Leonardo DiCaprio in a UK poster for "Inception."

Leonardo DiCaprio in a UK poster for "Inception."

Credit: Warner Bros

No summer off for Oscar: 'Inception,' 'The Kids are All Right,' 'Toy Story 3'

Eight feature films that will be heard from next February

Traditionally, Oscar takes the summer off. Sure, you'll get an occasional best picture release such as "Gladiator," "Braveheart" or last year's winner "The Hurt Locker," but most of the contenders don't hit the ground until well past Labor Day.  Well, the 10 nominee system has changed all that.

Last year, four of the best picture nominees were released in the summer: "Up," "Inglourious Basterds," "District 9" and "Locker."  The 83rd Academy Awards probably won't match that total, but there are more summer players than usual for awards season overall.  Just previewing the feature films, there are eight releases that should easily make some noise over the next three months. 

A couple of quick caveats before reviewing the contenders.  Universal's "Despicable Me" didn't make the cut because it's unclear how many nods there will be for best animated feature this go around (it's probably back to only three nods).  With "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Toy Story 3" pretty much locks already, "Me" is likely to be shut out of a relatively crowded field with "Tangled" and "Megamind" on the horizon (see "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" last year). Some critics like the Sundance release "The Killer Inside Me," but it's not going to get director Michael Winterbottom or his cast any awards attention.  And, as fun and great a performance Jim Carrey gives in the long-delayed "I Love You Philip Morris" we're not gonna believe that film is coming out till we see it projected in a theater.

With that in mind...

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

Ian McKellen is 71 guys, he's not gonna be able to trek through the New Zealand mountains as Gandalf for much longer.

Credit: New Line Cinema

Which of these filmmakers will direct 'The Hobbit"?

17 potential candidates to replace the departing Guillermo del Toro

The surprising announcement today that Guillermo del Toro is relinquishing his directing chores on the long-delayed, but highly anticipated production of "The Hobbit" couldn't have been that big a surprise to many industry observers.  Del Toro has numerous commitments in a lucrative deal with Universal Pictures (which notably has no financial stake in "The Hobbit") that couldn't wait much longer and there are rumblings that he and producer Peter Jackson may not have seen eye to eye on all aspects of the production.  However, the good news is that there are two scripts for the two-part film that are finally ready to go. The money to shoot the films is obviously the crux of del Toro's departure.

The strangest part of his reasoning, as some pundits have noted, is that the MGM situation del Toro credited as causing his withdrawal should be resolved within the next three months.  And if it isn't, expect Warner Bros. to try to force the beleaguered lion to sell their stake in the project or come up with a third solution.  Plus, Ian McKellen ain't getting any younger.  This has to shoot soon -- or never.

Word is Jackson, Fran Walsh and del Toro will start work on finding a replacement director within the week.  With that in mind, here's a list of intriguing candidates they will no likely consider.

But before you wonder where "so and so" is, some quick eliminations.  Zack Snyder? Uh, no.  The Wachowskis?  The comeback won't be under Jackson's watch. J.J. Abrams? Busy.  Jon Favreau? Busy and not right for it.  Kathryn Bigelow?  Seems like a big stretch even for her talents. Ron Howard? Now you're just being silly. And for those suggesting Clint Eastwood, you've had a bit too much to drink this holiday weekend.

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Katherine Heigl, Entertainment Weekly

Katherine Heigl pleads for mercy on the cover of "Entertainment Weekly" in April.

Is Katherine Heigl's career at a tipping point?

Has any other actress screwed up cinematic good will so quickly?

Hollywood may continually recycle the same story, characters and franchises, but its stars are just as guilty of repeating their predecessor's mistakes.  Call it arrogance or immaturity, but actors continually take their success for granted believing once they hit a certain stratosphere it won't go away.  The latest victim of this longstanding industry curse appears to be none other than Katherine Heigl.

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Javier Bardem No Country For Old Men

Javier Bardem in the Oscar-winning Miramax film "No Country For Old Men"

Credit: Miramax

Would Miramax + Overture = new mini-major?

Gores brothers could have something intriguing on their hands

There is a lot of nervousness in the specialty business these days.  Besides the stable confines of Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and Sony Pictures Classics, there haven't been many consistent distributors of independent or prestige films over the past decade.  Sure, IFC Films and Magnolia Films have carved their own niche, but they don't really serve as a launching point for crossing over to mainstream popularity let alone profitability for indie financiers. Instead, the list of failed or abandoned outfits includes Paramount Vantage, Warner Independent, Picturehouse, Fine Line and First Look.  But, could a possible merger between two other unwanted outfits change all that?

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Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin in The Piano

Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin in the Oscar-nominated Miramax release "The Piano."

Credit: Miramax

Say it isn't so: Weinsteins' deal to reclaim Miramax falls apart

Disney returning to other bidders for the mini-major

So much for the happy ending.  After weeks of speculation that it was a done deal, negotiations have broken down between the Weinsteins and the Walt Disney Company for the brothers to reclaim the Miramax brand and film catalog.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the deal broke up over two issues.  First, how the company would be integrated into the Weinsteins' current outfit, The Weinstein Company, and second, the inability of partner Ron Burkle to raise the $625 million the partners had bid.  The paper reports Burkle was putting in $300 million of his own, but looking for outside financiers to come up with the remaining $325 million.  That has not worked out.

Sadly, the Weinsteins planned to formally announce their reunion with Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and named after their parents, sometime over the past week at the Cannes Film Festival.  As the days passed, the announcement from the south of France never came. 

Disney is now expected to approach one of the other final bidders (and a set of brothers), Alec and Tom Gores.  It's unclear how low the price will go considering Disney was originally hoping for $700 million.

The Miramax library features Oscar winning films such as "Shakespeare in Love," "No Country For Old Men" and critically acclaimed hits including "Kill Bill," "Good Will Hunting," "Scream" and "Pulp Fiction."

However, it's worth noting that Harvey and Bob Weinstein are legendary for continuing to resurrect themselves and their businesses.  Is it possible they can still find a way to reclaim their beloved Miramax brand?  Stay tuned...

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Shia LaBeouf and Michael Douglas at the world premiere of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival

Shia LaBeouf and Michael Douglas at the world premiere of "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Cannes 2010: 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' generates Oscar buzz for Douglas

What did the world's critics think of Oliver Stone's long awaited sequel?

One of the biggest surprises of the Spring was 20th Century Fox's decision to move Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" from its long held April release date to September.  This put the intriguing sequel to the iconic '80s drama smack dab at the beginning of awards season and primed for all sorts of Oscar talk whether it was deserved or not.  Things got more curious when the studio and Stone decided to bring the film to this year's Cannes Film Festival a full four months before its worldwide release.  Traditionally, that's the sort of move you make when you're extremely confident about your film's critical prospects or reviews will have little impact on your box office ("The Da Vinci Code" immediately comes to mind in that category).  So, what's the verdict?  Mixed, but entertained, at least for now.

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Betty White at the Time 100 gala.

Betty White at the Time 100 gala.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Latest Facebook Campaign: Betty White, Oscar host

90,000 followers and counting, but what does the Academy think?

Facebook followers are intent to show that it's not just Twitter that's causing social and political change at a grass roots level.  Earlier this year, one intrepid Facebook friend started a campaign to have Betty White host "Saturday Night Live." It turns out it was Betty who was the most skeptical of doing the gig, not producer Lorne Michaels, but the result was 550,000 plus fans helping to spur one of the better and memorable "SNL's" of the past few years.  Now, a new Facebook group wants to take White's resurgence to a new level by championing her candidacy to host of the 83rd Academy Awards.

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Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow at the world premiere of "Iron Man 2"

Was there just a little too much Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in the media over the past few weeks?

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

UPDATED: 'Iron Man 2': makes only $128.1 million - blockbuster or summer box office underachiever?

Update: May 10, 2:52 PM - The actual figures are in for this weekends box office and surprise, surprise, "Iron Man 2" generated $128.1 million over the 3-day weekend.  That still put the sequel in the fifth slot all time, but the figure was off an eyebrow raising $5.5 million. A discrepancy that big won't be lost on Paramount's competitors.

In hindsight to the original post below, that puts "Iron Man 2" approximately $30 million behind projections before its debut. 


Being the first movie out of the gate during the highly profitable summer movie season is never easy, but when you're the sequel to a surprise hit that helped sell a comic book company for $4.3 billion there is even more pressure to deal with.  That was the case for "Iron Man 2" this weekend and its strong, but not spectacular estimated gross of $133.6 million.

After the original "Iron Man" grossed an unexpected $98 million on its way to over $318 million two years ago, the expectations were high for the second go around.  Robert Downey, Jr. became one of  Hollywood's all-time comeback kids (did you think Jude Law was the reason "Sherlock Holmes" became a monster hit?), original director (and fan favorite) Jon Favreau was back, Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke agreed to play the film's villain Whiplash and Scarlett Johansson seemed more than sexy enough to tease teenage boys as the Black Widow.  Plus, unknown to many, the Walt Disney company's acquisition of Marvel Studios injected a bit more capital into "Iron Man 2's" budget (a reported $170 million overall) after complaints Marvel's thriftiness embarrassed even the most conservative industry accountants.  Oh, and did we mention that ever since the sequel was announced it had been one of the most polled "must see" movies across the board?

So, with a record 4,380 screens at its disposal, industry polling services saying it was off the charts (one service predicted $140 million plus, the other two went for $150 million plus) there was an increasing amount of optimism that "Iron Man 2" would come close to breaking "The Dark Knight's" $158.4 million record.  And if not, i would be damn close.  Even without the higher ticket prices of 3-D!

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard in "Inception"

Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard in a more romantic moment in "Inception."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Watch: Will 'Inception' surprise as the summer's biggest tearjerker?

Christopher Nolan's latest mind bender packs an emotional wallop

After "The Dark Knight," director Christopher Nolan has reached a status where every new film he makes will have a serious amount of anticipation surrounding it.  The first few teasers or his latest endeavor, "Inception," hinted at something special, a Leonardo DiCaprio thriller that might truly leave you guessing at just what exactly is going on.  The first complete trailer, on the other hand, promises something much more.

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Samuel L. Jackson discusses "Mother and Child."

Samuel L. Jackson talks "Mother and Child."

Watch: Samuel L. Jackson and Annette Bening navigate 'Mother and Child'

Two acclaimed actors discuss Rodrigo Garcia's new melodrama, the Weinsteins and more

Rodrigo Garcia faced a long road bringing "Mother and Child" to the screen.  Financing independent films has never been easy and in this current economy and the increasingly undependable home entertainment market it's becoming almost non-existent.  Through perseverance Garcia was able to cobble enough money to get his melodrama to the big screen and a premiere at last year's Toronto Film Festival.  Now, Sony Pictures Classics is bringing "Child" to theaters slowly,  but surely, across the country.

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