<p>Ryan Gosling in George Clooney's &quot;The Ides of March.&quot;</p>

Ryan Gosling in George Clooney's "The Ides of March."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Contender Countdown: Beware 'The Ides of March'?

Just when you thought you were safe Oscar returns

Just when you thought you were safe, the Oscar game returns. 

With the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals just around the corner, industry pundits, including myself, have given our initial top ten picks in the annual Gurus of Gold rankings. Basically, a preview of what should shape up to be the main contenders across the board this awards season.

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<p>Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn at the world premiere of &quot;The Tree of Life&quot; at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.</p>

Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn at the world premiere of "The Tree of Life" at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Credit: AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

Sean Penn doesn't seem to be a fan of 'The Tree of Life'

Penn: 'I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there'

When a majority of your performance ends up on the cutting room floor, it's understandable if you find yourself a bit disappointed with the final results of a highly anticipated feature film.  Three months after "The Tree of Life" was honored with the Palm d'Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, cast member Sean Penn is still trying to figure out the purpose of his character in Terrence Malick's critically praised epic.

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<p>Owen Wilson and Alison Pill in Woody Allen's &quot;Midnight in Paris.&quot;</p>

Owen Wilson and Alison Pill in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris."

Credit: Sony Classics

Box Office: 'Midnight in Paris' hits the $50 million mark

Is a best picture nod next?

Continuing to surprise, the summer indie hit "Midnight in Paris" crossed the $50 million mark in domestic box office today.  With $50,062,843, "Paris" is already writer and director Woody Allen's biggest hit ever. But, it also is a significant grosser for many members of its ensemble cast.

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<p>Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz in a scene from Roman Polanski's &quot;Carnage.&quot;</p>

Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz in a scene from Roman Polanski's "Carnage."

Credit: Sony Classics

Watch: Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet steal the show in new 'Carnage' international trailer

New Roman Polanski dramedy an expected actor's shocase

Adapting a stage play to the big screen is never an easy task, especially when it's a self-contained story in limited locations and over a short time frame.  The past few years have seen hyped cinematic incarnations of acclaimed plays such as "The History Boys" and "Doubt," but now matter what the screenwriters and directors on each project tried to free the subject matter of its theatrical origins, each suffered the always feared critique that they still seemed more like filmed plays than movies. When it was announced Roman Polanski intended to tackle a movie version of Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage" (re-titled "Carnage") that concern was raised by this pundit, especially after Polanski's disappointing and claustrophobic turn with "Death and the Maiden" in 1994.  Now, the first preview of "Carnage" has it the interwebs and, well, all is as was expected.

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<p>Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal in a scene from &quot;Hysteria.&quot;</p>

Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal in a scene from "Hysteria."

Watch: Hugh Dancy learns to pleasure women in the trailer for 'Hysteria'

Plus: New previews of 'Union Square' and 'Think of Me'

The Toronto International Film Festival is known as part of the early September kick-off of awards season, but it also serves as one of the busiest and more commercial acquisition markets in the world.  Some of the noteworthy pictures to be picked up out of Toronto over the past few years include Oscar winners "Crash" and "The Hurt Locker," "Insidious," "Everything Must Go," "Submarine," "Thank You For Smoking" and ( ).  While there are numerous awards season titles screening at the festival next month, TIFF also has some major premieres that could soon find their way to your local multiplex.  One romantic comedy that seems like true commercial fodder is "Hysteria."

Starring Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal (throwing out a Victorian Brit accent), Jonathan Pryce and don't look now Rupert Everett, the indie appears to be a cheeky look at the origins of the modern, um, electric "stimulator" for women.  The festival posted a production created trailer for the film and while the cut of the preview has pacing issues the film looks like it could easily be sold as a commercial art house hit (or as the Brits would say, "It's cheeky!").  Take a sneak peek yourself

A more serious and moody drama recently added to the Festival's line up is "Think of Me."  Written and directed by Bryan Wizemann, the picture stars Lauren Ambrose ("Six Feet Under") as a single mother struggling to get by in Las Vegas.  Facing pressure to give up her child, Ambrose's character must decide how far she'll go to survive and keep her tough life intact.  The film immediately conjures up allegories to 2006's "Sherrybaby," but Wizemann appears to be using the Vegas backdrop to make this seemingly familiar tale stand on its own.  "Think of Me" may be more appropriate for Sundance, but it's non-commercial feel will be welcome north of the border.  

"Union Square," on the other hand, looks like a potential Sundance pitch that didn't make the cut.  Featuring Tammy Blanchard and Mira Sorvino as estranged sisters (one's class, the other is crass), the drama was written and directed by Nancy Savoca who is best known for 1991's acclaimed indie "Dogfight" with River Phoenix and Lili Taylor.  We're not so convinced Savoca has returned to those heights with "Union Square," but we're hoping to be proved wrong.  Check out the trailer below and judge for yourself.

 

Look for continuing coverage of the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals on Awards Campaign over the next month. 

For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news, follow Gregory Ellwood @HitFixGregory.

 

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<p>Jennifer Hudson as Winnie Mandela in &quot;Winnie.&quot;</p>

Jennifer Hudson as Winnie Mandela in "Winnie."

Jennifer Hudson's 'Winnie' among newly announced Toronto Film Festival galas

Plus: Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Blendel are 'Violet & Daisy'

The Toronto International Film Festival revealed a number of new galas and premieres for the upcoming September festival today including some long awaited features, some curious acquisition titles and a number of just plain surprises.  Most notably is "Winnie" starring Jennifer Hudson as the controversial freedom fighter Winnie Mandela and Geoffrey Fletcher's thriller "Violet & Daisy."  Here's a complete rundown with some thoughts for added measure.

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<p>Billy Crystal stops by the 83rd Academy Awards earlier this year.</p>

Billy Crystal stops by the 83rd Academy Awards earlier this year.

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Surprise: Billy Crystal wants to host the Oscars again

Should he?

After the startling news that the Academy was bringing back last year's Oscar co-producer Don Misher and teaming him with, um, Brett Ratner (lord, it's gonna be a long season) it appears one of the award show's most famous faces has seen an opening.  

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<p>Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood's &quot;J. Edgar&quot;</p>

Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar"

Credit: Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood says Hoover's sexuality open 'for interpretation' in 'J. Edgar'

Plus: New images of the Leonardo DiCaprio drama

The fall movie season is less than a month away and with the shorter days and chillier nights Hollywood enters it's "serious" season.  The prestige picture extravaganza will begin with the triple threat of festivals in less than three weeks, Venice, Telluride and Toronto.  However, there are a few films currently skipping those early showcases in hopes of awards season glory later one.  One is the increasingly curious biopic "J. Edgar."

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<p>Caesar (emoted by Andy Serkis, CG by WETA) hugs John Lithgow in Rupert Wyatt's &quot;Rise of the Planet of the Apes.&quot;</p>

Caesar (emoted by Andy Serkis, CG by WETA) hugs John Lithgow in Rupert Wyatt's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Is 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' really an Oscar player?

Can Andy Serkis make motion capture history?

Sometimes it's best to wait through the pre-release hype to see a movie. That's a rare occurrence for this pundit, but every once in awhile it happens with a big movie. In this case, travel and business schedules dictated viewing Rupert Wyatt's acclaimed "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" six days after its debut.  The early buzz had been iffy on "Apes" and Fox certainly wasn't screening it early, but a funny thing happened on the way to opening day - some very strong reviews.

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<p>Tom Hanks and Thomas Horn in Stephen Daldry's &quot;Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.&quot;</p>

Tom Hanks and Thomas Horn in Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."

Credit: Warner Bros.

First Look: Tom Hanks in Stephen Daldry's 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'

Oscar player hits theaters in Nov.

A strong resume can be both a blessing and a curse.  For director Stephen Daldry it's been just the latter.  Unless, of course, he lives under the pressure of having every two of his three films nominated for the Academy Award for best picture and personally being nominated in the best director category for all of them.  Something tells us that with the constant stream of good source material at his hands, he doesn't.

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