<p>That's our Billy.</p>

That's our Billy.

Watch: Funny or Die uses Megan Fox to bring Billy Crystal back to Oscar

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Has everyone forgotten about Eddie Murphy already?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences teamed up with Funny or Die to create the first promo for this year's 84th Academy Awards which debuted today online.  Not surprisingly, it centers on the search for this year's host, the legendary Billy Crystal. 

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<p>Sandra Bullock is slowly becoming &quot;Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close's&quot;&nbsp;best shot at landing an Oscar nomination.</p>

Sandra Bullock is slowly becoming "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close's" best shot at landing an Oscar nomination.

Credit: Warner Bros.

2012 WGA Awards nominations: 'War Horse' and 'Extremely Loud' take an Oscar hit

When you're eligible in this ineligible mix you need the nod

As In Contention's Kris Tapley so eloquently warned us last month, there were many fine screenplays this year that wouldn't be eligible for the 2012 WGA Awards.  Guild awards are a wonderful honor from your peers, but they're also a union honor and if you don't play by the rules you can't get rewarded.  So it goes.

Therefore, it's not too surprising to find a number of unexpected nominees among the field announced by the WGA today.  What's more perplexing is some of the notable omissions ("The Ides of March," "War Horse"), inclusions ("Dragon Tattoo") and one outright rejection by the industry's writers ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close").   While guild awards typically signal how their respective Academy branches should vote in regards to nominees and winners, that's not going to be the case this year with so many ineligible contenders.  With that in mind, let's review the adapted and original fields.

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<p>Are these three of your acting Oscar frontrunners? &nbsp;Or are they three other contenders?</p>

Are these three of your acting Oscar frontrunners?  Or are they three other contenders?

Oscar's Acting Races: Who's in and who's out?

it's likely down to the wire this year for all four categories

As awards season enters the last week and a half before Oscar nomination ballots are due, the "great settling," as its been called, isn't yet upon us.  This magical few days or weeks when the collective Academy consciousness coalesces to determine one best picture winner (whether they know it or not) usually occurs before the nominations are announced, but not always.  Yes, "The Artist" is clearly the frontrunner this time around, but its hardly the lock "Slumdog Millionaire" or "The King's Speech" were in recent years.  That could easily change over the next few weeks as guilds such as SAG, PGA and DGA determine their own year end winners.  What's much more intriguing this season, however, are the acting races. 

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<p>Chris Hemsworth in &quot;Thor.&quot;</p>

Chris Hemsworth in "Thor."

Credit: Marvel Studios

'Super 8' and 'Thor' don't make the latest Oscar Visual Effects race cut

'Cowboys & Aliens,' 'Sucker Punch' and 'Sherlock Holmes' also out of contention

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the final 10 contenders for the Visual Effects Oscar today eliminating five previously announced candidates.  The Visual Effects committee has decided that "Super 8," "Thor," "Sucker Punch," "Cowboys & Aliens" and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" are no longer eligible for a nomination.  Instead, the following 10 films will provide 10-minute excerpts that will be screened by branch members on Thursday, January 19.

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<p>That's right Kristen.&nbsp; &quot;Bridesmaids&quot;&nbsp;got a PGA&nbsp;nomination which means its one step closer to an Oscar nod.</p>

That's right Kristen.  "Bridesmaids" got a PGA nomination which means its one step closer to an Oscar nod.

Credit: Universal Pictures

'Bridemaids,' 'Moneyball,' 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' makes PGA Awards cut

Oscar chances looking dire for 'Harry Potter,' 'Tinker Tailor' and 'Drive'

The Producer's Guid of America announced their 2012 PGA Awards nominations for film this morning and studio fare ruled the day. Unlike the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which may have anywhere from five to 10 nominees this year, the PGA has decided to remain with 10 nods.

This year's nominees as well as analysis follows:

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<p>Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in &quot;The Iron Lady.&quot;</p>

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Is it time for 'The Iron Lady's' Meryl Streep to win a third Oscar?

Contrary to critics of the picture its certainly deserved

The hype surrounding Meryl Streep's turn as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lloyd's "The Iron Lady" has been relatively constant since her involvement in the project was announced in July, 2010.  Beyond the fact Streep's involvement in any drama immediately makes it Oscar bait, Thatcher was an incredibly polarizing figure in Great Britain.  She broke new ground as the country's first female PM and stood firm by Ronald Reagan in the last days of the Cold War, but was despised by the members of the opposition party (Labour) for her economic and Union-busting policies (among other issues).  So, in many ways, it wasn't a surprise that the initial reviews for the awards season player were mixed when the film was first screened for critics in London. As Lloyd noted in a conversation we had about the film before the holiday, she found her own friends questioning why she'd direct such a film.

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<p>&quot;Giant,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;The Sound of Music,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Driving Miss Daisy,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Forest Gump,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Gladiator,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Casablanca&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;The Godfather&quot; are showcased in the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards.</p>

"Giant," "The Sound of Music," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forest Gump," "Gladiator," "Casablanca" and "The Godfather" are showcased in the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

The Official Poster for the 84th Academy Awards showcases former winners or does it?

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Which movie didn't win the best picture Oscar?

The Academy released the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards today and boy is it a snoozer.

Featuring bubbles of former Academy winners including "The Sound of Music," "The Godfather," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forest Gump," "Gladiator," "Casablanca" and "Gone With the WInd."  It also strangely includes "Giant" which was nominated, but didn't win (which makes it a tad out of place).  The poster is also instantly forgettable and looks like a home video cover for the best of an Oscar ceremony compilation.  What the tagline "Life. Camera. Action." has to do with the images is unclear.  Are these movies supposed to be representative of life?  Hmmm. O.K.  We're hoping the show will be better or at least watchable under Billy Crystal, er, producer Brian Grazer.

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<p>Kenneth Branagh at the UK premiere of &quot;My Week with Marilyn&quot;&nbsp;on Nov. 20 in London.</p>

Kenneth Branagh at the UK premiere of "My Week with Marilyn" on Nov. 20 in London.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Kenneth Branagh on the 'method' of playing Olivier and Marvel movies fueling England's film biz

Has he had his own 'Marilyn' on set?

If anyone deserves the 2011 comeback of the year award it may just be Kenneth Branagh. 

The four-time Oscar nominee burst upon the scene in 1989 with his acclaimed adaptation of "Henry V."  It was a remarkable achievement which he both directed and starred in at the ripe old age of 28.  Branagh became a creative force and incredibly prolific during the early to mid-90's with more Shakespeare adaptations such as "Much Ado About Nothing" and a four-hour "Hamlet," the underrated thriller "Dead Again," cult comedy favorite "Peter's Friends" and the studio misfire "Frankenstein." His career hit a major bumpy patch after his villainous turn in the disappointing "Wild Wild West" and the critical drubbing of his musical version of "Love's Labour's Lost" in 2000.  What followed was almost a decade of supporting roles in films such as "Rabbit-Proof Fence," "Valkyrie" and "Pirate Radio" and little substantial directing work.  I remember speaking to Branagah when "Sleuth" screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and he was humbly grateful star and producer Jude Law offered him the chance to helm a movie people were paying attention to.  It was a far cry from a decade earlier when he was the toast of Hollywood and "Hamlet" was perceived as a best picture nominee (which didn't happen although it did land four nominations).

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<p>Patrick Kennedy, Tom Hiddleston and Toby Kebbell discuss their work on Steven Spielberg's &quot;War Horse.&quot;</p>

Patrick Kennedy, Tom Hiddleston and Toby Kebbell discuss their work on Steven Spielberg's "War Horse."

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Tom Hiddleston, Emily Watson and Jeremy Irvine reveal 'War Horse' secrets

Who are the 'ghost whisperers' of European film sets?

If you happened to head to the local multiplex on Sunday there's a good chance the movie you ended up seeing was "War Horse."  Before the holiday, Steven Spielberg's 2 hour and 26 minute epic was projected to have a good, but not great debut.  Instead, "War Horse" burst onto the scene with $7.5 million in just 2,600 theaters, almost double what pre-release polling indicated.  And, its per-screen average was barely behind that of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" which played in over 1,000 more theaters and had the added benefit of higher IMAX ticket prices.  DreamWorks and Disney kept Monday's estimate much more conservative than its competitors, but a $15 million plus cume over two days is a stellar launch for the Oscar player.

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<p>Yes, we've got opinions of more entertainment options than what's playing at your local multiplex.</p>

Yes, we've got opinions of more entertainment options than what's playing at your local multiplex.

Award Campaign's Best of 2011: TV, Music and Movies

Fassbender, 'Game of Thrones,' '30 Rock,' Adele and...Britney

I already ranked my top 10 films of the year last week, but taking a page from In Contention's own Kris Tapley I've decided to post my own picks in some of the major award season categories. Just for fun, I've also included some of my "best of the year" picks for TV and music as well. Granted, music is the most subjective these days, so if it makes you feel better consider my Top Singles of 2011 a "favorites" list.

And again, thanks to Mr. Tapley for letting me poach his idea.

Comments are included where it was deemed necessary.

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