Beyonce performs during the 81st Academy Awards.

Beyonce performs during the 81st Academy Awards.  Don't expect any performers of this diva's magnitutde to appear this time around.

Credit: AP Photo

Oscar Show Secrets: No Best Song performances, 'SYTYCD' dancers and Channing Tatum

Plus: Is the five former nominees innovation staying or going?

Yesterday's Academy luncheon not only provided a sew of red carpet opportunities for this year's nominees, but a new dose of buzz for the upcoming Oscar show as well.  Awards Campaign reported last month on some of the plans for Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman's inaugural run as telecast producers, but the duo let more out of the bag with select media and honorees in attendance during the get together.  Here are some of the more intriguing or depressing (take your pick) revelations:

No Best Song performances
Reports indicate that the producers informed the nominees during the luncheon that none of the nominated songs would be performed live by the nominees (or guest stars for that matter).  Instead, the songs will be interspersed with footage of the films throughout the show (no doubt under :30 each).  While this has been tweaked a number of times over the years this deviates from a long standing tradition and it appears a few of the honorees are "outraged" they won't be able to get their moment on the big stage.  However, considering that there is zero starpower in this year's pool, the producers are lucky they won't have much blowback to deal with (although previous winner Randy Newman will no doubt make his voice heard to the Academy's Executive Committee).

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Sharlto Copley in "District 9"

Sharlto Copley in "District 9." Turns out leaving a door open for a sequel was never the screenwriters intention.

Credit: Sony Pictures

'District 9' writer says they never intended for a sequel during Oscar nominee panel

Screenwriters get their due in front of a packed house

For the second year in a row, Creative Screenwriting magazine held a panel last night for all the Academy Award nominees for screenwriting.  Held at the Los Angeles Film School in Hollywood, the theater was jam packed and there was even a line around the block of cinefiles who couldn't even get in.

All Adapted Screenplay nominated movies were represented including "District 9's" Terri Tatchell, "An Education's" Nick Hornby, the "In the Loop" trio of Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche,"Precious'" Geoffrey Fletcher and "Up in the Air's" Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (the current frontrunners).  The Original Screenplay writers who could make it were "Up's" Bob Peterson and Pete Docter (good shot to win) and "The Messengers'" Alessandro Camon.  "Inglourious Basterds'" Quentin Tarantino and "The Hurt Locker's" Mark Boal bailed at the last minute for "personal reasons."  The Coen Bros., who were recognized for "A Serious Man," were out of town filming their new adaptation of "True Grit."

The 90 minute plus discussion covered a wide array of topics including the writer's worst jobs (Reitman won with his Universal Studios gig anecdote), the percent of Improv in the finished films and how they tackled their genre twisting films.  Moreover, after a long season of campaigning they were full of funny anecdotes and one liners they had no doubt been repeating for months.  But, this eager crowd ate it up.

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Jeremy Renner in ACE Eddie Award winner "The Hurt Locker"

Jeremy Renner in ACE Eddie Award winner "The Hurt Locker"

Credit: Summit Entertainment

'The Hurt Locker' beats 'Avatar' at the ACE Eddie Awards for editing

'Hangover,' 'Up,' 'The Cove,' '30 Rock,' 'Dexter' and 'Breaking Bad' among other winners

The accolades keep coming for "The Hurt Locker" from the industry's creative guilds.  The thriller has won the Producer's Guild best feature award, the Director's Guild best director award, it received one of three production design awards from the Art Directors Guild on Saturday night and now, the editor's have weigned in with their annual honors.

The ACE Eddies found "Locker" defeating "Avatar," "District 9," "Star Trek" and "Up in the Air" for best dramatic feature.  "The Hangover" won the comedy or musical statue, "Up" took the animation category and "The Cove" prevailed for documentary.

While the Eddie winners isn't always an indicator for the Best Picture Oscar, it has predicted the big prize two out of the past three years after awarding "The Departed" and "Slumdog Millionaire."  Should the billion dollar grossing "Avatar" be worried about its Academy Award chances?  Considering it only has the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture - Drama to its credit, it might.

Among the television recepients, "30 Rock," "Dexter," "Breaking Bad," "Grey Gardens" and "The Deadliest Catch" all celebrated as winners in their individual categories.

A complete list of this year's ACE Eddie winners are below.

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A scene from "Sherlock Holmes"

"Sherlock Holmes" was recognized for best period film production design at the ADG awards.

Credit: Warner Bros.

'Sherlock Holmes' and 'Avatar' ready to duel for Oscar after Art Director's Guild wins

'Mad Men,' 'Weeds' and 'Grey Gardens' rule the television categories

The Art Directors Guild honored the best in production design in movies nad television during the 14th Annual Excellence in 2009 Production Design Awards last night in Beverly Hills.  

Unlike the Academy Awards which only has one cinematic award in this field, the Art Directors have three and two of the five nominees went home winners.  "Sherlock Holmes" took the Period Film award, "Avatar" won for Fantasy Film and "The Hurt Locker" (which was not nominated by the Academy) received the Contemporary Film honor.  The other Oscar nominees are "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," "Nine" and "The Young Victoria."  However, "Avtar" is the clear frontrunner to take this category on March 7. 

In the television field, "Mad Men," "Weeds," "Hell's Kitchen" and (sigh) "Grey Gardens" went home winners.

A complete rundown of the night's winners are listed below.

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Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz celebrate backstage at the 81st Academy Awards.

Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz celebrate backstage at the 81st Academy Awards.

Credit: AP Photo

Oscar Watch: Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz set to return

Plus: Which nominees are hitting the talk show circuit?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today that three of last year's acting winners, Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz will present at this year's 82nd Academy Awards.  Penn won Best Actor for his role in "Milk," Winslet finally garnered a Best Actress golden statue for "The Reader" and Cruz walked away with Best Supporting Actress for her hilarious turn in "Vicky Christina Barcelona."  Since Cruz is nominated again this year in the same category for "Nine" she was already going to be there and obviously, unless there is some miracle of God, Best Supporting Actor winner Heath Ledger will not be represented. Unlike last year when the show's producers tried to keep as much suspense around the presenters as possible, Oscar is being much more forthright this time around. 

More intriguingly, does the announcement that these three former winners are returning mean producers Tom Sherak and Adam Shankman have absolutely abandoned any plans to duplicate last year's touching five former winners presenting to five nominees innovation?  As Awards Campaign reported last month, the plan was already in the works to augment the set up by having "friends" appear instead of former winners, but in the weeks that have followed the producers may have realized that can be pretty difficult to pull off.  Plus, would Winslet and Penn really return to present lesser awards?  Doubtful.  Let's hope for some innovation again this time around.

In other Oscar matters, I diligently broke down Sandra Bullock's smart "Late Show with David Letterman" appearance on Monday night, but she's not the only nominee hitting the talk show circuit.  Fellow Best Actress nominee Gabourey Sibide of "Precious" appeared on the last installment of "The Late Show with Jay Leno" on Tuesday night as well as "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" (she'd already appeared on "The View" last week).  Best Supporting Actor frontrunner Christoph Waltz stopped by Letterman on Wednesday and Best Actor contender Jeff Bridges is on "The View" Friday.   Today, Ryan Bingham stopped by to see Whoopi, Barbara and crew to perform his Best Oscar nominated song "The Weary Kind (Theme from 'Crazy Heart')" (think ABC is doing everything possible to plug the Academy Awards on their shows?). 

Whether this really helps the actor's campaigns is debatable, but it certainly gives some media exposure to their movies, careers and the big show (especially with the Winter Olympics set to dominate all things beginning Friday).  Lionsgate is no doubt hoping some of Sibide's personal charm rubs off on "Precious" grosses (a film that easily should have surpassed $50 million, but is now stuck at $43 million), but this is really about increasing the actresses notoriety while she's still hot.  The same can be said for Waltz.  "Basterds" is doing A-OK on DVD and Blu-ray and he's already finished shooting his villainous role in "The Green Hornet," but a little more publicity can't hurt as he tries to snag an even bigger payday for his next gig.  As for the "Crazy Heart" contenders, this is definitely about box office as the film continues to expand throughout February and any plug they can get is cheaper than another TV spot.

More importantly, Academy members have already been mailed their official ballots which are due on later than 5 PM PST on Tuesday, March 2.  That's only 19 days away.  Can anything dramatically change voters minds by then?  We're guessing no, but that's half the fun of Oscar night anyways.

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Julia Roberts at the world premiere of "Valentine's Day"

Julia Roberts did everything she could to make the "Valentine's Day" press conference as easy for her co-stars as possible.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Julia Roberts holds court over her 10 'Valentine's Day' co-stars

Could this have been the most awkward press conference ever?

The most uncomfortable thing for a movie star to be forced to do is answer questions about their love life.  Unlike most red carpet c-listers who live and die on whether their photo is on the biggest gossip sites, most actors just want their private live to remain private.  So, imagine a scene where you have some of the most recognizable names in the world on a podium where all they are going to be asked are questions dealing with romance, because that's what their latest movie happens to be all about.  That was the scene at the Beverly Hilton Hotel a few weeks ago when the stars of "Valentine's Day" converged in front of the media.  And this journalist can rarely remember a more uncomfortable press gathering than this 40 minutes or so.

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Sandra Bullock appears on "The Late Show with David Letterman"

Sandra Bullock appears on "The Late Show with David Letterman" to discuss Oscar and ends up chatting about her infamous kiss with Meryl Streep at last month's Critic's Choice Awards.

Credit: CBS

Anatomy of an Oscar Campaign: Sandra Bullock does David Letterman

'I'm so not winning an Oscar!' is the self-depricating motto that works

A series of intriguing events occurred on Monday night.  While many Oscar nominees were still fishing for votes at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Sandra Bullock, the current Best Actress frontrunner who claimed "I'm so not winning an Oscar!" to reporters during her stop at the annual awards season showcase over the weekend, had already moved on. By Monday evening she was casting a wider net for support by stopping by "The Late Show with David Letterman" in New York City.

Certainly, Warner Bros. and their Oscar consultants knew Monday would be a big ratings opportunity on "The Late Show" following the Super Bowl on the same network (CBS) the day before.  Plus, it didn't hurt the now defunct "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" is in reruns.  However, no one could have predicted that the Super Bowl would be the most watched television show of all time or that one of the most talked about commercials during the broadcast would be the "Late Show" promo with Letterman, Jay Leno and Oprah Winfrey.  It doesn't take a genius to realize a lot of people tuned in to see if Dave commented about the promo (yes, he joked about it,) and -- surprise -- discover a better late than never interview Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.  You can also pretty much guarantee more Academy members were glued to the tube to see Dave than out in classy old Santa Barbara.  Can you say, "cha-ching"?

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"Up" took home Best Animated Feature at the 37th Annual Annie Awards.

"Up" took home Best Animated Feature at the 37th Annual Annie Awards.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

'Up' triumphs at the Annie Awards, Oscar is next

'Princess and the Frog' and 'Coraline' lead with with three wins each

The men and women in the animation field honored their own last night at the the 37th Annual Annie Awards and as expected, Pixar Animation's "Up" took home the top prize for Best Animated Feature.  However, the critical and box office blockbuster hardly dominated the theatrical categories.  "Princess and the Frog" and "Coraline" each took home three statues, "Up" was awarded only two and "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" took home one award each ("Fox's" was significantly for Writing in a Feature Production). "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" and "The Secret of Kells" left empty handed.

The biggest surprise of the night would have to be "Coraline's" Bruno Coulais winning the Music in a Feature Production award over Michael Giacchino's Golden Globe and Grammy-winning score for "Up."  However, unlike the other guilds, ASIFA does not have as much representation within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to really affect Oscar voting.  Both "Up" and Giacchino's score are the frontrunners to win the Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score during the Academy Awards on March 7.

The complete list of winners, including those in the television categories, are as follows:

Best Animated Feature
"Up" — Pixar Animation Studios

Best Home Entertainment Production
"Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder" — The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Best Animated Short Subject
"Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5" — ShadowMachine

Best Animated Television Commercial
Spanish Lottery “Deportees” — Acme Filmworks, Inc.

Best Animated Television Production
"Prep and Landing" — ABC Family/Walt Disney Animation Studios

Best Animated Television Production for Children
"The Penguins of Madagascar" — Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Animated Effects
James Mansfield “The Princess and the Frog” — Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Animation in a Television Production
Phillip To “Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space” — DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Feature Production

Eric Goldberg “The Princess and the Frog” — Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Design in a Television Production
Bill Schwab “Prep and Landing” — Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Design in a Feature Production
Shane Prigmore “Coraline” — Laika

Directing in a Television Production
Bret Haaland “The Penguins of Madagascar - Launchtime” — Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation

Directing in a Feature Production
Pete Docter “Up” — Pixar Animation Studios

Music in a Television Production
Guy Moon “The Fairly OddParents: “Wishology-The Big Beginning” — Nickelodeon

Music in a Feature Production
Bruno Coulais “Coraline” — Laika

Production Design in a Television Production
Andy Harkness “Prep and Landing” — Walt Disney Animation Studios

Production Design in a Feature Production
Tadahiro Uesugi “Coraline” — Laika

Storyboarding in a Television Production
Robert Koo “Merry Madagascar” — DreamWorks Animation

Storyboarding in a Feature Production

Tom Owens “Monsters vs. Aliens” — DreamWorks Animation

Voice Acting in a Television Production
Tom Kenny - Voice of SpongeBob - “SpongeBob SquarePants — Truth or Square” — Nickelodeon

Voice Acting in a Feature Production

Jen Cody - Voice of Charlotte - “The Princess and the Frog” — Walt Disney Animation Studios

Writing in a Television Production

Daniel Chun - “The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XX” — Gracie Films

Writing in a Feature Production

Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach - “Fantastic Mr. Fox” — 20th Century Fox

For the latest in breaking entertainment news and commentary follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

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It's come down to "Hurt Locker" vs. "Avatar" for Best Picture.

It's come down to "Hurt Locker" vs. "Avatar" for Best Picture.  Who can take the lead over the remaining few weeks of voting?

Credit: Summit Entertainment/20th Century Fox

Oscar's real drama: 'Hurt Locker' vs. 'Avatar' for Best Picture

The critic's favorite may be making a comeback

The drama on Oscar night is looking as though it will come down to the final award and in terms of TV ratings the Academy couldn't ask for anything more.  After seemingly jumping ahead as the Best Picture frontrunner, box office blockbuster "Avatar" ended up with just as many nominations, nine, as critic's favorite "The Hurt Locker."  Logic would indicate a landmark epic which just became the highest grossing picture of all time worldwide with a staggering cume of $2.07 billion would easily trounce "Locker's" $12.6 million gross.  Upon closer inspection, however, there is much more of a race here than many prognosticators, including this one, initially thought.

"Locker" strength just doesn't come from its end of year accolades from critic's groups such as the NY Film Critic's Circle or the Los Angeles Film Critic's Association.  The film has won the Producer's Guild Award for Best Picture, the Director's Guild Award for Best Director and landed a SAG Ensemble nomination for Best Cast -- a feat "Avatar" did not accomplish.  So, while "Avatar" may have won the Best Picture - Drama at the Globes, those 80 or so voters in the HFPA don't mean much when you're looking at major guilds who have sided with "Locker."  More telling is that "Avatar" didn't land an Original Screenplay nod (being pushed out by "The Messenger" and "A Serious Man") and even more significantly not one acting nod.  The last film to win Best Picture without an acting nomination?  "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" six years ago.  Before then? "Braveheart" in 1996.  It's a rare, rare occurrence.

On the other hand, "Locker" winning would make it the lowest grossing Best Picture winner since "A Man for All Seasons" reportedly made $20 million in the U.S. and U.K. way back in...1966 (obviously it would be a lot more with inflation).  Shoot, even "Annie Hall" made $38 million in 1976-77.  So, what wins out?  Historical trends, box office or guild support?  It's just too close to call right now.  However, momentum seems to be on "Hurt Locker's" side.  And for now, you go with your gut and "Locker's" starting to kick.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of all the major categories on the line for the 82nd Academy Awards.

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The Blind Side

The producers of "The Blind Side" and "The Hurt Locker" can now breathe easy.  Everyone gets a shot at Oscar.

Credit: Warner Bros.

'Blind Side' and 'Hurt Locker' producers get A-O.K. from Academy

No controversy for producers this year

Smartly avoiding unneeded controversy, the Acadmey of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved the producing credits for Best Picture nominees "The Hurt Locker" and "The Blind Side."

Academy rules state that only three names be associated with each Best Picture nominee after the honor was taken advantage of by "Shakespeare In Love's" five winning producers in 1999.

A statement from AMPAS read, "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."

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