<p>Anne Dorval and star/director Xavier Dolan in Canada's Foreign Langauge Film entry "I Killed My Mother."</p>

Anne Dorval and star/director Xavier Dolan in Canada's Foreign Langauge Film entry "I Killed My Mother."

Credit: Here Films (US)

Oscar Watch: Foreign Language Film who's in, who's out?

Plus: AFI Fest update and a big mouth hits the Daily Beast

 

There is nothing more confusing or mind-numbing than the best foreign language film race.  Each nation submits one contender and the five nominees are determined by a specific Academy committee.  The winner is then judged only by members of the Academy who have to prove they've seen all five selections.  In the past decasde  this has caused great films such as "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" and "Persepolis" not to get recognized and for films such as "Four Days in September," "Central Station," "Hero" and last year's "Waltz with Bashir" to lose to movies universally less regarded by critics and even moviegoers.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences still hasn't released their official list of Foreign Film entries, but because the nations tend to leak out their submissions most are already known.  The good peeps at Indiewire have a pretty concise list of who's in and there are definitely some surprises.  Spain didn't have much faith in Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" with Penelope Cruz to get nominated and instead selected Fernando Trueba’s “The Dancer and the Thief." Italy picked the mostly unloved "Barria" over Cannes favorite "Vincere" and most surprising, Israel chose Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti’s “Ajami” instead of Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner "Lebanon." 

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<p>Why is this man smiling? He's now the new head of Walt Disney Studios.</p>

Why is this man smiling? He's now the new head of Walt Disney Studios.

Hollywood's revolving door continues at Universal and Disney

New studio heads is nothing new in turnover plagued year

 

When Barack Obama promised change when he campaigned for president, he was talking about Washington, not Hollywood.  Yet, if you were to look at Hollywood since he took office, it's been almost nothing but..  2009 has seen so much upheaval at the top of the ranks in the industry that every new announcement is gradually being met more with more of a shrug than an actual sense of surprise. 

The past 10 months have seen John Lesher loose his  already short-lived gig as president at Paramount, Peter Rice leave Fox Searchlight to run the FOX network, Mary Parent take over MGM from former CEO Harry Sloan, Tom Ortenberg join and then leave The Weinstein Company and longtime Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook's sudden "resignation" (a shock to everyone but those on the Disney lot).  Today was even more eventful with Cook's not-so secret replacement being named and a big turnover at Universal Studios.

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<p>The theatrical poster for Best Picture nominee "The Queen." Excellence in marketing that will be missed with a new scaled down version of Miramax in the works.</p>

The theatrical poster for Best Picture nominee "The Queen." Excellence in marketing that will be missed with a new scaled down version of Miramax in the works.

Credit: Miramax

Oscar Watch: Has Disney permanently cut Miramax out of the awards season game?

A legendary label may be a prestige force no more


Friday is becoming the day for Disney to break dramatic news over the past few months.  First, the surprise acquisition of Marvel Enterprises in August, then the not-so surprising departure of studio head Dick Cook (at least to those on the Disney lot) and now the expected and disheartening restructuring of Miramax (and at any moment, the not so secret revelation of Rich Ross as new head of the studio).

In a statement today, Disney announced the specialty division would be restructured with marketing and distribution moving to the companies Burbank headquarters.  The talented Daniel Battsek, who took over Miramax when the Weinstein brothers departed a little over four years ago in Sept. 2005, will remain in New York to run creative, development and production.  More importantly, the studio also said the company will reduce the number of films its releasing a year although what that means exactly is still unclear.

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<p>James McAvoy and Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station."</p>

James McAvoy and Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station."

Oscar Watch: 'Last Station' and 'Up in the Air' land in Dec, 'Transformers' gets awards love

Hollywood Film Fest throws out more awards to "Up' and Nora Ephron

 

Is anyone surprised that after Awards Campaign lists out all of this year's true Best Picture contenders, a new one enters the fold? 

Michael Hoffman's "The Last Station," a drama chronicling the final months in the life of Leo Tolstoy, found a lot of support after its debut at the Telluride Film Festival, but it didn't get the same amount of buzz that films that also hit up Venice and/or Toronto did.  The period piece does have it's supporters, however, and now it appears an Awards-qualifying run is in the works.  Longtime and respected Envelope Oscar pundit Pete Hammond reports that an unnamed specialty division will distribute the picture in limited release this December and ride possible awards buzz for stars Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer (as Tolstoy), Paul Giamatti and James McAvoy into wider release in 2010. 

It's unclear who will distribute "Station," a deal hasn't formally been announced, but Sony Pictures Classics and Apparition would seem the likely suitors even with their already packed holiday schedules.  The only question mark on the picture is director Michael Hoffman, whose track record doesn't necessarily shine with excellence.  "Restoration," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "The Emperor's Club," etc. are all pretty uninspired but well constructed Oscar bait films.  "Station" seems intriguing, but more people need to see it than those in the the thin air of Colorado before it's taken very seriously.

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<p>Almost a lock to get nominated contender "Invictus" starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.</p>

Almost a lock to get nominated contender "Invictus" starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Best Picture Contenders 2010: The year Oscar lives dangerously

Yep, it's a weak year, but there are still 29 possible contenders out there

 

It's no exaggeration to proclaim the advent of  the new 10 nominations rule has completely changed the Oscar race.  Films that wouldn't have had a stone's throw of being seriously considered when there were only five nominees before now have excellent chances to forever engrave the magic words: "Best Picture Nominee" on their DVD, Blu-ray or iPhone download receipt. 

The goal of the change, of course, was to make sure critical and commercial blockbusters such as last year's award season racers "The Dark Knight" and "WALL-E" weren't ignored by the sometimes too discerning Academy members.  Things haven't completely worked out in the Academy's favor this year as the number of truly quality commercial hits isn't as large as you'd hope.  Making matters worse are films that could have potentially sneaked in such as "Public Enemies" and "Funny People" aren't strong enough to make even a broad contenders cut.  Still, looking at the pool of candidates it wasn't hard to find 29 legitimate contenders for Oscar 2010.  And yes, they even include some popular summer flicks such as "Star Trek" and "District 9" as well as this December's highly anticipated "Avatar."

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<p>T<span class="smallest">he box office success of "Inglourious Basterds" hasn't been big enough to stop big cost-cutting measures at The Weinstein Company.</span></p>

The box office success of "Inglourious Basterds" hasn't been big enough to stop big cost-cutting measures at The Weinstein Company.

Friday Fallout: Weinstein Co and MGM can't stop the bad buzz

Plus: Economy forces CineVegas Film Festival to go on hiatus

It was another busy Friday afternoon in Hollywood as news broke on a number of different fronts, but most surprising was the "resignation" of Tom Ortenberg as president of theatrical films at The Weinstein Company. Overseeing distribution and marketing for both TWC and Dimension Films, Ortenberg had only been at TWC for eight months after 12 years in a similar position at Lionsgate where he helped grow the company from a small distributor to a major player. 

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<p>Michael Sheen discusses "The Damned United" and "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" with HitFix.</p>

Michael Sheen discusses "The Damned United" and "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" with HitFix.

Credit: HitFix

From Vampires in 'New Moon' to footballers in 'The Damned United' for Michael Sheen

Acclaimed actor talks about his love for Liverpool and the action in the 'Twilight' sequel

The last time I spoke to Michael Sheen he honestly didn't look quite himself.  His skin was patsy white, he had long black hair and was wearing contact lenses that made him look, well, inhuman.  It wasn't surprising, however, because at the time we were both on the Vancouver set for "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and Sheen was in the middle of only his second day of shooting.  The "Frost/Nixon" star has the pivotal role of Aro, leader of the Volturi, in the "Twilight" sequel, but when we spoke earlier this week the subject matter was of a much more serious nature than the undead.  For a Brit like Sheen, football (OK, soccer to us Yankees) reigns above all and his latest film demonstrates why.

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<p>Clive Owen discusses 'The Boys Are Back.'</p>

Clive Owen discusses 'The Boys Are Back.'

Credit: HitFix

Clive Owen goes against type in 'The Boys Are Back'

Action star shows his range in new Scott Hicks drama

Hollywood has found Clive Owen's niche.  It's tough-minded thrillers such as "Sin City," "The International" and "Shoot 'em Up" and upscale dramas such as "Duplicty" and "Closer."  He hasn't broken into comedy yet (except for a few cameos here and there), but with his latest release, "The Boys Are Back," he's definitely showing a more emotional side.

Based on the Simon Carr non-fiction novel of the same name, "Boys" centers on a British sportswriter living in Australia who is struggling with raising his two boys after the unexpected passing of his second wife. Directed by Scott Hicks who first burst on the scene with the excellent "Shine," this drama features a charming performance by youngster Nicholas McAnulty and was warmly received by its premiere audience at this month's Toronto Film Festival.

I sat down with Owen upon his arrival in Los Angeles to chat about "Boys" and how his own experiences as a father helped guide his performance.  Check out the interview embedded on this page or click here to see a larger version.

"The Boys Are Back"
opens in limited release Friday.

 

 

For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory


<p>Natalie Portman may only be 28, but she already has an impressive career worth of a lifetime achievement award.&nbsp; Really.</p>

Natalie Portman may only be 28, but she already has an impressive career worth of a lifetime achievement award.  Really.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Oscar Watch: Natalie Portman, Kathryn Bigelow and Stanley Tucci set for Gotham Awards tributes

Plus: Someone has the cojones to pick up Toronto bomb "Creation"

Another day, another set of awards season tributes. 

This time, the highly reputable Gotham Independent Film Awards announced this year's career tribute recipients.  Being recognized for their work are Natalie Portman (coincidentally starring in the upcoming "Brothers"), Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), Stanley Tucci ("Julia & Julia" and "The Lovely Bones") and producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner who have a ridiculously long list of impressive credits through their Working Title label including the upcoming "A Serious Man," "Frost/Nixon," "Fargo," "Atonement," "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and many, many more (both are long overdue for Oscars by the way).

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<p>Jeremy Renner is getting recognized for his great work in "The Hurt Locker."</p>

Jeremy Renner is getting recognized for his great work in "The Hurt Locker."

Credit: AP Photo/Dan Steinberg

Oscar Watch: Hollywood Awards to recognize 'Precious,' 'An Education' and 'Hurt Locker' talent

Plus: Imagine that, the Brits honor Robert De Niro just in time for his new movie

 

The Hollywood Awards, which are pretty much the only reason the Hollywood Film Festival stays up and running every year, announced another round of award "winners" today.  Up and coming stars such as Carey Mulligan ("An Education"), Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe ("Precious: Based on Push a novel by Sapphire") and Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker") all received honors from a show that has as much legitimacy as the ShoWest Awards (basically, if your studio can show up and pay for a table, you get a trophy).  But no, don't fear, we'll be spared another strange recognition for "Bradley Cooper (at least, we hope so).  Here's a quick rundown of the winners so far:

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