In Contention is joining the HitFix family

In Contention is joining the HitFix family

Kris Tapley and Guy Lodge's voices very welcome additions

Hollywood is going into uncharted territory this awards season.  How you might ask?  It's the first time the 5% rule will be implemented to determine how many best picture nominees will battle for Oscar's biggest prize.  Brett Ratner  is officially co-producing the Academy Awards (it's a bad dream right?) with Eddie "don't call it another comeback" Murphy tapped to host for the first time.  And on a lighter note, the HFPA or Dick Clark Productions will attempt to put their legal case aside and survive a one-year agreement to co-produce the Golden Globes once again on NBC.  And that's not even taking into account the drama in the crowded best actress race, yet another Scott Rudin vs. Harvey Weinstein best picture battle, Glenn Close's last stand and Michael Fassbender's out of the blue best actor candidacy.  That's a lot for any awards pundit to cover or analyze and it's just September.  So,  it's with great pride that I announce our film and awards season coverage just received a major boost with the addition of In Contention to the HitFix family.

Many of you hardcore Oscar fans are well aware of Kris Tapley's blog and the fantastic amount of year-round commentary, reviews and film news it provides.  Kris has spend the last six years fashioning In Contention into one of the most respected film blogs on the web.  Along with regular contributors Guy Lodge and Gerard Kennedy, In Contention has provided awards season and film coverage from across the globe standing by HitFix's own efforts at Cannes, Comic-Con, Telluride and more.  

A fellow and longstanding member of MCN's "Gurus of Gold," Tapley is one of the smartest and level-headed awards season pundits on the scene.  He has a keen strategic eye for recognizing what the Academy will go for or not go for.  He also happens to have a great overall taste in movies (and not to mention a wry sense of humor fairly evident in his writing).   London-based Lodge is an impressive film critic and writer who brings a unique perspective from the other side of the pond.  Tapley and Lodge are the sort of engaging and conversation starting voices we've worked hard to recruit at HitFix.

The great thing about this new partnership is that Awards Campaign isn't going away. The combined talents of both blogs will allow a unique and indepth perspective of awards season we believe you just can't get anywhere else. If something is happening during awards season you're going to hear about it on HitFix.  It's that simple.

So, whether you've been a fan of myself or Drew McWeeny on the film side; Dan Fienberg, Alan Sepinwall or Liane Bonin Starr on the TV front or Melinda Newman or Katie Hasty on the music beat, we all hope you'll give Tapley and his team a warm welcome when In Contention officially moves into its HitFix digs next week.

Kris has a tongue-in-cheek saying on In Contention. "No one needs awards season coverage this deep…"  Well ladies and gentlemen, it just got much deeper.

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<p>George Clooney at the press conference for &quot;The Descendants&quot; at the 2011 Toronto Film&nbsp;Festival.</p>

George Clooney at the press conference for "The Descendants" at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young

Exclusive: George Clooney talks 'The Descendants' and a sneak peek

Check out two great scenes from Alexander Payne's latest

The buzz first started in Telluride, but now it's traveled across the border to Toronto: there is a leading candidate for best actor this year and his name is George Clooney.

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<p>Keira Knightley at a press conference for &quot;A Dangerous Method&quot; Sunday in Toronto.</p>

Keira Knightley at a press conference for "A Dangerous Method" Sunday in Toronto.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Even Johnny Depp couldn't convince Keira Knightley to do another 'Pirates of the Caribbean'

And on reuniting with her 'Atonement' helmer for 'Anna Karenina'

TORONTO - "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" may have grossed over $1 billion across the globe, but most critics despised it and it didn't have the same spark with American audiences.  One of the big reasons why may have been the absence of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom who appeared in the first three films.  Knightley in particular developed quite a rapport with series star Johnny Depp in the last two pictures. Speaking to Knightley at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival on Sunday, this journalist couldn't even propose a return for the expected fifth and sixth installment without an immediate "No" from Knightley's smiling lips.

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<p>Gary Oldman at the 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' premiere in&nbsp;Venice, Italy</p>

Gary Oldman at the 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' premiere in Venice, Italy

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Watch: First U.S. trailer for Gary Oldman-starrer 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'

Spy thriller to be released December 9th

Garnering strong reviews and more than a bit of awards-season buzz following its recent debut at the Venice Film Festival (where it was also nominated for the Golden Lion), Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" had its first U.S. trailer released today.

The film stars Gary Oldman as a secret agent coming out of "semi-retirement" to sniff out a Soviet mole who has been working at the highest levels of British intelligence for a period of several years. Oldman, who has received an immense amount of praise for his performance, is joined in the period drama by Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Kathy Burke and Toby Jones. The film was adapted from a 1974 novel by best-selling novelist John Le Carre.

I have to say, the trailer for the labyrinthine thriller is pretty gripping, and after "Let the Right One In" I'm anxious to check out Alfredson's follow-up. And Oldman,'s about time he was nominated for an Oscar.

Focus Features will release the film on December 9th. Check out the trailer below and let us know what you think:


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<p>Andrea Riseborough and James D'Arcy in Madonna's second directorial effort, &quot;W.E.&quot;</p>

Andrea Riseborough and James D'Arcy in Madonna's second directorial effort, "W.E."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Surprise - Madonna's 'W.E' isn't god awful

Drama features a fantastic performance by Andrea Riseborough

TORONTO - Something peculiar happened at the press screening for Madonna's "W.E" this morning at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.  Unlike, the packed first showing at the Venice Film Festival less than two weeks ago, there were no unexpected irruptions of laughter.  And you didn't have press passionately ripping the drama as they walked out of the theater.  In fact, the reaction was much more subdued.  Granted, the Venice reaction scared away many of the industry and press who might have seen it (about 40% of the theater was full), but there was no flurry of "The sky is falling! Madonna directed a movie!" tweets afterward.  Having now seen "W.E" with a roomful of non-Venice critics, it only convinces this pundit that the reviewers that day were either consciously or subconsciously looking for anything in the film to rip its director and rip they did.  And while their scathing reviews were harsh (um, did anyone see "Anonymous"?), let's be clear; "W.E" is not a good movie. Yes, it has serious problems, but it also has a lot of impressive things about it as well.

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<p>Jon Hamm walking the red carpet at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival for Ben Affleck's &quot;The Town.&quot;</p>

Jon Hamm walking the red carpet at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival for Ben Affleck's "The Town."

Credit: AP Photo

Is 'Mad Men's' Jon Hamm ready to direct his first movie?

A revealing Q&A with the co-star and producer of 'Friends with Kids'

TORONTO - When Jon Hamm sits down into the hotel room chair to begin our interview he's obviously very tired.  The "Mad Men" icon has had a roller coaster of a 24 hours after the premiere of his new film "Friends with Kids" at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.  Directed by his longtime companion Jennifer Westfeldt (co-star and co-screenwriter of "Kissing Jessica Stein"), the ensemble comedy stars Adam Scott (an old friend), Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Ed Burns, Megan Fox as well as Hamm and Westfeldt.  It's a funny and dramatic look at how two friends (Scott and Westfeldt) deal with the fact their circle of friends are having kids and, well, they aren't.  Hamm was a full producer on the project, a first for him, and based on the results on screen he helped Westfeldt put together a pretty solid product.  So, in something of a surprise for Hamm, this is one interview he wasn't going to be inundated with questions about the long awaited new season of "Mad Men."  Not that the subject didn't come up...

Ellwood: So, I have to tell you I have first hand experience that you worked very hard as an actual producer on this film.

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<p>Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I&nbsp;in Roland Emmerich's &quot;Anonymous.&quot;</p>

Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I in Roland Emmerich's "Anonymous."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: Roland Emmerich's 'Anonymous' is just plain silly

Vanessa Redgrave's performance survives the soap opera

Film festivals are always filled with "passion projects."  Films that directors, producers or screenwriters have spent years or even decades trying to get made.  This year's festival season has more then recent memory including Glenn Close scripted "Albert Nobbs" and David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" which playwright Christopher Hampton has been trying to get made for over 15 years.  A more peculiar entry to that club debuted this afternoon at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in the Roland Emmerich revisionist thriller "Anonymous."

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<p>Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor in &quot;Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.&quot;</p>

Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen."

Review: 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' unsuccessfully tries to duplicate Working Title formula

When an over the top Kristin Scott Thomas steals the show you've got problems

TORONTO - A romantic comedy or dramedy featuring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt is never going to be a box office slam dunk.  Yes, the two Brits are incredibly talented actors, but they haven't had much success as cinematic leads. However, when you are adapting a best selling novel you often hope the notoriety of your source material can help overcome your lack of celebrity starpower.  Unfortunately, that may not be the case for Lasse Halstrom's "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" which debuted at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival on Saturday night.

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<p>Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in the latter's directorial debut, &quot;Friends with Kids.&quot;</p>

Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt in the latter's directorial debut, "Friends with Kids."

Review: Adam Scott and Maya Rudolph shine in very funny 'Friends with Kids'

Jennifer Westfeldt's dramedy has some big and cutting laughs

TORONTO - One of the more anticipated potential acquisition titles at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is Jennifer Westfeldt's directorial debut, "Friends with Kids." And, it's not hard to figure out why.  Especially when you've recruited an ensemble cast that includes Jon Hamm (also a producer), Megan Fox, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Adam Scott.  Happily for distributors and moviegoers, "Friends" delivers the goods and should spark a bidding war before heading to a theater near you.

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<p>&quot;Sarah Palin - You Betcha!&quot;&nbsp;co-director Nick Broomfield and a larger than life image of his subject Sarah Palin.</p>

"Sarah Palin - You Betcha!" co-director Nick Broomfield and a larger than life image of his subject Sarah Palin.

Review: Nobody in Wasilla wants to talk about 'Sarah Palin'

'You Betcha!' just isn't a good documentary

TORONTO - No one over the past three years has been a more polarizing figure in American politics than Sarah Palin.  The former Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor has transformed herself from a self-proclaimed "Hockey Mom" to a major media and political figure while alienating most of the country in the process.  There have been many investigative and in-depth pieces on Palin during that time, but that didn't stop British filmmaker Nick Broomfield ("Kurt and Courtney") and his partner Joan Churchill ("Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer")  from trying to find out the "truth" about the "real" Sarah Palin in their new documentary "Sarah Palin - You Betcha!"

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