<p>Denzel Washington in Robert Zemeckis' &quot;Flight.&quot;</p>

Denzel Washington in Robert Zemeckis' "Flight."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Contender Countdown: 'Flight' goes from pretender to legit contender

One day or one weekend and you're in

As Heidi Klum is fond of saying on "Project Runway," "One day you're in, the next day you're out."  That pretty much sums up the pros and cons of a potential awards player set on debuting at a public festival.  Unlike a traditional release which usually has the early reviews staggered, a festival provides instant reaction thanks to the internet age.  So far, a number of films have played the festival game smoothly this season.  "Argo" and "Silver Linings Playbook" got big boosts from the Telluride/Toronto game.  "Lincoln" and "Flight" found fans at the New York Film Festival.  Last week, "Hitchcock" opened AFI Film Fest in LA with Oscar buzz for stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, but not so much for the film itself.

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<p>Eva Mendes walks the red carpet at the AFI&nbsp;Film Fest screening of &quot;Holy Motors.&quot;</p>

Eva Mendes walks the red carpet at the AFI Film Fest screening of "Holy Motors."

Credit: AP Photo/Jordan Strauss

Awards Season Weekend: Marion Cotillard, 'Impossible' and AFI Film Fest

And 'Flight' makes a big move

Hurricane Sandy is still sadly the focus of the Northeast (as well as that of family and friends from those areas affected) and the 2012 election is finally coming to a merciful end Tuesday. And what that really means is we're about to enter eight weeks of very intense Academy campaigning. Technically, contenders have been holding screenings and Q&As from Los Angeles to San Francisco to New York (although it's been tough the past week) for months.  Beginning Thursday, the always awards-friendly AFI Fest began and the pressure cooker got a wee bit busier.  With that in mind, here's a snapshot of one pundit's busy award season weekend.

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<p>Scarlett Johannson, Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in &quot;Hitchcock.&quot;</p>

Scarlett Johannson, Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in "Hitchcock."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are simply stellar in 'Hitchcock'

HitFix
B
Readers
A+
The movie can't quite live up to the performances

HOLLYWOOD – There have been many movies about the history of the movie industry, but it’s surprising it took this long for someone to bring the life of Alfred Hitchcock to the big screen.  The legendary filmmaker captained an impressive list of classic films including “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest,” “The 39 Steps,” “The Lady Vanishes” and “Dial M for Murder” among others.  And with his TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents…” he became one of the most recognizable directors and celebrities of the 1950’s.  His biggest hit, however, was one of his latter films, 1960’s “Psycho.”  Hitchcock’s obsession with making that “horror” film sets the stage for Sacha Gervasi’s  “Hitchcock,” which opened the 2012 AFI Film Fest Thursday night.

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<p>President Barack Obama, NJ&nbsp;Gov. Chris Christie and local officials discuss the relief efforts in Sandy-struck New Jersey on Wednesday, Oct. 31.</p>

President Barack Obama, NJ Gov. Chris Christie and local officials discuss the relief efforts in Sandy-struck New Jersey on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Contender Countdown: A sprint after Hurricane Sandy and the Election

is it just a three-way race?

"Is it over yet?" 

Usually, that's a common refrain you hear during awards season at the beginning of February after countless pseudo awards shows, screenings, cocktail parties, interviews and film festivals.  Instead, it seems to be the nation's collective mindset about the upcoming presidential election.  Since the conventions at the end of August, the nation's attention has been distracted or bombarded by election coverage, debates and commercials.  And while few of the latter even air in Los Angeles, the movie industry is spending just as much time checking the latest poll results as a soccer mom in Kansas might be. Compound the last few months with three highly rated debates and 72 hours of Hurricane Sandy coverage (and concern) and you'll understand why it sort of feels like this year's Oscar race has been in a bit of a holding pattern.

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<p>It's been a good year for Joseph Gordon-Levitt.</p>

It's been a good year for Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's smash year: 'Dark Knight Rises,' 'Looper' and now 'Lincoln'

Is he 2012's Ryan Gosling?

BEVERLY HILLS - Is last year's Ryan Gosling this year's Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  The "Inception" star has been on a tear in 2012 with four films hitting theaters within five months.  Gordon-Levitt became the new hope for Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises"; a bicycle messenger in the surprisingly well reviewed "Premium Rush"; a younger Bruce Willis in the hit Sci-Fi thriller "Looper"; and now he has a key supporting role in Steven Spielberg's new potential Oscar player "Lincoln."

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<p>Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen on the set of &quot;The Hobbit:&nbsp;An Undiscovered Journey.&quot;</p>

Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen on the set of "The Hobbit: An Undiscovered Journey."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Journey to 'The Hobbit' set for Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman and the spectre of 48 frames per second

Plus: Richard Armitage, Jackson's joy and more

WELLINGTON, NZ – It’s our second day on the set of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and we’ve finally gotten a chance to chat with the man steering the ship of the massive undertaking, Peter Jackson.  But it was never supposed to be the New Zealand filmmaker’s job.

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<p>Ian McKellen returns as Gandolf in &quot;The Hobbit:&nbsp;An Undiscovered Journey.&quot;</p>

Ian McKellen returns as Gandolf in "The Hobbit: An Undiscovered Journey."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Ian McKellen admits he thought 'The Hobbit' would make a good TV series

The legendary actor speaks from the set of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

WELLINGTON, NZ – After almost a year and a half of shooting two, er, now three “Hobbit” films, no one would fault Sir Ian McKellen for being a tad bored. That’s a long time to work on any movie or spend away from home (granted there were two long breaks).  The 73-year-old acting icon has ventured to the set of “The Hobbit” this May day to spend what was supposed to just be 20 minutes talking to visiting press, but it soon became clear McKellen was excited to have a live audience again. 20 minutes soon turned into something closer to 40.

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2013 Best Supporting Actress Oscar Contenders: From Anne Hathaway to Sally Field

2013 Best Supporting Actress Oscar Contenders: From Anne Hathaway to Sally Field

How wide open is the category this year?

Now it's time for the supporting ladies. The actresses who usually steal the movie out from under their leading lady or gentleman co-stars.  And unlike the past few years, 2012 seems to be something of a wide open race at the moment.

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<p>Helen Hunt talks about &quot;The Sessions.&quot;</p>

Helen Hunt talks about "The Sessions."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Helen Hunt on the thrill of sex without shame in 'The Sessions'

If there's one movie she could leave behind it might be this one

BEVERLY HILLS - Helen Hunt may be incredibly nervous on the inside, but she projected an unexpected regal confidence during our short interview for her work in "The Sessions" last week. Obviously, playing a real life character is always daunting.  Playing a real life person who was a sexual surrogate to a disabled poet hoping to have his first sexual experience in his late 30's is something else.

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2013 Best Supporting Actor Oscar Contenders: Leonardo DiCaprio and Tommy Lee Jones round out a crowded field

2013 Best Supporting Actor Oscar Contenders: Leonardo DiCaprio and Tommy Lee Jones round out a crowded field

Is it a wide open field or a battle for two slots?

Predictably, awards season begins with almost every major category either being characterized as too competitive or more wide open then you could possibly imagine.  The 2012 best supporting actor field is somehow an intriguing mix of both (at the moment).

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