that the marriage of the newest champ, Sandra Bullock, may be on the rocks. In Touch Weekly reports that Bullock's hubby, Jesse James, had an affair on the sly while Bullock was filming "The Blind Side."

Kate winslet sandra bullock Oscars news

Now Oscarologists wonder: Is there really a kiss of death curse associated with winning best actress?

Over the past 12 years, eight of the best-actress champs busted up with their lovers after winning: Kate Winslet (won for 2008), Reese Witherspoon (2005), Hilary Swank (1999, 2005), Charlize Theron (2003), Halle Berry (2001), Julia Roberts (2000), Gwyneth Paltrow (1998), Helen Hunt (1997). Five of the splits occurred less than a year after their Oscar triumphs (Winslet from hubby Mendes, Witherspoon from hubby Ryan Phillippe, Swank from hubby Chad Lowe, Paltrow from boyfriend Ben Affleck, Roberts from boyfriend Benjamin Bratt). Berry's break-up with Eric Benet occurred 18 months after winning; Hunt split with Hank Azaria less than two years later.

It's ironic, looking back, at how effusively the stars gushed at the Oscar podium while thanking their men on the eve of their relationship's end.

Witherspoon: "I want to say thank you to my wonderful husband."

Swank in 2005: "Chad, you're my everything. Thank you for your support. It means the world."

Berry: "My husband, who is the joy of my life."

Bullock to James: "You get dressed up in monkey suits and you sit at a table with people you don't know. I love you so much, and you're really hot. And I want you so much!"

Can it be a mere coincidence that these women's romantic lives go kaput so soon after the biggest triumph of their careers? Is it because victory goes to their heads and these women become impossible divas to live with? Or is it because their men are overly macho types who can't tolerate being upstaged by their female partners' success? The latter may be a contributing factor in the split of Witherspoon and Phillippe. There were reports that Phillippe looked miserable and pouted all night at the parties — where he obviously didn't want to be — after Witherspoon won. Ryan should've exulted in his own victory too. That same night his film "Crash" won best picture, but he didn't win a statuette himself. Some observers believe that bothered him a lot as Reese flashed her glittering golden boy right and left, leaving her lover boy sitting alone in a corner, looking downcast.


Robert Osborne has 'several quibbles' about the Oscars show

Quiz: Who gave this cheeky acceptance speech at the Oscars?

So what did we learn from this year's Oscars?

What movies are the next Oscar front-runners?

How 'Casablanca' beat nine other nominees to win best picture at the 1943 Oscars

Farrah Fawcett missing from 'In Memoriam' at Oscars

How did 'The Hurt Locker' defy the odds at the Oscars?

'The Hurt Locker' wins six Oscars, including history maker for director Kathryn Bigelow

This Oscars show was not a winner

Poll: What did you think of the Oscars telecast?

Photo: Los Angeles Times 

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Oscars derby update: Can 'Avatar' triumph at Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards to emerge as official front-runner?

January 14, 2010 |  1:46 pm

Now that "Avatar" has proven its enduring might with fans ($440 million at the U.S. box office after four consecutive weeks at No. 1) and film critics (82 score at RottenTomatoes), and "The Hurt Locker" just swept the film critics trifecta -- wining best picture from the journos in New York, Los Angeles and in the National Society of Film Critics --  they both must battle "Up in the Air," "Precious" and "Inglourious Basterds" this weekend at the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes.

Those five films recently established themselves officially as the most serious rivals to win the top prize at the Oscars by reaping nominations from the Directors' Guild of America  -- the most important Academy Awards omen.

Avatar Golden Globes Critics Choice awards news

But how accurate are the Critics' Choice Awards and Golden Globes? What will we learn from seeing who wins this weekend? (The Critics' Choice Awards are on VH1 on Friday, the Golden Globes on NBC on Sunday.)

Let's examine what's happened over the past 10 years. The Globes have two sets of awards, remember — drama and comedy/musical. One of their two best pictures repeated at the Oscars six times since 1999. That percentage is slightly lower than the Globes' average over the past 50 years, so maybe their level of agreement with Oscar will rally soon.

Critics' Choice is much higher: 80% over the past decade. In 2005, members of the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. opted for "Brokeback Mountain" over "Crash" and, in 2004, "Sideways" over "Million Dollar Baby."

The Critics Choice Award also has a better history predicting best actor and actress than the Golden Globe over the past decade. Seven of the 10 best-actor prizes bestowed by BFCA repeated at the Oscars. Only five of the 20 best actors crowned by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. went on to Oscar glory.

The Critics Choice voters aren't so savvy forecasting the lead actress champs. Their percentage is only 60% in 10 years. Globers hailed eight Oscar winners in one of their two lead-actress categories; nine if you count Kate Winslet, who won in lead at the Oscars for "The Reader" and in supporting at the Globes. Of course, Winslet also won the lead Globe race too, for "Revolutionary Road."

The reason that these two awards are so good at predicting the Oscar is because they actually influence academy voters, who tune in to view the precursor award shows on TV. Winners must give performances on the podium just as amazing as the film turns that got them there. Hilary Swank and Jamie Foxx won Oscars for "Boys Don't Cry" and "Ray" largely because they were so amazing on the Globes' stage sharing stories of their tearful struggle to make it in showbiz (Swank) and love of a grandmother (Foxx).

Giving a knockout performance on the podium is easy for an ole pro like Meryl Streep, who always wows, but the pressure is really on young stars like Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious"), who don't have experience at this. Lucky for them both, they're not competing at the Globes against Streep, who is pushed off into that separate race for comedies/musicals. If one of the young new stars can get past veteran Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") in the race for best drama actress, she has the chance of a lifetime to become an Oscar-bound superstar.

Memo to Mulligan and Sidibe, whoever wins: Keep the laundry list of names short. Go for a knockout punch to TV viewers' guts, breaking our hearts. Share your dream, tell us a story, and don't be afraid to cry. Genuine, triumphant tears are perfect for the occasion. Kate Winslet shed a river of them at the Globes last year, and they helped to float her to Oscar victory.

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Undefeated Oscars champ Hilary Swank aims for No. 3 in 'Amelia'

August 13, 2009 |  9:19 am

Amelia Hilary Swank

It's shocking to think that all of the following stars are Oscarless — Glenn Close, Catherine Deneuve, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Albert Finney, Julianne Moore, Peter O'Toole, Gena Rowlands, Donald Sutherland, Liv Ullmann — while Hilary Swank has two ("Boys Don't Cry," "Million Dollar Baby"). But Swank's Oscar success is even more striking when you recall that she — like another star often dismissed as lightweight, Sally Field — has never lost. Both gals have gone two for two.

Now Swank is going for a third chunk of academy gold in a film genre that often flies high in the race: biopics. She portrays doomed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart in "Amelia," directed by Mira Nair ("The Namesake") and penned by Ronald Bass ("Rain Man," Oscar's best picture of 1988) and Anna Hamilton Phelan ("Girl, Interrupted"). Distributor is Oscars-savvy Fox Searchlight ("Slumdog Millionaire," "The Wrestler," "Juno," "Little Miss Sunshine"), which is giving "Amelia" an Oscars-friendly release date: Oct. 23. Hitfix just published a new photo still (above), which features Swank with Joe Anderson, who portrays Wilmer “Bill” Stultz — her copilot and navigator on a 1928 flight from Newfoundland to Wales. 

Maybe all of this Oscar clout will help McGregor and Swank's other costars Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere land their first-ever Academy Award nominations. In "Amelia," McGregor portrays her lover Gene Vidal (Gore Vidal's poppa) and Gere portrays publisher George Putnam, whose marriage to Swank was a flop.

Photo: Fox Searchlight

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Oscar's most overdue actress: Winslet is still winless

March 7, 2008 |  8:02 pm

Let's assume that Kate Winslet gets nominated for the Oscars again next year, a safe bet considering she usually makes the cut whenever she's in a worthy film. Winslet Even though she's only 32 years old, she's already been nominated and lost five times — that's a record tally for someone her age. Voters adore her so much that she often gets nominated even when her equally compelling costars don't: Leo DiCaprio ("Titanic") and Jim Carrey ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind").

However, if Winslet gets nommed and is defeated again, she'll tie another record — Oscar's biggest loser among actresses — a dubious title currently shared by Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter. Biggest loser of all among performers is over on the guy side: Peter O'Toole (8 defeats).

This upcoming year Winslet has two shots at new bids. One is opposite DiCaprio as lover again, this time in "Revolutionary Road," director Sam Mendes' drama about a disillusioned suburban couple faking a happy life. The last time Mendes — who is wed to Winslet in real life — had a film with a similar theme in the derby, it won five Oscars, including best picture of 1999 ("American Beauty"). It almost won best actress too, but Annette Bening was eclipsed in the home stretch by Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry") after Bening won the equivalent kudo at SAG.

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Ode to Oscar now the derby is done — What to think?

February 26, 2008 |  1:30 pm

What a derby it was this year! Not only did we Oscarwatchers get to thrill to bizarre awards suspense over whether a quirky masterwork about a coin-tossing grim reaper could take the top prize normally reserved for the safest good movie of the year, but the biggest cliffhanger turned out to be whether Hollywood's biggest show could go on at all.

Double drama! Even better, it all played out like a good thriller with the writers strike ending only days before the Oscarcast after brutally assassinating poor innocents along the way. I happen to know many of the details of an excellent case the Golden Globes have to fire back at WGA with a killer lawsuit that could cost the guild $20 million ("the most slam-dunk case I've seen in years," one lawyer involved with the backstage drama told me), but HFPA, I hear, has decided not to proceed, being good sports and knowing — that's showbiz.


Then came Oscar night and magic time happened when an obscure actress had her big Cinderella moment, making awards history no less (Marion Cotillard is the first performer to win for a French-speaking role). On stage she gave the performance of her life as she looked out over an audience of reputed Hollywood devils and — wonderstruck, joyous and trembling — gasped, "Thank you, life! Thank you, love! It is true there is some angels in this city!"

Hooray! Even Julie Christie had to cheer that magic moment because, after all, 42 years ago she lived it too. That's why we love the Oscars so. Hollywood is the fantasy capital of the world and when dreams of stardom held precious by struggling souls come true, it's the big payoff for all of the other things Oscar may do wrong.

The essential core of the Cinderella story is how she goes from rags to glory, instantly, and at the Oscars that gets staged like the tap of a magic wand when an envelope gets opened. Like when Hilary Swank won for "Boys Don't Cry" eight years ago and revealed how she went from sleeping in a car with her mom as neophytes in Hollywood to entering the Oscar pantheon at that moment. Being good storytellers, the Coen brothers knew to share with us their own humble back story when they won for directing.

"Ethan and I have been making stories with movie cameras since we were kids," Joel said, recalling how he made one of his earliest amateur films back late 1960s, titled "Henry Kissinger, Man on the Go," starring younger brother Ethan in a suit with a briefcase. "Honestly, what we do now doesn't feel that much different from what we were doing then," he added.

Ah, they're still kids at heart, those rascals, just like the other big kids of Hollywood.

And the Oscarcast itself? Well, just so-so, the live part, but I think there was greatness in the moments that some TV critics are griping about: those clip montages that relived heavenly glimpses of Oscars past. Let's give the academy a break. Writers of this Oscarcast had only eight days to toss this one together, so it was smart of telecast producers to sprinkle it with gems from the vault.

As for Jon Stewart as host, well, he held forth on stage as best he could, managing to avoid disaster. He's a top talent at what he does on "The Daily Show." It's not his fault that he's miscast as host and it would have been ungrateful of him to refuse the academy's offer to helm their party again. Memo to the academy: Next time, please, cast a family member to preside over your clan's reunion.

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Oscar buzz builds for an upset by Marion Cotillard

February 24, 2008 |  9:54 am

Our Buzzmeter gurus Pete Hammond and Dave Karger are getting nervous, I hear. Really nervous. They're among the vast majority of our pundits (29 out of 32) on the Julie Christie train in the best-actress race now fretting that it might suddenly get derailed when a winner crosses the finish line tonight.

That's because they're hearing more and more of what I've been hearing for the last few weeks too, causing me to jump off and switch to Marion Cotillard in our final Buzzmeter logged earlier this week. When you talk to actual voters, you find out that gads aren't voting with the Christie pack, as widely presumed. Cotillard is ahead in the private count I've been keeping but only narrowly. The few dozen academy members I've polled isn't a scientific sampling, but it's enough to convince me of an upset ahead.


The reason: Voters, contrary to general belief, love to crown ingenues. Gone are the days when they automatically gave it to icons like Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn. Over the last 10 years, six of the winners were first-time nominees, such as Hilary Swank and Charlize Theron.

Next, there's the reality factor. Four of the five past best-actress champs re-created the role of a real person, like last year's champ, Helen Mirren, as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Cotillard portrays French chanteuse Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose," of course. Christie's role is fictitious.

Another major consideration: The Babe Factor. Read my detailed description of it HERE. In brief: Voters are old guys who lust after the chicks. (Opposite of the Slap the Stud Syndrome — read HERE — in which they punish the pretty boys for their looks, no doubt out of jealousy.) Only two women older than 50 have won any acting role in the last 15 years: Judi Dench ("Shakespeare in Love") and Helen Mirren ("The Queen"). While on the campaign trail last year, Mirren blatantly flirted with voters by cranking up her still-got-it charms. Christie, age 66, is still a babe, but she hasn't been selling it like a Joan Collins. Perhaps that's OK, though. Most voters are old enough to remember fondly when they gave her an Oscar 42 years ago for shedding skimpy miniskirts while bed-hopping her way through "Darling."

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OSCARS PRESENTERS: The young & the dubious

February 21, 2008 | 11:26 pm

When Oscar presenters were announced last week, "the howls of derision and confusion that greeted some Miley1 of the names was presumably not the desired effect," notes Mark Olsen in his cheeky observations (SEE HERE) on various Oscar guest curiosities. Like Miley Cyrus. What's she doing on the list? "Follow the money," he hints, pointing to the fact that her "Hannah Montana" TV show is part of the Disney/ABC franchise, just like the Oscarcast.

A certain two-time best-actress champ certainly has the credentials to dole out an Oscar, but, fearlessly and cheekily, he lets loose anyway: "Do you know anyone who is actually a fan of Hilary Swank?" Olsen is certainly no fan of John Travolta's: " His self-satisfied, look-at-me, I’m-so-cute way with an awards podium seriously works our last nerve."

Oscars theory No. 2: The babe factor

February 21, 2008 |  2:38 pm

When Oscar is not comforting the long-suffering wife, he can often be found in the arms of a young beauty.

Last year's best actress winner, Helen Mirren ("The Queen") was the first leading woman older than 40 to take home an Oscar in a decade. Up until then, the list of recent winners looked like the lineup at a beauty pageant: Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow. Personally, I think Mirren was able to overcome that trend by embracing it. At age 62, she's still quite sexy (remember her nude scene in "Calendar Girls"?) and she was brazenly frisky while out on the Oscar campaign trail last year, even appearing on the cover of Los Angeles magazine tugging at her bra.


Granted, the younger screen lovelies would often win acclaim and awards by deglamourizing themselves to show Hollywood that they were more than just pretty faces. But during Oscar campaign season, off came the false noses, boxing gloves and trailer-trash outfits, to be replaced by designer gowns and comely coifs.

This year, classic Gallic beauty Marion Cotillard turns from ugly duckling to swan and back playing tragic chanteuse Edith Piaf. With her head shaved and her eyebrows plucked, the French actress, 32, is transformed into the "little sparrow" at the end of her troubled life.

While 1960s siren Julie Christie, star of "Away From Her," still sizzles in real-life, like Mirren, for this 66-year-old to win would be to buck the trend. Though this age bias is less blatant in the category for supporting actresses, older gals still triumph there only now and then: Judi Dench once, Dianne Wiest twice in recent years, for example.

Pace University proved the obvious a few years ago when it conducted an Oscar study spanning the 25 years before 2000 and discovered that best actor winners were, on average, five years older than their female equivalents. And seven years separated male and female nominees.

In the last 15 years only two actresses older than 50 have won an Oscar in the lead or supporting races: Dames Mirren and Dench. Meantime, consider all of these chaps north of the half-century mark who've triumphed during the same years: lead actors Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Anthony Hopkins as well as supporting players Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Chris Cooper, Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine, James Coburn, Martin Landau, Gene Hackman, and Jack Palance.

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What impact will the Globes have on Oscars?

January 13, 2008 | 10:01 pm

The Golden Globe is usually a fairly good Oscar crystal ball. Over the past 30 years, the overlap of winners in the races for Oscars_snub3best picture and lead actor and actress has been about 65 percent (far less in the races for supporting acting and directing). The two sets of kudos have disagreed on best pic for the past three years, but the lead and supporting races went 3 for 4 last year and 4 for 4 one year earlier.

However, things may be very different this year. Now we may find out if the Globe itself wields such influence or the act of people accepting it.

Many Oscarologists like me believe that the Globe acceptance speech has chief impact. It's the winner's audition for Oscar night. When Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry") and Jamie Foxx ("Ray") gave the performances of their careers at the Globe's podium, that certainly helped their trajectory toward the Oscar stage. Particularly Swank. She was in a tight race in 1999 with the star of the best-picture winner at both awards, "American Beauty" — Annette Bening, who proved her clout by winning SAG.


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