<p>Sean Penn in &quot;This Must Be The Place.&quot;</p>

Sean Penn in "This Must Be The Place."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Is Sean Penn crashing the best actor race?

Weinstein Company picks up 'This Must Be The Place'

After his public comments about the editing of "The Tree of Life," we're still unsure if Sean Penn will appear at any future SAG screening or, now, Academy member screenings of the critic's favorite, but his other film from the 2011 Cannes Film Festival has finally found a home. HitFix can confirm The Weinstein Company has picked up U.S. distribution for Paolo Sorrentino's "This Must Be The Place."

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<p>Don't worry Melissa. &nbsp;There is no ban on personal &quot;for your consideration&quot; ads. &nbsp;</p>

Don't worry Melissa.  There is no ban on personal "for your consideration" ads.  

New rules: Academy gets serious over Oscar parties, screenings and social media

Parties are dead as super-screenings are the new thing

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the official rules for "promotion of films eligible for the 84th Academy Awards" (i.e., Oscar campaigning) today and there were some interesting changes.

It was expected the Academy would crack down on some of the events that skewer the line between Oscar promotion and, say, home video or theatrical release promotion (such as Sony Picture's "The Social Network" home video event last year), but that didn't happen.  Instead, the Academy set some clarifications and opened filmmaker access to some screenings for nominated pictures in a big, big way.

As noted in the AMPAS release, "Prior to the nominations announcement (January 24, 2012), there are no restrictions on screening events to which Academy members may be invited. These events may include the live participation of individuals involved with the film (Q&A panel discussions, etc.) as well as receptions with food and beverage. After the nominations have been announced, Academy members may continue be invited to screenings that have filmmaker participation elements but receptions are not permitted. While there is no restriction on the total number of screenings of a particular movie, no one individual from the film can participate in more than two panel discussions. Previously, Academy members could not be invited to any screening event that included live participation of the filmmaker(s) or a reception either before or after the nominations had been announced."

The fact that studios can now hold their own screening events not under the guise of guild screenings or by third parties is pretty substantial.  They can clearly go after just Academy voters if they want and, moreover, can drop having to participate in third party screening series such as the Variety or Envelope staples (ouch).  Chances are they won't, but those series are certainly no longer mandatory to try and get at voters.  Additionally, the "no restrictions" part of the screening events is quite extraordinary.  Does that mean DreamWorks can hold an Academy screening of "War Horse" at the Walt Disney Concert Hall?  Can The Weinstein Company have an Academy screening of "The Iron Lady" at the United Nations in New York? Could a studio buyout the Landmark or the Arclight for a week before nominations for non-stop Q&A's and screenings for their potential films?  According the new rules, yes, yes they can...if the studios want to spend that money.

Oh, me. Oh, my.

The other distinction here is that studios can now use talent more effectively to help lock down a win during the post nomination period.  Whether that will help secure a win in the major categories remains to be seen.  Most voters have seen all the films already and as we've learned over the past two years, scandals or controversy ("The Hurt Locker" producer, Melissa "Consider This" Leo) have had little effect on the final results because most members send in their ballots within the first two weeks.  However, if the studios are smart, they could use these screening events to push some of the secondary categories where the overall membership may not have as passionate a pick in mind such as cinematography, original score, costumes, make-up, editing, etc.  Considering "talent" can only appear at two screening Q&A's this might be the smartest use of their time.  You can be sure though, that the first two weeks of final campaigning will be packed with events in theaters as large as possible to get as many members in as possible. 

The Academy is still allowing for digital downloads and screeners, but you can are argue by opening the floodgates for special screenings they will encourage members to view the contenders in the manner which they were intended, on the big screen.

Oh, but if you aren't having a screening or in the Oscar club, well, that's the bad news.   As noted in their press release, "Additionally, after nominations are announced and until final polls close, members may not be invited to or attend any non-screening event that promotes or honors a nominated movie or individual nominee. Nominees themselves are also prohibited from attending such events. Academy-sanctioned events and awards ceremonies presented by the various guilds, critics groups and other organizations are exempt."  The "other organizations" is where the Academy gives themselves an "out," but this is meant to cut down on private circuit parties held by members at member homes to push a candidate.

Additionally, the AMPAS made some noise on the social media front effectively banning negative campaigning on such platforms.  This is a bit odd since it's hard to find any studio who blatantly campaigned against another studio's nominees on twitter or facebook, but it may be a warning over negative tactics overall. Here's their exact wording from the official rules: "Ads, mailings, websites, social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) or any other forms of public communication by anyone directly associated with an eligible film attempting to promote a particular film or achievement by casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film or achievement will not be tolerated. In particular, any tactic that singles out "the competition" by name or title is expressly forbidden. Academy members that violate this Rule 16 will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations, and expulsion for any subsequent violations."

The "any other forms of public communication" is the kicker here and no doubt has a very broad definition.  Watch your E-mails members.

This pundit's favorite rule, and one I believe the Academy will be very sensitive this year, is #14, "Telephone Lobbying."  It's been banned for sometime, but with the stakes so high with the new 5% rule to land a best picture nominations, it's going to be hard for some members, campaigners and filmmakers to control themselves.  

In any event, if Wolfgang Puck catering hasn't gone public, they might consider doing so now.  They are going to be much busier than normal this season.

A full list of this year's rules are available here.

For year round entertainment commentary and award season news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.



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<p>Eddie Murphy, producer Brian Glazer and Steve Martin at the premiere of &quot;Bowfinger&quot;&nbsp;in 1999.</p>

Eddie Murphy, producer Brian Glazer and Steve Martin at the premiere of "Bowfinger" in 1999.

Credit: AP Photo/Rene Macura

Steve Martin gives Eddie Murphy some blunt Oscars hosting advice

But what did the former host really mean?

Eddie Murphy has five months to go before his inaugural gig hosting the 84th Academy Awards (assuming he doesn't get cold feet along the way). The publicity-shy comedy icon hasn't asked for any advice from former hosts, but that didn't stop his old buddy Steve Martin from chiming in today.

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<p>Judi Dench and Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from Clint Eastwood's &quot;J. Edgar.&quot;</p>

Judi Dench and Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Watch: Leonardo DiCaprio is a complicated man in new 'J. Edgar' trailer

Clint Eastwood's latest is an intriguing proposition

Can we have sympathy for J. Edgar Hoover?  That seems to be what the new trailer for Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" is asking audiences.

Possibly the most reviled American lawman of the 20th Century, Hoover intimidated presidents, celebrities and pretty much whomever he wanted during his long reign atop the F.B.I.  The new biopic, which is a prime awards season player, finds Leonardo DiCaprio portraying the controversial figure, Armie Hammer as Cyde Tosen (his no. 2 and possibly more), Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy (Hoover's secretary for 54 years) and Judi Dench pulling out an American accent as his mother.  Written by "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, the preview indicates the film isn't shying away from his rumored homosexuality or run ins with the Kennedys. 

The film has a wide historical canvas, but what is most striking is DiCaprio's accent.  Hoover accent wavered over the years (you can listen to a phone conversation between Hoover and Lyndon B. Johnson here), but it feels quite apparent here.  Granted, DiCaprio's done shaky accents before.  He even received an Oscar nomination for his role in "Blood Diamond" where he tried out as South African accent.  The preview also gives prominence to Hammer and Dench. 

You can watch the new trailer on itunes here.

"J. Edgar" opens nationwide on Nov. 9.

What do you think of the trailer?  Does DiCaprio's Hoover work for you? Share you thoughts below.

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<p>A jovial moment from &quot;Where do we go now?&quot;</p>

A jovial moment from "Where do we go now?"

No Toronto Film Festival People's Choice Award bump for Oscar this year

'Where do we go now?' a surprise winner

The Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award's current streak of influencing the best picture race has dome to an end.  The past three years have seen "Slumdog Millionaire," "Precious" and "The King's Speech" each secure the festival's highest honor.  With the announcement that Lebanese drama "Where do we go now?" is this year's winner, Toronto's influence on awards season has been tempered a bit.

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<p>Melissa McCarthy is crowned best actress in a comedy series for her work on &quot;Mike and Molly&quot;&nbsp;during the 2011 Emmy Awards.</p>

Melissa McCarthy is crowned best actress in a comedy series for her work on "Mike and Molly" during the 2011 Emmy Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Can 'Bridesmaids' Melissa McCarthy go from Emmy winner to Oscar winner?

Her surprise Emmy win may prompt an unexpected campaign

For the first time in Academy Awards history, the Emmy Awards might have given a hint to a serious Oscar nominee. 

Well, maybe.

At face value, Melissa McCarthy's stunning win for best actress in a comedy series just looks like one of those surprise upsets that happen every once and awhile on most awards shows. Perhaps presumed favorites Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Laura Linney or Eddie Falco just cancelled each other out to allow McCarthy to sneak in (nothing against Martha Plimpton, but she didn't have a chance).  Granted, that may be part of the reason McCarthy won, but it clearly isn't because of her sitcom "Mike & Molly." The CBS show is hardly a critic's darling and its "Molly" recognition was the show's only major nomination.  What was more apparent, is that the Groundlings veteran got a big boost from her supporting role in the monster hit "Bridesmaids" this summer. In an ensemble of very funny women including Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Rose "Who knew?" Byrne, McCarthy's butch and man-hungry Megan was an audience favorite.

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<p>Bryan Cranston talks &quot;Drive&quot;</p>

Bryan Cranston talks "Drive"

Bryan Cranston turns the corner in 'Drive' and makes 'Argo' revelations

Have you taken 'Drive' for a spin yet?

TORONTO - Have you gone for a "Drive" yet?  Nicolas Winding Refn's critically acclaimed thriller finally debuted on Friday and if you haven't seen it already, what are you waiting for?  The film's stylistic flourishes aside, one of the most impressive aspects of "Drive" is its ensemble cast.  Sure, the story is the Driver's (Ryan Gosling), but Refn and screenwriter Hossein Amini have made sure the other characters from James Sallis' novel aren't slighted.  That means memorable turns from veterans such as Albert Brooks, Ron Pearlman, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston.

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<p>Brad Pitt pondering or bored during the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival press conference for &quot;Moneyball.&quot;</p>

Brad Pitt pondering or bored during the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival press conference for "Moneyball."

Credit: AP Photo

Toronto: Who got an Oscar bounce and who didn't?

Robert Forester, Brad PItt, Albert Brooks get big boosts

TORONTO - The most star-friendly of the three awards season kickoff festivals, Toronto has been a buzz boon to many Oscar players over the years. "Brokeback Mountain," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Juno," "Michael Clayton," "Precious" and "Up in the Air" all found themselves recipients of Canadian love.  However, like all festivals, Toronto giveth and Toronto taketh away.  And in the world of award season buzz there are just as many casualties as winners from the 2011 edition of the festival.

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<p>Michelle Yeoh meets  Aung San Suu Kyi supporters at the world premiere of &quot;The Lady&quot;&nbsp;earlier this week at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.</p>

Michelle Yeoh meets Aung San Suu Kyi supporters at the world premiere of "The Lady" earlier this week at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese

Michelle Yeoh enters the best actress race as 'The Lady'

Hong Kong film icon on playing Aung San Suu Kyi

TORONTO - Michelle Yeoh has been to the top of the cinematic mountain.  An icon of Asian cinema, her role in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" made her a global star.  And yet, the reception she's received after playing Nobel Peace Prize-winning Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson's new biopic "The Lady" is a completely new experience.

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<p>Albert Brooks</p>

Albert Brooks

Watch: Albert Brooks on his dark and Oscar-worthy turn in 'Drive'

Legendary filmmaker and comedian one of the reasons why it's one of 2011's best

With only five to six major films left to catch for this calendar year, I can unequivocally say there isn't a scenario where "Drive" will not make my top ten list.  Believe the hype, it's that good.

In fact, Nicholas Winding Refn's latest is pretty damn close to a modern classic.  It's a stylish thriller that depicts contemporary Los Angeles in a light that hasn't been seen since "To Live or Die in LA" or, possibly, "Heat." The film features a stellar cast including leading, but quiet man Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston (possibly battling Sam Jackson for the title of "hardest working man in show business"), a scene stealing Ron Perlman and an absolutely fantastic Albert Brooks.

The "Defending Your Life" director and star plays Bernie Rose, an LA businessman whose under the  radar ventures tend to run in the illegal variety. It's an unconventional role for Brooks -- one of the reasons he fought for it -- but only at first glance.  After watching "Drive" it's hard to see anyone else playing the role. Actors known for their comedic chips playing bad is nothing new, but Brooks gives Rose a somewhat humble and relaxed demeanor at first glance.  When things don't go his way?  Well, it's a striking change.  So, it was with great excitement that I sat down with Brooks in Toronto to discuss his potentially Oscar-winning turn.*

*And let's be clear. If he isn't nominated its one criminal act Rose wouldn't put up with.

Brooks, who is currently filming Judd Apatow's "This is Forty," made a lot of revelations about his work on "Drive."  1.  Just like his co-star Mulligan, he fought for the role having to convince Refn he was the right guy.  2. Unlike Gosling and Mulligan who convinced Refn to remove much of the dialogue between their characters, Brooks' Bernie was the opposite.  Brooks worked with Refn to actually add more lines to break through the "quiet" of the rest of the movie.  3. Brooks doesn't see Rose as inherently evil, just a guy trying to keep his small little pocket of the universe going.  And when the driver (Gosling) disrupts it?  Well, Rose is forced to take action he'd prefer not to.

You can watch the entire interview with Brooks embedded in this post.  Look for a chat with Cranston in the next day or two.  And, moreover, don't miss "Drive" when it opens nationwide tomorrow.

For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.

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