<p>President Barack Obama and the kids from &quot;Waiting for Superman,&quot;&nbsp;Francisco Regalado, from Bronx, NY., Bianca Hill, Harlem, NY, Daisy Esparza, East Los Angeles, Emily Jones, Silicon Valley Calif., and Anthony Black from Washington, DC.</p>

President Barack Obama and the kids from "Waiting for Superman," Francisco Regalado, from Bronx, NY., Bianca Hill, Harlem, NY, Daisy Esparza, East Los Angeles, Emily Jones, Silicon Valley Calif., and Anthony Black from Washington, DC.

Credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

President Obama meets the kids from 'Waiting for Superman'

Paramount goes the extra mile for Guggenhiem doc

Can we talk about the insanely impressive job the Paramount marketing team has done on "Waiting for Superman"?  Treating the Sundance Film Festival documentary more as a crusade than a movie, the studio has created a tremendous amount of dialogue over the complex issue of public and private education in America.  "Superman" has already made $1.4 million in no more than 103 theaters, but it's the p.r. they have generated which is the much bigger accomplishment at this point. 

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<p>Freddie Mercury performing in 1986.</p>

Freddie Mercury performing in 1986.

Credit: AP Photo

Queen won't be treated with kid gloves in Sacha Baron Cohen's Freddie Mercury biopic

'Hereafter' screenwriter Peter Morgan discusses Clint Eastwood and possibly returning to politics

There may be no screenwriter living who is more of an expert on British politics over the past 15 years than Peter Morgan. The two-time Oscar-nominated writer is best known for his Tony Blair trilogy of "The Deal," "The Queen" and "The Special Relationship," but he's also told the true stories that make up "Frost/Nixon," "The Damned United," "The Last King of Scotland," "Longford" and, to a lesser extent, "The Other Boleyn Girl."  Now, Morgan is in the middle of the biggest departures of his career.  First to screen is this month's Clint Eastwood directed supernatural drama "Hereafter" and, at the moment, Morgan is penning the script for a Freddie Mercury biopic that will star Sacha Baron Cohen.

To those who aren't aware of the legendary Queen front man, Mercury was one of the most charismatic and imposing stage performers of the the '70s and '80s.  As a songwriter he wrote some of the most popular rock anthems of the past 30 years including "We Are the Champions" and "Bohemian Rhapsody."  Sadly, only a day after admitting he'd contracted HIV, Mercury died at the age of 45 from complications of AIDS.  It's not surprising such a dramatic and powerful story found its way to Sacha Baron Cohen who has a strong resemblance to the rock icon and is a pretty charismatic fellow in his own right.  According to Morgan, Cohen had been trying to persuade him to write a biopic on Mercury's life for over two years.  Discussing the project during an interview today, Morgan said he'd consistently said "no."

"I'd said to him, 'Look, it's a great idea and you're great casting for him, but I don't know the story.'  And it took me that long to find what I was doing with it," Morgan says.  

And while he won't comment on what that "in" was Morgan says he's currently deep in the writing process and "it's easier to talk about than 'Hereafter,' because that's what I am doing every day.  And I am really loving writing it."

Another reason this biopic is ready to go is because Mercury's former Queen band mates are finally allowing their parts of the story to be told onscreen.  In comparison, a major fault of another recent rock biopic,  last spring's "The Runways," was that a number of former members of that 70s band , including Lita Ford, expressively forbid their use outside of publicly stated record.  That ended up skewing the events in the drama. and leaving much of the "true" story untold.  At the moment, that's not an issue for Mercury's tale, but Morgan has made it clear Queen won't get a free ride for giving their O.K.

"It's very much authorized and with their cooperation, but I've told them, 'I won't be particularly kind.'  I'm only gonna do this if I have editorial independence," Morgan says.   "I don't want anyone to feel this is a movie that Queen has commissioned."

Morgan insinuated the Mercury biopic could be shot and ready for release within the next two years, but was just as emphatic to discuss "Hereafter."

An ensemble drama with three intersecting story lines, "Hereafter" more than anything is a contemplative look at the age old question of what happens to us when we die.  One portion of the film is centered on a man with the ability to connect to the "other side" (Matt Damon), but can't handle the burden of such a gift.  The second thread follows a French journalist (Cécile De France) who has a near death experience after almost drowning in a Tsunami in Southeast Asia.  When she returns home she becomes obsessed with investigating what happened to her much to the detriment of her career.  The final plot line is probably the most touching and deals with two twin boys in London who are the victims of a tragic accident.

There wasn't one event in Morgan's life that inspired "Hereafter," but at its core he says he wanted the film to provide comfort without giving emphatic proof the afterlife exists.  He notes, "I didn't want there to be a scoop.  'Guess what folks,  you can pay $10, we will tell you what happens.'  We're not in a position to do that."

That's not to say Morgan didn't research the issue, "the minute that I got onto the Internet you realize you're only a couple of clicks away from quite disturbing lunatics. So, I pulled back a bit and I read a couple of books."

One issue Morgan is keenly aware of are some movie fans expectations of a film that is being marketed with strong emphasis on the more "epic" moments in the picture.

"When it first became public there was a lot of talk about it being like 'The Sixth Sense' or it being a spiritual thriller.  And, I sort of thought, 'They are in for a shock," Morgan recalls.  "And when they told me Clint was interested, I was excited because I knew he wouldn't try to offer an explanation.  I didn't think in his work Mr. Eastwood was a particular religious man and I didn't think he'd want to make it a movie about a scoop."

Morgan also knew the wrong director could take the material in a completely different direction than he'd intended.

"It was really important to me the young boys really did come from quite difficult circumstances in London. So, I was very happy when I heard [Eastwood was on board] because like 'Mystic River' has real social reality and I thought, 'He will give the subject social reality' because it could easily feel too whimsical and never-neverland-ish."

With the recent coalition government seemingly making no one in any of the U.K.'s three parties happy, I ended by asking Morgan if he'd consider revisiting the intriguing world of British politics again.

"I'm always keeping my eyes open and if something comes up," Morgan admits. "I just have to be wary, I suppose, of following in my own footsteps too much.  I don't want to become repetitive and I'm very happy to take risks.  Even if taking those risks means you fail."

"Hereafter" opens nationwide on Oct. 22.

 

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<p>Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in a pre-production shot for &quot;My Week with Marilyn.&quot;</p>

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in a pre-production shot for "My Week with Marilyn."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Michelle Williams may smile again in 'My Week with Marilyn'

A rundown of the Oscar nominee's recent downer streak

If you didn't know her personally, you might start to worry about Michelle Williams based on the movie roles she's taken over the past five years.

Since her Oscar nominated performance in "Brokeback Mountain" almost six years ago, Williams has starred in not just serious, but intense and almost painfully difficult roles since.  And granted, while she's thrived and delivered stellar performances across the board, it's also a bit disconcerting to anyone observing her career from an industry perspective.  Especially with the divorce and then tragic death of her ex-boyfriend [corrected] Heath Ledger during this time period.  Coincidentally, I just had a conversation about Williams' dour choices, which are becoming dangerously close to defining her, with a colleague before a screening of an unrelated film last night.  For the depressing evidence, let's look at the the past five years for Williams on the big screen, shall we?

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Gemma Arterton discusses "Tamara Drewe"

Gemma Arterton discusses "Tamara Drewe."

Credit: HitFix

Watch: 'Tamara Drewe's' Gemma Arterton ready for 'Clash of the Titans 2'

Plus: The dashing Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans

As previously noted on Awards Campaign, "Tamara Drewe" is set to make Gemma Arterton a real star.  Sure, she's journeyed through the desert alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in "Prince of Persia" and fiddled with the gods plans in "Clash of the Titans" for Sam Worthington, but in those films she was effectively playing second fiddle to her male counterparts.  Now, she's getting a chance to prove she's more than a media hype creation and one of the more intriguing number of British actresses hitting the big screen this decade.

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Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Sandra Bullock's patience may find her in Alfonso Cuaron's 'Gravity'

Could Tom Hanks hold the key to 'The Blind Side' star's next film?

Unlike many of her peers, Sandra Bullock hasn't used her Oscar-winning turn in the blockbuster "The Blind Side" to star in a slew of high-paying and prominent pictures.  Instead, and partially due to some personal issues we won't go into here, Bullock has been incredibly picky in what projects she even attaches herself to. 

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Diane Lane

Diane Lane talks about "Secretariat" at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, CA.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Diane Lane battles the heat for 'Secretariat'

Horse lover reflects on playing the legendary Triple Crown winning owner

It's hard to believe it's been two years since Diane Lane graced the silver screen, but with "Secretariat" she returns in a big way.  The Walt Disney drama tells the "impossible" true story of how Secretariat owner Penny Chenery put everything on the line, both personally and professionally, betting that her horse would win the illustrious Triple Crown in 1973.  It's a story that Chenery held on to for years until she was finally comfortable it would be told in the right way.

Speaking to Lane on the hottest day in the history of Los Angeles last week, the "Perfect Storm" star reflected on how the still living Chenery understood the limits of Hollywood storytelling (certain facts were changed it seems) and how she was a resource on set.  Lane also discusses her love of horses and how the animal is a totem in her life.

You can watch the interview embedded in this page.  To check out my conversation with her co-star John Malkovich, click here.

"Secretariat" opens nationwide on Friday.

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Judi Dench

Judi Dench will soon be on a passage to India.

Credit: AP Photo

Judi Dench finds a 'Love' connection in 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel also star

It may be Oscar season now, but studios across Hollywood are still planning their potential contenders for 2011 and beyond.  One of the regular players, Fox Searchlight, announced that a new John Madden directed dramedy, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," will begin shooting on Oct. 10 in India.

The picture will reunite Madden with his "Shakespeare in Love" stars Judi Dench, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for the Miramax romantic comedy, and Tom Wilkinson. "Hotel" also features Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel.  Madden also worked with Dench on his big screen breakthrough, "Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown."

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Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan in Peter Weir's "The Way Back."

Credit: NewMarket Films

Oscar Watch: Peter Weir's 'The Way Back' crashes awards season

Plus: 'The Tempest' get a fantastical trailer

Long rumored, Peter Weir's extravagant epic "The Way Back" is getting a limited release in Los Angeles on December 29.  NewMarket picked up the WWII era drama, but intended to give the film a limited release on Jan. 21.  Now, "Back" will qualify for the Oscars, which could give it a boost as it expands across the country in February -- assuming it scores some nominations.

The picture tells the true story of a group of soldiers who escaped a Siberian prison in 1942 and their long journey to freedom in India.  Weir, best known for "The Truman Show," "Witness" and "Dead Poet's Society," recruited a prestige friendly cast including Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong.  Debuting at the Telluride Film Festival, the picture has received mixed reviews so far with praise for it's cinematography more than it's screenplay. Considering Weir's has helmed three Best Picture nominees including "Witness," "Dead Poet's Society" and "Master and Commander," he should never be counted out.  Especially in a 10 nominee field.

In other awards season news…

- Touchstone Pictures (aka Walt Disney Studios) finally released a trailer for Julie Taymor's "The Tempest" today.  Focusing on the fantastical aspects of Shakespeare's play, the Helen Mirren and Russell Brand flick continues to impress from a visual sense.  Reviews have been mixed so far.  You can watch the trailer embedded below.

- Andrew Galecki's long delayed "All Good Things" has a poster which debuted on Vulture today.  It's hard to imagine a movie debuting on demand before it hits theaters really being an awards contender, no?  Well, at least the key art is sexy.

Look for a complete rundown on the Best Picture race tomorrow on Awards Campaign.

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Gemma Arterton in Tamara Drewe

"Tamara Drewe" is the breakout role Gemma Arterton has been waiting for since gaining notoriety in "Quantum of Solace."

Credit: Sony Classics

Exclusive Clip: Gemma Arterton shows off the sexy 'Tamara Drewe'

A sneak peek at a romantic comedy that has something for everyone

Every once in awhile there is a "romantic comedy" that even the coldest of hearts will begrudgingly admit is entertaining.  Whether it's "The Devil Wears Prada" or "Love Actually," these flicks usually win admirers across the board.  It's unclear how much of a dent it can make in the U.S. marketplace, but the delightful "Tamara Drewe" comfortably fits among those favorites. 

Opening in limited release in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, "Tamara Drewe" is directed by Stephen Frears ("The Queen") and features standout performances by Gemma Arterton ("Clash of the Titans"), Dominic Cooper ("Mamma Mia"), Tamsin Greig, Luke Evans (the upcoming "The Immortals") and the always droll Roger Allam ("Speed Racer"). Based on the newspaper comic strip and eventual graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, "Tamara" follows the humorous and dramatic turns that occur when a formerly unattractive young woman returns to her hometown (the fictional countryside village of Ewedown, England) transformed into a sexy, stylish and successful London newspaper columnist.  To be blunt, not everyone is thrilled with her success and for numerous reasons.

This exclusive clip wonderfully sets up the dynamics of Tamara's impact on the town and the ensemble cast.  Her neighbors, Nicolas and Beth (Greig and Allam), run a writer's retreat which currently has a neurotic American, Glen (Bill Camp), amongst others, in their midst. This sequence begins with Nicolas and Beth bickering with their daughter over how "desperate" Tamara Drew is and then transitions to a work break featuring Glen and Tamara.  Glen has offered to help Tamara clean out the rubbish from her house which she is intent on selling after the death of her mother, but he can't resist some sly flirting with the overachiever.

You can enjoy the clip embedded in this post and read more about the film from my Telluride review.  Look for interviews with the cast of "Tamara Drewe" later this week on Awards Campaign.

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<p>The climactic scene in &quot;I&nbsp;Am Love.&quot;</p>

The climactic scene in "I Am Love."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Oscar Watch: Controversy returns to Foreign Language Film race

Plus: Surprise, 'The Social Network' plays to the Academy

It wouldn't be awards season without some controversy in the Foreign Language Film race and this year is no different.  A favorite of this pundit, Luca Guadagnino's "I Am Love" would have seemed to be an easy choice for Italy's official submission.  The picture received rave reviews in the U.S. and abroad and grossed almost $4.9 million domestically -- more than any territory.  The picture is also generating Oscar buzz for star and producer Tilda Swinton in the best actress category and could make noise in best cinematography, costumes and art direction.  The problem is, the movie wasn't well received in the most important country when it comes to this category, Italy.

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