<p>Jennifer Garner in the new R-rated comedy &quot;Butter.&quot;</p>

Jennifer Garner in the new R-rated comedy "Butter."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Jennifer Garner channels Michele Bachmann in sweet and stinging 'Butter'

HitFix
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Readers
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Olivia Wilde steals the show as an out for revenge stripper

TELLURIDE - If you were pitched the logline for a new comedy set in the competitive world of butter carving a specific type of movie would immediately come to mind. Most likely a formulaic romantic comedy with just enough bite for a PG-13 rating, but "safe" enough to air for years on cable.  For the most part, that's not what you get with Jim Field Smith's "Butter" which debuted at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival Saturday night.

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<p>Eddie Murphy</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

Eddie Murphy

Credit: Comedy Central

Report: Eddie Murphy in talks to host the 84th Academy Awards

Could the surprising move save Brett Ratner's Oscar co-hosting gig?
Brett Ratner appears to be putting his stamp on the 84th Academy Awards.  The co-producer's selection (a job no one really wanted by the way) has been roundly criticized within and outside the Academy, but a report today indicates that he's nominating his "Tower Heist" star Eddie Murphy to host the most prestigious awards show in the world.
 
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<p>Glenn Close as &quot;Albert Nobbs.&quot;</p>

Glenn Close as "Albert Nobbs."

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Review: Glenn Close's transformation can't carry passionless 'Albert Nobbs'

HitFix
C+
Readers
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Director Rodrigo Garcia simply isn't right for this material

TELLURIDE - Poor "Albert Nobbs." It's been a hard, hard life so far.  And I'm not referring to the title character Glenn Close portrays in Rodrigo Garcia's new drama which debuted at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival tonight, but the film itself.  

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<p>Jean Dujardin in &quot;The Artist.&quot;</p>

Jean Dujardin in "The Artist."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'The Artist' is an immaculately crafted homage to Hollywood's silent era

HitFix
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Readers
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Silent charmer features a fantastic turn by Jean Dujardin

TELLURIDE - Moviemaking is not an easy process.  If it was there would obviously be significantly more good movies in theaters.  A hundred years plus off filmmaking has taken the form to amazing heights, but ask a modern day director to create something memorable without all those fancy tools and visual effects and that's when the real talent truly steps up.  Impressively, that's exactly what Michel Hazanavicius has done with his charming silent comedy "The Artist" which screened at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival today.

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<p>George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in Alexander Payne's &quot;The Descendants.&quot;</p>

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: Clooney is superb in moving Oscar contender "The Descendants"

HitFix
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Readers
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Telluride sneak peek puts the dramedy in the Oscar race

TELLURIDE, CO - By his own account it's been a little over six years since Alexander Payne finished his duties on the acclaimed dramedy "Sideways."  In the years since he wrote a few screenplays, shot a pilot, had surgery and, candidly admits, went through a divorce.  Today's premiere at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival of his latest endeavor, "The Descendants," proves that it was worth the wait.

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<p>'A Dangerous Method'</p>

'A Dangerous Method'

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Critics' Response: Viggo Mortensen shines as Freud in 'A Dangerous Method'

Mixed reviews praise the film's acting while noting its chilly tone

David Cronenberg's historical drama "A Dangerous Method" premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Friday and, so far, the reviews have been largely mixed, praising the film's smarts and stars while noting its chilled tone and dry nature.

"Method" stars Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud who, along with close friend and professional rival Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) develops the new found art of psychoanalysis while the two find themselves torn apart by a sexually troubled patient/student who comes between them (Keira Knightley).

Justin Chang of Variety calls the film "elegant" and "coolly restrained," while lamenting the "absence of gut-level impact" and noting that the slow-moving, talky approach may deaden some commercial attention.  He singles out Mortensen's performance as Freud, noting that the actor steals the film, while stating, "rather less assured, and initially the film's most problematic element, is Knightley, whose brave but unskilled depiction of hysteria at times leaves itself open to easy laughs."

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy calls the film "Precise, lucid and thrillingly disciplined." He admits that Knightley's performance starts over-the-top, but is brought back down to a more suitable level. "Along with Knightley's excellent work as a character with a very long emotional arc indeed, Fassbender brilliantly conveys Jung's intelligence, urge to propriety and irresistible hunger for shedding light on the mysteries of the human interior," writes McCarthy. "A drier, more contained figure, Freud is brought wonderfully to life by Mortensen in a bit of unexpected casting that proves entirely successful."

David Gritten of the Daily Telegraph agrees: "It's Knightley that one remembers, for a full-on portrayal that is gutsy and potentially divisive in equal parts."

Meanwhile, The Guardian provides an early voice of dissent. While acknowledging the intelligence of the script and the solid performances, reviewer Xan Brooks contends that "'A Dangerous Method' feels heavy and lugubrious. It is a tale that comes marinated in port and choked on pipe-smoke. You long for it to hop down from the couch, throw open the windows and run about in the garden."

Noted critic Emmanuel Levy comments on the film's Oscar chances. "Knowing the Academy voters’ conservative tastes, " he says "I don’t think “Dangerous Method” is Oscar-caliber as a picture, but its three main actors should receive nominations for their work: Fassbender and Keira Knightly in the lead categories and Viggo Mortensen in the supporting one."

Mortensen previously collaborated with Cronenberg on "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises."

"A Dangerous Method" opens in the U.S. November 23.

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<p>John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz at a photocall for &quot;Carnage&quot;&nbsp;at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday.</p>

John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz at a photocall for "Carnage" at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday.

Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Polanski's 'Carnage' survives as critics turn on Madonna's 'W.E'

Is Madonna's directorial work being given a fair shot?

While filmmakers, movie fans and a small contingent of press made their way to Telluride, CO for the annual Telluride Film Festival today, the world's critics got their first taste at two of this season's highly anticipated titles in Venice.  One film in particular will have a hard time recovering from the response.

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<p>George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in Alexander Payne's &quot;The Descendants&quot; which will screen at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival.</p>

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" which will screen at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

'The Descendants' and 'Albert Nobbs' set for 2011 Telluride Film Festival

'A Dangerous Method,' 'The Artist' and 'Shame' are also set

Nestled inbetween the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, Telluride has a reputation as a movielovers smorgasbord, but it's also become a prominent fixture on the awards season festival circuit.  The major films set to screen at the 2011 edition of the Labor Day Weekend event were announced today and some heavy hitters are on their way to the small Colorado township.

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 Watch: Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood flirt in George Clooney's 'Ides of March'
Credit: Columbia

Watch: Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood flirt in George Clooney's 'Ides of March'

Political drama building awards buzz, playing at Venice Festival

 Though it won't be in theaters until October 7, the political drama "The Ides of March" is already starting to build significant Oscar buzz.

You can chalk that up to the fact that this is George Clooney's fourth film as a director (he was nominated for "Good Night, and Good Luck"), and stars an Oscar-friendly cast, including Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood.

The film is screening this week at the Venice Film Festival, and awards prognosticators will be closely following the its reception at the fest.

In the movie, based on the play "Farragut North," Gosling plays an idealistic young campaign worker named Stephen Meyers helping Democratic governor Mike Morris (Clooney) aspire to the White House. Loyalties start to waver, however, when Meyers is approached about a gig working for the other guy.

This brand new clip isn't as politically charged as the film promises to be, but offers a look at Gosling at his most charming and shows that Wood ("Thirteen," "The Wrestler") has charm to match. Meyers take a short break from the campaign trail to meet-cute with an intern named Mary...or, um, Molly.

"The Ides of March" opens October 7.

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<p>Potential Academy Award players:&nbsp;George Clooney, <img alt="" src="file:///Users/GregoryEllwood/Library/Caches/TemporaryItems/moz-screenshot.png" /><img alt="" src="file:///Users/GregoryEllwood/Library/Caches/TemporaryItems/moz-screenshot-1.png" />Jean Dujardin and Viola Davis.</p>

Potential Academy Award players: George Clooney, Jean Dujardin and Viola Davis.

Oscar in August: 10 predictions for the 2011-12 awards season

The fate of Clooney, 'The Artist,' Viola Davis, 'Cars 2' and more

Can you feel it in the air? That sense of nervous desperation mixed with excitement? It's coming from the offices of every studio awards planner, publicist, talent manager, agent and ad sales rep in the greater Hollywood area (and a little bit of Manhattan too).  As you are likely reading this, George Clooney's "The Ides of March" has opened the 61st Venice Film Festival and unceremoniously kicked of the 2011-2012 awards season.  

After dramatic changes for the best picture category (5% is the new 10), possibly the scariest producer choice of all time in Brett Ratner (Joel Schumacher was seemingly unavailable), James Franco's increasingly blunt comments about his co-hosting gig (time for a sabbatical James) and a legal battle for control of the Golden Globes broadcast rights (eventually NBC wins and we all lose) it really doesn't seem like that long ago we were celebrating the end of another long season.  But "The King's Speech"?  "The Social Network"?  Natalie Portman? Melissa "Consider This" Leo?  Ah, distant memories.  Beginning today, we have so much to look forward to.

Thursday this globe-trotting pundit will find himself on a plane to sunny Colorado where we'll return to cover the ever-friendly Telluride Film Festival (shhh, don't tell anyone how great it is, our little secret, O.K.?) before heading to the Great White North alongside HitFix's Film Editor, Drew McWeeny, to attend my eighth straight Toronto International Film Festival (how time flies).  In the meantime, August can't end without another edition of my annual "Oscar in August" predictions.

Last year was a banner year on the early prediction front.  Every single one of my calls were right including Leonardo DiCaprio being shut out of the best actor race for "Inception," James L. Brooks' having a non-player in "How Do You know," Annette Bening's best actress nod and "Inception," "Social Network" and "Toy Story 3" being best picture locks among others."

*O.K., I was just 98% right.  "Tron: Legacy" didn't make the visual effects race, but I got "Inception" and "Iron Man 2" right. Sue me.

This year?  Obviously, the new best picture rules make things much more interesting or stressful (depending on how you see it), but there are some calls that this prognosticator has no problem making a little under five months before the nominations are handed out.*

*And yes, this writer will continue to refer to himself in the third person as much possible.  Just because he knows how much you love it (and you know who you are).

"Cars 2" won't keep the Pixar magic going
The worst reviewed film in Pixar history might have benefited Disney's bottom line, but John Lasseter's creative genius took a bit of a hit with this excuse to extend a toy franchise.  Luckily for Disney, the animated field may be slim this year.  "Rango" is the frontrunner, but the uneven "Rio" is an unsteady player while "Arthur Christmas" and "The Adventures of TinTin" are unknown quantities. Still, there's an excellent chance Pixar finds itself shut out of the race for the first time since the category debuted in 2002. Ouch.

Prediction: Forget a best picture nod, "Cars 2" might not even receive a best animated feature nod.  And, it's certainly not winning.  On the other hand, "Rango" is a lock for a best animated feature nomination.

It's ingenue vs. old school for best actress

This year's best actress race may be more interesting than best picture when it comes down to it.  On one end of the spectrum you have Meryl Streep going for her long-deserved third statue for "The Iron Lady," Glenn Close trying to get her first as a man in "Albert Nobbs" and Viola Davis trying to sneak in for carrying "The Help."  On the other you have relative youngersters including Cannes winner Kristin Dunst ("Melancholia"), Elizabeth Olsen ("Martha, Marcy Mae, Marlene"), Michelle Williams ("My Weekend with Marilyn"), Abbie Cornish ("W.E") and Sundance winner Felicity Jones ("Like Crazy") trying to win their first. An that doesn't even include contenders such as Charlize Theron, Tilda Swinton, Jodie Foster or Kate Winslet.  Oh me, oh my.

Prediction: Either Elizabeth Olsen or Felicity Jones will be nominated for best actress. Both?  Ummm....

Scott Rudin vs. Harvey Weinstein once more
Just when you thought it was safe to return to the Academy campaign, the two biggest prestige power brokers are back in the game.  Longtime rivals and rare allies, producer Scott Rudin and producer/studio entrepreneur Harvey Weinstein have clashed on films they have made together ("The Hours," "The Reader"), campaigned against each other ("The Social Network"/"The King's Speech") and attempted to say nice things about each other in the press.  Now, it's on.  Once again.  Rudin has "Moneyball," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."  Weinstein has "W.E," "The Artist," "The Iron Lady" and "My Weekend with Marilyn."  Sigh, if only there were 10 guaranteed spots so everyone could be happy.

Prediction: Rudin and Weinstein films will face off for best picture once again.  How many each get into the ring remains to be seen.

There will be lots of second guessing over dropping the guaranteed 10 nominees system
Duh. The new rule requiring a nominee to land 5% of first place votes will find campaigners trying to convince voters to vote for the film they would have voted 2nd or 3rd (in the old weighted system) in first place (um, OK).  It's going to lead to lots of drama, unnecessary stress and a very confused membership when they see which films made the cut and which didn't.  You'll see.

Prediction:  There will not be 10 best picture nominees.  In fact, there may not be eight or nine.  And, yes, very deserving films will be left on the sidelines.

Popular summer hits won't be nominated for best picture
The 10 rule was put into effect make sure deserved films such as "The Dark Knight" and "WALL-E" weren't left out of the best picture race.  Over the past two years of the rule's existence, it allowed acclaimed summer releases such as "Inception," "Up," "District 9," "Inglourious Basterds" and "Toy Story 3" make the field.  Don't expect any of that this time around.

Prediction:
"Harry Potter and  the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," "The Help" and "Super 8" will not be nominated for best picture.

Woody Allen is back
75-years-old and with his biggest hit ever, Woody Allen will find himself back in the Academy's good graces.  A three-time winner and 21-time nominee, Allen's "Midnight in Paris" is a critic's favorite and legitimate box office hit with $51.6 million so far.  Allen was last nominated in 2006 in the original screenplay category for "Match Point" and sadly overlooked for "Vicky Christina Barcelona." That drought is about over.

Prediction: Allen's work in "Midnight in Paris" will be recognized in the best original screenplay category, but best picture or best director isn't a given. Not yet anyway.

It's the year of Jessica Chastain, but…
After banking a slew of significant movie roles over the past three years, Jessica Chastain finally had her theatrical coming out party as "Take Shelter" debuted at Sundance (in theaters this fall), "The Tree of Life" hit Cannes, "The Help" became a major summer hit, "The Debt" opens today, Berlin programmer "Coriolanus" arrives this fall, "Texas Killing Fields" debuts at Toronto and Al Pacino's "Wild Salmoe" premieres at Venice.  And yet, as amazing as she is in "Take Shelter," "The Help" and "The Tree of Life" landing best actress or best supporting actress nods will be very tough to come by.

Prediction: It will be close, but Chastain will not land an Oscar nod for any of her acclaimed roles.

George Clooney will return to the Kodak Theater
Is it 2006 all over again?  That's the year Clooney found himself with a slew of nominations for his directorial effort "Good Night, and Good Luck." but his first win was for his back-breaking role in "Syrianna."  Now, Clooney could experience deja vu with "The Ides of March," which he co-wrote, produced, directed and has a supporting role in and a leading performance in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."   

Prediction: Whether as best director, best picture (producer), best adapted screenplay or best supporting actor for "The Ides of March" or for best actor for "The Descendants,"George Clooney will land at least his sixth nomination in 2012.

"The Tree of Life" will thrive in the below-the-line categories
There may not be any film more polarizing among critics, moviegoers and the industry than Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." Winner of the Palm d'Or (never a good omen for Oscar), "Life" has its passionate supporters but it was a disappointment on the art house circuit and even star Sean Penn has come out against Malick's editing choices on the film.  Again, a picture only needs 5% of the first place votes to try and get one of 10 slots, but a best picture nod feels dicey at the moment.

Prediction: "Life" is a lock for visual effects and cinematography.  Don't bet on anything else.

Billy Crystal will save Brett Ratner and Don Misher from the worst show ever
The Academy gave Brett Ratner the co-producing job no one else really wanted (truth hurts) only to have the media and industry reaction be worse than anyone expected (and they must have known it wasn't gonna be good).  Like a white knight riding in over the Malibu hills, beloved longtime and former host Billy Crystal has made it clear he's willing to return. In fact he's made that privately clear for a number of years, but now they really need him.

Prediction:
Billy Crystal will host and he'll basically be a defacto co-producer making sure the show doesn't go off track. Whew?

An actor you've likely never hard of, Jean Dujardin, is gonna make a quiet splash

There is a movie that is ripe to be an art house favorite this winter entitled "The Artist."  Shot in Hollywood in black and white and - gasp - in a silent movie style, Michel Hazanavicius' charmer is going to win over the industry quicker than Sarah Palin makes friends at a Tea Party rally.  Hollywood loves movies about themselves (they really do) and this romantic look at the transition from silent movies to "talkies" is going to be a big favorite.  The film has an excellent chance of landing a best picture not (not quite a lock yet), but leading man Jean Dujardin?  Well...

Prediction: Pencil Jean Dujardin in for a best actor nomination.  Trust me.

What do you think of this August's Oscar predictions?  Share your thoughts below.

For year-round entertainment commentary and awards season analysis follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.

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