<p>&quot;The Descendants,&quot; Michael Shannon and Michelle Williams are frontrunners for 2012 Independent Spirit Awards.</p>

"The Descendants," Michael Shannon and Michelle Williams are frontrunners for 2012 Independent Spirit Awards.

2012 Independent Spirit Awards Predictions: 'The Descendants,' Michael Shannon and ?

Can 'Drive' pull off a win?

Hollywood's alternative to the Academy Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, used to be the edgy, unexpected, fly by the seat of your pants awards show.  Over 25 years later, the Spirits have become much more established (shh, don't tell anyone) even if the show still takes place in a large tent on a parking lot right next to the beach in Santa Monica, CA. As the meaning and distribution of independent film has changed over the past 15 years or so the show's nominees have become more and more familiar to mainstream moviegoers. This past two year's best feature nominees, for instance, all were wide release films at some point in their theatrical lives.

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Sacha Baron Cohen addresses Oscar controversy as his 'Dictator' character
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Sacha Baron Cohen addresses Oscar controversy as his 'Dictator' character

Admiral General Aladeen takes on 'Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Zionists'

"Admiral General Aladeen will deliver a formal response tomorrow morning to being banned from the Oscars by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Zionists."

So reads the statement released today by "Aladeen" via the "Republic of Wadiya"'s official website, in response to news yesterday that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had banned the fictional Middle East despot (a.k.a. Sacha Baron Cohen) from the Oscar ceremony on Sunday in order to keep "The Dictator" star from walking the red carpet (though it turns out Deadline's original report on the matter jumped the gun a bit, as Cohen has not yet officially had his tickets pulled).

The publicity stunt is a masterstroke on the part of Cohen and distributor Paramount. By floating the proposal to have Cohen walk the red carpet as Aladeen, the studio knew they were creating a "win-win" situation for themselves. If the Academy accepted their request, the film would receive a ton of free publicity on Hollywood's biggest night. If the Academy denied their request, they would arguably benefit even more.

In any case, we look forward to seeing what shape this "formal" response will take tomorrow morning.

"The Dictator" hits theaters on March 11th.

Putting together an Oscar pool? Download our official Oscar ballot here!

Follow me on Twitter @HitFixChris

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<p>Natalie Portman</p>

Natalie Portman

Credit: AP Photo

Natalie Portman and last year's acting winners to present at Oscars

Christian Bale, Colin Firth and Melissa Leo get to re-live Oscar glory

Last year's Oscar-winning performers -- Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale -- are returning to this year's Academy Awards as presenters.

In the lead categories, Firth took home the Oscar for Best Picture winner "The King's Speech," while Portman danced away with the Best Actress trophy for Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan." In the supporting sections, both Bale and Leo won for their work in David O. Russell's acclaimed "The Fighter."

The quartet join such previously announced presenters as Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Halle Berry, Ben Stiller, Jennifer Lopez, Tina Fey, Penelope Cruz, "The Muppets'" Kermit and Piggy, "Campaign" co-stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, and the cast of "Bridesmaids."

Portman and Bale will co-star in two upcoming films from "Tree of Life" director Terrence Malick. Before that, Bale will reprise his role as Batman in this summer's "The Dark Knight Rises."

Meanwhile, Leo will star alongside Denzel Washington in Robert Zemeckis' "Flight," and Firth will be seen opposite Cameron Diaz in the art heist comedy "Gambit," written by the Coen Brothers.

The 84th Academy Awards telecast airs live on ABC this Sunday, February 26 at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT.

Think you can predict the winners? Prove it here and win big.

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<p>Tyler Perry talks about his new film &quot;Good Deeds&quot; and working as just an actor on &quot;I, Alex Cross.&quot;</p>

Tyler Perry talks about his new film "Good Deeds" and working as just an actor on "I, Alex Cross."

Tyler Perry admits he didn't enjoy the long days on 'Alex Cross'

Prolific filmmaker reveals his inspiration for 'Good Deeds'

Tyler Perry is nothing if not prolific. The writer, director, producer and actor has put out 11 films since 2005 and collectively they have grossed over $600 million domestic.  And Friday his 12th film will hit theaters, "Good Deeds."  That will be followed by two more films in 2012: "The Marriage Counselor" (July 27) and "Madea's Witness Protection" (TBD). Whatever your opinion of his films themselves, you have to respect his passion.  With his Atlanta studios, popular touring stage plays and lucrative TBS sitcoms, Perry is incredibly well off and could slow down whenever he'd like. No, whether you like it or not, he's got a lot more to say.

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UPDATED: Academy spokesperson claims Sacha Baron Cohen NOT banned from Oscars
Credit: Paramount Pictures

UPDATED: Academy spokesperson claims Sacha Baron Cohen NOT banned from Oscars

AMPAS still doesn't feel a 'Dictator' publicity stunt is 'appropriate'

UPDATE [8:43 PM EST]: An Academy spokesperson has told The Hollywood Reporter that Cohen has in fact not been banned from the 2012 Oscar ceremony, but that they also do not welcome a publicity stunt to promote the comedian's upcoming film "The Dictator". "We haven't banned him," the spokesperson told THR after the story first broke on Deadline. "We're just waiting to hear what he's going to do." That said: "We don't think [a publicity stunt is] appropriate...But his tickets haven't been pulled. We're waiting to hear back." Based on that statement, it sounds like the threat of being banned still looms, however.

ORIGINAL STORY: Sacha Baron Cohen has been banned from attending this year's Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, due to the organization's fears that the comedian will cause a scene on the red carpet by showing up as his character from the upcoming comedy "The Dictator".

According to Deadline, it appears the only way Cohen will be given entry is if AMPAS is assured there will be no funny business at the ceremony, which is taking place in Los Angeles this Sunday.
 
The hubbub arose after a proposal was floated to the Academy regarding the actor's plans to walk the press line in the guise of Admiral General Aladeen, the fictional Middle East despot he portrays in the new film, which was directed by "Borat" and "Bruno" director Larry Charles.
 
Despite Cohen's banning, the resulting imbroglio is a definite win for the actor and distributor Paramount, who clearly realized the planned stunt would generate free publicity whether "Aladeen" was cleared to walk the red carpet or not.
 
Cohen is one of the stars of Martin Scorsese's "Hugo", which is up for 11 awards on Sunday including Best Picture. He is also a member of the Academy.
 
This isn't the first time Cohen has butted heads with the organization. In 2007 the the Academy asked him to be a presenter, but the comedian declined the offer when the organization turned down his request to appear on-stage as the title character from his 2006 smash hit "Borat".
 
One possibility is that AMPAS felt the gag would be inappropriate in light of the horrifying spate of violence currently taking place in Syria, where thousands of dissidents have been killed in a brutal crackdown by the country's tryannical president Bashar al Assad.
 
What do you think of Cohen's Oscar banning? Is the Academy doing the right thing, or do they need to lighten up? Sound off in the comments below!
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<p>&quot;There's no place like home...&quot;</p>

"There's no place like home..."

Credit: Profiles in History/Lou Bustamante

Leonardo DiCaprio helps 'Wizard of Oz' slippers find their way home to the Academy

Steven Spielberg and Terry Semel aided in effort to bring ruby slippers to museum

There's no place like home...even for a pair of shoes.

With Leonardo DiCaprio and some other "angel donors" leading the way, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has acquired Judy Garland's legendary ruby slippers from 1939's "The Wizard of Oz" -- possibly the most famous footwear in film history -- for the future Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Major donations came from Steven Spielberg and former Warner Bros. and Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel, and other donors.

"The ruby slippers occupy an extraordinary place in the hearts of movie audiences the world over," said Disney's Bob Iger, who acts as chair of the Academy's capital campaign. "This is a transformative acquisition for our collection."

"Leo's passionate leadership has helped us bring home this legendary piece of movie history," added Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. "It's a wonderful gift to the Academy museum project, and a perfect representation of the work we do year-round to preserve and share our film heritage."

Although there are four pairs of ruby slippers known to exist, these slippers (known as the "Witch's Shoes") are in the most pristine condition, and are believed to be the very slippers that Garland wore on set for the famous scene in which Dorothy clicks her heels together three times and repeats the immortal words "There's no place like home" in order to return to Kansas.

After the film wrapped, the various pairs of slippers were put into storage at MGM's Culver City lot for over thirty years. MGM costumer Kent Warner stumbled upon several pairs while preparing for a studio auction in 1970. One pair was sold at said auction and was eventually donated to the Smithsonian, while Warner kept the finest pair – the "Witch's Shoes" – until he sold them in 1981. Seven years later, another collector bought them, allowing them to be displayed in public at the National Portrait Gallery and the Library of Congress.

Now (or, more accurately, in a few years) fans will have chance to see the famous footwear when the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens. It will be located inside the historic May Company building at the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave., currently known as LACMA West.

 

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<p>Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis share a little fruit by mouth.</p>

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis share a little fruit by mouth.

Credit: Funny or Die

'The Campaign' co-stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis to present at Oscars

Will the comedians hit the stage in character?

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis have been added as presenters at the 2012 Oscars, joining a lineup of previously-announced funny-people including Chris Rock, Tina Fey and the cast of "Bridesmaids". 

The inclusion of the duo, who recently completed production on the forthcoming political comedy "The Campaign" (formerly known as "Dog Fight"), is indicative of AMPAS' ongoing mission to make the awards feel more relevant/youth-oriented - and it does seem like the perfect opportunity for the two comedians to pull a Sacha Baron Cohen by hitting the stage in the guise of their characters from the upcoming film, about two buffoonish Southern politicians fighting for the same Congressional seat. It also fits thematically, given the highly-politicized nature of the Oscar campaigning season.
 
Other presenters at this years ceremony include Halle Berry, Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie. You can check out the full list (and how each of them got suckered into it) over at our Oscar presenters gallery. Also, be sure to download and print our official Oscar ballot!
 
The Oscars air this Sunday on ABC. "The Campaign", directed by Jay Roach and co-starring Jason Sudeikis and Dylan McDermott, is slated for release on August 10th.
 
Follow me on Twitter @HitFixChris
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Watch: Mike Myers teaches Kevin Kline some Oscar etiquette in Funny or Die clip

Watch: Mike Myers teaches Kevin Kline some Oscar etiquette in Funny or Die clip

Sir Cecil Worthington is the latest British caricature from the 'Austin Powers' actor

 

Can't wait for the inevitable "Austin Powers 4"? Oscar's latest attempt at humor -- starring Mike Myers and Kevin Kline -- may be enough to tide you over. Fair warning: Only die hard Myers fans need apply.

In a move that appears to be intended to make the Oscars look a bit more "fun," the Academy has enlisted the help of Myers and Funny or Die to create this "Oscar Etiquette" video, as seen on the Oscar site. It's an amusing premise that, for some reason, runs for nearly five insufferable minutes.

Oscar winner Kline is accused of mishandling his "A Fish Called Wanda" trophy (richly deserved, by the way), and only the stuffy British aristocrat Sir Cecil Worthington (guess who) can help re-educate the actor in the art of holding and storing the prized award. Sporting a bad comb over, fake teeth, and dressed like a refugee from "Masterpiece Theater," Myers resurrects his shop-worn schtick, seen in everything from "Saturday Night Live" to "Inglourious Basterds," as he schools a bewildered Kline in Oscar etiquette using convoluted mnemonic devices, Snickers bars and flat jokes. It may be the closest Myers ever gets to an Oscar.

What do you think of the video? The Oscars air this Sunday, February 26 on ABC at 7 ET/4 PT.

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<p>Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep share a moment together during the Oscar nominees luncheon earlier this month. If the Academy votes as expected, neither actor will find themselves gracing the Kodak Theater stage on Sunday night.</p>

Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep share a moment together during the Oscar nominees luncheon earlier this month. If the Academy votes as expected, neither actor will find themselves gracing the Kodak Theater stage on Sunday night.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

Deadline day for Oscar voters: Will they surprise us?

Don't believe false pundits on upsets that won't happen

At 5:00 PM PST today, the 2011-2012 Oscar season will effectively be over.  

Of course, the actual awards will be handed out on Sunday during the 84th Academy Awards broadcast, but technically speaking 5:00 PM is the deadline for all Academy member ballots to arrive at the swanky downtown LA offices of AMPAS accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers. What the last decade has shown us, however, is that that small influx of last minute votes doesn't sway many races.  While all studios campaign up to the last minute to try and convince Academy members to vote for their nominees, almost half of the ballots are mailed in right away.  And that's why when "controversies" arise a week or two before ballots are due over say a nominated movie producer breaking Academy rules regarding contacting members or when a nominee just can't stop talking about her bizarre personal for your consideration ads they really don't affect the outcome of the races.  

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<p>The Academy of Motion Picture Arts of Sciences hardly represents the demographics of the moviegoing public.</p>

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts of Sciences hardly represents the demographics of the moviegoing public.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

Surprise: The Academy is more white, more male and even older than you probably thought

New report is fuel for Academy's critics

This has not been a good year for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak.

Less than a year ago the Academy put on one of the most critically lambasted Oscar shows in memory.  That was followed by the controversial decision to change the best picture rules after only two years of a 10 nominees system. Next came the eyebrow raising decision to hire industry infant terrible Brett Ratner as the co-executive producer of the this year's 84th Academy Awards along with the bizarre return of previous producer Don Misher.  Things actually got worse after Ratner's resignation following insensitive comments at a public screening.  At that point, having initially agreed to host way to quickly (at least in his own mind), Eddie Murphy saw the out he'd been looking for and ran out of Dodge. Things seemed to have calmed down once Brian Grazer replaced Ratner and old favorite Billy Crystal agreed to host the big show for the ninth time.  Unfortunately, rumblings started about AMPAS opting out of their Kodak Theater contract which would find them leaving Hollywood for the more generic confines of the Nokia Theater at LA Live (shudder).  Today Sherak and the Academy found themselves the subject of a major investigative article from the Los Angeles Times breaking down the organization's usually private membership details.  Sherak and the Academy spoke to the paper about the findings, but this isn't the sort of story they'd like spreading through the media the week before the big show. Yep, it's been one of those years.

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