Tom O'Neil has the inside track on Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and all the award shows.
As reported by Borys Kit in the Hollywood Reporter, "Meryl Streep is in talks to reteam with her 'Mamma Mia!' director Phyllida Lloyd for 'Thatcher,' a biopic of the controversial and long-governing former British prime minister. Jim Broadbent is in talks to play Margaret Thatcher's husband, Denis, for the pic, which is being developed by Pathe and BBC Films."
As per Borys, "The film is set in 1982 and tracks Thatcher as she tries to save her career in the 17 days preceding the 1982 Falklands War. The 2 1/2-month war was a turning point for the prime minister, who,after the victory, saw her approval ratings double and went on to win a second term. Damien Jones ('Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll') is producing and came up with the story with Brian Fillis, who wrote the screenplay."
All three of the previous scripts from Fillis have been about real-life people -- "Fear of Fanny" (2006) focused on notorious TV chef Fannie Craddock; "The Curse of Steptoe" (2008) looked at the story behind the Brit hit TV show "Steptoe and Son" which Norman Lear adapted into "Sanford and Son"; and "An Englishman in New York" (2009) followed bon vivant Quentin Crisp across the pond.
Playing a real-life lady was the key to claiming the best-actress Academy Award seven times in the last decade: Julia Roberts as advocate Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name (2000); Nicole Kidman as writer Virginia Woolf in "The Hours" (2002); Charlize Theron as serial killer Aileen Wournos in "Monster" (2003); Reese Witherspoon as country singer June Carter in "Walk the Line" (2005); Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen" (2006); Marion Cotillard as French chanteuse Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose" (2007); and Sandra Bullock as do-gooder Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side" (2009).
Among those Bullock bested last year was Streep who had earned a record 13th lead actress nomination for portraying celebrated chef Julia Child in "Julie & Julia." Four of Streep's previous best actress bids were also for playing real women: whistle blower Karen Silkwood in "Silkwood" (1983); authoress Karen Blixen in "Out of Africa" (1985); suspected killer Lindy Chamberlain in A Cry in the Dark" (1988), and noted teacher Roberta Guaspari in "Music From the Heart" (1999). And one of her three supporting actress nominations was also for a real-life role: writer Susan Orlean in "Adaptation" (2002).
Gold Derby nuggets: Sigourney Weaver blasts Oscars over 'Avatar' snub | Behind the scenes drama at Pulitzers | 'Polytechnique' sweeps Genies
• Actress Sigourney Weaver certainly believes in standing by her director, telling the Brazilian news website Folha Online that her good friend James Cameron was snubbed at the recent Oscars due to reverse sexism. "Jim didn't have breasts, and I think that was the reason [he didn't win]," she said in this candid interview. And Weaver thinks that the record box office takings of "Avatar" kept it from collecting more gold. "In the past, 'Avatar' would have won because they [Oscar voters] loved to hand out awards to big productions, like 'Ben-Hur.' Today it's fashionable to give the Oscar to a small movie that nobody saw."
• Meryl Streep may also have been snubbed at this year's Oscars -- as she has been with 13 of her 15 other nominations -- but she made history Monday as the first person extended honorary membership in the 112-year old American Academy of Arts and Letters solely for their acting work. Other screen notables admitted -- including the late Orson Welles and current member Woody Allen -- worked behind the camera as well as in front of it. Streep admitted, "I have to say that I was stunned, and when they sent me the roster of people in the academy I just burst into tears. I couldn't believe that I'd be even allowed in the kitchen." AP
• For the producers of the 2006 Tony-winning "Jersey Boys," imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. They "have sued a touring stage show called 'The Boys,' labeling it a 'copycat' production that competes unfairly with the original musical." As per the lawsuit filed in Manhattan, the producers are seeking "an injunction against further performances of 'The Boys' that make use of copyrighted or too similar materials, and asked for $150,000 in damages for each copyrighted song 'The Boys' might have used." REUTERS
• The fall-out from yesterday's announcement of "Next to Normal" as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama continues. First the jury chair -- Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty -- vented about the board overruling the recommendations of his panel, chiding them for "geographical myopia, a vision of the American theater that starts in Times Square and ends just a short taxi ride away." (The last work to win the Pulitzer without a New York run was "Anna in the Tropics" in 2003.) Now Patrick Healy reports that since none of the jury's three finalists failed to earn the requisite approval by the majority of the board last Thursday, the 20 members looked further afield among the 70 or so works submitted for consideration. It seems "a lot of them" went to see "Next to Normal" that night and voted it the winner the next day. NEW YORK TIMES
• The Grammy Awards are shifting back to their traditional February time slot next year. The 53rd annual edition of these top musical awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 13 at the Staple Center in Los Angeles and air on CBS. This year, the Grammys were handed out on Jan. 31 so as to avoid competing with the Winter Olympics for viewers. That strategy paid off as the kudocast earned the best ratings since 2004. However, as that earlier date meant abbreviating the eligibility period by one month, next year's awards will reward discs released from Sept. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010.
• The 13th annual Teen Choice Awards will air on Monday Aug. 9 on Fox. These kudos -- honoring teen icons in movies, TV, music, sports and fashion -- are voted on by the public. Last year, "Twilight" won a record 11 surfboards -- including two for star Robert Pattinson -- while the Jonas Brothers took home five awards and Miley Cyrus won an even half dozen times.
• Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas ("The English Patient") will be mistress of ceremonies once more at the Cannes film festival this year. This English rose is equally at home in France and will emcee the opening ceremony on May 12 as well as the closing festivities and awards presentation on May 23. She also performed these hosting duties back in 1999.
• "Polytechnique" -- a black-and-white docudrama about a 1984 Montreal school shooting that left 14 women dead -- swept the 30th annual Genie Awards Monday winning nine of its leading 11 nominations. The film made simultaneously in both French and English dominated Canada's version of the Oscars taking home best picture, director (Denis Villeneuve), lead actress (Karine Vanasse), supporting actor Maxim Gaudette, screenplay (Jacques Davidts), cinematography (Pierre Gill), editing (Richard Comeau), overall sound and sound editing. Joshua Jackson won lead actor for "One Week" while Martha Burns won supporting actress for "Love & Savagery." The full list of winners can be found at the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television website. GENIES
• Don Mischer will once again be involved in the staging of the academy's Governor awards this year. At the event set for Saturday, Nov. 13, one or more of the kudos approved by the academy board -- the Thalberg and Hersholt awards and the honorary Oscar -- will be presented.
Top photo: James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver on the set of "Avatar." Credit: Fox
Middle photo: Pulitzer prize medals. Credit: Pulitzer Prizes
Bottom photo: "Polytechnique" poster. Credit: Don Carmody Productions
The 82nd Academy Awards followed the script set down by pundits, as the front-runners for all of the major Oscars won Sunday night. "The Hurt Locker" led with six Oscars, including best picture and best director for Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to win this award. The Iraq war drama also picked up prizes for original screenplay (Mark Boal), editing, sound mixing and sound editing.
"Avatar" went into the night tied with "The Hurt Locker" with a leading nine nominations but had to settle for three Oscars for art direction, cinematography and visual effects (and a $2.4-billion and counting box-office take). See a complete list of all Oscar winners here.
Lead actor went to Jeff Bridges, a four-time also-ran at the Oscars, who finally won for his performance as a down-and-out country singer in "Crazy Heart." The theme song for that film, "The Weary Kind," won best original song for Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett.
First-time nominee Sandra Bullock won lead actress for best picture nominee "The Blind Side," edging out, among others, Meryl Streep, who was contending for a record 13th time in this category. The lead acting nominees were introduced by performers with whom they have a connection before last year's winners, Sean Penn ("Milk") and Kate Winslet ("The Reader"), bestowed the Oscars. Last year, each of the four acting categories was handled by five past winners who each spoke about one of the nominees.
It was no surprise that the Academy Awards for supporting actor and actress went to Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") and Mo'Nique ("Precious"). The pair had picked up all of the precursor awards going into the Oscars. Waltz's win represented the only Oscar for that best picture nominee, which had eight nominations in total while "Precious" -- which had six nominations, including a best picture bid -- also won adapted screenplay for Geoffrey Fletcher
The animated feature race was won by best picture nominee "Up," which edged out Gotham and L.A. critics choice "Fantastic Mr. Fox" among others. "Up" became the fifth Pixar picture -- after "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille" and "Wall-E" -- to win this category since it was introduced in 2001. "Up" also won best score.
"El Secreto de Sus Ojos" became the second feature from Argentina to win best foreign-language film, and "The Cove" won the documentary feature Oscar. For her costume design for "The Young Victoria," Sandy Powell took home her third Oscar, following wins for "Shakespeare in Love" and "The Aviator." "Star Trek" won for makeup.
"The Hurt Locker" won the most Gold Derby Awards bestowed by posters in our forums -- best picture, director (Kathryn Bigelow), film editing and cinematography. Most interesting among the results was Meryl Streep's victory over Sandra Bullock for best lead actress. Is that a hint at what might occur at the Oscars?
Gold Derby Film Awards have been an annual tradition since 2002. Previous best-picture winners were "Wall-E," "No Country for Old Men," "The Departed," "Brokeback Mountain," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" and "Chicago."
To read reax to this year's batch of winners, check out this forum thread. Many thanks to our forum notables Chris "Boomer" Beachum, Andrew "andrew" Pickett and Matt "Noble" Noble for organizing these awards.
MOTION PICTURE: "The Hurt Locker"
DIRECTOR: "The Hurt Locker" (Kathryn Bigelow)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: "Up in the Air" (Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner)
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: "Inglourious Basterds" (Quentin Tarantino)
LEAD ACTOR: Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart"
LEAD ACTRESS: Meryl Streep as Julia Child in "Julie and Julia"
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in "Inglourious Basterds"
While most of the winners are seemingly foregone conclusions at this year's Oscars, the lead actress race remains too close to call. Most pundits put Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") ahead. She won with both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild and seems to have the most buzz going into Sunday.
But when you talk with actual Oscar voters, you hear many of them say that the film and Bullock's performance are too lightweight. You hear lots of votes for all-time nominations champ Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") as well as first-time nominees Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious"). As for Helen Mirren ("The Last Station"), she will have to be content with her 2006 win in this same race for "The Queen."
If you are among those who believe that Sandra Bullock will win, ask yourself: does she deserve to? That the question Pete Hammond and I discuss in our video chat here.
RELATED POSTSEverybody Loses: Gotham Awards vs. Indie Spirits ('Hurt Locker' vs. 'Precious')
Over the years, my Envelope colleague and good friend Pete Hammond (Notes on a Season) has trounced me now and then at Academy Award predictions, but I've had a nice run lately. I beat him last year. Most recently, when predicting Oscar nominees, I edged him out. Has my luck finally run its course? Will Pete rally? Usually we disagree in just two or three categories, but this year we clash in seven contests. Who do you think has the most correct Oscar predictions?
Watch videos of me and Pete dishing the Oscars' bias against sci-fi films like "Avatar" and the question of whether or not Sandra Bullock really deserves to win best actress for "The Blind Side."
BEST PICTURE: "Inglourious Basterds" (Tom), "The Hurt Locker" (Pete)
BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart" (Tom, Pete)
BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side" (Tom, Pete)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds" (Tom, Pete)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'Nique, "Precious" (Tom, Pete)
BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker" (Tom, Pete)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: "Up In The Air" (Tom, Pete)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: "Inglourious Basterds" (Tom, Pete)
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: "Avatar" (Tom Pete)
BEST ART DIRECTION: "Avatar" (Tom, Pete)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: "The Young Victoria" (Tom, Pete)
BEST FILM EDITING: "The Hurt Locker" (Tom, Pete)
BEST SOUND MIXING: "Avatar" (Pete), "The Hurt Locker" (Tom)
BEST SOUND EDITING: "Avatar" (Pete), "The Hurt Locker" (Tom)
BEST MUSIC SCORE: "Up" (Pete, Tom)
BEST SONG: "Weary Kind," "Crazy Heart" (Tom, Pete)
BEST MAKEUP: "Star Trek" (Tom, Pete)
BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: "Avatar" (Tom, Pete)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: "The Cove" (Tom, Pete)
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: "China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province" (Tom), "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant" (Pete)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: "The White Ribbon" (Tom), "The Secret in Their Eyes" (Pete)
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: "Up"
BEST ANIMATED SHORT: "A Matter of Loaf and Death" (Tom), "Logorama" (Pete)
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: "Kavi" (Tom), "The New Tenants" (Pete)
Illustration by Tom O'Neil
• Melena Ryzik reviews the road to the Oscars noting that, "first, the move to 10 nominees produced its own wave of critics, armchair and industry insider alike, who grumbled that the expansion would dilute the value of being noticed; or that there should have been a companion doubling of best director nominees; or that the Academy couldn’t come up with 10 good movies, period. This griping largely stopped when the best picture nominees were revealed, and the Academy did exactly what it was supposed to do, pull in unexpected and popular titles like 'The Blind Side,' 'District 9' and 'Up.'" THE CARPETBAGGER
• In his thorough preview, Scott Bowles says, "Leave it to Oscar to pile on the drama. For starters, you have ex-spouses as competing directors vying for the same short metal trophy. Then there's the David and Goliath thing as the biggest film of all time squares off against one of the most obscure for best picture. Oh, and the voting rules have changed, along with the number of contestants. Don't feel bad if you can't recall all 10 movies in line for best picture at Sunday night's Academy Awards. This season, Oscar looks nothing like his old self. That's the point." USA TODAY
• Cathy Yan profiles four first-time filmmakers -- Scott Cooper ("Crazy Heart"), Neill Blomkamp ("District 9"), Oren Moverman ("The Messenger"), and Mark Webb ("(500) Days of Summer") -- who hit the jackpot as their debuts are in contention at the Oscars. WALL STREET JOURNAL
• Wondering "whatever happened to the Oscars sweep," Tom Shone discovers, "the Academy has always liked to spread the wealth, of course, but this fragmentation testifies to a deeper economic shift in the movie industry. There are blockbusters and there are low-budget indies, but gone is the middle-class movie that used to provide the Academy with its prize winners: middle-brow, mid-priced “prestige” pics like 'Driving Miss Daisy,' 'Amadeus,' and 'Dances With Wolves,' films that hymned the moral efficacy of a single individual. As one Disney producer recently remarked, 'Everything in the middle is toast.' This year, for instance, the typical Oscar movie was Clint Eastwood’s 'Invictus.' which had barely finished shooting before it had been tagged and handicapped for Oscar glory, solely on the basis of its subject (Nelson Mandela) and its genre (Sports Underdog Movie). In fact, it turned out to be an undernourished piece of work, and though it grabbed two acting nominations, it was boxed out of Best Picture and Director by the gritty Iraq war drama 'The Hurt Locker,' which cost just $16 million, and James Cameron’s special-effects epic 'Avatar,' which cost upwards of $300 million: the indie and the blockbuster, exactly the two types of movie Spielberg predicted would inherit the earth." NEW YORK
• Says Bill Gorman, "considering the Academy Awards viewership peak was the last time James Cameron made a movie ('Titanic' also the top grossing of all time, at the time), I’d be stunned if we didn’t see an increase in the ratings this year. Forty million average viewers would not surprise me at all, but above 45 million would." TV BY THE NUMBERS
• After chatting with the Oscarcast producers Steve Pond reports, "So far, the Academy has announced the names of 31 presenters, one of whom, Sacha Baron Cohen, has since dropped out. Most years, that would constitute most of the lineup -- but this year, a staffer says that the roster of presenters has been expanded from the usual 40-50 to about 70. With 24 categories, along with the 10 Best Picture clips, a mid-show dance number and other assorted film packages, that means we’ll undoubtedly see very few solo presenters, lots of couples, and some larger groups." THE ODDS
• Veteran Oscarologist Jack Mathews thinks, "If the Academy hopes to ever get its TV Oscar ratings back up, it will have do something more dramatic than having Miley Cyrus and Taylor Lautner present awards. It needs to move the show up, way up, to mid-January, at least. That would create chaos among other organizations and awards schedules, but so what? All the earlier awards -- whether given by critics, industry guilds or fan clubs like the National Board of Review -- are parasites that draw the blood out of Oscar's body long before it's ready for its close-up. So here we are, two days before the Big Night, talking about awards that have been decided for weeks, if not months." MOVIEFONE
• Susan Wloszczyna along with Damien Bona, Steve Pond, and yours truly consider the fates of 10 previous Oscar winners. Among them, "the prom king and queen" Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, "missing in action" Helen Hunt and Joe Pesci, and "history makers" Halle Berry and Denzel Washington. USA TODAY
• Dave Karger says, "In the fifth of my series of six OscarWatch TV installments (and the final episode before this Sunday’s ceremony), Missy Schwartz and I tackle the two races that have the most people talking this year: Best Picture and Best Actress." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
• Rick Porter reports NBC will air the Emmys live coast-to-coast for the first time in more than three decades. "NBC aired the Golden Globes live across the country this year and had some success with it; ratings were up by about 10 percent over the 2009 awards. The Emmys are scheduled for Aug. 29 -- earlier than usual so as not to interfere with NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' broadcasts, which will kick off in September." ZAP2IT
• Attention, Emmy police: You really need to pay more attention to the illegal sale of statuettes on the Web just like the Oscars, who are ruthless enforcers. While Oscar statuettes won after 1950 cannot be legally sold, the Emmys bestowed all the way up till the late 1970s are fair game. After that, no dice. That's when winners started to sign affidavits promising they wouldn't sell out. However, every year dozens of illegal Emmy statuettes are sold on line. Like this one currently at Ebay: best costume design, "General Hospital" (1997-1998). Lucky for the TV academies, it's priced ridiculously high ($15,000). Its actual market value is about one-tenth of that price, so it's not likely to sell for the asking price. EBAY
• Michael Adams makes merry with 1966's "The Oscar," which he deftly describes as, "that filmic fondue, a cauldron of cheese cooked up by director Russell Rouse, writer Harlan Ellison, stars Stephen Boyd and Tony Bennett, and a who’s who of Hollywood donating cameos." MOVIELINE
Top photo: Academy
Award statues. Credit: AMPAS
Middle photo: 82nd annual Academy Awards poster. Credit:ABCBottom photo: Emmy Awards statues. Credit: ATAS
• Pete Hammond -- who pegged Sandra Bullock as a contender weeks before anyone else -- surveys the lead actress field and finds it "all over the map." Pete concludes, "EW's annual survey of four academy voters (not the biggest sample exactly) had Streep winning with 3 to Bullock's 1. I think it is likely much much closer and Gabby and Carey are significant factors. Warner Bros. strategists working on Bullock's behalf privately tell me they prefer that. A tighter four-way contest is better for Bullock's ultimate chances of prevailing than going one-on-one with the imposing Streep. This one's going down to the wire." NOTES ON A SEASON
• "Down to the wire" could well describe the last-minute decision-making of Oscar voters. Tuesday at 5 p.m. PT marked the deadline for returning completed ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers -- that well-known "independent accounting firm" -- which will tally the votes. That pesky preferential method for best picture slowed the usual quick rate of return; in previous years, the majority of ballots were returned within 10 days of receipt. The ballot listed nominees in only 19 of the 24 categories. Academy members were required to attend screenings if they wished to vote for foreign-language film, documentary features and shorts, and animated and live-action shorts.
• The P.R. people for the Oscars are busy coming up with cute headlines for their now daily announcements of the latest bold-faced names slated to appear on Sunday's show. Tuesday's release was headlined "The Guys Have It" as it touted first-time appearances by Gerard Butler, Bradley Cooper, Tom Ford, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds and Sam Worthington, the third appearance by Jake Gyllenhaal and the fifth appearance for Keanu Reeves. AMPAS
• One guy that certainly has it all is Robert Osborne, who will be returning to the red carpet for the fifth year in a row to welcome Oscar's guests. Per the press release: "'Being on Oscar’s red carpet is unlike any other experience,' said Academy President Tom Sherak. 'Robert is the perfect person to welcome our guests and ease them into a night of spectacular celebration.' His red carpet celebrity chats will be audible to the other arriving guests as well as to the bleacher fans on the opposite side of the carpet." The included bio notes, "In addition to writing a column for The Hollywood Reporter, Osborne is the primetime host of Turner Classic Movies and a frequent host of Academy public events in New York and Los Angeles. He also is the author of the Academy’s '80 Years of the Oscar,' the official history of the Academy Awards, and hosts Robert Osborne’s Classic Film Festival in Athens, Georgia." AMPAS
• As per an AP report, Jeff Bridges crooned the right kind of tunes in "Crazy Heart" to win an Oscar. "With a .500 batting average, country has a better track record than other music genres at the Oscars. Soul has produced a string of Oscar losers, including Eddie Murphy for supporting actor as the fictional James 'Thunder' Early in 2006’s 'Dreamgirls' and Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in the lead categories as Tina and Ike Turner in 1993’s 'What’s Love Got to Do With It.' Jazz and standards singers also have a spotty Oscar history, the losers including Michelle Pfeiffer for best actress as fictional torch singer Susie Diamond in 1989’s 'The Fabulous Baker Boys' and Diana Ross as Billie Holiday in 1972’s 'Lady Sings the Blues.' As French songbird Edith Piaf, Marion Cotillard won best actress for 2007’s 'La Vie en Rose.' Jamie Foxx could be an honorary winner for the country crowd with his best-actor triumph as Ray Charles in 2004’s 'Ray.' Charles’ music drew on soul, blues, jazz, country and other genres, and he did a two-volume series of albums titled 'Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.' " AP
• As Josh Duboff reports, "New York’s Oscar fans may be in for a surprise Sunday night … and it won’t be because of a major upset. ABC’s New York affiliate, WABC-TV, is threatening to pull the Oscar telecast if it doesn’t receive the payment it is demanding from Cablevision. The TV station and cable provider, who have not had a deal for two years (they’ve been 'granting extensions on a month-to-month basis'), are disputing retransmission fees. As a bargaining tactic, ABC has said it will inform subscribers that they may no longer have access to the station beginning March 7, the day of ABC’s Academy Awards telecast. NEW YORK
Top photos: Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side" (Warners) and Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia" (Columbia)
Bottom photo: Robert Osborne at the 81st annual Academy Awards. Credit: AMPAS
• After acknowledging he is not a film critic, Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), writes in a guest column for Newsweek: "As a voice of the new veterans' movement, and of thousands of IAVA members across the country, I have a responsibility to serve as pop-culture watchdog, and to help the American public understand what accurately depicts the military's experience in Iraq and what doesn't. Especially because with less than 1 percent of American citizens now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, films are one of the few ways to connect the other 99 percent of Americans to the reality of modern combat." He then says, "'The Hurt Locker' tries to articulate that experience, but those of us who have served in the military couldn't help but be distracted by a litany of inaccuracies that reveal not only a lack of research, but ultimately respect for the American military" and catalogs these errors. Rieckhoff concludes, "Americans want to think they know what the ground truth is in Iraq, but until Hollywood and the media give them the right information, our experience will continue to be lost in translation. So someone, do us a favor and tell our story properly. Or maybe Hollywood will help one of us tell it ourselves." NEWSWEEK
• Christopher Torchia talks to the members of a bomb disposal squad in Afghanistan and discovers "finding and destroying IEDs is, of course, slower and more nuanced than the high-octane version portrayed in the movie thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow, which could make a run for the Oscars." While the soldiers like "The Hurt Locker" well enough as a movie, they questioned its accuracy. Platoon leader Sgt. 1st Class Natividad Ruiz said, "We don't dress up in that big old suit," referring to the heavy bomb gear worn in the movie. Staff. Sgt. Joshua Rickerts "said his job was about teamwork, and that the movie's portrayal of 'an EOD guy gone rogue' was inaccurate, though he acknowledged its entertainment value." And Senior Airman Kyle Brown said, "Some of the things he does in the movie -- quite out there. I wouldn't say we were that undisciplined. It makes us look like rebels in the military." AP
• Pete Hammond surveys the Oscars race and observes, "Most see this as 'The Hurt Locker' versus 'Avatar,' or David versus Goliath as it has been called so many times. Now in the final stretch, with awards galore and the wind behind its back, 'The Hurt Locker,' it seems, has turned into Goliath and 'Avatar' is becoming David. Weird. The real question is, what 'message' do academy voters want to send? Do they want to embrace the future, the global popularity and the success of 'Avatar'? Or the independent spirit and pure visceral film experience of 'Hurt Locker'? Or will those 'Basterds' creep in?" NOTES ON A SEASON
• Anne Thompson writes, "At this stage of the Oscar race, Jeff Bridges ('Crazy Heart') has taken the momentum away from former front-runner George Clooney ('Up in the Air') for Best Actor, but some in Hollywood sense growing support for newcomer Jeremy Renner ('The Hurt Locker'). Meanwhile, rookie Oscar nominee Sandra Bullock ('The Blind Side') and 16-time nominee, two-time winner Meryl Streep are in a tight race for Best Actress. In this dueling blog, Moviefone Oscarologist Jack Mathews and I consider the odds of a Renner upset and another Streep defeat." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD
• Scott Feinberg crunches the numbers for the 81 best actress races to date at the Oscars and discovers that the statistics favor a win by Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side"). Among the factoids Scott uncovers: "Since the first SAG Awards in 1994, only 4 women have won the Golden Globe for best actress (either drama or comedy/musical) but not the SAG Award for best actress and still gone on to win the best actress Oscar. This bodes well for Bullock, but not for Streep." AND THE WINNER IS
•The academy is celebrating the Oscars with a week-long series of screenings and symposia at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. It is not surprising that the screenings of the nominated shorts -- at a bargain $5 for the public and just $3 for members -- are selling out while the free sessions on foreign film and makeup and hair are fully booked. AMPAS
• Melena Ryzik has fun with the following news: "In a move that absolutely no one saw coming whatsoever, 'Avatar' swept the International 3D Society’s inaugural awards. It got both the month-old group’s top prize and a People’s Choice award for best live-action film over worthy competitors like 'G-Force' and 'Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.' Somewhere, Nick Jonas is crying. Giovanni Ribisi, who played a baddie but not the baddest of the bunch in 'Avatar,' accepted the awards on its behalf. 'Up' won best 3-D animated film. Nope, not predictable at all." THE CARPETBAGGER
Top photo: Scene from "The Hurt Locker." Credit: Summit
Bottom photos: Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side" (Warners) and Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia" (Columbia).
• Before revealing that he is sticking with "The Hurt Locker" for the best picture Oscar, Dave Karger recaps the derby parallels between that film and "Brokeback Mountain" four years ago: "'Brokeback' managed the rare feat of winning Best Picture and Best Director at both the New York and Los Angeles film critics awards; so did 'Hurt Locker.' 'Brokeback' also picked up those two big prizes at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards; so did 'Hurt Locker.' 'Brokeback' won the trifecta of PGA, DGA, and WGA trophies; so did 'Hurt Locker. 'Brokeback' won 4 BAFTAs, including Best Film, Director, and Screenplay; 'Hurt Locker' picked up 6 awards, including Best Film, Director, and Screenplay. And of course, 'Brokeback' lost the SAG cast award, and so did 'Hurt Locker.' (The main difference between the two films’ tallies is that 'Brokeback' did win four Globes, including Best Drama and Best Director, while 'Hurt Locker' went 0 for 3.)" ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
• After noting that, "'The Hurt Locker' director Kathryn Bigelow could be the first woman to win Best Director, a triumph for female filmmakers everywhere," Nicole Laporte wonders, "is the Academy voting for her movie or her gender?" She begins her analysis of the issue with this anecdote: "At a recent awards ceremony where Bigelow accepted one of the many accolades she's earned on the pre-Oscar circuit, Bigelow, who is 58, was met with a whooping cry of 'Go, Girl!' It was the kind of remark that's hard not to smile at -- at least, at first -- but that lingers in the air, eliciting a longer-lasting cringe, and ultimately dumps out a suitcase's worth of sexist issues of the sort that have been trailing Bigelow on her long march to the Academy Awards." THE DAILY BEAST
• Pete Hammond reports, "campaigners are pulling out all the stops trying to position their movie as the one with the gravitas that befits a best picture winner. In addition to the usual trade and newspaper ads, TV spots and billboards, at least one 'Hurt Locker' nominee apparently feels the best way may be hand-to-hand combat via e-mail. The Academy may frown at this direct attempt to contact its members, but 'Hurt Locker' co-producer Nicholas Chartier, who through his Voltage Pictures was the film's key financing wizard, is making pleas to friends and friends of friends to get out the vote for 'Hurt Locker' like it was some sort of political grass-roots campaign. His pitch isn't so much about the quality of the film, but rather its independent nature versus that movie with the blue people that cost so much to make. He doesn't mention 'Avatar' by name." NOTES ON A SEASON
• Gold Derby's Emmys forum has been buzzing with speculation over which category Showtime will enter "Dexter" star John Lithgow: supporting or guest? Lithgow recently won the Golden Globe in the supporting slot, but Showtime media chief Richard Licata tells us that Lithgow will compete in the guest slot at the Emmys. The actor won the first of his four Emmys as a guest performer on the series "Amazing Stories" back in 1986. The other three came for his regular lead role on the laffer "Third Rock From the Sun."
• Sasha Stone offers up her Oscar predictions in a compelling piece of writing that includes these observations: "In the Best Actress category, it is perhaps a three-way race, with Sandra Bullock firmly in the lead, followed by Meryl Streep and then perhaps Carey Mulligan in a possible upset. There is little doubt that Meryl Streep gave the best performance, but Sandra Bullock has paid her dues and 'The Blind Side' managed to get a Best Picture nomination, which is practically a miracle. For Bullock to lose at this point there would have to be a good reason for it -- and that reason would probably be something like a messy divorce or a bar room brawl. Best Actor still feels like it’s Jeff Bridges’ to lose. There isn’t anyone gaining Adrien Brody-like steam. The only one would have been Viggo Mortensen in 'The Road' but he didn’t get a nod. Jeff Bridges is so beloved and his performance was so good -- and he was in a movie that people seem to really like, certainly enough to give Maggie Gyllnehaal the supporting nod." She also says, "Supporting actor and actress couldn’t be more locked. Both will seen as the big wins for their respective films, which means they can’t really lose. The two open categories right now are still Picture and Original Screenplay in the major categories. Everyone is so quick to call the race done and done, but the truth is, with ten nominees and preferential ballot, anything could happen." AWARDS DAILY
• Randy Lewis reports, "Jeff Bridges, T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham will make what may be their swan song appearance together in conjunction with the film 'Crazy Heart' when they perform one of the movie’s songs at the 25h anniversary Spirit Awards ceremony on March 5 in Los Angeles. Rather than singing the much-lauded theme 'The Weary Kind,' the best-song Oscar-nominee that Bingham and Burnett wrote, the trio plans to offer up 'Fallin’ and Flyin’, written by the late Texas singer and songwriter Stephen Bruton, who oversaw the film’s music with producer and longtime friend Burnett. Bruton died of cancer shortly after completing work on the music." POP & HISS
• Roger Friedman reports, "Monday night in the main ballroom at the Plaza Hotel, AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, gave its lifetime achievement awards to an eclectic bunch. They were: 'Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, CBS' Charles Osgood, 'Soul Man' Sam Moore, the cast of 'Sesame Street' and Latin American artist Juanes. The winners inspired an equally eclectic group of presenters: Don Imus, for Sam Moore; Tony Bennett, for Juanes; Bill Geist for Osgood." SHOWBIZ 411
• Melena Ryzik makes merry with the academy's proposed party kit for Oscar night. "When you think Oscars, you think, 'Bingo!' right? The Academy’s reaching-out-to-the-youth campaign continues with snazzy party-planning tips on its website, including a downloadable card for Oscar bingo, with squares for 'Crying,' 'Winner Accepts Oscar in a Foreign Language' and, mystifyingly, 'Lauren Bacall.' (Spoiler?!) Also on the Academy’s fun primer -- available at oscars.org/partykit -- is a video with Cheryl Cecchetto, a producer of the Governors Ball, the official Oscar afterparty, offering 10 tips for throwing your own Oscar-watching party. 'Must-have number three,' according to Ms. Cecchetto: 'Set the mood by featuring the soundtracks of the nominated pictures.' (Right, since you won’t be hearing them on the actual show.) And must-have No. 4 is 'Champagne, Champagne and more Champagne.' No argument there." THE CARPETBAGGER
• While Heidi Klum won't be on hand, the academy is staging its own version of "Project Runway" this year. Nine up and coming designers -- five from LA, two from New York, and one each from Chicago and Phoenix -- have created gowns to be worn by the models who appear onstage at the Kodak Theater. But only of their creations will make it to the Oscars with online voting from now till March 1 determining the winner. The unveiling of this design will be in the pre-show airing on ABC just before the Oscars on March 7. AMPAS
• One star who has definite ideas about what she will be wearing to the Oscars is best actress nominee Carey Mulligan ("An Education"). As Phil Boucher writes, "Having already appeared once in Vogue, is Mulligan taking editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s advice on what to wear to the Oscars? Not according to Mulligan, who has visions of her own. 'Anna said I should wear short for the Oscars,' says Mulligan. 'I was like 'No, that is so not what I had in my head when I was six years old!'" PEOPLE
Top photo: "The Hurt Locker" poster. Credit: Summit
Middle photo: "The Blind Side" poster. Credit: Warners
Bottom photo: Academy Award statuettes. Credit: AMPAS
The Oscars and BAFTA Awards reputedly share about 500 voters, so maybe that explains why BAFTA has correctly predicted the Oscars' lead actress race for the last four years. If they're really in sync, what are we to make of Carey Mulligan's lead-actress victory for "An Education"? Does this mean we're underestimating her voter pull at the Oscars? Or maybe the Brits just decided that they wanted to take a break from Hollywood groupthink this year and embrace a local British gal?
What makes parallels difficult is the fact that Oscar front-runner Sandra Bullock wasn't nominated at BAFTA because she wasn't eligible. "The Blind Side" didn't open in Britain in 2009. Maybe the fact that Mulligan won BAFTA just means Mulligan, not Meryl Streep, poses the biggest challenge to Bullock, who may the Oscar front-runner, as most pundits believe.
Photos: "An Education" (Sony Pictures Classics), left; "Julie & Julia" (Columbia), "The Blind Side" (Warner Bros.)