<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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<p>Ryan Gosling in &quot;The Ides of March.&quot;&nbsp; George Clooney's political thriller received a surprising four nominations including best picture - drama, best director, best screenplay and best actor - drama for Gosling.</p>

Ryan Gosling in "The Ides of March."  George Clooney's political thriller received a surprising four nominations including best picture - drama, best director, best screenplay and best actor - drama for Gosling.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Did the Golden Globes make themselves absolutely irrelevant in this year's Oscar races?

Beware 'The Ides of March'?

No one has ever taken much stock in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's best of the year picks as a reliable precursors to the Academy Awards.  At best, they are a well timed marketing tool that provides awards-centric films a publicity boost at the box office.  And, this year in particular, for small films such as "We Need To Talk About Kevin," "Albert Nobbs," "The Artist" and "My Week With Marilyn" and "Shame," that could be significant.  But after the SAG Awards were announced yesterday, an actual indicator of industry and AMPAS member sentiment, have the Globes ever seemed less relevant?

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10 shorts advance in Oscar's live action shorts race
Credit: AMPAS

10 shorts advance in Oscar's live action shorts race

Three to five nominees will be revealed on Jan 2r

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this morning that 10 short films have advanced to the next round of voting for the 2012 Live Action Academy Award.  107 short films originally qualified and out of that pool the following 10 were selected.

"Je Pourrais Être Votre Grand-Mère (I Could Be Your Grandmother)," Bernard Tanguy, director-producer (Rézina Productions)

"Love at First Sight," Michael Davies, director and Sandra Gorel, producer (Spellbound Films)

"Pentecost," Peter McDonald, director (EMU Productions)

"Raju," Max Zähle, director and Stefan Gieren, producer (Hamburg Media School/Filmwerkstatt)

"The Road Home," Rahul Gandotra, director-producer and Ameenah Ayub, producer (London Film School)

"The Roar of the Sea," Ana Rocha Fernandes and Torsten Truscheit, directors (Niama Filmproduktion GmbH)

"Sailcloth," Elfar Adalsteins, director-producer (Berserk Films)

"The Shore," Terry George, director-producer (All Ashore Productions Limited"

"Time Freak," Andrew Bowler, director and Gigi Causey, producer (Team Toad)

"Tuba Atlantic," Hallvar Witzø, director (The Norwegian Film School/Den Norske Filmskolen)

At this point, the Academy's Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members will now review the finalists and select three to five nominees from among the 10 titles on the shortlist for nomination. Branch screenings will be held in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco next month.

The 84th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, at 5:30 AM, 8:30 AM PT.
 

<p>&quot;The Descendants&quot; is realistically one of only two pictures - including &quot;The Artist&quot;&nbsp;- who can win best picture this year after landing an outstanding motion picture ensemble nomination.</p>

"The Descendants" is realistically one of only two pictures - including "The Artist" - who can win best picture this year after landing an outstanding motion picture ensemble nomination.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Analysis: SAG pushes 'The Artist' and 'Descendants' to the front of the Oscar race

No. 1 lesson: Don't screen late

In one respect the film nominations for the 2012 Screen Actor's Guild Awards were not that surprising.  They were broad.  They were populist.  And, for the most part, they didn't rock the boat.  Before we go through each category, however, there are some major lessons already being learned from today's results.

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<p>Melissa McCarthy is crowned best actress in a comedy queen at the 2011 Emmy Awards. &nbsp;Will McCarthy find the same amount of love from SAG&nbsp;voters?</p>

Melissa McCarthy is crowned best actress in a comedy queen at the 2011 Emmy Awards.  Will McCarthy find the same amount of love from SAG voters?

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

2012 SAG Nominations: 10 things you should look for

What surprises are on deck from Hollywood's thespians?

Early tomorrow morning the Screen Actor's Guild will get a jump on the HFPA and announce the nominees for the 2012 SAG Awards.  Unlike the Golden Globes, the SAGs are held in much higher esteem by most actors because they are being honored by their peers.  Of course, with such a large group of voters on the nominating committee(4,200 randomly selected members) you're bound to get a few strange nods here and there.  Moreover, as the largest branch in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, how the actors (er, SAG) falls is generally (but not always) a good indicator of where the Academy Award nominations will land.  That being said, before you get up bright and early to hear Regina King and Judy Greer announce this year's nods, keep these 10 things in mind.

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