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Category: The Blind Side

Poll: Can Carey Mulligan pull off an upset at the Oscars?

February 23, 2010 | 10:07 am
Oscars predictions Academy Awards best actress Sandra Bullock news

The Oscars and BAFTA Awards reputedly share about 500 voters, so maybe that explains why BAFTA has correctly predicted the Oscars' lead actress race for the last four years. If they're really in sync, what are we to make of Carey Mulligan's lead-actress victory for "An Education"? Does this mean we're underestimating her voter pull at the Oscars? Or maybe the Brits just decided that they wanted to take a break from Hollywood groupthink this year and embrace a local British gal?

What makes parallels difficult is the fact that Oscar front-runner Sandra Bullock wasn't nominated at BAFTA because she wasn't eligible. "The Blind Side" didn't open in Britain in 2009. Maybe the fact that Mulligan won BAFTA just means Mulligan, not Meryl Streep, poses the biggest challenge to Bullock, who may the Oscar front-runner, as most pundits believe.


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Photos: "An Education" (Sony Pictures Classics), left; "Julie & Julia" (Columbia), "The Blind Side" (Warner Bros.)

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'The Hurt Locker' wins six BAFTA Awards

February 21, 2010 |  2:34 pm

The Hurt Locker poster "The Hurt Locker" won six of its eight races at the BAFTA Awards in London including the top prize of best picture. Since the BAFTAs were moved up in 2000 to take place while academy members were still voting for the Oscars, these laurels have foreseen only three of the nine best-picture winners: "Gladiator" (2000), "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003) and last year's "Slumdog Millionaire."

Unlike this year's Oscars, there were only five films nominated for the top BAFTA and the winner was decided by a simple vote count. Of the four other nominees, all of which are also in contention at the Oscars, "Avatar" took two of its eight races, production design and visual effects; "An Education" prevailed with just one of its eight nominations, best actress (Carey Mulligan); "Up in the Air" went one for six winning adapted screenplay; and "Precious" came out on top in one of its four categories, supporting actress (Mo'Nique).

The BAFTAs have done better at predicting the acting Oscar champs since the date change. Of the 36 acting Oscars handed out this decade, 22 went to BAFTA winners. In 2006 and 2007, all four BAFTA champs went on to win at the Oscars. Last year, three of the four BAFTA winners repeated at the Academy Awards; Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler") was the exception. 

However, this year the BAFTA track record is likely to be just two for four. The lead acting BAFTAs went to two homegrown stars, neither of whom is favored at the Oscars: Colin Firth winning the only award for "A Single Man" and Mulligan doing the same for "An Education." However, the supporting BAFTAs were won by, no surprise, Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") and Mo'Nique. 

That win by Waltz was the only one for "Inglourious Basterds," which had six nominations including directing and screenplay bids by Quentin Tarantino.It was not nominated for best picture, however. Among the other best-picture Oscar hopefuls, "District 9" lost all seven of its races; "Up" took two of its four categories, animated film and score; and "A Serious Man" lost its only BAFTA bid, for original screenplay, to "The Hurt Locker." As "The Blind Side" has yet to open in Britain, it was not eligible for consideration.

Thus that film's star, Oscars front-runner Sandra Bullock,  was not eligible to contend here for best actress. Mulligan -- the only English rose in the BAFTA bunch -- bested two of her American Oscar rivals -- veteran Meryl Streep, who scored her 12th nomination for "Julie & Julia," and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious") -- as well as two second-time nominees -- Ireland's Saoirse Ronan ("The Lovely Bones") and France's Audrey Tautou ("Coco Before Chanel"). The BAFTA best actress has won the Oscar six of nine times this decade.

To win best actor, one-time past nominee Firth edged out three of his Oscar competitors -- three-time previous BAFTA nominee George Clooney ("Up in the Air") and first-time contenders Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker") -- as well as fellow Brit and first-time nominee Andy Serkis ("Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll"). The BAFTA best actor has repeated at the Oscars five of nine times this decade.

In the supporting actor race, Waltz won over just one other Oscar nominee, Stanley Tucci ("The Lovely Bones"), and Mo'Nique bested the Oscar-nominated "Up in the Air" co-stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. The BAFTA supporting actor champ has prevailed at the Oscars four of nine years, and the supporting actress winner has taken home the Oscar an impressive seven of nine times.

Although only four of the nine BAFTA directing champs of this decade went on to victory at the Oscars, this year's winner, Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), is likely to even those odds. Two of her Oscar rivals  -- James Cameron ("Avatar") and Quentin Tarantino ("Inglourious Basterds") -- were also in contention at the BAFTAs.

Among the other highlights of the ceremony at the Royal Opera House, Prince William, the newly announced president of the British academy, and Uma Thurman presented the fellowship -- the equivalent of the honorary Oscar -- to Vanessa Redgrave.

For the full list of winners visit the BAFTA website.

Photo: "The Hurt Locker" poster. Credit: Summit

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Gold Derby nuggets: Oscars nixed 'Bruno' for host | Dave Karger BAFTAs predix | WGA Awards preview

February 19, 2010 |  3:26 pm

Bruno Oscars Sacha Baron Cohen • The Oscars took pity on the poor ABC censor when they said no to rookie show producers Bill Mechanic's and Adam Shankman's idea to have Sacha Baron Cohen ("Bruno") host the Oscars. As Shankman told "Fresh Air" host Terry Gross, "it would just be spectacular. But I think the Academy felt like not only is it unpredictable but it could overshadow the nominees. Then we immediately went to this idea of co-host." Among the other tidbits he shared was this one about the presentation of the acting Oscars: "We're doing something a little bit different with it, but in point of fact, something like that is going to be done and the way we're doing it has to do with a bit more of interconnectivity because what was really, really stunning about last year the way they did that was the video clip buildup to the reveal of the stars, I mean the editing of that stuff was so breathtaking and so big that when those screens went up and you saw the five walk out, you're just like going, whoa, my God, it was so dramatic and beautiful." NPR

• As well as all those previous Academy Award winners, last year's Oscars also had "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson presenting. This year, the other two sides of the love triangle at the heart of the film -- Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner -- will be onstage at the Kodak Theatre on March 7. Stewart admitted to Mark Malkin that she is very nervous. "I'm trying to pick shoes that I know I won't fall down in." E ONLINE

• "Up in the Air" novelist Walter Kirn will be in the audience after all to see whether Stewart falls. Following his earlier airing of his frustration that he had not been invited to the Oscars, today he tweeted: "thanks to Paramount Pictures for coming through with Oscar tickets and proving true to its word, which i shouldn't have doubted." TWITTER

Bafta StatueDave Karger says, "I've always been a firm believer in the power of the BAFTA Awards to give us an idea of how the overall awards-season winds may be shifting. After all, 'The Hurt Locker' tied 'Avatar' with the most nominations at the BAFTAs before it managed the same feat on Oscar nomination day. But then there’s the BAFTA wild card, 'An Education,' which also scored eight nods." Says Dave, "Avatar" will win best picture while for best director "clearly this is a race between Cameron and Bigelow. I’m wondering if 'The Hurt Locker' might be too American-indie feeling to sway the British voters, but I still think Bigelow will take it." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Pete Hammond reports, "Voters seem more confused than ever on the new preferential voting even though the academy tried to diligently spell out specific instructions for members who may be ballot-challenged when it comes to selecting their best picture choices in order of preference. One academy member, a savvy publicist I know who has worked on many campaigns, is puzzled himself by the new process that requires voters to rank the 10 nominees. 'I have read the instructions four times now, and I still don't know what they want from me,' he said in total frustration. 'I have no dog in this hunt this year, but if I can't figure this out, how do they expect others to, especially the older ones used to just picking one winner?'" NOTES ON A SEASON

• And Jack Mathews bemoans the late date of this year's Oscars. "The Academy Awards season, even with a mid-to-late February finale, is far too long. And as it has turned out this year, as it turns out in most years now, many of the winners are known long before the show. Current example: Golden Globe and SAG winners Jeff Bridges ('Crazy Heart'), Sandra Bullock ('The Blind Side'), Christoph Waltz ('Inglourious Basterds') and Mo'Nique ('Precious') have nothing to fear but forgetting people to thank on March 7." MOVIEFONE

Wga-awardSasha Stone delivers an insightful analysis of this Saturday's WGA Awards. Says Sasha, "Since 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'In the Loop,' 'District 9,' 'The Messenger,' Up,' and 'An Education' were all ineligible for the WGA, things are bumped off the rails even more. It could mean that, for the first time in five years, there will be a mis-match in Original Screenplay." She concludes with, "for now, I’m going with 'The Hurt Locker' and 'Up in the Air' for the WGAs and 'Inglourious Basterds' and 'Up in the Air' for the Oscar." AWARDS DAILY

Top photo: "Bruno" publicity still. Credit: Universal. Middle photo: BAFTA statuette. Credit: British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Bottom photo: Writers Guild of America award. Credit: WGA

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Will BAFTAs preview Oscars again?

February 19, 2010 |  8:43 am

Slumdog Millionaire BaftasSince the BAFTAs were moved up in 2000 to take place while academy members were still voting for the Oscars, these laurels have foreseen only three best-picture winners -- "Gladiator" (2000), "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003) and last year's "Slumdog Millionaire." The BAFTAs do far better at predicting the acting Oscar winners. In 2006 and 2007, all four BAFTA champs went on to win at the Oscars. Last year, three of the four BAFTA winners repeated at the Academy Awards -- Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler") was the exception. Of the 36 acting Oscars handed out so far this decade, 22 went to BAFTA winners.

Two of the front-runners at this year's Oscars -- "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker," as well as homegrown favorite "An Education" -- lead the pack at this Sunday's BAFTAs, with eight nominations each, including best picture bids. Another two of the top Oscar contenders -- "Up in the Air" and "Precious" -- fared less well, though they count best picture bids among their six and four BAFTA bids, respectively.

Another favorite at the Oscars -- "Inglorious Basterds" -- also contends in six BAFTA categories, including directing and screenplay nods for Quentin Tarantino, but was bumped from the best picture race, which has only five contenders. Among the other best-picture Oscar hopefuls, "District 9" has seven nominations, including directing and screenplay bids, "Up" contends in four categories, including animated film and original screenplay; that latter category was where "A Serious Man" earned its only BAFTA nomination. As "The Blind Side" has yet to open in the UK, it was not eligible for consideration.

That means Oscars front-runner Sandra Bullock is not contending for best actress at the BAFTAs. Her chief rival for the Oscar -- Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") -- is in the running at the BAFTAs. However, Streep  numbers only one win -- best actress in 1982 for "The French Lieutenant's Woman" -- among her previous 12 BAFTA nominations. Of the others in the BAFTA race, Saorise Ronan ("The Lovely Bones") and Audrey Tautou ("Coco Avant Chanel") are both past onetime nominees while Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Gabby Sidibe ("Precious") are newcomers. The BAFTA best actress has won the Oscar six of nine times this decade.

Among the BAFTA best actor nominees, George Clooney ("Up in the Air") leads with three previous acting bids while Colin Firth ("A Single Man") has one previous film nomination. Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart"), Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker") and Andy Serkis ("Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll") are all first-time BAFTA film nominees. The final Oscar contender -- Morgan Freeman -- was denied a BAFTA bid for "Invictus," which was shut of these awards entirely. The BAFTA best actor has repeated at the Oscars five of nine times this decade.

Alfred Molina ("An Education") is the only previous BAFTA contender in the supporting actor race while Kristin Scott Thomas -- with three previous BAFTA bids -- is the only vet in the supporting-actress race. Neither of them is contending at the Oscars. The overlap between nominees for both supporting races is just five for 10. The BAFTA supporting actor category includes two Oscar nominees -- front-runner Christoph Waltz ("Inglorious Basterds") and Stanley Tucci ("The Lovely Bones") while the BAFTA supporting-actress race has three Oscar contenders --  likely winner Mo'Nique ("Precious") as well as "Up in the Air" co-stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. The BAFTA supporting-actor champ has prevailed at the Oscars four of nine years while the supporting-actress winner has taken home the Oscar an impressive seven of nine times.

Just four of the nine BAFTA directing champs of this decade went on to prevail at the Oscars. This year's BAFTA race has three of the five Oscar nominees -- James Cameron ("Avatar"), Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") and Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds"). 

See the full list of nominees at the BAFTA website.

Left photo: BAFTA logo. Credit: British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Right photo: Publicity still from "Slumdog Millionaire." Credit: Fox Searchlight

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Gold Derby nuggets: Oscars: No singing, lots of dancing | Oscars nominee luncheon reports | James Cameron: 'Failure is an option'

February 16, 2010 |  3:53 pm

Rahman Slumdog Millionaire Oscars • For Dave Karger, the decision to drop performances of the best song nominees from the Oscars is a mixed blessing: "Even though I’m a fan of front-runner 'The Weary Kind,' T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham’s theme from 'Crazy Heart,' I can’t say I’ll miss hearing the performances of any of the other nominees. You’ll recall that last year, telecast producers Larry Mark and Bill Condon allowed only 90-second performances from each of the songs, causing nominee Peter Gabriel ('Down to Earth' from 'Wall-E') to back out of his appearance. This is just the next step in my mind. Clearly Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic are aiming for a more audience-friendly production, and they’re apparently willing to break from tradition in order to achieve it." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

• Without all those production numbers, one wonders what to make of these tweets from Oscarcast producer-choreographer Shankman: "FYI: there's 69 dancers this year... All there for the movies!" and "SYTYCD'ers on the #oscars: Travis, Ivan, Jaimie, Kayla, Ellenore, Russell, Jakob, Kathryn, nick lazzarini, legacy, Channing, Lil c &more..." TWITTER

Melena Ryzik reports on her conversation with Harvey Weinstein at one of Peggy Siegal's soirees for "Inglourious Basterds." Says Harvey, “For best picture, this race is so wide open right now. I think it’s between three movies – 'Inglourious,' 'Hurt Locker' and 'Avatar.' We have all the actors -- it reminds me of my 'Shakespeare in Love' upset over 'Saving Private Ryan.' All the actors voted for us. And then we’re building all the other people. It’s half a Universal movie, half Weinstein, so it’s like that hybrid of studio and independent, and it did business, and people saw it, and it’s great. And he has a body of work that people honor. I wouldn’t be here or doing a campaign at this point if I thought it wasn’t totally winnable. And I think it is.” NEW YORK TIMES

Oscar nominations 2010 Avatar The Hurt Locker The Blind Side Up in the Air UpSasha Stone's savvy take on Monday's Oscar nominees luncheon included the following observations: "Jeff Bridges is very popular among his fellow actors and Academy members.They like him. A lot. He will win. Similarly, Maggie Gyllenhaal got a lot of friendly applause and seemed quite popular.  Conversely, Mo'Nique was not there. 'Precious' has much more support than 'Crazy Heart' overall, and if Mo’Nique is going to be that film’s one big win it seems like a done deal. But if Maggie Gyllenhaal does upset Mo’Nique it won’t be because she gave the better performance, but because she is more well liked overall within the Academy. Yes, Virginia, it really does work that way. Friends vote for friends. Had I watched the luncheon the year Alan Arkin beat Eddie Murphy, we probably could have seen it play out long beforehand. Sandra Bullock was also the big star of the day. This was due mainly to the fact that she’s very funny, charming and well-liked by both audiences and her fellow actors, but also that she was a first-time nominee. Everyone was pleased to see her get this kind of attention." AWARDS DAILY

Bob Tourtellotte reports from yesterday's luncheon that "the show's producers offered tips on giving the 45-second acceptance speeches. Typically, that advice is to keep them short and avoid a long list of 'thank yous' to agents, directors, spouses and family. Oscar co-producer Bill Mechanic called those often teary-eyed thanks 'the single most-hated thing on the show.' Instead, he and co-producer Adam Shankman will have winners give two speeches: one onstage telling audiences what winning an Oscar means to them, and a second backstage for a 'Thank You Cam' where winners can say 'Thanks' to whomever they want. 'Share your passion on what the Oscar means to you with the audience,' Shankman told nominees at the luncheon. He said the backstage video would be posted on the Web and winners could use them however they liked -- e-mail them to their friends and even post them on their Facebook pages." REUTERS

• As per  Greg Ellwood: "For the second year in a row, Creative Screenwriting magazine held a panel last night for all the Academy Award nominees for screenwriting.  Held at the Los Angeles Film School in Hollywood, the theater was jam packed and there was even a line around the block of cinefiles who couldn't even get in." Says Greg, "The 90 minute plus discussion covered a wide array of topics including the writer's worst jobs (Jason Reitman won with his Universal Studios gig anecdote), the percent of Improv in the finished films and how they tackled their genre twisting films.  Moreover, after a long season of campaigning they were full of funny anecdotes and one liners they had no doubt been repeating for months. But, this eager crowd ate it up." HIT FIX

James Cameron Avatar Oscars • At this weekend's non-profit Technology Entertainment Design (TED) conference, James Cameron ("Avatar") spoke of his passion for exploration. "You're doing it for the challenge, the thrill of discovery and the strange bond that happens when a small group of people form a team. In that bond you realize the most important thing is the respect that you have for them and they have for you." And he says he applied this same lesson in the four years he spent making "Avatar." "Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own. Don't put limitations on yourself. Other people will do that for you ... failure has to be an option in art and exploration because it's a leap of faith. In whatever you're doing, failure is an option, but fear is not." CNN

• A revival of David Hirson's "La Bete" that begins in London in June will be on Broadway in the fall starring two Tony champs David Hyde-Pierce ("Curtains") and Mark Rylance ("Boeing-Boeing") as well as the lovely Joanna Lumley ("Absolutely Fabulous"). While the play flopped on Broadway in 1991, it won the 1992 Olivier Award for best comedy. "It is described in press materials as a comic tour de force about Elomire (Pierce), a high-minded classical dramatist who loves only the theatre, and Valere (Rylance), a low-brow street clown who loves only himself. When the fickle princess (Lumley) decides she’s grown weary of Elomire’s royal theatre troupe, he and Valere are left fighting for survival as art squares off with ego in a literary showdown for the ages." PLAYBILL

Top photo: A.R. Rahman performing "Jai Ho" on the 81st annual Oscars. Credit: ABC

Middle photo: Academy Award statuettes. Credit: AMPAS

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

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Gold Derby nuggets: 'Avatar' & 'Hurt Locker' win with guilds | Barbara Walters ends Oscars specials | Emmy champ David Canary leaving 'AMC'

February 15, 2010 |  4:29 pm

The Hurt Locker poster • The Art Directors Guild went with the only Oscar nominees contending in the categories of fantasy film -- "Avatar" -- and period picture -- "Sherlock Holmes" -- at its 14th annual kudosfest Saturday. No contemporary films -- including category winner  "The Hurt Locker" -- are in the running at the Oscars, where "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," "Nine" and "The Young Victoria" round out the field. Last year "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" won with both groups, while in 2007 "Sweeney Todd" won the Oscar and "There Will Be Blood" took the ADG period prize. ADG

• "The Hurt Locker" edged two of its editing Oscar rivals -- "Avatar" and "District 9" -- as well as "Star Trek" and "Up in the Air" to win the drama category at the 60th annual American Cinema Editors awards on Sunday. The Oscar editing race also includes the cutters for "Inglourious Basterds" and "Precious." Since 1990, the film that came up with the ACE went on to win best picture 13 times. In three of the five years when the ACE barometer was wrong, the editing winner was at least a contender for best picture. The exceptions -- in 2007, when neither "The Bourne Ultimatum" nor "Sweeney Todd" made the final five at the Oscars, and 1999, when the same fate befell "The Matrix" and "Being John Malkovich." The other ACE winners -- "The Hangover" (comedy), "Up" (animated) and "The Cove" (documentary). ACE

Brent Lang reports from Monday's Oscars nominees luncheon: "Directors, actors, and actresses from several of the top films in contention for Academy Awards this year took time out from what was being billed as an informal get together (albeit it one with a red carpet and security worthy of a State of the Union address) to answer questions from a gaggle of reporters about the Oscar ride, getting into character and, of course, what they planned to wear on the big night." Among the tidbits he heard: "Christoph Waltz admits his language skills help with seduction. Vera Farmiga urges flyers not to get behind her baby carriage during check-in. Woody Harrelson isn't clearing off space on his trophy shelf. Carey Mulligan has been stalking Kathryn Bigelow and bumping asses with Quentin Tarantino." THE WRAP

Barbara-walters-mickey-rourke • News doyenne Barbara Walters announced on "The View" Monday morning that her upcoming Oscar night gabfest will be the last after a 29-year run. Her final guests will include Oscar front-runners Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") and Mo'Nique ("Precious"). As per the press release, "Walters launched her Oscar night special in 1981 with interviews from Hollywood superstar Brooke Shields and her mother, Teri, country singer Loretta Lynn, 'Dallas' actress Linda Gray, music icon Ringo Starr and model/actress Barbara Bach." The Oscar connection that year was that Sissy Spacek would win the lead actress Academy Award for playing Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter." Today Walters said, “This special has been a labor of love for 29 years. I will always remember when Hugh Jackman gave me a private lap dance, or sitting down with the legendary Bette Davis, or being taught to tango by Al Pacino. It’s those priceless moments that have made this special the Oscar tradition that it has become, but I truly feel enough is enough.”

Michael Cieply sat down with rookie producers for the Oscars Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman. "A film producer by trade -- his 'Corlaine' was nominated this year as best animated feature -- Mr. Mechanic has become the Oscar show’s time cop. The 24 awards, he said, will be allotted four and a half minutes each, for a total of one hour and 48 minutes, if all the speeches are tight. The show’s 13 'acts' -- the singing, dancing and jokes -- get 31 minutes in all. 'How do we get rid of things nobody notices?' is Mr. Shankman’s description of Mr. Mechanic’s favorite question about the show. One such cut: What the two of them describe as introductions of introductions, something Mr. Mechanic found, in an intensive review of the last 13 shows, can add 15 minutes to a broadcast." NEW YORK TIMES

Scott Feinberg has two in-depth interviews with Oscar lead actor contenders Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and Colin Firth ("A Single Man"). Scott chatted with both of them in the green room of the Lobero Theatre just before their respective tributes from the Santa Barbara filmfest. AND THE WINNER IS

David Canary Emmy Awards • Five-time Emmy champ David Canary is leaving "All My Children" after 27 years. Playing twins Adam and Stuart Chandler netted the actor 11 nominations. But now that the ABC soap has shifted from shooting in Gotham to the L.A., Canary is flying the coop. As Allison Walman writes, " Losing Canary is a major blow. He is not the kind of actor who can be replaced with another star. That doesn't mean the soap won't try, but the scuttlebutt is that when David stops shooting in March, Adam will leave Pine Valley alive. As such, the door will be left open in case Canary changes his mind or chooses to return for a visit ... maybe even an extended visit that would be a story arc?" TV SQUAD

Steve Pond reports that double Oscar nominee Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") has her next job lined up -- "directing the pilot for 'The Miraculous Year,' a potential HBO series created, written and executive produced by John Logan. The series is reportedly a character-driven, contemporary look at the arenas of art and theater -- or, as HBO describes it, 'an examination of a New York family as seen through the lens of a charismatic, self-destructive Broadway composer.'" And, Pond says, "After shooting the pilot, Bigelow is expected to re-team with 'Hurt Locker' screenwriter Mark Boal on 'Triple Frontier,' which is set in a South American hotbed of drugs and crime near the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. THE ODDS

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

Middle photo: Barbara Walters and Mickey Rourke on the 2009 Oscar night special. Credit: ABC

Bottom photo: David Canary at the 28th annual Daytime Emmy Awards. Credit: NBC

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Oscar experts agree: Jeff Bridges will win best actor

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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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Mo'Nique to be among no-shows at Oscars nominees luncheon

February 12, 2010 |  1:27 pm

Oscar_statues_061908Oscars nominees will gather together for the annual academy luncheon Monday and 14 of the 20 acting nominees will be among the more than 120 attendees. Just how important is this breaking of bread while the Oscars ballots are still being cast?

Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") has arranged her travel schedule to be at the festivities at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The New York-based actress skipped the luncheon last year when she was a nominee for "Doubt" and three years ago when she contended for "The Devil Wears Prada" -- she lost both those races. Indeed, all of the best actress contenders but Helen Mirren ("The Last Station") -- who won this award three years ago for "The Queen" -- will be there as will all five of the best actor nominees.

However, supporting actress frontrunner Mo'Nique ("Precious") has sent in her regrets. With her talk show based in Atlanta, Mo'Nique has had to pick and choose which West Coast events to attend. Also MIA will be last year's supporting actress Oscar winner Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Christina Barcelona"), who contends again in this category for "Nine."

Just two of the five supporting actor nominees will be there -- Woody Harrelson ("The Last Messenger") and Christoph Waltz ("Inglorious Basterds"). Missing will be Matt Damon ("Invictus"), Christopher Plummer ("The Last Station") and Stanley Tucci ("The Lovely Bones").

All five directing nominees -- Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), James Cameron ("Avatar"), Lee Daniels ("Precious"), Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") and Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds") -- are scheduled to attend, as are many of the Academy Award nominees in the other 19 races.

Look for the historic group photo here Monday afternoon.

Photo: Academy Award statuettes Credit: AMPAS

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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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Gold Derby nuggets: Santa Barbara filmfest report | Mark Harris on 'Oscar campaign' | Emmys could be live nationwide

February 8, 2010 |  3:58 pm

Santa Barbara Film Festival LogoSteve Pond is aces at summing up the goings on so far at the 25th edition of the Santa Barbara filmfest. "Two dozen nominees, with 30 nominations between them, have either already shown up or will participating in the 10-day festival, which began last Thursday and runs through Feb. 10. So far, the festival has feted Best Actress nominees Sandra Bullock and Carey Mulligan; weathered scheduling snafus caused by California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger; unveiled the little-seen animated Irish film 'The Secret of Kells,' a surprise nominee for Best Animated Feature; celebrated the career of James Cameron; and then crowned Cameron’s Best Picture and Best Director competitor Kathryn Bigelow 'king and queen of the world' while she was sitting next to Cameron." THE ODDS

• Also from Santa Barbara, Jeff Wells writes, "I was reminded of three or four things during last night's  tribute to Sandra Bullock. One, she's whip-smart but uncomplicated -- she had a clean and concise answer for every question thrown her way, but she's not into soul-baring. Two, she worked long and hard to prove her way out of the romantic-comedy prison she felt trapped in about ten years ago. Three, she didn't want to portray her 'Blind Side' character (the real-life Leigh Anne Tuohy) because she felt she was an unrealistic construct -- but she changed her mind after meeting her." HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE

• "Fish Tank" landed the best picture prize at the Evening Standard British Film awards Monday night. Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan ("An Education") lost the best actress prize to Anne Marie Duff for the John Lennon biopic "Nowhere Boy" while Andy Serkis won best actor for "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll." The Oscar-nominated screenplay for political satire "In the Loop" won on its home turf while Sacha Baron Cohen won the Peter Sellers Award for comedy for his alter-ego, the Austrian fashion reporter Bruno. Baron Cohen won the same award in 2006 for Borat. BBC

Oscar nominations 2010 Avatar The Hurt Locker The Blind Side Up in the Air UpMark Harris delivers a must-read analysis of the current awards season. As he writes, "There is a reason why they call the run-up period to the Academy Awards the 'Oscar campaign.' It is, to use a familiar analogy, like an election, with an electorate of 5,777 people (the size of McKenzie County, North Dakota), unwilling to be influenced by anything but their own opinions, yet still, perhaps, more swayable than they’d like to admit. There is no war room, per se, but there are early front-runners that fade, grassroots insurgencies, even primaries. Ultimately, most of the nominees emerge from a combination of good planning, good movies, and good luck." NEW YORK

• Oscarcast co-host Alec Baldwin confesses to Jay Bobbin that he is "nervous" about the gig. As for his day job on "30 Rock," Baldwin says series creator, producer and star Tina Fey has his fate in her hands. "It's Tina's house, so to speak," Baldwin says, "and she has so many other options as a writer. I mean, Tina's going to go off and become Nora Ephron or Elaine May. She'll write films and probably direct films. She is so poised to go off and replicate the success of this show in so many other areas. Her book is coming out; she's very fertile in that way. There's so many things she can do." ZAP 2 IT

Brian Moylan makes merry with the five nominees for best animated feature at the Oscars. As he writes, "The Oscars are on a campaign to ruin the psyche's of America's children. How? By nominating seriously scary movies for the Gee Willickers Awesome Cartoon Trophy. Beware what you're doing to your kids by taking them to see these. Before you rush out and get all the nominees on DVD thinking that you're giving your kids an artistic experience, just stop yourself. Remember, many of us had traumatic childhood experiences by watching movies that were way too creepy and adult for us at too young an age." Brian then recounts the plot of each of the pictures as well as the psychological symptoms and cures before recommending a fictional psychiatrist. GAWKER

• The East Coast branch of the WGA will fete Alan Zweibel with the Ian McLellan Hunter lifetime achievement prize during the 62nd annual awardsfest on Feb. 20 in Gotham. As per the announcement: "One of 'Saturday Night Live's original writers, Alan Zweibel has won multiple Emmy, Writers Guild, and TV Critics awards for his work in television, which also includes 'It’s Garry Shandling’s Show' (co-creator and executive producer), 'Monk,' and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'" WGAE

Paul Gaita points the way to an op-ed penned by James Cameron about NASA that ran recently in the Washington Post. As Paul notes, " Cameron, who served on the agency's Advisory Council from 2003 to 2005 (did you know?), outlines the financial problems that faced the U.S. space program but ends on a positive note by stating that President Obama's current budget for NASA will allow for private industry to fund space exploration -- which might lead not only to jet packs for everyone (like on the Jetsons!), but also the chance for directors with serious financial clout (like Mr. Cameron) to shoot their future projects in outer space. It's not that far-fetched an idea, and I mean, if you're gonna top 'Avatar,' that's your only likely venue." THE CIRCUIT

Emmysintl11James Hibberd reports that, "after airing the Golden Globes live coast-to-coast for the first time last month, NBC is considering doing the same for the Emmys. The network is discussing with affiliates a plan to air the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards live on Sunday Aug. 29. Tape-delaying certain entertainment programs for the West Coast has been a longtime practice, but with fans increasingly getting their entertainment news on the Internet, Web-savvy Emmy viewers have to go out of the their way to keep from being spoiled during the telecast. (The Oscars are traditionally telecast live)." THR

• Attention all would-be Joe Gillis types: The academy is now accepting applications for the $30,000 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. Five of these fellowships will be awarded in November to individuals who have never earned more than $5,000 from the sale or option of a screenplay or teleplay. The entire application process, including the submission of entry scripts, will be online and all details are available at www.oscars.org/nicholl.

Anne Thompson and Jack Mathews debate the question of whether Quentin Tarantino has achieved auteur status. As Anne notes, the director told a London audience that with "Inglourious Basterds," "he has established a body of work that can be analyzed as a whole and as a product of his unique vision. Recalling his experiences watching the films of Howard Hawks, he said: 'My aim is that some kid in 50 years time has the same experience with me and my films.'" Mathews and Thompson disagree about "whether QT’s films actually form a body of work or remain a work in progress." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

Top photo: Santa Barbara International Film Festival logo. Credit: SBIFF

Middle photo: Academy Awards. Credit: AMPAS

Bottom photo: Emmy Award. Credit: ATAS

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Gold Derby nuggets: James Cameron on 'Avatar' Oscar odds | 'The Hurt Locker': 4 producers on Oscar ballot | David Brown tribute

February 5, 2010 |  2:38 pm

James Cameron Avatar OscarsPete Hammond reports that "Avatar" director James Cameron "has been participating in almost daily eye-opening Q&A sessions with his craft nominees at the Zanuck Theater right after various below-the-line guild screenings of the film. Monday was the film editors, Wednesday the sound mixing team and Thursday the production designers. On Saturday night he will tributed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and receive the fest's top honor, the Modern Master award. He told me he considers it significant that 'Avatar' passed 'Titanic's' all-time domestic box-office haul with $601 million on Tuesday, the same day the film got nine Oscar nominations. A good omen? He says if it weren't for some upcoming 3-D pictures like 'Alice in Wonderland' taking screens away, 'Avatar' could probably hit $3 billion worldwide. As it is, he thinks the film will gross $2.5 billion before it's done."  NOTES ON A SEASON

• The academy has announced the charities in 51 cities across the country that will host official Oscar viewing parties. As the announcement notes, "the Academy sanctions charities across the country to host celebratory viewing parties on Oscar Night, with proceeds directly benefiting the charities. All parties will feature the live broadcast of the Awards presentation; many will integrate Hollywood-style party elements, including red carpet arrivals, local celebrities, paparazzi photographers, predict-the-winner contests and live entertainment." The official tie-ins have been allowed since 1994 and have raised $27 million to date. AMPAS

• Let the guessing begin: Nellie Andreeva reports that "the world of Hollywood blogging is getting the HBO treatment. The pay cable network is developing 'Tilda,' a half-hour comedy series with Oscar-winning writer-director Bill Condon ('Gods and Monsters') and 'Tell Me You Love Me' creator Cynthia Mort. The project centers on a powerful female online showbiz journalist with a no-holds-barred style. Condon and Mort are writing and executive producing. Condon also is attached to direct if the project goes to pilot. 'Tilda' marks the series writing debut for Condon. He recently directed his first pilot, the Laura Linney-starring dark comedy 'The C-Word,' which was picked up to series by Showtime." THR

Peter Knegt reviews the entries in this year's Sundance fest that could be Oscar contenders, breaking down each film by likelihood of nominations. Topping his list is "The Kids Are Alright," which stars, "Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple negotiating the unexpected new presence of their children’s sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo), 'Kids' has some considerable markings of a potential awards darling: Accessibility, timely subject matter, critical support, and two fantastic performances from two of the most tragically Oscarless actresses out there." For Peter, "Oscar possibilities (in order of likelihood): Best actress (Annette Bening); Best original screenplay; Best (supporting?) actress (Julianne Moore); Best picture; Best supporting actor (Mark Ruffalo); Best director."   INDIE WIRE

The Hurt Locker poster • The academy has named Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro as the four producers in the running for best picture Oscar nominee "The Hurt Locker." As the announcement notes, "Academy rules state that normally no more than three producers may be named as nominees in the Best Picture category. However, the rules allow for an additional producer to be named under extraordinary circumstances. In finding that all of the producers of 'The Hurt Locker' had fully functioned as genuine producers of the film, the committee chose to exercise the 'extraordinary circumstances' provision of the rules." In the decade since the limit came into effect, the academy has expanded the ranks just once before -- last year when the late Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollock were credited for "The Reader." The academy also clarified that the producers of surprise best picture nominee "The Blind Side" are Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson. AMPAS

Steve Pond reports that "the potential conflict between Hyundai and AMPAS is on the way to a resolution, and the automaker will be able to run its Oscar-show commercials despite the fact that they include voiceovers from Best Actor nominee Jeff Bridges. That’s the word from AMPAS executive director Bruce Davis, who told me at Tuesday morning’s nominations announcement that the Academy 'saw this one coming a long way off' but would work with Hyundai and ABC to position the ads so that they wouldn’t run near the segment in which the Best Actor award will be handed out." THE ODDS

• As David Caplan reports, "following her Oscar nomination this week for best actress, 'Precious' star Gabourey Sidibe is now facing a tough decision: Who to bring to the March 7 ceremony. That's not to say that the actress, 26, hasn't been giving this some thought already. 'I want to make Justin Timberlake and ('The Hurt Locker' actor) Anthony Mackie fight it out for the honor of being my date,' Sidibe told the Canadian entertainment TV show 'eTalk' this week. 'I'm just going to throw them in the ring and make them do it!' But if Sidibe had to narrow it down to one guy, her heart is set on Timberlake. At one point during the interview, Sidibe turns toward the camera and makes her direct appeal. 'Justin,' she says, 'if you're not doing anything on that night, maybe you could be my date or something. It's fine. No pressure!'" PEOPLE

David BrownRalph Gardner Jr. pens an affectionate tribute to David Brown, who died Monday at 93. Gardner notes that, though the four-time Oscar nominee "most famously played second fiddle to his wife (Helen Gurley Brown), he was remarkably successful in his own right. His Hollywood producing credits include 'Jaws,' 'The Sting,' 'Cocoon,' 'The Player,' 'Chocolat,' and 'Driving Miss Daisy.' On Broadway he produced 'Tru,' a one-act play about Truman Capote, the musicals 'Sweet Smell of Success' and 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,' and Aaron Sorkin’s 'A Few Good Men,' which he also made into the Jack Nicholson-Tom Cruise film. Furthermore, in 1991 he and Richard Zanuck were awarded the Motion Picture Academy’s Irving G. Thalberg Award and, two years later, the Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award. But Brown was that rare overachieving spouse who joyfully relinquished center stage to his mate, all the while maintaining his own comfortable identity. With his elegant manners, signature moustache, erudition, and understated wit, he was a consummate showman who just happened to think that his own wife was the greatest show on Earth." THE DAILY BEAST

Anne Thompson reports in from the Santa Barbara filmfest. "Friday brings Sandra Bullock’s American Riviera Award. Pete Hammond does the honors, while Leonard Maltin will interview Saturday night’s Modern Master, James Cameron. Santa Barbara, like Palm Springs, is timed perfectly to lure Oscar contenders eager to woo the town’s many Academy voters. Other nominees getting feted in one way or another include Kathryn Bigelow, Jeff Bridges, Carey Mulligan, Gabourey Sidibe, Vera Farmiga, Colin Firth, Christoph Waltz, Stanley Tucci, and 'The Cove' director Louie Psihoyos. Saturday morning I’ll conduct my annual writers panel: eight writers talking details about their craft, 'Inglourious Basterds' Quentin Tarantino (yellow pads and #2 pencils), Mark Boal ('The Hurt Locker'), 'Up's' Pete Docter (the Pixar method), 'Up in the Air's' Jason Reitman (sans Sheldon Turner), Nancy Meyers ('It’s Complicated'), Alex Kurtzman ('Star Trek'), Scott Neustadter ('500 Days of Summer') and Geoffrey Fletcher ('Precious')." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

• Movie chain AMC has come up with an innovative way to showcase all the best picture nominees and still keep their traditional movie marathon approach intact -- spread it out over two weekends. "Avatar" will anchor the Feb. 27 showings with an online vote determining the other four films in the mix. And the remaining five will be unspooled on March 6. AMC

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

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

Bottom photo: David Brown. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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Shrewd DVD strategies reap rewards with Oscar nominations

February 2, 2010 |  1:11 pm

So how did "A Serious Man" pull off that underdog Oscar nomination for best picture? Perhaps because it was among the first wave of DVD screeners shipped to academy members, long before the deluge of discs that arrived during the holiday season.

Such an early-out-of-the-gate strategy certainly helped "Slumdog Millionaire" in last year's derby as it romped to victory with eight wins, including best picture. And it might have helped land lead acting nods last year for Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") and Melissa Leo ("Frozen River"), whose DVDs were among the first dozen discs to get into Oscar voters' hands. Likewise for this year's lead actress contender Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and supporting actor nominee Woody Harrelson ("The Messenger").

Other films that did well in past derbies, like "Juno" (2007) and "Hustle and Flow" (2005), were also delivered to the mailboxes of Oscar voters early in the award cycle. Early bird "Little Miss Sunshine" landed four Oscar nominations in the 2006 derby, including a bid for best picture, and reaped two wins: supporting actor (Alan Arkin) and original screenplay (Michael Arndt).

Oscars_dvd_screeners_edited1

While getting out early has its obvious advantages, as that shrewd Oscar campaigner Harvey Weinstein has told me, it can be a good idea to be the last movie seen too. Thus the film is fresher on the minds of voters. This year, Warners used that strategy with "The Blind Side" and landed a surprise best picture nomination as well as a lead actress bid for Sandra Bullock.

Below is Gold Derby's exclusive list of when DVD screeners were received by all 5,800 Oscar voters.

CALENDAR OF SCREENERS

JAN. 22, 2010 — "Avatar"

DEC. 31, 2009: "The Hangover"

DEC. 28: "Sherlock Holmes," "The Lightkeepers"

DEC. 24: "The Blind Side"

DEC. 18: "Crazy Heart," "The Princess and the Frog," "Broken Embraces," "The Last Station," "The White Ribbon," "It's Complicated," "Tyson"

DEC. 15: "Nine," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Monsters and Aliens"

DEC. 12: "Me and Orson Welles," "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond"

DEC. 11: "Invictus," "Star Trek," "The Lovely Bones," "Up in the Air," "Creation," "Inglourious Basterds," "The Road," "A Single Man"

DEC. 10: "Public Enemies," "It's Complicated," "This Is It," "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs"

DEC. 7: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

DEC. 5: "Brothers"

DEC. 4: "Capitalism: A Love Story," "The Men Who Stare at Goats"

DEC. 3: "The Hurt Locker"

DEC. 1: "Precious," "Bruno"

NOV. 27: "Where the Wild Things Are," "The Informant!," "Two Lovers," "Funny People"

NOV. 25: "District 9," "Julie & Julia," "Pirate Radio," "Away We Go," "Taking Woodstock," "A Serious Man," "Coraline," "Up," the animated feature "9," "The Boys Are Back"

NOV. 17:  "(500) Days of Summer," "Bright Star," "The Young Victoria"

NOV. 16: "An Education," "The Messenger"

NOV. 6: "The Stoning of Soraya M."

OCT. 26: "Coco Before Chanel," "Whatever Works," "The Damned United"

OCT. 8: "Anvil!"

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Illustration by Ty Wilson 

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