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

Category: movie news

Gold Derby nuggets: Bill Condon helming 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn' | Steve Carell leaving 'The Office'? | Kathy Griffin still on 'D List'

April 28, 2010 |  4:59 pm

Breaking_Dawn_cover • Writer/director Bill Condon -- who co-produced last year's Academy Awards -- has inked a deal to direct the fourth film in the "Twilight" franchise. There is talk that "Breaking Dawn" will be split into two films, as is being done with the last in the "Harry Potter" series. Condon -- who won an Oscar for his script for "Gods & Monsters" -- said in a statement, "I’m very excited to get the chance to bring the climax of this saga to life on-screen. As fans of the series know, this is a one-of-a-kind book and we’re hoping to create an equally unique cinematic experience."

• The first wave of bold-faced names who will attend the presentation of the AFI lifetime achievement award to Oscar-winning director Mike Nichols ("The Graduate") has been announced. Among those speaking at the June 10 ceremony will be a pair of two-time Oscar winners who are both previous AFI honorees -- Tom Hanks (2002) and Meryl Streep (2003) -- as well as two more Oscar champs -- Cher and Julia Roberts. All four of them have been directed at least once by Nichols who is one of only 10 people to have won the grand slam of all four major showbiz awards. YAHOO

Steve Carell The Office • Looks like four-time lead actor Emmy nominee Steve Carell could be resigning from "The Office" when his contract expires at the end of next season. As Willa Paskin reports, "Asked if he would stay longer, Carell, who has some ten movie projects in the works, told a BBC reporter, 'I don't think so. I think that will probably be my last year.' Of course, the last thing NBC needs is for the leading man of their highest-rated comedy to split, so they will likely offer Carell just about anything he wants to stay." NEW YORK

• The revamped official website of the Tony Awards will include a streaming feed of both the red carpet and the press room at the 64th annual edition of these top theater kudos on June 13. There will also be a section devoted to the Twitter feeds of the nominees after they are announced on May 4. TONY AWARDS

Kathy-griffin-my-life-on-the-dlist •Two-time Emmy champ Kathy Griffin talks with Scott Huver about the upcoming sixth season of "My Life on the D-List" including what sounds like a must-see episode with her taking an acting lesson from Oscar champ Liza Minnelli ("Cabaret"). Says Griffin, "What I took away from working with Liza was she wasn’t in her Liza kooky wacky mode. We see her on TV and so often she’s just putting on the Liza show. And when we were alone in her room, just the two of us rehearsing, she was so in the moment and so fantastic and that’s when you really see it." TV GUIDE

Jethro Nededog reports on the fun MTV is having touting its choice of "Parks and Recreation" supporting player Aziz Ansari as the host of this year's movie awards on June 6. In the promo, which debuted Tuesday night, "High School Musical" star Zac Efron, music mogul Diddy and "Gossip Girl" narrator Kristen Bell answer the question: Who is Aziz Ansari? ZAP2IT

Top photo: "Breaking Dawn" book cover. Credit: Hachette

Middle photo: Steve Carell in "The Office." Credit: NBC

Bottom photo: Kathy Griffin in "My Life on the D-List." Credit: Bravo

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Cannes film festival competition short on Oscar contenders

April 15, 2010 |  1:43 pm

Cannes_festival_logo Only one American film -- "Fair Game" from Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity") -- numbers among the 16 entries in the official competition of this year's Cannes Film Festival. This politically charged biopic about real-life diplomat Joe Wilson and his spy wife Valerie Plame stars two-time Oscar champ Sean Penn ("Mystic River," "Milk") and Naomi Watts who earned an Oscar nod opposite Penn in "21 Grams."

The director of that 2003 film was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who went on to win the best director award at Cannes for the Palme d'Or-nominated "Babel" in 2006. Prior to that he had picked up two critics prizes in 2000 for "Amores Perres," and he returns to the Croisette with his first Spanish-language film since then, the crime drama "Biutiful" starring Oscar-winner Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men").

Mike Leigh -- who won the top prize at Cannes in 1996 for "Secrets and Lies" as well as the directing award for "Naked" in 1993 -- contends once more with "Another Year," which features Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent ("Iris") and Imelda Staunton, who was a lead actress Oscar nominee in 2004 for Leigh's "Vera Drake." 

Last year, 20 films competed at Cannes, and there is talk that this year's smaller field may well expand. Two possible additions are "The Tree of Life" from Terrence Malick, who won the director prize here for his second film "Days of Heaven" in 1979, and "Inception" by Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight").

The jury -- headed by American Tim Burton, who now makes his home in London -- also includes Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro ("Traffic") and Kate Beckinsale, who starred in "Nothing but the Truth," a 2008 fictionalized version of the Wilson-Plame imbroglio.

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Gold Derby nuggets: Charlie Sheen exiting 'Two and a Half Men'? | Lucille Lortel nominations | Busy Betty White

April 1, 2010 |  5:58 pm

Charlie SheenCharlie Sheen could be leaving his hit sitcom "Two and a Half Men" at the end of this seventh season. Sheen -- who has had his share of personal woes over the course of the series -- faces charges for a domestic dispute at Christmas and is currently in rehab. The actor has picked up four consecutive Emmy nods for his work on the CBS Monday night staple and makes a reported $850,000 per episode. Whether this is just posturing for an even better payday remains to be seen. PEOPLE

• While we will have to wait and see if Sheen does not return to his show, S. Epatha Merkerson definitely won't be reporting for duty if "Law & Order" is renewed by NBC for next season. She tells Mike Ausiello that after 16 years, "It’s time to move on. I’m doing other things and this will be a great way to leave what has been an extraordinary gig." Merkerson delivered one of the all-time great acceptance speeches when she won an Emmy in 2005 for her lead performance in the telefilm "Lackawanna Blues" and her notes disappeared down her decolletage. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Mike Fleming delivers the news that the three amigos at the center of all the fun -- Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms -- finally have signed  for the sequel to "The Hangover." The surprise winner of the Golden Globe for best comedy/musical of the year is the top-grossing R-rated comedy of all time. The trio are looking at $5-million-plus payouts each, while director Todd Phillips will make at least $10 million on the picture. DEADLINE

• LAT theater critic Charles McNulty extols the efforts of Valerie Harper to use new media like Facebook and Twitter to draw people to the old medium of live theater. The four-time Emmy champ is appearing on Broadway as the theatrical diva Talullah Bankhead in the new play "Looped." CULTURE MONSTER

Lortel_Awards_logo • While Harper could contend for a Tony as her show runs on Broadway, the off-Broadway community rewards its top productions with the Lucille Lortel awards. Nominations for the silver anniversary of these kudos were announced Thursday. The plays "The Glass Menagerie," "Pride" and "When the Rain Stops Falling" lead with six apiece. Among the performers contending are Oscar-winning songwriter Keith Carradine ("Nashville") and three-time Emmy champ Laurie Metcalf for their featured work in "A Lie of the Mind." Winners will be announced May 2, two days before Harper finds out if she is a Tony nominee. PLAYBILL

• Two-time Tony champ Nathan Lane, director Kenny Leon and Macy's Thanksgiving parade will be honored at the 2010 Drama League luncheon on May 21 in Gotham. PLAYBILL

• Oscar winner Anna Paquin declared herself to be bisexual in a PSA for the Give a Damn campaign, which promotes gay and lesbian equality. Paquin, who picked up a Golden Globe for the first season of "True Blood," is engaged to her on-screen paramour, Stephen Moyer.

• Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson has a new gig as the spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. The "Dreamgirl" star gave birth seven months ago and credits the program with helping her shed the baby weight. She will be appearing in TV spots and print ads. On "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Hudson said, "No one recognizes me anymore. I wanted to go in a different direction and find a better lifestyle." E ONLINE

Betty WhiteBetty White is busier than ever. When not appearing in TV series, like the upcoming finale of freshman hit "The Middle," or preparing her own TV Land sitcom this summer -- "Hot in Cleveland" -- the five-time Emmy champ is picking up lifetime achievement awards. Last summer the TV critics honored her, in January SAG sang her praises and on April 14 she will be feted by the American Women in Radio & Television. Says Jay Leno, who will present her this latest prize, "This Golden Girl has won my heart and the hearts of many fans from around the world."

• Advertisers will pay a premium for a spot on the series finale of "24." Prior to the announcement that the 2006 Emmy winner for best drama series was signing off after eight event-filled years, Fox had been looking for a cool half-million per ad for the May 24 two-hour closer. That rate has jumped to $650,000, and there may be little inventory left already. AD AGE

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Top photo: Charlie Sheen in "Two and a Half Men." Credit: CBS.

Middle photo: Lucille Lortel award logo. Credit: Lucille Lortel Foundation.

Bottom photo: Betty White at the SAG Awards. Credit: TNT

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

March 7, 2010 |  9:38 pm

Kathryn Bigelow The Hurt Locker Oscars 82nd Annual Academy Awards 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.

Of the 10 best picture nominees, four were completely shut out -- "District 9" (with four noms), "An Education" (three noms), "A Serious Man" (two nominations) and "Up in the Air" (six). 

"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.

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Gold Derby nuggets: OMG! Kristen & Taylor at the Oscars | Emmys for Betty White and Ann-Margret? | Memorable Oscars of yesteryear

February 22, 2010 |  4:48 pm

Taylor Lautner Kristen Stewart Twilight Oscars • While last year's Oscar champs Sean Penn, Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz were referred to by their last names in the Feb. 11 academy news  release touting their appearances on this year's Oscars, tween and teen stars Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart merited first-names only in Monday's announcement of their bookings. For Cyrus and Efron, it will be their second time on the Kodak Theatre stage while "Twilight" stars Lautner and Stewart will be making their debut appearances at the Oscars. AMPAS

Scott Feinberg talks to Harvey Weinstein about the Oscar odds of "Inglourious Basterds" and a wide array of other subjects. As Scott reports, "Over the course of our 20-minute call, he repeatedly tries to steer the conversation back to 'Basterds,' Waltz, and especially Tarantino, with whom he’s collaborated ever since the boy wonder’s first film 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992) 18 years ago. But the reason that I requested this interview was to talk not about the puppeteer but rather about the puppeteer’s puppeteer." AND THE WINNER IS

• Four-time prime-time Emmy champ Betty White could be in the running again this year if the Facebook campaign to land her a hosting gig on "SNL" pans out. Michael Ausiello reports, "White would not be hosting alone. Rather, I hear 'SNL' is putting together a 'Women of Comedy' episode that would team the former Rose Nylund with several of her younger contemporaries. Ex-'SNL' MVP Molly Shannon is on board, I hear, and feelers have also been put out to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler." Last year, Fey and Justin Timberlake won the guest acting Emmys for their hosting of "SNL." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

SVU LogAnn-Margret might finally nab the Emmy that has eluded her five times in the past with the news that she will be guesting on "Law & Order: SVU." As per Robyn Ross's exclusive interview with executive producer Neal Baer, "the actress will portray "a star of commercials that were made in the '70s" and will be joined in the episode by Jaclyn Smith, who Baer says will play "a retired cop who works with Benson and Stabler to solve an old crime." Baer calls it "'Charlie's Angels' thirty years later." Over the years, guest actresses on "SVU" have earned 14 Emmy nominations resulting in four wins. TV GUIDE

Brad Brevet does a superb job reviewing the Oscar-nominated live action and animated shorts.  As Brad notes, Short Films International and Magnolia Pictures are currently screening all 10 shorts theatrically. For Brad, "Miracle Fish" from Australia is the best of the live action bunch while among the animated shorts, it may just be "A Matter of Loaf and Death." As Brad writes, "What is there really to say? It's Aardman. It's Wallace and Gromit. Isn't that enough? This time around Wallace has started up a baking business and all around him other bakers are being knocked off one-by-one." ROPE OF SILICON 

• While Steve Pond thinks "The Hurt Locker" will win best picture at the Oscars, he still isn't ready to say the race is over. As he writes, "'Avatar' has already beaten all the odds at the box office, and it’s picked up a good chunk of voters who view it as such a transformative, groundbreaking experience that it’d be crazy to vote for anything else. 'Avatar' is the reason the Oscar show will see its ratings increase dramatically, and Academy voters know that. All of which makes “Avatar” the film that could possibly, conceivably throw the usual rules out the window and grab a win that hasn’t been indicated at any of the significant precursor awards." THE WRAP

Oscar nominations 2010 Avatar The Hurt Locker The Blind Side Up in the Air UpJeff Wells observes, "It's being asked which of this year's Best Picture nominees will be watched by film buffs 50 years hence. Just as I've watched (and will watch again) a 50 year-old Korean War film called 'Pork Chop Hill,' I can't imagine 'The Hurt Locker' not being a fascinating timepiece for those looking to absorb what the Iraq War was for U.S. troops. And just as 'Ben-Hur' is a necessary flick to own (especially when it finally comes out on Blu-ray or at least see once, who can imagine 'Avatar' not being a essential sit in 2060?" Jeff then recaps the merits of the 1959 Oscar nominees as well as those films snubbed by the academy. HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE

• A trio of Time Out scribes -- David Fear, Joshua Rothkopf and Keith Uhlich -- count down their top 50 most-deserving Oscar winners of the past 81 years. While the cinematography of "The Third Man" (1950) just made the cut, topping their list is the visual effects of "2001." As Rothkopf writes, "Our consensus choice by a galaxy-wide margin, Stanley Kubrick’s seismically influential special effects—landmark accomplishments in their field—were steered by an intelligence that spent years pursuing a vision of total realism." TIME OUT NEW YORK

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Top photo: Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner in a scene from "Twilight: New Moon." Credit: Summit

Middle photo: "Law & Order: SVU" logo. Credit: NBC

Bottom photo: Academy Award statuettes. Credit: AMPAS

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Gold Derby nuggets: Brits go Lady Gaga | Oscars set set | Prince William presenting at BAFTAs

February 17, 2010 |  5:03 pm

Lady Gaga BritsLady Gaga went three for three at Tuesday's Brit Awards in London, winning international album, female and breakthrough act. Home-grown boy band JLS won best British breakthrough act and best single for "Beat Again." Dizzee Rascal, Florence and the Machine and Lily Allen also picked up prizes. "Two special categories were created to celebrate the 30th Brits ceremony -- the Spice Girls' 1997 performance of their hits 'Wannabe' and 'Who Do You Think You Are' was named the best moment in Brits history, while Oasis' '(What's the Story) Morning Glory' was named best album. Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher accepted the award, with no sign of brother Noel, and threw the statuette straight into the crowd. Robbie Williams received the honorary award for outstanding contribution to music, ending the show with a live medley of his greatest hits including 'Let Me Entertain You,' 'No Regrets' and 'Angels.'" BBC

James Cameron told Christopher John Farley, "the book version of 'Avatar' will follow the film version 'quite closely' in terms of the plot. But the novel will also include 'interior monologues' and provide details about the characters and Pandora. 'There are things you can do in books that you can’t do with films.' Cameron said he first considered writing the book when he was filming the movie. 'I told myself, if it made money, I’d write a book,' the director said. 'Avatar' has grossed more than $666 million domestically." WALL STREET JOURNAL

• Says Steve Pond, "I think the preferential system will definitely hurt 'Avatar,' but I think it’ll help 'Basterds' less than it’ll help 'The Hurt Locker.' 'Basterds' may be less divisive than 'Avatar,' but it’s not the kind of broad, consensus favorite that could challenge the frontrunners. It’s too sprawling, too audacious, too violent and too brazenly, defiantly revisionist to be an everybody’s-top-five kind of movie. Yes, 'Basterds' beat 'Locker' for the SAG ensemble award. But that prize traditionally goes to big casts, not small ones. I don’t see that translating into a decisive edge with the Academy’s actors branch, which gave the two films the exact same number of nominations: one Best Actor nod for 'Locker, one Supporting Actor plaudit for 'Basterds.' As for the other films that could sneak in via the preferential ballot, 'Up in the Air' and 'Up' may well make moves as the count goes into its later rounds, making up for a smaller number of Number One votes with lots of Twos and Threes. But they’re going to start with a significant disadvantage (particularly 'Up'), and I don’t think they’ll be able to make up ground fast enough to become real contenders." THE ODDS

Oscar Set 2010 • Steve Pond also reports, "the academy unveiled its most complicated, high-tech Oscar set ever at a Wednesday morning press conference in the lobby of the Kodak Theater, where the show’s crew now has about 14 days to mount and fine-tune the collection of rotating LED panels, turntables, film projection screens and mirrored curtains before the stars start showing up. 'We have two weeks to get it right, and the best technical people in the world,' said show co-producer Bill Mechanic after the unveiling. 'Two weeks to get all the bugs out. One of the risks of being ambitious is that you could trip. But if we don’t trip, you’re going to get one of the most dynamic shows that you’ve ever seen.' The set was designed by David Rockwell, who did the Oscars for the first time last year, although he and his firm also designed the Kodak Theater itself. Rockwell’s set for 2009’s 81st Oscar show, was, said co-producer Adam Shankman, 'one of the stars of last year’s show.'" THE ODDS

• Predicting the Oscars? There's an app for that, says the academy: "The app’s features give iPhone and iPod touch users access to a nominees list for each of the 24 categories, see trailers for the 10 Best Picture-nominated films, and predict winners in each of the categories. Users’ predictions will be saved to a database that will enable sharing with friends via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as well as by e-mail and SMS text. 'We want to connect with movie lovers wherever they are,' said Janet Weiss, the Academy’s director of marketing. 'Our Oscar App gives fans a way to participate in all the excitement and buzz right up to and through the show.'" AMPAS

Chris Willman says, "It's considered a given that Jeff Bridges will win best actor for portraying fictional country singer Bad Blake in 'Crazy Heart' and that the same film's primary theme song, "The Weary Kind," is a shoo-in for best song. But the movie's backers aren't taking any chances, so Bridges actually sang for his supper -- or his Oscar -- at an exclusive mini-concert in Los Angeles Monday night attended by a crowd heavy on Academy members. The actor was joined in his performance by T Bone Burnett, who produced the music for 'Crazy Heart' as well as co-writing most of its songs, and alt-country favorite Ryan Bingham, who co-wrote "The Weary Kind" and has a small part in the film as a pickup musician. Also putting in cameo musical appearances at this unusual gig: Robert Duvall, Harry Dean Stanton and a seriously underrated honky-tonk pianist by the name of Elton John." CMT

Prince WilliamPrince William will bestow the BAFTA fellowship -- the equivalent of a honorary Oscar -- on Vanessa Redgrave at this Sunday's awards. There is a certain irony to this as Redgrave -- who accepted a CBE in 1967 -- is said to have turned down the honor of being made a Dame of the British Empire in 1999. William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth II would have been the one to officiate at Redgrave's induction.  DAILY MAIL

Sasha Stone does her usual thorough analysis of the BAFTAs including these observations: "In terms of Actor and Actress, it’s a tough call. But let’s say that Actress could be down to Meryl Streep versus Carey Mulligan. Streep has never won a BAFTA since the date change and has been nominated six times, including one year where she was nominated for both lead and supporting. It would be a shame if the BAFTA didn’t recognize Streep here, but you know how everyone feels about Carey Mulligan. Odds are probably on Mulligan for the win. With a teentsy potential upset with Gabby Sidibe. Actor is probably going to be either Colin Firth or Jeff Bridges. I didn’t get much of a 'Crazy Heart' vibe from the BAFTA, though, gotta say. The truth is, any of them could win it. Bridges holds steady if he is nominated. George Clooney could get a tiny bump, but not likely. The real upset here would be Jeremy Renner winning. That boy is like fire and gasoline when you get him on stage so if he gets one chance to win it might make him some competition for Bridges." AWARDS DAILY

Top photo: Lady Gaga backstage with her three Brits. Credit: Brit Awards

Middle photo: 82nd Annual Academy Awards set. Credit: AMPAS

Bottom photo: Prince William. Credit: The Prince of Wales website

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Gold Derby nuggets: Dave Karger Oscar predix | 'Avatar' goodwill mission | Oscar nominees luncheon tidbits

February 12, 2010 |  4:29 pm

The Hurt Locker posterDave Karger has posted his predictions for the top eight races at the Oscars. He is going with "The Hurt Locker" for best picture: "No film has ever won Best Picture without winning at least one of the four major guild prizes (PGA, SAG, Directors Guild, and Writers Guild). 'Avatar' already lost PGA and DGA to 'The Hurt Locker' and it wasn’t even nominated for SAG’s best ensemble prize ('Inglourious Basterds' won that one). And even though it was nominated, it’s obviously not going to win the Writers Guild award." And Dave says, best actress is Sandra Bullock's to lose -- "This is clearly the only thing resembling a race in the acting categories. 'The Blind Side''s Best Picture nomination (compared to no other nods for 'Julie & Julia') means Bullock has the edge." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

• However veteran Oscars expert Jack Mathews cautions: "'Inglourious Basterds' is not my favorite nominee, but 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." MOVIE FONE

Scott Feinberg interviewed double Oscar nominee Quentin Tarantino ("Inglourious Basterds") "who was at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to appear on a panel of top directors and also to thank the festival and film legend Kirk Douglas for the 2009 Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film by moderating a special Q&A with Douglas or, as he called it, a 'Q&K.' Afterward, he was kind enough to take a few moments to answer my questions about his films, thoughts, and incredible journey from high school dropout to beloved filmmaker." AND THE WINNER IS

Avatar PosterPete Hammond reports that "Avatar" producer Jon Landau, "showed me photos of their recent excursion to the Persian Gulf, where they ran 'Avatar' on the Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. It was a stealth trip, and most of the press didn't even know about it. Cameron signed over 3,000 autographs and posed for photos with all the sailors for eight hours. Landau shared a letter he received from a top admiral saying the movie and the visit energized them for their upcoming mission in Afghanistan. Yes, there are things more gratifying than winning an Oscar." NOTES ON A SEASON

Oprah Winfrey returns with another Oscar special on ABC March 3 that will pair up stars to interview each other. The first edition of this show in 2007 featured six Oscar champs with Julia Roberts chatting with George Clooney, old friends Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe reminiscing and Jamie Foxx paying homage to screen icon Sidney Poitier.

• As per Peter Knegt, "Film distributor GKIDS has announced that their surprise Oscar-nominated animated feature 'The Secret of Kells' will open theatrically at New York’s IFC Center on March 5, which also happens to be Oscar weekend. The New York opening at IFC Center will be followed by previously -announced opening in Boston on March 19 (tied into St. Patrick’s day for the Irish film), and an April 2 expansion to major US markets including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and others." INDIE WIRE

Oscar nominations 2010 Avatar The Hurt Locker The Blind Side Up in the Air UpSteve Pond describes Monday's nominees luncheon as "one of the most collegial, stress-free events on the Oscar calendar. It’s an event where seating arrangements are shuffled so that you don’t sit with anybody from your film, or anybody from your category; where a Best Actor nominee could end up at the same table with a documentarian, a cinematographer, a special effects whiz and the maker of an animated short." As he writes, "it’s where the producer (or producers) of the Oscar show get to address the nominees, generally using their time as an opportunity to plead for short speeches. In 2001, for instance, Gil Cates announced at the luncheon that he was giving a high-definition TV to the winner who made the shortest speech. (The winner, Dutch filmmaker Michael Dudok de Wit, wasn’t even at the luncheon and didn’t know about the offer. 'I have many television sets,' he said, after giving his prize to charity.) The following year, Laura Ziskin gave out silver hourglasses containing exactly 45 seconds worth of sand, for nominees to use while practicing their speeches. It didn’t really help; Ziskin’s show was the longest in Oscar history." THE ODDS

Hanh Nguyen reports, " 'So You Think You Can Dance's' Legacy will be at the Academy Awards, but not for his emotionally wrought crying scenes. The busy b-boy will take part in a dance routine at the Oscars on Sunday, March 7 in Hollywood, reuniting with 'SYTYCD' judge Adam Shankman, who's also producing the Oscars alongside Bill Mechanic. 'I will be part of the Academy Awards. LXD [The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers crew] got asked to perform in it. Either I'll be performing with LXD or I'm doing some stuff with Adam.'" ZAP 2 IT

Top photo: "The Hurt Locker" poster. Credit: Summit

Middle photo: "Avatar" poster. Credit: Fox

Bottom photo: Academy Awards statuettes. Credit: AMPAS

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Oscars telecast details revealed in promo video

February 12, 2010 |  2:03 pm

The academy has already announced that the three living winners of last year's acting Oscars -- leads Sean Penn ("Milk") and Kate Winslet ("The Reader") and supporting champ Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Christina Barcelona") -- will be presenters at this year's Academy Awards. Beyond that, there has been much speculation as to whom co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will be welcoming to the stage of the Kodak Theater on March 7.

Meet the Writers of the Oscars On Monday, the academy posted a video to its YouTube channel entitled "Meet the Writers." The blurb for this 2:00 spot reads: "Go behind the scenes with the producers and writers of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards® featuring Bruce Vilanch, Jon Macks, Jeff Richman, Carol Leifer, Beth Armogida, Dave Feldman, co-host and writer Steve Martin and producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman." While there is much amusing banter heard among them -- with Martin chiming in via speakerphone -- it is what is seen that is more interesting.

As one of our eagle-eyed forum posters -- the aptly-named Academy Awards Guru -- reports, "you can see a board on the background, it has several labels indicating the 13 segments of the ceremony, the first and final segment with the two hosts, the other segments with one host (first steve, then alec)."

And he says, "Other things that I saw:

The award for best foreign language film will be presented by Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodovar (as some reports said it before).

The nominated songs will be performed separately.

They also will feature a clip of each one of the 10 best picture nominees.

James Taylor will perform or present.

"The Hangover' cast will present or perform."

Keep checking back at Gold Derby and in this thread in the forums for further advance details of the telecast.

Photo: "Meet the Writers" introductory screenshot. Credit: AMPAS

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Gold Derby nuggets: 'Inglorious Basterds' rallies | Oscars updates | Vanessa Redgrave BAFTA honoree

February 11, 2010 |  3:39 pm

Inglorious Basterds posterRoger Friedman reports, "the combined ages of the Hollywood elite who celebrated Quentin Tarantino’s 'Inglourious Basterds' for lunch on Wednesday was about a thousand. Famed B-movie director Roger Corman, 95-year-old legend Norman Lloyd (Dr. Auschlander from 'St. Elsewhere') and Oscar winner Martin Landau hosted the lunch at the equally old and similarly robust Musso and Frank in Hollywood. The event was sponsored by Insignia Productions’ Ranee Bartolacci and organized by Tarantino fan Norah Lawlor of Lawlor Media in New York. The other guests were people who know their Oscar movies: Cloris Leachman, Ron Howard, Jacqueline Bissett, plus Karen Black, John Milius, Tom Skerritt, Irwin Winkler, JoBeth Williams, Michael Nouri, Ron Perlman, Wayne Kramer, Bruce Davison, Frank Capra Jr, Ron Yerxa, Jon Voight, and the ever popular Norby Walters." SHOWBIZ 411

• And warns Pete Hammond, "Don't tell Harvey Weinstein it's a two-horse race and his movie isn't one of those ponies. 'We're going to win best picture. This is the movie people love and it's Quentin's time. We are going for it and we are gonna get it,' Weinstein told me Tuesday night at carmaker Audi's celebration of the eight Oscar nominations for 'Inglourious Basterds.' 'Look, best director may be a question -- and you can quote me on that -- but we won the SAG award for best ensemble, actors are the biggest branch in the academy and they love the movie.' Perhaps he's using 'Crash' as an inspiration, which in 2004 was able to stop the tide of precursor awards for "Brokeback Mountain" by upsetting at SAG." NOTES ON A SEASON

Sandra Bullock sat down for an in-depth conversation with Charlie Rose for his public TV talk show. In this compelling 30-minute interview, Bullock discusses the surprising success of "The Blind Side," her thoughts on her first Oscar nomination, and her admiration for category rival Meryl Streep. PBS

Dave Karger intros the second of six video chats thus: "Missy Schwartz and I take a closer look at the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress races. Is Sandra Bullock the most brilliant Oscar campaigner ever? Can anyone really challenge Mo'Nique for the win?" ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Oscar nominations 2010 Avatar The Hurt Locker The Blind Side Up in the Air Up • Reporting on the revamped Oscars, Andrew Hampp writes, "Janet Weiss, the Academy's director of marketing, wanted to embrace the unique format of this year's telecast in all of the awards show's marketing, thus the tagline, 'You've never seen Oscar like this.' The controversial expansion of the Best Picture slot was the initial impetus behind the decision." To that end, the academy streamed the nomination announcement live online for the first time and has both a Facebook page and an upcoming iPhone app. "For a really conservative organization, we're trying to push the envelope into new media and new strategies," Ms. Weiss said. "We're giving people a peek behind the curtain, and hopefully they'll see the Oscars is more relevant for them today." ADVERTISING AGE

• Indeed, after keeping the presenters a secret till the Oscars aired last year, this year the academy is hyping the bold-faced names who will be appearing. First up are the three living winners of last year's acting Oscars: leads Sean Penn ("Milk") and Kate Winslet ("The Reader") and supporting champ Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Christina Barcelona"). Tradition has been that each of the previous year's winners presents the Oscar the following year across gender lines in their category. Cruz was expected to be at the Oscars anyway as she is a nominee for "Nine." 

• A report suggests Alec Baldwin's ex-wife Oscar champ Kim Basinger ("L.A. Confidential") could have been behind the media circus that sprung up following his late night visit to the emergency room Thursday. "Basinger, the buddy said, is jealous that Baldwin is co-hosting the Academy Awards next month and is using their daughter, Ireland, to rain on his parade. 'She's not not going to let that go by,' the pal said." NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

• While AMC is running a movie marathon of the best picture nominees nationwide, Melena Ryzik says "New Yorkers with a more pointed interest in this year’s race can check out the IFC Theater’s “Bigelow vs. Cameron” midnight series, starting Feb. 26, in which the formerly married directors and current Oscar contenders trade weekend screenings,. 'Can Bigelow’s Angela Bassett in 'Strange Days' take down femme action icon Sigourney Weaver in Cameron’s 'Aliens'?,' the news release asks. 'And will Cameron’s uber-80s juggernaut 'The Terminator' survive the indie rabbit punch of Bigelow’s redneck bloodsuckers in 'Near Dark'?' Seems like a fair fight." THE CARPETBAGGER

Vanessa Redgrave BAFTAVanessa Redgrave is to be feted with a Fellowship -- the BAFTA equivalent of an honorary Oscar -- at the awardsfest on Feb. 21 in London. In making the announcement, David Parfitt, Chair of the Academy said: "We are absolutely thrilled to be awarding the fellowship to Vanessa. She is a hugely talented and respected actress who has served as an inspiration to the British film industry." And said Vanessa Redgrave: "I’m truly delighted, it’s such an honour to be recognised in this way. Looking through the list of past recipients shows what a wonderful accolade this is, and the fact that Alfred Hitchcock was the very first recipient makes it even more special, as my father (Michael Redgrave) made his first film with him." BAFTA

• MTV is moving the VMAs (Kanye) westward this year and the 27th annual edition of the awards will air live from Los Angeles on Sunday Sept. 12. And the 19th airing of the MTV movie kudos is now set for Sunday June 6 from the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal City. As per the announcement, "Emmy Award winner Mark Burnett returns for the fourth year in a row to executive produce the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, where movie megastars will vie for the golden popcorn in award categories as only MTV could create them including Best Kiss, Best Fight” and Best Comedic Performance. For the second time in Movie Awards history, the final 2010 nominees in addition to the winners, will be decided by the MTV fans."

Top photo: "Inglorious Basterds" poster. Credit: The Weinstein Co. 

Middle photo: Academy Awards statuettes. Credit: AMPAS

Bottom photo: Vanessa Redgrave. Credit: BAFTA

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Get Gold Derby on Twitter. Join the Gold Derby Group at Facebook. Become friends with Tom O'Neil on Facebook. Get Gold Derby RSS feed via Facebook. RSS Feedburner. RSS Atom.


Gold Derby nuggets: Grammys & Super Bowl boost record sales | Oscars best picture race staying at 10

February 10, 2010 |  5:33 pm

Pink Grammy AwardsTodd Marten reports, "a little TV exposure continues to go a long way. Country trio Lady Antebellum tops the chart for the second straight week, leading in a week that saw big increases for acts that appeared on the Jan. 31 Grammy Awards. Artists such as Pink, Green Day, Taylor Swift and the Dave Matthews Band all saw large sales jumps, and the Who's appearance on Sunday night's Super Bowl seems to already be paying dividends." In particular, "the biggest beneficiary of the Grammys, in terms of a sales increase, was pop star Pink. Her 'Funhouse' (LaFace) was up 235% over the prior week, selling a total of 31,000 copies. To date, it's sold 1.5 million, while the cut she performed on the Grammys in all its acrobatic glory, 'Glitter in the Air,' sold 114,000 downloads this week, which is the biggest sales week for the track. It sold about 9,000 last week, and 1.5 million to date." POP & HISS

Andrew Gans reports Katori Hall's 'The Mountaintop,' which received a Olivier best play nomination on Tuesday, "will arrive on Broadway in fall 2010. Jean Doumanian Productions in partnership with Sonia Friedman Productions will produce the acclaimed play, which will be directed by Kenny Leon ('Fences,' 'A Raisin in the Sun'). Casting will be announced at a later date." Set on April 3, 1968, 'The Mountaintop,' according to press notes, "is a gripping reimagining of events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., as he retires to Room 306 in the now famous Lorraine Motel in Memphis, after delivering his legendary ‘From the mountaintop’ speech to a massive church congregation. When room-service is delivered by a young woman, whose identity we puzzle over, King is forced to confront his past, as well as his legacy to his people." PLAYBILL

Sasha Stone has penned a must-read analysis of the state of the Oscars best picture race. Sasha says, "there are still four movies with the right stuff to win: 'The Hurt Locker' sitting pretty with a PGA and a DGA win ('Saving Private Ryan' did not win with those two under its belt). 'Inglourious Basterds' has the actors vote with the SAG. 'Up in the Air' which has more acting nominations than any other film in the race, and 'Precious' which landed the coveted editing nomination. My work thus far, which might amount to nothing more than a wild guess that turns out to be wrong, tells me that only one of these four films can win." AWARDS DAILY

Mark Lisanti makes merry with the preferential ballot for best picture at the Oscars. Among the special conditions he has dreamed up: "If 'The Hurt Locker' is in the number one slot, it may be placed in either the 'Hey, Did You Know This Was Directed By A Woman? Crazy!' pile, or the 'Hey, Have You Heard That The Director, A Lady, Used To Be Married To Jimbo Cameron?' pile." MOVIELINE

Melena Ryzik notes, "now that there are two fewer late night show outposts, the looser daytime shows are getting more play. But actors appearing on those shows run the risk of indulging in rampant silliness. See: Jeremy Renner -- the bad boy star of 'The Hurt Locker' --  sing a self-written soap opera-style ballad on 'The View' and James Cameron speaking in Na’vi on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show.' (O.K., Mr. Cameron would probably speak in Na’vi wherever he went. Even 'Star Trek' nerds don’t parrot Klingon this much.) But who knew that the demise of the Conan O’Brien 'Tonight Show' would have ripple effects into statuette land? Some people, probably. It’s called synergy, folks!" THE CARPETBAGGER

• However, says Anne Thompson, "I’m not sure that putting James Cameron on 'Oprah' is the best way to win the hearts and minds of Academy voters. The movie couldn’t be a bigger hit. The trick is to convince people that 'Avatar' isn’t just a great technological achievement but a movie to be taken seriously. That’s why I wonder: if Academy members vote for 'The Hurt Locker' for best picture wouldn’t they consider giving Cameron best director? Who else could have accomplished what he did on 'Avatar'? It’s a director’s vision, a director’s achievement." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

Oscar nominations 2010 Avatar The Hurt Locker The Blind Side Up in the Air UpSteve Pond reports we better get used to this expanded playing field at the Oscars after an interview with academy president Tom Sherak who "said that the Academy was happy with the results of the expanded field … for now. 'I don’t know if it’s a success yet,' he said. 'But so far, yes, we’re happy. I don’t think there’s any question about that. So far. And I expect we’ll do it for another year.' He laughed. 'Some people have said, ‘Well, they got lucky.' I love that comment. In fact, the voters gave us everything we were hoping for when we made the change, except a foreign film or a documentary.' On that count, Sherak says he’s determined to find a way to get those films into the Best Picture race, and to increase their visibility. 'There are things in the works to address that,'he said. 'I don’t know how much I can achieve, but I’m going to keep working on it.'" THE ODDS

• To find out whether the Gold Derby awards are expanding as well, drop into the chat room Thursday night (Feb. 11) at 8 p.m. EST for the announcement of the nominations. All forum members can vote for the best of 2009 through midnight EST on Feb. 28. Winners will be announced the night before the Oscars on Saturday, March 6 at 8 p.m. EST.

Dave Karger turns his attention to the Spirit Awards. After noting that he expects "Crazy Heart" and "Precious" to dominate the March 5 ceremony,  Dave makes mention of three underdog contenders: male lead Adam Scott ("The Vicious Kind"), female lead Gwyneth Paltrow ("Two Lovers") and first feature "A Single Man." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

• "Precious" star Gabourey Sidibe must be happy that "Up in the Air" is not contending at the Spirit Awards; after all, her first encounter with that film's leading man George Clooney left her all wet. As she explains, "It's raining at the Golden Globes, that's where I met him (Clooney). So everyone's got umbrellas and George is standing too close to me and his umbrella is getting me wet because it's underneath my umbrella. I'm finished taking my press photos and I'm completely wet and it's all because of George Clooney." IMDB

Top photo: Pink at the Grammys. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Academy Award statuettes. Credit: AMPAS

RELATED POSTS

Oscar voters: Check your mailbox

Poll: Do you love or hate the Oscars' official new poster?

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Gold Derby nuggets: Oscars to get instant engraving | A salute to Sandra Bullock | Time up for '24'?

Oscar experts agree: Jeff Bridges will win best actor

Get Gold Derby on Twitter. Join the Gold Derby Group at Facebook. Become friends with Tom O'Neil on Facebook. Get Gold Derby RSS feed via Facebook. RSS Feedburner. RSS Atom.


Oscar voters: Check your mailbox

February 10, 2010 |  3:34 pm

Pwc

Oscar ballots were mailed Wednesday to the 5,777 voting members of the academy. Voters have until 5 p.m. (PST) on Tuesday, March 2, to return them to PricewaterhouseCoopers, that well-known "independent accounting firm," which will tally the votes.

The ballot lists Oscar nominees in only 19 categories. Members are required to attend screenings if they wish to vote for foreign language film, documentary features and shorts, and animated and live-action shorts. The winners of all 24 races will be revealed during the Oscars telecast on Sunday, March 7.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has set up a special section on its website with info about the balloting process. Learn such tidbits as how many days it takes to count the nomination ballots (seven) and final round (three). Also, how many ballots have been tallied over the accounting firm's 76 years on the job (450,000).

Photo: Oscar accountants Brad Oltmanns, left, and Rick Rosas. Credit: PWC

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Gold Derby nuggets: Oscars to get instant engraving | A salute to Sandra Bullock | Time up for '24'?

February 9, 2010 |  2:55 pm

Oscar nominations 2010 Avatar The Hurt Locker The Blind Side Up in the Air UpOscar winners will no longer have to wait weeks to see their names on the shiny gold statuettes they are handed at the ceremony. The academy has announced plans to personalize the Oscars at the post-ceremony Governors Ball. To that end, "the academy will create 197 nameplates, one for each 2009 nominee in every category. The engraving will include the nominee’s name, category, film title and year. After the winners have been announced, the unused nameplates will be recycled." As academy president Tom Sherak said, “An Oscar statuette just isn’t complete until a nameplate is attached. The Governors Ball is the perfect place for Oscar winners to add that final touch as they celebrate their accomplishment and the year’s movies." AMPAS

• If that weren't reason enough for Oscar champs to attend the Governors Ball, the academy also announced that Wolfgang Puck will be returning for the 16th year to create the menu. Overseeing the planning will be Cheryl Cechetto for the 21st consecutive year. And Jeffrey Kurland, an academy governor representing the Art Directors Branch, will chair the ball. "Kurland is an Oscar-nominated costume designer ('Bullets Over Broadway,' 1994), and in addition to overseeing the decor, menu and entertainment planning for the ball, he will design attire to be worn by the evening’s performers and selected staff." AMPAS

Dave Karger discusses and then dismisses the possibility of any upsets in the acting races at the Oscars. "I still think Jeremy Renner is No. 2 in the Best Actor derby, but face it: It’s not happening. And neither is Maggie Gyllenhaal. Or Woody Harrelson. Or Gabourey Sidibe. We all need to be content with the reality that the only real races in the major categories this year are for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Otherwise we’re all setting ourselves up for a night of disappointment on March 7." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

• Echoing this sentiment, Mike Fleming says, "We know that almost all the marquee categories are virtually decided. Which leaves only Best Picture and Best Director (and maybe Best Actress) nominations with any suspense at all. There's tension galore, for once. The studios, and their majors and minors and distributors and marketers, all had an extra two weeks to campaign until the Oscar broadcast March 7th. But is anyone spending like the good old days (i.e. the Weinsteins' heyday)? I've called around and seasoned Oscar observers say no, resoundingly. Gone are the days when ego and bragging rights prompted studios and studio-backed indies to cough up tens of millions of dollars just to sway Academy members. It's estimated that spending campaigns this year will range from a pittance of $500,000 to a middling $5 million. 'And most of us are going to play in the low end,' one top studio exec told me. Contrast that to the routine $15-plus million spent in the late 1990s-early 2000s." DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD

Sandra Bullock Santa Barbara Oscars The Blind SidePete Hammond reports on the tribute to Oscar front-runner Sandra Bullock that he moderated last Friday at the Santa Barbara filmfest. "The odd thing is she tried desperately to turn down both roles, in 'The Proposal' and "The Blind Side," that have led to her current award-season success and No. 1-box-office star ranking in the 78-year-old Quigley poll of theater owners. 'It seems the things I said 'no' to have benefited me the most,' she said, explaining that she didn't want to do another romantic comedy but was finally seduced by the quality of the character in 'Proposal' and that she thought the real-life subject of 'Blind Side' Leigh Anne Tuohy was 'manufactured,' that is until  director John Lee Hancock finally persuaded her to meet Tuohy. After an eight-hour session with Leigh Anne she finally got it. Although she still doesn't remember saying 'yes' or signing a contract, she is glad she got to do it. 'Like most things that strike a chord, they weren't made to strike a chord. They are made out of passion and love, and this was John Lee Hancock's passion. He knew what he wanted to say,' she says and is especially thrilled that it also got a surprise best picture nomination." NOTES ON A SEASON

• Two-time Emmy champ Jeff Probst is sticking with "Survivor" for at least two more installments says CBS. The host of the long-running reality competition is also signing on as an executive producer for the 21st and 22nd editions of "Survivor" that will air next season. AP

• The Emmy-nominated Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") plays a whopping 30 different characters in a 3:00 music video promoting the non-profit coalition Stand Up to Cancer. THE LIVE FEED

24-Season-8-PosterJosef Adalian delves into Monday's reports in EW and Variety that the Emmy-winning "24" could be heading for the big-screen. "Just when a '24' feature might move forward could depend on how long '24' the series continues. Fox Broadcasting hasn't renewed the series for a ninth season, and Variety said 'the betting is that this season will be the final one.'" As Josef notes, "'24' is a very expensive show to produce, and Fox executives may simply decide it no longer makes sense to continue given the series' solid but weakened ratings this season. Making things tougher: Fox executives still believe the show is on solid footing creatively. The Variety story also hints that 20th might shop a '24' series to another network if Fox didn't step up and renew the series. Another possibility, insiders tell TheWrap: A revamped, less costly take on '24' that would allow the franchise to stay in the Fox family." THE WRAP

Nathaniel Rogers revisits one of his favorite top 10 Oscar lists -- best picture nominees with the longest titles -- and reports that the officially-titled "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" sits at position No. 4. The longest title remains 1964 nominee "Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." Says Nathaniel, "Not only does this classic comedy have the longest title ever from a best picture nominee, it has one of the best titles period. Ever. All time. Don'cha think? It's also a merciful 95 minutes long. Comedies are funniest when they're short, timing being everything." THE FILM EXPERIENCE

Top photo: Academy Awards. Credit: AMPAS

Middle photo: Sandra Bullock at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. Credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Bottom photo: "24" Poster. Credit: Fox

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