<p>Tim&nbsp; Burton examines a stop motion figure for Sparky at the offices of MacKinnon and Saunders.  The firm built over 100 puppets for &quot;Frankenweenie.&quot;</p>

Tim  Burton examines a stop motion figure for Sparky at the offices of MacKinnon and Saunders. The firm built over 100 puppets for "Frankenweenie."

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Set Visit Sneak: Tim Burton's 'Frankenweenie'

2012 promises to be an eventful year in animation

No best animated feature nominee this year New York Film Critics Circle?  Well, we beg to differ, but something tells us 2012 might suit your peculiar tastes a bit more.  Not only is Pixar returning with "Brave," but LAIKA is back with their first feature since "Coraline," "ParaNorman."  DreamWorks also has "Rise of the Guardians" based on William Joyce's acclaimed "The Guardians of Childhood" novels, Disney Animated Studios has "Wreck-It-Ralph," Aardman returns to stop-motion with ""THe Pirates! Basednd of Misfits" and Universal brings "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" to life.   One of the most anticipated new animated films, however, has to be Tim Burton's long awaited feature length version of "Frankenweenie."

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<p>Jessica Chastain at the LA&nbsp;premiere for &quot;The Help&quot;&nbsp;earlier this year.</p>

Jessica Chastain at the LA premiere for "The Help" earlier this year.

Credit: AP Photo

Jessica Chastain is home just in time to celebrate 'The Help'

DreamWorks Oscar contender hits SoHo House

2011 has been the year of Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain, but the latter hasn't really been around much to enjoy it.  I spoke to "The Help," "Tree of Life," "Coriolanus," "The Debt," "Take Shelter," "Texas Killing Fields" actress Wednesday evening at a relaxed and holiday cocktail party DreamWorks held at SoHo House Los Angeles to celebrate "The Help."

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<p>Kristen Wiig and &quot;Bridesmaids&quot;&nbsp;gets some Oscar love in this new TV spot.</p>

Kristen Wiig and "Bridesmaids" gets some Oscar love in this new TV spot.

Watch: The Oscar race is no laughing matter for 'Bridesmaids' anymore

Universal puts serious money in TV spots for a best picture nod

Do you remember way back in September when "Bridesmaids" star Melissa McCarthy stunned TV fans with her Emmy win in the best actress in a comedy series category?  At the time the scuttlebutt was whether the industry love for McCarthy's breakout role in one of the biggest hits of the summer count translate into a legitimate Oscar campaign for best supporting actress.  Oh, how times have changed.

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<p>Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose in &quot;Drive.&quot;</p>

Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose in "Drive."

Credit: FilmDistrict

Q&A: Albert Brooks talks 'Drive,' awards love, the problem with twitter and Judd Apatow

Was I awake enough to ask coherent questions?

After a long and very busy Golden Globes morning last Tuesday, this pundit collapsed into a well deserved nap.  Being an entertainment writer/journalist/critic/commentator is a fantastic job, but the back to back days you have to get up at 5 AM to hear both SAG and Globe nominations are arguably the toughest of the year.  An hour later, I groggily woke up and stared at the 40 new E-mails that somehow found their way into my inbox.  Just two minutes later the phone rang.  Smartly, I answered the unknown number and heard, "Greg?  This is Albert Brooks."

Crap Ellwood.  You better wake up, snap out of it and get it together.

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<p>Keira Knightley has reunited with her &quot;Atonement&quot;&nbsp;director Joe Wright in &quot;Anna Karenina.&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley has reunited with her "Atonement" director Joe Wright in "Anna Karenina."

Credit: AP Photo

Oscar Bait: 'Moonrise Kingdom' and 'Anna Karenina' set their sights on 2012

Focus Features dates their awards players for next year

In theory, there is nothing wrong with having your film labeled "Oscar bait."  Sure, it insinuates that the picture is being released or aimed at an audience interested in awards worthy films, but most of the time they usually turn out more than O.K.  Some major Oscar bait movies this year were "The Descendants," "War Horse," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Ides of March" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."  Of course, "Carnage," "Anonymous" and "J. Edgar" had that label too.  Focus Features, which has had a superb year so far with "Beginners," "Tinker," "Jane Eyre" and the upcoming "Pariah," released their 2012 schedule today and - no surprise - a number of potential contenders for the next Oscar season made the list.

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Madonna attends a special screening of "W.E." at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Madonna attends a special screening of "W.E." at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file

Why is Madonna's 'Masterpiece' ineligible for the Best Original Song Oscar?

One major factor kept the 'W.E.' tune out of contention

Though Madonna is clearly beloved by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association - having been nominated for a total of six Golden Globes (five for Best Original Song - Motion Picture and one for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical) and won once (in the latter category for "Evita") - the venerable performer simply can't catch a break from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Case in point: "Masterpiece", the Material Girl's now-Golden Globe-nominated song contribution to her second directorial effort "W.E.", was not among the 39 tunes announced by the Academy today as eligible for next year's Best Original Song Oscar. So what gives? Was it something she said?

As it turns out, the snub isn't personal - "Masterpiece" really isn't eligible. See, in order to qualify for the category, the song in question needs to:

a) Consist of words and music, both of which are original and used specifically for the film; and

b) Be used either in the body of the film, or as the "first music cue" in the closing credits (i.e. the first song that plays once the screen fades to black).

The latter of the above two criteria appears to be the problem for "Masterpiece", which isn't featured in the context of the film itself and also happens to be the second song featured during the movie's closing crawl. (The first being a continuation of composer Abel Korzeniowski's score.)

Maybe the Oscar-obsessed Weinsteins figured the Academy would overlook the established rules when coming up with the Best Original Song eligibles - you know, because they're the Weinsteins? Or were they simply unaware of the Academy's specific requirements before sending out those "Masterpiece"-touting "W.E." screeners? 

In any case, looks like poor old Madge is once again being denied the opportunity to add "Oscar nominee/winner" to her substantial list of accomplishments (particularly given that "W.E." isn't expected to pick up nods in any of the major categories), a designation that I can't imagine she isn't at least a little bit hungry for (she is Madonna, after all).

But hey, buck up kiddo; there's always next year. And just remember - the Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves you no matter what.

What do you think of the Academy's Best Original Song rules? Should the eligibility requirements be loosened? Sound off with your comments below!

<p>Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson star in Woody Allen's &quot;Midnight in Paris.&quot;</p>

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson star in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris."

Credit: Sony Classics

Contender Countdown: Is 'Midnight in Paris' now 'The Artist's' biggest competition?

A rundown on where we are in the best picture race

Well, that was a surprise.  After a breakneck week of SAG Awards nominations (important), critics groups honors (important) and Golden Globe nominations (least important), the race to Oscar ended up becoming even more convoluted than before.   

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<p>Kenan Thompson and Jimmy Fallon in a 'War Horse' sketch on 'Saturday Night Live' on Dec. 18, 2011.</p>

Kenan Thompson and Jimmy Fallon in a 'War Horse' sketch on 'Saturday Night Live' on Dec. 18, 2011.

Credit: NBC

'SNL' takes on 'War Horse' and misses out

Perhaps they should have waited to see the movie?

After you watch this bizarre parody of "War Horse" from last night's "Saturday Night Live," a few observations.

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<p>Shailene Woodley has landed her first Golden Globe nomination this year for &quot;The Descendants.&quot;</p>

Shailene Woodley has landed her first Golden Globe nomination this year for "The Descendants."

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

Golden Globes: 'The Descendants'' nominee Shailene Woodley feels every emotion rolled up into one

Plus: Producer Jim Burke on the film's awards season success

With "The Artist" breathing down its neck and buzz growing for "Hugo," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" and "War Horse," the beginning of December wasn't the best of times for Team "Descendants."  The critically acclaimed film had lost both the best picture honors of the NYFCC and the National Board of Review and while box office was fantastic, best picture hopes were fading fast.  What a difference the last week has been.

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<p>Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Tate Taylor during a photo call for &quot;The Help&quot;&nbsp;in Spain this past October</p>

Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Tate Taylor during a photo call for "The Help" in Spain this past October

Credit: AP Photo/Paul White

Golden Globes: Tate Taylor makes it hard not to root for 'The Help'

The filmmaker discusses his talented cast and friendship with Octavia Spencer

Tate Taylor is living the dream.  The screenwriter and director of "The Help" has seen his surprise blockbuster turn into an awards season darling.  The film's biggest kudos so far came over the past two days as it was nominated for best ensemble at the SAG Awards, best picture - drama at the Golden Globes and three of his actors, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer, received both SAG and Golden Globe acting nominations.  For a Hollywood lifer who spent over a decade trying to land his big break in the business, it sounds like he's still pinching himself.

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