<p>You didn't think I was gonna use yet another photo of &quot;The Artist&quot; did you? &nbsp;<em>Again?&nbsp; </em>No, it's time to move on. Next frontrunner out of the gate: &quot;The Dark Knight Rises&quot;&nbsp;on July 20.</p>

You didn't think I was gonna use yet another photo of "The Artist" did you?  Again?  No, it's time to move on. Next frontrunner out of the gate: "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Lessons learned from the 2011-2012 Awards Season

Marty is the new Clint, go early or go home, polaraizing films polaraize and more

Before we take a long view of the lessons of this past awards season, it's time to do some housekeeping. A little shindig called the Academy Awards were Sunday and some pretty statues were given out.  I'd made some predictions a few days before and -- like many pundits -- I got my share right and wrong.

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<p>The French table(s) go crazy after &quot;The Artist&quot;&nbsp;is announced as best picture at the official Weinstein Company viewing party Sunday night in West Hollywood.</p>

The French table(s) go crazy after "The Artist" is announced as best picture at the official Weinstein Company viewing party Sunday night in West Hollywood.

A view of the 84th Academy Awards from the winner's party: The Weinstein Company

A big night for the mini-major as the 'Hugo' and 'Artist' battle heats up

Finding an appropriate location to watch the Academy Awards ever year in Los Angeles is akin to making sure you get invited to the right New Year's Eve party.  Chances are it's going to be crowded, there won't be enough alcohol, you wonder how you never get invited to the Elton John fete and you quickly realize not going to get to hear most of the countdown, er, telecast very well.  And for those of us who cover Hollywood's biggest night, trying to find a party where you can either live-blog or work is incredibly difficult.  Such troubles, eh?  This year, I jumped at the chance to watch the show from the vantage point of The Weinstein Company's shindig at the Mondrian Hotel on the Sunset Strip. And considering the mini-major was expected to dominate the evening's honors with "The Artist" it seemed like a safe bet.

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<p>Guess they decided not to drape anything over the &quot;Kodak Theater&quot;&nbsp;part of the entrance for the 84th Academy Awards.&nbsp; Sort of strange since host Billy Crystal has been instructed not to refer to it as the Kodak and instead the Hollywood and HIghland Complex or something like that.</p>

Guess they decided not to drape anything over the "Kodak Theater" part of the entrance for the 84th Academy Awards.  Sort of strange since host Billy Crystal has been instructed not to refer to it as the Kodak and instead the Hollywood and HIghland Complex or something like that.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

2012 Oscar Predictions: Why I picked what I picked

What categories won't 'The Artist' win?

When you cover awards season every year for months on end it would be disingenuous to be extremely excited on Oscar Sunday.  Sure, every few years there is a major horse race and potential upsets at stake, but 2012 is going to be about as predictable as you can get. At this point in the season the winners of all the major categories are pretty much known and this year we weren't even provided a silly scandal ("Hurt Locker" producer's E-mails, Melissa Leo's own trade ads, etc.) to tempt us to change our picks. Instead, we've had more publicity about whether Sacha Baron Cohen is going to dress up as "The Dictator" on the red carpet than whether the show will be any good (yeah, we know Billy Crystal's back but...).

Still, it's been a busy week and while I made my final predictions on Friday along with In Contention's Kris Tapley and Guy Lodge, I didn't have time to post my justifications for said picks. So, before you fill out your own ballot or participate in HitFIx's free prediction pool take a few minutes and read up on some (hopefully) spot on analysis. I'll certainly be eating crow for what I get wrong.

Also, check out these Oscar reports the HitFix team worked on for Hulu.  Good stuff.

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<p>Former host John&nbsp;Waters presents at last year's 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.</p>

Former host John Waters presents at last year's 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

Film Independent's co-chairmen Sean McManus and Josh Welsh on their first year behind the Spirit Awards

Plus: Can we convince them to change the nominating process?

In less than 24 hours, the 27th Independent Spirit Awards will be handed out at the beach in Santa Monica, CA and the independent film world will celebrate yet another year of artistic achievement.  What many also don't know is that the Spirit Awards are the biggest yearly fundraiser for Film Independent, a non-profit organization which runs the Spirits, numerous educational and industry events across the country as well as the annual LA Film Festival.

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<p>&nbsp;Sacha Baron Cohen as 'The Dictator'</p>

 Sacha Baron Cohen as 'The Dictator'

Sacha Baron Cohen responds to Oscar ban as 'The Dictator'

Says Hilary Swank won't give a refund as his date

Please rise. The not-so-honorable Admiral General Aladeen has a message for the Oscars.

Controversy-magnet Sacha Baron Cohen couldn't ask for a better chance to promote his new film "The Dictator," in which he plays the Middle Eastern tyrant Aladeen, dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya. When the Academy Awards so rudely revoked Cohen's ticket to the Oscars, the British comedian took to the interwebs to issue this statement, in-character.



As he did with Ali G, Borat, and Bruno, Cohen is taking the method approach to his Aladeen character, and the dictator's controversial political views, which may have scared off the Academy in the first place, are in full view in the funny clip above. 

In the video, Aladeen refers to the Acad as the "Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Zionists," complains about the organization's failure to recognize such Wadiya-submitted films as "When Harry Kidnapped Sally" and "Planet of the Rapes," and hilariously reveals that he's friendly with director Brett Ratner (another Hollywood player shut out of this year's Oscars for using his big mouth). Aladeen also makes reference to Hilary Swank's recent political gaffe in attending the 2011 birthday party for Chechen president Razman Kadryov (accused of multiple human rights violations). Cohen's dictator claims he paid the Oscar-winning actress $2 million to be his date at Sunday's ceremony, and now she won't refund his money.

Oscar Host Billy Crystal also gets a shout out, and it will be interesting to see how he responds in his monologue. 

"The Dictator," also starring Kevin Corrigan, J.B. Smoove, Megan Fox, Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris and John C. Reilly, opens May 11.

The Oscars air live on ABC this Sunday at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT.

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<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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