<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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John Malkovich battles the heat discussing "Secretariat"

John Malkovich battles the heat discussing "Secretariat."

Watch: John Malkovich hits the race track and 'has a blast' on 'Transformers 3'

Legendary actor has a busy fall with 'Red' and 'Secretariat'

As if there was any doubt before, John Malkovich is a true pro.  On the hottest day on record in Los Angeles last week, Malkovich sits next to an open window in the Turf Club of the Santa Anita Race Track for hours speaking to reporters about his new role in the Walt Disney film "Secretariat."  As anyone in Southern California can tell you, if it's 114 degrees in downtown Los Angeles, tack on at least another 5 degrees in the western town of Arcadia, home to the track.  You can feel the heat come through the window like a blast of hot hair, but while Malkovich's co-star Diane Lane was understandably becoming a bit dizzy by the weather, the "Dangerous Liaisons" legend seemed to take it all in stride.  Would you expect anything less from the man who starred in the groundbreaking movie that centered on himself? 

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Samel L. Jackson and Naomi Watts in "Mother and Child"

Samel L. Jackson and Naomi Watts in "Mother and Child."

Credit: Sony Classics

Oscar Watch: The first official Academy screeners are…

And nope, it's not 'Social Network' or 'Inception'

It's always a sign that the race is officially off.  That magic moment when Academy members open their mailboxes and receive their first Oscar contending screener.  In the past, films such as Sony Classics' "Frozen River" have gotten out of the gate before anyone else and used it to their advantage.  Many campaigners credit that early release for helping Melissa Leo land a best actress nomination and screenwriter Courtney Hunt finding herself with a surprising nod for best original screenplay.  This year, Sony Classics is again making making the first screener move by distributing Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child" and the Australian triller "Animal Kingdom" to voters.

HitFix has confirmed AMPAS members will receive the screeners today and tomorrow (some even got them yesterday).  Here are some photos of the screeners and who they are pushing for consideration per Academy rules.

Oscar screeners for ANIMAL KINGDOM and MOTHER AND CHILD


And the back with the for your consideration contenders.

Oscar screeners for ANIMAL KINGDOM and MOTHER AND CHILD

Two of the more positively reviewed films of the year, "Kingdom" is a contender in the best original screenplay race for David Michod and Jacki Weaver has a fighting chance to land a best supporting actress nod.  "Mother and Child" has a tougher race ahead of it, but Garcia could play in the best original screenplay category and Kerry Washington could make noise in the best supporting actress field. Sony Classics has a big awards campaign year ahead with the excellent "Inside Job," "Tamara Drewe," "Another Year" and "Made in Dangeham" all generating serious heat in numerous categories. 

Members will get a majority of their screeners between Thanksgiving and Christmas for the all important holiday break where many nomination votes are made and lost.

Do you think "Kingdom" or "Child" have a chance in any categories? Share your thoughts below.

 

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Sam Flynn is found by a Recognizer in "Tron Legacy"

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is found by a Recognizer in "Tron Legacy."

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Disney shows no fear in previewing 'Tron Legacy' and 'Tangled'

Can you guess which one evokes memories of smilar sneaks of 'Star Trek' and 'Iron Man'?

There is something special about a movie when you've had the opportunity to watch 20 or so minutes of footage twice within one week and you already want to see it again.  For this writer, the last time anything close to that feeling occurred was with "Star Trek" - an agonizing five months before release - and "Iron Man." Will "Tron Legacy" follow in the blockbuster shoes of those two films?  Well, after this sneak, something will have gone very, very wrong if it doesn't.

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Lucy casts a snow spell in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader"

Lucy casts a snow spell in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader."

Credit: Walden Media

Sneak Peek: 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader' sets sail for redemption

'Narnia' franchise has a new home and audience perspective

What exactly when wrong between Walden Media and Walt Disney Studios during and after the release of "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is still unclear, but it lead to one of the more puzzling breakups over the past decade.  The union between the family friendly brand and the inspirational thinking production entity should have been a match made in heaven and for one film it was. 

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Jeff Bridges reunites with the Coens in "True Grit"

Jeff Bridges reunites with the Coens in "True Grit."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Watch: Jeff Bridges shows 'True Grit' in Coens' new Western

New preview debuts for the Christmas contender

Sometimes it pays to be last.  Every other major winter release and Oscar contender has already released a preview, but the Coens' "True Grit" was intentionally quiet.  Now, just in time for the debut of "Grit" producer Scott Rudin's other contender, "The Social Network," "Grit" finds it way onto the awards season landscape.

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Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake after the world premiere of "The Social Network"

Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake after the world premiere of "The Social Network."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Contender Countdown: 'Social Network' can't spam 'King's Speech' from No. 1

'Rabbit Hole' makes the top ten and more

It's not even October and the pronouncements around this year's Oscar race are already flying fast and furious.  Speaking to a publicist at a non-competing studio late last week, this pundit was told the Academy was basically out of touch if it didn't award "The Social Network" the Best Picture statue as it's "the most important movie of the year."  Of course, this respected professional hasn't seen most of the other competitors (a bit of a problem), the picture hasn't even screened for most Academy members and Mark Zuckerberg hasn't been taken off suicide watch yet (seriously, we kid), but that's the sort of passion that's already being generated by David Fincher's latest.

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Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network"

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in a late scene from "The Social Network."

Credit: Sony Pictures

'The Social Network' won't make Mark Zuckerberg's day, but can you blame him?

Thoughts on David Fincher's impressive Oscar contender and watch five new clips

It's not a good day for Mark Zuckerberg.  Shoot, it probably hasn't been a good couple of weeks for Zuckerberg.  Sure, it's hard to complain when you're 26 and a billionaire, but when a major motion picture is opening the prestigious New York Film Festival that spotlights some mistakes from your very young life, well, that's never a good thing.  Oh, and even after attempting some pre-release public relations damage control by making a major donation to Newark schools and appearing on Oprah, Facebook was down for a good chunk of Thursday (worst crash in four years).  And, as you'll learn if and when you see "The Social Network," nothing frustrates Zuckerberg more than when his site is down.

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Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet is set to star in Roman Polanski's adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play "God of Carnage."

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Oscar Bait Alert: Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster ready for 'Carnage'

Roman Polanski takes on the Tony Award winning play

There is a somewhat snide term in Hollywood industry circles known as "Oscar bait."  It's basically a project set up with the intention of getting awards attention even if that's part of the larger scheme to make money.  Most serious studio dramas (the few that are greenly lit these days) actually have that in mind for planning purposes.  Sometimes it works out ("The Departed") and sometimes it doesn't ("Nine").  In fact, a good number of this year's Academy Award contenders were categorized as Oscar bait before production began.  Now, we're at the time of year where the bait pictures for 2011 start to come to light. 

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<p>James Cameron discussing 3-D filmmaking in Asia earlier this year.</p>

James Cameron discussing 3-D filmmaking in Asia earlier this year.

Credit: AP Photo

Producer's Guild to honor James Cameron for 'historic contributions'

'Avatar' maestro will receive award in January

Call it producer's envy and appreciation.  The Producer's Guild of America are awarding their most prestigious honor to arguably the most successful filmmaker and producer in history, James Cameron.  The "Avatar" and "Titanic" producer and director will be awarded the 2011 Milestone Award during the 22nd Annual Producer's Guild Awards ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011. 

In a statement from the PGA, Paula Wagner, Chair of this year's event said,"“James Cameron is an exceptionally talented producer—a true innovator with the rare combination of technical ingenuity and creative vision. Jim has continued to change the film landscape with his ability to deliver groundbreaking masterpieces that present audiences and the industry with unrivaled beauty, originality and impact.”

In recognizing Cameron, the guild isn't just acknowledging his milestones at the box office or his boatload of Academy Awards and nominations, but his achievements in underwater filming, visual effects and in the advancement of 3-D filmmaking.  In fact, it's clear "Avatar" is partially responsible for the 3-D boom that has swept the industry over the past 18 months and provided substantial returns for his peers.  Need we say more?

While sequels to "Avatar" are still a bit down the road, Cameron has recently announced he'll be producing Guillermo Del Toro's "Mountains of Madness" for Universal Pictures.

The Producer's Guild of America Awards will be handed out on Jan. 22 at the Hyatt Regency Century City Plaza in Los Angeles.
 

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