• Pete 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 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
• Ralph 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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