<p>Gary Oldman and John Hurt as George Smiley and Control in &quot;Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.&quot;</p>

Gary Oldman and John Hurt as George Smiley and Control in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

Credit: Focus Features

Review: 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' brings superb suspense and style to the Cold War

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Fantastic cast contributes to one of the best films of the year

LONDON - George Smiley is a loyal man.  A gentleman who has served his country's spy apparatus for decades.  Not only has he been loyal to the United Kingdom, under the stressful burden of the Cold War mind you, but to his fiery boss who simply is known as Control (John Hurt).  But, within the first 10 minutes of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," Smiley finds himself without a job as he takes the fall after a mission in the Eastern Bloc goes terribly wrong.  Moreover, Control, who also resigns, doesn't give a reason why Smiley is being forced to depart let alone bother to say "thank you" or "goodbye" for all their years of service together as they depart.  And yet, Smiley doesn't rage.  He doesn't complain.  In fact, he doesn't say a word. He just tries to move on with his life even as his wife, Ann (purposely only seen in shadows), has left him.  That is, of course, until he's brought back to MI6 by a government minister (Simon McBurney) concerned that there may be a Soviet mole at the top of what they refer to as the "Circus." 

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<p>Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom HIddleston and, um, another actor we're unsure of in Steven Spielberg's &quot;War Horse.&quot;</p>

Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom HIddleston and, um, another actor we're unsure of in Steven Spielberg's "War Horse."

Credit: Dreamworks Studios

Contender Countdown: The wait for 'War Horse'

Who is on the bubble in the best picture, best actress and best actor races?

Like politics or business, the best picture race is dictated and many times identified by trends.  One year it can be all the contenders opening in December. Another year it's about debuting in October for the long haul.  And some years -- well, many years -- the winner is pretty much decided before the public even knows a race is going on.  The 2012 season is a "wait for the big kahuna" year.  Or, to be frank, "waiting for the big kahunas" year.

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<p>Christian Bale in Zhang Yimou's &quot;The Flowers of War.&quot;</p>

Christian Bale in Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War."

No surprise: China picks Zhang Yimou's 'The Flowers of War' with Christian Bale for Oscar

Another intriguing foreign language picture entry

Surprising few, the China Film Bureau announced that Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War" will represent China in this year's foreign language film Oscar race.  The picture is notable not just because it's from the director of "Hero" and "Raise the Red Lantern," but because it stars last year's best supporting actor winner, Christian Bale.

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<p>Liam Neeson in Joe Carnahan's new dramatic thriller &quot;The Grey.&quot;</p>

Liam Neeson in Joe Carnahan's new dramatic thriller "The Grey."

Credit: Open Road Films

Watch: Liam Neeson battles the wild in 'The Grey'

Could the former nominee crash the best actor race?

The prevailing wisdom of this year's best actor race is that it's "The Descendants'" George Clooney and/or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's" Gary Oldman's to lose.  And while that may be true, there are a number of potential late candidates ready to crash the party.  Oldman is one of the most glaring of an acclaimed actor who hasn't even received a nomination, but Liam Neeson is an example one of the most acclaimed actors of our time who hasn't won.  If Open Road Pictures sticks to its rumored plan, Neeson may get a chance at Oscar once more.

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

Chris Hemsworth in the original "Thor."

Credit: Marvel Studios

Will 'The Killing' helmer Patty Jenkins' take a journey to Asgard for 'Thor 2'?

Marvel Studios continues to surprise with their director chair

You may not agree with every decision Kevin Fiege makes as head of Marvel Studios, but for the most part he's got an excellent track record.  Many questioned the inexperienced Jon Favreau and Kenneth Branaugh (for blockbusters at least) helming "Iron Man" and "Thor" respectively.  Or, Joe "I'm almost in movie jail" Johnston taking the reigns of "Captain America: The First Avenger."  Needless to say, critics, audiences and the box office validated all of those decisions.  And for future Marvel films, Feige and his team have continued to make unconventional choices. 

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<p>Megan Fox at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival world premiere of &quot;Passion Play.&quot;&nbsp; Fox's 2011 Toronto film, &quot;Friends with Kids,&quot; should get a much more significant release next year.</p>

Megan Fox at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival world premiere of "Passion Play."  Fox's 2011 Toronto film, "Friends with Kids," should get a much more significant release next year.

Credit: AP Photo

Megan Fox is having the time of her life in new comedies 'Friends with Kids' and 'This is Forty'

Former 'Transformers' star has three laughers in the can

TORONTO - The first thing Megan Fox asks me before we begin our interview is, "How are you? How is your kitty?"

That might have made me an unbiased Fox fan for life.  It was an earlier conversation with her publicist that let Fox know about my four-month old rascal (Phoenix for those keeping track at home) who I'd be seeing in three days after deciding to depart the 2011 Toronto Film Festival a day early.  Fox wasn't trying to win points with a member or the press, however, she's a huge animal lover. Currently, she has three dogs, a cat and two birds that she's caring for.  But, her current housing arrangement is a far cry from her previous home.

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<p>Sean Penn in &quot;This Must Be The Place.&quot;</p>

Sean Penn in "This Must Be The Place."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Is Sean Penn crashing the best actor race?

Weinstein Company picks up 'This Must Be The Place'

After his public comments about the editing of "The Tree of Life," we're still unsure if Sean Penn will appear at any future SAG screening or, now, Academy member screenings of the critic's favorite, but his other film from the 2011 Cannes Film Festival has finally found a home. HitFix can confirm The Weinstein Company has picked up U.S. distribution for Paolo Sorrentino's "This Must Be The Place."

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<p>Don't worry Melissa. &nbsp;There is no ban on personal &quot;for your consideration&quot; ads. &nbsp;</p>

Don't worry Melissa.  There is no ban on personal "for your consideration" ads.  

New rules: Academy gets serious over Oscar parties, screenings and social media

Parties are dead as super-screenings are the new thing

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the official rules for "promotion of films eligible for the 84th Academy Awards" (i.e., Oscar campaigning) today and there were some interesting changes.

It was expected the Academy would crack down on some of the events that skewer the line between Oscar promotion and, say, home video or theatrical release promotion (such as Sony Picture's "The Social Network" home video event last year), but that didn't happen.  Instead, the Academy set some clarifications and opened filmmaker access to some screenings for nominated pictures in a big, big way.

As noted in the AMPAS release, "Prior to the nominations announcement (January 24, 2012), there are no restrictions on screening events to which Academy members may be invited. These events may include the live participation of individuals involved with the film (Q&A panel discussions, etc.) as well as receptions with food and beverage. After the nominations have been announced, Academy members may continue be invited to screenings that have filmmaker participation elements but receptions are not permitted. While there is no restriction on the total number of screenings of a particular movie, no one individual from the film can participate in more than two panel discussions. Previously, Academy members could not be invited to any screening event that included live participation of the filmmaker(s) or a reception either before or after the nominations had been announced."

The fact that studios can now hold their own screening events not under the guise of guild screenings or by third parties is pretty substantial.  They can clearly go after just Academy voters if they want and, moreover, can drop having to participate in third party screening series such as the Variety or Envelope staples (ouch).  Chances are they won't, but those series are certainly no longer mandatory to try and get at voters.  Additionally, the "no restrictions" part of the screening events is quite extraordinary.  Does that mean DreamWorks can hold an Academy screening of "War Horse" at the Walt Disney Concert Hall?  Can The Weinstein Company have an Academy screening of "The Iron Lady" at the United Nations in New York? Could a studio buyout the Landmark or the Arclight for a week before nominations for non-stop Q&A's and screenings for their potential films?  According the new rules, yes, yes they can...if the studios want to spend that money.

Oh, me. Oh, my.

The other distinction here is that studios can now use talent more effectively to help lock down a win during the post nomination period.  Whether that will help secure a win in the major categories remains to be seen.  Most voters have seen all the films already and as we've learned over the past two years, scandals or controversy ("The Hurt Locker" producer, Melissa "Consider This" Leo) have had little effect on the final results because most members send in their ballots within the first two weeks.  However, if the studios are smart, they could use these screening events to push some of the secondary categories where the overall membership may not have as passionate a pick in mind such as cinematography, original score, costumes, make-up, editing, etc.  Considering "talent" can only appear at two screening Q&A's this might be the smartest use of their time.  You can be sure though, that the first two weeks of final campaigning will be packed with events in theaters as large as possible to get as many members in as possible. 

The Academy is still allowing for digital downloads and screeners, but you can are argue by opening the floodgates for special screenings they will encourage members to view the contenders in the manner which they were intended, on the big screen.

Oh, but if you aren't having a screening or in the Oscar club, well, that's the bad news.   As noted in their press release, "Additionally, after nominations are announced and until final polls close, members may not be invited to or attend any non-screening event that promotes or honors a nominated movie or individual nominee. Nominees themselves are also prohibited from attending such events. Academy-sanctioned events and awards ceremonies presented by the various guilds, critics groups and other organizations are exempt."  The "other organizations" is where the Academy gives themselves an "out," but this is meant to cut down on private circuit parties held by members at member homes to push a candidate.

Additionally, the AMPAS made some noise on the social media front effectively banning negative campaigning on such platforms.  This is a bit odd since it's hard to find any studio who blatantly campaigned against another studio's nominees on twitter or facebook, but it may be a warning over negative tactics overall. Here's their exact wording from the official rules: "Ads, mailings, websites, social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) or any other forms of public communication by anyone directly associated with an eligible film attempting to promote a particular film or achievement by casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film or achievement will not be tolerated. In particular, any tactic that singles out "the competition" by name or title is expressly forbidden. Academy members that violate this Rule 16 will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations, and expulsion for any subsequent violations."

The "any other forms of public communication" is the kicker here and no doubt has a very broad definition.  Watch your E-mails members.

This pundit's favorite rule, and one I believe the Academy will be very sensitive this year, is #14, "Telephone Lobbying."  It's been banned for sometime, but with the stakes so high with the new 5% rule to land a best picture nominations, it's going to be hard for some members, campaigners and filmmakers to control themselves.  

In any event, if Wolfgang Puck catering hasn't gone public, they might consider doing so now.  They are going to be much busier than normal this season.

A full list of this year's rules are available here.

For year round entertainment commentary and award season news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.

 

 

<p>Eddie Murphy, producer Brian Glazer and Steve Martin at the premiere of &quot;Bowfinger&quot;&nbsp;in 1999.</p>

Eddie Murphy, producer Brian Glazer and Steve Martin at the premiere of "Bowfinger" in 1999.

Credit: AP Photo/Rene Macura

Steve Martin gives Eddie Murphy some blunt Oscars hosting advice

But what did the former host really mean?

Eddie Murphy has five months to go before his inaugural gig hosting the 84th Academy Awards (assuming he doesn't get cold feet along the way). The publicity-shy comedy icon hasn't asked for any advice from former hosts, but that didn't stop his old buddy Steve Martin from chiming in today.

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<p>Judi Dench and Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from Clint Eastwood's &quot;J. Edgar.&quot;</p>

Judi Dench and Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Watch: Leonardo DiCaprio is a complicated man in new 'J. Edgar' trailer

Clint Eastwood's latest is an intriguing proposition

Can we have sympathy for J. Edgar Hoover?  That seems to be what the new trailer for Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" is asking audiences.

Possibly the most reviled American lawman of the 20th Century, Hoover intimidated presidents, celebrities and pretty much whomever he wanted during his long reign atop the F.B.I.  The new biopic, which is a prime awards season player, finds Leonardo DiCaprio portraying the controversial figure, Armie Hammer as Cyde Tosen (his no. 2 and possibly more), Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy (Hoover's secretary for 54 years) and Judi Dench pulling out an American accent as his mother.  Written by "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, the preview indicates the film isn't shying away from his rumored homosexuality or run ins with the Kennedys. 

The film has a wide historical canvas, but what is most striking is DiCaprio's accent.  Hoover accent wavered over the years (you can listen to a phone conversation between Hoover and Lyndon B. Johnson here), but it feels quite apparent here.  Granted, DiCaprio's done shaky accents before.  He even received an Oscar nomination for his role in "Blood Diamond" where he tried out as South African accent.  The preview also gives prominence to Hammer and Dench. 

You can watch the new trailer on itunes here.

"J. Edgar" opens nationwide on Nov. 9.

What do you think of the trailer?  Does DiCaprio's Hoover work for you? Share you thoughts below.