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Category: Oprah

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

September 30, 2010 | 11:46 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upper photo: Entertainment Weekly cover. Credit: Entertainment Weekly

Middle photo: "Tangled" poster. Credit: Disney

Lower photo: Anderson Cooper. Credit: CNN

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Is Oprah worthy of receiving Kennedy Center Honors?

September 8, 2010 | 10:41 pm

A battle has erupted in our forums over the Kennedy Center Honors' plan to bestow an award upon Oprah Winfrey on Dec. 5 (and aired by CBS on Dec. 28.)

According to the organization's website, the honor is "given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture." Granted, Oprah has had a profound impact on American culture, but in the performing arts?

Oprah winfrey news

Oprah's vitae as an actress is limited, although it does include an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for "The Color Purple."  Naysayers in our message boards assert that she's regarded chiefly as a TV talk show host, but a previous gabfest emcee earned this same honor (Johnny Carson) and Oprah often ballyhoos the performing arts on her TV show. Her detractors may also not be giving her sufficient credit for producing movies like "Beloved" and telefilms like "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Women of Brewster Place."

Below: a sampling of some forum comments. See more here.

Rockstitution: "I'd have taken Betty White over Oprah for the TV slot."

DS0816: "If Oprah Winfrey has to be on the list, than next year's must include Phil Donahue."

Seanflynn: "I admire Winfrey greatly, have no problem with lots of honors she might receive. She has been an amazing, vital voice for many years. I question this though. It is known for people who are involved in the creative arts and are known as performers and/or creators. But Carson also was a writer/performer/comedian/actor on his show -- Winfrey is an interviewer only. Her other creative endeavors as an actor and producer are laudible, but not remotely Kennedy Center honor worthy, or on the level of Carson's creative/performing work. I think this award for her is dubious."

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

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Watch out, Ellen Degeneres: Emmy rivals Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah Winfrey are teaming up

August 6, 2010 |  7:37 am

Rosie_odonnell_2Rosie O'Donnell is returning to TV next fall with a talk show on OWN -- the new cable net owned by Oprah Winfrey. In making the announcement, the two TV titans formed a mutual admiration society. Oprah said, "Rosie is an undeniable talent who has captivated TV audiences for nearly 20 years. She’s a true original, who brings her authentic voice, dynamic energy and pure passion to everything she does." And Rosie added, "It's an honor and a privilege to work with Oprah Winfrey on her network. I’m excited to be back on daytime television."

When Rosie first revealed her intention in March to try her hand at another talk show, there was speculation she might even land in Oprah's time slot when the queen of daytime signed off next summer. However, as Joseph Adalian reports, "local broadcasters hate taking risks and were no doubt worried about just what kind of show the sometimes-controversial ex-Queen of Nice might be planning, even though O'Donnell and her partners had made it clear she wasn't looking to turn into the female Keith Olbermann."

The press release promises "a fun, uplifting show with Ms. O'Donnell's playful and energetic style," and that certainly sounds a lot like Rosie's original daytime talker. That self-titled show dominated the Daytime Emmy Awards during a six-year run that began in 1996. A year after Rosie signed off in 2002, Ellen DeGeneres began her own show, and this new queen of nice now reigns over the TV kudos. However, with Rosie's return, we could soon see a repeat of the smackdown that dominated the Daytime Emmys in the late 1990s.

Rosie's gabfest won best talk show five years in a row (1998-2002) and she took home the best host award for all six years of the show's run (1997-2002). Her initial victories were especially impressive because Oprah hadn't bowed out of the Emmys yet. In 1998, Rosie beat Oprah for best talk show and they tied for the hosting trophy. Oprah dropped out of the host race in 1999 and the show race the following year.

Ellen DeGeneres won best talk show from 2004 to 2007 and talk show host from 2005 to 2008. In 2008 and 2009, she lost best talk/entertainment show to "Rachael Ray" while the gaggle on "The View" took the hosting prize in 2009. This year, Ellen bounced back with a win for best talk/entertainment show but refused to submit her name for consideration in the host category. Will she continue to opt out of this race now that Rosie looms on the horizon?

Photo: Rosie O'Donnell at the 1997 Daytime Emmy Awards. Credit: Steve Fenn / Associated Press

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Gold Derby nuggets: Hugh Laurie sings the blues | 'Mad Men' all dolled up | Al Pacino back to Broadway

July 26, 2010 |  1:24 pm

House Laurie piano • If any actor has a right to sing the blues, it is Hugh Laurie, who hasn't had any luck with the Emmys despite four previous nominations for playing the cantankerous title character in "House, M.D." Although he's contending again this year in the lead actor race, our early predictions rank him as an also-ran again. On Monday, Warner Music announced a record deal with the erudite Englishman for an album of New Orleans-style songs. The disc will be produced by two-time Grammy champ Joe Henry. In a statement, Laurie said, "I am drunk with excitement at this opportunity. I know the history of actors making music is a checkered one, but I promise no one will get hurt." Laurie, who plays a variety of musical instruments, has been the keyboardist for the charity group Band From TV for the last several years and tickled the ivories on the last album from Meat Loaf as well. USA TODAY

• Three-time Tony nominee Alfred Molina is switching coasts to join the cast of "Law & Order: L.A." in the fall. Mike Ausiello delivers this news, noting "Molina is the second major 'LOLA' hire. As I reported earlier this month, Skeet Ulrich has been tapped to play one of the two lead detectives. In a statement, show exec Dick Wolf said, 'I am thrilled that Fred is "LOLA's" Deputy DA. He joins a remarkable list of some of America’s greatest character actors like Sam Waterston, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeff Goldblum, Steven Hill, Dianne Wiest, and Michael Moriarty as stars of 'Law & Order'-branded series.' "

• The versatile Molina also appears in the fourth film from theater visionary Julie Taymor -- a reimagining of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" -- which will close the 67th edition of the Venice film fest on Sept. 11. The picture stars Oscar champ Helen Mirren ("The Queen") as Prospera, a gender-bending take on the character of Prospero, a sorcerer marooned on an island with his daughter. The film features another Oscar winner -- Chris Cooper ("Adaptation") -- as well as Russell Brand, Alan Cumming, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn and Ben Whishaw. LA BIENNALE

Sir Elton John and Lee Hall -- who penned the Tony-winning musical adaptation of "Billy Elliot" -- are reteaming to turn the George Orwell classic novel "Animal Farm" into a tuner. Baz Bamigboye chatted with Hall, who revealed, "I'm deep into it, writing songs for pigs and other four-legged friends" but admitted proper work on the show would not begin till after the summer. "Having worked with him on 'Billy Elliot,' I know that Elton likes to have the lyrics done and have them in front of him, so I'll work on a batch before I give him anything to look at. I would think it's going to take about two years before it's all ready to go." DAILY MAIL

Mad Men Barbies • Four of the Emmy-nominated cast members of "Mad Men" have been immortalized by Mattel as collectible dolls that retail for $74.95 each. "The collection features suave ad men Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) complete with cufflinks. The Draper doll features a painted 5 o'clock shadow [that] adds to his good looks, as does his dreamy gaze. Draper's turmoil-ridden wife, Betty (January Jones), wears a traditionally saccharine floral A-line dress with a shiny gray bow, while flame-haired beauty Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) wears a figure-hugging dress, stockings and pointy black heels." And, as this report notes, "even though Mattel cites the Holloway doll's 'curvy silhouette,' the mini-Joan takes on Barbie's traditionally slim figure." FOX NEWS

• At a Comic-Con panel, Emmy nominee Michael C. Hall previewed the upcoming fifth season of "Dexter." For the actor, his character of a serial killer under suspicion in his wife's death is now "motivated by a desire to make amends for that even if he doesn't consciously know it. He needs to make things right, even if it feels impossible." And, as per producer Chip Johannessen, "We want to process this huge event, which is almost like a second origin story. This is something he brought on himself. We don't continue the facts of Season 4 for very long, but the set of events that he brought upon himself very much permeate Season 5." TV GUIDE

• The gang from "Glee" was also at Comic-Con, where, as per this report by Denise Martin, show creator Ryan Murphy "hit Chris Colfer with the news that he may soon get to do 'The Time Warp,' the classic song-and-dance routine from 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' " And, Denise adds, "the Britney Spears episode may be a little dream-like, even if it isn't exactly a dream for one star. And get ready for more Madonna." TV GUIDE

Al Pacino MerchantAl Pacino will be back on Broadway this fall headlining a transfer of the summer hit "The Merchant of Venice," which has been playing in repertory as part of the Public Theater's season in Central Park. Pacino, who first came to fame as a stage actor, headlined a 1979 rialto revival of "Richard III" that was met with mixed reviews. His last appearance on Broadway was in a staged reading of the Oscar Wilde play "Salome" in 2003. He is in contention at the upcoming Emmy Awards for his performance in the telefilm "You Don't Know Jack." Pacino is one of only 18 actors to have achieved the triple crown, winning an Oscar for "Scent of a Woman," an Emmy for "Angels in America" and two Tony Awards, for "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?" and "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel." NEW YORK TIMES

• The 1988 Oscar-nominated Spanish film "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is being turned into a Broadway musical this fall and will feature a slew of award-winning talent including a pair of Tony champs -- Patti LuPone ("Evita," "Gypsy") and Brian Stokes Mitchell ("Kiss Me, Kate") -- as well as multiple nominees Sherie Rene Scott and Danny Burnstein. Tony winner Bartlett Sher ("South Pacific") directs, and Tony nominees David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane are collaborating once again on the score, as they did with "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," with Lane also adapting Pedro Almodóvar's screenplay for the stage. PLAYBILL

• A trio of Oscar-winning actors -- Goldie Hawn ("Cactus Flower"), Julia Roberts ("Erin Brockovich") and Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland") -- are among those on-screen talents working behind the scenes on documentaries scheduled to debut on Oprah Winfrey's new TV network next year. As per the press release, Roberts will present "Extraordinary Moms," about "brilliant and awe-inspiring women who share a powerful connection: the love they have for their children combined with a fierce desire to protect the future of all children"; Hawn will narrate "Search for Happiness," which "examines the age-old quest that has motivated civilization and technological progress"; and Whitaker will do likewise with "One Last Shot," which "takes viewers inside Louisiana’s maximum security prison at Angola, where the average sentence is more than 90 years." TV BY THE NUMBERS

Photos, from top: Hugh Laurie in "House, M.D." Credit: Fox. "Mad Men" collectible dolls. Credit: Mattel, Inc. Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice." Credit: Public Theater

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Can Oprah Winfrey squash Conan O'Brien AND Jon Stewart?

April 13, 2010 |  3:23 pm
Oprah Winfrey Conan Emmy TV news

Now that it's official that Conan O'Brien is heading back to TV with an evening gabfest, it means that he's returning to the Emmy derby — where he may run smack dab into Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey just announced that she'll launch a new one-hour evening show, "Oprah's Next Chapter," on her new TV network OWN next year. That means she'll be eligible to compete at the prime-time Emmys. She may decide not to join. She quit the Daytime Emmys in 2000, allegedly because she'd won so many times that she wanted to step aside and give the glory to other shows. Granted, she had won nine times earlier (the most in Emmy history), but Oprah also had just lost twice in a row to Rosie O'Donnell's program when she pulled her show from competition. Some Emmy-watchers believed that Oprah was so furious about the double loss that she refused to endure defeat again.

Whatever the truth was about what happened to Oprah at the Daytime Emmys, she may choose to join the Prime-Time Emmy derby in order to hike the industry profile of her new show. If so, she may not have to worry too much about Conan O'Brien as competition.

It took Conan O'Brien a full decade of hosting "Late Night" before the show landed its first Emmy bid in the variety series category in 2003. It contended unsuccessfully in that race for five years, always losing to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," which O'Brien will now face head-on in the ratings.

"The Daily Show" will surely turn out to be Oprah's toughest Emmy rival. Over all, it's won best variety show for seven years in a row. Last year, Jon Stewart was asked by reporters if he plans to "pull an Oprah" and pull his show from the Emmy race so other shows can win. He roared, "No!"

Photo: Oprah appeared as a presenter on the Emmys in 2008. Credit: ATAS.

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Gold Derby nuggets: Oscars countdown | James Cameron OK with 'Avatar' Oscars spoof | Oscar gold equals box office green

March 4, 2010 |  2:10 pm

Oscars New Members movie news 1357986Sandy Cohen reports, "Oscar producers Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic are bridging stage and screen with an advanced, automated set at the Kodak Theatre and a super high-tech program planned for TV viewers. After days of technical tests on their stage setup, Shankman and Mechanic moved into the Kodak Theatre Wednesday, where they're seeing their whole show come to life in person and on screen. 'Today's the first day we're up fully running,' Mechanic says. 'We had three days of tech and now it's camera...' 'Camera, scripting, scenic transition, we're camera-blocking some stuff,' Shankman says, finishing his partner's sentence. 'This is probably as technically advanced a show as you've ever seen or as you will have ever seen,' Mechanic says. 'But what I really like about it, and yes that's true,' Shankman says. 'But on the monitors it actually looks much more simple in a weird way. It's elegant and it is more advanced but it's actually very focused and very simple.' " AP

• Half a dozen Oscar nominees have the added pressure of presenting on Sunday's big show. Two of the six already have Oscars on their shelves. Both supporting-actor contender Matt Damon ("Invictus") and writer-director Quentin Tarantino ("Inglourious Basterds") won original-screenplay Oscars, Tarantino in 1994 for "Pulp Fiction" and Damon three years later for "Good Will Hunting." Five-time nominee Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") is the favorite in the lead-actor race this year, as is first-time nominee Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") in the lead-actress race. Also presenting are first-time nominees Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Anna Kendrick ("Up in the Air"). AMPAS

Oscar nominee Lee Daniels ("Precious") tells Donna Freydkin that "work has been a welcome distraction from the madness of awards season. 'Simultaneously I'm working on a pilot for HBO. It pulls me away from having to think about the Oscars. It's God's way of pulling me away.' Daniels is very busy prepping the feature film 'Selma' about the civil rights struggle and says, 'I have to really start casting the movie because we're shooting it soon. The only person I've nailed in for sure is Hugh Jackman. It's all over the place.' " USA TODAY

James Cameron Avatar OscarsCristina Gibson says, "At least one person wouldn't mind an 'Avatar' Academy Awards this Sunday. James Cameron. The Oscar-nominated director told me this exclusively tonight at the Global Green party at Avalon. Cameron said he wasn't aware that a proposed 'Avatar' sketch involving Ben Stiller and Sacha Baron Cohen had been cut from the show, presumably to avoid upsetting the director. 'I don't know anything about that. ... I don't produce the Oscars. If they want to poke fun at 'Avatar' Sunday, that's OK by me,' said Cameron, 'I'm sure we'll laugh.' " E ONLINE

• The second edition of "The Oprah Winfrey Oscars Special" on ABC -- which paired up Oscar champs and nominees like Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball") and Penelope Cruz ("Nine") as well as James Cameron and his "Avatar" cast for intimate conversations with narration by Winfrey -- was a bust in the ratings Wednesday, down 19% from the recently canceled "Ugly Betty" in the time slot. THE LIVE FEED

• Had Winfrey worked the late-night circuit like Barbara Walters has been doing in advance of her final Oscar-night special, she might have reaped more ratings points. Walters did the top 10 on Wednesday's "Late Show With David Letterman" and then dropped by "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" to dish on her decision to stop these gabfests after 29 years.

• As Zachary Pincus-Roth discovers, "In recent years, a number of Oscar-nominated performances have involved some form of low-talking, be it mumbling, muttering, slurring, or a lack of volume, either because of the actor's choice or the requirements of the role. It's not that they're completely unintelligible -- it's that on the spectrum that runs from Laurence Olivier in 'Richard III' to the Olsen twins in 'Full House,' they're a few standard deviations toward the latter. Every year, there are at least one or two acting nominees who are in this category, and this year it's Jeff Bridges and the tight-lipped Gabourey Sidibe in 'Precious.' Last year, it was Frank Langella's gravelly former president in 'Frost/Nixon' and Robert Downey, Jr.'s white actor pretending to be black in 'Tropic Thunder.' Recent low-talking winners include Tim Robbins in 'Mystic River,' Javier Bardem in 'No Country for Old Men,' Renée Zellweger in 'Cold Mountain,' Benicio Del Toro in 'Traffic,' and Jamie Foxx in "Ray.'" THE DAILY BEAST

Sandra Bullock • In a fascinating read, Michael Cieply writes, "When the estimated salaries of all 10 of the top acting nominees are combined, the total is only a little larger than the $20 million that went to Julia Roberts for her appearance in 'Erin Brockovich,' a best-picture nominee in 2001, or to Russell Crowe for 'Master and Commander,' nominated in 2004." As Michael reports, "the fashionable deal now is called 'CB zero.' It stands for “cash-break zero,” and refers to an arrangement under which the star or filmmaker begins collecting a share of profits after the studio has reached the break-even point. Such deals can be extremely lucrative when they give stars a substantial share in home-video revenue. So Sandra Bullock, who cut her usual $10 million fee to just $5 million for 'The Blind Side,' another of this year’s nominees, will eventually make $20 million or more from the movie because it was a hit. Mr. Clooney similarly stands to make additional millions when all the revenue from 'Up in the Air' is finally counted." NEW YORK TIMES

• Everyone can predict the winners in at least a couple of the Oscar races this year -- supporting actor and actress for a start. But getting them all wrong -- that takes talent. Sasha Stone is running a contest looking for someone to score 0 out of 24. But be warned for, as Sasha writes, " It is a lot harder than you might think.  My friend Ed is the one who does this every year, and despite his best intentions, last year he actually got a few right." AWARDS DAILY

• That sassy Tariq Khan is not content just to be aces at predicting the Oscars; now he wants to be part of the action and has offered up some jokes for your consideration. As he writes, "Hosting the Oscars is no easy task. Just ask David Letterman. (Remember the “Uma …Oprah” bit?) Keeping the show moving and the audience laughing for as long as four hours requires a lot of humor. But not just any humor -- OSCAR humor. To help out this year’s co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, Fox411 has come up with some award-worthy jokes. We think they’re pretty funny and bet that the Academy (and Oscar audience) will, too. So Steve and Alec -- please feel free to read, laugh and lift from the list below. And if you use any of them, maybe you can give 411 a little plug. That’s not too complicated, is it?" FOX 411

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Top photo: Academy Award statues. Credit: AMPAS

Middle photo: James Cameron on the set of "Avatar." Credit: Fox

Bottom photo: Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side." Credit: Warners

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Top Oscar bloggers respond to backlash against 'Precious'

October 21, 2009 |  7:35 pm

The shocking omission of "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" from the list of Gotham Awards nominees has triggered an uproar. Does this mean that there's a backlash against the likely Oscars contender since it swept top awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals? Will it reverberatePrecious reax oprah winfrey tyler perry Oscars at the Oscars? Or is this just one of those ridiculous, irrelevant side shows we should all just ignore because it's a fluke — a case of huffy film critics acting stubbornly against a popular trend when permitted to decide the nominees of an awards group?

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post expands the puzzle further, wondering if this slap against "Precious" might even be a potshot aimed at its executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Read Lou's full noodlings here. Read more about the whole "Precious" flapdoodle in this Gold Derby overview article plus in comments from posters in our forums.

Gold Derby asked other esteemed Oscarologists what they thought about this possible "Precious" backlash. Here's what they wrote back published in the order in which I received the emails:

JEFF WELLS, HOLLYWOOD-ELSEWHERE.COM — If there's a "Precious" backlash — "if," I say — it's due to the oppressively ugly, emotionally sadistic vibe generated by Mo'Nique's "mom from hell" character. It's a movie about compassion and, at the end, a ray or two of light breaking through the clouds, but the cruelty we are obliged to endure (along with poor Gabby, of course) is quite awful to absorb.  Mo'Nique sells malicious monsterhood like a champ.  So if — IF — there's a certain hesitancy or resistance to "Precious," it's that.

STEVE POND, THE ODDS, THEWRAP.COM — I suppose there might be a slight film-snob bias that says a movie loses some of its indie credibility when it's embraced by figures as mainstream as Oprah and Tyler Perry. But unless that bias is backed up by some kind of feeling that the movie doesn't deliver the way its staunchest admirers insist it does, I don't see it affecting the Gotham voting. Hell, even film critics could handle Oprah loving the movie if they really loved it too. I don't think any of the critics on the Gotham panels have yet gone on record about "Precious"; my guess is that when they do, we'll see some qualms that have nothing to do with Ms. Winfrey.

If Oprah does devote a full week to the movie, and if those shows come across as heavy-handed overkill, then we might legitimately see an Oprah backlash. Then again, since when do film critics and academy members watch Oprah?

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SASHA STONE, AWARDSDAILY.COM — I agree that the backlash is so miniscule it won't really matter in the long run.

I think sometimes bloggers and journalists get caught in a vacuum when a film has been seen by many who cover this stuff but not yet seen by, much less released to the general public.  Once the movie is seen and there is actual buzz instead of fake buzz it will be easier to tell how the film will do overall, and with the academy.

As far as Oprah goes, I don't think Oprah's word and Oprah's word alone can ever really push a film in or out of the Oscar race. It doesn't matter how much breathless coverage there is, how many great reviews — and in some cases, bad reviews — if it strikes their fancy, they vote for it. If it doesn't, they don't.  

Although I suppose the case could be made that since Oprah has delivered a few bombs that people might think, oh great, here comes another bomb — but the truth is, "Precious" is NOT "The Great Debaters," which was schmaltzy and went nowhere.  "Precious" has already won the audience award at Sundance AND at Toronto.   That is why it isn't at the Gothams — they seek to be unique. 

BOB TOURTELLOTTE, REUTERS -- There's probably a bit of a snub and may well be tied to Oprah and Perry signing on. I don't "know" that, but I'd believe it. And I understand the logic. Gotham has consistently awarded the "truly independent," which as you know is raising money on your own and working outside the mini-majors and specialty wings. At first, "Precious" or back then "Push" would fall into that vein, but along come Sundance and then Oprah and Cannes and Perry and Lionsgate and it begins to have the feel of a bigger movie, one that has a certain amount of cache and name value and departs from the "truly independent" arena. So, yes, if you or Lou told me it was snubbed because Oprah and Tyler Perry signed on, I'd believe it.

"Precious" is good enough, I think, to rise above any negative impact the reverse Oprah Effect might have.

GREG ELLWOOD, HITFIX.COM — Ludicrous, I would suggest he take a serious look at the previous winners in this category. The Gotham Awards are hardly a barometer on who will or won't get nominated for an Oscar. More importantly, "Precious" plays. You don't win the audience award at both Toronto and Sundance and the grand jury at Sundance without winning people over. Can you remember the last film that played at all four major festivals?  Backlash?  Please. Another four weeks and someone will be stupidly proclaiming "Avatar" will win best picture. Ridiculous.

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Is there a backlash against 'Precious'? Is Oprah to blame?

October 21, 2009 | 12:46 pm

Precious oprah oscars tyler perry

When I called the Gotham Awards' snub of "Precious" "shocking," Lou Lumenick of the New York Post said that "tends to confirm my suspicion that awards-wise, the film could suffer a backlash because of its high-profile endorsement by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry."

Hmmm. I agree with Lou that a backlash is brewing against "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," but among some film critics, not among Oscar voters or other industry folks and not as a result of Oprah's or Tyler's embrace. (An interesting theory Lou's got, though — more on that later.) As Lou notes, "Precious" topped IndieWire's critics' poll, but now I think critics are starting to resent the fact that their darling flick's gone mainstream, as evidenced by it winning the audience awards at the Sundance and Toronto International film festivals. Now "Precious" is obviously Oscar-bound. Critics are stubborn, contrary-minded folk, of course, and I think we're seeing classic evidence of that in the nominations just announced by the Gotham Awards.

If any film should've been lavished with bids from the New York-based awards honoring outstanding indies, it's "Precious," the Harlem-based drama that towers above all other indies this year in terms of awards buzz. Clearly, it should've been nominated in three Gotham Awards races (where it was eligible — yes, we checked): best picture, breakthrough director (Lee Daniels) and breakthrough performer (Gabby Sidibe and/or Mo'Nique). However, these are the judges who decided to snub "Precious" when they chose the nominees in those categories. Best picture: Rajendra Roy, chief film curator, Museum of Modern Art; Lisa Schwarzbaum, film critic, Entertainment Weekly; Dana Stevens, film critic, Slate.com; and Kenneth Turan, film critic, Los Angeles Times. Best breakthrough director and actor: Florence Almozini, program director, BAMCinématek; Justin Chang, film critic, Variety; Rob Nelson, film critic, Minnesota Post.

It's curious that the Gotham Awards continue to submit to the tyranny of film journalists to decide their nominations — something the rival Indie Spirits, based out on America's opposite coast, would never do — considering all the trouble they caused in the past. Film journalists are so wacky that they brazenly, arrogantly flouted the whole purpose of the Gotham Awards in 2006 and nominated "The Departed" for best picture even though the huge Warner Bros. production, budgeted at $90 million, was as far away from being an indie as Manhattan is from Akhiok, Alaska (population, 80). One year later, they pulled another shockeroo. The critics responded to all of the gushing over "Juno" at the Toronto Film Festival by snubbing it for best picture at the Gothams. (It made it into the category for breakthrough performance, but that's that.) In both cases, the Indie Spirits righted such obvious wrongs by snubbing "The Departed" and giving their best picture award to "Juno," which was also nominated for the top prize at the Oscars.

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It's safe to say that the Spirit Awards will rectify this ridiculous snub of "Precious" by heaping kudos upon it. Pay attention to the soap opera as it plays out. The Indie Spirits and Gotham Awards used to be part of the same organization, then split, partly due to the Manhattanites having the gall to create their own Gotham Awards after the Spirits had been humming along so merrily for so long out in L.A. How much these rival awards loathe each other can be seen hilariously in how they announce nominees and winners. This year, just like last, the Spirits will try to upstage the Gothams by unveiling their nominations just hours before the Gothams announce their winners on Dec. 1.

So, yes, I think there's a backlash against "Precious," but it's a peculiar, isolated case, not epidemic, so therefore not significant. Just like "Juno," "Precious" will rebound just fine with major laurels at the Indie Spirits, Oscars, Golden Globes and, yes, even a few brave critics' kudos. Certainly, the Critics' Choice Awards, which are bestowed by the broadcast journos, not the snobby others.

Now back to Lou Lumenick's point about Oprah. (Click here to read his full article.) Could there be an Oscar backlash against flicks she pushes hard? That's a fascinating idea that Lou expresses thus: "Oprah's own Oscar nomination for 'The Color Purple' notwithstanding, she simply does not wield the same influence in the film world that she does with literature and theater. Witness her embrace of  Baz Luhrmann's 'Australia,' which she hailed as another 'Gone With the Wind,' something that even Nicole Kidman looked embarrassed to hear. O reportedly plans a full week of shows to push 'Precious.' Yikes. Which I'm not sure is going to help the movie's Oscar chances (or its performance in year-end critics' awards) any more than Perry's recent public confession that he was abused as a child. After all, he's best known to Oscar voters as the cross-dressing star/director of wildly popular lowbrow melodramatic farces."

Oprah was also a producer of "The Great Debaters," which was unjustly snubbed at the Oscars. Ditto "Beloved," which I truly loved, but it got crucified by critics first, then snubbed by Oscar.

Coindidence? Or do you think there's anything to this theory? Or to the idea of Tyler Perry's silliness being to blame? Vote in our polls below and check out the discussion of this hubbub in our forums here.

Read what other top Oscar bloggers have to say about the "Precious" backlash in this post that rounds up reax they sent to Gold Derby.

Photos: Lionsgate

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OSCARS MYSTERY: Does 'Australia' = 'Out of Africa' or 'African Queen'?

November 20, 2008 |  7:04 pm

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Now that we Oscars gurus have actually seen "Australia," it's harder to size up its kudos prospects. Yes, it's good. It's another one of those big-hearted Baz Luhrmann pics that sends moviegoers like Oprah Winfrey into swoons of euphoria. Me too. I admit that I'm a sucker for great weepies — and this one's very, very good. But will Oscar voters consider it high art and nominate it for best picture? Or dismiss it as a pile of Cheez Whiz?

Just a few years ago voters gave the cold shoulder to another big, melodramatic, historical epic starring Nicole Kidman: "Cold Mountain." But I think that occurred because the old Miramax studio hadn't yet figured out how to campaign late releases after the Oscars ceremony moved up from March to February. Remember, the New Yorker magazine said "Cold Mountain" was even better than "Gone with the Wind"! Alas, it's remembered today as a flop because it wasn't nominated for best picture or director after being seen too late in 2003 by guild and academy members.

Australianicole_kidman_hugh_jackman

"Australia's" best Oscar parallels are probably "Out of Africa" and "The African Queen." All three flicks are about uppity dames who arrive in primitive places where they get humbled by tough local chaps with whom they fall in love.

"Out of Africa" won seven Oscars, including best picture. "African Queen" was, surprisingly, snubbed in the top race! But at least Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart got nominated — and Bogie, of course, won.

"Out of Africa" and "The African Queen" have an edge on "Australia." Their scripts were adapted from esteemed books, which gave them snob appeal. "Australia" is an original creation meant to be a big, fluffy homage to the epic weepies of the past. That means that there's a deliberate cheesiness to "Australia" when scenes surrender utterly to unhinged melodrama. That's a big creative gamble to take in the cynical 21st century, but Baz Luhrmann pulls it off. But will Oscar voters punish the pic for that?

Of course, those kinds of flicks used to be nominated automatically in the past ("Giant," "A Passage to India") and many won ("The English Patient"), but things may be different nowadays. It's hard to say. Lots of big epics got snubbed recently ("Apocalypto," "Flags of Our Fathers," "3:10 to Yuma") despite getting good reviews. "Atonement" got in last year, but only halfway: director Joe Wright wasn't nommed.

Baz Luhrmann knows what that feels like. His "Moulin Rouge!" scored eight noms in 2001 and was considered a serious candidate for best picture (Roger Ebert predicted it would win), but Luhrmann wasn't nominated for helming! So that means that the academy owes this guy big time. However, the academy is ruled by macho old dudes who aren't the types of moviegoers who get giddy with the hope that Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman might drop their huffy reserves, hurl themselves against each other in the rain and drink in a big, passionate kiss that can make the woes of the world go away. "Australia" isn't just sappy. It's swimming, blissfully, in molasses.

How will film critics respond? Lots — those too-cool-for-the-room, cynical types — will crucify "Australia," of course. That may not matter, though. If it's successful at the box office, all will be forgiven by Oscar voters. However, its commercial success is a big question mark. It's an unabashed chick flick. Will guys go to see it if their girlfriends try to drag them? Maybe. It does have all those cowboys, horses and stuff. Does it even need guys to go? Another chick flick, "Sex and the City," defied prophesies of doom earlier this year and made $152 million in the U.S., $413 million worldwide.

If nothing else, "Australia" does have two strong things going for it. Big, effective weepies like this do great repeat business. Also, it's being released to theaters over Thanksgiving weekend. It has time to prove itself as a hit with moviegoers before Oscar voters ink their ballots.

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Gold Derby nuggets: Oprah goes wild for 'Australia' | 'Defiance' gets mixed kudos reax | Harvey Weinstein follows Scott Rudin from Broadway to screen

November 11, 2008 |  4:09 pm

Sasha Stone reports that Oprah Winfrey went gaga over "Australia" when she hosted stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman on her daytime talkfest Monday. Even though she saw the original downbeat ending, Winfrey enthused, "I have not been this excited for a movie since I don’t know when. I’m telling you, have I got the movie for you. It's Australia_oprah_2 the best movie I’ve seen in a long, long, long, long time. It literally swept me off my feet." Given the resounding success of Oprah's last endorsement, rival studios might well wonder if Fox has a winning candidate here. Awards Daily

• Following yesterday's revelation that Baz Luhrmann has changed the ending of "Australia", Brad Brevet writes of, "a long chat with a Fox rep yesterday about the situation, and what I got from the conversation was that Luhrmann would not have changed the ending had he not wanted to, regardless of what Fox suits wanted." As Brevet explains, "In a short e-mail message sent to me one sentence pretty much seemed to sum up the conversation: Baz Luhrmann is a 'final cut' director and the studio has always been supportive of his choices." Rope of Silicon

Pete Hammond reports on the ultimately successful screening of Oscar contender "Defiance" as the closing film for the AFI filmfest last weekend. As per Pete, the film stopped halfway through for an unscheduled break due to a faulty fire alarm. This Oscarologist thinks, "This could be a sleeper contender for Vantage, particularly when it plays for the academy, which often goes for Holocaust-themed dramas." Notes on a Season

• "Defiance" received defiant reviews in the trades, however. Variety called it "a potentially exceptional story is told in a flatly unexceptional manner." The Hollywood Reporter agreed that it's "a story that needed to be told, (but) one wishes it could have been told more dynamically. "

August

Hmmm . . . did the early positive Oscar buzz for "Doubt" just get Harvey Weinstein all riled up? Now that it looks like his nemesis, producer Scott Rudin, has successfully transferred his Tonys and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway production to the silver screen, Harvey announces that the Weinstein Company has secured the film rights to the Tonys and Pulitzer Prize-winning "August: Osage County," which he invested in on Broadway. Variety reports that "playwright Tracy Letts is doing the adaptation. Harvey Weinstein said his company will fully finance and distribute the film with an eye toward a 2011 release." While Chicago-based thespian Deanna Dunagan won the lead actress Tony for playing the monstrous mama at the head of one helluva dysfunctional family, expect every woman of a certain age in Hollywood to lobby for this meaty part. However, with Meryl Streep topping our latest pundit roundup for her work as a different kind of manipulative mother in the screen version of the 2005 Tony and Pulitzer prize winning play "Doubt," the hunt may be over before it even began. Variety

Scott Feinberg serves up a treat with his podcast with best actress contender Kristin Scott Thomas ("I've Loved You So Long"). This one-time nominee ("The English Patient") is a pick of six of the seven pundits just surveyed. The Feinberg Files

• The acting branch of the academy and the SAG nominating committee are being sent screeners of the indie flick "Wendy and Lucy" on Wednesday. This low-budget feature stars one-time supporting nominee Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mountain") as a woman at the end of the road both literally and metaphorically. Unlike years past, when voters were deluged with early screeners, this year's candidates, for the most part, held back till that other election was over. Expect mailboxes to be crammed full in the coming weeks.

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Emmy mystery: Will Oprah Winfrey be nominated for guesting on '30 Rock'?

September 4, 2008 | 11:45 am

The news that Oprah Winfrey will appear in a guest role on "30 Rock" summons up two fascinating Emmy questions. Could she be nominated for an Emmy? And would Oprah even enter herself in the race for guest stars?

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"Oprah is slated to appear in '30 Rock's' episode 302, which is tentatively set to air Nov. 6," reports Kristin Dos Santos at E! Online. "According to reliable insiders, the initial plan (subject to change) is that she will be playing herself, with all of her scenes as Tina Fey's fabulous Liz Lemon, and that her story would also play into a feud between Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) that will continue through several episodes."

Emmy voters sure love to hail the acting turns on "30 Rock." Last year's winner of best comedy series nabbed seven of the 11 slots in the guest categories for comedies this year.

But, hey, if Oprah portrays herself, is she really acting? Poor Patrick Stewart never nabbed an Emmy bid for portraying his greatest TV role, Capt. Picard on "Star Trek: The  Next Generation," but he was nommed for portraying himself on "Extras." Also receiving guest noms as themselves on "Extras": Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller and Ian McKellen. And let's recall that Emma Thompson won best guest actress in a comedy series as herself on "Ellen" in 1998. And, by the way, Oprah certainly has proven kudos acting chops as a past Oscar and Golden Globe nominee for "The Color Purple" (1985).

OK, let's say that Emmy voters would want to nominate Oprah Winfrey. Would she permit it? At the Daytime Emmys, Oprah took herself and her show out of competition, quitting the race for best talk show host in 1999 (after six wins) and the series contest one year later (after nine victories — that's still the record).

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