<p>&quot;The Descendants&quot;&nbsp;landed key Gotham Awards nominations including nods for Best Feature, Best Ensemble and Breakthrough Actor (Shailene Woodley).</p>

"The Descendants" landed key Gotham Awards nominations including nods for Best Feature, Best Ensemble and Breakthrough Actor (Shailene Woodley).

Credit: Fox Searchlight

2011 Gotham Awards nominations give 'The Descendants' a strong award season kickoff

Who are the frontrunners to take home the season's first kudos?

The 21st Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards were announced this morning and the results must have made the folks at Fox Searchlight very, very happy.  The mini-major landed eight nominations including key best feature nominations for "The Descendants" and "The Tree of Life."  Focus also has to be thrilled with "Beginners" strong showing in the feature and ensemble categories.  "Take Shelter" shows some life by also landing feature and ensemble kudos.  

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Watch: Christian Bale goes to war in eye-catching 'Flowers of War' trailer

Watch: Christian Bale goes to war in eye-catching 'Flowers of War' trailer

WWII drama from director Zhang Yimou is China's entry into foreign language Oscar race

While 20 minutes of Christian Bale in "The Flowers of War" were shown to potential buyers last month at the Toronto film fest, we're now getting our first trailer for the epic film from Chinese director/award-magnet Zhang Yimou.

Although there hasn't been talk of anyone launching a best actor campaign for Bale (The film doesn't have a U.S. distributor yet), don't automatically count the Oscar winner ("The Fighter") out of the race.

"Flowers" also stars Sigeo Kobayashi and the always reliable Paul Schneider ("All the Real Girls," "The Assassination of Jesse James").

But the real star is the gorgeous look of the historical drama (shot by Zhang's regular DP Zhao Xiaoding), based on a true story about a Western priest (Bale) struggling to help save a group of students and prostitutes during the brutal Japanese occupation of Nanking in 1937. There looks to be plenty of drama, action, sensuality and politics on hand. At roughly $90 million, "Flowers" (formerly known as "Heroes of Nanking") is China's most expensive film ever.

Although the dialogue is in Mandarin, Japanese and English, "Flowers" is China's entry in this year's foreign language Oscar race, and will likely do well there, as Zhang has had several films nominated in the category.

After a number of high-profile martial arts films ("Hero," "House of Flying Daggers," "Curse of the Golden Flower" and last year's less well-received "A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop"), the Academy could very well eat up Zhang's return to the 20th Century historical drama that served him so well in "To Live" and "Raise the Red Lantern." Having Bale in the lead won't hurt either.

Watch the new international trailer here:

<p>Sarah Paulson and Elizabeth Olsen discuss &quot;Martha, Marcy, Mae, Marlene.&quot;</p>

Sarah Paulson and Elizabeth Olsen discuss "Martha, Marcy, Mae, Marlene."

Elizabeth Olsen reveals 'Martha Marcy May Marlene' almost had a 'First Wives Club' moment

Olsen and Sarah Paulsen discuss their onscreen sisterly relationship

The more you learn about Elizabeth Olsen's performance in Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene" the more remarkable it becomes. Whether talking to Durkin, her co-stars John Hawkes or Sarah Paulson or even Olsen herself, you have to wonder how quickly the 22-year-old will be battling Jennifer Lawrence or Kristen Stewart for the title of bet actress of her generation.  But first, let's focus on "Martha."

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<p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;font-size:10pt">Jafar Panahi in &quot;This Is Not A&nbsp;Film.&quot; </span></p>

Jafar Panahi in "This Is Not A Film."

Academy and Hollywood Unions come out in support of jailed Iranian filmmakers

Creative community puttong on the pressure on behalf of Jafar Panahi and Marzieh Vafameh

Hollywood's most powerful organizations released a joint statement today calling for the release of six Iranian filmmakers including director Jafar Panahi and actor Marzieh Vafamehr.  Lauded as one of Iran's greatest living filmmakers, Panahi is serving a six-year jail sentence under house arrest and is banned for making any films for 20 years.  He recently appeared in the critically acclaimed pseudo-documentary "This Is Not A Film" which screened at the Cannes, Toronto and New York Film Festivals.  Vahamehr is an actress who was given a year in jail and 90 lashes for appearing in the 2009 film "My Tehran For Sale" (her fate is currently under appeal).  Along with other filmmakers who have been imprisoned for their work, Hollywood's creative community has taken a rare stand together against these injustices.

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<p>Jesse Eisenberg at NYFCC's awards gala last January.</p>

Jesse Eisenberg at NYFCC's awards gala last January.

Credit: AP Photo/Pete Kramer

Is the New York Film Critics Circle petty new date really about LA vs. NY?

East Coast insecurity at work

This pundit certainly isn't one to fuel a fire for no reason, but the eyebrow raising move this morning by the usually classy New York Film Critics Circle deserves some closer scrutiny.

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<p>&quot;A Better Life&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;Take Shelter&quot;&nbsp;arrive in Academy members mailboxes.</p>

"A Better Life" and "Take Shelter" arrive in Academy members mailboxes.

And the first Academy Awards screeners are...

Plus: Some other screeners soon to hit Academy member mailboxes

If you're hoping Michael Shannon lands a best actor nomination for "Take Shelter," one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, you might be worried.  

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<p>George Clooney is all smiles this awards season with &quot;The Descendants&quot; and &quot;The Ides of March&quot; both in the mix.</p>

George Clooney is all smiles this awards season with "The Descendants" and "The Ides of March" both in the mix.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Best Actor: Is it George Clooney vs. the field?

Who will take on the 'Descendants' star for Oscar glory?

Looking back at the past decade, there hasn't been many surprises in the race to win the best actor Academy Award.  By the time the New Year came around, most pundits and Academy members pretty much knew who would win taking most of the fun out of this category. And, yes, that's even before the nominations were announced.  Sure, Mickey Rourke gave Sean Penn a good run at it in 2009, but the only real upset you can point to is Adrien Brody in 2003 for "The Pianist."  Will 2012 provide an old fashioned horse race that seems only to be left to the supporting categories these days? It's possible, but someone's going to have to step and be a true challenger for George Clooney acclaimed role in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."

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<p>A dramatic moment from &quot;A&nbsp;Separation.&quot;&nbsp; The Iranian drama has already won critics and moviegoers over at the Berlin, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals.</p>

A dramatic moment from "A Separation."  The Iranian drama has already won critics and moviegoers over at the Berlin, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals.

63 countries enter the competition for the 2012 Foreign Language Academy Award

Iran's 'A Separation' leads the pack

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that 63 countries have entered potential nominees for the foreign language Oscar that will be handed out at the 84th Academy Awards this February.

The Foreign Language Committee will review all the submissions and vote for the five nominees that will be announced on Tues., Jan. 24, 2012 at 5:30 AM PT.

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<p>Antonio Banderas talks about his new role in Pedro Almodovar's &quot;The Skin I&nbsp;Live In.&quot;</p>

Antonio Banderas talks about his new role in Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In."

Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya fit into 'The Skin I Live In'

Revelations about Almodovar's twisted 'cold horror' flick

As the fall continues, the movies must slowly bet getting better.  And coincidentally, in New York and Los Angeles at least, moviegoers will get the chance to sample the latest film from Pedro Almodovar, "The Skin I Live In," tomorrow.  And while I don't think the film has any real chances for major Oscar nominations (and neither did the Spanish film committee who passed it over for foreign language film consideration), it's a twisted and out-there thriller that will shock many ticket buyers looking for something different at the multiplex.

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<p>Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin in &quot;Like Crazy.&quot;</p>

Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin in "Like Crazy."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Guess what unexpected audience loves 'Like Crazy'?

Could it foreshadow great word of mouth for the Sundance hit?

A funny thing happened on the way to awards season for Paramount Pictures' Sundance pick-up "Like Crazy," it found a surprising new audience.

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